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Do Memory Foam Mattresses Need Box Springs?

Do Memory Foam Mattresses Need Box Springs?

The Swedish Tempur bed was the first to introduce memory foam to the market in 1991. Since then, the market has exploded with a number of makes and brands, each of them marketing their own version of something very similar. But with this newer kind of mattress, are there things you need to know before making a purchase, such as if it needs box springs?

Memory foam mattresses don’t need box springs to be functional, while regular mattresses benefit from a box spring. In fact, they aren’t recommended as they don’t provide even support for the denser memory foam mattress. Stable platforms with rigid surfaces are more suited to the heavier mattress. 

In this article, we will explore what memory foam is, how it is made up, and the best way to support a memory foam mattress. We will also discuss the benefits of both memory foam and box springs, along with suitable alternatives. Lastly, we will look at some manufacturer specifications for their memory foam mattresses. 

Memory Foam Mattresses: A Brief Overview

Memory Foam Mattresses: A Brief Overview

NASA initially designed them in the 1960s. Memory foam was used to help astronauts get used to the pressure changes when entering and exiting the Earth’s atmosphere. Also known as visco-elastic foam, it wasn’t long before other products were developed using the same material. 

It refers to the combination of a viscous material with an elastic material. When speaking of memory foam, viscous refers to a substance that is thick and will change its shape slowly under pressure. The elastic qualities allow the foam to stretch but still return to its original form. 

It holds a layer of polymer foam (which has large molecules that are made up of smaller molecules, bonded together). This substance is called polyurethane, and it can be found in everything, from liquid paints and insulation to car parts and sofas. This foam is used, in this case, by adding a layer of springs or another kind of support foam. 

The comfort felt is due to how it molds around the body using body heat to soften. When pressure is applied, the foam will slowly stretch and contort to fit the shape, evenly distributing body weight from head to toe. 

When the pressure is then removed, the memory foam will very slowly return to its natural state. However, over time, the foam will remember the most used position when sleeping. As it moves slowly, it will take some time for your position to be fully shaped, and if you move a lot before falling asleep, these positions won’t be imprinted into the foam in the same way your unmoving, sleeping body would be. 

Initially, when the mattress is cold, it can take some time for the pressure to register and for the foam to return to its original shape. However, after some time, once your body heat has affected the foam, it will become much more pliable.

Types of Memory Foam

Generally speaking, there are three primary types of memory foam:

  • Traditional
  • Open-cell
  • Gel

Some companies will incorporate all three into their mattresses, where others will stick to just one or two. 

  • Traditional: Considered as the original memory foam, this was the first to enter the consumer market and is designed using the visco-elastic foam mentioned above. Even though this kind of mattress adds support and pressure relief, it is known to retain heat and can become uncomfortable in the warmer months. 
  • Open-cel: Open-cell memory foam was designed to combat the original model’s heat retention, using the same internal foam as the traditional mattresses. By adding pockets inside, it allows for better airflow and heat dispersion. 
  • Gel: This hybrid was designed to reduce heat retention further but keep the mattress’s density to promote support. The thermal gel is introduced to the memory foam that absorbs body heat and helps it to dissipate more efficiently. 

Benefits of Memory Foam

Along with added comfort, memory foam offers a number of benefits that will aid in a good night’s sleep.

  • Support and comfort: Rather than the mattress holding firm in a flat position and your body shaping to it, memory foam slowly shapes around your body. It uses body heat to soften and mold around your shape as you sleep, giving your bones and spinal alignment a break. The lumbar support on your body’s natural curves can help prevent constant movement and work to alleviate back pain over time. 
  • Pressure relief: As your body heat works to soften the foam, the mattress will conform around your form, evenly distributing your body weight. Rather than having most of the pressure on your hips, shoulders, and neck, your entire body is supported, providing relief to aching joints. This can help to alleviate aches and pains and will encourage a better night’s sleep. 
  • Movement reduction: For co-sleepers, it is not uncommon to be woken by a restless partner moving during the night. Since memory foam molds around your body, the foam’s density will keep any movement to a minimum and prevent the pressure from distributing across the mattress. 
  • Bug and dust resistance: Although bugs can still live and breed along the seams, bugs cannot survive in the foam of a memory foam mattress. Due to its density, they do not accumulate dust or allergens in the same way as regular mattresses. 

