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What Goes Under A Mattress? All You Need To Know About Mattress Bases

    Last Updated
    June 14, 2023
    min read

    “What goes under a mattress?” If you’re moving, purchasing a new mattress, or simply wondering if you’ve set your bed up correctly, this question has most likely been on your mind. In short, mattress foundations (a.k.a. mattress bases) are the answer to this often-asked question, providing key support for your mattress and also helping elongate its lifespan. Bed frames can also add height and stability to your bed. 

    So which mattress base is best for you? By noting your mattress type and each mattress base or frame’s key features, you can identify one that elevates your specific  sleep experience altogether. 

    In this article, we identify the different types of bases and frames that go under your mattress and which mattresses they are compatible with.

    What Goes On The Bottom Of A Mattress?

    There’s a variety of bases and frames that are compatible with different mattress types, and each option presents a unique set of benefits. Here, we guide you through the most common types to help you decide which is best for your sleeping needs:

    Box Spring

    Key features: Adds bounciness and absorbs movement

    Compatible mattresses: Innerspring

    Box springs are cloth-covered wood or metal frames with springs inside. They come in various heights to further elevate a mattress. This mattress base is best for those looking to increase their bed’s height and bounce level, as well as absorb shock from sudden movements.

    Box springs are designed for mattresses made with coils, so they’re not compatible with hybrid mattresses and memory foam mattresses. Read our box spring vs. foundation comparison guide to help you decide which base is better for your mattress.

    Mattress Foundation

    Key features: Improve support and breathability

    Compatible mattresses: All mattresses

    A slatted mattress foundation is typically made of a metal or wooden base, using wooden slats instead of springs to support a mattress. The slats are typically spaced apart from each other for improved airflow. 

    This is a common base type due to its compatibility with many modern mattress types such as hybrid, latex, and memory foam, providing support without deforming the mattress material.

    Bunkie Board

    Key features: Adds support without increasing height

    Compatible mattresses: All mattresses

    For anyone looking for a supportive base without added height, bunkie boards may be the solution. This is the thinnest bed base type available, typically made of fabric-covered wooden boards. 

    A bunkie board base can be placed on top of a platform bed or atop a box spring, making it a versatile, highly-compatible choice for different mattress types.

    Adjustable Base

    Key features: Easy height customization

    Compatible mattresses: Latex, foam, and most hybrid mattresses (check your hybrid mattress label first to be sure)

    An adjustable bed frame allows you to change the elevation of the head or foot of your bed to accommodate different sleeping positions. Using remote control devices, you can increase or decrease the angle at which you’re resting. Some may come with a detachable headboard and footboard for added security.

    Increased head and neck elevation during sleep has been found to reduce the incidence of medical problems like sleep apnea, snoring, heartburn, and acid reflux. If you struggle with these issues, an adjustable base frame may be the answer to easing your symptoms.

    Platform Bed

    Key features: High durability and support

    Compatible mattresses: All mattresses

    A platform bed frame is a sturdy, firm base upon which which your mattress directly rests.. Typically, they consist of metal frames with wooden or metal slats. 

    Platform beds don’t require a box spring or foundation and they’re compatible with every mattress type. They’re also very lightweight and easy to assemble and disassemble, making them a popular choice for renters or those on the move.

    A platform bed and a box spring are two of the most common options to the “what goes under a mattress” question.. Read our platform bed vs. box spring comparison guide to know each type’s pros, cons, and differences to pick the most suitable type for your mattress.

    Metal Bed Frame

    Key features: Highly sturdy

    Compatible mattresses: All mattresses (provided you have a foundation or box spring to place between your mattress and the bed frame)

    Because of the durability of the metal used, this frame can readily bear the weight of heavier mattresses and exctre weight. They also come in a variety of styles that may suit any bedroom aesthetic, from the minimalist to the baroque and elaborate.

    Wooden Bed Frame

    Key features: Warm, natural aesthetics

    Compatible mattresses: All mattresses (provided you have a foundation or box spring to place between your mattress and the bed frame)

    An alternative to metal frames is a wooden bed frame, which comes in a variety of shades, finishes, and designs. Wooden frames give bedrooms a softer, more natural look and are also supportive for all mattresses. If you prefer more rustic or warm furniture for your bedroom, a wooden frame may better suit your bedroom.

