Mattresses vs Futons: Which Type Can Give You Better Sleep?

girl lying down on a futon

Ditching traditional mattresses for Futons seems to be the latest trend among Americans and other westerners. This style of mattress has long been in use among the Japanese and people from other cultures around the world. But they only became popular in the United States within the last 2 decades or so.

Are there any differences between traditional mattresses and futons? The answer is yes, futons are thinner, more flexible, and primarily made for sleeping on the floor while traditional mattresses are engineered for placement on box springs, bed frames, and other foundations.

It is important to know what each type offers unique advantages to your sleep. This can help you make well-informed decisions during shopping

What is a Futon Mattress?

Futons are Japanese-style thin-layered mattresses comprising of compressed cotton or polyester in fabric cases. In recent times, some manufacturers have started relying on foam materials as the underlying component for their futon models.

They come in different levels of thickness but tend to be less dense than traditional western-style mattresses. Whatever component material is used, it is tufted to improve the integrity of the futons.

They’ve become more popular among westerners lucky to have experienced their wonderful effects after spending some time in Japan and other Asian countries. Minimalists also find these unconventional mattresses fitting for their lifestyles.

Types of Futons

Futon Mattresses are classified into 2 main types namely:

  • Japanese-style Futons
  • Western-style Futons

Also, these mattresses can be classified by the number of folds:

  • Bifolds
  • Trifolds

Using Futons as Primary Beds

Many folks who rely on futons as their primary beds report magical shut-eye experiences night after night. Since these mattresses also double as sofas, they can save lots of space and money for those living frugal lifestyles as well.

Additionally, futons are easy to fold meaning they give you the flexibility to use your bedroom space for multiple endeavors. Need your bedroom to double as your office during the day? Futons are the way to go.

Mattress vs Futons

Increasing numbers of consumers are switching from mattresses to futons so that may be proof that these Japanese-style models are perfect for everyone right? Well, not exactly. Futons and standard mattresses each have their unique benefits so it is up to you to decide whether to stick to your current mattress or not.

Here are a few of the differences between traditional mattresses and futons.


Traditional mattresses feature components such as foam, coiled springs, or combinations of foam and springs. These components combine with other petrochemicals during the manufacturing process, leading to the release of Volatile Organic Compounds and other potentially harmful pollutants.

Thus, if you’re looking for something more natural, traditional foam mattresses are not the way to go.

The good news is that the majority of Futons feature compressed natural cotton. The use of minimal chemicals, if any, means little to no risk of exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. This makes Futons a better option if you suffer from allergies. They’re also more suitable for those with delicate breathing organs such as babies.


Foam mattresses have always been synonymous with breathability issues. Sure, the latest generation models offer vast improvements compared to the earliest ones. But memory foam, in particular, can be problematic during the summer when the room temperature is more likely to rise.

In their quest to offer more comfort to consumers during harsh weather, many brands are covering their mattresses with cotton material. But this is not always enough especially among hot sleepers and menopausal women suffering from regular hot flashes.

The usual all-cotton components of Japanese Futons achieve superior breathability on the floor. Even for hot sleepers, these mattresses offer better aeration which can improve comfort, especially during hot summer nights.


Flexibility is one of the underlying reasons for the ever-surging popularity of futon mattresses. Whether you’re in temporary accommodations or looking to put your limited space to multiple uses, futons are your best bet.

They’re easy to roll up into storage and rolled back on the floor whenever you need to sleep. Don’t have a dedicated guest bedroom in your apartment or home? No problem. Just roll your futon and convert any clear space into a temporary guest bedroom.

Besides, their limited depths make them easy to handle, unlike standard mattresses which may require multiple people to move around. These mattresses do not offer as much flexibility as they tend to be bulkier and more difficult to carry.

Traditional Mattresses can be difficult and expensive to put into storage unless you build a backyard shed or hire a storage unit. Unfortunately, both options can be expensive and time-consuming. 

Back Support

lady lying in bed in her underwear

Traditional mattresses are the best option for those who require custom back support. Often, back pain sufferers require cozy surfaces to gain soothing relief for those tense muscles.

