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What Are the Differences Between Innerspring and Memory Foam Mattresses?

By: Christina Davies
Updated on: April 05, 2024

Choosing the right mattress is vital for a good night’s sleep and well-being. Regarding mattresses, two popular options are innerspring and memory foam. These two types offer distinct features and benefits that cater to different sleep preferences. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of mattresses and explore the key differences between innerspring and memory foam models.

Innerspring mattresses have been around for decades, known for their traditional coil support systems that provide bounce and durability. On the other hand, memory foam mattresses are relatively newer, designed to contour to your body’s shape, offering superior pressure relief and motion isolation. Understanding the disparities between these mattress types, including factors like comfort, support, durability, and price, is crucial for deciding which one suits your sleep needs best. So, let’s unravel the distinctions and help you find the perfect mattress for your restful nights.

What Are Innerspring Mattresses?

Spring mattresses, also known as innerspring beds or mattresses, debuted in 1871 and quickly gained popularity for their supportive and bouncy qualities. Before these, beds resembled large pillows filled with materials like cotton, hay, wool, or down, lacking adequate support. The introduction of a coil layer significantly improved mattress support.

The fundamental structure of spring mattresses comprises metal coils or springs for support encased in foam, forming the “support layer.” On top of this, an upholstery layer forms the “comfort layer.” This layered design ensures that sleepers don’t feel the coils and springs directly beneath them, which can be uncomfortable.

The upholstered layer includes a quilted top that determines the spring mattress’s plushness and overall feel. Traditional spring mattresses contain foam layers, fiber pads, quilts, coils, and springs. While the quilted top, foams, and fiber pads provide comfort, the coil system offers support and enhances mattress breathability by promoting airflow. The coil layers come in varying densities and form the foundational structure of spring mattresses. Stomach sleepers, in particular, may find the coil layer beneficial as it prevents their body from arching unnaturally.

The feel of spring mattresses can vary based on factors such as the type of springs used, the thickness of the metal (referred to as gauge), spring density, and their interconnection method.

Types of Spring Systems

There are various spring mattresses, each with a unique design and characteristics. These mattresses use different kinds of springs and coils, which are arranged and connected in various ways to create distinct mattress types. Here’s a simplified breakdown by mattress type:

Bonnell Coil Mattress

This mattress relies on hourglass-shaped coils in its support layer. These coils are the most budget-friendly option among spring mattresses but are less durable than other continuous coils.

Offset Coil Mattress

Offset coil mattresses feature individual coils closely connected, creating a firm support layer. While they are known for their durability, the closely connected offset coils can transfer motion, which may not be ideal for couples.

Continuous Coil Mattress

Continuous coil mattresses use a single wire twisted into thousands of coils to create the support layer. This design hybrid mattress offers excellent durability but can transfer motion easily due to the strong connection between coils.

Pocket Coil Mattress

Pocket coil mattresses contain innerspring coils individually wrapped in fabric. These mattresses are the most technologically advanced among spring mattresses, making them the priciest option. The individual wrappings of pocketed coils significantly reduce motion transfer, making them a popular choice.

Coil-on-Coil Mattress

Coil-on-coil mattresses feature two layers of coils stacked on top of each other, enhancing support. This additional layer over the latex foam base reduces bounce and increases overall support in this type of mattress.

In summary, spring mattresses come in different types, offering various levels of durability and motion isolation to cater to different preferences and needs.

What Are Memory Foam Mattresses?

Memory foam mattresses are a kink of mattress that uses a special type known as memory foam in their construction. Memory foam, also called viscoelastic foam, was originally developed by NASA in the 1960s for use in spacecraft seats to provide comfort and support to astronauts during liftoff and re-entry.

These mattresses are designed to contour and adapt to the shape of your body when you lie down on them. This is achieved because memory foam is temperature and pressure-sensitive. When you apply pressure by lying on the mattress, it molds and conforms to your body’s shape, creating a cradle-like feeling that helps distribute your weight evenly. This contouring quality is often referred to as “viscoelasticity.”

Types of Memory Foam

Memory foam mattresses are renowned for their capacity to adapt to the contours of your body and alleviate pressure areas. However, they can also retain heat, causing discomfort during sleep. To address this issue, mattress manufacturers have developed various types of memory foam beds with cooling features. Here’s a breakdown:

Traditional Memory Foam

Traditional memory foam mattresses have an open-cell structure that can trap heat. Some companies improve airflow by expanding the cell structure, helping to reduce heat buildup.

Gel Memory Foam

Gel memory foam incorporates either liquid gel or gel beads into the mattress. These gels help dissipate heat, providing a cooler sleeping surface. Gel beads, filled with cooling, gel-infused memory foam, absorb your body heat. They often contain “phase-changing materials” (PCM) that transition from solid to liquid as they absorb heat, further cooling the mattress. Manufacturers typically keep the exact PCM ingredients a secret, but they are generally considered safe.

Plant-Based Memory Foam

Plant-based memory foam replaces a portion of petroleum-based materials with plant oils. This substitution makes memory foam vs the mattress feel cooler and more responsive.

Memory Foam with Cooling Additives

Some memory foam mattresses incorporate cooling minerals like graphite and copper. These materials are excellent heat conductors, helping to disperse body heat and promote a cooler sleeping environment. Copper also possesses antimicrobial properties, which can be beneficial for hypoallergenic mattresses.

These various types of memory foam mattresses offer solutions to the heat retention issue while providing the comfort and support memory foam is known for. Choose the one that suits your preferences for a cooler and more comfortable night’s sleep.

