As commonplace as mattresses are, many people aren’t aware of just how many types of mattresses there are.
Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses and can be designed for some pretty unique purposes.
Your sleep experience is greatly affected by how a mattress feels, and its internal composition will affect the support system, temperature regulation, motion isolation, lifespan, and more.
Let’s explore the different types of mattresses and what makes them the best mattress for different circumstances and individuals.
Inflatable mattresses are the only kind of mattress that can have a temporary setup. Essentially, they are a shell that will be filled with air to mimic a standard mattress. They are used directly on the ground, no bed frame needed, and are incredibly affordable. You shouldn’t sleep on this kind of mattress every day, but they are excellent for camping or hosting temporary guests.
The most common material used for the shell of an inflatable mattress is PVC, or polyvinyl chloride. This material is waterproof, highly affordable, easy to acquire, and most importantly, flexible. It holds up well to the pressure of an air-filled mattress and is fairly puncture-proof. Some other synthetic materials may be used to replace PVC, most commonly urethane plastic or thermoplastic polyurethane, in order to increase the durability. You’ll pay more for this toughness, though.
Even with occasional use only, a standard inflatable mattress will only last for about five years if you take good care of it. They are not designed for every day use, and they aren’t meant to replace a traditional mattress.
- Highly adjustable firmness: add or remove air to give a firmer or softer feel
- Very affordable
- Waterproof and easy to keep clean
- Portable and easy to store
- Tend to leak air overnight
- Short warranty period
- Require manual effort for repeated setup and take down
Airbed mattresses are one of the most unique styles of mattress you can find. They use adjustable air pockets to offer the most customisable firmness levels possible. The exact design of the pockets and the rest of the mattress will vary on a brand-by-brand basis, but every retailer’s air mattress will offer the same basic benefits and functionality.
The lower section of an air mattress will be composed of air chambers. The number can vary between two and six, and they will either be adjusted to the same air fill level together or will each be adjustable on their own. Above the air chambers there will be foam layers. The type of foam and number of layers will vary, once again, on a brand-by-brand basis.
Airbed mattresses are very technical and well-designed. As a result, they come with a minimum lifespan of eight years. Of course, the exact duration will vary depending on the use and body weight of the person sleeping in it, but it is certainly one of the more high-quality mattresses on the market and has a lifespan that adequately represents that.
- Customisable levels of firmness to suit every type of sleeper (can be suited to back sleepers, side sleepers, and stomach sleepers)
- Ideal combination of comfort and support
- Adjustable pressure relief is great for people who spend a lot of time in bed
- Quite expensive
- Doesn’t last quite as long as some other mattress types
Spring mattresses are one of the most common types of mattresses currently available. They have been around since 1857 and are still one of the most popular construction types on the market to this day. They can vary in quality quite substantially depending on the type of coil used, how bouncy the coil is, and how many there are. Plus, there is the surface layer to consider as well.
Spring mattresses are composed of coils and some sort of comfort layer. The comfort layer can be a simple fabric covering, but many mattresses will include a pillow top layer to make the mattress just a little bit more comfortable. The number and type of coils will affect the quality; in general, tighter springs and a greater number of them will result in a higher-quality mattress. The springs can be found in three major arrangements: pocketed coils, continuous coils, offset coils, and Bonnell coils.
Innerspring mattresses are the least durable of all traditional mattress types, and as a result, you’ll end up replacing them between 5 and 7 years after you purchase it. You may be able to extend this by several months or more by taking really good care of it, but the springs are just not built to last the way other materials are.
- Very affordable
- Highly breathable and offers a cool sleeping surface
- Ideal material for a firm mattress
- Motion transfer is fairly noticeable
- Poor longevity; will have to replace with a new mattress fairly often
- Pressure points receive no cushioning; can result in aches and pains
Hybrid mattresses are a combination of spring mattresses and foam mattresses. The type of foam mattress that the steel coils will be blended with can vary from latex foam to memory foam to gel infused foam. Hybrid mattresses are the standard for people that don’t really fit into the characteristics of a full foam or full spring mattress. The coil support provides the opportunity for a firmer feel and better airflow, while the foam offers supreme comfort and contouring around pressure points.
