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What Different Types of Innerspring Mattresses are Available? Which Ones are Best and Why?

Updated on March 16, 2016
What are your options in a typical mattress showroom and which ones are best?
What are your options in a typical mattress showroom and which ones are best? | Source

We've finally arrived at the guts of this string of articles - mattresses. This is specifically about Innerspring mattresses. I will also go off into detail about Latex and Memory Foam toward the end - and even highlight on airbeds - if you're looking for information about those other popular mattress options.


Most mattress sales personnel are trained 'how to sell' mattresses to customers - not on 'how to find the best match' for them. That's why YOU need to know how to test mattresses for yourself in order to determine the best match for your body.

Know how to check for yourself to choose a mattress for correct back alignment.
Know how to check for yourself to choose a mattress for correct back alignment.
Innerspring, Upholstery Layer and Comfort Layers of Polyfoam, Memory Foam and/or Latex ALL wrapped up like a present in a mattress ticking cover.
Innerspring, Upholstery Layer and Comfort Layers of Polyfoam, Memory Foam and/or Latex ALL wrapped up like a present in a mattress ticking cover.

About Innerspring Mattresses

Believe it or not, the BIGGEST PROBLEM today with the way mattresses fail - by somehow creating those uncomfortable 'hills & valleys' - is due to the comfort layers on top, NOT the Innerspring inside of it.

Most of the time, people think that the coils have broken down. But if we could all replace just the top comfort layers in a mattress, we'd usually find that the coils are still good underneath. (I'll talk about that more.)

This is one good thing about Dux mattresses - the comfort layers can be removed and replaced. However, they are very expensive - AND I once had a couple come into my store looking for a new bed; after sleeping on a Dux bed they LOVED for roughly eight years before they needed to replace the top.

By that time, the manufacturer no longer made their particular top the same way - and they couldn't find another top like it that was as comfortable to them. A bed that cost thousands of dollars ended up in the GUEST ROOM.

And notice that the foam in this luxury mattress didn't last any longer than any other foam in any other type of mattress. It failed before ten years was up.

'Plush' Mattress with some comfort layers - add more with a topper.
'Plush' Mattress with some comfort layers - add more with a topper. | Source

Double-Sided vs. Single Sided Mattress - Which is Better?

It should almost go without saying that a double-sided mattress will obviously last longer if it is being maintained via a flip & rotate schedule on a regular basis - because the innerspring is being worn evenly; and these mattresses don't usually have very thick comfort layers that will allow for hills & valleys to form, to begin with.

There are two major cons with double-sided mattresses, however - many people don't find them nearly as cozy to sleep on (because the comfort layers are not as thick); but mostly, they are harder to find.

Double-sided mattresses are pretty much a niche market if you live in a city like Seattle and other major cities, I would imagine. We have multiple options. Yeah, if you want a long-lasting Innerspring mattress - get a plush/firm double-sided mattress and add a topper for comfort. A topper will also help the Innerspring last longer.

Good luck finding double-sided mattresses in less populated areas, however.

Btw, it is also Okay to snub the double-sided mattress for the cozy-cloud, single-sided one if you like a snuggly bed. It is a personal consumer mattress preference.

You are welcome, ladies. :)

Value, Median and Luxury Grade Mattresses

For this reason, I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of numbers and statistics. There are many articles out there that go into these details, and in my opinion - they're unnecessary information overload.

ALL Innerspring mattresses have value versions, median versions and luxury versions. Every mattress-quality jump up you make should include a stronger support system and/or higher quality comfort layer materials.

Some types of coils are simply stronger than other types. If you are a heavier person, stick to those types of coils and/or mattresses - I'll be going into them.

Exceptions Might Need to be Made to Achieve a Good Night's Sleep

For example, if you are a larger person - but you're having trouble sleeping in anything other than a mattress that seems a little soft or has a weaker Innerspring inside of it...

Sometimes you have to sacrifice durability for comfort. While a specific kind of mattress might not be recommended for your weight - if that's what it takes for you to get a good night's sleep; you might go through a 10-year bed faster, but at least you'll be able to sleep.

Mattress Innerspring Coil Counts

The strength of an Innerspring mattress coil depends on 1) the type of coil, 2) gauge thickness, 3) number of turns and 4) construction.

For this reason, a mattress that contains fewer coils CAN BE STRONGER than one that contains more coils. As long as you are looking at a 'ten-year-warranty' mattress that is NOT in the 'value section' - you're fine (if you are at a reputable store).

