Mattresses hide all sorts of mysteries within a sandwich of padding, sometimes with springs, and always with some sort of cover. So how do you know what to buy and how much to pay?

A good rule of thumb is that the more you pay for a mattress, the better the quality you will get. Leading from this, you are probably wondering why you should invest in a quality mattress in the first place.

First and foremost, a quality mattress will ensure that you get a good night’s sleep … every night. It will also help to keep you healthy and avoid allergies and back pain.

Different Types of Mattresses

Mattresses have evolved over time. While the old hay-stuffed sack is from a by-gone era, it isn’t THAT long ago that our mattresses were stuffed with hair or with natural coir.

Today, however, the most common types of mattresses are:

  • those made with foam of some type without springs, and
  • those that incorporate springs, with or without foam or another type of stuffing.

In addition, both foam and springs vary, and before you buy you should make it your business to ascertain what’s inside the mattress.

Mattress Springs over Time

A sprung mattress often has springs. But there are various types that make a mattress more springy or bouncy than it would be if made only from foam or some other more “solid” material.

Original open springs featured rows of wires springs that were held together top and bottom with continuous springs. The intention was to spread the load more evenly across the mattress.

Posture springing was then developed to spread the load even more evenly. These were used in the first so-called orthopedic mattresses and comprised a woven “web” of continuous springs.

Then came “pocket springs” with all springs being sewn (under tension) into their own usually heavy cotton pockets. More expensive that other springs, these were better able to balance movement made by two people in bed.

Latex and Visco Elastic Foam Mattresses

The best types of foam mattress today are made from Latex or Visco elastic foam.

Visco Elastic Foam

In addition to responding to your body weight, good quality visco elastic foam (commonly called memory foam) will also respond to the temperature of your body. It will mold to the contours of your body and then go back to its original shape. This “memory” factor means that Visco mattresses don’t need to be regularly turned to keep them balanced and comfortable.

Another benefit of this type of foam is that it minimizes pressure points that cause discomfort. It is also able to reduce the transfer of motion that happens when two people share a bed. This means that you feel less movement on your side of the bed when your partner moves during the night. Consequently you’re going to sleep better and without interruption.

Visco foam has an open-cell structure that allows the mattress to breathe, making it a more comfortable surface on which to sleep.

Originally developed for NASA to ensure that astronauts were comfortable while travelling into space, Visco foam is highly resistant to allergens and odor-causing germs.

Just be aware that not all visco elastic foam is created equal. The best quality mattresses have a density of at least 5 lbs (about 2.2 kg) for every 3 ft (just less than a meter). So if you find a “cheap” visco mattress, check this density factor. If the visco mattress is less dense, it probably won’t have a superior contouring ability, and it won’t last as long as a really good quality one.

Latex Foam

Unlike visco foam that is man-made, latex foam is a biodegradable type of foam that is tapped from rubber trees indigenous to South America. Tapping this invaluable material doesn’t harm the tree, and the process may be repeated every few weeks.

Like visco, latex foam in mattress form, will shape itself to the contours of your body as you move in bed. This provides continuous support, which is essential to avoid back problems caused by badly made mattresses. What these mattresses do is literally spread your body weight over the full surface you are sleeping on. This is the how pressure points that cause discomfort – making us toss and turn – are minimized.

Latex foam has an open-cell structure, which means that mattresses made with this type of foam can “breathe”. So, like visco, as the foam responds to body temperature. In turn body heat and moisture may be released, making you more comfortable. But it doesn’t have “memory” as visco elastic foam does.

Nevertheless, like visco, latex has a natural resistance to “nasties” like bacteria, mold and mildew, even mites, making the material a good choice for those people who are either allergic and/or sensitive to various allergens.

So latex is clearly a great material. But while it is beautifully soft, it isn’t naturally springy, so some manufacturers combine latex with additives. For example, a popular approach by US mattress manufacturers is to combine natural and synthetic latex with rubber-curing agents and soaps in water-cooled stainless steel mixing tanks to make what becomes much more springy “latex” foam.

Some Reputable Mattress Brands

Simmons Bedding Company (www.simmons.com) dates back to 1870 when Zalmon G. Simmons built a mattress factory in Wisconsin. Within six years he was using woven wire to produce sprung mattresses. Later the company introduced other technological innovations including a pocket coil spring mattress and later the HealthSmart bed. Like all the mattress companies that have stood the test of time, Simmons has continued to produce mattresses that are healthy, comfortable and orthopedically correct.

Sealy mattresses – specifically Sealy Posturepedic (www.sealy.com) is a brand that is now known in many parts of the world. It dates back to 1881 when a cotton gin builder began making cotton-filled mattresses for friends and neighbors in a small town in Texas. The company launched an innerspring innovation (a posture coil) towards the end of the 1980s. Today they manufacture a variety of brands within the brand, including traditional inner-sprung mattresses, as well as both memory foam and latex foam mattresses.

Spring Air (www.springair.com) is not as old as Simmons or Sealy, but it isn’t a new brand either. In fact the company has been making quality mattresses since 1926. The company introduced “offset coil” designs and later, mattresses that featured zones (in the mattress) that catered for different parts of the body. They introduced “pillow top” mattresses in the 1970s. Today Spring Air bases are made from wood grown in certified sustainable forests. Many of their “back supporter” mattresses use quality latex in addition to visco memory foam.

Combined with foam and other materials, mattresses continue to get better and better, which is one of the most important reasons why you should invest in a quality mattress. Just make sure you what’s inside your new mattress.

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