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If you share your bed with someone, then there are many factors to consider when shopping for a new mattress — and striking a balance between mattress preferences and couples’ needs can be quite tricky. Will the mattress provide adequate firmness and support for both sleepers? Does it cut down on noise and minimize motion transfer? Is the mattress responsive enough for sex? Will it sleep hot?
This page will explore these and other considerations, and also compare different mattress types in terms of their suitability for couples.
Important factors for couples to consider in a mattress include the following.
Motion Transfer and Isolation: When you shift sleep positions or get out of/into bed, your body creates motion that may disrupt your sleep partner. This can be a major disadvantage to sleeping with someone.
Some mattresses — including most memory foam and latex models — are engineered to absorb and isolate that motion to specific areas of the mattress. Other mattress types, such as innersprings, do little (if anything) to minimize motion transfer. Thicker mattresses tend to absorb and isolate motion more effectively than thinner ones. We recommend models that are at least 11 to 12 inches thick.
It’s important to note the inverse relationship between motion isolation and responsiveness, which is used to evaluate mattresses for sex. Mattresses that offer good motion isolation tend to be less responsive, and thus not as good for sex, whereas those with poor motion isolation are often highly responsive.
Noise: Noise control is linked to motion transfer and isolation, since mattresses that offer one typically offer the other as well. Mattresses made of foam or latex are often virtually silent when bearing weight. This can cut down on nighttime disruptions, and also ensure discreet sex. Innersprings and hybrids tend to be noisier, largely due to their metal springs, while airbeds may produce loud noises due to air pumps and other electrical components.
Mattress Firmness: Firmness refers to how soft or firm the mattress feels beneath different sleepers. Most manufacturers rate firmness on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being the least firm and 10 being the firmest, but the vast majority of mattresses sold today fall between a 3 (Soft) and an 8 (Firm).
Firmness preferences sharply vary from sleeper to sleeper, and often depend on factors like height, body weight and sleep position. Someone who weighs 250 pounds and sleeps on their side, for instance, will usually feel most comfortable on a mattress rated 6 (Medium Firm) to 8 (Firm); anything with a lower firmness rating may lead to uncomfortable sinking. On the other hand, someone who weighs 100 pounds and sleeps on their back may need a less-firm mattress in order to sink into the sleep surface and alleviate pressure points.
Some couples compromise in terms of mattress firmness. However, if you and your sleep partner have significantly different firmness preferences, then a ‘split’ or ‘dual-firmness’ mattress might be the best option. These models — typically Queen and King sizes — feature different firmness ratings on either side to accommodate couples with different needs. Dual-firmness mattresses are widely available among today’s mattress manufacturers, but some brands do not offer this option.
It’s also important to note that many airbeds sold today offer adjustable firmness settings, including dual-firmness settings for couples.
Feel: Related to firmness, feel refers to mattress properties like conforming and contouring. Some people prefer mattresses that conform closely to align the spine and alleviate pressure, while others prefer firmer surfaces that do not conform very much. When browsing for mattress models, be sure to discuss firmness and feel preferences with your sleep partner.
Sex: If you sleep with a romantic partner, then sex is a major mattress consideration. Sex is linked to responsiveness. Mattresses that respond quickly to sleeper’s bodies tend to be bouncier and better for sex. Those with slow responsiveness are less bouncy, and they may create an uncomfortable sinking sensation; some couples liken this to ‘fighting the mattress.’
In addition to responsiveness, other mattress factors can be used to assess if it’s good for sex. These include:
Support: When discussing mattresses, ‘support’ refers to the bed’s ability to maintain a flat, even surface; this helps sleepers align their spine and alleviate pressure, regardless of their position. Both a lack of firmness and excessive firmness can negatively affect the supportive properties of a mattress. Unsupportive mattresses often sag in places, and this can exacerbate pain and pressure in the neck, shoulders, back and hips.
When more than one person uses a mattress, this creates greater amounts of compression, and more support is required. For this reason, Queen-, King-, or California King-size mattresses are usually the best option; smaller sizes may not offer enough support for both people.
Sleeping Hot: All mattresses absorb body heat from sleepers. Some retain minimal body heat and tend to sleep cool. Others can be body heat traps that sleep uncomfortably warm or hot. Sleeping hot can lead to restless sleep and feelings of tiredness the next day.
Generally speaking, innersprings sleep the coolest while memory foam and memory foam hybrid mattresses sleep the warmest. Latex and airbeds may also sleep hot, but these mattresses tend to receive fewer complaints.
In addition to mattress type, there are other factors that impact how hot a mattress sleeps. These include mattress firmness, comfort layer materials, and sleeper body type.
