Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between a Sleeper Sofa and a Futon

Sleeper sofas and futons are double purpose furniture that have become ubiquitous in modern homes that have limited space or who frequently have guests that stay overnight. Sleeper sofas and futons are also common in hotel rooms to increase sleeping capacity. They are a great way to save on space and are easy to transport. They are also a great way to save on money as one does not have to spend separate money for a couch and a bed. And since they are basically similar in function, sleeper sofas and futons today have very little difference in appearance, especially with modern innovation.

Although modern day sleeper sofas and futons are practically the same in their dual function, the two still differ from each other. Aside from their origins, the two differ mainly in materials used and their construction. Their dimensions are also usually different. More about these dual purpose furniture and their differences are discussed further in the succeeding sections.


What is a Sleeper Sofa?

A sleeper sofa, also called a sofa bed – although the terms are sometimes subtly differentiated, is furniture that is designed primarily as a couch but can be converted into a bed by some mechanism such as hinges or springs. Although there have been many innovations on beds to make them portable or to save space, the first furniture that truly doubles as both a couch and a bed was invented in the 1930’s and is credited to Bernard Castro, an Italian immigrant to the United States.

The cushions of sleeper sofas are typically made of foam, while the frame is mostly metal. Foam is a soft but stiff material, so the cushions are made of separate pieces. Some of the cushions are attached directly to the metal frame while the other pieces are detachable, to be placed side by side once the frame has been converted to a bed. While some sleeper sofa frames have a hinged mechanism that allows the backrest to be lowered, most frames have a pullout mechanism under the seat. This overall design makes the sleeping mattress only half as thick as when it is in couch mode and does not give optimum comfort for sleeping.


What is a Futon?

A futon is either the traditional Japanese style of bedding, or the futon sofa bed adapted by western culture – the two being very different. The traditional futon, used by the Japanese since ancient times, is only for sleeping and at its simplest is actually a set composed of mattress, duvet and pillow but without a bedframe. When not in use, traditional futons are first aired out in the open, and then stored in closets. Meanwhile, the western futon is basically a variant of the sleeper sofa invented by William Brouwer in the 1980’s.

The futon mattress, whether the traditional or the western futon, is typically made of cotton and is all of one piece that can easily be folded or rolled. The frame is usually made of wood, with a backrest that can be lowered, and a footrest or a hidden deck under the seat that can be raised. The mattress is usually thinner than the cushions of a sleeper sofa in couch mode but thicker when converted into a bed, making the futon more comfortable for sleeping.


Difference between a Sleeper Sofa and a Futon


A sleeper sofa is any type of sofa that can be converted into a bed. A futon is either the traditional Japanese style of bedding composed of mattress, duvet and pillow, with no bedframe, or the adapted western futon which is basically a variant of the sofa bed.

Main function

A sleeper is mainly sitting furniture, with the bed as its second function. The futon is primarily a type of bedding with the mattress serving secondarily as a seat cushion for a sofa.


The first truly dual function sleeper sofa was invented by Bernard Castro in the 1930’s while the futon was adapted into western use by William Brouwer in the 1980’s.

Mattress or cushions

A sleeper sofa cushion is typically made of foam; it is soft but stiff. It cannot be folded nor rolled; instead, it can be made into separate pieces. Futons are usually made of cotton, made of one piece and as such, they can be easy to fold or roll.

Frame designs

Sleeper sofas frame are usually made of metal and are of a pullout design, with the extension hidden under the seat. Western futon frames are typically wood made in a hinged design, with a backrest that can be lowered and a footrest or a hidden deck under the seat that can be raised.

Seating comfort

Sleeper sofas are usually more comfortable than futons as seats, with thicker seat cushions than futons.

Sleeping comfort

Sleeper sofas are less comfortable as beds since the mattress is thinner than that of futons when spread out.

Sleeper Sofas vs Futons



  • Sleeper sofas and futons are double purpose furniture that are very useful as both seats and beds in homes with limited space or as extra sleeping areas for guests staying overnight.
  • They are also cost saving furniture due to their dual function.
  • Sleeper sofas come in many designs but their main quality is that they are made as couches first before beds.
  • Futons are the traditional Japanese style of bedding composed of mattress, duvet and pillow, without a bedframe. It was a adapted into the western culture as a sleeper sofa, with the mattress serving as seat cushion.


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References :

[0]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Futon.jpg

[1]Image credit: https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5514/9527755551_670b7847a8_z.jpg

[2]Donahue, Alan. "Types of sofa bed mechanisms." Hunker. March 16, 2018. https://www.hunker.com/13411901/types-of-sofa-bed-mechanisms (accessed October 30, 2019).

[3]Krino, Gary. "New-look futons are versatile and stylish." Orlando Sentinel. March 20, 1999. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1999-03-20-9903180644-story.html (accessed October 30, 2019).

[4]Ramos, Maria. "What’s a Japanese Futon?" Good Night's Rest. June 24, 2019. https://goodnights.rest/beds-hammocks-futons-and-more/japanese-futon/ (accessed October 30, 2019).

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