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Futon Vs. Mattress: The Ultimate Comparison Guide

Bedding Resources
Read Time: 9 minutes
FAST FACTS
  • Japanese Futon Versatility: Japanese futons are multipurpose, providing a versatile space for sleeping, sitting, or other activities. Their foldable design allows for efficient storage, making them an excellent choice for small apartments or multipurpose rooms.
  • Breathability Advantage: Futons, especially cotton ones, offer superior breathability compared to some standard mattresses. Cotton’s natural breathability facilitates effective air circulation, aiding in temperature regulation during sleep and making futons a preferred choice for hot sleepers.
  • Durability Considerations: While standard mattresses generally have a longer lifespan, futons can last 5 to 10 years with regular use. However, the durability of both options depends on factors like material quality, maintenance, and frequency of use.

When it comes to choosing a suitable sleeping surface, various options are available in the market. Two popular choices are mattresses and futons. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s essential to understand their differences before deciding. This comprehensive article will discuss the key features, materials, comfort levels, durability, and styles of both mattresses and futons. By the end, you’ll clearly understand which option best suits your needs.

What is a Futon?

A futon is a Japanese term for sofa bed that refers to a mat or cushion filled with cotton or leaves. Traditionally, Japanese futons were used as sleeping solutions for small spaces with big families, as they could be easily rolled and stored during the day. Now, futons have evolved to include various designs and materials, making them a famous choice for those looking for a sleep solution that fits into smaller spaces.

Types of Futons

Futons come in different types and designs, catering to various needs and preferences. Let’s explore the most common types of futons available in the market.

Traditional Japanese Futon

A traditional bed or Japanese futon is a bedding arrangement crafted from cotton or wool, featuring layers of padding for comfort. In contrast to typical mattresses, Japanese futons lack springs and are comprised of three components: the foundational layer (shikibuton), the mattress layer, and the comforter (kakebuton) or blanket (moku).

Traditional Japanese futons are typically two to three inches thick and rectangular. They are ideally positioned on a tatami floor or mat to retain the heat and comfort of the sleep surface. Pillows (makura) are included in the arrangement for enhanced comfort, frequently filled with buckwheat, beans, or beads. While traditional Japanese futons were initially filled with cotton, many modern futons now incorporate foam materials for enhanced comfort.

Western Futon Mattress

A Western futon mattress differs from a traditional Japanese futon. Unlike the thin and layered design of a traditional futon, a Western-style futon is equipped with a frame, usually constructed from wood or metal, which can be transformed into a seating or mattress foundation. Western futons often resemble sofa beds more than traditional mattresses. Although the initial designs of Western futons were not exceptionally stylish or comfortable, they have evolved to offer more aesthetic appeal and improved comfort.

Bifold Futon Frame

An ideal choice for those with restricted floor space but ample wall area is a bi-fold futon frame. This frame, when converted into a couch, features a sofa-like structure that accommodates more people comfortably. Bifold futon frames are generally easier to recycle than trifold futons, making them an excellent option for living rooms, studios, guest rooms, and other compact spaces you want to maximize.

Trifold Futon Frame

Trifold futons provide comfortable sleeping and lounging solutions for living spaces. With additional floor space, a trifold futon provides an extended area for stretching your legs while lounging or a snug spot for resting when fully transformed into a bed. It’s essential to consider the space requirements of a fully restored trifold futon to ensure it will fit snugly in your room.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Futons

futon vs mattress, western style futons, living space, wooden or metal frame

Before deciding on a futon, it’s essential to consider its benefits and drawbacks compared to other sleep solutions. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of futons.

Benefits of a Japanese Futon

  • Multipurpose area: A Japanese futon bed creates a versatile space that can be used for sleeping, sitting, or other activities, making it an excellent choice for small apartments or multipurpose rooms.
  • Safe for restless sleepers: The firmness of a Japanese futon provides stability for restless sleepers, preventing them from rolling off the bed during the night.
  • Firm and supportive: Japanese futons provide a solid sleeping surface that offers ample support for the body, encouraging proper spinal alignment and minimizing the risk of back pain.
  • Space-saving: A Japanese futon can make a small area look larger by allowing you to free up floor space during the day when it is rolled and stored away.
  • Natural materials: Traditional Japanese futons are made of cotton or wool, which are raw and breathable materials. This is advantageous for those with allergies or asthma.
  • Breathable and sweat-absorbent: Cotton futons are highly breathable and absorbent, making them suitable for hot sleepers who sweat at night.
  • Quiet sleep surface: Unlike mattresses that may creak or make noise when you move, a Japanese futon provides a quiet and peaceful sleep surface.

