Types of Mattresses: Understanding the Pros and Cons
With so many types of mattresses, it can be tough to know which one is best for you. We have outlined the pros and cons to help you pick your next mattress.
Aug 26th, 2022 •
Is a mattress just a mattress? While this may seem like a simple and standard household item. You spend about a third of your life asleep, so it’s important to find a mattress that fits your needs. What position you sleep in, whether you sleep warm, and how much you’re willing to spend are just a few of the variables that can determine what type of mattress is best for you.
In this article, you will learn about the different types of mattresses available on the market today and how to choose the best one based on your body type. We have outlined the pros and cons of each mattress type to help you decide which type to look for when you’re ready to buy a mattress. Our goal is to help you find the best mattress for your preferences and comfort.
How Many Types of Mattresses Are There?
There is a wide variety of mattresses available to consumers today. The types of mattresses can be grouped into nine categories: innerspring, foam, hybrid, pillow top, latex, gel, encased coil, airbed, and adjustable bed.
Each type of mattress is dependent on the type of materials used to make it and its overall construction.
Types of Mattresses: A Comparison Guide
Innerspring mattresses are the oldest type of mattress still commonly used today. They were invented in 1857, and since then, have gained a consistent following. Even though there are many other mattress types available today, innerspring mattresses are still the most popular.
Innerspring mattresses are also known as coil mattresses thanks to their makeup. Each innerspring mattress is constructed of a steel coil support system. As a general rule, the greater the number of coils, the higher the quality and comfort.
- Cost: Innerspring mattresses are some of the least expensive mattresses available.
- Familiarity: Most everyone knows what an innerspring mattress is, and as such, picking one out and sleeping on one can feel familiar and comfortable.
- Support: The push back from coils yields a firm and supportive mattress.
- Sleeps Cool: These mattresses are very breathable. They don’t trap much heat.
- Lifespan: Coil mattresses wear out faster than many alternatives, with certain types having particularly poor longevity.
- Noise: The steel coils can result in noise when you move, and this noise tends to worsen over time. If you have ever heard a mattress squeak, it was due to the coils within.
- Alignment: Coils do not conform well to the body, which can create aches and pains in the areas of the body that put the most weight on the mattress. This is particularly troublesome for side sleepers who need a mattress with more give to accommodate the hips and shoulders.
- Movement: Because the coils are usually connected to one another, this type of mattress results in movements being felt throughout the bed.
Our top picks: Best Innerspring Mattress of 2023
Are There Different Types of Innerspring Mattresses?
Innerspring mattresses are highly versatile. There are a few types of spring you might find in innerspring mattresses, such as:
- Continuous Coils
- Encased Pocketed Coils
- Bonnell Coils
- Offset Coils
Additionally, innerspring mattresses can come with a pillow top for added comfort.
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam mattresses are made from a polyurethane foam first designed by NASA to help absorb shock and make seats more comfortable during takeoff and landing. The foam is incredibly responsive, sinking in at your heaviest points and providing a soft-feeling support.
- Noise: Unlike coil mattresses, memory foam mattresses are very quiet.
- Comfort: Many people rave about the comfort that comes from lying on memory foam. Its comfort is so well-known that it is used in other products, like shoes and chair cushions.
- Alignment: Because memory foam forms to your unique shape, the right memory foam mattress can allow for proper spinal alignment, reducing aches and pains.
- Movement: The foam isolates movement, making it a good option for couples who toss and turn.
- Cost: While this type of mattress was initially expensive, there are now many budget-friendly options.
- Sleeps Hot: Because you sink into the foam, it can become hot. If you sleep hot or if your room is hot, memory foam mattresses may be too warm for you.
- Too Soft: Some people will find memory foam mattresses to not offer enough support.
- Initial Odor: When you bring home a memory foam mattress, it must initially be allowed to breathe to release certain chemical odors.
Our top picks: Best Memory Foam Mattress of 2023
Are There Different Types of Memory Foam Mattresses?
The Memory foam used in mattresses can be made from polyurethane, organic foam varieties, or even gels. This and other factors can impact how dense a memory foam mattress feels. For example, a memory foam mattress with a higher Indention Load-Deflection (ILD) score will have a higher density and less of a contouring effect.
Hybrid mattresses are those made from more than one of the above categories. Common examples include innerspring mattresses with a memory foam layer, those with multiple types of foam, latex plus foam, and more.
- Customizable: Hybrid mattresses offer the most variety. No matter what your preferences, you are likely to find a mattress that works for you.
