Why do I sleep better on cheap innersprings (non-pocketed) than anything else?

Hi Phoenix,

Until 2 years ago, I never owned anything but an old-school innerspring mattress with traditional non-pocketed coils. Most of that time was spent on a relatively firm (cushion firm) Sealy Posturpedic which was great for 8+ years until the very minimal amount of padding compressed enough over the years to start causing pressure points. It was later replaced by a cheap Denver Mattress model (Winter Park firm) which I believe uses a similar offset coil design. The Denver Mattress was purchased solely as a “base” for a latex topper however and it served its purpose well until I moved out of state and left it behind.

2 years ago, we relocated back to Colorado (leaving the Denver Mattress behind) and purchased a Simmons Beautyrest Black plush model which worked great for a couple of months or so until my wife and I both started having pain in our hip area. We mistakenly thought this was pressure point related (tried various toppers unsuccessfully), but later realized that it was instead alignment related!

Over the past year, we’ve unsuccessfully tried every DIY latex combination humanly possible and were never able to find one that we really liked. Too firm, too soft, alignment related pain in the hip/glute/sciatic nerve area, you name it. Nothing ever felt quite right.

Then we recently purchased a Tempurpedic Cloud series which was great for a few weeks and then softened up enough to where my hips seem to be sinking in too far again and causing pain in the hip/glute/sciatic nerve area by morning. The Tempurpedic went back to the store after 3 months.

Here’s the kicker…I’m 5’11, 160 lbs max - side sleeper. My wife is 5’3", 110 lbs max - side sleeper. We’re not heavy people, yet we both experience similar pain and issues which I truly believe are all alignment related.

I travel a couple of days a month for work and sleep at a lot of cheap business class hotels (Holiday Inns, various Marriott brand hotels, etc) and I almost always sleep great with no pain in the morning! Occasionally, I end up on a too-firm mattress which gives me pressure point issues, but 80% of the time, I sleep great when I travel. The last couple of nights I was out of town and slept on what looked to be a roughly 10 year old Four Comfort Sealy Posturpedic “plush” model which was made for Four Points by Sheraton (ironically I was at a Holiday Inn but I believe they bought the property from another chain recently). It was a pretty firm bed overall (not sure how they came up with the “plush” label) and I slept great. I noticed the Posturpedic coil system (offset coils I believe) causes a wide area of the mattress to flex when laying on the bed, so there is a gradual slope that goes from my feet all the way to my hips, with the angle gradually growing larger as it approaches my hip area. But my hips don’t appear to sink in very far relative to the area around them at all. In fact, at first glance it appears that my hips are barely sinking in at all, but it’s because the entire area around them has also sunken in. This is much different than pocketed coils, latex, Tempurpedic, etc where my hips always appear to be quite a bit lower “into” the mattress than the area directly next to them. I believe that my hip/glute/sciatic nerve related pain issues lie somewhere in this difference.

Similarly, we rented a condo in Mexico for a week last month and slept on a cheap Serta Perfect Sleeper (it was a pillow top but quite old and very firm for a pillow top - it felt like most hotel beds I sleep on) and I slept PHENOMENALLY for the week we were there. No pain, slept like a log all week. Came back home and had pain again immediately after sleeping on the Tempurpedic.

So I figured I’d ask the expert…WHY do some of these more old-school coil systems seem to work better for me? I guess I need to go out and just buy a mid-grade innerspring without pocketed coils in order to finally get some relief! But WHY?

Last, if I go this route (and I’m starting to really think that I should), do you have any thoughts on offset coils (i.e. Sealy Posturpedic) vs. continuous coils (i.e. Serta Perfect Sleeper)?

Thanks Phoenix!

Hi jkozlow3,

I don’t think it would be possible to answer your question specifically without more sophisticated testing equipment in a lab that was able to measure how you sleep on different types of mattresses but I think in very general terms you probably answered your own question.

