So you’ve finally taken pity on the unfortunate overnight guests who are forced to sleep on your crappy air mattress or lumpy couch.
Nice work. Investing in a sofa bed won’t just help your friends and family be way more excited about visiting you. It also means that you never have to stress about where to put your guests the next time they stay at your place.
But while the decision to buy a sofa bed might be a no-brainer, making sense of all the confusing options out there—and finding a comfortable one that fits your space and your budget—can be a little tougher.
Should you go big with a traditional pull-out, or keep it simple with a tiny futon? Bouncy innerspring mattress or plush memory foam? And are there any red flags that indicate the sofa bed you’re about to buy is a disaster waiting to happen?
Here are the answers to all of those questions—and plenty more.
Before You Start Shopping, Ask Yourself This
With so many different options out there, it’s essential to think about what you actually want from your sofa bed. To save time and cut back on frustration, narrow down your search from the get-go by considering these basic questions.
- How will your sofa bed be used most of the time? It’s a sad fact that most sofa beds are less comfortable than regular sofas or regular beds. So if you plan to use yours mostly for sitting and will only have guests sleep on it occasionally, it makes sense for the sofa part to be really comfortable. If it’ll mostly used for sleeping, focus on the comfort of the mattress.
- How often will it be used? Of course, no one wants to be tossing and turning all night. But if your sofa bed is being used for occasional guests who only stay for a night or two, you can get away with a slightly less-plush model. If you or a guest will be sleeping on the sofa bed a lot, it makes sense to spend more for comfort.
- What’s your living situation like? If you live in a tiny apartment or tend to move a lot, a smaller, lighter sofa bed makes more sense than a hefty queen-size model. Have a home with lots of space—and plan on staying put for a while? That’s where the bigger, more substantial option works.
The Basic Sofa Bed Types
The type of sofa bed you pick depends on a variety of factors, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basics on what’s out there. Don’t worry, it’s not too confusing. Most sofa beds fall into one of these three categories:
These are traditional sofa models that feature full- or queen-size mattresses. They’re designed primarily for sitting, so the cushions are usually comfortable. And with the right mattress (more on that later), you can sleep pretty comfortably, too. But beware of pull-outs with very thin mattresses, which won’t offer enough cushioning to protect against the bed’s metal bars. Also, these guys are on the expensive side, with most high-quality mattress models starting at around $1,000.
These are the sofa beds you probably remember crashing on in your college pal’s dorm room. They’re lightweight, easy to transport, and tend to fold out easily. But they’re not the most comfortable, since the mattresses tend to be made of cotton batting and low-density foam that harden and compress over time. Not surprisingly, futons tend to be less expensive than pull-outs.
They’re more bed than sofa, so if you plan to use your sofa bed primarily for sleeping, a daybed might be right for you. They’re usually the size of a standard twin or full bed, and are priced similarly.
Which Mattress Works Best?
The mattress is the most important part of your sofa bed, bar none. Since sofa bed mattresses are thinner and designed fold up, know that none of them are going to be as cozy as an actual bed mattress. Still, it goes without saying that you want to pick the one that feels the most comfortable.
Here’s what you should know about the two basic types.
- Innerspring mattresses: Innerspring mattresses get their bounciness and give from coils. However, not all of them will give you a good night’s rest. A mattress with a higher number of coils (over 600) will usually be more comfortable than one with fewer coils. Springs that are stress-relieved—treated at a temperature to relieve stress spots—are more comfortable, but they also tend to be more expensive.
- Memory foam mattresses: Memory foam mattresses are made of durable visco-elastic foam, not springs. Compared to innersprings, high-quality memory foam mattresses offer more consistent support, mold better to your body’s shape, and snap back into place easily. Since memory foam is so flexible, it’s a great choice for adjustable beds and—you guessed it—sofa beds. Amerisleep’s memory foam sofa bed mattress is specially designed with a reinforced base layer for extra comfort and support—and it’s naturally hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant.
Tips for Spotting a Quality Sofa Bed
Just because a sofa bed is expensive doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it will be comfortable or durable. Likewise, you don’t always have to shell out thousands of dollars for a model that will get the job done.
After figuring out which model and mattress is right for you, consider these other tips for finding a top-notch sofa bed.
- What is the frame made out of? The answer you’re looking for is either kiln-dried hardwood or a combination of hardwood and furniture-grade plywood. Avoid sofa beds with frames made from pine or other soft woods.
- Does it open and close easily? If you can’t get the hang of opening and closing your sofa bed in the store, setting it up at home is always going to be a pain. Your mattress should fold out in one smooth motion and have a locking bar to secure its position Squeaks, sticking, or wobbly parts are all red flags.
- Are the edges smooth? Rough or sharp edges could snag, causing the fabric on your sofa bed—or your mattress’s sheets or blankets—to rip.
- Can you test it out and read product reviews? Just like shopping for a regular bed or mattress, you need to be able to lie on your sofa bed to make sure it feels good. If you’re buying online, make sure to read reviews about the mattress to ensure past customers are satisfied. If you’re buying in-store, take at least 10 minutes to hang out in the bed. If the salesperson tries to rush you, that could be a sign that the bed isn’t very comfortable.
- Is the mattress a standard size? If your mattress isn’t a standard twin, full, double, or queen, you’re guaranteed to drive yourself crazy trying to find a fitted sheet.
The Last Thing to Remember Before Handing Over Your Credit Card
If you take away nothing else from this guide, remember this: Always measure your space and your sleeper before buying it and bringing it home! Because if you can’t even fit your new sofa bed through the door, no one’s gonna be sleeping well.