Traditional Mattresses: A Basic Overview

Traditional Mattresses: A Basic Overview

Traditional mattresses, often known as spring mattresses, are made up of lots of metal coils inside a supportive foam encasement. The rings are suspended in the middle and padded with foam to provide comforting support. 

Unlike memory foam, spring mattresses don’t conform to your shape but rather push back against your body’s pressure to support. The downside to this, and the reason memory foam is considered better on your joints, is that your body does not apply pressure evenly. 

It is not uncommon to feel soreness in specific, heavier areas after sleeping on a firm spring mattress. This is most typically felt in the hips, neck, and shoulders. However, some knee pain is not uncommon. 

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Box springs were initially designed to provide support for innerspring mattresses. Due to the uneven distribution of weight on a spring mattress, having another layer of support underneath offers more durability to the pressure points. This reduces wear and makes the mattress last longer. 

What Is a Box Spring?

What Is a Box Spring?

A box spring is typically a wooden frame or base for your mattress. It will usually contain springs, or sometimes metal rods, to provide support for your mattress, as well as added height to the overall bed. 

Box springs were designed to support mattresses, absorb shocks and pressure, and increase the mattress’s longevity. 

In some cases, they are used to make getting in and out of bed easier. Commonly placed onto a bed frame, the box spring can add anywhere between two and nine inches (5 and 23 cm) to the height of your bed. For older people or people with injuries, this makes it easier to access the bed. 

Benefits of Box Springs

Before memory foam was introduced, traditional mattresses required additional support to last longer and provide enough support to their users. Some benefits of the box spring include:

  • Keeps your bed off the ground, away from dust and bugs (when used with a bed frame)
  • Improves ventilation
  • Prevents mold forming from moisture on the floor
  • Aesthetically more pleasing than a mattress on the ground
  • Increases bed height

Why Memory Foam Mattresses Do Not Need Box Springs

Why Memory Foam Mattresses Do Not Need Box Springs

They do not need box springs because they are very dense and require a solid base to offer the best support. Box springs have a solid frame, but the internal slats are often spaced too far apart to support the heavier memory foam adequately. 

Unlike traditional mattresses, memory foam does not require the same kind of support. The springs are depressed unevenly in a conventional mattress and require the support of the box spring to prevent sporadic sagging. Since your body weight is evenly distributed on memory foam, it does not need any additional support. 

What Are the Best Foundations for a Memory Foam Mattress?

What Are the Best Foundations for a Memory Foam Mattress?

Though memory foam does not need spring support, it does require a solid, rigid base onto which it can lay flat. It also needs to be raised to promote ventilation. With that in mind, the best foundation for a memory foam mattress would be:

  • Platform bed
  • Wooden slat foundation
  • Adjustable bed
  • Bunkie board

Platform Bed

A platform bed is much like a box spring that raises the mattress and provides support. However, while a box spring would also require a bed frame to lift it off the ground, a platform bed has the frame and legs built-in. 

Generally relatively low profile, a platform bed is usually solid, though it can be slatted also. Their standard height is 5 to 12 inches (13 to 30 cm), and to be used with a memory foam mattress, the slats must not be wider than three inches (8 cm) apart. 

Given that a platform bed provides both support and a bed frame, this is an economical option. The slats allow for airflow, and the tight slats offer the right amount of support needed for the heavier mattress.

Unlike the box spring, the slats on a platform bed are not designed to be flexible. They are not used to bend with your body weight, making them perfect for the dense memory foam that does not require this kind of support but rather overall support for the weight. 

Platform beds can be bought with or without headboards, with storage, and can be metal framed or made out of wood. It is not recommended to purchase a metal frame with narrow support tubes, as they do not provide the same level of pressure dispersion as the flat wooden slats. 

Wooden Slat Foundation

Similar to a box spring, this foundation is a solid base onto which you can lay your mattress. However, where it differs is its use of wooden slats to provide support. This base offers both support and ventilation, constructed with closely spaced, wide slats. 

