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Mattress Types

There are only four basic types of mattress widely available:

Innerspring; memory foam; latex and air.

---There are also Hybrids available that combine two or more of these surfaces, with memory foam on top of an innerspring unit being the most popular---

Innersprings are what most people are familiar with, and generally are going to be the least expensive option. A good innerspring can last six to eight years, and provide comfort and support.

While a poorly-built innerspring of similar price can start to show considerable body impressions after less than one year.

The feel choices will range from extra firm all the way to marshmallow soft.

With innersprings, there will be different levels.

Guest bed level, not meant for everyday use. Usually will be used one to three months a year. Guest-level beds will have a lighter duty construction, and be fairly inexpensive, usually $300 to $500 for a queen set.

Everyday beds will be heaver duty, built to last for six to 10 years of everyday use. They will go for about $600 all the way up into the multiple thousands. If built properly, innersprings are a good economical choice.

Memory foam beds are probably the most significant innovation in bedding in recent history. Developed in conjunction with NASA in the 1960’s originally for aircraft seats, the material hit the market as a mattress surface in 1991.

Memory foam is also known as visco-elastic foam. Simply meaning that the material will react to pressure, than return to its original shape.

Tempur-pedic introduced memory foam to the mattress-buying public. The material had a reputation for providing pressure relief, especially in long-term hospitalization scenarios, where bed sores were common.

Memory foam beds generally consist of two layers, a dense base foam on the bottom of the mattress, topped with a thinner layer of memory foam. Depending on density, memory foam beds can range from very firm to very soft.

Tempur-pedic has always been the standard for feel, performance and durability, however there are hundreds of mattress companies that now produce memory foam mattresses.

A high-quality memory foam mattress can cost from $2000 upwards of $10,000. Much of the lower cost memory foam mattresses come from China and can cost from three to four hundred up to several thousand dollars.

Many memory foam mattresses are rated according to how much a 12-inch-square cube of the foam weighs (pounds-per-cubic-foot). Tempur-pedic material weighs from four to seven pounds-per-cubic-foot.

Much of the lower-cost memory foam weighs in at between two to four pounds-per-cubic-foot.

Latex mattresses are generally considered to be the longest-lasting mattresses available. A good latex mattress should last at least 15 years and will likely last as long as you want to keep it.

Latex provides just about everything your body, and your brain, wants when it comes to getting to sleep, and staying asleep.

It is cool and it is soft, yet it lays like a firm because it gives a lift to your lumbar area. It is extremely durable and it is easy to move around on the bed. A good latex mattress will appeal to most everyone and solves more sleeping problems than any other surface, for most people.

No one is allergic to a latex mattress; the process involves several stages of washing, which removes the rubber proteins, which takes the allergen scenario out of play.

Latex mattresses have traditionally been produced with both the donlop process, and the talalay process. The dunlop process produces a denser, firmer feel, and the talalay process produces a softer, more consistent feel.

Latex mattresses have been around since about the 1930’s, and paired with a nice latex pillow, can help you get about as comfortable and deep a night’s sleep as anyone could desire.

AIR mattresses have been around for a long time. The two levels most people are familiar with are the portable, inexpensive, air beds used for camping or temporary guest beds. And the much newer, and more expensive air beds that have controls to regulate the amount of air in the air bladder.

The most popular air bed, Sleep Number Beds, are fairly expensive and, as the name implies, use air as the cushioning system. The beds will typically have two air bladders, separately controlled, and some type of cushioning foam on top.

The beds have electric air pumps controlled by either a wired or wireless control. Some find it difficult to get comfortable on air beds due to either too much foam padding on top, causing a sagging feeling, or the air bladder not giving any upward lifting feeling on the lower back. Air beds have more moving parts...hence a greater chance of something going wrong.

Why can’t I flip my new bed?

Virtually all innerspring mattresses are one-sided, or, no-flip beds. The Simmons Mattress Company introduced the no-flip mattress to the U.S. market in 2000. And almost every mattress company in the country followed suit shortly thereafter.

What does any of this mean? Well, it means you can’t flip your mattress any more. The story was that it was a convenience to the consumer because you no longer had to flip your mattress. But the other side of it is that, you cant’t flip your mattress.

