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Sprung or foam mattress, which is better?

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Choosing between a sprung or foam mattress depends on your needs and preferences. Sprung mattresses provide a traditional feel with more bounce and responsiveness. Foam mattresses, particularly memory foam and latex, offer excellent pressure relief.

Sprung and foam mattresses are the two most popular types, but choosing between them can be challenging. Neither type is necessarily better than the other. However, understanding their differences will help you decide which type best suits your needs and preferences.

Pocket springs and memory foam side by side

Sprung mattresses

Although many shoppers are switching to foam mattresses, sprung mattresses remain popular. Sprung mattresses come in various types but are generally categorised as open coil and pocket springs.

Coil springs are made from a continuous wire shaped into a series of coils. They are inexpensive to manufacture and are commonly found in cheaper mattresses. Coil spring mattresses typically feel firmer and bouncier but are less effective at conforming to body shape.

Coil springs support body weight by working as a complete unit, transferring movement across the entire sleeping surface. This means that sleeping partners might disturb each other when they turn over in bed.

Pocket springs are smaller, softer springs encased in fabric or sleeves and stitched or hand-tied together. Each spring works independently, allowing the mattress to better conform to body shape and distribute weight evenly. Sleeping partners are also less likely to disturb one another when turning.

Foam mattresses

NASA initially developed memory foam to help cushion astronauts during lift-off, and it was later adapted and used in healthcare settings to improve patient comfort. Memory foam is a temperature-sensitive material that softens and conforms to the body in response to body heat.

Memory foam mattresses are constructed with different layers of foam, which vary in thickness and density. The layer combination differs for each mattress but typically consists of a durable base layer with support and comfort layers.

Like memory foam, latex conforms to the body, providing excellent support and pressure relief. However, while memory foam has a delayed recovery, latex is bouncier and quickly responds when pressure is removed.

Latex can be either natural or synthetic. Natural latex is sourced from the sap of rubber trees. It is incredibly durable and resistant to dust mites, mould and mildew. Synthetic latex is entirely man-made from chemical compounds.

Foam vs spring mattress

There’s not one type of mattress that suits everyone. Choosing between a sprung or foam mattress depends on your needs and preferences. However, each type has its unique characteristics and weighing up the pros and cons of each will help you decide which is better.

Comfort and support

Besides your budget, comfort and support are two of the most important factors to consider when choosing a mattress. Comfort is subjective. Some sleepers prefer a softer mattress that cradles the body, while others would rather lie on top of it.

Correct support depends primarily on your body weight. However, you should also consider other factors, such as your height, build and preferred sleeping position. Generally, the heavier you are, the firmer the mattress you need.

Sprung mattresses provide a more traditional mattress feel with a noticeable bounce. The overall level of comfort and support depends on the comfort layers, the type of springs used and the overall spring count.

Sprung mattresses are available in different firmness levels, such as soft, medium, and firm. Mattress firmness should correspond with your body weight, as shown in the table below.

Body weightRecommended mattress tension
Up to 11 stoneSoft
11 – 16 stoneMedium
16 stone to 20 stoneFirm
Above 20 stoneExtra firm

A mattress that is too soft will cause excessive sinking, putting the spine in an unnatural and awkward position. In contrast, a mattress that is too firm can cause aches, pains and painful pressure points, particularly around the shoulders and hips.

Open coil springs provide a firmer and bouncier sleeping surface. However, since coil springs move as a unit, they are less effective at conforming to body shape and providing even weight distribution. But they are a good option for those looking for a mattress on a budget.

Pocket springs are more responsive and better at contouring to the body and distributing weight evenly because each spring works independently. Typically, the more pocket springs in the mattress, the more supportive it should be. More springs mean more points of contact with the body, allowing the mattress to better conform to body shape.

However, be cautious when comparing spring counts between manufacturers, as some may exaggerate their numbers to appear superior. For example, manufacturers might include base springs in the overall spring count.

Memory foam and latex conform well to body shape, ensuring weight is distributed evenly across the sleeping surface, and the spine is aligned and correctly supported. Foam mattresses appeal to side sleepers because they gently cradle the body and cushion the shoulders and hips.

Pressure relief

One of the main advantages of choosing a foam mattress like memory foam or latex is its ability to effectively relieve pressure from sensitive areas, such as the shoulders, back, and hips. The material adapts to your body, ensuring body weight is spread more evenly, and the spine is correctly aligned. However, there are different qualities of foam mattresses, and some are more effective at relieving pressure than others.

Sprung mattresses can also relieve pressure, depending on their construction and the quality and quantity of materials used. Higher-quality pocket spring mattresses adapt more effectively to body shape and offer better-targeted support and pressure relief.

Lower-quality sprung mattresses may ‘push back’ against the body, and the uneven weight distribution can contribute to aches, pains and painful pressure points. 

Changing sleeping positions

We frequently change sleeping positions during the night, so it’s essential that you can turn over in bed easily. Sprung mattresses make movement and changing positions easier due to their responsive and bouncy sleeping surface.

One of the drawbacks of memory foam mattresses is that they have little to no resiliency compared to other mattresses. The material responds to pressure and body heat. It gradually softens throughout the night and slowly recovers when pressure is removed. This slow recovery can make some sleepers, especially heavier individuals or those with mobility issues, feel ‘stuck’ in the mattress, making it harder to turn over in bed.

In contrast, latex mattresses are bouncier and recover almost immediately when pressure is removed. This characteristic makes latex a better option for those who prefer the pressure-relieving benefits of foam without feeling trapped in bed.

