There are various mattresses on the market today that cater to the varied ergonomic needs of the broad spectrum of customers. Comfort is the no. 1 objective for anyone buying a mattress, and all mattress manufacturers keep in mind that there is a binary concept of comfort among customers:
- Some prefer firm, springy mattresses with more support.
- Some prefer soft, conforming ones with pressure relief.
Then, there is the matter of cost. Depending on size and type, the price also varies. But an expensive mattress does not necessarily mean more comfort for you and your family. People’s preferences vary a lot when it comes to the definition of comfort. Each human body has its own idiosyncratic postures and tendencies.
So how do you take an informed decision based on ergonomics? What is the logic to choosing a mattress within a reasonable budget? How do you ensure it will last long? Mattresses typically last 5-10 years, but certain mattresses could deteriorate faster if the weight of the person regularly sleeping on it is excessive—more pressure is exerted on the mattress!
There are certain nuances that you need to be aware of. Over here, we explore the basics of them.
The 6 Main Mattress Attributes
Mattress products are understood by certain industry attributes which are listed here.
Firmness or Support:
This refers to the capability of the mattress to provide an even level for the back, resisting sagging and indentation i.e. it keeps its shape more efficiently. In certain cases, it is a positive attribute, especially for stomach and back sleepers who are more comfortable with an even sleeping plane.
This refers to the capability of the mattress to relieve the pressure exerted by the mattress on the weighing-down sleeper. A softer, less firm mattress has a higher pressure relief, and is especially helpful for side sleepers, who experience more pressure on a smaller surface area of their sides.
This refers to the capability of the mattress to serve a user’s needs over a longer time, without meaningful deterioration in form, firmness, or softness. Maintenance helps, but the simpler the mattress’s layers, the longer they last. Mattresses with spring coils in their support layer tend to deteriorate faster due to the loss of elastic energy.
This refers to the capability of the mattress to retain heat within its structure. A softer, deformable one tends to restrict airflow as the sleeper sinks into the indentation. Some materials also absorb more heat than others.
Body movements on the mattress while sleeping can cause motion transfer of the mass of mattress, such that the other sleeper is disturbed. A softer mattress can isolate this motion to smaller areas, thus preventing too much night-time disturbance. A springy mattress, on the other hand, will transfer a lot of motion.
This refers to the noise a mattress is capable of making, when someone moves on it. If two or more people are sleeping on the same bed, the slightest movement from one person can disturb the others. Hence, it is a negative attribute.
The 6 Main Mattresses
These are the 6 main types of mattresses in the market today. While mattresses differ subtly as per their material, layers, and design, there are broadly two main layers for most types i.e. the comfort layer and the support layer.
The comfort layer is the softer layer of the mattress, where the lying person is in contact. The support layer is the higher density, firmer layer of the mattress, which supports the whole weight of the person and the comfort layer. There are cases where the softer layer is below and the support layer is above, but those are very rare.
These use natural cotton fibers which means they are among the softest mattresses available, providing great pressure relief, low motion isolation, and low noise levels. However, most of them tend to not have a support layer, and they sag, indent, and lose form quickly, giving them the shortest lifespan among all the mattress types. They retain a lot of heat, and, being organic, they tend to attract the most ticks and insects. They are the cheapest type of mattress, so if you’re looking for a conservative choice, and don’t mind changing mattresses every 3 years, this is a good choice.
They utilize low-density memory foam for their comfort layer, and high-density polyfoam for their support layer. These tend to be the softest type of mattress, and are the 2nd cheapest. Naturally, being softer, they provide the best pressure relief, but they also sag and indent more due to the weight of the sleeper, and tend to lose shape faster. They retain more heat, so make sure to choose bedcovers and bedsheets that have cooling properties to compensate. They have a reasonably long lifespan and also a healthy degree of motion isolation. Price range is based on size, quality, and brand. The queen, king, and California king sizes tend to be in affordable range.
This mattress has latex in its comfort layer, and either high-density polyfoam in its support layer, or high-density latex. They are firmer than foam mattresses, but still provide reasonable pressure relief and motion isolation. Unlike foam, they have low thermal retention i.e. they stay cool. This is a good choice in hot, tropical climes. Latex mattresses, while being on the more expensive side, also last very long. If you have to make your choice, make it based on these strengths.
This mattress has polyfoam in the comfort layer and support layer. But it also has steel spring coils in its support layer to enable it to stay firm, with bounce, and so as to retain its shape. This naturally means that it has bad pressure relief and low motion isolation. Noise levels are high due to the spring coils. It has a smaller lifespan but is also delightfully cheap.
This type of mattress combines foam and innerspring concepts in an interesting hybrid. It has at least a 5-cm thick comfort layer of memory foam, and has pocketed spring coils in its support layer. Due to the memory foam, its thermal retention is uncomfortably high, but it also has good pressure relief and motion isolation. Its noise level is high due to the spring coils. It has a small lifespan and is on the expensive side. Use this type when you want a compromise between innerspring and foam mattresses. There are latex hybrids as well, but the foam option is more popular.
These mattresses are unique in that they often don’t have any comfort layer and have an adjustable shape. A few of them do have a foam comfort layer, but the main concept of the mattress is its air chambers. There are usually 2-4 air chambers which can be inflated and deflated to adjust its firmness according to personal preference. This makes it extremely versatile — able to have high pressure relief and well as high firmness — and that’s why it’s the most expensive type. It also has a long lifespan if maintained properly. However, it can be liable to malfunctions — such as leakage of air — after which repairs can be very expensive or even impossible. So make sure to understand its structure and usage before spending your hard-earned money on it.
Now that you understand the 6 broad types of mattresses available, and what their strengths and weaknesses are, choosing one should be easier for you. Whether you’re ordering them online or making a choice in a brick-and-mortar store make sure to remember their characteristics.
Nowadays, some of the manufacturers and brands have a provision for a sleep trial, going up to a month. If you don’t get that option, you can always test out the mattress in the store itself. Make sure to do some mattress research before you visit the store, and you should be good to go!