Innerspring Mattresses - Steel Springs Still The Most Comfortable Solution?

innerspring mattress with springs showing
A Look At The Steel Springs That Provide The Support For An Innerspring Mattress

Innerspring mattresses are the most common type of mattress sold in the U.S. And while innerspring mattresses have been around since the early 1900's, they have changed radically in the last 10 - 15 years. Where innerspring mattresses used to be fairly simple beds -- 6" - 8" thick with a core of coiled springs surrounded by a bit of foam or batted cotton -- today they are clocking in at 11" - 15" thick and they often sport a substantial "pillow top" layer offering the latest innovation in mattress technology (memory foam, latex, etc.).

Why the move towards the behemoth beds (some of which, I kid you not, people need a step stool to get into)? It is simple really. The cold hard facts that mattress makers have had to face is that sleeping on a piece of steel is just not very comfortable. And as the mattress market has seen the newer technologies enter the market, ones like memory foam, latex, and air beds that just offer a lot more comfort, innerspring manufacturers have been scrambling to reinvent their product to try to compete. The result -- they've kept the innerpsring core, but layered around it these new comfort layers. So the latest innersprings are really sort of a Frankenstein creature, where the manufacturers have used these ever growing outer comfort layers to bring the innerspring "back to life".

Here's the bottom line. First, if you are looking for the most comfortable mattresses currently available, you might want to give other types of mattresses a look. There is a reason that the "specialty sleep" mattresses have been the fastest growing segment of the mattress industry over the last 10 years. Memory foam, latex and air are all simply more comfortable to sleep on than pieces of steel. I realize that these newer types of mattresses may seem a bit overwhelming to deal with since they all have their own ins and outs. That is why I've put together buying guides on each of these. So if you are interested in finding out more about alternatives to the innerspring, check out these buying guides: Latex Mattress Buying Review, and Air Bed Buying Review.

If you are really set on an innerspring, though, I would suggest buying the most basic of the "good" innerspring models available (one with a good coil count) -- and forego the behemoth bed altogether. Why? Because with these thick pillow top innerpsring models, you just never know the quality of the comfort layers (the foam or latex) used. Its a dirty secret in the mattress industry that by layering lower grades of foam you can create a very comfortable mattress -- but these cheaper foam layers degrade over time, compacting and losing their comfort. While some quality pillow tops are out there, the ones using the "good stuff" in their pillow top layers are very expensive.

So here's what you can do instead. Buy the basic innerspring with the good coil count. And make sure that by itself it feels fairly comfortable. Then add your own topper to the mattress. That way you can make sure you are getting a quality comfort layer, and you end up saving money as well. Even after buying the topper pad, whether it is memory foam or even latex, you should come out ahead both on the total price you would be paying for the mattress compared to going the "pillow top" route. And you will also come out ahead on comfort since you can assure yourself of buying the best quality comfort layers (instead of the lower quality ones found in the usual pillow tops).

If you are going this route, the first type of topper pad I would suggest trying is a memory foam topper. While they aren't inexpensive, they are a lot less than latex. And for most people, memory foam just does the job. It is much denser than standard comfort layers to really cushion your body, and its unique cell structure allows it to reduce pressure points. Memory foam has really been a big advance in comfort and it is no surprise that many of the most expensive innerspring "pillow tops" have top layers of memory foam. By buying your components separately, though, you can replicate the feel of these expensive innerspring "pillow tops" at a much lower price. And probably end up with better quality and comfort.