Differences Between Innerspring and Memory Foam Mattresses

When it comes to selecting a mattress, two popular options are innerspring and memory foam mattresses. These two types of mattresses have distinct characteristics that can significantly affect your sleeping experience. Here are some key differences between innerspring and memory foam mattresses:

Support Core

Innerspring mattresses have a support core made of metal coils, which provide a firm and resilient base. On the other hand, memory foam mattresses have a support core made of high-density polyfoam, offering excellent support and durability.

Comfort Layer

The comfort layer of innerspring mattresses is usually thin, consisting of fabric or polyfoam. On the other hand, memory foam mattresses have a comfort layer made entirely of memory foam, providing a hybrid mattress with a soft and body-hugging feel.

Motion Transfer

Innerspring mattresses tend to have moderate motion transfer, meaning that movements on one side of the bed can be felt on the other side. Memory foam mattresses are best for couples because they don’t transfer motion, so you won’t feel your partner moving around and disturbing your sleep.

Temperature Neutrality

Innerspring mattresses are known for their excellent airflow and temperature neutrality, keeping you cool overnight. Memory foam mattresses, however, have moderate temperature neutrality and can sleep slightly warm, as they are memory foam beds that tend to retain body heat.

Pressure Relief

Memory foam mattresses excel in pressure relief thanks to their ability to contour and mold your body shape. They provide excellent support for pressure points, making them a great choice for individuals with back or joint pain. Innerspring mattresses, on the other hand, offer moderate pressure relief and may not be as effective in alleviating pressure points.

Overall Feel

Innerspring mattresses provide a firm and flat surface with minimal contouring. They offer a bouncy feel and are suitable for individuals who prefer a more traditional mattress feel. On the other hand, memory foam mattresses provide a soft and body-hugging feel with ample contouring and support. They offer a more modern and luxurious sleeping experience.

Average Cost

In terms of cost, innerspring mattresses are generally more affordable than memory foam mattresses. The average cost of a quality innerspring mattress ranges from $600 to $1,000, while a quality memory foam mattress ranges from $800 to $1,200.

Average Lifespan

When it comes to lifespan, memory foam mattresses tend to last longer than innerspring mattresses. On average, a memory foam mattress can last between 6 to 7 years, while an innerspring mattress has a lifespan of around 5.5 to 6.5 years.

Recommended For

Innerspring mattresses are recommended for individuals over 230 lbs, those who sleep hot, and sleepers who prefer a flat, even sleep surface. On the other hand, memory foam mattresses are recommended for individuals who are easily disturbed by their partner’s movements, sleepers who prefer a close conforming feel, very hot sleepers, and those who suffer from back or joint pain.

Which One Should You Choose?

Choosing between an innerspring and memory foam mattress depends on your preferences and specific needs. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:

Sleeping Position

If you are a back or side sleeper, memory foam mattresses are the best choice, as they provide excellent support and contouring. Innerspring mattresses are suitable for all other back sleepers and positions, including back, side, and stomach sleepers.

Body Weight

For individuals over 230 lbs, innerspring mattresses may provide better support and durability than memory foam mattresses. The firm support of innerspring mattresses can help maintain proper spinal alignment for heavier individuals.

Temperature Preference

If you often feel too warm when sleeping and like a cooler bed, memory foam, and innerspring-down mattresses are a good choice. They offer excellent airflow and temperature neutrality, keeping you cool overnight. While providing superior pressure relief, memory foam mattresses may sleep slightly warmer due to their ability to retain body heat.

Motion Isolation

If you share your bed with a partner and are easily disturbed by their movements, memory foam mattresses are the way to go. They excel in motion isolation and minimize disturbances, allowing for a more restful sleep.


Innerspring mattresses are generally more budget-friendly compared to memory foam mattresses. If cost is a significant factor for you, an innerspring mattress may be the better choice.

Back or Joint Pain

Memory foam mattresses are highly recommended for back or joint pain. They provide excellent support, pressure relief, and proper spinal alignment, helping alleviate pain and discomfort as mattresses for back pain and other common ailments.


Are memory foam mattresses better for back pain?

Memory foam mattresses are called for their pressure-relieving properties, making them a good choice for individuals with back pain. However, the right mattress for you depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Can innerspring mattresses be as comfortable as memory foam mattresses?

Innerspring mattresses can be comfortable, but they may not offer the same level of contouring and pressure relief as memory foam mattresses. Your comfort with innerspring models depends on your sleep preferences.

How often should I replace my mattress?

Both innerspring and memory foam mattresses have a lifespan of around 7-10 years. However, it’s essential to assess the condition of your mattress regularly and replace it when it no longer provides adequate support and comfort.

Do memory foam mattresses have a chemical odor?

Some memory foam mattresses may initially have a slight chemical odor, known as off-gassing. This odor usually goes away after a few days to a few weeks.

Can I use a memory foam topper on an innerspring mattress?

Yes, you can make an innerspring mattress more comfortable by adding a memory foam topper, which adds extra cushioning and helps relieve pressure.

Which mattress is best for side sleepers?

Memory foam mattresses are often advisable for side sleepers because they conform to the body’s shape, relieving pressure on the shoulders and hips.

What are the differences between innerspring and memory foam mattresses?

Innerspring mattresses use coil springs for support, providing bounce and airflow, while memory foam mattresses contour to your body, offering excellent pressure relief but less bounce. Memory foam isolates motion better, making it ideal for couples, while innerspring mattresses are often more affordable.


Innerspring and memory foam mattresses offer different features and benefits, catering to various sleep preferences and needs. Innerspring mattresses provide a firm and bouncy feel, while memory foam mattresses offer a soft, body-hugging experience. Consider factors like sleeping position, body weight, temperature preference, motion isolation, and budget when choosing between the two. Ultimately, the right mattress for you is the one that provides the necessary support, comfort, and alignment for a good night’s sleep.


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