Mattress Types: The Definitive Guide

Published
by Max S
The Definitive Guide

You’re probably here because you’re wondering what’s the differences between all of these mattress types. Need a reminder, here’s a quick list before we dig deeper:

We’ve also covered the best mattresses for every mattress type:

We cover a few other varieties and their uses; I love my futon so how could I not. Here’s the rest: 

  • What is a futon mattress?
  • What is an air mattress?
  • What is a cot mattress?
  • What is a waterbed mattress?

So, as you’ve probably worked out by now, we primarily talk about the filling and layers used within the mattress when we talk about mattress types. Nowadays, most modern firms tend to be ‘Hybrids’ at heart, but that doesn’t always make them better for you, so this research is worth doing. 

I can hear your thoughts echoing now, but the list above didn’t contain pillow-top mattresses? I do also cover them, but they have less to do with the mattress type itself and more to do with the mattress surface. These are the ones I’ll be covering in this mattress type guide: 

  • Quilted mattress surface
  • Tufted mattress surface
  • Pillow top mattress surface 
  • Box top mattress surface

What Are Traditional Spring Mattresses: 

A traditional spring mattress is also known as an ‘open spring’ mattress. This means there are uncovered metal springs throughout the inner-mattress, providing additional support to sleepers and comfort. 

One of the main disadvantages is that all the springs move together, so you can feel ‘everything’ that happens on the mattress. 

They’re on the cheaper end of the mattress spectrum due to their mass popularity and come in all varieties of sizes, firmness and builds. However, they generally aren’t as long-lasting as more premium types, but they certainly get the job done. 

Estimate Pricing: £ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Medium – Firm 

Recommended For: Back sleepers, if you’re on a budget, and guest rooms 

What Are Pocket Spring Mattresses: 

Pocket spring mattresses are pretty similar to the traditional spring mattress, but with one key difference. The springs are individually wrapped in ‘pockets’, allowing each spring to move more independently than in traditional spring mattresses. 

This means that if you’re sleeping with a partner, you won’t feel them moving as much, but there is still some motion transfer. 

You can often find quilted and tufted mattress surfaces for Pocket spring types of mattresses, but more on that below. 

Estimate Pricing: £-££ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Soft – Firm 

Recommended For: Back and front sleepers, couples 

What Are Memory Foam Mattresses:

Memory foam mattresses were the first line of next-generation mattresses and are as popular as ever today. The memory foam helps you to sleep by contouring around your body – ultimately providing greater spinal alignment and aiding in relieving your pressure points. In other words, it allows you to sink into the mattress and fall to sleep.  

The memory foam mattresses are made out of a new type of foam called viscoelastic polyurethane foam and are found in many modern mattresses, including hybrids, which we address below. 

Estimate Pricing: ££-£££ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Soft – Firm 

Recommended For: Side, back and front (stomach) sleepers, and people who suffer from back pain or wake up with backaches. 

What Are Orthopaedic Mattresses:

I thought orthopaedic deserved its place on the list, as they have surged in popularity and serve a particular and valuable purpose. Orthopaedic mattresses have been designed since the 1950s to give sleepers a firm sleep surface. This helps to provide more targeted support to your back and aching joints. 

They come in various mattress types that you’ll find in this list and are a bit more expensive due to their specialised nature and construction. 

Estimate Pricing: £££-££££ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Medium-Firm to Firm 

Recommended For: Back sleepers and people who suffer from back pain or wake up with backaches 

What Are Latex Mattresses:

Okay, so why would you want a latex mattress? Firstly, they’re more often than not hypoallergenic, making them ideal for sleepers sensitive to allergies. Second, they help distribute your weight more evenly across the mattress, which ultimately helps relieve your pressure points. 

And most important, they do provide a comfortable surface to sleep on. I was close to putting this in the ‘mattress surfaces’ sections below, but they were included in this due to their specific material. 

Estimate Pricing: ££-£££/ £££££ 

Average Firmness: Medium to Firm 

Recommended For: Back, front and some side sleepers, and people who suffer from allergies.

What Are Hybrid Mattresses:

Hybrid mattresses are also known as combination mattresses, so watch out in your research as some sites will use combination instead of a hybrid. Hybrid mattresses are made out of two core types of mattresses such as memory foam, latex, gel and springs.

These mattresses help provide more stability to spring mattresses and more breathability to memory foam mattresses and are one of the latest innovations to the mattress industry. 

There are a lot of great new hybrid mattresses, and I would be honoured if you explored our site to find yours!

Estimate Pricing: £££ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Soft to Firm 

Recommended For: Back, front and some side sleepers, and those who sweat/hot at night 

What Are Gel Mattresses:

Gel mattresses are great for hot sleepers, as the crafty mattress manufacturers have implemented a layer of gel foam that is both breathable due to its open-cell nature and cushioning to your pressure points. 

Gel mattresses also aid movement as they allow the mattress to return to form quicker. For instance, if you move around a lot in your sleep, the material will immediately start contouring around your new body position, and the old position will uncompress quickly. 