The ‘short’ version of one-sided beds is this:

Back when all of the beds were two-sided, the mattresses were fairly short in height, usually seven to nine inches thick. And the springs, which were usually about five to six inches high, were in the middle of the mattress, with an inch or two of padding on each side for comfort.

The springs were the support, the padding was the comfort.

When the one-sided beds began to show up, they were much taller than the older mattresses used to be. Maybe the companies thought they had better make up for giving you a one-sided bed by giving you a thick bed


The thick beds looked impressive, fat, tall. But looks can be deceiving. The new no-flip mattresses were, on average, 12 to 22 inches thick.

This is where everything changed. Now you have a thick, tall 16-inch mattress, but the thing that provides the support, the spring, is only five to six inches tall and it is now located at the bottom of the mattress.

When we do the math, a six-inch spring at the bottom of a 16-inch mattress, leaves 10 inches of foam padding on top of the springs. Remember, with the older, one-sided beds most of us grew up sleeping in, there was usually only an inch or two of foam padding on top.

All of a sudden, the foam padding, which was meant to be a comfort layer, was supposed to function as the support system. Foam can’t support all of that weight; instead, it will compress and create body impressions.

The only company that did not have this type of flaw that we found was Simmons, the company that invented the one-sided bed. Simmons coils are nine inches tall and most of their beds are between 10 and 13 inches thick.

So the sleeper is still being supported by the steel coil system, not up to 10 inches or more of foam.

Because most people are unaware of this change in mattress construction, we tell customers all of the time, that most people buying a new bed today are buying the wrong bed.

If you stop in Mattress Mark during your search, you don’t have to be one of those people.

They all look the same; are they?

Niet, nâo, nee, nein, nahi, non, bú, không ... in a word: no. They pretty much all look the same; a bunch of white rectangles. But they can be as different as dreams and nightmares.

We already touched on innersprings. There are guest beds, kid beds, every-day beds, premium and super premium.

Guest and kid beds will generally be less expensive because there is less inside of them. If you need a bed to sleep on every day for years to come, and you choose a guest-level or kid bed, you likely will notice a significant change in that bed within a relatively short period of time.

A good every-day bed can have upwards of 900 to 1000 coils for a queen mattress. Where a guest-bed can have between 300 to 400 coils or less. It helps to be realistic when shopping, you will have to spend some money to get a quality piece. But it certainly helps to shop at a non-commishioned store --- like Mattress Mark --- where you can get good, honest advice about how much bed you really need.

Memory foam beds are, of course, not all the same either. Tempur-pedic was the first, and they are still the standard. We have never carried a brand that holds up over time like Tempur-pedic.

There are hundreds of companies selling memory foam beds, and there are certainly some decent ones out there, and for less money than Tempur-pedic, but there are none that we know of that will beat the feel and supreme durability of a Tempur-pedic.

A $1000 memory foam bed can treat you just fine, but an entry-level $2000 Tempur-pedic will treat you better.

You can go online and find all kinds of memory foam beds for prices of $500 or less, many claiming to be just as good as you know who. But many are generic foreign imports that obviously will not last very long.

Latex beds, while probably the best surface for most people, are not all the same either. There is the dunlop process vs. the talalay process. Basically during the curing process, talalay latex has air removed from the mix, and it is flash frozen. dunlop latex does not take these steps.

These extra steps allow talalay latex to be softer and more consistent as well as provide a more noticeable uplift in the lumbar area.

Dunlop is the older and less expensive of the two methods.

With latex, quality control is everything.

The better the quality control, the more consistent the mattresses.

Also, some companies put a foam core as the base of their latex mattresses, and then top the mattresses with an inch or two of latex.

An all-latex bed is vastly better than a foam core latex. That would be a bit like buying an expensive sports car and fitting it with old-fashioned wooden tires.

Bottom Line: Shop a store without the ‘handicap’ of commishioned salespeople and get an education instead of a sales pitch.

How do we choose if we both like different feels?

Generally, if one person wants or needs a firmer feel than their partner, firmer is the way to go. Simply because you can make a firm mattress more comfortable by adding a topper of some type, but you can’t firm up a soft mattress.