Weight Limit: Most mattresses sold today come with a ‘weight limit’, typically 600 pounds or more for a Queen- or King-size model. Exceeding the weight limit can cause damage to the mattress, and may reduce its overall lifespan. Weight limits often vary by brand, model, and size, so mattress shoppers should inquire about this when comparing different options.
The table below compares different couple-related criteria associated with the five most commonly sold mattress types: innerspring, foam, latex, hybrid, and airbed.
|Mattress Type||Innerspring||Memory Foam||Latex||Hybrid||Airbed|
|Comfort Layer||At least 1 layer of foam||At least 1 layer of polyfoam or memory foam||At least 1 layer of latex|
May have memory foam or polyfoam layers
|At least two inches of memory foam and/or latex|
May have polyfoam and/or microcoil layers
|Some models have one to two polyfoam or memory foam layers|
|Support Core||Steel coils|
Base polyfoam layer
|High-density polyfoam||May be latex or high-density polyfoam||Pocketed Coils|
Base polyfoam layer
|Individual, adjustable air chambers|
|Average Thickness||9″ to 15″||7″ to 14″||7″ to 13″||10″ to 16″||8″ to 15″|
|Average Firmness||Medium Firm to Firm||Medium Soft to Medium Firm||Medium Soft to Medium Firm||Medium to Medium Firm||Varies|
Most airbeds have adjustable firmness
|Motion Isolation||Poor to Fair||Very Good to Excellent||Very Good to Excellent||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good|
|Noise||Poor to Fair||Very Good to Excellent||Very Good to Excellent||Fair to Good||Poor to Fair|
|Dual Firmness Options||Not usually available||Somewhat common||Available from select manufacturers||Somewhat common||Adjustable firmness for most models|
|Responsiveness/Good for Sex||Very Good||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Very Good||Fair to Good|
|Ease of Movement||Very Good||Poor||Fair to Good||Fair||Good to Very Good|
|Discreet Sex||Poor to Fair||Very Good to Excellent||Very Good||Fair||Poor to Fair|
|Cushioning During Sex||Good to Very Good||Good||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Fair|
|Average Lifespan||5 to 6 years||6 to 7 years||8 years or longer||6 to 7 years||8 years or longer if properly maintained|
|Edge Support||Very Good||Poor||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good|
|Heat Retention/Sleeping Hot||Good to Very Good||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Fair to Good|
|Average Price Point||$800 to $1,100||$1,000 to $1,500||$1,500 to $2,000||$1,500 to $2,000||$2,000 to $2,400|
A large number of mattress manufacturers offer sleep trials, which allow purchasers to test out their mattress for a set length of time, typically 90 to 120 consecutive nights. If the customer is not satisfied with their mattress before the sleep trial ends, then the company will normally issue a full or partial product refund; they may also arrange for the mattress to be shipped or picked up.
Sleep trials can be a great way to ensure a mattress will satisfy the needs of you and your sleep partner without committing to a full purchase. In some cases, purchasers must test out the mattress for a certain length of time (30 nights in most cases) before they will be eligible for a refund.
The mattress warranty is another important factor for couples, specifically sagging defects. Sagging occurs over time, and excessive sagging can undermine how comfortable and supportive the mattress feels. Most mattress warranties specify a ‘sagging depth’ that qualifies as a mattress defect, rather than just standard wear and tear. In most cases, sagging depth will range from 1″ to 1 1/2″; according to mattress owners, these depths are most closely associated with increased pain and pressure. Some warranties will cover sagging that measures as little as 1/2″, while — in some rare cases — the warranty may not cover sagging at all.
Assuming the warranty covers sagging depth, you should also ask about owner costs related to repairing or replacing the mattress. These costs vary from brand to brand. Some manufacturers will cover shipping and handling fees, but most require owners to pay these. Additionally, some manufacturers impose additional charges for repairs and/or replacements.
Another consideration is nonprorated coverage, which refers to warranties that agree to repair or replace defective mattresses at no cost to the owner except for shipping and handling costs. Some mattresses are completely nonprorated. Others are divided into nonprorated and prorated coverage periods. During prorated coverage, the owner pays a certain percentage of the original product price; this percentage increases for each year they own the mattress. If you have owned your mattress for more than 10 years and the prorated coverage period has begun, expect to pay anywhere from 50% to 95% of the original price-point. Some warranties are primarily prorated, with only two to three years of nonprorated coverage.
You and your sleep partner should research all of the criteria mentioned above when shopping for a new mattress in order to find a model that suits both of your needs and preferences. To recap, here is a mattress-buying checklist for couples:
For more information on different mattress types, please visit the links found at the top of the data table in the previous section.