Innerspring vs Pocket Spring Mattress: What Are the Differences?

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Innerspring vs Pocket Spring Mattresses

If you’re in the market for a new mattress, you may have come across pocket spring mattresses and wondered what the difference is between these and traditional innerspring mattresses. While you may have read or heard divided opinions on which of these is better, I’m going to try and set the record straight and help you decide which type of mattress is right for you.

What’s an Innerspring Mattress?

Innerspring mattress cross section

The first innerspring mattress was invented in 1871 by German immigrant Heinrich Westphal. Due to its durability, relatively affordable price and ability to be mass-produced, the innerspring mattress quickly gained popularity and became a household staple. Only in the last decade the demand for innerspring mattresses has started to decline as newer types of mattresses entered the market.

Construction:

An innerspring mattress (or open coil mattress) is made of a network of interconnected steel coils support base with multiple layers of insulation and padding on top. The coils are responsible for providing support to the sleeper, while the padding adds comfort and cushioning.

Feel:

Innerspring mattresses feel firm, bouncy, and highly supportive. The mattress offers little to no give, and that’s why sleepers sleep more “on top” of the mattress rather than “in” it.

types innerspring mattresses
Types: Over the decades, inner mattress technology has seen many improvements. Different steel coils have been introduced, such as Bonnell coils, offset coils, and continuous coils.
  • Open or Bonnell Spring Coils: The oldest and most common type of spring mechanism used in innerspring mattresses. In this design, a series of hourglass shaped springs are held together in a wireframe. They tend to be motion sensitive, noisy and firm.
  • Offset coils: They’re an improvement over the Bonnell springs. Unlike the solid connection between the coils found in Bonnell springs, the offset coils are connected by a square-shaped helical wire which creates a hinged effect when pressure is applied. The hinge effect does a better job at localising the motion and offering more give, resulting in a softer mattress.
  • Continuous Coils: As the name suggests, a single wire is used to create the entire coil system. They’re the cheapest types of innerspring mattresses. Often, such mattresses are paired with a thick comfort layer as the base is quite firm.

Pros of innerspring mattresses:

  • Good support.
  • More breathable.
  • Light and easy to turn.
  • Affordable.

Cons of innerspring mattresses:

  • Usually firm and bouncy.
  • High motion transfer.
  • Not great with pressure relief.
  • Less durable – sags over time.
  • Noisy.

What’s a Pocket Spring Mattress?

Pocket spring mattress cross section

A pocket spring (or pocket sprung) mattress addresses a lot of shortcomings of an innerspring mattress. Invented in 1899 by a Canadian named James Marshall, the pocket spring mattress has slowly gained popularity and today is considered one of the better types of mattresses on the market. Pocket spring mattresses are also known as hybrid mattresses.

Construction:

A pocket spring mattress has hundreds of individual steel coils encased in their own fabric “pocket.” These fabric pockets are then sewn together to create the mattress support layer. The coils used are cylindrical-shaped (not hourglass-shaped as used in innerspring mattresses). 

The pocket springs are not interconnected like in an innerspring mattress, and that’s why they can act independently and offer targeted contouring support. Because of this, there’s also less motion sensitivity on a pocket spring mattress, and they tend to be more comfortable as each spring adjusts to the points of contact with your body as you sleep. The pocket design has the additional benefit of being less noisy as the pockets move individually and don’t rub against each other. 

On top of the pocketed coils, multiple layers of insulation and padding provide comfort. The type and thickness of material used in the comfort layer will affect the overall feel of the mattress. Common materials used in the comfort layer of pocket spring mattresses are memory foam, latex, and polyfoam.

Feel: 

Pocket spring mattresses are generally more comfortable than innerspring mattresses as they better conform to your body’s contours. Depending on the comfort layer and padding used, a pocket spring mattress can feel differently. The motion isolation is also significantly better as each coil can moves independently.

Pros of pocket spring mattresses:

  • Excellent motion absorption.
  • Customised support.
  • Good pressure relief.
  • Better comfort than an innerspring mattress.

Cons of pocket spring mattresses:

  • Expensive
  • Heavier to turn
  • Traps a tad bit of heat compared to an innerspring mattress.

