When buying a new bed, most people think a lot about the mattress. They put their time and effort into choosing the size and type of mattress, and then into choosing the one that works best for them. However, there are several other components that you need to look at when buying a mattress. One of these is the box spring or the support system for your mattress.

For a long time, all mattresses were sold with box springs. Now, though, there are other alternatives available that also claim to provide mattress support. There’s some controversy about these, though, and whether or not they are actually as good as using a box spring. Here’s everything you need to know to make a good decision when you’re purchasing support for your new mattress.

What is a Box Spring?



A box spring is basically a wooden rectangular box, covered in fabric, with various wire configurations inside of it. You put it under your mattress to offer support for the part of your bed that you sleep on. The box spring is usually the same size and height as your mattress so that when you stack them it looks like you have two mattresses on top of one another. The fabric covering the box spring is usually the same or complementary to that covering your mattress, so they are clearly meant to go together.

The box spring used to be made with actual springs inside and was specifically designed as a support for innerspring mattresses. These were intended to keep the mattress from sagging, as well as to provide more support and comfort for the sleeper. They were also intended to raise the level of the bed so that it was easy to sit on and so that sleepers didn’t feel like they were sleeping on the floor.

Box springs were also designed to provide ventilation for both the sleeper and the mattress. Because the box spring contains a lot of open space, it allows for better airflow underneath the mattress. This helps the sleeper stay cool, and it makes sure that the mattress can dry if the sleeper gets sweaty.

Benefits and Drawbacks of the Box Spring

When well-designed, the traditional box spring does a good job at what it was designed to do: providing support and ventilation for innerspring mattresses. However, box springs today are not always well-designed. In fact, many of them are cheaply made and don’t provide the support that a mattress needs to help you sleep comfortably, align your spine, and add longevity to your mattress.

In addition, many box springs that are sold with latex and memory foam mattresses are not designed to hold the weight of these beds over a long period of time. Since both latex and memory foam can be significantly heavier than innerspring mattress options, they should have updated box springs, too. However, some companies sell these beds with the same box springs that they sell with their innerspring models, which can create problems down the road.

Box springs also may not provide the type of support that memory foam and latex require in order to last as long as possible. Both of these types of mattresses need even support across the bottom part of the mattress. Any holes or gaps in the support raise the risk that your mattress will sag into the gap. Since many box springs have more support straight down the middle and around the edges than they do right under where you sleep, they may not offer the support your new mattress needs.

What Other Options are Out There?

Many shoppers have never considered an alternative to the box spring. After all, isn’t that how mattresses have always come? However, there are some new choices that you may prefer, or that might work better for you, depending on the type of bed you’re purchasing.

Put your mattress on the floor

If you don’t mind sleeping low to the ground and you like that look, putting your mattress on the floor is always an option. One major downside to this is that the mattress won’t get good ventilation. This means that you may get warm when you sleep on it, especially if you tend to sleep hot. Also, while the floor provides decent support for latex and memory foam mattresses, it is not necessarily the best for innerspring mattresses.

A wood foundation

You can make or purchase a wooden rectangular box to put your mattress on. These have more wood than the box spring, and so they offer more regular support for your mattress. They also don’t have wire inside, so there’s no springiness to them. These wooden foundations provide even more ventilation than a traditional box spring. This helps your mattress remain dry and mold-free. 

Most people choose to buy a wood foundation with a fabric cover that matches their mattress or to put one on if they are making the foundation themselves. This protects the foundation and enhances the overall look of the bed in the room.

Wooden foundations work really well for latex and memory foam mattresses, as long as the slats are close enough together. If there’s more than a 3” gap between them, the mattress can sag down between slats. This can lower the lifespan of the mattress and cause uncomfortable sleep.



Platform beds

Platform beds are basically beds with raised sleeping platforms. These platforms are designed to have the mattress placed directly onto them. The platform can be solid wood, or it can be designed from slats like wood foundations. In fact, the main difference between the two is that platform beds usually come with footboards and headboards as part of a matching bedroom set, while wooden foundations look more like a traditional box spring. 

While platform beds can be expensive, they can also be a great investment when it comes to the support that they offer. Like wooden platforms, they are best for latex and memory foam mattresses, though they can also work with many innerspring models. If the platform is flat, you may have some ventilation issues, while slatted platforms allow for more airflow.

Adjustable beds

Adjustable beds are flat platforms on legs that have motors and flexibility. This allows you to move the top and the bottom of the bed. You can sit up in bed or add support under your knees if you sleep on your back. If you sleep with a partner, you can even buy split mattresses and platforms, so you can each sleep the way you desire. 

The only downside to an adjustable bed is that it does not work with innerspring mattresses or with innerspring hybrids. These beds are simply not made to flex and move, so they will render your amazing adjustable miracle into just another flat place to sleep. On the other hand, an adjustable bed offers great support for latex and memory foam mattresses. Because the platform is solid and flat, it helps keep them from sagging. Adjustable beds are also made to hold the extra weight that these beds bring, so you won’t lose support over time.

Finally, adjustable beds allow for some air flow, though not as much as a platform bed or a wooden foundation. As an added bonus, platform beds are great for people with back pain and acid reflux or heartburn. Because you can move the bed, you can put it in the position most likely to relieve symptoms.



What Mattress Support is Best?

The mattress support that will work best for you depends on a number of factors. The type of bed you’re buying can play a huge part in the support that you choose. Innerspring beds may work with box springs, while latex and memory foam beds will do best with another option.

You should also listen to your body. If you’ve spent on an innerspring bed with a box spring in the past and you’ve had a lot of pain, it may be better for you to choose another option when it comes to mattress support.

Your budget matters, too. If you have the money for an adjustable bed or a platform bed, you can invest in something that will last you for years, through many, many mattresses. If you move a lot or you don’t want to invest, you may want to choose a box spring or to simply place your mattress on the floor.

Finally, pay attention to any warranty that comes with your new mattress. A few manufacturers still require you to use their box springs with their innerspring mattresses in order to keep your warranty valid. If you’re worried about problems with your bed, take this into consideration when you’re buying mattress support.

In the end, you need to choose the mattress support that works best for you. Consider all the factors, take the time you need, and you’ll end up with a bed that will work for you for a long time.