A box spring used to be just that. A box with springs in it. A mattress was mostly just padding so the sleeper didn’t feel the springs. The springs helped absorb shock and made a bed “bouncy.” These days a box spring is largely unnecessary for most mattresses. Most mattresses have springs built in and are well-padded and much more comfortable than the mattress sets of yesteryear. Box springs now are usually just fabric-covered wooden boxes that add height to a bed and absorb some shock.

For beds with metal rails, the box spring adds the support necessary to keep the mattress from sagging. Wooden slats or a piece of particle board or plywood cut to size offers enough support to keep the mattress in place. It is important that the support you improvise is enough to support the mattress evenly. The box spring will make your bed softer, so that may guide your decision to use the box spring or alternative support.

Some manufacturers say that box springs extend the life of the mattress by absorbing some of the shock inflicted upon them, but in many cases not using the box spring doesn’t affect the warranty.

Another reason cited for using box springs is that they allow air circulation under the mattress. That addressed dust mites, bedbugs and other unsavory characters that used to find their way into bed. With improved hygiene and home cleanliness this is no longer as much of a concern, unless the mattress you sleep on is very dense, as in a foam mattress. Also, since many newer mattresses are no-flip, what goes on under a mattress doesn’t affect the sleeper much.

At the end of the day, it’s up to the sleeper as to whether they want a box spring or not. For people with back problems or other handicap, they may find that a bed without a box spring is too low to get into and out of comfortably. The true test will be to sleep on the mattress with a box spring and without and see what is more comfortable.