If you’re in the process of researching you next mattress, it can sometimes feel like you don’t even know where to start.
The mattress industry is a mess of fancy terms and specialized technologies – all of designed to make simple ideas seem far more sophisticated than they actually are.
Hopefully, this guide should help you get a better grip on the general types of mattresses out there today.
We’ll go through the pros and cons of each kind of mattress, and even include some of favorites in each category to help you with your research!
Finding a great mattress is easier than you think – you just have to know where to look.
Innerspring Mattresses: Timeless Classics
Of all the mattress types we’ll talk about here, the innerspring is the one you’re most likely to be familiar with.
As their name suggests, innersprings come with a bouncy coil core designed to provide an appropriate level of give and support.
No other mattress can match the innerspring in terms of sheer age.
The first innerspring was invented back in the 1800s, and they really became popular in the first half of the 20th century.
If you remember you parents yelling at you for jumping on the bed as a kid, that’s because you had an innerspring – their trademark coils provide them with a spring and bounciness unlike any other product on the market.
These coils, as well as the comfort layers on top that make the mattress actually pleasant to lie on, are the two main things you’ll have to consider when purchasing your product (more on that in a minute).
Innerspring Pros and Cons
If you head into an old-school, brick and mortar mattress showroom, you’re likely to encounter more innersprings than any other kind of mattress.
They’ve earned well-respected products, and their popularity is likely to stick around in some form for a long, long time.
However, you’ll actually find somewhat fewer options for innersprings if you’re a smart consumer and doing your mattress shopping online.
That’s annoying, because a lot depends on the specific kind of innerspring you get.
Some innersprings have trouble with motion isolation (that is, you’re likely to find yourself waking up if your partner gets up in the middle of the night), while others offer less support or durability than their counterparts.
Additionally, innersprings can also be home to huge amounts of dust mites, which can irritate allergies.
Despite these potential drawbacks, however, innersprings are in general a fairly well-rounded option.
They’re springy and fairly comfy and come with a feel we’re all familiar with.
Varieties of Innersprings
As I mentioned a minute ago, the main differences in innersprings all have to do with their two main components: their comfort layers and their coils.
When it comes to coils, you have four main options: Bonnell coils, offset coils, continuous coils, and pocket coils.
We’re not going to get into all the specific details here, but the kind you’re most likely to want are pocket coils.
These provide localized support, so the heaviest areas of your body will get an appropriate amount of pushback – thus minimizing the possibility of pressure points.
In terms of comfort layers, meanwhile, things are a bit more complicated.
This is probably best to handle on a case-by-case basis, so if you want to try to figure out the material that will work best for you, feel free to check out our comfort layer materials article.
The Best Innerspring Mattress
Our most highly-recommended mattress is the Saatva, which boasts some of the best ratings in the entire world.
Memory Foam Beds: The Products of Tomorrow?
Memory foam mattresses, on the other hand, have been growing by leaps and bounds in terms of popularity in recent years.
First invented by NASA scientists back in the 1960’s, memory foam is considered by some to be the ideal sleep material.
It’s considered a viscoelastic in material science, meaning it changes in flexibility in response to heat.
In your mattress, this means that you get extremely localized support – in theory evenly distributing your weight across every part of your body in contact with the bed.
Many of today’s most forward-thinking mattress manufacturers rely on 100% memory foam beds, which often come shipped to your house in boxes, which they’re then taken out of and left to inflate.
These so-called “beds-in-a-box” are in many ways the backbone of the online mattress industry, which produces them in every variety imaginable.
Memory Foam Pros and Cons
Memory foam has a lot going for it.
First of all, thanks to its viscoelastic properties, many people find it extremely comfortable to snooze on – almost like sleeping on a cloud.
It also has extremely effective motion isolation, so if you’re sleeping with a restless partner, you won’t have to worry about their movements shaking you awake.
However, not everyone is a fan of memory foam.
Some just don’t like the “sinking sensation” that can come from lying on something that so perfectly conforms to the shape of your body.
