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Guide to Understanding Different Mattress Types

Guide to Understanding Different Mattress Types

Read about what each of the most popular types of mattress has to offer

How can you know which type of mattress will work best for you? Now that there are so many different options out there, more and more people are wondering how to choose. Many people just continue buying the same kind of mattress every time they replace an old one, because they are afraid of making a mistake that will cost them a lot of money. It takes time to research all of your options and many of us just don’t have that kind of time. This guide will give you a place to start by sharing the research we’ve done into the various different types of mattresses available. First, we’ll compare the four most popular mattress types out there to help you get a better handle on what bed will best suit your needs.

Coil, Innerspring, Pillowtop

History

Most of us are very familiar with mattresses of these types. Coil mattresses have been with us since Victorian times. Even now that there are so many other options, you’re still likely to find coil and spring mattresses in the majority of American homes.

Structure

Spring mattresses are comprised of several parts: a box spring base; the springs inside the mattress; and layers of padding. All of the types listed here use metal coils as a support system. Different systems for using springs include independent pocket springs and Bonnell connected coils. The gauge of the mattress and the number of springs it contains gives you an idea of its quality. A high-gauge mattress (14 gauge for example) has more give in its coils and is considered higher quality. Generally speaking, more coils mean better support and contouring, though coil counts may be somewhat arbitrary. The manufacturers include layers of stuffing, padding or foam over the coils to make the bed comfortable to sleep on. You can find everything from simple quilting to several inches of latex or memory foam.

Advantages

Spring mattresses are readily available anywhere that beds are sold. Often they are easier on the budget than other mattress types too, at least if you’re just getting a basic model. This type of bed allows for easy movement while sleeping, and you’re less likely to feel hot than on a foam mattress.

Disadvantages

These beds are very common, but they also get the lowest ratings when it comes to customer satisfaction. Only 60 to 65 percent of individuals with this kind of mattress are satisfied with their purchase. The biggest issues are with comfort and longevity. Spring mattresses wear out sooner than other kinds of beds, because the padding gets compressed and springs lose their support. Most innerspring mattresses will need to be replaced after just 5 to 7 years. There is also an issue with motion transfer – if one partner moves, the other partner is likely to be disturbed. And you don’t always get what you pay for with these beds, especially with the top brands. Even some of the most expensive innerspring beds may be lower in quality than a cheaper mattress of a different type.

Availability

This type of mattress is available at countless bed stores throughout the nation. Some of the big brands are Serta, Simmons and Sealy, all of which manufacture multiple different lines of innerspring mattresses. Customers tend to rate all of these brands at about the same level, with Sealy getting a slightly higher satisfaction rating. You can also buy spring mattresses from online retailers, and there are smaller regional companies that manufacture them.

Memory Foam

History

These mattresses began to appear under the name Tempur-Pedic early in the 1990s. Viso-elastic foam was developed by NASA to cushion astronauts from G forces during takeoffs, but they soon realized that this material would have better applications in consumer products. Memory foam shapes itself to the contours of a sleeper, evenly distributing the weight across its surface and eliminating pressure points around heavy areas such as the shoulders and hips.

Structure

The inner structure of a memory foam mattress is pretty simple, and doesn’t differ much from manufacturer to manufacturer. The top layer is made of memory foam, which is somewhere between 2 and 8 inches deep. Under this layer is a denser base foam which is not a memory foam (to prevent the sleeper from simply sinking to the mattress bottom). Some designs use several different layers, each with different qualities, and some mattresses include air channels to prevent overheating. A true memory foam bed does not have a support core containing springs.

The biggest distinctions between different memory foam mattresses are in the foam type and density. The optimal range for density is from 4.0 to 5.3 pounds per square inch. A lower density is prone to breaking down and may not offer enough support, while a higher density will feel too firm or viscous for the comfort of most sleepers. There are also a number of formulations available. You can get the standard visco foam, which is slow responding and temperature sensitive; gel-infused, which is said to be cooler; or plant-based, which is made from natural oils and is faster responding and more breathable.

Advantages

People rate memory foam mattresses the highest overall when it comes to owner satisfaction: Between 80 and 83 percent of people report being satisfied with their purchase. If you have back problems or other types of body pain, memory foam is likely to be the best mattress for you. It doesn’t put more pressure on your body and allows for natural alignment while sleeping. Memory foam mattresses are also longer-lasting (10 to 20 years if you buy a high quality one) and they are good at preventing motion transfer.

