What to Know Before Buying a Sleeper Sofa

High angle view of person lying on sofa

 Gino Alberti / Getty

Whether you call it a sleeper sofa or a sofa bed, this is one of the most functional pieces of furniture you can own. Having a sleeper in your living room rather than a sofa might be one way to overcome space limitations if you have them. It lets you turn any room into a guest room or even a bedroom for yourself if you live in a studio apartment.

Here's what you need to know before you buy a sleeper sofa for your home.

Consider Your Space

Sleeper sofas are multifunctional pieces that can be a good purchase for your home—but only if you buy the right size sofa for your space. You will need to consider if the sofa will fit into your space when it's fully open and if it has enough room for non-toe-stubbing foot traffic when it's fully extended.

Limited Space

If you have a very small space, then a twin-size sofa bed might be the perfect answer for you as these are less than 5 feet wide and they are great for sleeping one person. The mattress for a twin-size sleeper sofa can run up to 39 inches wide.

Opened up, the length can be around 54 inches wide and 85 inches long. These sleepers are sometimes referred to as chair and a half beds or chair beds. Don't expect them to be any cheaper because of the size. They should not be considered for affordability but for their suitability for smaller rooms.

Large Space

When space is not an issue, then you are in luck as a queen-size sleeper sofa is the most widely available. You will easily be able to find queen-sized sleepers in different styles and fabrics and with your preferred type of mattress. There is a great deal of variety available in this size.

A queen-size sleeper sofa can easily seat three and can provide a comfortable bed for two people. The entire sofa, from arm to arm, can potentially measure approximately 84 inches wide. When the bed is opened up, the sofa, from the back to the end of the mattress, can potentially measure 90 inches long, depending on the design of the piece.

Sofa Bed Mattress Size

Sofa beds come in many sizes in a number of formats, from ottoman pull-outs to sectionals. A full-size sleeper sofa is what you need if it is going to be used every night, even if you have a tiny space. An adult might find a twin-sized sleeper too small and restricting for everyday use, and, in a pinch, a full-size sleeper can even sleep two. But again, if two people are going to use it regularly, the full-sized sleeper might not be comfortable or spacious enough.

For sitting, the size of a full-sized sleeper is between the size of a sofa and a love seat, rather like an apartment sofa, so it is still a good option for smaller spaces and apartments.

Average Sleeper Sofa Measurements
Type Sofa Size (Arm-to-Arm) Mattress Width
Ottoman 44" to 68" 30" to 54"
Chair/Twin/Cot 49" to 65" 30" to 39"
Full 67" to 83" 52" to 55"
Queen 75" to 96" 58" to 66"
King 84" to 98" 74" to 76"
Sectional 113" by 87" to 125" by 65" (can vary) 52" to 66" (can vary)
Sectional with Chaise 99" by 59" to 132" by 86" (can vary) 52" to 66" (can vary)
Note that most sleeper sofas will vary in depth depending on the design of the back cushions. Also note that mattresses measure 72" to 80" long head-to-toe.

Sleeper Sofa Mattress Types

While its functionality is important, consider your needs before buying a sleeper sofa. Carefully consider whether it will be primarily used as a bed or for seating.

If you plan to use it as the primary sleeping surface, look into the type of mattress that comes with it. Sleepers come with more types of mattresses than they did years ago, making it easier for you to find your preferred mattress type. The standard height (or thickness) of a sofa mattress is 4.5 inches. Here are the types of sleeper sofa mattresses available:

  • Gel memory foam: a cushiony but firm feel with a cooler sleep than traditional memory foam that may work for every night use
  • Traditional memory foam: ideal for pressure point relief but sleeps warmer than gel
  • Polyurethane foam: an affordable, high-density foam mattress may be best at eliminating the feel of the mechanism
  • Air over coil: also called an air mattress or hybrid mattress, the inflatable air bladder on top of coils might give you a more comfortable, customized sleep, but it may need additional maintenance (using an air pump)
  • Innerspring: the traditional, standard coil mattress with padding for sleeper sofas that are used infrequently
  • Latex: a firm, hard feel and made from eco-friendly materials

Other Considerations

Buying a sleeper sofa is a substantial purchase. Here are a few other things to consider before buying:

  • Futon versus armless versus trundle or folding sofa: If a pull-out sofa is too costly or large, consider a futon (less expensive); an armless sleeper, also called a click-clack sofa bed (smaller); a compact trundle sofa (like a trundle bed); or a closer-to-the-floor folding foam mattress without a mechanism.
  • Mechanism: Today's mechanisms are built with more comfort from better decking material, anti-tilt design, minimal bars and springs, and out-of-the-way tubular legs, but check to see if anything is sticking out or uncomfortable or may create a hazard.
  • Easy setup: A higher-quality sleeper sofa typically has a better interior mechanism, which makes it easier to open and close, but try it out several times on the retail floor, if possible, before purchasing.
  • Sectionals sleeper sofas: Before you choose a sectional sleeper, see if the mattress is located in the chaise or the regular portion of the sofa, which will determine the mattress size and storage options.
  • Comfort: Last but not least, it's always best if you can sit and rest on a sleeper in both positions before purchasing; it should be as comfortable to sit on as it is to sleep on.