What is Motion Transfer and Why Does It Matter?

Key Takeaways

  • Motion Transfer Disrupts Sleep: Motion transfer refers to the transmission of vibrations and movements from one side of the bed to the other. Even the slightest movements can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fragmented sleep and a decrease in the overall quality of rest. It can be particularly troublesome for partners sharing a bed, as one person’s movements can affect the other’s sleep.
  • Consequences of Disrupted Sleep: The impact of motion transfer on sleep quality goes beyond immediate effects. Over time, disturbed sleep can lead to fatigue, daytime drowsiness, irritability, and decreased cognitive performance. It can also strain relationships as both partners may experience a decline in sleep quality.
  • Minimizing Motion Transfer with the Right Mattress: Choosing the right mattress can significantly reduce motion transfer. Memory foam mattresses, pocketed coil mattresses and hybrid mattresses are known for their ability to minimize motion transfer. Factors such as mattress firmness, material quality, and personal preferences play a crucial role in finding the ideal mattress for minimizing motion transfer and ensuring a night of uninterrupted and restorative sleep.

In the world of sleep, there’s a sneaky troublemaker that can disrupt our rest without us even realizing it.

It’s called motion transfer: If you’ve ever been abruptly awakened by a partner’s restless tosses/turns or found yourself feeling like a human trampoline while sharing a bed, you’ve experienced its disruptive powers firsthand.

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Motion transfer, simply put, refers to the ability of vibrations and movement to travel from one side of the bed to the other.

Together, we’ll unveil the world of motion transfer, empowering you to make informed decisions that transform your sleep sanctuary into a haven of undisturbed serenity.

Motion Transfer in Mattresses:

Motion transfer is an important consideration when it comes to mattresses and sleep.

It refers to the transmission of movement or vibrations from one side of the bed to the other.

When one person moves or shifts their position during sleep, the energy generated can travel through the mattress, potentially disturbing their sleep partner.

Why Does it Matter?

The impact of motion transfer on sleep quality can be significant.

Even the slightest movements can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fragmented sleep and a decrease in the overall quality of rest.

These disturbances can range from mild sensations to jolts and shakes, depending on the intensity of the movement.

Partners sharing a bed are particularly susceptible to the effects of motion transfer. When one partner moves, the resulting vibrations can travel across the mattress, causing disturbances for the other person.

This can create a cycle of disrupted sleep, as the disturbances can lead to further movement and disturbance for both individuals.

The consequences of disrupted sleep due to motion transfer are not limited to immediate effects.

Over time, the cumulative impact of disturbed sleep can result in fatigue, daytime drowsiness, irritability, and decreased cognitive performance. It can also contribute to relationship strain, as both partners may experience a decline in sleep quality.

To mitigate the effects of motion transfer and promote a more restful sleep environment, selecting a mattress that effectively minimizes motion transfer is essential.

Memory foam mattresses, for example, are known for their ability to absorb and isolate motion, preventing it from spreading across the mattress.

How Does Motion Transfer Occur?

Motion transfer occurs due to the transmission of kinetic energy through a mattress’s various layers and materials.

When a person moves, the energy generated is transferred to the mattress.

Depending on the mattress’s construction and materials, this energy can either be absorbed and isolated or transmitted across the mattress, causing disturbances on the other side.

Factors Affecting Motion Transfer

Several factors influence the level of motion transfer experienced on a mattress:

Mattress Type:

Different mattress types have varying degrees of motion transfer.

For example, traditional innerspring mattresses often have higher motion transfer due to the interconnected coil system, while foam-based mattresses tend to minimize motion transfer.


The materials used in constructing a mattress play a crucial role in motion transfer.

Memory foam, for instance, excels at absorbing and isolating motion: thanks to its viscoelastic properties.

On the other hand, materials with high responsiveness, such as traditional spring coils, may contribute to increased motion transfer.


The design and construction of a mattress can affect its motion-transfer properties.

For example, mattresses with individually pocketed coils provide better motion isolation by allowing coils to move independently, reducing the transmission of movement.

Layering materials strategically to dampen vibrations can also minimize motion transfer.

Impact of Motion Transfer on Sleep Quality:

1. Sleep Disturbance:

Motion transfer can significantly disrupt sleep quality.

When one person moves on a mattress with poor motion isolation, the resulting vibrations can awaken their sleep partner or cause them to enter lighter stages of sleep.

This disturbance can lead to fragmented sleep, leaving individuals feeling groggy, irritable, and less rejuvenated upon waking.

2. Partners’ Sleep:

Sharing a bed with a partner can amplify the impact of motion transfer.