The latest generations of memory foam and latex deliver exceptional body-conforming properties. This makes them suitable for those with a wide range of backaches and discomfort.

Futons offer minimal back support in terms of cushioning due to their relatively minimal thickness compared to traditional mattresses.

However, they can be preferable over softer mattresses if you suffer from acute lower back pain 


Are you hard-pressed for cash but looking for an affordable yet comfortable sleeping surface? If the answer is yes, a Futon may be just what you need. These minimalist mattresses are affordable – even the most premium models retail for just a few hundreds of dollars.

This makes them perfect for college students with limited funds, the homeless, and the unemployed.

This is unlike memory foam, latex, and hybrid mattresses that come with price tags running into several hundreds of dollars or more. It is not even unheard of to come across $3,000 models if you decide to shop for traditional mattresses in showrooms.


If you’re accustomed to bouncy mattresses then latex or innerspring models are the way to go. Coiled spring mattresses, in particular, offer higher levels of bounce for the sleeper’s body.

The nature of Futon mattresses coupled with the fact that they’re laid directly on the floor means little to no bounce. Thus, if a bouncy feeling is a deal-breaker, futons may not be a good fit for you.


Have you noticed the “new mattress smell” that comes with the majority of foam mattresses on the market? This smell results from component industrial chemicals and materials used by manufacturers.

Often, you have to allow new petrochemical mattresses to air out for about 48 hours for comfortable breathing when you sleep.

The good news is that futons require no off-gassing period. The use of cotton and other natural components coupled with the environmentally-friendly processes makes sure of that.

Thus, you can start sleeping on brand new futons as soon as the package arrives in your home.

The Risk of Falling Off

Unlike futons, traditional mattresses are usually placed on box springs and other types of platforms. These platforms are raised several inches from the ground to provide elevation.

Thus, extremely restless sleepers can be at the risk of falling off from the bed deep at night leading to severe injuries and traumas, especially in babies and toddlers. As such, many parents are forced to shell out on bed rails to protect their adorable babies from falling off.

Sleeping on the floor eliminates the risk of falling. Even if your child shifts off the bed, he or she only lands softly on the ground leading to minimal injuries, if any.

Under-bed Storage

guy lying in bed with under-bed storage

One of the advantages of bed frames and other raised platform beds is the tons of storage they offer under the beds. This storage can be critical for a variety of uses, including storing items that you prefer to stay concealed.

Putting futons on the floor eliminates the possibility of gaining extra under-bed space. This can make it difficult for storing personal effects and other valuables.


One of the drawbacks of futons compared to traditional mattresses is their relative flimsiness. Futon mattresses suffer significant wear and tear over time, making them even more flimsy. This can reduce the level of comfort they offer.

Additionally, it is not uncommon for futons to develop lumps over long term use. Once it gets to that point, you may have little option than to get a replacement. 

Standard mattresses are usually thicker which gives them a considerably longer duration compared to their futon counterparts. No wonder the average consumer lies down on the same mattress for 8-10 years before getting a replacement.


Futons and traditional mattresses both come in standard sizes. Just like there’s a king-size for regular mattresses, you can also find a king-sized futon.

During shopping, consider how much space you have available as well as how much space you need to sleep. For instance, solo sleepers may require smaller spaces compared to those who share beds with their partners or others. 


There are many positives of choosing traditional mattresses over futons and vice versa. Often, your circumstances can determine which option is better for you.

It is important to take into consideration the state of your health as well as your current space circumstances when shopping.

Also, your budget can play a big role in determining which option you go with. Either way, choose the one that makes more sense for your needs. After all, futons and mattresses can both be considerable investments. You wouldn’t want to shell out on one only to realize that you made the wrong choice.

Gabriel Smith

Hello, my name is Gabriel and I LOVE to sleep. Okay, you’re right, a lot of people do like sleep. But my passion is actually not sleeping. My interest lies in the “theoretical part”. What to do before bedtime. What a good night’s sleep is. etc. In short, how to sleep well. I hope you share the same interest as me, and enjoy reading everything about sleep.

Recent Posts