Additionally, certain kinds of memory foam have a tendency to sleep hot, and some may miss the bounciness of their old innerspring.
Picking the Right Memory Foam
When it comes to temperature regulation, however, there are a number of technologies available to improve your memory foam experience.
Open-celled foam, for instance, allows for far greater airflow than traditional closed-cell memory foam.
Additionally, gel-infused memory foam can keep you much cooler as you’re drifting off.
Another factor to consider is your memory foam’s density.
Low-density memory foam, for instance, tends to be overall more responsive.
This means the material takes less time to adjust to the shape of your body, which can be nice if you tend to change positions a lot during the night.
It also has less of the “sinking feeling” some people complain about in memory foam.
High-density foam, meanwhile, has more of the unique properties of memory foam: enhanced responsiveness, contouring, and back pain relief.
The Best Memory Foam Mattress
Our most highly-recommended memory foam mattress is the Amerisleep AS3, which comes with environmentally friendly, open-celled foam.
Latex Mattresses: Ultra Eco-Friendly
Finally, our last major mattress type is the latex mattress.
These products offer many of the same benefits as memory foam, plus a couple extra added unique advantages.
Pros and Cons of Latex Mattresses
For many shoppers, one of the biggest perks of the latex mattress is its eco-friendliness.
If you purchase a latex mattress labeled “100% natural,” that means it’s made entirely from the sap of the rubber tree, and contains no artificial chemicals.
This is a far cry from the other products on this list, which are typically made with highly synthetic materials.
Latex has a highly similar feel to memory foam, providing almost the same level of comfort and support.
However, it is naturally much more ventilated and tends to sleep cool.
The main disadvantage of latex is that it tends to be substantially more expensive than memory foam.
Picking Right Latex: Dunlop vs Talalay
There are two main varieties of organic latex: Dunlop, and Talalay.
Dunlop is the denser of the two.
As a result, it’s less bouncy and tends to be firmer on one side of the mattress than another.
Talalay latex, meanwhile, tends to have a wider range of firmness levels and tends to feel most similar to memory foam.
The Best Latex Mattress
Our most highly-recommended latex mattress is the Zenhaven, which offers five-zoned support for maximum comfort.
Other Types of Mattress
There are a few other mattress varieties besides the three listed so far – however, these are usually much harder to come by, often for good reason.
They tend to come with a number of major drawbacks.
Waterbeds: Nifty but Annoying
Since their heyday in the 70’s and 80’s, waterbeds have seen a pretty drastic decline in popularity.
To be sure, they’re not without their benefits.
There’s something to be said for the feeling of floating on nothing but water, and many of them come with adjustable thermostats, so there’s no risk of sleeping too hot or too cold.
However, many people don’t appreciate the sloshing sensation that comes with moving around too much on a waterbed.
Additionally, they tend to be fairly high-maintenance.
Airbeds: Too Dang Expensive
Airbeds, meanwhile, come adjustable firmness, so you’ll never have to worry about waking up sore for a bed that’s too hard or soft.
They also tend to be highly durable (provided they don’t spring a leak), and have solid motion isolation.
The biggest disadvantage, however, is their price: a decent airbed tends to cost upwards of $2000.
Additionally, they can be noisy and high-maintenance.
Natural Fiber Beds: Latex Is Easier
Finally, another rare mattress type is the natural fiber bed.
Typically made with some kind of wool or fleece, people tend to buy these beds for the “all-natural” appeal.
But there are two problems with this.
First of all, unless your producer seriously knows what they’re doing, the fibers tend to move around with repeated use.
They’ll bunch up and generally become uncomfortable.
Second of all, they’re often ridiculously expensive – so if it’s the organic experience you’re looking for, you’d probably just be better off with latex.
Hopefully, you now have a pretty good idea of the kind of mattress you’re in the market for.
Good luck with your research, and let us know in the comments if you have any questions!
Happy shopping, and pleasant dreams.