March 4, 2020

What Is an Innerspring Mattress

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Innerspring mattresses are breathable, flexible, and bouncy. Find out if this alternative to memory foam is right for you.

The innerspring mattresses of the past didn't have "comfort layers" of memory foam or latex. You had metal coils covered by fabric—that was it. This often left you with squeaking coils because the metal on metal would grind over time.

What are today's innerspring mattresses like? Keep reading to find out.

What Is an Innerspring Mattress?

Just as the name suggests, an innerspring mattress is a mattress made with springs that provide structure and stability. Today, many innerspring mattresses are hybrids.

That means they have one or more layers of coils along with a supporting material like memory foam or latex. These layers help increase the comfort, durability, and longevity of the innerspring mattress.

The materials that make up your innerspring mattress have a huge impact on how you'll sleep. We explain why below.

What's better—an innerspring or memory foam mattress?
Innerspring and memory foam mattresses cater to different types of sleepers. If you want a firm surface, you'll prefer the innerspring mattress. For a softer, more cushioning feel, the memory foam may be a better option. Today, hybrid beds made with an innerspring base and memory foam comfort layer give you the best of both worlds.

The Construction of an Innerspring Mattress

It's no surprise that the base layer of an innerspring mattress is coils or springs. Innerspring mattresses today contain different types of springs, including:

  • Open Coils
    Older innerspring mattresses have open coils. These wired-together coils have one continuous base. They provide a stable, but sometimes too firm surface. Open coil beds also don't limit motion transfer very well.

  • Offset Coils
    Offset coils have flat tops and bottoms. Wires connect the coils, which allows the coils to have more "give." Offset coils provide a stable surface that slightly contours to the body for a more comfortable night's rest.

  • Continuous Coils
    Continuous coils, as the name suggests, have one single wire holding the coils together. The S-shaped coils have a hinged setup that allows for some flexibility, but slightly less than offset coils.

  • Pocketed Coils
    The highest quality innerspring mattresses have pocketed coils. Each coil is individually wrapped in fabric and operates independently. This provides you with a sturdy surface that also has great motion isolation and body contouring.

Pay close attention to the springs' gauge and thickness. Higher-gauge springs provide more flexibility, but less durability. If you want a traditional firm innerspring mattress, you want lower-gauge springs. As far as thickness goes, the thicker the springs, the more support it provides. Aim for a thickness between 12 and 15 for maximum support and longevity.

In addition to springs, you'll often find multiple layers to bring more comfort. You may find:

  • Comfort Coils
    The base layer of coils provides durability and support. If a mattress has a layer of comfort coils, they provide the contouring and help limit motion transfer. The comfort coils are typically pocketed coils made of thin-gauged steel.

  • Comfort Layer
    Many innerspring mattresses have a comfort layer made of memory foam, latex, or a combination of the two. The comfort layer is what provides the cushioning your pressure points need. Choose this layer based on your desire for a soft, yet firm mattress.

  • Pillow Top
    A pillow top gives the mattress a couple more layers of soft comfort. If you sleep on your side or prefer feeling as if you're sleeping on a cloud, you may want to add a pillow-top surface.

  • Cover
    The cover encloses the entire mattress. Choose a cover that's breathable, hypoallergenic, and soft to keep you comfortable and healthy.

Check the Edge Support
Innerspring mattresses should have reinforced edges for maximum edge support. If you share the bed with a partner or pet, or you sit on the side of the bed often, you'll want need maximum support at the edges. Coils that reach to the edge, or a layer of foam that reinforces the edges, help with edge support.

Benefits of Sleeping on an Innerspring Mattress

  • Maximum airflow to keep the bed cool
  • A firm, yet comfortable surface
  • Budget-friendly price
  • Long life (if properly cared for)
  • You may be able to flip it to maximize its life

Is an innerspring mattress good for back pain?
Back pain sufferers need a firm, but not too firm, mattress. Innerspring mattresses with a comfort layer to cushion pressure points are a good option. Many people assume they need a super-firm mattress if they have back pain, but that could actually make the pain worse. Look for the mattress that aligns your spine while providing the level of comfort your joints need.

Disadvantages of Sleeping on an Innerspring Mattress

  • Too much motion transfer (except pocketed innersprings)
  • Poor body weight distribution
  • Sagging unless rotated/flipped
  • Squeaky sprigs

Who Should Sleep on an Innerspring Mattress?

An innerspring mattresses with a variety of comfort layers can suit almost any sleep position. But if you are a back or stomach sleeper, you'll benefit the most.

No matter your sleep position, choose an innerspring mattress that:

  • Aligns your spine
  • Cushions your pressure points
  • Provides just enough push back on your hips and shoulders to keep you comfortable

How Long Does an Innerspring Mattress Last?

Innerspring mattresses last an average of 8 years. Like any other mattress, the construction, materials, and care determine the mattress' lifespan. Look for thick coils, dense comfort layers, and the ability to flip the mattress if you want more than 8 years out of it.

Regularly flipping and/or rotating your innerspring mattress prevent sagging and weak spots. This helps lengthen the life of the mattress, as does proper cleaning of the mattress.

Do you Need a Box Spring With an Innerspring Mattress?

Box springs are the most common type of foundation, but you can use any type of base. Just make sure the surface is stable and capable of holding the weight of the bed.

Innerspring mattresses should provide a strong layer of support, but if they sit on a less than sturdy foundation, they can easily sag. This can cause back pain and even knock your spine out of alignment.

Do innerspring mattresses off-gas?
Off-gassing means the mattress gives off an odor as it expands after delivery. Traditional innerspring mattresses don't off-gas. However, those that also include memory foam or other types of foam may off-gas slightly. You can avoid the off-gassing if you buy a natural or organic mattress that doesn't use formaldehyde, VOCs, or harmful adhesives.

Bottom Line

Innerspring mattresses provide support and comfort, especially if you choose a hybrid bed. But pick your innerspring mattress carefully. You'll want to ensure that the steel coils are the right gauge and thickness for your weight, sleep position, and desired comfort level.

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