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How to Choose Between the 5 Most Popular Mattress Types
Overwhelmed with all the mattress choices out there? Our mattress guide will help you choose which one best suits your needs.
KJ Callihan is a freelance writer with a background in mental health and education. Her writing often covers product reviews and lists, animals and pet care, food and hospitality, health, wellness, and culture. When she isn't crafting the perfect sentence, you may find her bingeing true crime documentaries, browsing mid-Michigan farmer's markets, and tasting her son's latest homemade cuisine
Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness, specializing in mental health, sleep and nutrition coverage. She has invested hundreds of hours into studying and researching sleep and holds a Certified Sleep Science Coach certification from the Spencer Institute. Not to mention the years she spent studying mental health fundamentals while earning her bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Sociology. She is also a Certified Stress Management Coach.
ExpertiseBachelor of Science, Psychology and SociologyCredentials
There are a ton of mattresses out there. That's equally beneficial as it is overwhelming. Not only are there dozens of brands, but there are different types of mattresses to choose from each crafted to suit specific sleeping positions, body types and other individual differences.
To help make shopping for your next bed a breeze, we've created a guide to the five most common types of mattresses on the market today -- memory foam, innerspring, hybrid, latex and adjustable air -- and who can benefit the most from each one.
How many types of mattresses are there?
There are hundreds of mattresses out there, all of which offer something unique, whether in their construction, special features and feel. That makes choosing the right one for you difficult. Thankfully, there are five main categories of mattresses that every bed will fall under: Memory foam, coil, hybrid, latex and adjustable air.
When shopping for your next bed, you can start by choosing the category of mattress you want. That will help you filter out a lot of mattresses that won't work for you. Now, let's dig into what each category entails.
What's the best type of mattress?
Memory foam is a temperature-sensitive mattress material that lets sleepers "sink in" a bit upon lying down, with the sensation of soft foam filling in around the contours and curves of your body. It works by heat activation when a warm body presses into it, softening the foam. It's called memory foam because it "remembers" a form that was recently pressed into it by retaining its impression for a few seconds.
Memory foam was originally created by NASA contractor Charles Yost in the 1970s as a softer and more supportive seating option for airline pilots and passengers. Since then, it's also been used in wheelchairs, NASCAR vehicles, shoe insoles and many other applications. Its first appearance as a mattress material wasn't until the 1990s, however, when it was introduced by a Swedish foam company that later helped found the Tempur-Pedic company in the United States. From there on, the memory foam mattress has grown exponentially in popularity, even becoming a favorite among today's direct-to-consumer bed-in-a-box companies.
Soft and mold to the shape of your body
Great at isolating motion
Affordable and easy to find online
Some memory foam beds allow you to sink far into the foam, which gives you a stuck-in-the-mud feeling.
Big range in quality
Expect some level of off-gassing when you open it
Some have bad edge support
Who should buy a memory foam mattress?
Memory foam is known for its superior pressure relief since it can help support common painful pressure points like the shoulders and hips.
It also offers better motion isolation, meaning it reduces motion transfer more, than other mattress types, since motion generated on one side of the mattress is essentially absorbed so that it won't carry over to the other side.
Softer memory foam is ideal for side sleepers, while stomach and back sleepers benefit from the firmer varieties. Folks with a body weight of 130 pounds or less often prefer memory foam, especially the softest types. Sleepers who weigh more may wish to opt for a firmer mattress, such as those with coils, since they offer more support.
4 types of memory foam
1. Traditional memory foam is known for pressure relief among those with back and joint pain, and its overall coziness for sleepers who enjoy being gently hugged by foam. Some drawbacks are heat retention and possible difficulty in movement for those who like to change sleep positions throughout the night.
2. Open cell foam is made like traditional memory foam, but has an open pocket structure of "cells" inside that promote airflow and help wick away heat. It responds to the heat of your body to help you sleep cooler at night, and decreases any off-gassing produced as well.
3. Gel-infused or cooling foam can also be used to counteract the heat retention of traditional memory foam. It may involve incorporating an entirely separate gel layer, or pumping in gel microbeads that absorb and disperse heat from your body. Other cooling materials can also be used, like graphite, copper, bamboo and phase-change material.
