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Updated September 5, 2016
Motion isolation refers to how effectively a mattress localizes or absorbs a person's movement.
A mattress with good motion isolation is well suited for couples because it absorbs the movement (tossing, turning, getting in and out of bed) of one person so that the other person is not disturbed.
A possible disadvantage of good motion isolation is that it often means that the mattress has limited, if any, bounce. For some people, this negatively affects a bed's suitability for sex.
The chart below shows what is often, but not always, the case for the different mattress types; the performance of a particular brand, model or individual mattress may vary.
The energy-absorbing properties of memory foam mattresses allow them to have good-to-excellent motion isolation. The thicker the foam and the higher its density, the better motion isolation tends to be.
Hybrid mattresses most often refer to mattresses that consist of both innersprings and memory foam (at least two inches). These beds tend to use sophisticated springs / coils which minimize motion transfer. And their use of memory foam also helps to keep motion localized.
For latex mattresses, motion isolation can vary due especially to processing type. Dunlop-processed latex tends to provide mostly good motion isolation, while talalay-processed latex tends to provide no better than fair isolation.
Airbeds with dual air chambers (one for each side of the bed) generally have fair-to-good motion isolation because the separation of the chambers limits motion transfer. Airbeds with a single air chamber, however, tend to have poor motion isolation. The presence of at least two inches of memory foam on an airbed may help to reduce motion transfer somewhat.
Motion isolation can vary for innerspring beds depending mainly on spring / coil type. Bonnell / open coils and continuous coils tend to provide fair-to-poor motion isolation, while the more sophisticated coils – such as pocket or offset – tend to provide fair to good isolation.
Futon mattresses that are filled entirely with cotton / fiber or cotton / foam generally provide better motion isolation than those with innerspring support.
Waterbeds do not generally provide good motion isolation. However, some perform better than others depending on their level of advancement – specifically whether they have multiple, separate water chambers.
The foundation used with a mattress can have a significant impact on motion isolation. To achieve maximum motion isolation for any mattress, it is important to use a firm, solid-surface, non-spring foundation. This basically means that a box spring (springs contained in a box-like frame) should be avoided.
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