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Memory Foam vs Spring Mattresses: Which One Is Right for You?

Memory Foam vs Spring Mattresses: Which One Is Right for You?

If you’re in the business of mattress shopping, chances are you’ve come across the choice of two common types -- innerspring or memory foam. And like many of us, you might be unfamiliar with their differences and variations, and how they impact your sleep and even your long-term health. Is it important to understand the difference? We think yes. Is the choice more complicated than settling for the comfiest one you lie down on? Yes again. 

The truth is that there isn’t one “standard” mattress, and many options exist on the market today than ever before. So let’s explore the two most prevalent mattress types - traditional spring and memory foam. 

Traditional spring mattresses - no longer just your grandma’s mattress

Although in many cases it’s referred to as “traditional” in structure, mattress coil technology has come a long way from where it once began. Today, most spring mattresses are comprised of a series of continuous or individually separated coils, encased in a fibrous or foam layer. This basic structure is found throughout all spring mattresses, but not all are created equal. The type of coil inside your mattress can determine all kinds of factors, like durability, firmness and level of motion isolation (or in other words, your chances of waking up when your partner or pet is squirming around). 

Open coil structure

open coil structure spring vs memory foam

Mattresses with an open coil structure consist of a network of metal springs that are all connected to one another. This intertwined configuration will affect your comfort in a few ways. Namely, the mattress’s resistance to motion transfer, level of contouring support and its “bounce” factor. A bit like a domino effect, pressure applied to one continuous coil will have an influence on the springs around it. 

If you’re a single sleeper or prefer a less reactive feel, you may be interested in this type of mattress. Our Mint Green Spring Mattress checks all of these boxes, and comes complete with a soft, viscolatex foam top for enhanced comfort. 

Individual (pocketed) coil structure

individual coil structure spring vs memory foam

Pocket coils (also known as “encased” coils) are each individually wrapped in fabric, allowing them to move independently of one another. More comparable to the conforming nature of a memory foam mattress, this structure molds to the body, providing excellent support and pressure relief. Pocket coils are also known for their ability to reduce motion transfer, making them an ideal choice for couples or co-sleeping families. For a pocket coil design with substantial support and pillowy comfort, our Pressure Relief Euro Top Pocketed iCoil® Hybrid Mattress is a sure bet. 

Apart from the type of spring, the coil count is another feature to consider when purchasing a mattress. Although the ideal number of coils a mattress should have is debatable, there are minimum coil counts that will ensure longevity and may improve overall support. When shopping, we recommend adhering to these minimum standards:

  • Full: 300
  • Queen: 400
  • King: 480

Typically, a higher coil count helps to increase support, prevent sinking or rolling and increase overall mattress life. 

The pros and cons of spring mattresses 

PROS

CONS

  • Better ventilation and air-flow, aided by the empty space between coils
  • By nature, the design is susceptible to build up of allergens and dander
  • A bouncy, reactive feel
  • Plush varieties are harder to come by
  • Generally offers better edge support for sitting and getting in and out of bed
  • Open coil structures are not ideal for couples or multiple sleepers


Who should use a spring mattress?

Although the law of personal preference dictates that anyone could enjoy sleeping on a spring mattress, there are a few types of people that tend to benefit most from them:

  • Back pain sufferers
  • Back sleepers
  • Big and tall sleepers
  • Hot sleepers
  • Those who appreciate a bouncy feel

Generally speaking, the name of the game with this design is support. Coils tend to provide a firmer foundation preferred by back pain sufferers and back sleepers. This is not to say that soft spring mattresses do not exist, but if you feel suffocated by a plush, cloud-like mattress that cradles your shape like a baby, you’re probably better suited to sleep on a spring mattress. And if you like to jump on the bed, a spring mattress has that bounce back quality that is more likely to send you to the moon.  

Is a foam mattress a better fit for you?

If a firm and bouncy mattress is not your cup of tea, a memory foam mattress might be worth exploring. Instead of springs, mattress foam relies on tiny pockets of air to produce support through varying layers of foam.