4. Poly foam is a light and airy material that is affordable, easy to make and commonly used in couch cushions. It's also cooler to sleep on than some other types of foam. It's sometimes used as reinforcement underneath or between layers of other foam. The downsides are that it sometimes isn't all that durable and may provide more motion transfer.
Layla: These mattresses come with 120-night sleep trials and a lifetime warranty. The company's latest innovation is a flippable memory foam mattress with a choice of firmness on each side.
Amerisleep: This brand makes memory foam mattresses to suit any type of sleeper, with its most popular model being the AS3, which works for most body types and sleep position preferences.
Casper Original: The Casper Original mattress provides zoned support underneath gentle, contouring foams for a cozy and restful night's sleep.
The overall most popular and affordable mattresses on the market are innerspring mattresses. Known for their supportiveness and advanced airflow, these mattresses are crafted with an inner coil system, hence the term "innerspring." The coils are normally made of tempered steel, which is steel that has undergone a heat treatment to increase its toughness. The highest-quality innerspring mattresses can have up to 1,000 coils or more.
Numerous separate coils, which are typically pocketed individually in fabric. These move independently of one another, offering greater motion isolation and comfort.
Bonnell coils, which are hourglass-shaped. They're durable and firm but a bit loud when pressure is placed upon them. This type of coil is among the most affordable.
Offset coils, which are hourglass-shaped with squared sides and are remarkably supportive and helpful with contouring. These are quieter coils, as well as more comfortable, but also more expensive.
A layer of padding, foam, infused gel or other cushioning is usually found above the coil system as reinforcement and to help keep the coils from sticking out of the mattress.
Some newer innerspring mattresses have enough layering above the springs to earn them the "hybrid" label (more on that below). They're usually much denser and bouncier than beds in the foam category, and they also provide much more support.
Often very affordable
Bouncy and responsive
Offer a ton of support
The coils can be noisy
Not the best at isolating movement. You'll feel your partner or pet move on the bed next to you
Who should buy an innerspring mattress?
Back and stomach sleepers are likely to appreciate the support of the innerspring, while side sleepers may not warm up to them as easily. Their excellent airflow also makes them well-liked by people who "sleep hot." Lastly, people who weigh over 230 pounds may appreciate the supportive durability of coils, as coils tend to have a firmer, bouncier feel.
Being prone to noisiness over time, innerspring mattresses aren't great for people who seek silence in a mattress (though that isn't necessarily the case with newer models). Since they have poorer motion isolation, innersprings are also not great for couples if either partner moves around a lot during sleep.
Saatva: This mattress is available with customizable heights and firmness levels, and it comes in eight sizes. It's not a bed in a box, but comes with free in-room delivery and setup and removal of your old mattress.
Avocado Organic: The Avocado Green mattress is 100% certified organic with over 1,400 pocketed coils arranged in five targeted zones for optimal support.
WinkBeds: These mattresses are made to order and handmade in the USA, and you get a 120-night sleep trial.
GhostBed Flex: The GhostBed Flex offers excellent support via layers of individually wrapped and reinforced coils as well as a high-density base layer. GhostBed offers a 101-night sleep trial and a 25-year warranty.
Hybrid mattresses take elements from innerspring and foam mattresses and combine them with a few other materials in an extraordinary layered creation. Consisting of both memory foam and coils, these beds are able to offer both excellent motion isolation and superb contouring.
Since they alleviate pressure like memory foam mattresses while providing robust support with their coil systems, hybrids are often considered to be the "best of both worlds." While technically a type of innerspring with layers of memory foam, the latest hybrid mattress models usually have a core of individually wrapped pocketed coils rather than any of the other coil systems.
The exact construction varies significantly by model, so shoppers should seek out the features most important to them: sleeping position, weight, temperature and any issues with back or joint pain. Our list of the best hybrid mattresses has options for a variety of buyers.
Depending upon the quality and brand, some hybrids may have their own set of disadvantages. Even with a coil system and enhanced breathability, some may still "sleep hot," while others may sag prematurely or have poor edge support. Some may be a bit on the pricey side, too.