- Support and Comfort: By combining supportive base layers, like innerspring or air chambers, with soft upper layers, like memory foam or a pillow top, you can enjoy both support and comfort.
Expensive: A high-quality hybrid mattress can be more expensive than many other types of mattress.
Our top picks: Best Hybrid Mattress of 2023
Are There Different Types of Hybrid Mattresses?
Yes, because hybrid mattress inherently combine two of more mattress types, there are many types of hybrid mattresses.
Consider this: there are typically 3-4 layers in a hybrid mattress, which are:
- Support Layer
- Transition Layer
- Comfort Layer
- Pillow Top or Euro Top (optional)
There are numerous combinations that can go into these layers, which is what makes hybrid mattresses so customizable.
Pillow Top Mattresses
Pillow tops can be employed with any other type of mattress, including innerspring, foam mattresses, hybrid mattresses, and latex mattresses. Pillow top mattresses are simply those with a soft, cushiony layer that is added on top of the mattress to offer a plush, cloud-like feel.
- Comfort: This added cushion is generally used for comfort reasons and is particularly great for those who enjoy a soft feel.
- Pressure Point Relief: This added cushion can help to relieve pressure placed on your shoulders and hips.
- Cost: Pillow top mattresses tend to be on the pricier side.
- Too Soft: For those who need firm support, a pillow top can be too soft.
Our top picks: Best Pillow Top Mattress of 2023
Are There Different Types of Pillow Top Mattresses?
As mentioned previously, a pillow top can go on numerous mattress types. This added layer of comfort can be created using many materials such as memory foam, cotton, or natural latex.
Latex Foam Mattresses
Latex mattresses have been around for nearly a century; however, they have recently become more popular thanks to advances that have decreased their cost. Latex mattresses are similar to memory foam mattresses in that they offer contouring and pressure point relief, but they are generally firmer, more bouncy-feeling, and sleep cooler.
There are two primary types of latex mattresses: dunlop and talalay. These types refer to the process through which natural latex is converted into foam latex. The Talalay Process is considered superior as it’s more breathable, allowing for cooler sleep.
- Alignment With Support: Latex mattresses mold to the shape of the person sleeping on them while providing more support than memory foam mattresses. This can be a good option for those with back pain.
- Can Be Natural: Plant-based latex mattresses are one of the few all-natural mattress options.
- Sleeps Cool: In comparison to memory foam, latex mattresses sleep cooler.
- Movement Isolation: Latex can absorb movement, allowing partners to sleep together more peacefully.
- Lifespan: Latex mattresses are the most durable mattress type, with some warranties lasting upwards of 20 years.
- Cost: Latex mattresses are one of the more expensive options.
- Weight: Latex mattresses can be difficult to move because they’re very heavy.
- Initial Odor: Synthetic latex mattresses will have a strong initial odor that needs to be released.
Our top picks: Best Latex Mattress of 2023
Are There Different Types of Latex Mattresses?
Yes. Latex mattresses, or latex foam specifically, can be created through either the Dunlop Process or the Talalay Process. These processes refer to the way in which liquid latex is converted into foam latex (the material used in mattresses. Each method has a unique effect on the latex’s firmness level.
Gel mattresses are not a unique type of mattress but rather an improvement upon memory foam mattresses. Gel is infused into memory foam to reduce its tendency to trap heat. While gel does take on the temperature of its surroundings, it does so much more slowly than memory foam, allowing for a cooler night’s sleep.
Pros (in comparison to traditional memory foam):
- Cooler sleep: Gel-infused memory foam allows for cooler sleep.
Cons (in comparison to traditional memory foam):
- Cost: Gel-infused mattresses are a bit more expensive than their traditional memory foam counterparts.
Are There Different Types of Gel Mattresses?
Because there are many types of memory foam mattresses, and gel is an addition to memory foam, there are many varieties of mattresses that contain gel.
Gel-infused memory foam is can also be a component of a hybrid mattress’s comfort layer.
Airbed mattresses have a chamber that you can fill with adjustable quantities of air. By increasing the quantity of air, you boost the firmness of the bed. Similarly, when you decrease the quantity of air, the pressure decreases and it becomes softer.
Above the air chambers you will typically find a variety of foam layers. The air chamber provides customizable support and the foam layers provide comfort and pressure relief.
- Customizable Support: Air beds are one of the few options that can be good for almost anyone. By finding the optimal fill level, you can get the right amount of support for you.
- Split Side Option: There are some airbeds that have separate chambers for the right and left sides, allowing couples to sleep together while being able to satisfy their individual needs.
