What Is a Sleeper Sofa—and Do You Need One in Your Home?

A sleeper sofa is a functional piece of furniture that can be used as both a couch and a bed. It's a space-saving option for guest rooms or small apartments. There are different types of sleeper sofas, such as pull-out couches, futons, and sectional sleeper sofas. Factors to consider before buying a sleeper sofa include room size, design preference, mattress size and type, and the mechanism for pulling out the mattress.

A sleeper sofa is one of the most functional pieces of furniture you can find and can be a great addition to your home. 

They’re essentially couches that can function as beds and are a great option for guest rooms, those living in small apartments, or people who want the option to have an extra bed without it occupying additional space.

If you’re on the fence about getting a sleeper sofa or aren’t sure whether it’s the right option for you and your space, read on to learn more.

What is a sleeper sofa?

A sleeper sofa is a type of sofa that has a mattress hidden inside its frame and can be converted into a bed as needed. 

The mattress either pops out or can be folded out using a special mechanism and can typically sleep two people. The design of the sofa, the size and type of mattress, and the mattress’s comfort level can vary greatly. 

Because sleeper sofas look like couches but can be converted into beds when needed, they’re great space savers.

Sofa bed vs. sleeper sofa: What’s the difference?

Sleeper sofas are similar to another common piece of furniture, sofa beds. Both are multifunctional pieces of furniture that can be used as couches or beds. 

The difference is that sofa beds are designed like futons—that is, rather than pulling out a hidden mattress, they’re simply laid out flat to form a bed. 

Sleeper sofas, on the other hand, include an additional mattress that’s hidden within the frame and can be unfolded as needed. 

Keep in mind, though, that the terms “sleeper sofa” and “sofa bed” are often used interchangeably.

What are the benefits of a sleeper sofa?

Sleeper sofas offer numerous benefits. For example:

  • Sleeper sofas are a great addition to a guest room or another space in your house where you need a sleeping space only occasionally.
  • A sleeper sofa is a fantastic space-saving option for a small room or a studio apartment. Because it can function both as a traditional couch and as a bed, it serves the purpose of two pieces of furniture while occupying the space of one.
  • Sleeper sofas offer flexibility like no other piece of furniture. Because they’re typically designed to look exactly like couches, they’re great for people who want to have a traditional-looking couch in their living room but also want the option to have additional sleeping space.

What are the most common types of sleeper sofas?

There are several types of sleeper sofas on the market. They include:

Pull-out couches

This is the most common type of sleeper sofa. In order to turn it into a bed, you typically have to remove the cushions and pull on a handle to lift out the hidden mattress. 

Depending on your model, it might have a button you need to push to release the bed or a special power mechanism to fold out the mattress. Pull-out couches can come in various sizes and include a real mattress.

Futons 

Technically, futon is another term for a sofa bed (rather than a sleeper sofa)—but since all these terms are often used interchangeably, we’re including it here. 

A futon has no hidden mattress and no cushions to remove before folding it out. It’s simply a thick mattress that’s folded to look like a couch to rest your back against and unfolded flat when you need a place to sleep. 

Futons come in various sizes, from twin up to queen, and the frames can be made of metal or wood. 

Keep in mind that futon mattresses come in various thicknesses—if you’re going to use yours often for sleeping, you might want to invest in a mattress that’s at least eight inches thick.

Sectional sleeper sofas

Sectional sleeper sofas look like sectional couches. They occupy the most space but are a fantastic option if you have a large room. They have a fold-out type of mattress or a trundle bed that can be pulled out as needed. 

The mattress is typically queen-size, but some sectionals come with king-size mattresses. Occasionally, the sleeper portion is located in the chaise section of the sectional and includes a smaller twin-size mattress.

What should you consider before buying a sleeper sofa?

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to buy a sleeper sofa:

Room size

Sleeper sofas are great space savers, but you need to make sure you get the right kind of sleeper sofa for your space. 

Make sure it will comfortably fit into your space when the mattress is pulled out, allowing enough room for foot traffic around the bed. 

Design preference

Consider your room design. If it has a contemporary style, then a sleek pull-out sleeper sofa or a sectional will suit it well. In a rustic-style room, on the other hand, a futon with a wooded frame will look right at home. 

Mattress size

Consider how many people you want the sleeper sofa to fit. Depending on the type of sofa, the mattress size will vary from twin to king. 

If you’re buying a sectional sleeper sofa, find out if the mattress is located in the main section or if there’s a smaller twin-size mattress in the chaise portion of the sectional.

Mattress type

Sleeper sofas come with different mattress types. Check if the mattress type suits you—and make sure the mattress is thick enough if you’re planning to use it often. 

  • Traditional memory foam mattresses are ideal for pressure point relief but may sleep a bit too warm.
  • Polyurethane foam mattresses are high-density foam mattresses and are usually the most affordable option.
  • Gel memory foam has the feeling of memory foam but sleeps cooler. 
  • Innerspring mattresses are traditional coil mattresses with padding. They’re best if you’re not planning to fold out your sofa very often. 
  • Latex offers a firmer and bouncier feel than memory foam and is the most eco-friendly option.
  • Air-over-coil is a hybrid mattress that includes an inflatable portion that sits on top of a layer of coils. While it may give you a comfortable sleep, it could require additional maintenance—i.e., air pumping the mattress.

Mechanism

Typically, modern sleeper sofas come with easy-to-handle pull-out mechanisms and minimal bars and springs. But it’s still a good idea to check and see if you can pull out the mattress easily—especially if you’re elderly or live alone. 

If possible, try the mechanism several times in the store before purchasing.

FAQs

What’s the difference between a sleeper sofa and a sofa bed?

A sleeper sofa has a hidden mattress that’s pulled out as needed. A sofa bed is more like a futon: the part you sit on folds out into a bed. However, the terms “sleeper sofa” and “sofa bed” are often used interchangeably.

What’s the difference between a sofa and a sleeper sofa?

The term “sofa” is sometimes used interchangeably with “couch,” referring to the piece of furniture you sit on. It doesn’t fold out into a bed. 

On the other hand, some people use “sofa” to mean “sofa bed” or “sleeper sofa,” namely a piece of furniture that folds out into a bed.

What’s the difference between a daybed and a sleeper sofa?

Both daybeds and sleeper sofas are multifunctional pieces of furniture that can be used as beds only when needed. 

The difference is sleeper sofas are designed to look like couches, while daybeds come in a wider variety of styles that often come closer to looking more like a bed than a couch. 

Daybeds also aren’t typically used as a central sitting piece in your living room.

What makes a couch a sleeper?

When a couch has a hidden mattress that can be pulled out and used as a bed, it is called a sleeper sofa.

Next, learn about other space-saving furniture, including murphy beds and trundle beds.

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