IF you are sticking to the value section of a mattress store to save money - EXPECT those coils not to last as long. There is a reason why it is called the value section.

Also, I'm not going to go into every variation of these different types of Innerspring Coil Systems. These are the most common types of mattresses you'll find in a typical mattress store. I'm trying to keep your information overload at a minimum.

Sleep Style Reminder

Sleep Style
Best Mattress
Best Pillow
Plush w/ Firm Support
Thin w/ Neck Support
Soft Top w/ Firm Support
Depends - with GOOD neck support to keep weight off shoulder.
Plush w/ Firm Support
Not too thick w/ good neck support.
Bonnell Innerspring Coils
Bonnell Innerspring Coils | Source

Bonnell Coils & Offset Coils

The most popular Innerspring coils used in most basic 'value' and/or median-quality mattresses today are often Bonnell Coils or Offset Coils - which is an updated version of the Bonnell Coil.

The Bonnell coil is an offshoot of original buggy seat coils and it is the original mattress coil. The fact that it is still used today says a lot.

BOTH of these types of coils are fine, depending on how strong they are and the weight of the person using the bed. If you are a heavier person, a typical Bonnell or Offset Innerspring will probably wear out on you earlier than other types of coils because of the way they compress when you are sitting on the bed or even just sleeping on it - if your weight is concentrated in one part of your body. Once they become too compressed, they lose the ability to bounce back into shape.

The value version of these mattresses are great for people who are height-weight proportionate and for kids, guest rooms and/or temporary sleeping situations.

Alternating Offset Innerspring Coil System
Alternating Offset Innerspring Coil System | Source

However, these types of coils ARE also available in median and luxury grades with more and/or stronger-gauge coils - perhaps with more turns, etc - so don't dismiss them.

There are also variations of the Offset Coil that are stronger. For example, if you can find an alternating Offset Coil that has every other row spinning in the opposite direction, those are stronger, yet - probably as strong as a Continuous Coil (see below).

Individual Pocketed Coil Innersprings
Individual Pocketed Coil Innersprings | Source

Individual Pocketed Coils

Individual Pocketed Coils or 'Marshall' Coils are currently the most popular Innerspring Systems on the market, today.

Because of the way each coil is contained without being connected to the coils around it, these Innersprings are a really good option for couples with issues waking each other up during the night.

That's why they were originally invented by Simmons - to reduce motion between sleeping partners.

These mattresses also do a really good job of conforming to your body because each coil operates independently to support each individual curve of your body. If you've got broad shoulders or curvy hips, these mattresses can accommodate the parts of you that need to sink into the mattress more in order for your body to maintain natural back alignment.

I used to tell people that they were 'the most like' the (usually) more expensive Foam or Latex mattresses on my floor that didn't contain ANY coils because of this.

They are really quite comfortable - which is one of the reasons why they are so popular.

Individual Pocketed Coils - The Weakest Mattress Innerspring System

HOWEVER, because these coils aren't connected to each other, they don't support each other - which makes this the weakest coil system compared to the others.

While there ARE variations of stronger and/or weaker Individual Pocketed Coils out there, such as the triple coil systems - and they can and do often last through a full 10-year warranty - just keep in mind that IF you are a heavy person, these coils will probably not last as long for you.

This is because the coils that are being used the hardest - which is where you are the heaviest - are being used over and over again without any other support mechanism surrounding them.

For this reason, even if you and your partner are height-weight proportionate - it is VERY IMPORTANT to rotate these mattresses on a regular basis in order to wear the coils inside of them as evenly as possible (seasonally, four times a year is ideal).

Individual Pocketed Coil mattresses are also usually pretty heavy because of the extra materials used in manufacturing them. Keep that in mind.

Continuous Innerspring Coil System
Continuous Innerspring Coil System | Source

Continuous Coils

Continuous Coil Innerspring Systems are often the strongest in the store. You'll find these in Serta's popular Perfect Sleeper line - but almost all mattress manufacturer's have their own lines of each different type of coil.

These Innersprings are strong because one wire is used to make each row of coils. This means that the entire mattress coil system is supporting your body - not just the coils that you are sleeping directly on top of.

Because they are so strong, you will often find a 'value' version of these mattresses in the value section - at lesser coils and a lighter wire gauge - that still have a 10-year warranty on them.

Yes, I highly recommend this type of coil if you need a strong Innerspring mattress that will last you awhile no matter how much you weigh.

