What is a futon mattress and are they healthy to sleep on long-term?

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When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, the mattress and base you choose can make all the difference. While you may think that a futon mattress is something that you have tucked away in your spare room for last-minute guests or the ideal bed for college students, these traditional Japanese-style beds are extremely versatile and can compete with even the best mattresses on the market.

Futon mattresses aren’t just great for offering a space saving sleeping solution, they can actually come with plenty of other benefits from increased comfort to improved health. But are futon mattresses healthy to sleep on?

In this guide we will go through everything you need to know about what a futon mattress is, and whether they’re a suitable to sleep on in the long term. Let’s get started.

A futon mattress is a versatile bedding option that originated in Japan. They are typically made using layered cotton or other natural fibers that are encased in a fabric cover. Futon mattresses have been designed to be folded so that you can store them away during the day before unfolding at night for a good sleep.

Futon mattresses are often around two to three inches in length and are rectangular in design. These mattresses can sit directly on the floor or on a low-lying base. They tend to be a lot firmer than a traditional mattress, which makes them one of the best mattresses for back pain.

Although they originated in Japan, these Japanese floor mattresses have worldwide popularity because of their versatile position, you can also purchase frames that will turn them into sofas, making them ideal for those who live in small spaces such as apartments or dormitories. Futon mattresses also come in a range of sizes, so they offer a practical solution for those looking for an adaptable sleeping space that will also be stylish and comfortable.

Traditionally, futon mattresses do not contain springs. Instead they’re constructed with layers of cotton or other natural fibers such as wool. These materials are enough to provide a firm and supportive sleeping surface. Plus, not having springs is what makes them flexible and easy to fold.

However, as time progresses, Western-style futons are becoming more popular. These are often thicker because they’re made with materials such as foam, and they have innersprings to mimic traditional mattresses, often feeling softer and providing more body support.

Futons come in a variety of sizes, and sizes do vary between the UK and US, but they generally follow standard mattress dimensions. In the UK futon mattresses can be found in sizes such as single, small double, double and king. The dimensions may vary between some manufacturers but a single futon will be around 35 x 75 inches, a small double sits at 47 x 75 inches, a double is 53 x 75 inches and a King is 59 x 78 inches.

In the US futon mattresses are available in twin, full, queen and king size. A twin size is around 39 inches x 75 inches, a full around 54 inches x 75 inches, a queen around 60 inches x 80 inches, and a king around 76 inches x 80 inches. However, it is always worth checking with the manufacturer before you make your purchase as some of the dimensions may be a little different.

When it comes to mattresses, whether you choose the best memory foam, the best hybrid, or a futon, personal preference is almost always the key to having a good night’s sleep. Due to their firm sleep surface, futon mattresses can be incredibly healthy to sleep on, particularly for back and stomach sleepers, who require a firmer sleep surface in order to keep the spine in healthy alignment.

However, the key is choosing the right one. As with a regular mattress, quality does matter. If you’re choosing a cheap futon that has minimal filling, then it’s not going to sustain your comfort levels for more than a night.

High-quality futon mattresses are durable and long-lasting and will maintain their shape so long as you undertake regular maintenance, such as flipping and rotating the mattress to ensure even wear and longevity. If you opt for a cheaper, low-quality version of a futon mattress, then you may find it sags and loses its firmness over time leading to restless sleep, a loss of firmness, and lumps and bumps.

The materials used in quality futons can also make a huge difference to your health, especially if you suffer from allergies. They’re traditionally made using cotton or wool as stuffing, which is hypoallergenic and will also deter dust mites.

Futons tend to offer a firmer sleeping surface, especially if you’re placing them directly onto the floor. If you choose a futon that is thin, then you’re going to lose the ‘sink in’ comfort and give that a traditional mattress offers. However, if you suffer with back pain, you may find that firmness benefits you because if you pick a futon that is thick enough to offer support around the shoulders and hips, you’ll find your spine is automatically aligned, meaning you won’t wake up with aches and pains.

Hot sleepers may also find a futon mattress a good choice. Unlike traditional all foam mattresses, futon mattresses allow for better air circulation keeping sleepers cooler and helping to prevent overheating during the night.

You suffer back pain: Futon mattresses are firmer than traditional mattresses which means that you get that extra support needed to ease back pain.

They can ease allergies: Because futons tend to be stuffed with natural fibers such as cotton and wool, which are naturally hypoallergenic. If you suffer from allergies then your mattress can play a bit part in that, so switching to a futon mattress can leave you feeling a lot better.

You sleep hot: If you struggle with getting overly hot overnight you may find a futon helps. Futon mattresses promote extra airflow and can leave sleepers feeling cooler.

You live in a small space: If you lack space, then you will find a futon mattress, which is a great solution. These mattresses have been designed to fold up and stored when not in use. They can also come in designs where they can double up as a sofa so you get a good two-in-one design solution.

You live somewhere cold. If you live in a cold environment, you may find that a futon doesn’t offer the same level of warmth and comfort as a traditional mattress. Futon mattresses are traditionally only 2-3 inches deep, so they may not offer diffident insulation against cold floors. Plus, if you live in an older house, being lower to the ground may put you more at risk of laying in draughts and cold spots.

You’re a side sleeper: Side sleepers may not get the right amount of support from a futon mattress as you don’t sink into it like you would a memory foam or hybrid mattress.

You have mobility issues: Because futon mattresses usually sit on the floor or a low lying frame, you need to have good mobility in order to get in and out of bed. If you struggle with movement, then you may find that a regular mattress with a higher base is a better option.

✅ You’re on a budget: Depending on the quality of the futon you buy, they can last anywhere between two and twenty years. What’s more, they’re considerably cheaper than traditional mattresses, too.

✅ Space is an issue: Futon mattresses are more versatile than traditional mattresses as they can fold up and be stored away, which is perfect if space is a premium.

✅ You suffer from back pain: A futon won’t suit side sleepers due to being too firm, but they are an excellent choice for back and stomach sleepers, as well as providing outstanding relief for those suffering from back pain.

Futon mattresses can be purchased from many large retailers. In the UK you can get a futon mattress from outlets such as Dunelm, WayFair, and even Amazon. Prices vary but you can pick up a double futon from Dunelm which includes a frame for just £279. On WayFair a futon mattress costs £169 and a double futon on Amazon will set you back as little as £149.

Prices in the US are pretty similar. You can get futon mattresses from large outlets including Target, Walmart and WayFair US. A queen size Harding Futon Mattress Futon Mattress costs just $169 on WayFair. A queen size Room Essentials futon, with frame, costs $160 at Target, while a queen size futon mattress at Walmart is just $119.