Drawbacks of a Japanese Futon

  • Regular maintenance: The cotton material of a futon can absorb moisture from sweat, so it’s important to air it out regularly to prevent odors and mold growth.
  • Storage space: Futon mattresses require a large closet or storage space to be rolled and stored during the day, which may only be feasible for some.
  • Thin sleep surface: Japanese futons are lighter than regular mattresses, which may be better for those who prefer a taller sleep base or require extra cushioning.
  • Difficult to roll and store: Some sleepers may need help to move and keep their futon mattresses daily, especially if they have physical limitations or mobility issues.

Benefits of a Western Futon

  • Versatility: Western futons can serve as a comfortable seating option and an extra sleep surface for guests, making them a versatile choice for living or guest rooms.
  • Variety of styles: Western futons come in various styles, enabling you to select a design that complements your interior theme and personal style.
  • Sturdy and supportive: Modern Western futons are designed to be as strong as regular couches, providing a sturdy and supportive sleep surface.
  • Space-saving: Similar to Japanese futons, western futons can help save space in smaller rooms by serving dual purposes, such as seating and sleeping solutions.

Drawbacks of a Western Futon

  • Less thickness: Futon mattresses are generally less thick than regular mattresses, which may not provide some sleepers the same level of cushioning and comfort.
  • Conversion hassle: Converting a futon from a sofa to a bed and vice versa can be a hassle for some users, especially if the mechanism is more user-friendly and requires significant effort.
  • Space requirements: While futons are great for space-saving, they still require a significant amount of space when fully converted into a mattress, which may not be suitable for rooms with limited space.

Types of Traditional Mattresses

Several types are available if you’re considering a traditional mattress instead of a futon. Let’s explore some common varieties and their features.

Polyurethane Foam Mattress

Polyurethane foam mattresses, also known as polyfoam mattresses, are the least expensive options available. They are made from petrochemicals and are commonly used in mattress toppers or home furniture cushions.

While polyurethane foam mattresses come at more affordable price ranges, they may not provide the optimum support and durability that the body needs during rest.

Memory Foam Mattress

Memory foam mattresses are created by combining polyurethane and other compounds, giving them visco-elastic properties. These mattresses conform to the body’s natural contours through heat, providing the proper back and joint support for many sleepers.

Memory foam mattresses are referred to for their pressure-relieving properties and motion isolation capabilities, making them popular for those with chronic pain or sleep disturbances.

Latex Mattress

Latex mattresses provide a buoyant and responsive sensation. Numerous consumers favor latex mattresses due to their typically natural composition, often crafted from materials like the sap of rubber trees. Latex beds have an open-cell structure, allowing for better breathability and temperature regulation.

They provide adequate support for various sleeping positions and are considered the most durable mattresses, with an average lifespan of 15 years or more.

Innerspring Mattress

Innerspring mattresses are some of the oldest mattress varieties and are still widely used today. They are composed of inner coils and a foam layer on top. Innerspring mattresses are thicker and firmer than foam mattresses, providing a push-back feel that gives a traditional “sleeping on a mattress” sensation.

Different types of innerspring beds are available, such as Bonnell spring, offset coil, continuous coil, and pocketed box spring beds, each offering varying levels of support and comfort.

Hybrid Mattress

Hybrid mattresses are constructed by layering various materials to maximize their advantages. A typical mixed bed comprises a comfort layer, a support core, and a base layer. Some hybrid beds also include a pillowtop layer or cooling layers to enhance the comfort of the sleep solution.

These mattresses combine the benefits of different materials, such as memory foam, latex, and innerspring, to provide a balanced sleep experience that caters to different sleep preferences.

Comparing Futons and Standard Mattresses

When deciding between a futon and a standard mattress, it’s important to consider various factors such as materials, versatility, back support, breathability, durability, and personal style. Let’s compare these aspects of futons and standard mattresses to help you make an informed decision.

Materials

Futons and standard mattresses differ in the materials used to construct them. Traditional mattresses can feature foam materials, natural latex, innerspring, or multiple components. Many modern mattresses, such as pillow tops or cooling materials, incorporate additional layers to enhance comfort. However, some such mattress material components may release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), potentially harming the user.

On the other hand, traditional Japanese futons are typically made of cotton batting and a cover. Cotton is a comfortable and breathable material that is generally safe for the skin, making it an advantage for allergy sufferers. Cotton is also suitable for babies and individuals with asthma. Western futons may incorporate different materials, such as foam, to provide enhanced comfort and support.

