There’s no longer any need to subject houseguests to uncomfortable sleeper sofas because great strides have been made in sleeper-sofa quality in the past few years.

To select a sleeper sofa that’s a great couch and a great bed…

Better mattresses: New mattress options are the main reason that some of today’s sleeper sofas are much more comfortable than those of the past.

Older sleeper sofas typically featured thin innerspring mattresses. You could feel the individual springs poking into you—and often the metal bars of the bed’s mechanism underneath, too.

These days, two more comfortable mattress options are available…

Memory foam mattresses can provide significantly better cushioning and comfort than an innerspring mattress of equal thickness. Opting for memory foam might add $100 to $200 to the cost of your sleeper sofa.

Air/innerspring mattress hybrids inflate to provide a cushion of air above an innerspring mattress. When inflated, these mattresses are just as thick and nearly as comfortable as actual bed mattresses—most people find them even more comfortable than sleeper-sofa memory foam mattresses. But they do add $250 or so to the cost of a sleeper sofa…they take a few minutes to inflate (using an included electric pump)…and there’s some risk that the air mattress eventually might develop a leak or its motor (to inflate the mattress) could stop working—though there have been no major quality or reliability problems to date.

Signs of quality: If you want a really good sleeper sofa, pay close attention to the quality of the couch cushions when you shop. If the cushions you sit on contain only fiberfill or a single piece of foam, it’s a tip-off that the sofa overall was cheaply made and won’t age well. The cushions of a quality sofa will be constructed from multiple materials, one inside the other. Example: A core of springs wrapped in a thick layer of down or polyester.

Another sign of quality: The sofa’s upholstery cushions have zippers so that their covers can be removed for cleaning.

Best brands include…

Carolina Chair, a family-owned manufacturer that has been making quality furniture in North Carolina for three generations. It sells directly to the public rather than through furniture stores or wholesalers, which helps keep prices low. Expect to spend $1,500 to $2,000 or so, shipping included, for a sleeper sofa comparable to one selling for $3,000 or more in a furniture showroom. (800-653-9757,

Century Furniture has been making furniture in North Carolina since 1947. Its sofas aren’t cheap—a Century Furniture sleeper sofa is likely to cost $4,000 or more—but the quality of the craftsmanship and materials is exceptional. See the Web site for a store locator. (800-852-5552,

Club Furniture offers private-label upholstered furniture comparable to what you would find at stores such as Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma. Because Club Furniture sells directly to the public over the Internet, it charges 20% to 40% less. Expect to spend $1,200 to $2,200 for a sleeper sofa, plus $99 shipping. (888-378-8383,