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6 Great Alternatives to Mattresses

Several mattress alternatives in photo collage

Need a bed but don’t want to spring for a mattress? There are several decent alternatives to mattresses. We set them out below with image examples, product options and detailed lists setting out the pros and cons.

These mattress alternatives are options for guest rooms, sleeping arrangements for a guest in pinch or outdoor sleeping options.

Related: Parts of a BedSleeping Bag AlternativesGuide to Choosing Air Mattress

1. Hammock

Hammock on the beachPros

  • Hammocks are a great alternative to traditional mattresses because they can help relieve a lot of lower back pain that people experience in the morning.
  • Most people report that they enjoy a more restful and even deeper sleep when they sleep in a hammock versus on a traditional mattress.
  • Hammocks take up a lot less space than mattresses and beds do. This means it can be set up in a small room or you can hang a number of hammocks in an area if you have a lot of overnight guests.
  • Because they are cheaper than a mattress and all of the components that you need for a bed, you can splurge on a nicer hammock if you want one.
  • They’re very portable and can be moved outside if you wish to sleep under the stars or tossed in the back of the car if you are going on a trip.
  • There are no sheets to fiddle with in the morning, making it very easy to keep the hammock clean and looking neat each day.
  • While traditional mattresses are a haven for dust mites, hammocks will not harbor these pests.


  • Unfortunately, hammocks aren’t a great choice if you share a bed with someone.
  • You won’t have enough room to sprawl out in a hammock and this can be difficult for people who love to spread out during the night to get used to.
  • Until you get used to it, it is difficult to get out of the hammock in the morning.
  • Hammocks move and sway when you toss and turn, and this motion can wake some people up or make it difficult to fall asleep.

See more hammock ideas here.

2. Standard Futon

Regular wood futonPros

  • This is an incredibly versatile piece of furniture that combines the best of both sofas and beds, making it ideal for studio apartments or homes where there is not enough room for a traditional bed.
  • The mattresses are fairly inexpensive, making it easy to replace them if you want to update the look or change the décor of your room.
  • Because they are a lot less expensive than traditional beds and mattresses, they are more affordable for everyone from college students to adults on tight budgets.
  • They take up very little space in the room and even have some space underneath for storage. This makes it easy to stash your sheets, blankets, and pillows during the day so that they are out of the way.
  • The mattress can be easily cleaned and removed to clean the frame, which means that there is very little risk of mold or mildew in a futon.
  • With a light frame and mattress, they are ideal for anyone who moves a lot or needs to be able to disassemble the futon quickly and easily.


  • Unfortunately, futons are not as comfortable to sleep on as a bed or to sit on as a sofa but they are a great compromise if you can’t have both pieces of furniture.
  • These pieces of furniture require assembly, which can be difficult to do if you are not comfortable with tools.
  • It’s normal to experience uneven weight distribution. For people who are prone to sore backs or joints, sleeping on a futon will only exacerbate the problems.

See our types of futons article here.

3. Camping Mat

Camping matPros

  • While thinner options are available, thicker mats offer a lot of cushioning and can actually be fairly comfortable to sleep on.
  • Foam options and inflatable camping mats will offer enough support to the body that the user will wake up without stiffness.
  • Self-inflating options make it very easy to set up a bed wherever you are without having to worry about inflating the mat yourself or it losing pressure during the night.
  • You won’t have to worry about someone rolling off of the bed as the mat is only a few inches high.
  • They are very inexpensive and easy to find in most locations.


  • Not everyone is happy sleeping directly on the floor. While these can be used on a cot, they are generally used on the floor to make it easier to pack them up and make them more cost-effective.
  • They are generally only available in single size, which means that you will have to place two or more next to each other to be near your spouse. Unfortunately, they will easily push apart during the night if you toss and turn.

4. Air Mattress

Air mattress bedPros

  • Self-inflating options are very fast to inflate and ones with pumps are easy to deflate as well.
  • They can be stored in the closet and out of the way, freeing up the rest of the room for other activities.
  • Air mattresses are very portable and it’s easy to take them on vacation. They can also be quickly pulled out if you need to have extra sleeping space for guests.
  • They are generally comfortable to sleep on and can be adjusted to be as firm or soft as you prefer.


  • Puncturing an air mattress will mean that you need to buy a new one and this can become quite expensive if it happens multiple times.
  • They aren’t as comfortable as other sleeping options, which means that most people will not want to sleep on them long-term.
  • Lower-quality air mattresses will not last for a long time and will need to be replaced much sooner than a more expensive option will.

5. Sleeping Bag

Silver sleeping bag with red interiorPros

  • It’s easy to find a sleeping bag that is in your budget and will work for your needs.
  • They can easily be rolled up and stashed in a closet without having to wait for them to deflate.
  • This is the perfect option if you love to camp and travel and want to be able to take your bed with you or if you don’t want to dedicate a room in your home to a full-time bedroom.
  • Some sleeping bags are rated for extremely low temperatures. If you live in a very cold climate or like to sleep with the windows open, then you will appreciate being able to stay warm during the night.
  • While sleeping bags are generally for just one person, there are certain ones that you can zip together to make a larger bag for sharing with another person. This is also a great way to increase your personal sleeping space if you need more room.
  • They come in all sizes, making it easy to find one for every member of the family.


  • Sleeping bags are generally used with a cot or inflatable mattress to add a little support to them and this can raise the cost of the items you need to buy for a good night’s sleep.
  • High-end sleeping bags get very expensive.
  • Without some sort of cushion under them, they can be very uncomfortable directly on the hard floor.
  • It’s important to air them out after use so that they will not begin to smell funny or grow mold. For some people, this will need to happen every night, especially if they sweat a lot at night, which can detract from the convenience of having a sleeping bag.

6. Japanese Futon or Shikibuton

Japanese Futon or ShikibutonPros

  • Because they are so close to the floor, you will never have to worry about accidentally rolling off or a child becoming injured by falling off.
  • You can easily create a bed on the floor for any surprise guests. Since the futon stores so neatly in the closet, it’s easy to unroll it and create a sleeping area.
  • Since you don’t have a dedicated bed set up, you can use the room for more than just sleeping. By rolling up the futon and storing it in the closet when not in use, you will free up the room for other use during the day.
  • It takes up very little space when not in use and is very easy to move if you need to take it with you. Because of its size, it’s also incredibly light.
  • Homeowners love that they can take the futon outside to air out and get some sun. This is a lot easier than trying to air out and sanitize traditional heavy mattresses.
  • They are a lot less expensive than traditional mattresses and since they are so affordable it’s not cost-prohibitive to buy more than one and layer them if you want a thicker sleeping pad.


  • It takes a while to become comfortable sleeping on these futons as they are a lot thinner and firmer than traditional mattresses are.
  • Some people find that it is difficult to get out of bed when they have been sleeping on the floor.
  • The cotton will absorb all of the sweat that you sweat during the night, which makes it imperative to air out futons on a regular basis.
  • Not all homeowners are willing to put the futon away each time they use it and it decreases a person’s ability to take a spontaneous nap.
  • They can be tricky to find and you may have to order online from a special store.