When one person’s movements are transmitted across the mattress, it can directly disturb their partner’s sleep.

This can lead to a vicious cycle of disrupted sleep for both individuals, ultimately compromising their overall sleep quality and potentially straining their relationship.

Importance of Uninterrupted Sleep:

Uninterrupted sleep is not just a luxury; it is essential for our physical and mental well-being. When we sleep, our bodies go through crucial restorative processes that impact our overall health.

These processes occur during the deep stages of sleep, which can be easily disrupted by motion transfer.

1. Tissue Repair

One of the critical functions of uninterrupted sleep is tissue repair.

During these periods, the body repairs and rejuvenates damaged cells and tissues.

Interruptions caused by motion transfer can interfere with this repair process, leading to delayed healing, increased inflammation, and a compromised ability for the body to recover.

In addition to tissue repair, uninterrupted sleep plays a vital role in hormone regulation.

Hormones responsible for growth, metabolism, appetite, and stress response are intricately regulated during sleep.

Disruptions due to motion transfer can disturb the delicate balance of these hormones, potentially leading to hormonal imbalances, weight management difficulties, and increased stress levels.

2. Memory Consolidation

Furthermore, uninterrupted sleep is crucial for memory consolidation.

While we sleep, our brains consolidate and process information, helping us retain and recall memories. The role of sleep in memory improvement is discussed in one of the research studies where researchers analyzed sleep quality and its role in different brain functions.

The disruption caused by motion transfer can disrupt this consolidation process, impacting our ability to form and retain memories effectively.

This can result in difficulties with learning, concentration, and cognitive function.

The consequences of interrupted sleep extend beyond physical health and can affect our overall quality of life.

3. Changes in Mood

Constant disturbances due to motion transfer can lead to daytime drowsiness, reduced energy levels, irritability, mood swings, and decreased productivity.

Prolonged periods of interrupted sleep can contribute to chronic sleep deprivation, increasing the risk of various health issues, including cardiovascular problems, weakened immune function, and mental health disorders.

Recognizing the importance of uninterrupted sleep highlights the significance of minimizing motion transfer in our sleep environment.

By selecting a mattress that effectively reduces motion transfer, we create an optimal sleep environment that promotes uninterrupted sleep, allowing our bodies and minds to undergo essential restorative processes and wake up refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle the day.

Remember, investing in a mattress that minimizes motion transfer is an investment in your overall health and well-being, ensuring you can experience the full benefits of restorative and uninterrupted sleep.

Types of Mattresses That Minimize Motion Transfer:

Here are different types of mattresses that can play their role in motion transfer:

Memory Foam Mattresses:

Memory foam mattresses are renowned for their ability to minimize motion transfer.

The viscoelastic properties of memory foam allow it to absorb and dissipate the energy created by movement, preventing it from transferring across the mattress.

This remarkable motion isolation ensures that even the slightest disturbances are confined to the specific impact area.

Pocketed Coil Mattresses:

Pocketed coil mattresses are another excellent option for reducing motion transfer. Each coil is individually wrapped in fabric or cloth in this design, allowing it to move independently.

This prevents the transmission of motion from one coil to another, effectively isolating movement and minimizing disruptions across the mattress.

Hybrid Mattresses:

Hybrid mattresses combine the best of both worlds by incorporating memory foam layers and pocketed coil systems.

The memory foam layers absorb and isolate motion, while the pocketed coils offer support and responsiveness.

This combination effectively minimizes motion transfer, ensuring a more undisturbed sleep experience for couples and individuals alike.

Considerations for Choosing a Mattress with Minimal Motion Transfer:

Below are the factors to consider when choosing a mattress with Minimal Motion transfer:

1. Mattress Firmness:

Mattress firmness is a significant factor when it comes to motion transfer.

Firmer mattresses generally have better motion isolation properties, offering increased stability and minimizing sinkage.

The firmness helps to absorb and distribute the energy created by movement, reducing its transfer across the mattress.

This means that when one person moves on a firmer mattress, the vibrations are less likely to reach the other side, resulting in fewer disturbances for both sleep partners.

However, it’s important to consider personal preferences and comfort as well.

While firmer mattresses can be effective at reducing motion transfer, excessively firm mattresses may not provide adequate pressure relief.

Each individual has unique comfort needs and sleeping preferences.

Opting for a mattress that balances firmness and cushioning allows for optimal support and comfort while still minimizing motion transfer.

Finding the right firmness level often involves considering factors such as body weight, preferred sleeping positions, and specific orthopedic requirements.

