How to Buy a Sleeper Sofa

Gray sleeper sofa with bed pulled out in living room closeup

The Spruce / Alyssa Vela

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.

Before Buying Your Sleeper Sofa

So you've come to the decision that a sleeper sofa would be a good piece of furniture to have in your home. It's such a versatile piece of furniture. They're handy to have around for when guests come to stay and you need an extra bed. But they're also great for sitting on to watch tv, read a book, or just relax.

So much more comfortable than an air mattress, you just might find that after getting a sleeper sofa that there's an influx of guests coming to stay in your home! Start the search to purchase one and be ready to welcome friends and family to stay overnight.

Buying Considerations for a Sleeper Sofa

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.
  • Sectional 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.

Types of Sleeper Sofas

Pull-out Couches

The pull-out couch is one that you might be most familiar with. This type of sleeper sofa has a real mattress. To open it up for sleeping, you simply remove the cushions and pull on a handle or bar to lift it out and fold down the bed. Some models will have a lock (button) you push to release the bed, while more expensive ones use a power mechanism to extend out the mattress. A pull-out couch can come in small and large models. They tend to take up more room than other types when open.

Sofa Beds

This type of sleeper sofa just folds down into a bed. Similar to a futon, the mattress for sleeping on is the cushions that you use to sit and rest your back on. Unlike the pull-out couch, a sofa bed has no cushions that you need to move and find a place to put them.

Futon

Futons fold out flat and transform into a place to sleep. They come in various sizes, from twin up to a queen, and can be made of metal, wood, or a combination of both. Mattresses for futons come in different thicknesses, and if being used a lot for sleeping, you will want to get a thicker mattress, around 8-inches or more.

Sectional Sleeper Sofas

A sectional sleeper sofa is great to use in larger rooms and can have a foldout type of sleeper or a trundle bed style that pulls outs. These usually are equipped with queen-size or even king-size mattresses. The sleeper portion can also be located in the chaise section of the sectional, offering a smaller—usually twin-size—sleeping arrangement.

Cost

Sleeper sofas, like other pieces of furniture, vary in cost due to how they are made, the size, the type, the manufacturer, and the materials used. A sleeper sofa will cost around $600 upwards to $5,000. A small sleeper sofa will run around $600 to $1,000, while a queen size sleeper sofa or sectional sleeper will hit the higher-end cost. Various features, such as a power option, will increase the price even more.

If you can hold off on purchasing one, watch around the holidays for sales, including Memorial Day, Presidents Day, Labor Day, and other special days, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Of course, these are popular times for other people to buy too, so shop early so as not to miss out on the sleeper sofa you want.

How to Choose a Sleeper Sofa

There are several choices for sleeper sofas available, and it all comes down to your personal preference. Find something that you like, that fits and looks well in the allotted space, and that you can afford. Questions to ask yourself as you start your search for a sleeper sofa are:

How Will Your Sleeper Sofa Be Used?

Take the time to figure out what kind of usage your sleeper sofa will get once you bring it home. Will it be in the main living room area and used on a daily basis for sitting? Or will it be in an office or spare room area and used for when guests come to stay occasionally? You might also use it when someone in the family is ill and needs to sleep in a separate room so as not to spread the illness to others. If it's going to be used frequently, make sure that it is comfortable to sit for long periods of time, that it is easy to get up from, matches with other furniture and decor in the room, and suits everyone in the family.

Also, check how comfortable the mattress is for sleeping on. There's nothing worse than being unable to sleep due to a mattress that is too thin, lumpy, too hard, or too soft.

What Size Room Will the Sleeper Sofa Be In?

How big the room is will be a factor when selecting a sleeper sofa. Can the sofa bed be pulled out without disturbing any other furniture in the room? Are you going to have to move some furniture around or even move it out of the room when you open up the bed to use it? How tight a fit will it be for you or your guest to walk around the sofa bed when it is open?

What Does the Rest of the Room Look Like?

Look around the room where you're going to be placing the sleeper sofa to determine what color will work best, or if you want one that has a pattern or design to it. A solid color works well in just about any space and you can throw on some bright patterned pillows for an accent.

Where to Shop

A sleeper sofa is an expensive furniture purchase and should be carefully considered before buying. To see it in person, touch it, sit on it and look at how it is constructed is something a lot of people prefer before committing to purchasing one.

Buying in-Store

When you are browsing around in the store, don't hesitate to ask a salesperson questions. That's why they are there. Ask away. Take your time, and sit on as many sleeper sofas as you want. Inspect how they're made, how easy it is to pull the bed in and out, test the arms, and feel the cushion padding and material. And, always look for the UFAC (Upholstered Furniture Action Council) tag, as this certifies that the sofa has been made according to UFAC methods.

Buying Online

Buying a sleeper sofa online doesn't give you the opportunity to view it in person, so you need to spend some time researching. Check out reviews and any information you can find about the sofa. If you've spent some time in a store before looking online, you can search for a sleeper sofa that you liked in the store and compare prices to see which way might be best to buy it.

Where to Buy a Sleeper Sofa

You can purchase a sleeper sofa from most furniture stores. Just make sure to know the delivery options, the reputation of the retailer, and the return policy. Cover all of your bases so you can feel confident in buying one that fits you in style, comfort, and price.

FAQ
  • Do bed sheets fit a sleeper sofa mattress?

    The mattress of a sleeper sofa is not as deep as a regular bed mattress so the sheets that you get for your bed will bunch up or move around making it uncomfortable to sleep. Grab a set of sheets that fit your sleeper sofa properly, and you and your guest(s) will be happier.

  • How do you clean the mattress on a sleeper sofa?

    Always check the manufacturers label for cleaning instructions. Spot clean the fabric where needed as directed, and allow to thoroughly dry before folding back up.

  • Why does your sleeper sofa not fold back up?

    First, make sure there is nothing in the way that's blocking the mechanisms. If there isn't, look at the mechanisms themselves to ensure that nothing is broken or loose. If this is the issue, it might require a replacement part. You might want to have a professional look at it, especially if still under warranty.

Article Sources
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  1. UFAC. Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC).