7 big, important questions to ask before you buy a spring mattress

Shopping for an innerspring or pocket sprung mattress? This checklist makes choosing super-simple

Spring mattress
(Image credit: Christopher Jolly on Unsplash)

Shopping for an innerspring or pocket sprung mattress? Mattress shopping can be confusing. Figuring out the best mattress for you is a very personal choice, but there are some key questions to ask that'll help you narrow down your choice. That’s where we come in. We’ve done extensive research so you don’t have to, and we’re going to tell you the five most important things to look for before buying an innerspring or pocket sprung mattress.

This type of mattress contains individual springs that move independently from one another (in their own 'pockets'), which means they can adapt to your body shape and provide tailored support, as well as minimising motion transfer so as not to disturb your bed-mate. Not 100% sure you want a spring mattress? Check out our memory foam vs spring mattress explainer first. 

1. How much do I want to spend? 

Pocket sprung mattresses vary hugely in price, from suspiciously cheap right up to eye-wateringly expensive. Broadly, you get what you pay for, but head to our best mattress guide for our top picks. Bear in mind the extras too: pricier mattress brands will typically offer a trial period in which to see how you get on with your purchase, while with cheap brands you might have to just go for it. Also bear in mind that mattress brands frequently have sales on, so a great tactic is to pick an expensive mattress, but wait until there's a discount that makes it more affordable. Head to our best cheap mattress deals roundup to browse the best savings right now.

2. How many springs are there?

As a rule of thumb, the more pocket springs you’re sleeping on, the better. This is because the higher the number, the greater the support you will receive from your mattress – meaning less sleep disturbance and a more restful night.

There are often cheap mattress deals available – so how do you choose the best within your budget? A very cheap innerspring or pocket sprung mattress will tend to have around 600 springs, while a good mattress will have 1000+. This means that if you’re on the heavier side, you might need something more like 2000 springs for proper support. 

However, be slightly wary of companies offering a really high spring count (some quote 10,000+ springs). Sometimes a suspiciously high spring count might just mean the mattress is full of very small springs, rather than full-size pocket springs. In that case the extra support will be minimal.

3. How firm is it?

The thickness of the wire used for the coils (known as coil gauge) will influence the firmness of the bed. However, you don’t need to get bogged down with this: most manufacturers will provide a ranking of how firm the mattress is, which provides a good starting guideline. A rating of 1 is the softest, and 10 is the firmest, and most will fall between maybe 4 and 8. Many innerspring mattress ranges will offer a few options with different levels of firmness, so you can pick the one that appeals to you (this range is less common with memory foam-only models, where there tends to be just one firmness option).

An innerspring or pocket sprung mattress is designed to balance your weight distribution and push back against the body to hold the spine in a healthy alignment. They also tend to have softer, plush top layers for extra comfort. Heavier people, particularly, might benefit from this coiled spring support system, as they might find they sink through the top foam layers and end up resting on the harder base section.

4. What's the top layer made from?

While the number and size of coils is a factor in how comfortable and supportive your mattress is, the top layer is also important to consider. For ultimate comfort, we'd recommend looking for a mattress with a memory foam or gel top layer (known as a hybrid mattress) – that way you get a little of the pressure relief of a foam mattress, but with the support and bounce of springs. Other mattresses have a plush or polyfoam top layer to provide that softness. The quality, material and thickness of these can make a huge difference to the feel of the mattress.

5. How bouncy is it?

Innersprings are known for being bouncy, and you tend to feel as if you are perched on top of the bed, rather than sinking into the bed (which is what memory foam does). The lift of a pocket sprung mattress means they offer you excellent mobility, so you can move around easily on them. More expensive mattresses will shape to your bodily contours and provide a perfect combo of springiness and conformity. These tend to appeal to back pain sufferers, who don’t like the sensation of sinking in, which you can get with a some memory foam mattress. 

Springs can be worse for motion transfer than foams – i.e. you might feel your partner moving about a bit – but if you go for a mattress with individual pocket springs this will help combat the issue.

6. How breathable is it?

A defining characteristic of an innerspring or pocket sprung mattress is its breathability, because the coils naturally allow for airflow. If you tend to ‘sleep hot’, a pocket sprung mattress is a better choice than memory foam, because it won’t over-heat.

Even so, there are still subtle differences between different brands of sprung mattresses. The main construction points to bear in mind are whether the coils are individually pocketed (for breathability), and what type of (and how much) foam is in the top layer. Also the space between the coils means an innerspring or pocket sprung mattress can provide the perfect cosy home for dust mites.

7. How long will it last?

If you go for a cheaper innerspring or pocket sprung mattress, you might find it doesn't last too well, and starts to sag. Innerspring mattresses can lose 16 per cent of their support in the first year alone. With a little care, you can make your innerspring mattress last a bit longer – just flip it over every month to improve shape and durability.

Also, most mattresses will come with a generous warranty for added peace of mind. The standard is 10 years, but it's not uncommon to see 25-year warranties, or even lifetime ones. Pay attention to the warranty details when making your decision. And remember, it's recommended you replace your mattress every 7-10 years anyway.

Maddy Biddulph

Maddy Biddulph is a national journalist and content creator specialising in lifestyle, fitness, health and wellbeing.