It’s advisable to test different mattress firmness options, utilize trial periods if available, and seek guidance from reputable mattress retailers or healthcare professionals to find a mattress that offers the ideal balance between motion isolation and personalized comfort.

Remember, striking the right balance between firmness and comfort is crucial for a truly restful and rejuvenating sleep experience.

2. Material Quality:

When choosing a mattress, it’s essential to prioritize high-quality materials that excel in minimizing motion transfer.

Opting for reputable brands and mattresses made with premium materials ensures better motion isolation and durability, enhancing the overall sleep experience.

3. Personal Preferences:

Each individual has unique sleep preferences and requirements.

Factors such as body weight, sleeping positions, and personal sensitivities to motion transfer should be considered when selecting a mattress.

By assessing these factors and testing mattresses in person or utilizing trial periods, individuals can find a mattress that caters to their specific needs and ensures a restful night’s sleep.

Who Should Choose the Motion Isolation Mattresses?

Below are the people who can benefit most from the Motion isolation mattress:

a. Light Sleepers: If you’re easily disturbed by movement or vibrations during sleep, a motion isolation mattress can help minimize disruptions and improve the quality of your sleep.

b. Couples: For those who share a bed with a partner, a motion isolation mattress can reduce motion transfer, allowing each person to move independently without disturbing the other.

c. Restless Sleepers: If you tend to toss and turn during the night, a motion isolation mattress can help prevent your movements from disturbing your sleep partner.

d. Shift Workers: If you have irregular sleep schedules or need to rest during the day, a motion isolation mattress can be beneficial in minimizing disruptions from external movements.

e. Seniors: Older adults who may have more sensitive sleep patterns can benefit from the undisturbed rest provided by a motion isolation mattress.

f. Individuals with Pain or Chronic Conditions: For people with chronic pain or medical conditions that require frequent changes in sleeping positions, a motion isolation mattress can provide comfort and support without disturbing others in the bed.

g. Co-Sleeping with Children or Pets: If you share your bed with young children or pets, a motion isolation mattress can help ensure that their movements don’t disrupt your sleep.

How to Test Mattress for Motion Transfer:

Testing mattresses for motion transfer is crucial, especially for individuals sharing a bed.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to effectively evaluate motion transfer:

1. Recruit a Partner: Enlist the help of a partner for this assessment. Since motion transfer is most relevant when sharing a bed, having someone else involved provides realistic testing conditions.

2. Select the Right Location: Choose a location that mirrors your typical sleeping environment. This could be your bedroom or a similar setup.

3. Set the Stage: Place the mattress on a stable foundation or bed frame. Ensure all components are properly assembled to simulate real-world conditions.

4. Mimic Sleep Movements: Replicate common sleep movements, such as getting into and out of bed, rolling over, or adjusting positions. Pay attention to any vibrations or disturbances during these actions.

5. Observe Partner’s Movements: While your partner is on the mattress, observe how much motion you can feel on your side. Note if the movements are isolated or if they transfer across the mattress surface.

6. Test Various Sleep Positions: Experiment with different sleep positions. If you or your partner tend to switch positions during the night, evaluate how well the mattress absorbs and isolates motion in each scenario.

7. Drop Test: Simulate a partner getting into bed by gently dropping onto the mattress. This can reveal how well the mattress dampens sudden movements.

8. Use Objects for Assessment: Place objects with flat surfaces, like a glass of water or a smartphone, on different areas of the mattress. Perform movements and observe if the objects tip or move due to motion transfer.

9. Consider Mattress Type: Keep in mind that different mattress types may exhibit varying levels of motion transfer. Memory foam mattresses, for instance, often excel in isolating motion, while traditional innerspring mattresses may transmit more movement.

10. Repeat the Process: For thorough testing, repeat the process on multiple mattresses or in different showrooms if you’re testing in-store. This helps in comparing motion transfer across various options.

11. Consult Reviews: Supplement your testing with online reviews and expert opinions. Feedback from others who have used the mattress over an extended period can provide valuable insights.

Are There Downsides to a Mattress That Isolates Motion?

While mattresses that isolate motion are generally beneficial for undisturbed sleep, there are some potential downsides to consider:

1. Heat Retention:

Many mattresses designed to isolate motion use materials like memory foam, which can trap heat.

This may lead to discomfort, especially for those who tend to sleep hot.

Look for mattresses with cooling technologies or breathable materials to address this concern.

2. Off-Gassing Odor:

Some mattresses, particularly those with foam layers, may emit an off-gassing odor when new.

The initial smell can be bothersome, although it usually dissipates over time.

