Getting Better Sleep With a Restless Partner

One of the most common problems when sleeping with a partner is that not all people tend to sleep soundly through the whole night.

Maybe you or your partner needs to get up to go to the bathroom.

Maybe one of you likes to go to bed a little later than the other, or maybe one of you is having trouble staying asleep. 

There are a lot of reasons why people might not tend to stay asleep through the entire night (some research actually suggests it might be natural), but especially if you’re a light sleeper who has difficulty getting back to sleep once you’ve been woken up, it’s pretty easy for your partner’s restless night to become just as much your problem as it is theirs.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

By investing in a mattress with better motion isolation, getting to sleep and staying asleep with a partner becomes a hundred times easier – no matter how restless your partner might be!

What Is Motion Isolation?

All motion isolation really is is a mattress’s ability to absorb movement on a particular part of the bed.

The opposite of motion isolation is motion transfer—that is, when part of a mattress fails to absorb movements, and you can feel it in other places on the bed.

To some degree, all mattresses have motion isolation.

Some just do it better than others.

The Best Types of Mattresses for Motion Isolation

Sleeplikethedead.com has come up with this handy chart for understanding motion isolation, based on reviews from over 25,000 mattress owners:

As you can see, the products with the best motion isolation are hybrid and especially memory foam mattresses.

Traditional innerspring mattresses and futons, on the other hand, tend to have the worst motion isolation.

So, there you have it!

If you want the best motion isolation, you just need to invest in memory foam… right?

Memory Foam Doesn’t Work For Some People

Although you might not have noticed them if you just took a brief glance at the graph above, there are little asterisks next to the words “Innerspring” and “Latex,” as well as a footnote that goes with them that says, “Isolation can vary by materials/construction used.”

Girl awake in bed

And that’s a really good thing for a lot people, since memory foam tends to come with a few drawbacks. 

You can check out our full article on it here, where we compare memory foam mattresses with traditional innersprings.

Basically, though, memory foam mattresses just don’t work for certain kinds of people.

Some people hate the “sinking feeling” that comes with memory foam, which you’re definitely not used to if you’ve spent their whole life sleeping on an innerspring.

This feeling comes because there is no springiness to memory foam (something you may also miss during less, um, sleeping-oriented activities on your bed).

Memory foam is also slow to shift positions if you like to move around a lot during sleep, and some people complain about sleeping hot.

None of this is to say that memory foam isn’t a great option for some people—it’s just that it’s not the best option for everyone.

Innerspring Mattresses With Great Motion Isolation

But not to worry if you’re an innerspring fan for life—this doesn’t mean you have to settle for poor-quality sleep with your restless partner.

It all comes down to the actual springs inside your innerspring.

As we’ve mentioned before, there are many different kinds of springs your mattress might employ, some of which are better for motion isolation than others.

Now, bear with us, because this is going to get a little bit technical.

The Worst Types of Springs for Motion Isolation

There are two kinds of coils that offer particularly poor motion isolation: Bonnell coils, and continuous coils.

Bonnell Coils

Bonnell coil mattressThe first of these, Bonnell coils, are the most common kind of spring on the market today.

If you own an innerspring, your mattress is probably made with Bonnell coils.

 They’re also the oldest type of coil, originally designed for buggy seats in the 19th century.

The idea of motion isolation probably never even crossed their designers mind, so if you’ve been having sleepless nights with your partner while on Bonnell coils, it’s no wonder why!

Continuous Coils

However bad Bonnell coils are at this sort of stuff, though, continuous coils are even worse.

 As the name suggests, these kinds of coils are built of single length of wire, which has been shaped into a series of S-shaped rings.

They’re built to act as a single, continuous unit—which makes them sturdy and durable, but a pretty terrible choice if motion isolation is your main concern!

The Best Types of Springs for Motion Isolation

Thankfully, though, these kinds of springs aren’t your only option on the market today.

Not by a long shot.

The other two kinds of mattress springs—offset coils and pocket coils—are more sophisticated than either continuous or Bonnell coils, and offer significantly improved motion isolation.

Offset Coils

Offset coils improve on the original Bonnell design in that their spring heads are all linked together with bits of thin wire (called helical lacing).

This creates a hinging effect when pressure is applied, leading to better contouring and less motion transfer.

Pocket Coils

Diagram of pocket coil mattressPocket coils, meanwhile, take motion isolation one step further.

Each of these springs comes individually wrapped in fabric sleeves (or “pockets”), which gives each of them a chance to interact with your body individually, instead of as an entire unit.

Since the springs physically connected to each other with anything other than the comfort layers on top, there’s very little opportunity for movement to be transferred from one section of the bed to another.

The Advantage of Innerspring Motion Isolation

The one disadvantage to motion isolation that people sometimes talk about is that it often means the mattress has little, if any, bounce to it.

This is sort of ironic, since the reason you want motion isolation is probably because you’re sleeping with a partner, while one reason you might want bounce is sometimes for other fun-time activities you and your partner enjoy.

The advantage of motion isolating innerspring mattresses is that you get the best of both worlds.

You can minimize motion transfer without having to compromise on your bounciness!

Now, you should realize that no innerspring mattress is likely to give quite as much motion isolation as a good memory foam mattress.

But you can seriously improve your motion isolation from what it’s probably like right now.

Don’t Forget the Foundation!

In addition to your mattress itself, you might also want to take a look at your bed’s box spring/foundation if you’re having issues with motion transfer.

To get the best motion isolation out of any mattress, sleeplikethedead.com recommends using a “firm, solid-surface, non-spring foundation.”

That is to say, you’ll find the best motion isolation if you ditch the box spring altogether and go totally springless.

Read more about the differences between box springs, foundations, and platform beds here!

Try Using Two Twin XL Mattresses

Another option for minimizing motion transfer between you and your partner is to just put two twin XL mattresses inside your king size bedframe.

Put together, these mattresses should be the exact same size as a king-sized bed, which means you can even keep your old box spring!

Of course, the disadvantage of this is that you and your partner will have to sleep on different mattresses—so if you two like to sleep close to each other, you might end up near the crease between the two beds.

Still, anything’s better than being kept up at night.

Try Getting a Mattress Topper

One solution to motion transfer that doesn’t involve investing in an entirely new mattress or pair of mattresses is to just get a good mattress topper.

Latex and memory foam in particular are really good at enhancing motion isolation, since these materials naturally absorb movements.

Check out our full article on the pros and cons of different mattress toppers here!

What Is Zero Motion Transfer?

Man jumping on bed with undisturbed wine glassYou might sometimes come across mattresses advertising themselves as being “zero motion transfer.”

Technically, this isn’t actually physically possible.

Newton’s third law says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction—meaning that if your partner moves on the bed, there will always be some degree of motion that gets transferred over to you.

Still, don’t be too hard on these mattress companies, since a lot of them can get pretty dang close to true zero motion transfer.

That is, you won’t wake up and you probably won’t even feel anything if your partner gets up in the night.

Conclusion About How to Get Better Sleep with a Restless Partner

So you see, waking up in the middle of the night whenever your partner does does not have to be a fact of life.

There are a lot of options out there for you to cut down on motion transfer in your mattress and increase motion isolation.

Your restless partner shouldn’t mean you getting less sleep.

You’ve got a bunch of different choices here.

Just figure out what’s best for you!

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