Hybrid mattresses will be split quite evenly into two main layers. The bottom layer will be composed of coils (the type can vary) to provide excellent support and prevent the same level of sinkage as would be felt in a full foam mattress. The bottom layer may also be air chambers instead of coils, but this hybrid model is not all that common. The top layer will be composed of some sort of natural or synthetic foam. This layer provides the pressure relief and cozy feeling that most people love.
A well-cared for hybrid mattress can easily last 10 years or more. If you take advantage of the trial period to ensure it is a good fit and you take precautions (mattress protector and frequent cleaning) you may even be able to extend the duration that you can keep your mattress. These mattresses are not at the top of the leader board for longevity, but they offer a very respectable performance.
- Excellent support and joint/back pain relief
- Compatible with all sleeping positions
- Perfect mattress choice for couples with different preferences
- Doesn’t trap body heat as much as full foam
- Some motion transfer will still be felt
- More expensive than single-material options
Memory Foam Mattress
Memory foam mattresses are one of the most popular mattresses in North America. They often come as a mattress-in-a-box for those who order online, and they can come in a number of different mattress firmness levels. They are the go-to choice for side sleepers due to their ability to equally support the spine and contour around joints for pressure relief. They can be the right mattress for back and stomach sleepers with the right firmness level, but usually a hybrid is better for those individuals. Adjustable beds and futon mattress commonly incorporate a layer of memory foam in order to increase the comfort level; trying out a memory foam mattress in store will give you a pretty good idea of how comfortable they can be.
Most memory foam mattresses will be composed of four main layers. The bottom layer will be the largest and will be composed of a high density foam. This layer offers the structural support you need for a long life and reliable performance. The next layer up is the support foam; this is what supports your body and helps maintain spinal alignment. The second layer from the top is composed of memory foam, and will be only a couple inches thick on average. This layer is what offers the pressure relief and comfort that characterises a memory foam mattress; it is composed of a special type of polyurethane foam. The topmost layer is the thinnest and is called a foam topper; it offers some additional comfort and cushioning effects to ensure you get a cosy, restful sleep.
Memory foam mattresses will almost always come with a 10-year warranty at minimum. On average, their lifespan is between 10 and 15 years, but with proper care, you can extend this. They are one of the longer lasting mattress types due to the elasticity of the memory foam, so you won’t experience any premature sagging or body indentations too early on.
- Excellent contouring and joint support
- Great lifespan
- Best at motion isolation
- Lots of variety with different density foams and layers
- Edge support can be an issue unless reinforced
- Foam can trap body heat
- On the more expensive end of the market
Gel-Infused Foam Mattress
A gel infused mattress is essentially a memory foam mattress that uses a gel foam layer instead of a pure memory foam layer. They come with all the standard benefits of a memory foam mattress (pressure point contouring, comfort, cushioning, etc.) with the bonus of a cooler night’s sleep. Gel absorbs heat much slower than foam, so it keeps the sleeping surface at a more neutral temperature while you lay on it.
Gel mattresses will have essentially the same composition as memory foam mattresses with one major exception. Instead of having a pure memory foam layer, the memory foam will be infused with cooling gel. It will appear blue in colour
The gel infusion into the memory foam layer can extend the life of the mattress by up to 2 years, thanks to the cooling effects that reduce moisture buildup and the extra density it provides.
- Has active cooling technology to help hot sleepers find a more comfortable rest in a foam mattress
- Highly comfortable and offers excellent pressure relief
- Will be more expensive than standard foam mattresses
Polyfoam mattresses are made of the standard polyurethane foam that has been around since the 1950s. This is not the same polyurethane foam used in memory foam, as that is an altered version. Traditional polyfoam is used in almost every spring mattress to fill the spaces between the coils, and it is a common addition to hybrid models as well. Most polyfoam types are too light to compose the bulk of a mattress, but one type called high resiliency foam can be used solo.
Polyurethane foam is composed of various compounds that are derived from a group of chemicals called petrochemicals. They can come from various oil types and are very inexpensive to manufacture, hence the cheaper price for this foam type. Their structure does not offer a lot of durability though. Most mattresses that contain polyurethane foam will also contain springs or other foam types to add some structure and resiliency.