- Good for Injuries: Air mattresses allow for you to change the pressure throughout the day or night, which is great for people who need to spend long periods of time in bed. This allows you to change the support depending upon pain that you’re feeling in that moment.
- Comfort: The foam layer on top with the air chambers below allow for you to find a mattress that feels both comfortable yet supportive.
- Cost: Airbeds are one of the pricier options available thanks to the technology needed to create high-quality adjustable air chambers.
Adjustable Bed Mattresses
Adjustable beds are often used for people who have trouble getting in and out of bed and for those who must spend long hours in bed. Only certain types of mattresses are compatible with adjustable beds. These include latex, memory foam, gel, air, and certain hybrid mattresses.
You will want to pick the mattress for your adjustable bed frame similarly to how you would pick any other mattress. Think about your needs and use the information above to help you select the right mattress.
Our top picks: Best Mattress for Adjustable Beds of 2023
Are There Different Types of Adjustable Beds?
Adjustable beds come in many levels of firmness and are made using many variations. For example, there are adjustable beds with coils, while some are made of foam.
Other Types of Mattresses
If you’re looking for a more specific type of mattress, there are a few other types you might discover as your research.
Consider purchasing an organic mattress if you’re looking for a sustainably made, more environmentally-friendly option. While a mattress often cannot be certified organic, many of its materials can be.
You might see the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certifications while you’re shopping. These certifications show that a mattress has met specific organic standards for production.
Take a closer look at the best organic mattresses available.
Ready for an adventure but need to find an RV Mattress that fits your needs?
RV Mattresses can be notoriously difficult to shop for due to the non-standard sizing constraints that many recreational vehicles offer. Luckily, our team of sleep experts has created an RV Mattress Guide for those of you who want to sleep well while you’re off the grid.
If you’re looking for a mattress that is both comfortable and easy to store, you might consider a folding mattress. Typically made with foam, folding mattresses are a great option for kids or for those seeking a portable and affordable mattress.
How to Choose a Mattress Type for Your Body Type and Weight
Body weight is one of the most important factors to consider when you’re choosing a mattress. The same bed will feel different to one person who is 120 lbs and 5 feet tall than to someone 250 lbs and 6 feet tall.
We’ll give you a few quick tips for mattress shoppers of each body type so you can find the right type of mattress for you.
For heavy people:
- Remember mattresses feel softer when you weight more.
- Try firm mattresses as they can keep you from sinking too deep.
- Try memory foam mattresses with cooling layers built in to avoid overheating.
- Try a pillow top on any mattress that you choose as the extra softness can help hug your curves.
Our top picks: Best Mattress for Heavy People of 2023
For lightweight people:
- Remember mattresses feel more firm when you weigh less.
- Choose a soft to medium mattress, as a firm mattress is unlikely to offer the contouring that you need.
- Foam mattresses can also be a good choice, but you may want to pick one with moderate-density foam.
For average weight people:
- Think about what you want from a mattress. Do you like soft or firm? Bounce or contour? Use your preferences to decide, but remember that medium firmness is likely to be the best.
- Don’t pick a bed that is too soft or too firm. Typically, softer beds are better for lighter people and firmer beds better for heavier people. You are likely to do best avoiding extremely soft or firm mattresses.
Types of Mattresses FAQ
What is the most common mattress type?
Data shows that innerspring mattresses are the most common mattress type. Recently, however, foam and hybrid mattresses (mattresses containing various materials) have become increasingly popular.
What type of mattress is best for me?
The type of mattress best for you is dependent on a few factors.
First, consider your preferred sleeping position. Your sleeping position can highly impact which type of mattress you consider due to its attributes, such as support, spinal alignment, and motion transfer.
If you sleep hot or cold, you may need to select a mattress type that is made with materials that help you sleep comfortably.
Are you sleeping with a partner? Discuss how they sleep best so you can find the type of mattress that provides you both with a good night’s sleep.
Lastly, consider your budget. You probably want high-quality sleep but don’t want to break the bank. Set a budget for yourself and/or explore mattress financing.
What type of mattress lasts the longest?
Nothing is designed to last forever, but some mattresses are more durable than others.
If you’re worried about sagging in particular, consider an innerspring, memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattresses.
Keep in mind that your mattress’s lifespan is dictated by wear and tear. Using a mattress cover or protector and cleaning your mattress regularly will increase its lifespan.
With so many mattress options available when you’re ready to replace your mattress, there is certainly one out there that is designed with your needs in mind. Now that you understand the pros and cons of different types of mattresses, you can use this knowledge to narrow down the type of mattress that’s best for you.