Why All Mattresses Are Not the Same

Imagine you are in sunny South Africa. It’s the Paleolithic era and you just spent a long day forging tools from stone, hunting and gathering, and building shelter for your family. After a grueling day, you’re ready to rest your body, so you tuck into a nice and cozy… plant mat. What a letdown, right? And poor back support to boot. marionbamford final

According to National Geographic, the oldest known bed in the world dates back 77,000 years. It was made of layers of plant material woven into mats that were 12 inches thick and 22 square feet in size! Luckily for us, mattresses have come a long way since then. While anything is better than a woven plant mat, all mattresses are not created equal, and knowing which option is best for you can involve more research and consideration than you think.

Mattresses often look the same on the outside and may even be made of similar materials on the surface but, over time, you will come to find the features you can’t see are the most important. As with most things, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Sleep Advisor highlights some key features, pros, and cons of a variety of common mattress types.

Innerspring mattresses

Innerspring mattresses have been around since the early 1900s and are the most common mattress type. These are the classic, springy beds you jumped on as a kid before your parents came in and told you to keep it down and go to sleep.

This type of mattress is traditionally made from steel coils that compress when you lie down. If you’re interested in buying an innerspring bed, you might run into the term “coil gauge” while researching. Coil gauge refers to the thickness of the springs in the mattress. A thinner coil will make the bed softer, so you’ll feel the effect of “sinking in” while you sleep, whereas thicker coils provide sturdier support. Consider what is more comfortable for you, but don’t forget to investigate the coil count – the more coils, whether thick or thin, the more support for your body. In fact, the secret is all in the spring:

Continuous coils are made from a single wire. Instead of the traditional bouncy, slinky shape we usually picture when it comes to springs, this coil is shaped like an “S” made of one, interlinked wire. The structure provides stability, so your bed can stand up to tossing and turning. This model also tends to be reasonably priced.

Bonnell coils were the first springs invented and were originally used in the 1800s to support seat cushions in horse-driven buggies. These hourglass-shaped coils are is still used in mattresses today and link together to make one sturdy structure to give the mattress durability. This is a mid-price option if you’re interested in springing for an innerspring mattress.

Offset coils are pretty similar to Bonnell in structure and formation, but the key difference is the compressed edges. The top and bottom of each spring are flattened to help the bed better conform to your body and fight any annoying squeaking sounds that start happening over time with more standard spring mattresses. This type of bed is supportive and can stand the test of time.

Finally, Marshall or Pocketed coils are unique in structure. The supporting coils aren’t connected, so they each work individually. Your every movement is met with more fluidity and comfort. The barrel shape gives your body support in any position throughout the night. This is an affordable option if something like memory foam is out of your price range.

Innerspring mattresses maintain popularity because they’re so affordable, though they do tend to wear out quicker than more expensive types. Over time, you might even notice some squeaking because of the wear and tear, and so will your partner every time you climb out of bed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Despite the limited time stamp, armed with the right information, you can purchase a high-quality spring mattress and snooze comfortably for years to come.

Memory Foam

Originally invented by NASA to improve safety in aircraft cushions, memory foam has become a popular sleep vehicle option across the globe since it first hit the market in the 1990s. This type of mattress is mostly known for its body-contouring capabilities and the cozy, “sinking in” feeling we know and love. Other benefits include: hand on latex mattress

  • –  Soothing body pain and pressure.
  • –  Aid in correcting spinal alignment – a key feature for many people who slouch in front of a computer all day or even work manual labor jobs.
  • –  Isolating movement to keep you from waking your partner when you climb out of bed for a midnight snack.
  • –  Keeps pests such as dust mites and allergens away to stop you from sneezing all night.
  • –  Compatible with adjustable beds, so you and your partner can have a customized sleep experience. While memory foam can boast a pretty steep price tag, it’s a worthwhile investment for people who have aches and pains and need extra cushion.

Gel Mattresses

While memory foam is great for cushion and support, it tends to harbor heat and create a sweaty sleep experience for some people. Memory foam needs to be dense to offer adequate support, but the denseness can restrict airflow and warm things up. To counteract the extra heat, gel is added to the foam. As a natural cooler, the gel will absorb the excess warmth and help you stay cool and comfortable all night long.


Similar to memory foam, latex mattresses shape to your body and offer support; but if the signature “sinking in” feeling of memory foam isn’t comfortable for you, latex could be a better option. There are two types of latex mattresses:

  • –  Dunlop latex is named after the fabrication process used to make the mattress. The latex is poured into a mold as a single piece, making the bed firm on the bottom, but soft on top.
  • –  Talalay latex is made by filling the mold, then using a suction process to remove all the air from the mattress. Once the air is removed, the bed is then frozen to create stability. Compared to the Dunlop mattress, Talalay has a firmer, more balanced feel. Latex is a byproduct of sap from a rubber tree, making this an eco-friendly option for shoppers interested in environmental preservation.


Whether you can’t decide what type of mattress you want or you have a variety of needs, a hybrid mattress can offer the best of both worlds: the structure and resilience of a spring mattress with the contouring and softness of memory foam. Layers of latex or foam along with a spring coil base will help alleviate pressure on your body and regulate sleep temperature. Hybrid beds offer a totally customizable sleep experience – ideal for picky snoozers or those who have aches and pains from sleeping on more traditional mattresses.

While innerspring, memory foam, gel, and latex are conventional options that offer familiarity and are easy to find, there are other innovative and quality mattress types on the market that may be worth consideration. Some choices include:

  • –  Waterbeds – customizable water flow that moves with your body and can be adjusted on each side of the bed, so you and your partner both enjoy the ideal sleep environment.
  • –  Pillowtop – have an extra layer of cushion on top of the bed, often made from cotton, foam, latex, or wool, that can offer benefits like cooling, stability, and comfort.
  • –  Polyfoam – a synthetic material that offers a range of density options. Just be sure to look for options that come with a CertiPUR-US certification to make sure your bed comes ozone depleter, chemical flame retardant, mercury, lead, heavy metal, and formaldehyde-free.
  • –  Adjustable – can be customized and raised in different positions, perfect for people who like to work in their pajamas, enjoy a book, or Netflix binge in bed.
  • –  Airbeds – a serious upgrade from the air mattress we remember blowing up with a pump at sleepovers, airbeds often include foam layers and are less bulky than the traditional bed. They are customizable and are less prone to sagging, making for a durable and long-lasting choice.

– Organic – the best option for buyers who want to consider what’s best for the environment with their purchase. These mattresses are made from materials like latex, organic wool, recycled steel, and organic cotton. To ensure the bed is eco-friendly, sustainable, and non-toxic, make sure your purchase comes with a GREENGUARD GOLD certification.

The number of options available when it comes to choosing a mattress can be a bit daunting and confusing. To help you make the right decision, The Better Sleep Council recommends helpful steps such as determining a budget, researching options, reading reviews on reliable sites, looking at different purchasing options, and testing out the mattress before buying.

A quality mattress that fits your needs is an investment and vital to protecting your body and sleep quality.