PolyFoam, Memory Foam, Latex, Mattress Ticking - Comfort Layers
PolyFoam, Memory Foam, Latex, Mattress Ticking - Comfort Layers | Source

Sleep Surface - The Comfort Layers on TOP of the Innerspring

This is where words like cozy, comfortable and 'sleeping on a cloud' come in... It is also where words like dips, peaks and valleys come in.

Isn't it maddening... You find the perfect mattress. You get it home and sleep well on it for a few years, but then those ruts start to form where you sleep - often times, even if you are rotating it regularly like you're supposed to.

Why does this happen?

Because it is IMPOSSIBLE to keep polyfoam comfort layers from compressing. No matter what you do, expect the foam in your mattress to eventually form a dip almost as deep as the foam is thick - especially when you're laying on top of it.

Of course, for many mattresses - this mean that a 'peak' also develops in the center.

There ARE things you can do to minimize this phenomenon:

1) Sleep on the ENTIRE mattress if you can. For instance, when you take a nap during the day by yourself, sleep in the middle instead of your usual 'side'.

2) ROLL across the whole thing from top to bottom every once in a while. This will help to 'fluff the foam back into place'.

3) If you've got a badly-dipping mattress and company is coming... Flip the whole thing over for a few days or even a couple of weeks before they arrive. Or, if this is your mattress, flip it over when you go out of town for the weekend.

While this may compress some of the overall foam on top; gravity will help work the rut out for a more even sleep surface. The foam will fluff up a bit more after the mattress is set back upright. You don't usually sleep on the parts of the foam that don't compress, anyway. And remember, you can always add more cush via a topper.

Memory Foams & Polyfoams come in different quality grades.
Memory Foams & Polyfoams come in different quality grades. | Source

4) The more 'Luxury' the mattress is, theoretically - the higher quality foam is used. Ideally, high density foam designed not to compress as much over a 10-year period. The fabric on top should be a higher quality, too.

If the mattress is a thick pillowtop, however - expect those ruts to form ANYWAY because there is no support within those foam layers to keep them from compressing. A thinner pillowtop has the Innerspring not far beneath it. But, a thicker pillowtop can become kind of like sleeping in a hammock after awhile - the thicker it is, the deeper valleys you'll eventually have. This is why many luxury mattresses fail - because they're a little too luxurious, ha!

I actually own this topper (2+ years) and love it, still. Of course, it's on top of a 4 inch Talalay Latex ILD 19 Topper. ;)

Available in all sizes including some odd ones...

To keep this from happening, think about getting a firmer 'plush' mattress and adding more comfort layers on top with a topper if you need more cushion. A topper can be washed and used until it's worn out - plus, it is a lot cheaper to replace. And since you won't be sleeping directly on top of your mattress, many times it will last longer.

Many mattress sales people will tell you that it's silly to buy a topper for a brand new bed - why not just get everything you need in one package? It's a personal decision and there's nothing wrong with it.

Also, a topper can change the feel of the bed if you're looking for a change. For example, if you like the idea of a memory foam mattress, but you don't want to replace your current 'good' bed to get one - put a memory foam topper on top of it, and woohoo - a different mattress. This is also a good way to make a current mattress more eco-friendly or organic. Cover it up with something more breathable for you.

A topper can solve many mattress issues - except structurally. If you're on a bad set of Innersprings that aren't supporting you very well, it can't correct that.

5) Purchase a mattress that contains the only comfort material known to man that DOES NOT form impressions - LATEX.

And that brings us to Latex Mattresses and Memory Foam Mattresses.

A Word About Air / Bladder Mattresses & Water Beds

Air Beds have a bladder inside of them that is filled with air. They are popular because the softness or firmness of the mattress can be adjusted with air by adding or removing it.

They are much like Memory Foam mattresses in that some people swear by them while others abhor them. I've had so many couples come in where one partner LOVES the bed; but the other person just cannot sleep on it any longer for whatever reason.

Usually, the person complained that, "No matter what I do - add air or subtract it - I can't get comfortable."

Water Beds also still have their decades-long following going.

Just make sure you test these specialty mattresses out well if you're curious about them; and understand the exchange/return policy in case they don't work out for you.

© 2013 Catherine Mostly


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    • Reginald Thomas profile image

      Reginald Thomas 

      4 years ago from Connecticut

      Very nice article! I liked what you did with the innerspring systems. And nice section on the double-sided mattress. Good writing!


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