Pocket spring? Memory foam? Which is best for you? The mattress market is full of wild claims and marketing hype, as you’ve probably realised by now.
Let me sort the wheat from the chaff and finally answer this question with some dignity left…!
While these mattress types do have some similarities, first let’s look at what is different. PS: By now I’m hoping that you’ve read my best memory foam mattress review, but if not then give it a go.
What are both of these mattresses made of?
Here’s a quick rundown of each mattress type and what is inside it. If you know this already, then skip to the next part.
The first and most obvious difference between a pocket spring (or pocket sprung) mattress and a memory foam mattress is: what they are made of.
Pocket spring mattresses are made up of hundreds of individual tempered metal springs, standing upright inside individual sleeves or “pockets”. Here’s a photo:
Inside each one of these little white socks is a metal spring or coil:
Layers of comfortable foam padding sit on top of this spring system, making for a supportive mattress. There are some drawbacks, which we discuss below. And no – simply having a higher number of springs does NOT make the mattress any better by itself. There are many other factors to consider.
Memory foam mattresses, on the other hand, are made up of treated polyurethane foam (or some such other foam type product). The foam is dense, and absorbs energy and body weight very well.
Generally speaking the memory foam-only option will be cheaper than a pocket sprung. For example, the Nectar Memory Foam (yes that is really what it’s called), or the Eve Sleep Original – read my Eve Original mattress review here. Both of these mattresses retail for around £300 – £400 in the UK.
Which mattress is lighter?
People are becoming more attuned to the fact that memory foam mattresses are lighter than traditional spring ones. Everyone recalls with horror the time you had to help your friend move their bulky mattress up some stairs and into their bedroom…. 🙁
Nowadays, memory foam mattresses come vacuum-packed and in a box. But what the manufacturers don’t tell you, is that they are still heavy. Some of them can weigh up to 55kg even when vacuum packed. Yes, you read that right, 55kg. So be sure to check the weight first. As a guide, an average, fit adult can carry around 15kg – 20kg each.
But yes, generally speaking, a memory foam mattress is going to feel less weighty. It won’t be any easier to transport when you move home because once it’s out of that packaging, it isn’t going back in…! That doesn’t mean that a pocket sprung mattress will always be heavy, but often they can be. Check the smallprint, as ever.
Claim: “Memory foam feels strange”
This may sound odd to some, but there are people that find memory foams to feel like “quicksand” and they dislike that sinking feeling. I personally don’t mind it, but it depends on personal preference. If that is you, then you should strongly consider a pocket-spring only.
Pocket / inner spring mattresses generally don’t have that sinking feel and therefore it’s much easier to toss and turn in the night (if that’s you!).
Claim: “Memory foams are hypoallergenic”
This is a matter of debate. Some websites claims that Memory foam mattresses are better for allergy sufferers as they are made from manmade materials, whereas pocket springs are often made from wool or cotton. This isn’t really a “one size fits all” rule, though.
Make sure that you find out what your mattress is made of – regardless of which type it is – before you buy it. Particularly if you have allergies.
Some websites like for example John Lewis often will list the materials in their mattresses – but alas sadly, many websites don’t. Silentnight however has a special page for hypoallergenic mattresses.
Claim: “I will feel the lumps on a pocket spring”
This was one of my concerns too. But it’s unlikely that you will, because of the way they are designed.
In fact, most people won’t notice any difference in the texture of a pocket spring mattress even if they’re coming over from a memory foam.
What are the drawbacks to memory foam?
- Not everyone finds memory foam comfortable (often they are either too firm or too soft).
- They can be poor at dissapating heat away from your body, particularly in summer
- There are some environmental concerns and they can smell for a bit.
How long will each type of mattress last?
The average lifespan may be an important consideration to some, but it rarely gets mentioned by mattress companies.
While the individual coils in a pocket spring mattress allow for it to respond better to pressure, it also runs the risk of wearing these coils out faster. These coils may become depressed with the pressure over the years, and the mattress may sag and feel hard.
Regular mattress turning and avoiding things like jumping on the bed may help extend the lifespan a bit, but an 8-10 year old pocket spring mattress is nowadays considered “old”.
Some brands will last longer; I previously owned a 30 year old pocket sprung/divan made by John Ryan By Design, it was actually inherited from my parents!
Memory foam mattresses tend to last quite long with proper care. It is not uncommon to see a 12 year old memory foam mattress with good quality foam– though at that point the buildup of body oils, sweat, and other contaminants is still enough reason to get a new mattress. Ideally, a memory foam mattress should be rotated regularly.
Do memory foam mattresses actually dissipate heat?
Yes and no.
Heat is another important factor to consider… in the past this was a major drawback of memory foam and put a lot of people off.
Some people still say that it is an issue, however, many modern memory foam mattresses run much cooler than a few years ago, due to changes in technology such as air pockets.
Pocket spring mattresses tend to be cooler, being hollow inside, though the foam they use for the topper may also make a big difference.
Be sure to read my reviews on which pocket spring is best for keeping you cool.
What about motion transfer?
These mattresses are only slightly different when it comes to motion transfer.
Memory foam mattresses are of course the kings of motion transfer. The “hugging” feeling the mattress gives also keeps it from transferring motion from one side of the bed to the other. This means it is highly unlikely that partners will wake each other, even if they toss and turn in their sleep.
Pocket spring mattresses also have great motion separation, although not as much as memory foam. The individual pockets in the mattress allow for each spring to move and respond to pressure on its own, rather than shaking the whole bed.
There are a number of things to consider when choosing between a pocket spring and memory foam mattresses. They have some similarities, but the differences are what makes people choose one over the other. It may be best to try them both out for yourself and see what you like best. As most of these companies offer free trials, this isn’t as difficult as it may sound.
Which mattress is best for me – memory foam or pocket sprung?
There isn’t a one-sentence answer here, but if you’re short of time and just want a quick answer then here’s my best attempt:
Consider what type of sleeper you are and how each bed may help you. Both mattresses offer decent, supportive options for many sleeping needs, but differ in how this support feels while sleeping.
In other words:
Pocket spring mattresses are great for people who like supportive mattresses with a more firm feeling to them. The springs have a lot of positive response, and feel like they hold you up more than many other mattress types.
On the other hand, the support from a memory foam mattress may be more comforting. Memory foam is just as supportive as a pocket sprung mattress, but it supports your body by contouring itself to the body’s natural shape, and relieving pressure.
If you’re still not sure, then there’s hope. It’s called a hybrid mattress, which is essentially a cross between the two mattress types listed. There are more and more hybrid mattresses entering the UK market now, so read my review on the best hybrid mattress you can buy right now.
How long will each mattress last?
The average lifespan may be an important difference to some. While the individual coils in a pocket spring mattress allow for it to respond better to pressure, it also runs the risk of wearing these coils out faster. These coils may become depressed with the pressure over the years, and the mattress may sag and feel hard. Regular turning and avoiding things like jumping on the bed may help extend the lifespan a bit, but an 8-10 year old pocket spring mattress is very old.
Do memory foam mattresses dissipate heat?
Yes. Heat is another important factor. However, many modern memory foam mattresses are much cooler than before, but some people may still find them too hot. Pocket spring mattresses tend to be cooler, though the type of foam they use for the topper may also make a big difference.
What about Motion transfer?
These mattresses are only slightly different in motion transfer. Memory foam mattresses are the kings of motion transfer. The “hugging” feeling the mattress gives also keeps it from transferring motion from one side of the bed to the other. This means it is highly unlikely that partners will wake each other, even if they toss and turn in their sleep.
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