What Is A Futon Mattress?

A futon is a Japanese-style mattress that can be folded into a sofa. Most come with a mattress that is often much thinner so it can fit into the foldable frame. Some also include cushions to use when it is set up as a couch. 

Today, most futon mattresses are similar to standard mattresses with innersprings, a foam filling, or a combination of both. Futons act as both a sofa and a bed, and they are often cheaper than standard beds and sofas. 

History of the Japanese Futon Mattress

Futon mattresses originated in Japan and were kept in the houses of wealthy families in Tokyo. The original futon mattress was typically thinner and meant to be used on the floor. The word futon comes from the Japanese word for “bed,” describing the portable bedding system rather than the mattress itself. 

A traditional Japanese futon set comes with a flexible type of mattress, the shikibuton, and a duvet, the kakebuton. In Japan, they are placed on a tatami mat, which is then rolled up every morning. The earliest Japanese futon mattresses were typically filled with hay, reeds, or animal hair. 

William Brouwer, a woodworker from Cambridge, Massachusetts, was intrigued by the Japanese futons and created the first futon sofa bed frame in 1982. Since then, it has soared in popularity in the United States and worldwide for its versatility and convenience as an economical and minimalist furniture piece. 

What Is A Futon Mattress Made of? 

Every futon comes in three main elements: the mattress, frame, and cover. Futon mattresses are typically made of polyester or cotton on the outside. The filling needs to be flexible, so many mattresses often use foam or memory foam, and the frame is often made out of metal or wood slats that can easily bear the weight. 


The best mattress material depends on your bed preference. 

Cotton fabric is the most affordable and, therefore, the most common material for futon mattresses. Most futon mattresses use 100% cotton, which creates a firmer sleeping surface. Organic cotton is safer than conventional cotton but will often be more expensive. 

Memory foam is soft and perfect for those wanting a mattress that will conform to their bodies. It is the best mattress type to relieve back pain or neck pain. However, it is not the best material when configured as a sofa because of its softness. 

Another type of mattress material is innersprings. This coil design is often combined with cotton or has a thin layer of memory foam to provide cushion. Individually wrapped coils provide an even balance when you lay on the mattress, while a springboard type of design creates more bounce. However, leaving it in the sofa position for too long can make the springboard stick. 


There are three basic types of futon frames: loveseat, bifold, and trifold. The loveseat futon frame is a 2-piece mattress created for small spaces. It pulls out into a full or twin-size bed. 

The bifold frame is the most common type of futon. It folds in half the long way. All you need to do is pull out the bottom part to extend the frame into a bed. Bifold frames come in queen, full, and smaller sizes. 

The trifold frame folds into thirds. However, it requires a thinner mattress because of the way it folds. It can be a little more challenging to convert into a bed or couch because of its somewhat more complex design. Like the bifold, the trifold frame comes in queen, full, and smaller sizes. 

How Firm Is A Futon Mattress? 

Futons are usually firmer than conventional mattresses depending on the materials used to construct them. The type of frame also affects how firm the mattress feels. 

Foam and memory foam futon mattresses are the firmest options. However, memory foam does a better job of conforming to your body as you sleep. On the other hand, futon mattresses that use coil can either be softer or firmer depending on the tension. 

Are Futon Mattresses Good for Your Back? 

Foam or polyester futon mattresses provide good support for your back and reduce back pain. If you put a futon mattress on the floor, it can potentially provide even better support for your back. However, cheaper futons may not offer as much support as ones made with more high-quality material. 

However, futons are not ideal for those with chronic or severe back pain. Other mattresses may provide better support by conforming to your body better. You can also put a mattress topper on top of your futon to make it feel more comfortable. 

Benefits of a Futon Mattress

A futon mattress can be a perfect choice for those who do not have much square footage to spare. There are several other benefits to bringing a futon into your home. 


Futons are a versatile piece of furniture to have in your home as a bed and a couch. They are perfect for overnight guests or saving room in a smaller space. Unlike a sleeper sofa, a futon takes less effort to transform from one mode to another. It also takes up much less space. 

Price Value

Typically, futon mattresses are less expensive compared to traditional beds and couches. Higher-quality futons can become pricey, but the average price value for a reliable futon comes at a better deal than the sofa equivalent. 

Easy Assemblage 

Despite requiring assembly, futon mattresses are easy to put together. They come with clear instructions to assemble and disassemble with minimal work needed to set up the frame. 

How Long Does A Futon Mattress Last? 

Typically, futon mattresses last around five to 10 years. However, the lifespan of durability for a futon mattress depends on its quality and how you use it. If the futon is used solely as a guest bed, it can last for more than ten years. However, if you use it regularly as the main bed or couch, then it will wear out much faster, lasting for about five years. 

Caring for Your Futon Mattress

Futon mattresses need a little more maintenance and care than regular box spring mattresses. Moisture is the biggest culprit that can damage the fibers of your mattress and lead to an uncomfortable sleeping surface. It needs to be released periodically since moisture naturally collects while we sleep. 

Moisture building over time can also lead to dust mites and the possible growth of mildew. A mattress pad or cover can act as a moisture barrier to ensure a longer lifespan for your futon mattress. Here are a few tips to help protect your futon mattress over time: 

  • Air out your mattress
  • Use a barrier cover or mattress pad to protect it from moisture
  • Allow proper air circulation
  • Flip your futon mattress often
  • Leave your futon mattress in some sunlight

How to Find the Best Futon Mattress

There are a few things to look for when choosing the best futon mattress to get a good night’s sleep. 


There are two options for futon thickness: either six inches or eight. Thicker mattresses are more comfortable and often more expensive. For those who expect to use their futon as a bed more than a couch, it may be a worthy investment to make. 

However, if you plan to use your futon as a sofa more than a bed, you may not need to worry about thickness. 


The most crucial aspect of any frame is its durability. If you are buying a futon for the first time, you will most likely need to buy a frame for your mattress. Most futons come in a trifold frame with a full or queen-sized bed. 

Futon frames are made of either wood or metal. With both, make sure to check the slats to see if they are evenly distributed. They should be at least two and a half to three inches wide to provide adequate support. 

When looking at metal frames, make sure the welding looks and feels solid and with well-connected pieces. For wooden frames, look for ones made out of hardwoods, like birch, ash, and maple. They have a longer lifespan and generally look more refined as a futon frame with lovely grain patterns. 


Any good-quality mattress should come with a warranty. Having a trial period allows you to test it out safely, ensuring you receive the product you want. If possible, look for mattresses that come with a warranty so you don’t get locked into restless nights on a futon you don’t like. 


So, what is a futon mattress? There are several reasons why futon mattresses can benefit your space. Not only are they comfortable and versatile, but they also make the most of tight spaces and come cheaper than conventional mattresses. They can also work as a convenient guest bed. 

If you’re looking to get a good night’s sleep, investing in a high-quality futon mattress can make all the difference.