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Motion (or movement) isolation refers to how effectively a mattress localizes or absorbs the motion of a person moving on it.
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 by the movement. By contrast, a mattress with poor motion isolation does not absorb movement and, consequently, motion made by one person can disturb the other person.
The chart below shows how mattress types compare on this issue based on owner experiences. Keep in mind that the chart represents what is often, but not always, the case; a particular brand, model or individual mattress may go against these findings somewhat.
The energy-absorbing properties of memory foam mattresses allow them to have good-to-excellent motion isolation. You may have seen the commercial in which a person jumps up and down on one side of a memory foam mattress without spilling a glass of wine that is on the other side.
For the same reasons as memory foam beds, latex beds generally provide good motion isolation.
Air beds with dual air chambers (one for each side of the bed) generally have fair-to-good motion isolation because the separateness of the chambers limits motion transfer. Air beds with a single air chamber, however, tend to have poor motion isolation. The presence of memory foam and or latex on an air bed helps to reduce motion transfer.
Motion isolation can vary greatly for innerspring beds depending mainly on the type of coil system used. Bonnell coils and continuous coils tend to provide fair-to-poor motion isolation, while more sophisticated coils such as pocket or offset tend to provide good motion isolation. In addition, the presence of memory foam and or latex on an innerspring bed helps to reduce motion transfer.
Futon mattresses filled with cotton / fiber or cotton / foam generally provide better motion isolation than those with innersprings.
Waterbeds do not generally provide good motion isolation. However, some perform better than others on this issue depending on their level of advancement, specifically whether they have multiple water chambers.
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