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What is Motion Isolation and Why is it Important in a Mattress?

Last Updated on January 4, 2024

Written by Olivera Jancikin

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Do you struggle to fall asleep when your partner is tossing and turning? If so, you probably need a bed that isolates motion better. Motion isolation refers to a mattress’ ability to prevent movement from transferring from one side of the bed to the other.

You can easily test this by placing an object on one side to see if it moves when you climb into the bed. If it does, your mattress probably doesn’t have great motion isolation. On the other hand, if the object remains upright, your bed is good at isolating motion.

This article will cover motion isolation and why it’s important in a mattress.

What is Motion Isolation?

Motion isolation is the degree to which a mattress is able to isolate movement so that you don’t feel the other person tossing and turning. When it comes to limiting motion transfer across the bed, some mattress types are better at this than others, and while this isn’t the only feature mattress shoppers should look for, it could make a big difference in the amount and quality of sleep you get.

Who Should Get a Motion-Isolating Bed?

Motion isolation is valuable, but it’s not necessary for everyone. Certain groups will benefit more from this feature than others. The following types of sleepers should look for beds with motion-isolating capabilities.

  • Couples with Different Sleep Schedules – Couples with different sleep schedules can benefit from a motion-isolating bed because you’re less likely to feel your partner getting in and out of bed. If one of you likes to stay up longer or has to wake up earlier, a mattress with good motion-isolating properties should ensure this movement doesn’t disrupt the other person. Explore the best mattresses for couples.
  • Light SleepersLight sleepers often have to sleep in a quiet, still environment, and even the smallest movement can wake them up. Those who are easily awakened should look for good motion isolation to prevent their partner, kids, and pets from waking them up when they move around the bed.
  • Restless Sleepers – Restless sleepers can wind up disturbing the person they share a bed with, especially if their partner is a light sleeper. This is where good motion isolation comes in handy, as it allows you to move as much as you like without worrying you could wake up your significant other.
  • People with InsomniaSleepers who are dealing with insomnia already struggle to fall and stay asleep at night, so any tossing and turning could make it even more difficult to get sufficient rest.

Different Mattress Types and How They Perform for Motion Isolation

There are several mattress types, all of which perform differently when it comes to motion isolation. How well a mattress isolates motion depends on its construction and materials, so only some bed types will have the same level of motion isolation.

Mattress Type Rating Description
Memory Foam Great Memory foam mattresses usually have
high-density foam layers that conform to your body and absorb movement.
Poly Foam GoodPoly foam can do a good job if it’s softer,
but firmer poly foam may transfer movement.
Latex Fair-GoodLatex mattresses are bouncy, which is
normally worse for motion isolation, but the type of latex and its firmness will affect how well the bed absorbs movement. Typically, firmer Dunlop latex is better at absorbing movement compared to Talalay latex.
Hybrid GoodAlthough beds with coils aren’t always
the best for this, the coils in hybrids are often individually wrapped to isolate motion. Plus, many models have multiple foam layers above the coils, which helps eliminate motion transfer.
Innerspring Poor-FairTraditional innerspring mattresses usually
have interconnected coils and minimal top cushioning, which results in more movement transfer. However, if the coils are individually wrapped in fabric, this could allow the bed to perform slightly better in this category.
Air Mattress Fair Air mattresses with dual chambers are
better at motion isolation than single-chamber air beds. Additionally, if an airbed has memory foam included, it will isolate motion better.

What’s the Testing Process for Motion Transfer?

We test all mattresses for motion isolation, as this is an important factor to consider for many people buying a new mattress. There are two ways we can conduct this test:

  1. We do this by placing a water bottle, soup can, or any other similar object with a flat base on one side of the bed. The next step is to walk to the other side of the bed and sit or lay on it.
  2. We set up a seismograph tool on a cell phone that measures movement, and then proceed to lay and move on the other side of the bed (seen below).

These methods allow us to see if the object moves and to what degree. In some cases, the object remains upright, and at other times, it moves, wobbles, and even falls. The more sturdy the object remains, the better it rates for motion isolation.

Julia Forbes testing motion transfer on a mattress
Our lead product tester, Julia Forbes, testing motion isolation.

Drawbacks of Motion Isolation

  • Harder to RepositionCombination sleepers and people with mobility issues may find it difficult to move on a bed with high motion isolation, such as memory foam models with an all-foam construction. These beds often have a slow-moving feel as opposed to a buoyant, quick response, which can make it harder to reposition.
  • Less Bounce – As mentioned, beds with strong motion isolation are usually not as buoyant, which may not appeal to those who prefer the feel of bouncier mattresses, such as sexually-active couples. Hybrid mattresses are often a great way to get around this though because they have coils for some bounce but also take steps to limit motion transfer, such as individually wrapping the springs and adding multiple foam layers on top.
  • Not as Supportive – Even firm foam models with multiple layers won’t offer the same level of support as beds with coils. This may be an issue for someone looking for a mattress with extra push-back support.
  • Reduced AirflowMemory foam models, which are the best mattress type for motion isolation, don’t provide as much airflow because of the denser layers. The coils in innerspring and hybrid models, however, deliver extra airflow.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of mattress is best for motion isolation?

Memory foam beds are the best type of mattress for motion isolation because they have denser foam layers that absorb movement. Poly foam and hybrid mattresses can also rate well for motion isolation. Though hybrids have coils, they help curb motion transfer by individually wrapping them so that they move independently. Plus, the foam layers on top help absorb movement.

How can I get more motion isolation from my bed?

If you’d like to get more motion isolation from your bed, you can place a mattress topper on it. Look for mattress toppers made with memory foam as this is the best material for eliminating movement transfer.

Can I get an innerspring mattress and still have motion isolation?

Innerspring mattresses don’t isolate motion well because they often have interconnected coils and thin cushioning above the innerspring unit. In some cases, the coils are individually encased to help limit motion transfer, but this may not be enough if you lie next to a restless sleeper. However, you can improve motion isolation by placing a memory foam mattress topper on your innerspring bed. You might also consider a hybrid mattress, which has the benefit of coils but rates far better for motion isolation.

Does mattress firmness affect motion transfer?

Mattress firmness can affect motion transfer because soft and firm mattresses react differently to a person moving on the bed. Softer beds are typically better at isolating motion than firmer ones, but this also depends on the materials and foam density.

Final Word of Advice

As we covered, motion isolation can make a significant impact on how a mattress fits your needs. You should think about if this is important to you by considering your needs and that of the person you sleep with. If one of you is a restless sleeper or is easily awakened, you may want to look for a mattress with good motion-isolating properties.

Some beds are better at absorbing movement than others, so it’s best to consider a few options and do your research on the materials and construction of the mattress you’re interested in.

Olivera Jancikin

Olivera Jancikin

Content Writer

About Author

Olivera is a content writer for Sleep Advisor and is enthusiastic about sleep. She firmly believes in the benefits of daytime naps on top of getting a full 8-hour sleep at night.

Combination Sleeper