Just about anyone can sleep happily on a hybrid bed
Extremely durable thanks to the combination of foam and coils
Pocketed coils are extremely supportive
Some may sleep hot
Who should buy a hybrid mattress?
Since hybrids come in several firmness levels, they appeal to a range of individuals. Shoppers should primarily keep in mind their body size and preferred sleeping position when deciding on one. Sleepers who weigh 130 pounds or less, as well as side sleepers, would do well with a softer variety, while those who prefer to sleep on their backs or stomachs, or anyone weighing over 230 pounds, would benefit from a model with a firmer coil system.
Purple Hybrid: The Purple Hybrid uses noise-reducing stainless-steel coils to provide support for the mattress's proprietary hyper-elastic polymer grid.
DreamCloud: These beds have resilient support cores of individually pocketed coils for top-level buoyancy as well as excellent edge reinforcement. You'll get a full year's sleep trial with the purchase of a DreamCloud.
Helix Midnight Luxe: Helix Sleep's Midnight Luxe model features over 1,000 wrapped coils to provide proper spinal alignment and support under layers of cradling foams and gels.
Allswell: This hybrid mattress from Amerisleep, a Walmart brand, is impressively high-quality for a low price.
Adjustable air mattresses allow you to customize the firmness level in different areas of your bed as needed. The firmness of the mattress is adjusted through the use of air chambers in the central support core. The air chambers either inflate or deflate when a pump (remote control, manual or app-powered) is activated according to your setting. As the number goes up, your mattress will become firmer.
In addition to increased comfort, this type of customization can promote healthy spinal alignment, alleviate snoring and help with pain reduction. Adjustable air mattresses are highly durable when adequately cared for.
Most of these mattresses have between one and four air chambers, but they may contain more than that. Normally, you'll find padding or foam on the top layer of adjustable air mattresses, although more complex models may also have coils or other additional elements.
For the negatives, adjustable air mattresses can be loud and on the expensive side. They might also end up breaking down more often than other beds due to the mechanical nature of their composition -- and the repairs could be costly as well.
Since they're adjustable, these mattresses can work for almost anyone, regardless of body type, preferred sleep position or other factors. Those with aches and pains often find that the adjustability helps alleviate discomfort. They're also great for couples if the bed allows customization on both sides, and combination sleepers can benefit from changing the settings as needed. It's likely these beds will be costlier than most other mattress choices, so those interested in a budget-friendly mattress will want to look elsewhere.
Less reliable than traditional beds
Patching it can be expensive
Can sleep hot
Popular adjustable air mattress brands
Some popular adjustable air mattress brands and models include:
Sleep Number: Sleep Number mattresses utilize something called Responsive Air technology to automatically adjust each side to the firmness of your liking.
Saatva Solaire: The Saatva Solaire allows air chambers to fill or empty according to the sleepers' comfort and the use of a handy remote control.
Ghost SmartBed 3D Matrix: This bed has a layer of adjustable air chambers that connects to your mobile device or tablet for ease of use any time you want to customize.
Latex mattresses are known for their longevity, frequently outliving other beds by several years. Latex is a material made from the sap of rubber trees. When in its all-natural form, latex is popular for its sustainability, dust mite resistance, and hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties. Synthetic latex is also common, as it mimics many of the qualities found in natural latex. All forms of latex are resilient, breathable and supportive with impressive airflow. However, synthetic latex is not naturally hypoallergenic and may have noticeable off-gassing.
To make the natural latex used in mattresses, one of two processes may be employed: the Dunlop or Talalay method. The Dunlop is the simpler option of the two, and makes a firmer, denser latex with more bounce, with the final consistency being similar to that of a freshly baked pound cake. The Talalay process creates latex that's softer with the texture of angel food cake, and is considered a bit more luxurious than Dunlop -- with the price tag to match.
The downside of latex is how heavy it can be, so plan on needing more than one person to help out if you want to move it around between rooms in your home. It can also be expensive.
Naturally sleeps cool
Bouncy and responsive
Eco-friendly and hypoallergenic
Who should buy a latex bed?