If the person who prefers a firmer feel settles for something softer than what they really want, they likely will never like the new mattress ... not exactly the outcome they had in mind when they decided to buy a new bed.

Another thing to keep in mind are injuries. In all of our years in the business, we have seen all kinds of injuries. Back surgery, neck surgery, pins, rods, screws, all kinds of fun stuff.

Again, here it is obviously wise to cater to the person who has the most difficulty getting comfortable.

At Mattress Mark, we ask all of the important questions so we can suggest choices that make sense for you. We want you to love your new bed as much as you want to.

I have medical issues; which type of mattress is best for me?

Depending on what is going on, the answers differ. One instance that comes up quite often is customers with really bad back problems coming in for a memory foam bed. They probably have heard about memory foam as a high-quality sleep surface, which it is.

But memory foam is not for everyone. Because of its slow recovery personality, like the commercials that show a handprint on the surface of the mattress slowly rising back up, a memory foam bed can actually cause more pain to someone with a severely injured back of neck.

When a person lays on a memory foam bed, they sink in a certain depth depending on the person’s weight and body temperature. When that person moves from their back to their side or stomach, the foam’s slow recovery properties make moving more difficult than it would be on a conventional surface. It is possible to strain muscles or hurt injured disks just by moving, turning or attempting to get out of the bed.

But most people don’t have such severe situations, and memory foam can be a wonderfully comfortable sleep surface.

Also, a very heavy person generally should avoid a ultra plush or soft mattress. It probably won’t be able to provide the support to the lower back that very heavy usually require.

Latex is the one surface that is probably the best for most people; it lays like a soft comfortable bed but supports the lower back like a firm bed. Latex mattresses are pricey, but they fix more issues than anything we have ever tried.

Mattress Mark is the area’s exclusive authorized dealer of Pure Latex Bliss mattresses.

Can’t I just buy the cheapest one?

Well, of course you could, but why would you? If you wanted a lousy bed, you could just keep the one you have.

In today’s market, it’s hard enough to pick a great bed even if you’re willing to spend some money, but if you try to cheap out, that’s just what you’ll get; a cheap bed.

Cheap beds are cheap because there’s not much in them. A cheap queen bed may have around 300 to 400 coils. Those coils will generally be made of thin wire and be short in height, usually four to six inches tall.

The mattress will usually be about seven to eight inches thick and will feel, well, cheap. There will be very little support or comfort, and whatever feel you do get will begin to deteriorate quickly. And there’s usually only one year of warranty.

A Simmons Beautyrest Ultra queen mattress, which is Level three out of seven levels of Simmons mattresses available, has 850 coils, compared to the 300 to 400 of the less expensive choices.

And the Simmons coils will be nine inches high compared to four to six inches high, and they will be thick steel instead of thin.

Also, the boxspring, or, foundation, of a cheap bed will be a wood frame with, many times, cardboard on the top surface. And the Simmons foundation will be mostly steel and much less likely to break or squeak.

If you lift up the Simmons mattress, it will weigh three to four time what the inexpensive one will weigh ... big difference.

If you buy a cheap-quality mattress, it will work. But it won’t feel very good, certainly not great, and it will begin to go downhill fairly quickly.

Do I need a new boxspring / foundation?

A foundation is designed to provide support for the mattress, and to get it off the ground. A mattress with a solid base under it will last longer than one with a damaged or broken base.

Theoretically, you could put your mattress on the floor, and it would be fine. Or on a platform bed with either a solid wood base to set the mattress on, or a slat system.

But if you don’t have either of these situations, you may need to replace the foundation when buying the mattress.

Was the foundation of the old set a high-quality steel piece or a cheap, hollow, wood frame piece?

How old is the old foundation?

Is the mattress set an everyday mattress or a seldom-used guest bed?

If you are buying an everyday mattress, it is usually a good idea to also buy the foundation.

The warranty likely states that the mattress must be supported by a capable foundation, so if you put the new mattress on your old foundation, and something goes wrong, you could be out of luck.

If you are buying a guest bed, and you think the foundation is still strong, you will probably be fine, as a guest bed generally gets much less use.

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