There are only two basics components to any mattress...
Regardless of mattress type, brand or material used, any mattress can be broken down into two primary components. At the bottom, the thicker base of the mattress is considered the mattress core.
While all foam cores have become very popular, for over 150 years almost every mattress core has been constructed from steel springs. The mattress core has one primary purpose, and that is to create enough support for the sleeper that they don't feel the mattress sagging at their hips.
However, as anyone who remembers how uncomfortable the steel springs are in a bare bones mattress, every mattress needs a more comfortable and conforming top layer, which is aptly named the comfort layer. The purpose of the comfort layers is to conform to your body's shape and sleeping position, while relieve pressure at the shoulders and hips.
Ideally, both of these mattress components work in harmony to create plenty of support for the sleeper, with enough comfort on the top that one doesn't wake up with discomfort from pressure points at the shoulders. There have been significant improvements in the materials available for both the mattress core and the comfort layer. Becoming familiar with the different materials now available will assure that you can purchase a new mattress that is both comfortable and durable enough to enjoy for years to come.
The Mattress Core
The mattress core is designed to provide full body support...
As many consumers are now aware, the most significant change in mattresses over the last 25 years was the introduction of full foam mattresses cores. This trend began with the introduction of the the Tempur-Pedic memory foam mattresses. While the memory foam material is only used for the top, or comfort layer, of these mattresses, the supporting core is constructed from layers of polyurethane foam.
After the public was introduced to polyurethane foam cores, their popularity has spread like wildfire, most often in memory foam mattresses. That's not a surprise, as foam is considerably more comfortable than steel springs, and when high quality foam, such as natural latex foam, is used in the mattress core, foam is much more durable than inner springs.
Choosing the best foam for your mattress core...
Not all foam is created equal, leading to significant variations in durability and comfort. A little research will quickly convince the consumer that natural latex foam stands clearly as the top choice for foam. Not only is it the most durable of all foams, it is also the most comfortable foam, and is completely free from chemicals and VOCs.
The only other satisfactory choice is high density polyurethane foam, which does not mean firmness, but rather a foam that uses more material to create any given firmness. Polyurethane foam is a petroleum based foam, and even with a little natural oil added, as in so called "eco-friendly foams," is never natural.
While it lacks the comfort and durability of latex foam, high density poly foam is significantly more durable than medium density poly foam, which will have less material used for any given firmness, and is therefore less durable, shortening the useful life of your mattress.
The choice for your mattress core is simple, a foam core is more conforming and comfortable than inner springs, including those with pocketed coils, or high coil counts. Choose natural latex for the most durable and comfortable foam available, and the absence of toxins or VOCs. If you are choosing a mattress with a polyurethane foam core, be certain that all of the foam layers use only high density foams for a significantly more durable mattress than those using medium density foams.
The Mattress Comfort Layer
The top mattress layer(s) are the comfort layer...
Lets go back to the most common mattress, the inner spring. As you can imagine, if you slept directly on the steel springs, an inner spring mattress would be quite uncomfortable. The solution to create a more comfortable mattress is a top comfort layer, which can be composed of a single layer of foam, or multiple foam layers can also be used. Pillow top or euro top mattresses are the most common inner spring mattresses with well defined comfort layers.
Comfort layers serve a very simple purpose, they are softer than the mattress core, and are designed to reduce pressure points at the shoulders and hips, or conform to the small of the back for back sleepers. In an inner spring mattress the comfort layer is a necessity to shield the sleeper from the harsh feeling of the steel inner springs. In mattresses with a more comfortable foam core, the comfort layer offers a transition zone to a softer and more conforming comfort layer.
Nowhere is the quality of foam more important than the comfort layer...
Nothing is more destructive to the quality of your sleep than the dreaded body impression, as this means that your spine is no longer aligned, therefore the useful life of the mattress has ended. The primary culprit for a body impression is the use of low quality foam in the comfort layer of the mattress, a very common occurrence in today's pillow top, or euro top, mattresses.
Pillow tops mattresses with multiple layers of different foam are the prime example of selling mattresses by using "bells and whistles," and are not only confusing, but also will breakdown as quickly as the least durable foam layer used.
The conforming qualities and unmatched comfort of natural latex shines in the mattress comfort layer. The good news for those that have had expensive pillow top mattresses quickly develop body impressions, creating discomfort, natural latex offers unsurpassed durability, unmatched by any other foam.
The primary source of comfort in any mattress is to have the perfect firmness, which is far superior to the limited firmness options available in most mass produced mattresses. The firmness options of natural latex allow latex mattresses to be custom designed to create the perfect firmness for each individual's size and sleeping position.
Understand Foam Durability
The durability of the foam in any mattress determines its useful life...
When mattress shopping, it's very simple, you will be buying foam, either in the top comfort layer, or in a full foam mattress. Educating yourself about the comfort and durability of different foams will save you from the cost of continually replacing mattresses that breakdown far too quickly to be practical or cost effective.