memory foam vs. spring mattress

Memory Foam vs. Spring Mattress: Does It Really Matter?

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Mattress companies love to tout the benefits of their unique technologies.  More than anything, they like to talk about the benefits of foam vs. spring.

Ignore that noise.

While it's true that technology and construction can contribute to comfort, it's just a damn lie to say that either memory foam mattress or an innerspring mattress is better for everyone.

You need to look deeper than that.

This article explains the differences between the two most popular types of mattresses sold online and describes what types of sleepers benefit most from each – and why.

>> See My Favorite Innerspring Mattress  >>

>> See My Favorite Memory Foam Mattress  >>


Memory Foam

Casper mattress: cover off showing memory foam layers
Casper mattress: cover off showing memory foam layers

The very first type of memory foam, viscoelastic polyurethane foam, was introduced by NASA in the 1960s for use in aircraft seats. It later was used to support the Apollo astronauts when they visited the moon. A bit later, Tempurpedic introduced memory foam to the mattress industry, and the market for memory foam mattresses took off.  For good reason, too.

Memory foam is an incredibly malleable and absorbent material that molds itself to just about any body shape. Memory foam cradles you firmly while you sleep, reducing the tendency to twist and turn. Memory foam also distributes weight evenly and reduces pressure points up to 80%. 

This pliable nature explains why many people consider memory foam the most comfortable type of mattress.

Since the 1960s, the cost of manufacturing memory foam has dropped dramatically, leading to dozens of brands selling cheap foam mattresses – especially online. Today, there is a wide range of quality in foam mattresses. Most of them, you don't want.

That's one of the reasons we started this website – to help you sort through all of the noise online.

>> See My Favorite Memory Foam Mattress  >>

Spring Mattresses

Spring mattresses remain the most popular type of mattress sold today, also for many good reasons. They are strong, durable, sleep cool and provide excellent support.

The three most popular types of spring-based mattresses are innerspring, individual coil and coil-on-coil designs.

Innerspring Mattresses

innerspring mattress
innerspring mattress

Innerspring mattresses contain a “box” of springs which are connected in a mesh. The coils are often connected to each other with metal strands, which makes innerspring mattresses super-strong and durable, but can also make them stiff or firm to sleep on, without the right upper layers on top.

Pocketed Coil Mattresses

pocketed coil mattress
pocketed coil mattress

In individual, or ‘pocketed', coil spring mattresses, the springs are individually enclosed in cloth and separated from one another, which allows them to move independently. This design helps pocketed coil mattresses conform around body contours more easily, which is memory foam's greatest advantage. 

Coil-On-Coil Mattresses

Saatva mattress - coil-on-coil construction
Saatva mattress – coil-on-coil construction

Coil-on-coil spring mattresses are exactly what they sound like – two or more layers of coils stacked on top of each other. A good example is the Saatva mattress, shown here.

Coil on coil designs minimize ‘bounce' and improve comfort by spreading body support over more coil systems than would be possible using a single-layered design.

In general, all spring mattresses provides outstanding support across the entire surface of the mattress and generate more ‘bounce' than memory foam.

>> See My Favorite Innerspring Mattress  >>

Firmness Considerations

firmness of a mattress

A mattress' firmness is measured using the ILD rating (Indentation Load Deflection). ILD is a measure of how much weight it takes to create an indentation of a certain depth. The higher the ILD rating, the firmer the mattress feels and the less it gives.

In general, memory foam mattresses are thought of as softer than a spring mattress. Memory foam firmness typically ranges between soft (ILD 10) to firm (ILD 120). But this isn't actually the case. Both types of mattresses are sold in all ILD ratings, from extra-soft to extra-firm.

One of the myths about memory foam mattresses is that foam density determines the softness or firmness of the mattress. The truth is that a high-density memory foam mattress can be soft or firm.

A spring mattress’ firmness is determined primarily by the coil gauge used in the springs. The lower the gauge, the thicker and stiffer the wires in the coils. So, lower-gauge coils create firmer mattresses.

Back Pain Sufferer?

proper mattress spine alignment
Proper spine alignment while sleeping

One of the myths about spring mattresses is that they are better for people suffering from back pain. That's not entirely accurate.  

