Types of Mattresses

Purchasing a new mattress is an investment and can have drastic impacts on quality of sleep. Of the many factors that play into getting a good night’s rest, including sleep environment, the amount of sleep you get and the temperature of your room, having a mattress that supports you properly should not be overlooked.

There’s a lot to consider when searching for the right mattress, from different sizes and materials, to cost and comfort. Here’s a breakdown of the various types to consider when shopping for your next mattress.

Types of Mattresses

There are a variety of mattress types available on the market, and these are some of the most common. 

Innerspring

An innerspring mattress has metal—typically steel—coil springs with a foam layer on top for comfort. It’s a popular mattress option, due to its low price point, and is typically readily available through vendors like Mattress Firm and Sleep Number. Innerspring mattresses tend to be on the firmer side, depending on the amount of coils, and can be noisier than other options. On average, they last four to six years. 

Memory Foam

Memory foam mattresses are made up of low-resistance polyurethane foam, meaning extra materials have been added to the polyurethane. This material is commonly used in furniture, paint or car parts, among many other products. In memory foam, polyurethane is low resistance, or “viscoelastic,” which allows the mattress to change shape gradually over time, providing customized support to the user’s body, and maintaining elasticity to return to its original form after use. Other pros of this mattress include being hypoallergenic, distributing weight evenly and being good options for those who toss and turn in their sleep. However, they tend to be more expensive than spring mattresses.

Gel-Infused Foam

Gel-infused foam mattresses are similar to memory foam mattresses in their construction, but have an extra layer with cooling gel on top. These mattresses contain either gel beads or a liquid layer that helps cool the exterior while a person is sleeping, drawing heat away from the body. Given the added layer and cooling technology, these mattresses tend to be more expensive than the standard memory foam mattress. Those who might choose this option are people who enjoy the benefits of a memory foam mattress but live in a warm climate or who tend to get hot at night.

Polyfoam

Polyfoam is a type of foam found in spring and hybrid mattresses, among others. Polyfoam mattresses are quite popular, as they are vertastilie in firmness and relatively inexpensive. The foam also comes in different density options, including low-density polyfoam, which is softer and more responsive to the user, or high-density polyfoam, which is durable and typically more resilient with a longer lifespan. 

Hybrid

A hybrid mattress is exactly what it sounds like—a mix of memory foam, coils, polyfoam and latex. Memory foam is usually placed on top for comfort, and coil springs make up the foundation. If you like memory foam but are looking for something less costly, a hybrid mattress could be suitable for you.

Latex

Latex mattresses are similar to memory foam mattresses except that latex is a natural, eco-friendly material. These mattresses are firmer, more durable and have a slight bounce. They’re beneficial for spine alignment, in addition to being hypoallergenic and non-toxic, making them one of the more expensive options on the market. Latex mattresses are also heavier and may have a scent at first use. 

Pillow-Top

Pillow-top mattresses add an extra level of comfort with a plush and fluffy top layer. The base is typically made with coils to provide support. Just as the name would infer, this mattress is built for the luxurious feel of sleeping on top of pillows. It’s ideal for side sleepers and those who prefer a softer bed that conforms to their shape. 

Organics

If you want an eco-friendly mattress made with less toxins, consider purchasing an organic mattress. These contain less chemicals than those typically found in conventional mattresses. Typically made up of natural materials, including organic cotton, wool and natural latex (which is known for having a longer lifespan than blended latex) organic mattresses tend to give off less of an odor and last longer than other traditional mattresses.

Waterbed

Perhaps most well-known for their 1980s peak in popularity, waterbeds are mattresses made of vinyl casings filled with water. They’re not as popular now because of the maintenance and upkeep they require, though today that process is much easier. Waterbeds can be found in softside and hardside varieties. Softside waterbeds are surrounded by and have a padded top, which all sits in a box, similar to a box spring mattress. Hardside waterbeds are constructed to look similar to normal beds, with wood framing the bed on all sides. Waterbeds can help with pain relief, as heated options are available to warm the water in the mattress.

What to Consider When Choosing a Mattress

As we spend nearly one-third of our lives sleeping, it’s important to choose a mattress that lends itself to a good night’s sleep. 

”While it may seem obvious, the key to any mattress is deciding which one feels most comfortable,” says Peter Polos, M.D., Ph.D., in pulmonology and sleep medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health, a not-for-profit health care organization based in New Jersey. Before investing in a mattress, here are things to consider in determining what’s suited for you.

Material

Knowing what materials your mattress is composed of is an important factor to consider when determining what feels comfortable to you. Some materials may be better suited for helping aches and pain and others may be better for body temperature. For example, if you sleep hot, a gel memory foam mattress may help to keep you cool. Material options may include polyfoam, latex, organic or coils. If you’re unsure of which material will feel best for your body, consider testing a few at your local mattress retailer. 

Support 

Equally important as materials is the support the mattress provides. Before choosing a mattress, establish if you like a firm or soft bed. This preference may be determined by sleeping position, or any need for pain relief. For example, memory foam and latex are considered the preferred choices for back pain. 

“Neck and back discomfort are common factors affecting sleep, and in many instances, your mattress might be that contributing factor,” says Dr. Polos. “Or say you prefer sleeping on a firmer mattress but your partner likes something a little softer, causing you to toss and turn throughout the night. That’s why it’s important to invest in a mattress that suits you and can adjust to your body’s needs.”

Sleeping Temperature

If you tend to get hot while you sleep, you may want to consider purchasing a mattress with cooling effects. Foam or latex tends to keep the body heat in, while gel mattresses have added cooling layers to disperse heat from the user.  You can also purchase mattress toppers or sheets with cooling effects.

Sleeping Position

The way you sleep should be considered when purchasing a mattress. If you sleep on your stomach, you likely won’t want something that sinks. If you sleep on your side, you may want a mattress that supports your body weight while offering comfort.

“Back and side sleepers should strive for a mattress and pillow that align their neck and spine properly,” says Dr. Polos. “Stomach sleepers may do better without a pillow, thereby reducing the angle imposed on the neck.”

Cost and Warranty

The price tag for mattresses certainly varies, ranging anywhere from $250 to upwards of $3,000. However, there’s a mattress for every budget. Innerspring mattresses are typically the most affordable, with hybrid and latex being more expensive. Keep in mind the warranty with purchase, as a longer warranty could be worth the initial investment. 

Delivery Options

When buying a new mattress, you’ll also have to factor in shipping costs, delivery and set up. Today, you can receive mattresses in a box, but if you purchase a mattress from a store, it may require some heavy lifting. Be sure to ask about delivery options before purchasing, and if the company offers set up assistance as well. 

Return Policies

Most manufacturers and companies will offer some type of return policy. If you’re purchasing a new mattress, consider if the company offers a sleep trial, and how long it lasts.