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The Complete Futon Mattress Buying Guide

A futon mattress is a versatile addition to any home, whether you’re using it on top of a futon base as a small-space sofa alternative, on the floor as a guest-bed in a pinch, or with a tatami mat as full-time spot to sleep.

Searching for a futon mattress for your home? The way you intend to use it, your budget, your comfort preferences, and your storage capabilities will all influence the best choice for your lifestyle.

Find the right option with our breakdown, below. 

futon mattress buying guide

Start here: How will you use your futon mattress?

For some, a futon is a once-in-while sleeping option when a guest comes to visit. But plenty of others actually choose to sleep on a futon mattress full-time for reasons like comfort, space constraints, or tradition. The investment you’re willing to make and the comfort level you’re searching for from your futon mattress will differ depending on how --and how often--you plan to use it. 

Futon mattress manufacturers often make recommendations for their products based on how they should be used; for example whether they're better for sitting/occasional sleeping, or suitable for regular sleeping. 

Plan to use it as a sofa / guest bed?

If you plan to keep your futon mattress rolled up in a closet, or use it with a frame  as a sofa alternative until guests arrive, you'll find your options seem endless, since you'll be able to consider both "occasional use" mattresses as well as those that are designed for everyday sleeping.

A few considerations that will help you narrow down the selection:

Storage. If you plan to store your mattress until it's needed, you'll want a mattress that's flexible enough to be either rolled up, or folded two or three times, depending on the size of your storage space. Thinner, Japanese-style Shikifuton mattresses are ideal for this. 

Comfort: If you plan to use the mattress as a sofa, too, make sure that it's something you find comfortable for both sitting and lying down. Depending on the frame you use, a thicker mattress might be necessary so you don't feel the frame construction underneath. 

Firmness. An overly-firm mattress can be hard to keep in place when your futon-frame is in the sitting position, so check reviews to ensure the one you choose is flexible enough for both purposes. Or, opt for a bi-fold or tri-fold mattress, which will have a pre-determined folds designed to help keep the mattress in the upright position (and make it easier to store, too!). 

Aesthetics. Looks will play a part in the mattress you choose if your futon doubles as a sofa, since it'll be a big part of your decor. If you plan to use it as an everyday sofa, consider an option with replaceable covers (like our custom, cotton Shikifuton covers) so you can change them out as they become worn or your decor preferences change. 

Plan to use your futon mattress as your everyday bed?

futon mattress buying guide 2

If you plan to sleep on your futon mattress every night, on the other hand, your priorities will be a little different.

Comfort: Of course, you'll want the mattress you're sleeping on each night to be comfortable and supportive for your sleeping style. Choosing a thinner futon mattress, placed directly on the floor will create ideal support for back-sleepers, for example, while stomach sleepers will want a mattress with more cushion. 

Quality: If you're using a mattress every night, it needs to hold up to extensive use. This may mean having to spend a little more to ensure you get something that fits the bill, but it will be worthwhile in terms of the quality of your sleep, and the longevity of your mattress (and you'll still find plenty of top-notch options for under $500.)

Storage: If you live in a small space, like a tiny home or studio apartment, you'll again want to consider storage, and opt for a mattress that can easily be stored away during the day to create extra space. If you plan to use your futon mattress directly on the floor, it's also a good idea to purchase a tatami mat, which will preserve the life of your mattress. Tatami mats offer a moisture barrier and allow for airflow underneath the mattress. 

Next: Choose a Futon Mattress Material

Futon mattresses are traditionally made from cotton, but today, options range from inexpensive synthetic-and-coil versions from big box stores, to custom-made all natural versions designed for years of regular use. The prices and quality options are wide ranging. Below are a few of the most popular.

Memory-Foam Futon Mattress.

Pros

  • If you want to get as close to a standard mattress experience as possible, memory foam is a good option because it can rival the comfort of a standard memory foam mattress.
  • Price points range from affordable to luxury.

Cons 

  • Do you tend to sweat or get warm easily when you sleep? If so, memory foam won't be your best choice, since foam mattresses tend to trap body heat.
  • Second, most memory foam is made from a concoction of chemicals that aren’t great for the environment or your health. Standard memory foam is made from polyurethane and treated with flame retardants, both of which have been linked to a host of health problems. According to Sleepjunkie.org, a few of the chemicals that have been found on memory foam mattresses include:
    •  Methyl benzene, which can affect nervous system.
    • Dimethylformamide – a possible carcinogen.
    • Methylene chloride – a solvent and a known mucous membrane irritant
    • Formaldehyde
    • Vinilideine chloride, which can irritate eyes
    • If you plan to use your futon mattress on a daily basis and like the comfort of memory foam, look for an all-natural version instead.
  • Finally, many memory foam mattresses come vacuum-packed and take a few days to re-inflate, which can be a problem if you need the mattress right away. Once opened, they can also emit a chemical smell for a few weeks while they off-gas.

All Natural Cotton Shikifuton Mattress.

Pros

Shikifutons are traditional Japanese-style futon mattresses made of cotton and designed for nightly use (and are still a common choice in Japan today!) Among the pros to using a shikifuton: 

  • They're made from all-natural materials, and are not treated with flame retardants, so you can rest easy knowing your mattress is supporting your health, not harming it. 
  • They roll up and store away easily. 
  • They've been known to ease back pain, since they're designed to be placed on the floor for a firm sleep surface. 
  • The mattress cover is made from 100% unbleached cotton, and optional, custom removable covers made from 100% cotton can be purchased to change the look and allow the cover to be washed.
  • J-Life shikifutons feature 'knife' edges that make it lay flatter and fold more easily. 
  • The J-Life Shikifuton is available in two thicknesses, a four inch and a more traditional 3 inch. (In Japan, new shikibuton are about 3 inches thick. Our more popular 4 inch futon is made to accommodate those who like a softer sleeping surface.)

Cons

  • While memory foam and innerspring futon mattresses can be purchased for as little as $100, Shikifuton mattresses are meant to be used regularly, and made from high quality materials, so are prices start around $200, and go up from there depending on the size purchased. J-Life shikifuton mattresses start at $229 for a twin-size, and run up to $349 for a Queen size. 

Innerspring Futon Mattress.

Pros:

  • Like standard mattresses, Innerspring mattresses come in a variety of firmness options, ideal for those with a strong preference for a certain firmness or health concern requiring a certain type of mattress. Like memory foam mattresses, innerspring and coil futon mattresses come in a range of price points depending on quality, size, and materials used.

Cons:

  • Innerspring foam mattresses are also often treated with fire retardants, including Melamine resin (which contains formaldehyde), Chlorinated tris (a possible neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor).
  • Mattresses made without chemical fire retardants, like those made of wool, are often on the more expensive side

Then: Choose a Futon Size.

Most futon mattresses come in standard mattress sizes (Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, and King).  

For reference, below are standard mattress sizes and recommended usage.

futon mattress sizes

  • Twin / Twin XL

A twin-size mattress is approximately 39 inches wide by 75 inches long, while a twin XL mattress is 38 inches wide by 80 inches long. When used with a frame, twin futon mattresses fold up into an armchair-sized seat. 

  • Full

Approximately 54 inches wide by 75 inches long Full size beds are also best-suited to children and teens, since the 75” length may be too short for some adults.

  • Queen

Queen sized futon mattresses run 60” wide by 80” long, and are ideal for one or two adults. 

  • King

King-sized mattresses are essentially double the width of twin mattresses, at 78 inches wide and 80 inches long, and are perfect for two adults. 

 

Learn more about:

Japanese-Style Shikifutons

Japanese Kakefuton Comforters 

Tatami Mats


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