Unless it is topped with the right kind of foam layers, a firm spring mattress will not give much at all, meaning your body will rest all night on pressure points like your shoulders and hips. This can cause your back to spend all evening out of alignment. 

Contrary to what most people think, a firm memory foam mattress can actually be a great solution for people with lower back pain. This is because memory foam has an open-cell structure that absorbs shock and relieves pressure very well, regardless of firmness. Even a very firm foam mattress will give some, because body heat will always makes it supple and mold to your body’s shape. The same cannot be said about extra-firm spring mattresses.

If you are a back pain sufferer, don't listen to the myths. What matters most is picking a mattress that supports you correctly, given your body weight and sleeping style. Here are a few great choices of mattresses for people who suffer from back pain.

>> See My Favorite Mattress for Back Pain  >>

Temperature Sensitivity

Memory foam mattresses often suffer from heat issues, because the petroleum-based materials used to make memory foam absorb and reflect heat. 

In general, a spring mattress sleeps cooler and remains unaffected by the sleeper’s body temperature.

They are adequately ventilated. However, spring mattresses that are topped with layers of foam and fiber for added comfort has received complaints of sleeping hot as with memory foam. Between 5% and 10% of users complain about heat issues.

Comfort and Support

Memory foam is a temperature-sensitive material that conforms and molds around the sleeper’s body as it warms. In cooler temperatures, the mattress is firm. When warmed by body temperature, the material becomes softer and more pliable. This basic property makes memory foam mattresses extremely comfortable for most people, overall.

Best Mattresses For Side Sleepers

Side-sleepers and people who tend to stay in the same position all night may prefer a memory foam mattress over a spring mattress, because memory foam is so pliable and resilient. It literally cradles you while you sleep – which means your body doesn't have to work to maintain your position.

>> See My Top Mattress Pick for Side Sleepers >>

That said, when sleeping on a high density foam mattress, you may get a “sinking” feeling as the temperature increases. About 12% of memory foam mattress owners complain about this issue. The lower the density, the less of a sinking issue.

Another comfort benefit of memory foam is that it prevents motion transfer from one side of the bed to the other. So, memory foam is a great choice for couples where one partner may move around at night, while the other is a light sleeper.

People who move around a lot at night will likely prefer a spring mattress over a memory foam mattress, because it is far easier to change positions on a spring bed.  On the other hand, spring coils can provide uneven support, which can create pain for people who do not move around a lot at night.  

Spring mattresses are usually not the best solution for a side sleepers, not just because of their general firm nature, but also because it's difficult for a spring mattress to provide proper spine alignment, which can lead to back ache and soreness. Of course, many spring mattresses today are covered in layers of foam which can reduce this issue greatly.

Smell is another consideration. Spring mattresses don't emit chemical odors like many memory foam mattresses do.


In general, most memory foam mattresses are not as physically durable as a spring mattress, although they may serve you longer.

All types of memory foam become softer and loses resiliency with age, so permanent body impressions can develop over time. Sometimes, depressions form within months after purchase, especially for overweight people

As a result, most memory foam mattresses tend to last 4 to 10 years, depending on the quality of the foam and the construction of the mattress. 

When compared with memory foam, a spring mattress is stronger and should last longer – if it were not for one very common issue: sagging.

Body impressions, “sink holes,” and “peaks and valleys” in spring mattresses often develop over time. In fact, about 25% of spring mattress owners complain of sagging.

On average, a spring mattress will need to be replaced every 3-10 years.

That said, quality matters a LOT with spring mattresses.  

If you purchase a high-quality innerspring mattress like the Saatva, it could last as long as 15-20 years.

Hopefully, this article has helped you sort through the hype to better understand which type of mattress is right for you and your sleeping style.

If you have any questions, please post them below.

