Written by: Juliann Scholl
Updated March 25, 2021
Many people consider a sleeper sofa to be a practical purchase for the home. Used in a guest room, a studio apartment, or as an extra sleeping option in the living room, a sleeper sofa is an ideal way to maximize space and upgrade guests from an air mattress.
Sleeper sofas have a reputation for not being as comfortable as a sofa or a bed. However, today's models have come a long way, and it's possible to find comfortable and practical options for every budget. Our sleeper sofa buying guide has all the information you need to find the best option for your home.
Decide Which Model You Want
If you're looking for a sofa that can also turn into a bed, you can choose from futons, sofa beds, and sleeper sofas. Futons have a backrest that folds down to form a flat surface, while sofa beds have seat cushions that can be unfolded into a makeshift mattress. Sleeper sofas feature a full mattress tucked inside the sofa. The mattress is mounted on a platform base that can be deployed by pulling on a handle.
Choose a Mattress Size
Most sleeper sofas are equipped with a twin- or queen-sized mattress hidden within them, though you can also find other options, including some models that break apart into two separate twin beds. In addition to choosing your desired mattress width, consider the length. Models that fold flat with an armrest at the head and foot of the bed may not be comfortable for taller sleepers.
Make Sure It Fits in Your House
Full sleeper sofas tend to be larger and heavier than standard sofas, which is something to keep in mind if you plan on moving often. Measure the dimensions of your sleeper sofa when the mattress is folded in to make sure it fits through your doorways, in any staircases or elevators, and in the room itself.
Before making a purchase, it’s also important to take the measurements of the sleeper sofa when it's unfolded. You'll want to leave enough room around the mattress to allow people to get in and out of bed from either side.
Assess the Mattress Quality
Although most sleeper sofas contain either innerspring or polyfoam mattress models, you can also find latex and inflatable sofa bed mattresses. Expect your sofa mattress to be thinner than a standard mattress. Some people opt to change the feel with a mattress topper.
Shoppers should also consider the mattress' breathability, edge support, and firmness level when buying a sofa bed. If you anticipate having two guests share the mattress, you might prefer a quieter memory foam model that isolates motion.
How Easy the Mattress Is to Open and Close
Sleeper sofas must contain a high-quality interior mechanism to make maneuvering the weight of an entire mattress feel easy. Before buying, practice opening and closing the bed a few times to make sure everything goes smoothly. Check for protruding parts that might snag your sheets, or metal bars that may be uncomfortable or present a sleeping hazard. Some people also prefer not to have too large of a gap between the mattress and the structure of the sofa.
Choose Your Bed Frame Material
Most sleeper sofas contain either a metal or wooden frame. Metal frames can be inexpensive and durable. Kiln-dried hardwood frames are designed to be resistant to warping and cracking. A hardwood frame may also have a higher weight capacity, though it is also heavier to transport.
Though you pay more upfront for a high-quality frame, it may be a better investment because the design is more durable.
Test the Sleeper Sofa in Both Positions
A sleeper sofa should be comfortable when used as a sofa and when used as a bed — you shouldn't have to sacrifice one for the other. Consider the height of the armrests, the profile of the backrest, the depth of the seat, and the firmness of the cushions. Then, unfold the mattress and test how comfortable it feels.
Consider Materials and Design
When choosing your sleeper sofa, there are plenty of factors to consider. If you have pets or children, you may want to consider how durable the sofa fabric is and how easy it is to clean. Removable covers are easier to clean, but some fabrics are designed to resist stains.
Many companies send free fabric swatches so that you can match the sofa to your décor. Beyond the basic features, you might consider sleeper sofas that offer extra perks like padded feet, reclinable backrests, or hidden storage spaces where you can keep blankets.
Calculate Price vs. Durability
Because they require some additional engineering, sleeper sofas usually cost more than their standard sofa counterparts. There are plenty of budget-friendly options that are sufficient if you only need to use the mattress for the occasional houseguest. However, if you live in a smaller apartment and you plan on using the sleeper sofa as your regular bed, you may find it worthwhile to pay more for a higher-quality product.
Read the Fine Print
A sleeper sofa is a fairly big purchase, and it helps to have a trial period during which you may test it out before committing. Your purchase should also be protected with a warranty against manufacturing and workmanship defects. If you're buying online, look for free shipping, and check whether the sleeper sofa requires you to assemble it or comes fully assembled.
Online shopping makes it easier to browse a variety of sleeper sofa styles until you find one that you like. Whether you end up buying online or in-store, you should be able to find a comfortable sleeper sofa without breaking the bank.