Estimate Pricing: £££ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Medium to Firm 

Recommended For: Back and front, and those who sweat or are hot at night 

What Are Organic Mattresses:

Like many of the other mattress types, organic mattresses are their namesake. They use organic, non-toxic materials to construct the mattress, ultimately providing a more suitable environment for those with allergies. 

Organic materials can include mattresses filled with organic wool, which helps to disperse sweat, and is naturally ‘bouncy’, but there’s also organic latex and many more types. 

Estimate Pricing: £££ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Soft to Firm 

Recommended For: Back, front and side sleepers, and those who have allergies.

What Are Mattress In A Box / Rolled Mattresses

A mattress-in-a-box is one of the newest types of mattresses and the most convenient mattress types on the market. It’s easy to understand why when you realise that it can be delivered to your door in days, in a two-person box. 

This easily transportable mattress is heavily vacuumed to compress the mattress and will expand once opened. This new technology allows the existing mattress types to be used, so there’s a minimal compromise to the quality and a big help to your bank for the quality. 

Estimate Pricing: ££-£££ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Soft to Firm 

Recommended For: Back, front and side sleepers, and those who want a bit more luxury for their money. 

What are Cot Mattresses:

Cot mattresses are specifically designed for a baby’s growth from birth to around three years old. 

Cot mattresses tend to be firmer as this avoids any potential suffocation if a baby rolls over face-first—an essential part of any new parents’ arsenals. 

Estimate Pricing: £££ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Firm 

Recommended For: New-born babies to 2-3 years old 

Futon Mattresses: 

A futon mattress is generally a thinner type of mattress placed on top of a futon bed frame. If you don’t know what a futon is, they are the frames that can be a bed and folded down into a sofa. 

Now, whilst they’re great as a guest bed or as a space-saving bed, they’re not generally thought of as long-term solutions to a mattress. 

Estimate Pricing: £££ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Medium-Firm 

Recommended For: Guest bedrooms and space-saving rooms

Air Mattresses:

An air mattress is usually made of polyvinyl chloride, more aptly known as PVC. They have evolved recently and can be made out of rubber or a special type of urethane plastic to increase longevity. 

They are made out of the air and are highly transportable as you can let the air out of the mattress fold up the remnants. All modern versions should come with an air compressor, but it’s worth checking on that. 

Estimate Pricing: £ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Soft – Medium 

Recommended For: Guest bedrooms and long-stay weekend sleep-overs

Waterbed

Waterbeds are usually vinyl mattresses that are filled with water. Tubes, called ‘bladders’, are filled, making the process easier than it was back in their heyday (the 1980s). 

You can get self-supporting waterbeds now, so you do not need a waterbed frame to support the mattress. And the more luxurious versions even come with temperature control for the water! 

Waterbeds can be thought of as therapeutic. The warm water provides additional relaxation, and the water inside provides relief to all your pressure points as it contours efficiently around your body. 

Estimate Pricing: £££-££££ / £££££ 

Average Firmness: Soft – Medium 

Recommended For: If you’re used to a waterbed or looking for something new

So, what are the different mattress surfaces? 

We’ve gone through the majority of types of mattresses available in the market today, but I did touch on the fact that mattress types also differ on their surface type. 

When we think about the surface type, we’re talking about the few mms to cms that cover the mattress, usually a more plump, cushiony surface to provide ultimate comfort. 

Quilted mattress surface

If you’ve ever been to a mattress showroom, then you’ve seen a quilted mattress surface. The quilt is the mattress’s top layer and helps prevent the comfort layer beneath from moving out of position. 

Quilted mattress surfaces rarely protrude from the top of the mattress and are stitched to emulate a padded design. If you’ve stayed over at your grandparent’s house and found yourself being prodded by buttons on a mattress, then you’ve experienced the old days of a quilted mattress surface. 

Mattress firms now opt to sew the top layer rather than using buttons.  

Tufted mattress surface

Pocket sprung mattresses often require a tufted mattress surface as this helps prevent the mattress from losing shape, which could result in collapse. 

Tufted mattresses are the most common type of mattress surface, and it helps to not only elongate the life of a mattress but also help to make it feel ‘firmer’. You’ll recognise them from their buttons on the mattress. 

There are tufted on both top and bottom of the mattress, so you’re able to flip the mattress every six months or so. 

Pillow top mattress surface 

Pillow top mattress surfaces are an additional, separate layer on top of the mattress for greater comfort. 

The plush pillow top layer is often found on spring and foam mattresses. The result is an added bit of luxury, as it helps with contouring. 

Since pillow tops are an additional layer, they are pretty much always one-sided and not able to be fit. 

Box top mattress surface

This is the most premium and luxurious of all mattress surfaces and has squared off corners – resulting in the name ‘box top’ mattress. 

Like the pillow top surfaces, the box top mattress is around 2-6inches of additional layering, which is stitched onto the mattress. This eeks out a bit more sleeping surface, luxury and plushness as a result.

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AUTHOR

Max S

Chief Editor here at The Sleep Checklist. Suffered from a seemingly infinite knot in my thoracic area (between the spine and shoulder blade) due to my lifelong side sleeping habits. With my girlfriend, we look to provide the most relevant and best mattress advice.