Few things influence your sleep quality more than your choice of mattress. Our expert guide to this year’s best mattresses features models with springs – either innerspring or pocket coil – that are rated highly by our testers and our readers. But when it comes to innerspring vs pocket coil mattresses, what’s the difference between the two styles and which should you pick, if either?
Choosing a mattress that really suits your body type and sleep style can impact your slumber for the better. If you’ve narrowed down your choice to either an innerspring or pocket coil mattress, this explainer article has all the information you need to make an informed decision.
We’re approaching a great time of year to buy both types of mattress too, as Black Friday mattress deals and sales are fast approaching. For now, let’s take a look at innerspring vs pocket coil mattresses to see which spring-based is best for you...
What is an innerspring mattress?
Many of us grew up sleeping on innerspring mattresses. They've been around for a long time and are among the cheapest and most common type of mattress.
At the base is a layer of springs, known as a pack. These are metal coils with an hourglass shape – usually Bonnell or offset coils. Some innerspring mattresses use continuous coils, which is when a single wire is used to create a loose row of coils. We'll delve into the differences among innerspring types.
These springs are covered with a layer of memory foam, polyfoam, latex, down, wool or fiberfill to provide a comfortable buffer. On top is breathable batting or another less dense material to create a pillow top layer for contouring.
Luxury innersprings such as those made by Saatva and WinkBed contain more layers and / or coils for extra contouring and comfort. Take a look at our Saatva Classic Mattress review or our WinkBed Mattress review for coil-based options that are among the best mattresses for back pain.
- Read more: What is an innerspring mattress?
The pros and cons of innerspring mattresses
As with all mattress types, innerspring mattresses have their benefits and drawbacks. Let’s look at the major pros and cons:
Pros of innerspring mattresses
- Extremely supportive with excellent edge support
- Evenly distributes body weight across the surface
- Higher-end models often offer multi-zone support
- Ideal for back and stomach sleepers
- Can help with hip and back pain
- Breathable (though not on the level of the best cooling mattresses)
Cons of innerspring mattresses
- Tend to have high motion transfer, so not great for couples
- Can be too firm for side sleepers or lighter bodies
- Usually noisy and creaky, and springs are prone to breaking
- Lacks ample contouring, as found in the best mattresses for side sleepers
What is a pocket coil mattress?
Pocket coil mattresses, also known as pocket sprung mattresses, are made with individual pocket springs. These are individually wrapped in their own fabric pocket, which allows the springs to work independently for more tailored support. Pocket coil mattresses make up a bulk of our best hybrid mattress choices.
More than any other type of mattress, pocket coil mattresses consist of a diverse range of materials alongside the springs, with comfort materials such as memory foam, natural wool and latex. Despite this variety in materials, pocket coil mattresses all tend to be constructed in a similar way – starting with a breathable cover followed by a comfort layer, the pocket springs, a protective layer and a base.
You’ll find plenty of great pocket coil mattresses on the market, including those from DreamCloud and Helix Sleep. Check out our DreamCloud Mattress review to learn how it offers a touch of affordable hotel luxury at home. And if you're seeking the top bed for side sleeping, read our Helix Midnight Mattress review.
- Read more: What is a pocket sprung mattress?
The pros and cons of pocket coil mattresses
As with innerspring mattresses, pocket coil mattresses have their pluses and minuses, too. These are the main ones:
Pros of pocket coil mattresses
- Excellent motion isolation and highly responsive
- Design promotes good spinal alignment
- Zoned support from the coils
- Great for back, side, stomach and combination sleepers
- Excellent pressure relief to relieve aches and pains
Cons of pocket coil mattresses
- Can sleep hot due to each spring being wrapped in material
- Could contain fibers that aggravate allergies
- Not supportive enough for sleepers over 250lbs
- Lack of contouring
If you’re a hot sleeper looking for a pocket coil mattress, head over to our Casper Wave Hybrid Snow Mattress review for a pocket coil-based bed that's specifically designed to keep sleepers cool throughout the night. (Keep in mind that this is due to the specialty cooling tech contained within the mattress.)
Innerspring vs pocket coil mattresses: Different types of coils
As we’ve already mentioned, innerspring coils are interconnected or continuous, whereas pocket coils are individually wrapped in pockets of fabric. However, there are different types of coils within each category. Below are some of the most common...
Bonnell coils are wider on the top and bottom than in the middle, with the thinner portion designed to flex in response to light pressure and the thicker portions to stand up to greater pressure. Each coil is interconnected to the next with thin spiral-shaped helical wires, meaning they move as a single unit.
Offset coils are an updated version of Bonnell coils, with squared sides that allow them to flex like a hinge under lighter pressure and provide a tougher resistance against increased pressure. They help cut down on motion transfer and are quieter than Bonnell coils.
Continuous wire coils
This is a single wire formed into lots of loose coils connected by helical wires. Continuous wire coils are durable and cheap but don’t provide contouring.
Multiple smaller coils are individually wrapped in fabric so that each can move on its own. This means each coil only moves when pressure is placed directly on it, helping it contour to the body and respond to movement without creating motion transfer.
Microcoils (also known as minicoils) are also individually wrapped and commonly used in transitional layers to respond to pressure, provide contouring and aid airflow. Microcoils are between one and three inches in height, although some mattresses also have nanocoils, which measure less than one inch.
Innerspring vs pocket coil mattresses: Which should you buy?
Even though we’ve covered the main differences between innerspring and pocket coils, we appreciate there is a lot of similarity between the two.
For a traditional mattress feel, we’d recommend going with an innerspring model as long as you keep in mind the drawbacks: noisy, too bouncy for some, and not as durable. Handmade options may stand the test of time better but they're also expensive.
For something with more bounce and less noise, try a pocket coil mattress. This can sometimes be cheaper than going with an innerspring mattress, so budget may also be a deciding factor in your choice. However, pocket springs aren’t ideal for anyone who enjoys a contouring bed feel.
Either way, always make sure you pick a mattress that comes with a trial basis of at least 30 nights so your body can acclimate to it. We explain why this is important in our guide to mattress trials and how long trials run for among the top brands.
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Jo Plumridge is an experienced mattress reviewer with several years' experience covering all things mattresses and sleep, and who tests memory foam, hybrid and organic mattresses. What Jo doesn't know about a boxed mattress isn't worth knowing, so naturally we tasked her with producing a series of features for Tom's Guide looking at all aspects of mattresses, from how to pick between latex and memory foam (it's a tricky one), to the seven mistakes people make when buying a mattress for the first time. When testing the DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid for Tom's Guide, Jo said: "I loved the back support and pressure relief it offered. Plus, it looks far more expensive than it is."