Latex beds are great for combination sleepers, anyone who sleeps hot, or folks who like to change their sleeping position often. They offer the comfort of foam without the contouring that causes some sleepers to feel trapped in one place or position.
The all-natural varieties of latex mattresses are naturally hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant, making them ideal for asthma and allergy sufferers. They're also very low on off-gassing, bringing zero to barely detectable levels of chemical smells into your home.
More specifically, Dunlop latex is good for those with back pain since it's firmer. Talalay latex is ideal for people who can't get comfy on too-firm mattresses, including side sleepers and those in need of extra pressure relief.
Popular latex mattress brands
Some of the most popular latex mattress brands and models include:
PlushBeds: PlushBeds makes several high-quality latex beds, including the Botanical Bliss organic latex mattress, which is CNET's pick for the best latex mattress.
GhostBed: A more affordable latex mattress option that features synthetic latex foam, which is more breathable than other foams.
Spindle: The Spindle organic latex mattress is made with 100% organic latex, wool and cotton.
Brentwood Home: Brentwood Home's Cedar Luxe Natural Luxury mattress has carefully organized and patented zones of latex. These beds are great for back and stomach sleepers.
How to choose a mattress for your body type and weight
When shopping for a mattress, your body type and weight matters. Not only does it help you determine what kind of mattress you should buy, but it also influences how the mattress feels.
Let's talk about how your body type can determine what type of mattress you should get. Those who weigh over 230 pounds need more durability and support from their mattress. Because of this, all-foam mattresses and adjustable beds tend to lack. Innerspring or hybrid mattresses are generally your best bet, so you get the comfort of memory foam and the support of modern coil technology. There are also mattresses like Big Fig specifically designed to cater to the needs of heavy sleepers.
Your body type also influences how a mattress will feel. When we test mattresses, we determine the firmness and feel based on the average body type. However, those on either side of the scale will have a different experience.
If you're petite, you will put less pressure on the mattress, which will typically feel firmer. As such, you should go with a softer bed for optimal comfort. On the other hand, heavier people will put more pressure on the mattress, which means it will feel softer. It's essential to find the correct firmness level that is both comfortable and firm enough to keep your spine aligned at night.
Final verdict: what type of mattress material is best?
There are a lot of mattresses out there, all of which vary in their construction. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to narrow down what type of mattress you want based on what it's made of. The best beds often have a mix of features like memory foam, gel foams, pocketed coils and pillow tops. When shopping for your ideal match, consider your sleeping position, body type and price range.
If you're looking for a soft mattress that offers superior pressure relief and you're under 130 pounds, you should consider a memory foam mattress.
If you weigh over 230 pounds or are a back or stomach sleeper looking for a supportive bed with a bouncy feel, go for a coil or innerspring mattress.
Latex mattresses are best for people who value sustainability and all-natural beds. Latex beds are also naturally sleep cooler than other bed types.
Adjustable air mattresses are great for people who want customization.
Anyone will like a hybrid mattress. They strike a nice balance between pressure relief and durability and can support any body type.
The five different types of mattresses are memory foam, innerspring, hybrid, latex and adjustable air. They are distinctly different in their construction and who they are best suited for.
Innerspring mattresses are probably what you imagine when you think of a bed -- a coil foundation that makes it bouncy and supportive. Then there are memory foam beds, some of the most popular around. Hybrid mattresses are a special case in which they can include several different types of mattress components -- from pocketed coils to gel to traditional memory foam. Adjustable air mattresses are best suited for people who want to customize their beds.
Which type of mattresses are best?
The best type of mattress will change depending on who you ask. It's a subjective area -- all our sleeping needs are different. Every type of mattress has a person best suited for it. Hybrid mattresses are typically a safe choice for most people because they give you the best of both worlds -- the durability of coils and the pressure relief of memory foam. They are some of the most durable beds you can get.
Which type of mattress is best foam or spring?
This comes down to your preferences and sleeping needs. Some people don't like the feel of memory foam. In contrast, others prefer sinking into dense traditional foam that swallows them up.
However, coil mattresses tend to last longer than memory foam beds because they have a durable foundation. If you can't decide which one to get, opt for a hybrid with both features.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.