There is not a perfect mattress that fits everyone. The best mattress is the one that offers you best comfort and a good price-performance ratio. Therefore the first question when buying a mattress is what are your sleeping habits, your requirements and what extras do you need. Be aware that the different technologies offer you different kinds of comfort and that there is a broad variety of qualities. Mattresses that look alike at first sight may be different.
Which technologies are available?
Polyurethane foam is a synthetic, petroleum based material that was engineered in the 1940s to replace more expensive natural resources such as rubber. Rapidly expanding beyond the war uses it was initially designed for, polyurethane foam today is one of the most widely used materials around. The diversity of applications is impressive – polyurethane foam can be found in everything from medical research labs to the cushions in couches or chairs. Polyurethane foam is used in mattresses because of its good comfort and affordability.
As polyether PU foam has a semi-closed cell structure and does not enhance comfort it is seldom used for the manufacture of mattresses. So-called polyether PU foam with its open cell structure is used in mattresses in the medium/low quality range. It is also commonly known ass “standard PU foam” or “polyether foam”.
High resilient foam, or shorter HR foam, is characterized by an irregular cell structure showing high flexibility and elasticity. HR foam is one of the most commonly used mattress core materials, especially in mattresses of the medium/medium and medium/high range. High resilient foam has anti-microbial properties, which offer additional protection to people suffering from allergies. It is also flame retardant. High resilient foam is recyclable and its production technology eliminates CFCs, methylene chloride and other blowing agents that can destroy the ozone and contribute to global warming.
Visco-elastic or memory foam is made from polyurethane with additional chemicals that add to its viscosity level, thereby increasing the density of the foam and providing a cell structure different from other foams, which makes it less ‘springy’ and slower to recover.
Latex is a premium quality material derived either naturally from the sap of the rubber tree or synthetically produced. When vulcanised, the previously unstable sticky substance latex becomes stable, durable, and very elastic. A latex mattress would be very dense, if it were not always made as a foam containing holes (pincore holes), causing its independent cell structure. These holes soften the latex and make it comfortable. The larger the holes, the softer the latex core. Most latex mattresses just have one size of holes through the whole mattress, so that it has a uniform feel throughout. Some cores though are made with different sections of latex with different sized holes. This allows the bed to have different zones – softer under the shoulders and feet and firmer under the hips.
Latex is a resin obtained by cutting the bark of a tree. About 99% of all natural rubber comes from the latex of the Hevea-brasilienis tree, commonly known the rubber tree. Narrow grooves are cut into the tree’s bark. The latex oozes out of the cut in the tree, goes through the spout and into the cup. Each tree gives about a teacupful of latex per day. The rubber tree is cultivated on plantations in South Asia, South America, Africa, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
The synthetic rubber industry was developed due to lack of availability of natural rubber during World Wars I and II. Petrochemical synthetic latex is claimed to have the same properties as natural latex, and nowadays, most latex mattresses tend to be either made of synthetic latex or more typically a combination of synthetic and natural latex. The combination latex core is more resilient. Synthetic latex is cheaper and as such more cost effective for the production of mattresses.
Today’s air beds are designed to look like the familiar mattress/box spring combination, with an air-filled core providing the support instead of an innerspring unit or foam core. The air chambers are completely enclosed and protected within layers of foam. Electronically controlled they pump and release air in and out of the mattress so that comfort and firmness can be adjusted individually for each person. The air chambers of an air mattress allow the mattress to distribute body weight evenly and can gently cushion the body, providing relief to pressure points, back pain, neck, shoulders, hips, etc.
The vinyl waterbed is not as popular as it used to be, but it still has a good reputation. The newest waterbed designs are built to look like the familiar mattress/base, with a water-filled core providing the support, and layers of upholstery for insulation and surface comfort. Quality construction is critical when water is involved, so it is crucial for the vinyl and seaming to be designed for maximum durability. Make sure the floor can accommodate a waterbed’s weight.
Spring interior mattresses
Spring interior mattresses are very common around the world, they have a long and well-experienced product history and a lot of modern mattresses contain any kind of springs. As there is a high demand for spring mattresses all around the world, there are various kinds, e.g. constructed with multiple layers of foams, natural and/or synthetic fibres, and there are three main types of springs, namely Bonnell, LFK and pocket springs.
There are several shapes of spring, and it may be a good idea for a consumer to try lying on the different
kinds to see which type suits best.
- Bonnell: double cone or hourglass shaped springs
- LFK: cylindrical springs
- Pocket: cylindrical or barrel shaped springs – assembled either by centrally gluing or surface bonding between two sheets of non woven fibre material