Innerspring vs. Pocket Spring mattresses: Key Differences

 Innerspring MattressPocket Spring Mattress
CoreInterconnected coilsIndividual pocket coils
Comfort LayerRelatively thin/usually polyfoamThicker/material may vary
Motion TransferHighModerate
Temperature NeutralityNeutralTraps a bit of heat.
Pressure ReliefLow to moderate.Moderate to high.
SupportFlatPersonalised/Contouring
Overall FeelFirm, bouncy with minimal contouring.Balanced feel – mix of support and comfort and decent contouring.
Average CostA$250-$800A$800-$2000
Average Lifespan6 to 10 years8 to 10 years

Now that you have a fair idea of what innerspring and pocket spring mattresses are, let’s look into the key differences between the two:

1. Feel: Innerspring mattresses have a bouncy, responsive feel. You tend to sleep “on” top of the mattress, and there is minimal to no sinkage. Generally, Pocket spring mattresses have a balanced feel with a mix of support and cushion. Pocket spring mattresses can have a plush or firm feel depending on the comfort layers. You tend to sink slightly “into” the mattress compared to an innerspring mattress.

Winner: Depends on preference.

2. Support: Both innerspring and hybrid mattresses can be considered supportive, but they offer support in different ways. While innerspring mattresses offer flat and even support to the body, the pocket spring mattresses create a slightly contoured sleep surface resulting in more targeted support for different body parts.

Winner: both offer good levels of support.

3. Pressure relief: Pressure relief refers to the ability of the mattress to cushion the high-pressure points areas like the hip and the shoulders to promote better spinal alignment.

Pocket spring mattresses outperform the innerspring mattresses in the pressure relief department. The independent pocket coils contour to the body shape and distribute the weight evenly, resulting in lesser pressure on the shoulder and hips.

Winner: Pocket spring mattresses.

4. Motion isolation: Motion isolation is the ability of the mattress to isolate or absorb the movement on one side of the bed from being felt on the opposite side. As innerspring mattresses have a network of interconnected coils, any movement on one side is also transferred to the other side. On the other hand, the coils in a pocket spring mattress work independently, resulting in better motion isolation.

Winner: Pocket spring mattresses.

5. Ease of movement: As innerspring mattresses have a buoyant feel, they are easier to move on than a pocket spring mattress. Combination sleepers would find it easier to switch positions on innerspring mattresses.

Winner: Innerspring mattresses.

6. Noise:  Innerspring mattresses tend to make more noise as the coils are interconnected and rub against one another under pressure. Pocket spring mattresses are relatively quieter.

Winner: Pocket spring mattresses.

7. Temperature neutrality: Temperature neutrality is the ability of the mattress to regulate body temperature and prevent excessive heat build-up. Innerspring mattresses allow better airflow and generally do a slightly better job in temperature regulation than pocket spring mattresses.

Winner: Innerspring mattresses.

8. Durability: Pocket spring mattresses are usually more durable than innerspring mattresses. The average lifespan of an innerspring mattress is 6 to 10 years, while a pocket spring mattress has a lifespan of 8 to 10 years.

Winner: Pocket spring mattresses.

9. Cost: Innerspring mattresses are cheaper than pocket spring mattresses.

Winner: Innerspring mattresses.

Finally, which one should you pick?

If you ask me to choose between innerspring and pocket mattress, it’s pocket spring mattress any day. Pocket mattresses offer more personalised support, do better in motion isolation, and are almost as airy as an innerspring mattress. However, if you’re on a budget, need a firm sleeping surface, or are a strict back sleeper, an innerspring mattress might be worth considering.

If you’re shopping for a new mattress, take a look at our mattress guide and top picks in Australia.

I hope this guide helped clear the confusion between innerspring and pocket mattresses. If you still have any questions, please feel free to reach out or leave your comments below.

FAQs

No, they are different. An innerspring mattress has interconnected coils, while a pocket spring mattress has coils that work independently.

This is a subjective question as what may be good for you may not be suitable for others. That said, Bonnel spring is an innerspring mattress, so it’s firmer, bouncy, noisier and suffers in the motion isolation department. On the other hand, Pocket spring mattresses are quieter and offer better motion isolation but might not be as responsive.

A pocket spring mattress would be a better option if you are a side sleeper as it contours to the body shape and offers better pressure relief.

Medical Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a GP or physiotherapist for specific advice.

That said, in general, a pocket spring mattress would be a better option as it offers better contouring support and pressure relief.

James Lee

James Lee

James is the content director at WhatASleep, a certified sleep science coach from Spencer Institute and our in-house sleep product expert. Over three years, he's personally tested hundreds of mattresses. He likes to keep his reviews simple, objective, and straightforward so that the readers don't have to go through decision fatigue which is often the case while shopping for sleep products.

He hails from Sydney and has a journalism degree from the University of Queensland and an MBA from Melbourne Business School.

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