To ensure a sound and undisturbed sleep, there are two main ingredients:-
- A good quality and comfortable mattress
- A well built bed
This post shall cater to everything that should be known before purchasing a mattress.
Now, if you are a frequent visitor to the posts on this blog, you might be probably aware that we take each topic from the grass root level and we will do the same with this post as well. We will begin with the basics first and then we will move forward to learning about the construction of a mattress and discuss each section of its construction in detail. After that, we will move on to discuss how some brands cut costs and manufacture below par mattresses that are very non durable and often the materials from which they are built are extremely uncomfortable and may severely impact your spine and posture. Then we will proceed onto deciding which mattress would be the best for you, according to your needs.
So without further a do, let’s begin..
A mattress is a thick pad which serves the purpose of supporting and maintaining the correct posture of the human body. A mattress is mostly placed on top of the base of the bed.
The construction of a mattress primarily consists of two sections:-
- The core or the support layer
- The upholstery or the comfort layer
CONSTRUCTION OF A MATTRESS
The Support Layer
The core of the mattress supports the body of the person sitting or lying on the mattress. The core is made up of steel springs often known as “coil” or “innerspring”.
The coils having diameter in the range of 1.3 mm and 1.7 mm (14 to 16-gauge) make up for a high quality mattress which provides the best balance between firmness and cushioning and provides the best support to the body.
Whereas, the coils having diameters above 1.7 mm (12 gauge) make the mattress too firm and the mattress no longer remains supportive or comfortable.
Now, this core or the coil can be of four types:-
- Bonnell coils: These are round top, knotted and hourglass shaped steel wire coils. When laced together with cross wire helicals, these coils form the simplest innerspring unit. The knots at the top and bottom provide stability for a supportive surface. Bonnell coils are one of the oldest and quite a popular choice among mattress manufacturers.
- Offset coils: These coils are hourglass shaped, similar to the Bonnell coils, but the top and bottom are squared off so the coils can fit together in rows. In assembling the innerspring unit, these flat segments of wire are hinged together with helical wires. The hinging effect of the unit is designed to conform to the body shape and delivers firm support and durability.
- Pocket spring: These coils are made by enclosing individual coils in their own flexible, breathable fabric pocket, resulting in reductions in motion transfer and noise. The fabric pockets are ultrasonically welded or glued together so the coils can move independently, conforming to the body of the sleeper. Before they’re placed in the pocket, the coils can be pre-compressed, giving them more firmness. Since the springs are not wired together, they work more or less independently, i.e. the weight on one spring does not affect the neighbouring springs.
- Continuous coils: These coils work in a hinging effect and are formed using only one piece of wire for an entire row of coils. This amounts to higher coil counts and usage of less steel in manufacturing the units. These mattresses are generally affordable, and usually quite comfortable, but they can allow for more motion transfer than other coils.
(Image of a mattress fitted with Bonnell coils)
Now, having understood the types of coils that make the core of the mattress, let’s proceed to learn about the upholstery or the comfort layer of the mattress.
The Comfort Layer
This layer is responsible for providing comfort and cushioning to the person sitting or lying on the mattress. The upholstery layer consists of three parts, these are:-
- The Insulator: An insulator is any material that acts as a barrier between a mattress’s coil system and comfort layers. Also called the insulator pad, mattress insulation prevents comfort layers from coming in the contact with the coils. Without an insulator, comfort layers can get tangled in coils or coils can poke through the cushioning. The insulator is usually made of mesh or fibre and is intended to keep the middle upholstery in place.
- Middle Upholstery: It is usually made from materials which are intended to provide comfort to the sleeper. The most popularly used material is flexible polyurethane (PU) foam. Other materials include visco-elastic foam, latex foam, felt, polyester fibre, cotton fibre and wool fibre.
- The Quilt: The quilt is the top layer of the mattress. It is made of light foam or fibres to provide a soft surface texture to the mattress and can be found in varying degrees of firmness. The quilt is stitched to the underside of the ticking. A ticking is a linen or textile that is tightly woven for durability and to prevent down feathers from poking through the fabric.
Having learnt about the comfort layer of the mattress, let’s proceed to discuss the ways by which some manufacturers (names not taken) cut manufacturing costs to maximize their profits and in turn deliver a sub-standard mattress to the customers which are very non durable and are known to cause severe and often irreversible damage to the person’s spine and posture.
COST CUTTING TECHNIQUES
- Using poor quality inner springs. Since the coils or the inner springs are one of the fundamental components of a mattress and cover more than 60% of the total manufacturing cost of the entire mattress, it is also the favourite area of cost cutting of some manufacturers. Therefore, one must always ensure the warranty period duration of the mattress. The higher the warranty period, the less likely it is that the manufacturer has ill intentions. Also, as a rule of thumb, always prefer to purchase mattresses manufactured by reputed brands only. After all, health is one area of life where one should never compromise.
- Using an insulator of low grade fibre. Since the insulator separates the coils from the middle upholstery layer, the mesh or the fibre from which the insulator is built has to be very strong and durable so as to prevent the coil springs from getting in contact with the upholstery layers. Most buyers are not aware of the fact that the quality of the insulator material plays a major role in ensuring the longevity of the mattress. This is when the manufacturers find a perfect opportunity to make huge profits. They do so by manufacturing the mattress with an insulator material which is not strong enough to prevent the contact of coil with the upholstery layers for a long period and thus the mattress begins to deteriorate from the inside. Then, the brands make additional money when a buyer takes the mattresses to the service centers to get them serviced/repaired.
Now, let’s proceed to discuss some important things that one must take care of when buying a mattress and then talk about the various mattress sizes that are available in the market and which one would serve your needs depending upon the size of your bed.
MATTRESS SIZE GUIDE
- The mattress that you are looking to buy should be at least 8 cm longer than the height of the tallest person using it.
- The width of the mattress should allow you to be able to put both your hands under your head without your elbows touching the edge of the mattress or the person sleeping next to you.
The various sizes of the mattresses depending upon the dimensions of the bed are as follows:-
- For a Single bed, the dimensions of the mattress required would be: 72″ x 36″ or 6 feet x 3 feet.
- For a Double bed, the dimensions of the mattress required would be: 72″ x 42″ or 6 feet x 3 feet 6 inches.
- For a Queen sized bed, the dimensions of the mattress required would be: 72″ x 60″ or 6 feet x 5 feet.
- For a King sized bed, the dimensions of the mattress required would be: 78″ x 72″ or 6 feet x 6 feet.
NOTE:- The above dimensions may vary by a few inches from brand to brand.
In addition to the length and width of the mattress, height also plays an important role in determining the cushioning of the mattress. As a rule of thumb, the mattresses having height 4 inches and above are known to provide adequate support and cushioning to the body and hence, one must go for mattresses having height at least 4 inches.
Having said that, let’s proceed to zero down on some of the best mattresses available in the market that are not only built from high quality and durable materials, but also ensure that your back and spine get the best possible comfort when you are fast asleep.