A memory foam mattress contains layers of foam that form around the body. Memory foam responds to individual body shapes. Spring mattresses have metal coils with a cushioning layer on top, which gives bounce.

This article looks at the differences between memory foam and spring mattresses, the pros and cons, and which one might be most suitable.

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As body heat warms the memory foam mattress, the foam becomes softer and sinks. A spring mattress allows airflow and provides a cooler surface for sleeping.

Memory foam gradually forms around the body shape of a person lying on the mattress. Traditional memory foam uses a polyurethane substance that is flexible but firm.

Memory foam mattresses can also contain other layers of foam, which provide additional support.

Polyurethane foam responds to body heat. As body heat warms the mattress, the foam becomes softer and sinks. This allows the mattress to form a shape around the body.

Some memory foam mattresses use natural rubber latex for a more sustainable alternative to synthetic materials.

The pros and cons of memory foam mattresses include:


  • contours to the body, providing support to the spine
  • relieves pressure points as the foam responds to individual body shapes and weight
  • reduces motion transfer, which helps to prevent disruption from one person moving in the bed
  • durable and has a long lifespan due to the lack of sagging
  • suitable for people who sleep on their side
  • natural rubber latex alternatives provide an eco-friendly option


  • foam layers can limit airflow and retain a lot of heat, making them hotter to sleep on than other mattresses
  • lacks the bouncy feel of more traditional mattresses
  • heavy due to dense layers of foam
  • contours slowly to movement, which may be a disadvantage to anyone who regularly changes position during the night
  • people with more weight may find that they sink too deeply into the mattress

Memory foam mattresses can have a chemical odor after first unpacking themdue to volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions from polyurethane. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these compounds may cause throat and eye irritation.

A spring mattress contains one or more layers of metal coils, which provide a bouncy feel to the bed. An insulating material wraps around each coil to cushion it.

The thickness, number, and type of coil vary between different spring mattresses. Layers of foam or natural fibers give the mattress further cushioning and provide comfort. They also improve back support.

The pros and cons of a spring mattress include:


  • coil layers allow airflow, providing a cooler surface on which to sleep
  • generally cheaper than memory foam mattresses
  • some people adapt to sleeping on a spring mattress more quickly than a memory foam mattress
  • firmer coil mattresses involve less sinking and may be more suitable for people with more weight


  • lack of contouring the body may provide less back support
  • can require more frequent replacements as the springs wear down and cause sagging
  • if poorly designed, can cause pain from the springs
  • noisier than memory foam mattresses due to the spring coils

Some points to consider when deciding between buying a memory foam or spring mattress include:

Reasons to buy a memory foam mattressReasons to buy a spring mattress
Long-lasting: These mattresses are less susceptible to wear and tear than spring mattressesAffordable: Spring mattresses are some of the cheapest mattress options
Back support: Memory foam mattresses contour the body to provide good spinal support and pressure reliefNo sinking into the mattress: People who dislike the feeling of sinking into a mattress may prefer a spring mattress
Side sleepers: The foam forms around the shape of the body and provide better support for the shoulders and hips for side sleepersFirmness: Some spring mattresses offer a firmer feel and offer different levels of firmness
Limited motion transfer: These mattresses reduce feelings of movement from elsewhere on the bedBounce: Spring mattresses are a better option for people who prefer a bouncier feel to the mattress

Memory foam and spring mattresses have different health benefits.

Memory foam mattresses

A memory foam mattress may be a good option for people with back problems. An article in the Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences suggests that memory foam mattresses can prevent back pain by:

  • supporting the natural curve of the spine
  • responding to pressure points
  • evening out the distribution of bodyweight
  • reducing stress and fatigue on the body
  • increasing comfort

The same research also suggests that memory foam mattresses reduce the risk of pressure ulcers and improve blood pressure and circulation.

Spring mattresses

A spring mattress can be a better option for people who have conditions that cause hot flushes or night sweats. A spring mattress allows airflow and provides a cooler surface for sleeping.

Some health conditions cause people to feel hotter at night, such as:

Other factors can cause an increase in body temperature at night that are unrelated to a health condition, such as:

  • consuming spicy foods or hot drinks close to bedtime
  • warm bedding or clothing
  • exercising just before bed
  • high room temperature
  • hot climates

Memory foam and spring mattresses have different pros and cons. The decision of which to buy may come down to individual preferences.

Some newer versions of memory foam mattresses have additional features to compensate for some of their cons. For example, some use copper or gel to provide a cooling effect.

There are also memory foam toppers available that provide some of the advantages of a memory foam mattress. These toppers are cheap and can go on top of a spring mattress.