Partner disturbance

Partner disturbance is one of the main contributors to poor quality sleep. If you share a bed with someone, it helps to choose a mattress that absorbs movement so you don’t disturb each other when you move in bed.

Memory foam is considered one of the most effective materials for absorbing movement. Latex foam also absorbs movement, but since it has a bouncier feel, is not as effective as memory foam.

Open coil springs are interconnected; since they work as a unit, movement is easily transferred across the sleeping surface. As a result, you are more likely to feel your partner’s movements.

Pocket springs work independently, and each spring only responds to the pressure directly applied to it. Pocket springs are much more effective than open coils at absorbing and isolating movement.

Heat retention

Memory foam is a temperature-sensitive material that relies on body heat to compress and contour to the body. However, its dense cell structure makes it less breathable than other materials, causing the body to become hotter.

Although manufacturers have introduced breathable covers and materials to address these issues, those sensitive to heat might prefer to avoid memory foam.

In contrast, natural latex is breathable and has an open cell structure that allows air to flow more freely within the mattress.

Higher-quality sprung mattresses often contain natural materials, such as cotton, wool, and horsehair, which are moisture-absorbent and breathable, keeping you cool and comfortable at night.

Ease of handling

Many shoppers overlook the importance of handling and manoeuvrability when choosing a new mattress.

Foam mattresses are generally more flexible and easier to manoeuvre. Many new foam mattresses are compressed and rolled up to fit in compact packaging for delivery, making them much easier to handle and carry into the bedroom. This is particularly beneficial in properties with access restrictions.

In contrast, sprung mattresses are typically heavier and more rigid. They are not designed to be bent or folded, which can make moving them into a bedroom more difficult.

Mattress turning

All mattresses, whether they contain loose fillings or foam, will settle with use. Body impressions and indentations may be noticeable, particularly in the areas where most of the body’s weight is concentrated. Turning your mattress allows the fillings to settle more evenly.

Sprung mattresses are typically double-sided, with fillings on both sides, allowing them to be flipped or rotated. They usually contain loose fillings, which may settle down more and require more frequent turning.

Foam mattresses are single-sided and can only be rotated because the underside is unsuitable for sleeping. A single-sided mattress does not need to be lifted from its base; you can rotate it using the handles to reposition it. Foam is typically resilient and may retain its shape better than other materials.

Remember, mattresses can be heavy and difficult to handle. If you feel that turning the mattress might be an issue, consider a foam mattress or one labelled ‘no need to turn’.

Bed base compatibility

Your bed base affects how your mattress feels and performs. When choosing between a sprung or foam mattress, ensure it is compatible with your base.

Foam mattresses perform better on slats or well-ventilated solid bases that provide an even surface. They also work well with adjustable bases, as the foam can bend and conform to the base when in operation without damaging its components.

Foam mattresses don’t perform well on sprung bed bases because the springs make the foam feel softer and can cause over-sinking.

On the other hand, most sprung mattresses are compatible with sprung bases because the springs provide extra support and cushion the sleeper’s weight, increasing the mattress’s durability.

When placing a sprung mattress on slats, check the manufacturer’s recommendations for slat spacing. If the slats are too far apart, the mattress might sag between the gaps and get damaged.

Mattress smell and off-gassing

New mattresses, especially those containing foam, sometimes release a slight odour when you remove the packaging. The smell comes from chemicals in the foam reacting with air after being trapped in the packaging. This is perfectly normal, and the smell should dissipate once the mattress is well-aired.


Most mattresses can last up to 10 years. However, various factors, such as its construction, material quality, usage and how well the mattress has been cared for, can affect its longevity.

Open coil mattresses typically have a shorter lifespan than other mattress types, around 6 to 10 years if looked after properly. They are often mass-produced inexpensively and usually contain synthetic materials, such as polyester, which tend to break down more quickly. Pocket springs are longer lasting, and since each spring is independent, so if a spring breaks, the rest of the mattress remains relatively unaffected. Higher-quality pocket spring mattresses are often hand-made and are more durable. Many contain natural materials, such as wool, cotton and hair, which last longer than synthetic materials.

The lifespan of a memory foam mattress is around 8 to 10 years. However, memory foam mattresses are typically single-sided, which means that once the material starts to break down, the mattress will need replacing.

Natural latex is exceptionally durable and lasts longer than most other materials. It’s not uncommon for a good-quality latex mattress to last between 15 and 25 years. 

Edge support

Edge support ensures the mattress perimeter remains sturdy and supportive. It eliminates sagging and extends the usable sleeping area, allowing you to sleep close to the edge without fear of falling out of bed.

Sprung mattresses, especially those that are hand-side stitched, typically provide superior edge support. Hand-side stitching is a time-consuming technique that involves stitching the side panels to the outer rows of springs. It significantly reinforces the perimeter and provides greater stability and support.

In contrast, foam mattresses typically have weaker edge support. The foam would need to be exceptionally firm to prevent it from sagging, which could affect its ability to compress and conform to the body.

To test edge support, lie close to the edge of the bed to see if it feels secure and stable.

Final thoughts

Choosing between a sprung or foam mattress can be challenging as both offer various benefits. If unsure, visit a mattress store to test different options or check online reviews to help you decide. Another option is a hybrid mattress, which combines springs and foam. Hybrids offer a great compromise, providing the traditional feel of a sprung mattress with the pressure-relieving benefits of foam.

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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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