Your site has made me really think about what it is I want to sleep on and I am now looking at the opposite end of the spectrum - any opinions and thoughts about Futons? I like the simplicity and price as well as the ascetic appeal. I had thought these were mostly for College aged kids but reading the history of them it seems they are venerable choices of the ages. Theres a shop called Futon Corner here http://www.futoncorner.com/Category.html?ID=1427 that advertise their Futons are made in Orlando (Local). I am familiar with the classic all cotton batting forms, but had never seen one with flexible individual coil systems - I’m curious if you have heard of such a thing before? Any rules of thumb on their constructions?
Futons have come a long way since the cotton or other fiber versions that most people are used to. Innerspring manufacturers make special low profile coils that are used in them and their construction in many cases is quite sophisticated. Sometimes it’s hard to know where a futon ends and a mattress begins.
In general though … they tend to be firmer than a typical mattress and like you say they appeal to a minimalist approach to sleeping as well as sofabed mattresses. Because they are thinner … there is less room to design different features in them and they tend have a narrower firmness range and are less able to adapt to curvier bodies or multiple sleeping positions. They would be good for back or stomach sleepers but most people who are side sleepers may find many of them a little firm. Most also have the advantage of being two sided and flippable (although there are also one sided versions now) as well as generally being lower priced than a more traditional mattress.
The same “rules” would apply to purchasing a futon as a mattress in terms of PPP (Pressure relief, Posture and alignment, and Preferences) and knowing what materials were being used so you would have a reasonable assurance that it would last. They use most of the the same materials as a mattress and better mattress materials would also tend to be better futon materials. I would tend to avoid the use of lower density polyfoams and focus on higher quality materials. The advantage of foam and innersprings is that they are resilient unlike cotton which will become firmer and firmer as it compresses with use. The advantage of natural fibers like cotton and wool is that they provide a great breathable microclimate and temperature regulation.
Gold bond is an old manufacturer that makes a range of fairly sophisticated futons
Otisbed also makes a wide range using many different densities of foam (some up to 4 lbs density).
Even the “S” companies (Sealy, Simmons, and Serta) all make futons.
A few other manufacturers just to show some of the wide variety available include …
http://soaringheart.com/collections/organic-mattresses/Organic-Futons (cotton, wool, latex). A member of this site
https://en.memoryfoamcomfort.ca/futon-mattress-covers.html#organic_futon Carry a range of futons that include polyfoam, natural and organic latex, natural and organic cotton, wool, and memory foam. A Canadian member of this site.
http://smallwondersfutons.com/ Cotton / Wool
http://www.whitelotus.net/eco-mattresses.html (Including cotton, wool, latex, polyfoam)
http://www.cottoncloudfutons.com/onlinefutonstore.01/ (including latex, cotton, wool, polyfoam, and wellspring PET fiber)
http://www.thefutonshop.com/Futon-Mattresses/c/588 (some very nice organic futons and a wide range of choices)
http://www.futonbedsfromjapan.com/ Traditional Japanese cotton futons (shikibuton) and futon quilts (kakebuton). They are made in Japanese sizes but they can make custom sizes as well.
So with some of the “advances” in futons … they really are a legitimate choice for a sleeping surface as long as the limited thickness that can be used to design a combination of pressure relief and adaptable support is not an issue … and they can certainly be easier on the budget.