Woman sitting on mattressShare on Pinterest
Light Field Studios/Getty Images

We’ve been spending more time than ever in our homes and on our mattresses. This may have you thinking — is it time to replace your mattress?

If you’re on the hunt for an upgrade but not sure what to choose, we’re here to help. Let’s take a look at the differences between memory foam and spring, their pros and cons, and what to consider before you buy.

Memory foam mattresses are designed to contour to your body’s shape for support and pressure relief. Memory foam mattresses are quite popular, with many reputable companies providing them as an option.

Spring mattresses are also common. This mattress type uses steel coils that pad the mattress and help distribute weight. The coils may all be connected together or individually encased (“pocketed”) to better control motion transfer.

While memory foam mattresses are a more recent addition to the mattress world, spring mattresses have been around for a long time.

There are several benefits of memory foam mattresses.

  • They’re soft. If you want cushy, memory foam may be a good choice.
  • They mold to your body. Memory foam is famous for contouring to hug your body. It also regains its shape once you move around.
  • They’re easy to find online. With bed-in-a-box mattresses rising in popularity, many online brands sell memory foam mattresses.
  • They provide motion isolation. Memory foam absorbs movement, which may be useful if you share your bed with a partner or pets.

There are also some drawbacks.

  • They vary in quality. You can find some pretty high-quality memory foam mattresses out there. But their rise in popularity also means there are lots of subpar versions too. While a memory foam mattress may sound trendy, be sure to do your research to see if it fits your needs.
  • They might off-gas. Memory foam can emit chemicals, which have a distinct odor. To minimize this, look for mattresses with safety certifications, like CertiPUR-US.
  • They can make you feel “stuck.” Some people like the contouring a memory foam mattress provides, but others dislike the sensation of being “in” the mattress rather than on top of it.

Spring mattresses offer a few key benefits.

  • They may be cheaper. A basic spring mattress may be less expensive than a decked-out memory foam mattress with lots of bells and whistles, like cooling gel foam.
  • They offer great support. Coils are designed to support your weight, so there’s no sinking feeling.
  • They move with you. If you dislike feeling stuck, a spring mattress will give you more bounce.

Like memory foam mattresses, spring mattresses have some drawbacks, too.

  • They’re not as good with motion isolation. More bounce means you’re more likely to feel your partner move around if they toss and turn at night.
  • They can be noisy. Springs can sometimes make noise as you move around. Foam is quieter.

Memory foam and spring mattresses will provide totally different sleep experiences. To figure out which one is best for you, think about your main concerns.

Choose a memory foam mattress if you:

  • want a mattress that conforms to your body
  • sleep on your side, as the softness may relieve pressure on your hip and shoulder
  • want motion isolation

Choose a spring mattress if you:

  • are looking for better back and spinal support
  • sleep hot, since air can move between the coils, allowing the mattress to “breathe”
  • want the mattress to move with you

Regardless of the type of mattress you choose, you can further customize it to your needs. Think about extra features and considerations like:

  • Size. Most mattresses come in twin, full, queen, and king sizes. Some brands also sell other sizes like twin XL, Olympic queen, California king, or Alaskan king.
  • Toppers or pillow tops. Some brands will let you add extra layers built into the mattress. Or, you can purchase a separate mattress topper to fit your unique needs.
  • Cooling features. Some materials, like gel foam, or features, like extra air chambers, will allow for better cooling.
  • Price. You can find budget mattresses, or go big with a luxury mattress.
  • Firmness. If you have back pain, some research suggests that medium-firm mattresses may be better than firm. Your choice of firmness largely comes down to preference and sleep style.
  • Coil count. If you’re buying a spring mattress, the International Chiropractors Association recommends at least 375 coils for a queen.

In addition to evaluating individual mattresses, you may also want to do some research into the brands you’re considering.

Look at sites like the Better Business Bureau, TrustPilot, and Yelp to get a sense of how buyers feel about the company and product. Some companies won’t show anything but positive reviews on their site, so it can be helpful to look at a broader range.

Finally, before you make a purchase, make sure you know what to expect as far as delivery, trial period, warranty, and customer service.

Some companies will deliver and set your mattress up, while others will send it rolled up in a box. Some companies have lengthy trial services and warranties that guarantee you’re well taken care of, while others don’t.

Ready for a new memory foam or spring mattress? Both are great options with unique qualities.

Opt for memory foam if you want something soft that cradles you, or if low motion transfer is important to you. If you want something bouncy with more support, go with a spring mattress instead.

Robin Mosley is a Chicago-based writer. Her work has appeared in publications including Food and Wine and The Kitchn. Her work deals with food, gaming, or business connected to intersectional identities. You can keep up with her on Twitter or on her website.