Polyurethane foam can begin to break down in as little as two years, so you may only get 5 years out of a pure polyfoam mattress before its aging necessitates a replacement. This foam type is therefore more popular for hybrid models to benefit from the longevity of other layers.
- Incredibly affordable and versatile
- Pressure point contouring offers relief from joint pain
- Quiet and responsive
- Durability is a major concern
- Compresses heavily under weight; not very supportive for heavier individuals
A latex foam mattress is most commonly made of natural materials. Natural latex from the sap of rubber trees is infused with air bubbles in order to create the foam. The Talalay latex method is chosen more often than the Dunlop latex method as it creates a more breathable foam. Choosing a natural latex mattress is an eco-friendly option that also comes with a number of additional benefits for your sleep. Synthetic latex is also an option, but it won’t be as long-lasting or have the same benefits as the natural material.
Latex mattresses, either natural or synthetic, will be composed of two to four layers of latex foam. they will vary in density similar to memory foam layers in order to provide adequate support for the mattress, support for you, and comfort for you. Latex produces a firmer feel than other foam types and less contouring, so if you want the benefits of a natural material with some additional cushioning, a plush mattress topper is a good idea.
Latex mattresses are the most durable type in the industry with a lifespan between 15 and 25 years. Synthetic models will not reach that standard, but all-natural latex mattresses will easily hit 20 years.
- One of the best all around organic mattress options
- Better ‘bounce back’ than other foam types for less sinkage
- Incredibly durable
- Great motion isolation for partners
- Less contouring than other foam types
- People with latex allergies cannot use them
- Quite expensive
Euro top and pillow top mattresses are ones that have an extra cushioning layer on the sleeping surface. Their main makeup can be a spring, hybrid, or foam mattress of any kind; the distinguishing feature is the topper type. Both euro tops and pillow tops will offer excellent comfort. The main difference between a euro top and pillow top mattress is the way the additional layer is sewn on: a euro top is sewn flush with the edge of a mattress, and a pillow top isn’t. A euro top therefore provides a firmer edge and a straighter appearance, whereas pillow tops will appear more rounded and will have less edge support.
Euro tops and pillow tops can be made of fiber (commonly cotton) or foam. The mattress underneath this surface layer can be any type of mattress aside from waterbeds. Springs, latex foam, gel foam, memory foam, air chambers, and any type of hybrid blend can compose the main bulk of a ero top or pillow top mattress. Euro tops are usually made of a denser material than pillow tops, and they are usually more durable as well.
The addition of a pillow top or euro top to a mattress does not affect its longevity to any significant degree, so consider the composition of the main mattress to determine its longevity.
- Provide additional comfort and cushioning at a noticeable layer
- Can enhance the pressure relief effects of a mattress
- Doesn’t cost much extra than a standard mattress without the extra cushion
- Pillow tops come with slightly less edge support because of the way they are sewn on
- Makes a mattress softer; this isn’t ideal for everyone
Waterbeds are very unique mattresses. They are exactly what they sound like: a bed made of water. They will make you feel like you’re floating, and they are absolutely exceptional at cushioning your joints. However, they don’t have any structural materials inside, so they aren’t a very popular mattress anymore. Still, they are available for purchase at various retailers and deserve to be represented.
Waterbeds have a fairly simple composition. The outer shell is almost always made of vinyl, which is quite durable and very easy to keep clean. The inside of the mattress will be filled entirely with water to suit your firmness level. That’s it!
Waterbeds have the potential to be one of the most long lasting mattress types you can buy. Provided they don’t acquire any leaks and you clean the interior regularly to prevent mold growth, a water bed can easily last twenty years or more. Since there aren’t any structural materials to age over time, the longevity is dramatically extended over traditional mattress materials.
- Eliminates pressure on spine and joints
- Can be equipped with adjustable heating systems for supreme temperature control
- Firmness is adjustable
- Hypoallergenic and very easy to clean
- Requires a lot of maintenance
- Can make you motion sick
- Essentially no support; aches and pains can quickly develop
- Leaks can be catastrophic