What is a tri-fold floor mattress and are they healthy to sleep on — or a recipe for back pain?

4-inch Tri-Fold Mattress on the floor of a bright bedroom
(Image credit: Bed Bath & Beyond)

Trifold mattresses are great if you need a spare bed but don't want it to take up too much room. Not only can they be folded and stored away when not in use, but they're cheaper than traditional beds — making them a great option for those who want to save money as well as space. 

But are trifold mattresses healthy to sleep on or do they cause back pain? While trifold mattresses are affordable, space-saving, and make ideal guest beds, that doesn't mean they're the best mattress for every sleepers in terms of comfort and support. 

Here, we'll discuss what trifold mattresses are, if these beds can be placed on the floor, and if they're healthy to sleep on. We'll also round up the best deals on trifold beds ahead of the Memorial Day mattress sales, so you can buy these versatile beds for less. 

What is a trifold mattress?

A trifold mattress (also known as a z-bed or folding mattress) is a mattress that's designed to be folded three times. They consist of three panels that are mostly made from memory foam with a soft cover made from fabrics such as cotton or polyblend. When unfolded, it resembles a thick sleeping mat. Trifold mattresses tend to be 3 to 6 inches thick. 

When folded twice, it resembles a low chair or sofa. When collapsed completely, it can be easily to store away when not in use. Due to their compact nature, they are perfect for travelling and accommodating guests, as well as saving space in small homes.

A blonde woman uses a trifold mattress as a sofa

(Image credit: Amazon)

Are trifold mattresses healthy to sleep on?

It's important to remember that trifold mattress should only be used as short-term sleep solutions, such as camping or accommodating overnight guests. Sleeping on these floor mattresses are not recommended for long-term use for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, trifold mattresses are intended to be placed on the floor, which can be a hotbed for allergens sleeping on a trifold bed placed on the floor can attract everything from mold and mildew to bed bugs and dust mites, so you will have to keep the surrounding space clean and free of moisture build-up. We recommend putting a tatami mat (a type of Japanese straw mat) under the trifold mattress to keep it's underside dry. 

Gel Mmeory Foam trifold mattress on the floor by an open window

(Image credit: Wayfair)

The next concern is comfort. The best memory foam mattresses are usually 10 inches and over in height to provide a thick surface for comfort and support. Trifold mattresses are usually no thicker than 6 inches, which means they can be much firmer and less plush than most traditional mattresses. This may be a concern if you're a side sleeper, as it won't provide the cushioning pressure relief that you need along the shoulders, knees, and hips.

Another potential issue is accessibility. Trifold mattresses are low, so those with mobility issues or back and joint pain may find it difficult to get in and out of bed.

However, there are some benefits to trifold mattresses. First of all, when placed on hardwood floor and tiles, these floor beds sleep incredibly cool. Also, according to Healthline, the firm level of support that firm floor mattresses have promotes deep sleep by allowing natural spine alignment to reduce back pain, improve blood circulation and posture, and relieve muscle aches and stiffness. 

Is a tri-fold mattress good for back pain?

As trifold mattresses are less thick than traditional mattresses, they are naturally firmer (especially when placed on hard flooring). The firmness can provide good support for those who sleep on their back or stomach, as the surface prevents the hip region from dipping into the surface. If the hips sink, this can cause the spine to become misaligned, leading to lower back pain. By keeping the hips firmly supported, trifold mattresses can actually prevent lower back pain instead of causing it. However, sleeping on a tri-fold mattress should only be used as a short term sleep solution, due to its unsubstantial support layers. 

Do you need a bed base with a tri-fold mattress?

Trifold mattresses are designed to be placed on the floor, but you can put one on your bed base or frame - providing it's the right one. First, check the size of your trifold mattress. A lot of trifold beds come in standard mattress sizes, but some come in smaller, custom sizes such as single, which aren't compatible with all bases.

Also, be mindful that a lot of trifold mattresses are made from memory foam, so it's best to find a bed base with no (or very narrow) slats. If the slats are too big, the memory foam will start to sag through the gaps. 

Can you sleep on the floor on a tri-fold mattress?

In short, trifold mattresses are intended to be put on the floor as a type of sleep mat, and are commonly used for camping, moving days, or accommodating guests in small spaces. However, make sure you put the mattress on hard flooring to avoid it becoming too warm. Tiles will help to keep the mattress cool, while carpet will restrict airflow and make the bed too warm. Also, make sure the floor and surrounding area is clean and vacuumed to a avoid allergens building up. 

Finally, make sure the mattress is at least 3 inches thick. Any thinner, and you'll feel the floor beneath you. 

Where to buy the best trifold mattresses

4-Inch Tri-Fold Memory Foam Mattress$110.52 $72.24 at Bed, Bath & Beyond

4-Inch Tri-Fold Memory Foam Mattress: from $110.52
$72.24 at Bed, Bath & Beyond

This tri-fold mattress is 4 inches thick and designed for both indoor and outdoor use. It's made from gel-infused memory foam for a cooler sleep and comes with a removable washable cover for easy maintenance. The bed is rated as "cushion firm", which should suit most sleep styles. Currently, you can save up to 35% on this bed, with a queen size reduced from $152.55 to $107.99.

Alwyn Home 3 & 4 & 6 Inches Medium Folding Gel Memory$59.99 $49.99 at Wayfair

Alwyn Home 3 & 4 & 6 Inches Medium Folding Gel Memory: from $59.99 $49.99 at Wayfair
This Z bed comes in 3 different thickness levels and 5 different sizes. It comes with a removable, cleanable cover, and is made from both gel memory foam for comfort and high-density foam for support. 

S SECRETLAND Folding Mattress$47.99 $42.99 at Amazon

S SECRETLAND Folding Mattress: from $47.99 $42.99 at Amazon
The S SECRETLAND folding mattress has a combination of gel memory foam and high density foam for a balance of support and comfort, and is rated as firm. It currently boasts over a thousand 5-star reviews on Amazon, with customers praising how easy it is to fold and the quality of sleep it provides.

Frances Daniels
Sleep Staff Writer

Frances Daniels is a Sleep Staff Writer at Tom's Guide and her role includes covering all mattress and sleep news, in addition to mattress reviews and buyer's guides, plus sleep accessories such as pillows and mattress toppers. Frances is a PPA-accredited journalist and is hugely interested in the relationship between good sleep and overall health. When not writing about mattresses and sleep for Tom's Guide, Frances enjoys writing about women's issues, health and wellbeing, the environment, and her native Wales.