Disadvantages

There are a few drawbacks to these mattresses, despite the positive ratings. Traditional memory foam mattresses have been criticized heavily for being manufactured using toxic components, and many of these beds (especially if they are imported) still contain a host of chemicals. Certain brands have a strong odor right after you buy them, and some people complain that the foam traps body heat, making it hard to sleep. More recent innovations like plant based and gel memory foams are addressing these issues. People tend to think that memory foam beds are expensive, though these days many have a similar price tag to a high quality spring mattress.

Availability

Mattresses made of memory foam continue to grow in popularity and you can now find them throughout the country. The most recognized brand is still Tempur-Pedic, and these beds are sold by many retailers. Serta and Sealy also feature lines that include gel memory foam beds, so these are readily available now too. It can still be hard to find plant-based memory foam mattresses though, especially if you are shopping locally. But the good news is that Amerisleep.com will ship their plant-based foam beds anywhere in the nation.

Latex Foam

History

Natural latex comes from a tree called hevea brasiliensis. In the early 20th century, latex foam mattresses appeared on the market after the Dunlop process allowed latex foam to be produced in a commercially viable fashion. Later the Talalay process was also used, and later still, organic latex and synthetic latex joined the ranks. Modern manufacturing techniques have brought down the price of latex foam, which used to be prohibitively expensive.

Structure

These are probably the most structurally simple of all mattresses. A real latex foam mattress contains latex foam only both for structural support in the core and for the comfort layer. The foam is cured after manufacturing, and then cut to size and arranged in layers to form a mattress. Sometimes (but not always) these layers are glued together. The mattress is then covered in wool, cotton, or some other material.

Latex foam mattresses differ from each other in the kind of latex used as well as in how they are manufactured. The original Dunlop process creates a durable mattress that is usually firm. The more controlled Talalay process gives more consistent results and usually costs more, although both types get equally positive reviews based on their performance. The foam is made from a liquid that may be 100 percent natural, a chemically-derived synthetic or a combination of the two. Experts usually prefer the natural latex because it is hypoallergenic, environmentally friendly, and more durable than the synthetic.

Advantages

100 percent natural latex mattresses receive the second-highest satisfaction rating from owners, at about 79 to 81 percent of people being happy with their purchase. These highly durable mattresses can last for more than 15 years. Like memory foam, latex foam offers natural contouring and support without pressure. The advantage is that latex doesn’t retain as much heat, off-gas unpleasant chemicals or respond slowly.

Disadvantages

Latex foam beds usually cost a bit more than the other types of mattresses because they use more expensive materials. It can also be difficult to find a local dealer, because there are few big brands that offer a 100 percent natural latex mattress.

Availability

The best way to find a natural latex bed is to shop for it online, where you can find a number of retailers offering different features and types. When you’re shopping around online, make sure you read the specifications and don’t buy a mattress unless it’s returnable, particularly if you’ve never tried a latex mattress before. Astrabeds is one online retailer that will ship anywhere in the country. They sell 100 percent natural latex mattresses that are made of certified organic ingredients. This retailer offers a 90-day trial period, free shipping, and their beds get good reviews.

Water Beds

These are nothing new, but the vinyl water beds that you’re familiar with became available in the ’60s. You can find several variations today, including hardside wooden-framed beds and softside beds that you can use with any furniture. The mattress itself may be free-flow, with nothing restricting the movement of the water (not good for couples) or waveless, where baffles or fiber restrict the flow. There is a steady group of die-hard water bed fans out there who continue to prefer these beds in spite of maintenance hassles and the potential for a big mess. Waterbeds get an approval rating of about 75 percent. It’s hard to find a retailer who sells water beds these days, though you can buy them online and in some specialty shops.

With so many different models, styles, technologies and brands of mattresses available these days, shopping for one can be overwhelming. Being aware of your options and doing your homework in terms of research will help you choose the mattress that’s best for you. No two people define comfort in exactly the same way, but ratings and reviews will give you somewhere to start if you want a change or if it’s been a long time since you’ve shopped for a new mattress. According to the ratings, memory and latex mattresses are your best bet, as more than 80 percent of owners are satisfied with these beds after purchasing them. A lot of people still buy innerspring beds simply because they are easier to find, but with online shopping it’s now much easier to find exactly what you want, at a good price, no matter where you live. We hope that this introduction to the world of mattresses is useful to you. Please feel free to ask us any questions that we didn’t cover here!

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