Coils that are connected together with helical wires (Bonnell, Offset, and Continuous coils) share the load between the coils more so they offer more resistance to pressure than more contouring types of support systems (pocket coils and many foam support systems) so they will tend to “hold up” the heavier parts of the body very effectively. There are many people that do very well on these types of “connected” coils because their particular weight distribution (relative weight distribution can be more important than just weight) and body shape benefits from this type of coil system to help them keep their spine and joints in good alignment without part of their body sinking down too far. Of course the thickness and firmness of the comfort layers above the coils and the specifics of the coil itself will also make a difference (there is a wide variety of each type of coil) and comfort layers that are too soft or too thick can also cause alignment issues from the heavier parts of the body sinking down too far before being “stopped” by the firmer coils but in very general terms I think that the reason “why” is because of the type of deeper support that these types of coils offer and their ability to “stop” the heavier parts of your body from sinking down too far. There is more about the different types of innersprings in this article and in post #10 here.

I’m assuming that you are using Sealy and Serta as examples of each type of spring because as you probably know I wouldn’t suggest buying either a Sealy or a Serta because regardless of the types of coils they use they both tend to use lower quality materials in the layers above the coils which would be a weak link in a mattress. There are many other smaller manufacturers that use both types of coils (although the offset would be more common) that use higher quality materials above the coils so you would have the best of both worlds (the more supportive coils you do better with and more durable comfort materials). Don’t forget that the weakest link of a mattress is generally in the comfort layers and not the support system.

In terms of how they compare … I would tend to choose an offset coil (knotted would be stronger and more “supportive” than an open end offset such as an LFK unit) even though they will tend to be more costly. In very general terms again they will both have have similar support but offset coils tend to use more steel (more turns in the coil and lower gauge wire) and can generally contour a little better and are a stronger unit overall and will possibly be less noisy as well. The only reason I would tend to choose a continuous coil would be for budget reasons.

There are some very high quality offset coil mattresses and you can also find them in two sided versions which will be more durable yet. The biggest compromise with connected coils are that they tend to transfer more motion than other types of support systems.

Phoenix

Thanks so much Phoenix. I will most likely purchase a Denver Mattress unit, as I can test them out locally here in Colorado. Even their best mattresses are still quite affordable compared to some of the national brands, but at this point, I’d honestly spend whatever it takes! I don’t really care if I have to replace a fairly inexpensive mattress every 4-5 years either - I’m well aware that all foam softens, compresses and breaks down over time (although latex much less so) and I don’t expect any mattress to last forever. Also, I believe the Denver Mattress models all use some sort of an offset coil system, as the description for most models (i.e. Doctor’s Choice) says “alternating zoned coils”. Would that be your understanding as well? Only a couple of their models use pocketed coils.

Are you aware of any other smaller manufacturers that I should be considering and could test out in the Colorado Springs/Denver areas?

Last, I’m also wondering if part of the problem is that I’ve been putting mattresses on a solid platform bed (with peg board over the slats). I realize this is probably the ideal state for foam mattresses, but I’m wondering if an innerspring (offset coil unit) would benefit from just a bit of ‘give’ like you get in the common wire grid torsion foundations? The Holiday Inn I stayed at used this type of foundation and I stood directly on the wires and “bounced” on them a bit. They definitely had more flex/give than a platform bed and I’m wondering if these foundations would therefore help with the feel a tad vs. placing the mattress on a completely unyielding surface? I think that’s why I liked the latex configurations with the soft piece on the bottom back when I was trying latex - the bottom of the bed provided a bit of give and kept my hips from sinking in quite as much since I could sink “down” more than just “in” if that makes sense.

Thoughts on the wire grid torsion foundation vs. just a platform bed for the innerspring?

Thanks again!

Hi jkozlow3,

The better options or possibilities I’m aware of (subject to the guidelines here) in the Colorado Springs area are listed in post #3 here and for the Denver area are listed in post #2 here.

I would use two guidelines for this. The first is the recommendation of the manufacturer for that particular mattress and the second is which one is best for you in terms of PPP (any give in the foundation or support system will change the feel of the mattress). In very general terms most one sided mattresses will do best in terms of durability with a more solid foundation or platform bed with very limited flex or no flex at all since they can’t be flipped to compensate for the deeper continuous flexing in one direction which can cause the mattress to lose its shape and reduce the useful life of the mattress.

Phoenix