Are sofa beds comfortable?

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Having a sofa that can double up as a bed for overnight guests is convenient. Most sofa beds are suitable for everyday lounging. However, it’s harder to find a comfortable sofa bed mattress; most are designed for occasional use.

A sofa bed is a couch that can be converted into an occasional bed. It is a versatile solution for small spaces, living rooms, home offices, or guest rooms where you need to accommodate overnight guests. Sofa beds come in different designs, sizes, materials and mattress types.

A common concern many people have when considering a sofa bed is whether they are comfortable enough for frequent use. Here’s what you need to know.

Pull-out sofa bed in charcoal fabric with the bed fully opened

Types of sofa bed

There are different types of sofa bed mechanisms that allow you to convert the sofa into a bed.            

Pull out mechanism

Most sofa beds have a pull-out mechanism where the frame and mattress are hidden inside the sofa, usually in a compartment underneath the cushions. To pull out the mechanism, you first need to remove the seat cushions. Then, lift and pull the mechanism from the centre towards you using the handle or bar positioned at the front of the sofa. Set the base down and unfold the mechanism until the mattress is flat and ready for use.

This type of pull-out mechanism can be heavy and difficult to operate. However, some mechanisms are spring-loaded for easier operation. Alternatively, some pull-out mechanisms are fitted with castors so that they can be easily pulled out or pushed underneath the sofa.

Click-clack mechanism

Click-clack sofa beds have an adjustable backrest that can fold down into a bed position. It has a push and release mechanism that makes a ‘click-clack’ sound when in operation. Unlike a pull-out bed, where you typically sleep on a mattress hidden inside, with a click-clack mechanism, the sofa forms the bed, where you sleep directly on the seat cushions.

Because of their compact design, click-clack sofa beds are better suited to smaller spaces. However, as most click-clack sofa beds don’t have arms to lean against, they may not feel as comfortable as standard sofa beds and, therefore, not suitable for regular use.

Is a sofa bed comfortable to sit on?

Most sofa beds are comfortable for sitting on. However, sofa beds tend to feel slightly firmer than conventional sofas because of the mechanism underneath the cushions.

Comfort is subjective, so it depends on who will be using the sofa. Here are some factors to consider to help you find a comfortable sofa bed.  

Height

The height of a sofa bed is measured from the floor to the top of the backrest and can vary depending on the style of the sofa bed. The ideal height depends on your size and how you like to sit on the sofa. If you are taller or prefer to sit upright, a high-back sofa that supports the head and neck may be more suitable. A higher sofa may feel firmer, which can help you maintain a better seating posture. On the other hand, a lower sofa may be more suited for those who prefer to lounge or lie on their sofa.

Seat depth

Seat depth is the distance from the front of the seat to the back cushion. It is an important consideration when choosing a sofa bed. The ideal seat depth will differ for each person depending on their height and preferred seating position. A shorter seat depth is better for those who like to sit upright, while a deeper seat may be better for those who prefer to slouch.

Seat cushions

Different fillings are used in the seat cushions to provide comfort and support. The type and amount of fillings can affect how soft or firm the seat cushions feel. Some people prefer a softer seat that allows them to sink into the sofa, while others like a firmer seat that makes it easier to get in and out of the sofa without bending or straining.

Foam cushions maintain their shape well and provide a firm and supportive feel. Fibre cushions feel softer but may require regular plumping and turning to maintain their shape. Feather cushions feel exceptionally soft and sumptuous but need constant plumping and regular care. They can also sometimes trigger allergies. Some cushions contain a mixture of fillings, for example, a foam core wrapped in fibre or feather.

The frame

The frame is a crucial component of any sofa bed. A well-constructed frame will help ensure the sofa bed is comfortable, sturdy and durable.

Higher-quality sofa beds have frames made of hardwoods, such as beech, oak, ash, or elm. These woods are resilient and are less likely to crack, warp, or split. In contrast, basic sofa beds have frames made of metal or soft woods such as pine or plywood. These materials are more prone to breaking and can rust or rot over time.

Is a sofa bed mattress comfortable to sleep on?

The comfort of a sofa bed for sleeping depends on the mattress, frame, and upholstery quality. Most sofa bed mattresses are intended for occasional sleeping rather than frequent use.

Sofa bed mattresses tend to be relatively shallow, so they can be easily folded or stored inside the sofa. The average thickness for a sofa bed mattress is around 8 to 10 cm thick, while standard mattresses tend to be between 25 and 35 cm deep.

As sofa bed mattresses are thinner, they typically have less padding or cushioning than a regular mattress and may not conform as well to body shape. Sofa bed mattresses can feel quite firm, and sleeping on one for prolonged periods may contribute to painful pressure points, especially around the shoulders and hips.

Another issue is that when a heavier person lies on a thin mattress, they may sink deeper into it and feel the base of the sofa bed underneath them. This is described as bottoming out, which can feel uncomfortable and is not particularly good for the back.

Pull-out sofa beds with good quality pocket sprung or memory foam mattresses tend to be more comfortable than click-clack sofa beds, where the seat and backrest become the sleeping area.

If the room is going to be primarily used for sleeping, consider a standard bed instead of a sofa bed.

A three-quarter bed is suitable for smaller rooms as it is bigger than a single bed but smaller than a double bed. It measures 4’0” x 6’3” (120 cm x 190 cm) and is ideal for a single person. It can also be used by couples who don’t mind getting cosy with one another.

Alternatively, a trundle bed is a low bed that is stored underneath another bed and can be easily pulled out when needed. The under bed usually has legs to raise it to the same level as the other bed. The beds can then either be pushed together or kept apart.