Though it does not have legs, meaning you would need to purchase a bed frame if you want the bed off the ground. This is an excellent option if you are looking for added height. You can put a slat foundation onto a bed frame and lay the memory foam on top for a taller bed that is easier to access.

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Adjustable Bed

When considering an adjustable bed, the best option is to purchase the mattress and bed frame from the same manufacturer. This will ensure they fit perfectly and that your warranty will not be void in the event of wear or damage. 

These frames are generally made up of a metal structure with horizontal slats supporting the mattress. Underneath, there will be the motor and the slide device so the frame can move and lift. These frames often come with legs, but can also be fitted to your existing bed frame, provided the wooden slats are removed to allow for the machinery that sits underneath. 

Memory foam is the ideal mattress for an adjustable bed due to its ability to move and mold itself to new shapes. It will easily lift and bend with the frame and then flatten out when the bed is lowered without causing any damage. 

Bunkie Board

If you have a bed frame and/or box spring that you want to keep and use with your memory foam mattress, a bunkie board is a great way to solve the issues of too wide slates and uneven springs. 

A bunkie board is a one to three-inch (2.5 to 7.6-cm) piece of wood, plywood, or some form of particle board that acts as a flat barrier between your mattress and your base. They will fit on any wooden base, metal frame, or box spring and provide the reliable support needed for the heavier memory foam mattress. 

Manufacturer Specifications for Their Memory Foam Mattresses

Manufacturer Specifications for Their Memory Foam Mattresses

Although it is possible to put your memory foam mattress on a box spring, many companies have specific guidelines on appropriate bases for their mattresses. For example, some will state right away that box springs are not going to be covered under warranty if your mattress experiences sagging. 

Let’s take a look at four different companies and what their warranties specify.


According to their “Mattress: 25 Year Limited Warranty,” Tempur-Pedic mattresses are designed to be used on a solid foundation that is capable of holding the mattress’s weight. If used with a box spring, adjustable base, or inappropriate foundation or frame, all warranties will be voided. 

In the event you need to make a warranty claim, Tempur-Pedic may ask for proof of the bed frame that has been used to assess its structural suitability.


Per their website, Nectar Memory Foam mattresses are suitable to be used with:

  • Box spring
  • Divan bases
  • Traditional frames
  • Adjustable bases
  • Platform

However, in their Nectar Sleep Warranty Policies, they state that they will only cover deterioration “not associated with an indentation or sag which results from use of an improper or unsupportive foundation or bed base.” This would suggest that some bases are not appropriate. The consumer should check with the company for a more detailed specification on the type of base permitted.


Layla also claims that their mattresses are allowed to be paired with box springs and slatted foundations. Per their Mattress Lifetime Warranty Exclusions and Limitations, they make it clear that any foundation must have enough support, including central support, in order to be considered appropriate. 

They also specify that the use of “an inferior boxspring or foundation” or “metal bed frame that doesn’t have a center support bar” will void the warranty.

To avoid confusion, Layla offers a number of bases that are warranty inclusive for their mattresses, including:

  • Platform base
  • Adjustable base
  • Foundation
  • Bed frame


In the frequently asked questions, Casper states that their mattresses need the support of thick wooden slats and recommends not using a simple metal bed frame. They do suggest using a bunkie board on a metal frame in order to provide sufficient support. 

However, in their “Casper Sleep 10 Year Limited Mattress Warranty,” they clearly state that they do not cover damage or wear from unsupported foundations. For the warranty to be valid, the wear or damage must have come from a “matching foundation.” Though it is not clearly stated, it is safe to assume that a matching foundation means a Casper foundation. 

Casper offers several foundation options for you to purchase with your new mattress, and they are an excellent investment to keep the warranty valid.  

Final Thoughts

Do Memory Foam Mattresses Need Box Springs?

Memory foam mattresses do not need box springs and will often become damaged or last fewer years if laid on a box spring. In fact, many memory foam companies state that the warranty will be void if the mattress is used with a box spring. 

The best foundations for memory foam mattress would be platform beds, wooden slat foundations, or adjustable beds. Provided the slats are no more than three inches (7.6 cm) apart, they will offer the best support for the denser mattress. In addition, bunkie boards make inexpensive alternatives to buying a new bed frame. 

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