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>> See All Online Mattresses Compared Side-By-Side >>

See My Favorite Products of 2022!
Select a list >MattressesToppers & PadsCooling/HeatingPillowsSheets
Touch a tab above to reveal my top picks for that category.
Of the 60+ beds I've reviewed, these are my current favorites:
My Top PickType of MattressPrice
1. Saatva ClassicInnerspring$887 - $2,075
Save Upto $450 Now
2. Puffy LUX
Luxury Foam$1,145 – $1,695
Save $300 + Free Accessories Upto $433
3. Leesa Original
Budget Foam$722-$1189
"Save 15% Now"
4. Sparrow Signature HybridLuxury Hybrid$854.10 - $1799.10
10% Sale
5. PlushBeds Botanical BlissLuxury Organic Latex$1,149- $2,148
save $1,250 On Bedroom Mattresses + Free Luxury Sheet Set.
6. EcoterraBudget Latex$849 - $1,349
Save $150 Usecode: SAVE150
7. DreamcloudLuxury PillowTop$599-$1,099
Save $200 + $399 Free Accessories(Sheet, Protector, Pillows)
8. LaylaFlippable/2-Sided$499 - $1,099
Save $200 Now
9. Big FigFor Plus-Sized People$1,499 - $2,099
Save $200 With Code: HOME
10. HelixCustom-Fit$500 - $1,149
Save $200!
Mattress toppers & pads are a great way to cool your bed and extend its life.
Topper SizeMaterialFirmnessWarr.
LINENSPA 2 Inch Gel Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper, Twin
Best Value2"Gel memory foamMedium3 years
Best Comfort3"Memory foamMedium-firm5 years
MyPillow Three-inch Mattress Bed Topper (Twin)
Best pressure point relief3"FoamMedium-firm10 years
LUCID 2-Inch Ventilated Gel Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper - Full
Best cooling2"Gel memory foamSoft3 years
Pure Green
Pure Green 100% Natural Latex Mattress Topper - Firm - 2 Inch - Queen Size
Best for stomach sleepers2"Natural latexExtra-firm5 years
Sleep Innovations
Sleep Innovations 4-inch Dual Layer Gel Memory Foam Enhanced Support, King, Made in the US Mattress Topper
Best for side sleepers4"Gel memory foamSoft10 years
Sleep Number DUAL TEMP
Sleep Number DUAL TEMP
Best temperature regulation-Forced Air-1 year
Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR Supreme 3-Inch Mattress Topper Medium Firm, Full, White
Best memory foam3"Memory foamMedium-firm10 years
Avocado Green
Avocado Green
Best organic2"Organic latexSoft/firm10 years
Latex Mattress Factory
best extra firm mattress topper
Best for heavy sleepers 3”Natural Dunlop latexMediumNot specified
Lucid zoned gel memory foam topper
best full size mattress topper
Best for back pain2” (3” option available)Zoned gel memory foamMedium soft3 years
AmazonBasics down alternative topper

most plush mattress topper
Best for softening a firm mattressVariableDown alternative (polyester fiber)SoftNot specified
Bed cooling/heating systems have come a long way – especially the BedJet, my favorite.
SystemTypeBest For...Temp. RangeControl
BedJet V3
BedJet V3
Air cooledBEST OVERALL (esp. for night sweats)66°F-104°FWireless remote control/smartphone app
ChiliPad Cube 3.0
Chili Technology chiliPAD Cube 3.0 - ME and WE Zones - Cooling and Heating Mattress Pad - Individual Temperature Control, Great Sleep Enhancement, Wireless Remote Integration (Queen (80" L x 60" W))
Water cooledBest water cooling system55°F-115°FWireless remote control
Ooler Sleep System
Ooler Sleep System
Water cooledBest temperature control55°F-115°FSmartphone app via Bluetooth
The Pod by Eight Sleep
The Pod by Eight Sleep
Water cooledBest smart cooling system55°F-115°FSmartphone app/smart voice assistant
Mattress Cooler "Classic"
2020 Mattress Cooler "Classic" Chilled Water Sleep Cooling System (Now with a Spare "27x63" Cooling Pad)
Water cooledBest budget cooling systemN/AWireless remote control
SleepNumber Dual-Temp v3
SleepNumber Dual-Temp v3
Air cooledN/ARemote control
bFan Cooling System
bFan Cooling System
FanBest bed fanN/AWired remote control
These pillows excel at relieving neck and shoulder pain:
PillowWhy I Like It
PlushBeds Shredded Natural Latex Pillow
Best Cooling Mattress Pads