Opting for mattresses with CertiPUR-US® or GREENGUARD Gold certifications can minimize exposure to harmful chemicals.

3. Lack of Bounce:

Mattresses that absorb motion well may lack the bounce found in traditional innerspring mattresses.

If you prefer a more responsive feel or ease of movement, a mattress with high motion isolation may not be the best fit.

Consider hybrid mattresses that combine memory foam with innerspring for improved responsiveness.

4. Price:

Mattresses with advanced motion isolation features, such as high-density memory foam, can be relatively expensive.

The cost may be a consideration for budget-conscious shoppers. However, it’s essential to weigh the benefits against the price to determine value for your specific needs.

5. Edge Support:

Some mattresses that excel in motion isolation may have weaker edge support.

If you use the entire mattress surface, including the edges, for sitting or sleeping, a lack of edge support can be a drawback. Look for mattresses with reinforced edges if this is a priority.

6. Initial Firmness:

Certain mattresses designed for motion isolation might feel firmer initially.

If you prefer a softer mattress, be aware that some motion-isolating models may take time to break in and achieve the desired comfort level.

It’s crucial to balance the advantages of motion isolation with your personal preferences and considerations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is motion transfer in mattresses?

Motion transfer refers to the transmission of movement or vibrations from one side of the bed to the other.

How does motion transfer affect sleep quality?

Motion transfer can disrupt sleep, causing disturbances that wake you up or make you feel restless throughout the night.

Can motion transfer disturb my partner's sleep?

Yes, motion transfer can impact your partner's sleep if the movement on the mattress is transmitted to their side.

Which types of mattresses minimize motion transfer?

Memory foam, pocketed coil, and hybrid mattresses are known for their ability to reduce motion transfer.

How does memory foam reduce motion transfer?

Memory foam absorbs and isolates motion, preventing it from transferring across the mattress.

What are pocketed coil mattresses, and do they minimize motion transfer?

Pocketed coil mattresses have individually wrapped coils that move independently, helping to isolate motion and minimize its transfer.

Do hybrid mattresses offer good motion isolation?

Yes, hybrid mattresses combine memory foam and pocketed coils to provide excellent motion isolation and reduce disturbances.

Does mattress firmness affect motion transfer?

Firmer mattresses generally minimize motion transfer more effectively than softer ones.

Can a high-quality mattress help reduce motion transfer?

Yes, investing in a high-quality mattress made with premium materials can significantly minimize motion transfer.

How can I choose a mattress with minimal motion transfer?

Consider factors such as the mattress type, material quality, and your personal preferences when selecting a mattress.

Is motion transfer a common issue with innerspring mattresses?

Yes, traditional innerspring mattresses can have more motion transfer due to their interconnected coil system.

Do all foam mattresses provide good motion isolation?

Not all foam mattresses offer the same level of motion isolation. Memory foam mattresses generally excel in this aspect.

Can motion transfer affect my sleep quality even if I sleep alone?

Yes, even if you sleep alone, motion transfer can disrupt your sleep by causing you to wake up or enter lighter sleep stages.

How can I test a mattress for motion transfer before buying it?

If possible, try testing the mattress in person or checking for customer reviews that specifically mention its motion isolation properties.

What are the benefits of choosing a mattress with minimal motion transfer?

Opting for a mattress with minimal motion transfer ensures better sleep quality, fewer disturbances, and a more restful and rejuvenating sleep experience.


Motion transfer, its impact on sleep quality, and the types of mattresses that minimize it

Throughout this blog post, we’ve explored the intricate world of motion transfer and its profound impact on sleep quality.

When choosing a mattress, it’s crucial to consider motion transfer to ensure a restful sleep experience.

Individuals can mitigate disturbances by prioritizing mattresses that effectively minimize motion transfer and create an environment conducive to uninterrupted sleep.

Don’t let motion transfer continue to sabotage your sleep quality.

Investing in a mattress that prioritizes motion isolation allows you to transform your sleep sanctuary into a haven of tranquillity and wake up feeling refreshed, revitalized, and ready to conquer the day.

Remember, a good night’s sleep is within your reach. Take that first step today and prioritize motion transfer when selecting your next mattress.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Sarah Anderson, Certified Sleep Science Coach Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson is a sleep, health, and wellness writer and product reviewer. She has written articles on changing and improving your sleep schedule, choosing the right mattress for chronic pain conditions, and finding the best pillow for you. Sarah Anderson has her Bachelor of Arts degree from Arizona State University in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to working for Zoma, she wrote for a variety of news publications. Sarah's work has been featured on Bustle, PureWow, and other publications.

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