    Additional Considerations For Mattress Bases

    Apart from the type of bed frame or base that you use, there are other factors that may affect how useful, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing you find your base or type. Here’s a quick explanation of these factors and why they’re important considerations:

    • Mattress type: Your mattress type is an important consideration because different types have different ventilation and support requirements. For example, box springs aren’t compatible with memory foam mattresses and may end up damaging the foam. Some mattress materials also need more airflow underneath to promote better airflow. Check out our guide to different mattress types to learn more about them and which may be best for your sleeping needs.
    • Height: A mattress base’s height affects its accessibility and how easy it is to get in and out of your bed. This is especially important if you have physical limitations or mobility considerations. The height of your base should be appropriate for your convenience and comfort. Read our article on bed height to find out how it can influence your sleep quality.
    • Durability: A durable mattress base gives your mattress the support it needs to prevent sagging and dips, as well as reduce wear and tear. By keeping your mattress properly aligned and supported over time, a durable base improves your mattress’ lifespan. This, in turn, helps your mattress stay supportive through its lifespan, improving your comfort while sleeping. Check out our article to find out how long a mattress lasts and other tips for boosting its longevity.
    • Look: You may also prefer a mattress base with a look that complements the rest of your bedroom’s interior decoration. The design and appearance of your mattress base may create a more pleasing atmosphere, enhance your room’s style, and make a more inviting sleeping environment. Read our guide on how to choose a bed frame for more tips on aesthetic and practical considerations.

    Get A Supportive Mattress For A Good Night’s Sleep

    A mattress foundation will help you sleep more comfortably and get the most out of your mattress. But don't forget that the mattress is also instrumental to achieving the best sleep possible. Purple mattresses are proven to provide deeper sleep, decrease sleep disruption and sleep up to 4x cooler. Learn more about Purple mattresses here.

    The comfortability and support of your base depends largely on the size – be sure to select the base size that corresponds with your mattress. Check out our guide to mattress foundation sizes for advice on which base to get and whom each size is best for.

    Mattress Bottom FAQs

    How important is a base for a mattress?

    A mattress base is important because it improves a mattress’ longevity and a sleeper’s overall comfort. While it’s possible to sleep on a mattress placed on the floor, a base provides breathability, support and added longevity. 

    A base is important for a mattress for a number of other reasons as well, such as:

    • Mattress support: A mattress base helps your mattress maintain its structure and shape over years of use. This can prevent sagging and lumps, as well as prolong your mattress’ lifespan.
    • Body support: Apart from supporting your mattress, a base also evenly distributes your weight on your mattress. This can help keep your spine in neutral alignment, which studies have found can reduce pain in your joints. By reducing your body pain during and after sleep, a mattress base may also improve your sleep quality.
    • Protection from mold, mildew, dust, and insects: The bottom of your mattress provides a warm environment with limited airflow, which can provide a damp environment for mold, mildew, and insects to. Getting a base that elevates your mattress and promotes plenty of airflow can keep dampness from accumulating, protecting your mattress, your house, and your health from these infestations.
    • Temperature regulation: Because bases improve airflow, it reduces humidity and dissipates body heat. These in turn create a cooler sleeping surface for more restful nights.

    What is the best base for a mattress in a box?

    The best base for your mattress-in-a-box depends on your unique sleeping preferences. That said, platform bases and slatted foundations can raise your mattress-in-a-box off the floor, support your mattress, and improve airflow for a cooler night’s sleep.

    Do you need airflow under a mattress?

    Yes, you need airflow under a mattress. Having regular airflow prevents moisture from building up and creating an environment for mold, mildew, and bacteria to grow. This can lead to unpleasant odors and even serious health issues, such as allergic reactions in sensitive sleepers and those with respiratory conditions.

    Having airflow also allows heat to dissipate from your mattress. Typically, slatted bases or foundations with spaces can improve air circulation and may prevent sweaty, sleepless nights.


    About the authors

    Cecilia Gillen

    Cecilia brings over five years of writing experience primarily centered around lifestyle and health topics. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Journalism from the University of South Dakota. She’s both an advocate for sleep and a night owl at heart.

    Brooke Reynolds
    Senior Product Manager of Bases and Smart Comfort

    Brooke Reynolds is a Senior product manager of bases and smart comfort at Purple. She's passionate about designing bases specifically to support Purple mattresses and educating customers on how adjustable bases can improve sleep, provide targeted support and enhance your bedtime routine.