best shredded latex pillow for side sleepers
Coop Home Goods Memory Foam
Coop Home Goods - Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow - Hypoallergenic Cross-Cut Memory Foam Fill - Lulltra Washable Cover from Bamboo Derived Rayon - CertiPUR-US/GREENGUARD Gold Certified - Queen
perennial, proven Amazon Choice with over 16,000 reviews
MARNUR Contour Pillow
MARNUR Cervical Memory Foam Pillow Orthopedic Contour Pillows for Neck Pain Ergonomic Pillow with RoHS Certification and Pillowcase Covers, White(23.5×14.5×5.5 Inch)
perfect spine support using a groove down the middle
SleepRightSplintek Side
SleepRight Splintek Side Sleeping Pillow Memory Foam Pillow – Best Pillow for Sleeping On Your Side – 24" x 5" Standard Size
full facial cradle plus a perfectly-angled shoulder cradle
Xtreme Comforts Adjustable Pillow
Xtreme Comforts Hypoallergenic, Adjustable Thickness, Kool-Flow Micro Vented Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Bed Pillow for Sleeping, Back, Stomach & Side Sleepers, Queen Size, Made in USA
thinner and softer than most, so your head will not bend back
UTTU Sandwich Pillow
UTTU Sandwich Pillow, Adjustable Memory Foam Pillow, Bamboo Pillow for Sleeping, Cervical Pillow for Neck Pain, Neck Support for Back, Stomach, Side Sleepers, Orthopedic Contour Pillow, CertiPUR-US
designed specifically for neck support and alignment.
Mediflow Water Pillow
Mediflow Fiber: The First & Original Water Pillow, clinically Proven to Reduce Neck Pain & Improve Sleep. Therapeutic, Ideal for People Looking for Proper Neck Support
clinical tests prove it reduces neck pain
Cradle Me Cervical Pillow
Cradle Me Cervical Pillow - Orthopedic Contour Memory Foam Pillow for Back and Side Sleepers with Neck and Spine Support - Helps Reduce Back and Neck Pain
best overall design with lots of position choices
KaUa Neck Roll
K Ka Ua Neck Roll Pillow Cervical Bolster with Bamboo Cover – Memory Foam Spine Lumbar Traction Spondylosis Support 4” Diameter x 17 “Length (4 Inch)
1,000s of satisfied customers & rave reviews
J-Pillow Travel Pillow
J-Pillow Chin Supporting Travel Pillow - 2020 Version - British Invention of The Year Winner - Supports Your Head, Neck & Chin (Blue)
added chin support prevents your head from falling forward.
EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow
EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow Orthopedic Sleeping Pillows, Ergonomic Cervical Pillow for Neck Pain - for Side Sleepers, Back and Stomach Sleepers, Free Pillowcase Included ( Firm & Queen)
Designed to support and cushion you neck and shoulders
J-Pillow Travel Pillow
AVOCADO GREEN PILLOW-Loveable non-toxic pillow has an adjustable fill, made from GOLS organic certified latex and GOTS organic certified kapok.
An all-natural, organic and vegan pillow with an adjustable loft to suit all sleeping positions
These are my favorite luxury sheet sets sold online:
Best Luxury SheetsIncludesSizesColours
Fitted sheet + two pillowcasesTwin to Cal KingSand, Slate, White, Light Grey, Blue
Brooklinen Luxe Core Sheet Set – Includes 1 Flat Sheet, 1 Fitted Sheet + 2 Pillowcases – 480 Thread Count Sateen Sheet Set – 100 Percent Long-Staple Cotton – Oeko-TEX Certified – Smoke – Twin
One flat sheet, one fitted sheet, and two pillowcases.Twin to Cal KingWhite, Cream, Steel, Smoke, Smoke Stripe
One flat sheet, one fitted sheet, and two pillowcases.Twin to Cal KingWhite, Ivory, Grey
Boll and Branch
Boll & Branch Luxury Fair Trade Long Staple Organic Cotton Sheet Set - Full, Natural
one fitted sheet, one flat sheet, and two pillowcases.Full, Queen, King, Cal King onlyWhite, Solid Natural, Striped White, Pewter
Best For Specific Needs Soft and Warm: Parachute’s Sateen sheets Most Luxurious: Brooklinen’s Linen sheets Organic Luxury Sheets:  Saatva Lofton Organic sheets Breathable/Cool: Percale sheets from Parachute or Brooklinen

Learn More

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Compare Mattresses Side-by-Side
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