For the most part, mattress foams fall into two broad categories -- polyfoam and memory foam. The two are close cousins, but memory foam has a higher viscosity than polyfoam. Memory foam itself is the conforming, moldable substance that is typically used as the top layer of most foam mattresses for a customized, enveloping feel. This is why foam mattresses must be constructed with layers of varying density. Most are constructed with a high density foam base layer designed to mimic the stability provided by coils in an innerspring mattress. On average, a foam mattress consists of two to four layers, all ranging in different heights and densities. 

memory foam mattress what is best mattress

 There are a few factors that come into play when determining a foam mattress’s feel, including thickness and foam composition. Oftentimes, a taller mattress will be more plush. Simply put, additional foam layers will allow the sleeper to sink further into the mattress, achieving more of that cradled, molded effect. But height isn’t the whole story. Different foam densities and their structures will change the feel of a mattress as well. A model like our Pressure Relief Memory Foam Cloud Mattress, equipped with four total inches of microfiber padding, quick response foam and memory foam just on the top, is designed to feel plush and (like the name implies) cloud-like due to the light and airy anatomy of those layers. And some designs even offer special features to help you sleep better, like our Cooling Gel Memory Foam Mattress, infused with unique gel foam that resists body heat. 

The pros and cons of memory foam mattresses

PROS

CONS

  • A more cushioned feel that surrounds and “hugs” the body
  • Foam is sensitive to heat, and extreme temperatures can affect the firmness level
  • Provides excellent pressure relief for back and joints
  • Initial offgassing or “new foam” scent is bothersome to some
  • Resists motion transfer 
  • Due to its slow, conforming nature, ease of movement between sleeping positions is limited

 

Who should sleep on a memory foam mattress?

If one of these describes you, you might prefer a memory foam mattress:

  • Joint pain sufferers
  • Side sleepers
  • Couples who have trouble getting restful sleep
  • Those who prefer a cradled-like-a-baby feel

If you’re looking for a mattress with potential to soothe some of your bodily pain, or you just enjoy a snug, embracing feel, a memory foam mattress might be right up your alley. Since it was initially designed as a substance that could mold itself to the changing body shapes of astronauts experiencing changes in gravitational force, it’s no surprise that memory foam is most famous for its ability to alleviate pressure points and achieve proper spinal alignment through its moldability. For those looking for relief or sleeping in positions that require additional support, considering a memory foam mattress is a no-brainer.

Mattress firmness - a subjective subject

You may now be questioning how mattress firmness plays into all of this. The fact of the matter is that both traditional spring and memory foam mattresses offer a wide array of options. But let’s get one thing straight. Terms like “plush” and “firm” are relative. Is this mattress plush? Plush when compared to your child’s toddler bed? Sure. Plush compared to a cloud of fluffy cartoon sheep? Maybe not. One man’s pillowy soft may be another man’s hard and unyielding. This is because your weight and sleep positions affect the kind of feeling you get out of a mattress. Young children, for example, are usually quite comfortable sleeping on nothing more than a 6” mattress with a bit of fiber padding on top. Yet for most adults, the same mattress would offer an extra firm feeling similar to sleeping on the floor. More weight calls for more support in the form of additional layers, especially if a softer feel is what you desire. 

So what about hybrid mattresses?

For those who see the benefits of both spring and memory foam, we hear you! And an in-between option does exist. Enter the hybrid mattress, a magical combination of an innerspring base and a memory foam top. Marrying together the best of both worlds, a hybrid mattress can provide bouncy, durable support and also enveloping, contoured comfort. Hybrids are an excellent choice for those transitioning from one type to another, or perhaps individuals who are looking to upgrade their worn-out innerspring mattress with a more luxurious version. Below are a few of our favorites.   

Pressure Relief Olive Oil Memory Foam iCoil® Hybrid Mattress

Cooling Gel Memory Foam iCoil® Hybrid Mattress

Not a one-size-fits-all approach

To name a winner in the spring vs memory foam mattress debate would be unrealistic, not to mention unfair to the individual benefits of each. Although research and analysis of the pros and cons of different mattress materials is helpful, personal preference is equally important to consider. For many people, the enveloping feel of memory foam is simply a turn off. And for others, the bouncy quality of innersprings is uncomfortable and too reactive for a peaceful sleeping experience. Human beings are like snowflakes. Each body is unique in shape, size and condition, and one type of mattress will never be able to cater to every specific individual. That’s why at Zinus, we offer a variety of memory foam, spring and hybrid models designed with different needs in mind, whether you wake up sweating like you’ve just run a marathon or wince with aches and pains when the alarm goes off. Creating a mattress for everybody, and every body, will always be top of mind for us.
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