Versatility

Futons are highly versatile with their lightweight design. They can be conveniently folded and stored inside a cabinet, enabling you to create additional floor space for other activities. This makes futons an excellent option for small living spaces or multipurpose rooms. Additionally, futon mattresses are more accessible to carry than standard mattresses, which can be advantageous when moving or rearranging furniture.

On the other hand, standard mattresses offer versatility regarding their benefits to the sleeper. Many mattress materials offer multiple advantages over conventional mattresses, such as pressure relief, motion isolation, and targeted support for different sleeping positions.

Back Support

Both futons and standard mattresses can provide back support, but they differ in the support they offer. Traditional mattresses are designed to provide proper back support, especially for sleepers with back pain. Many mattresses are designed to accommodate different sleeping positions and encourage proper spinal alignment while sleeping.

Futons, particularly Japanese futons, are also firm enough to offer adequate back support. However, due to their thinner and lighter construction, they may provide limited back support and pressure relief compared to standard mattresses. A standard mattress may be a better choice if you have specific back support needs.

Breathability

The breathability of a sleep surface is an essential factor to consider, as it affects temperature regulation and overall sleep comfort. Standard mattresses’ breathability depends on the materials used. For instance, foam mattresses may not offer the same level of breathability as latex or innerspring mattresses. Hybrid mattresses are specially designed with gel and open-cell layers to promote better breathability.

Futons, particularly those made of cotton, are known for their breathability. Cotton, being a highly breathable material, facilitates effective air circulation through a denser mattress, aiding in the regulation of body temperature while sleeping. This can be advantageous for hot sleepers who sweat at night.

Durability

Durability is a vital factor to consider when investing in a sleep surface. Standard mattresses are generally made to last, with an average lifespan ranging from 6 to 15 years, depending on the materials used. Latex mattresses, in particular, are known for their durability and can last up to 15-20 years under optimum conditions. However, materials like springs and polyurethane foam may lose their quality earlier than memory foam or latex.

Futon beds also experience regular wear and tear but may not hold up as efficiently as traditional mattresses. Over time, futon mattresses may develop lumps, impacting their support and comfort. It’s important to consider the quality of materials and construction when choosing a futon bed frame.

Personal Style

Selecting between a futon sofa bed and a conventional mattress is influenced by personal style and aesthetic preferences. Futons often have a more traditional look, complementing a classic or minimalist interior design. On the other hand, standard mattresses offer a modern feel and come in various styles and designs, allowing you to choose a bed that matches your bedroom decor style.

FAQs about futon vs. mattress

How Long Does a Futon Mattress Last?

The average lifespan of a futon bed mattress with regular use is five to ten years. However, futon beds in guest rooms may last longer since they are less frequently used.

How Long Does a Standard Mattress Last?

The lifespan of a standard mattress varies depending on the materials used. Innerspring mattresses typically last around 5-7 years, hybrid mattresses last 7-10 years, memory foam beds stay 8-10 years, and latex mattresses can last 15 years or more. The lifespan can also be influenced by factors such as the frequency of usage, original quality, and proper care routine.

Are Japanese Style Futons Comfortable Enough?

The comfort level of a Japanese futon depends on the quality of the materials used. Higher-quality futons are thick and supportive enough for both sleeping and sitting. It’s important to note that Japanese futons are used while lying on the floor, so if you need help getting up or find sleeping close to the ground uncomfortable, there may be better sleep solutions than a futon.

Choosing Between a Futon and a Standard Mattress

Choosing between a futon and a standard mattress depends on your unique needs and preferences. Both options have their advantages and drawbacks, so it’s crucial to weigh the factors that are most important to you.

Consider the available sleep space amount, desired level of comfort and support, style preferences, and budget when deciding. It’s also important to prioritize your health and consider any specific health conditions or sleep requirements you may have.

Conclusion

In conclusion, futons and standard mattresses offer unique sleep solutions with advantages and drawbacks. Futons are versatile, space-saving options that fit into smaller areas and provide a traditional feel. They are particularly beneficial for multipurpose rooms or those with limited space. On the other hand, standard mattresses come in various types and styles, offering a range of materials, back support, breathability, and durability. They can be customized to align with individual preferences and offer a contemporary aesthetic.

When deciding between a futon and a standard mattress, consider materials, versatility, back support, breathability, durability, and personal style. Consider your particular needs, budget, and health considerations. By carefully weighing the futon vs mattress against these factors, you can choose the sleep solution that best meets your needs and ensures a restful night’s sleep.

Harrison Wall is Sleep Junkie’s business strategist and sleep analyst. He also authors posts on bedding and mattress accessories. Harrison regularly coordinates with new mattress companies and tests their products to determine what really helps you get better rest and have brighter mornings.

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