Sleeping space

Sofa bed mattresses are designed to fold or fit inside the sofa when not in use, so they tend to be smaller than ordinary mattresses. Most sofa bed mattresses are available up to 120cm wide (4’0”), which is less than a standard double bed which measures 4’6” (135cm). Sofa bed mattresses also tend to be shorter – up to 180cm long (6’0”). Because of this, a sofa bed mattress may be better suited for a single person sleeping alone rather than two adults sharing a bed.

Sofa bed mattress types

Sofa bed mattresses can be constructed with or without springs. Here’s a look at some of the most common mattress types.

Open coils

Open coil springs are ideal for those looking for a lower-cost option. The sleeping surface can feel quite bouncy, meaning that sleeping partners may disturb one another when they turn over in bed. Open coil springs are not as comfortable as other sofa bed mattresses, but are suitable for guests that stay infrequently.

Pocket springs

Pocket springs are smaller, softer springs that adapt to body shape. The individual springs help to reduce movement and ‘roll-together’, so sleeping partners are less likely to disturb one another in bed. 

Memory foam

Memory foam is a popular mattress material that cushions the body and may provide some pressure relief depending on the thickness and quality.

Latex

Latex is a natural or synthetic material with a springy and resilient feel. Like memory foam, latex provides good cushioning and can help relieve pressure. 

Can you replace the sofa bed mattress with an ordinary mattress?

Sofa bed mattresses are typically thinner and more flexible. In contrast, standard mattresses are not designed to be bent, folded or rolled. They are therefore not suitable for use with a sofa bed. Folding a standard mattress will likely damage its components and invalidate the guarantee or warranty. Even if you store and keep a standard mattress flat, it may not be compatible with the frame, so pairing the two should be avoided.

Tips for finding a comfortable sofa bed

Finding a comfortable sofa bed can be a challenging task. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice.

Try before you buy

Nothing beats trying a sofa bed in the showroom. Make sure you set aside plenty of time to look at different options. Spend at least ten minutes testing each sofa bed for comfort and support. Wear comfortable clothing and lie on your side and your back when trying out the mattresses. Also, make sure you are comfortable operating the mechanism.

Size matters

Sofa beds are bulky items that can take up a significant amount of room space. Therefore, it’s important to measure the space properly before buying to ensure it will fit into the room and leave enough space to move around it. You should also ensure the mattress is large enough for two adults to sleep together.

Materials

Choose a material that suits your style and comfort preferences. Consider a hard-wearing material if the sofa bed is in a room that is used a lot. It’s also a good idea to order material swatches, which are usually free, so you can see how the light in your home affects the material’s colour.

Construction quality

How long a sofa bed lasts and maintains its support depends mainly on its construction. A well-constructed sofa bed should have a strong and sturdy frame. It should not sag or creak and provide good support in the seat and the back.

How to make a sofa bed more comfortable?

There are several ways to make a sofa bed mattress more comfortable.

Consider using a mattress topper

Typically, sofa bed mattresses feel firmer because of the lack of padding. An effective way to make a sofa bed mattress feel more comfortable is to use a mattress topper, which will add an extra layer of cushioning on top of the mattress, softening its feel.

Mattress toppers vary in thickness. Ideally, you should look for a topper at least 5 cm deep, as anything less is unlikely to make much difference. They can be made with different fillings, such as memory foam, latex, goose down, and wool.

Besides offering an extra layer of comfort, mattress toppers may provide additional benefits such as pressure relief, warmth, and may help you feel cooler at night, depending on the materials used.

Choose the right pillows

Choosing the right pillows for your sofa bed can improve sleep quality. Besides comfort, pillows support the head and neck while keeping the spine correctly aligned during sleep.

Pillow fillings 

Pillows are made with various materials that provide comfort and support for your head and neck. Some common pillow fillings include down, feather, wool, memory foam, latex, and buckwheat.

Pillow loft

The correct pillow height varies for each person. A thicker pillow may feel more comfortable for someone with wide shoulders, while a thinner pillow may suit someone with narrow shoulders better.

Pillow age

Pillows should be replaced every couple of years to ensure they maintain their shape and remain comfortable and supportive. Pillows absorb sweat, oils, dead skin cells, and dirt, which can trigger allergies. So it’s important to wash your pillows and pillowcases to keep them clean, fresh, and in good condition.

Create the right bedroom environment

Creating the right bedroom environment can help your guests sleep better. Here are some suggestions.

Keep the room dark if possible

Use curtains, blinds, or shades to block out any light. It also helps to turn off any electronic devices that emit light, such as televisions, phones, computers, or clocks.

Keep the room quiet

Unsurprisingly, a quieter bedroom is better for sleep. You should aim to keep your bedroom as silent as possible by blocking outside noises. A fan or a white noise machine can help you drown out other sounds. Your guests may enjoy listening to music when they go to bed, so consider playing relaxing music or ambient sounds in the room to help them sleep.

Keep the room cool

A cooler room temperature may help your guests sleep better. The ideal bedroom environment for sleep is around 18 degrees Celsius. Depending on your guests and the time of year, you can use a fan, heater, air conditioner or humidifier to regulate the room temperature. Also, ensure you are using appropriate bedding for the time of year.

Final thoughts

A sofa bed can be a great addition to the home, providing a comfortable sofa and a convenient bed when you need to host overnight guests. However, quality can vary from one sofa bed to the next. Hence, it helps to research beforehand to find the right balance between comfort and functionality.

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About the author

About the author

Tony Brown is the founder and creator of The Bed Consultant. His career in the bed industry began in 2002. After graduating from university with a degree in Business Administration, Tony joined one of the largest independent furniture retailers in the UK as a bed consultant. Tony has helped thousands of customers find the perfect mattress.

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