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What’s Inside A Mattress: The Anatomy of A Mattress

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Do you ever wonder what’s giving you that feeling of support and comfort? Ever thought about what’s inside your mattress?

Although it’s something that we all use daily, a mattress’s inner workings and components are not something that we, as its users, often think about. Mattresses are definitely more than what meets the eye, and they are intricately crafted and engineered with different materials that complement each other. These developed technologies come into play with one another, thus creating what we know now as the mattress, our haven for rest.

Key Takeaways

  • Mattresses have four main layers, namely the comfort, support, transition, and base layer; all of these work together to achieve optimal support and comfort for their users.
  • Each common type of mattress has different materials that comprise it.

The Main Components and Layers of A Mattress

At first glance, a mattress may appear to simply be a platform with padding or cushioning. When you look deeper, it can’t be simplified to just that. Its materials are meticulously selected, and each layer and component serves a specific function. All of these choices involving different layers inside of a mattress are made carefully to create a particular type of mattress, and at the end of the day, lead to your restful sleep for the night’s sleep. Let’s see what these different layers are and how their arrangement contributes to your desired high-quality sleep.

Cover and Quilting 

The mattress cover is an encasing layer and can be made of synthetic materials like polyester or rayon or natural fibers like cotton or wool. While some covers can be removed for cleaning, the majority should be spot treated because they are permanent.

Initial comfort and cushioning are provided by a layer of quilting or padding placed beneath the cover. This layer is permeable to effectively drain heat because it is closest to the sleeper's body. The mattress's initial plushness may not accurately represent its capacity for pressure alleviation.

If you are based in Australia and having a hard time sleeping because of the heat retention of the mattress, you may also want to look into these best mattresses for hot sleepers in Australia.

Lazycat Spring Mattress’s cover
Lazycat Spring Mattress’s cover

Comfort Layer

The first major layer is known as the comfort layer. As its name implies, the main role of this layer is to provide comfort and deliver the sensation of the surface being soft and supple the moment you lay on the mattress. These materials are to provide optimal support and pressure relief in view of what type of mattress it is used for. Depending on the manufacturer, these materials commonly include memory foam, polyurethane foam, natural fibers, polyfoam, latex, coils, and many others.

Beyond being just materials for comfort, as stated, these different materials are chosen depending on the type of mattress and its goal. This layer is critical in adequate spine alignment and preventing any pains and aches due to pressure applied in unfavorable body areas upon extended use. This layer must cause one’s weight to be more evenly distributed and reduce the pressure in areas such as the lower back, hips, and shoulders. Different factors also have to be considered, such as the position in which one sleeps, motion isolation, the breathability of the materials, temperature retention, and many others.

Here is a summary of the different possible materials for the comfort layer, as well as their functions or why they are used:

Comfort Layer MaterialCharacteristics
Polyfoam
  • Highly varying qualities depending on the method of production;

  • Lower density;

  • Less deep contour on the body.
  • Latex
  • Limited sinking of layers;

  • Highly breathable and cooler temperatures;

  • High motion transfer.
  • Memory Foam
  • Softens upon exposure to body heat;

  • Excellent body contouring and pressure alleviation;

  • High absorption of noise and pressure.
  • Natural Fibers
  • Alternative to memory foam, latex, and polyfoam;

  • Common natural fibers include;

  • Excellent cushioning, durability, and breathability.
  • Microcoils
  • Good body contouring for pressure relief;

  • High resilience and durability;

  • Cost-effective.
  • Essentially, there’s much more to this layer than just that feeling of coziness that it brings you. It is carefully selected to contour your body well and create comfort to maximize the quality of your sleep. 

    Support Layer

    The support layer acts as the main foundation and essentially the core structure for support. Compared to the comfort layer above the mattress, these layers are found at the bottom. Also, while this is typically made with materials similar to the comfort layer, it is constructed with firmer versions of these materials or firmer materials altogether. These include firmer polyfoams, latex, innerspring coils (i.e., Bonnell, offset, continuous, encased), and many others. Additionally, these core layers are also designed such that they can provide adequate support for your hips and shoulders.

    Another one of its important roles is reinforcing this support for the edges of the mattress, such that it doesn’t sag. It also aids in motion isolation and lets the mattress breathe. It can also provide extra lumbar support if a firmer feel is needed, and it generally prevents the sinking of the mattress while offering greater structural integrity.

    Edge support of the Newentor Hybrid Mattress
    Edge support of the Newentor Hybrid Mattress

    If you come from Australia and need extra lumbar support through a firm mattress, you may consider trying to look the some of the best firm mattresses in Australia. 

    Transition Layer

    Near the mattress base, the transition layer sits between the soft comfort layer and the hard support layers. This layer provides additional cushioning to prevent your body from slipping through the softer comfort levels and into the firmer support layers below, Additional strength, stability, and support for your body weight can be added by this layer. Usually consisting of poly foam, latex, or memory foam, transition layers can also occasionally include micro coils.

    Base or Foundation Layer

    A decent foundation is essential for making your bed more sturdy and lasting. There are numerous foundations to choose from. Choose a high-quality foundation that is the suitable type for your mattress, according to the manufacturer. For example, there are box springs provide coil-supported mattress lift and weight absorption for extended mattress life.

    In the past, the base or foundation layer of my bed was the key to keeping my mattress intact and firm for longer. It may seem trivial initially, however, in the long run, it becomes one of the reasons your mattress is able to uphold its shape over time.

    Pro Tip: Choose your base depending on the type of mattress that you have, or consult on what type of base might be the best for making your mattress last the longest.

    Common Types of Mattresses and Their Components

    While all mattresses have different layers, it’s important to consider how the contents of these layers will be defined by what type of mattress it is in the first place. Portions inside a mattress are constituted by different materials depending on its type, with each type serving a different function. For example, you may be curious about how they are distinct, like foam vs spring mattresses, a latex vs hybrid, and so on. If this is the case, continue reading below to see how different these mattress components are!

    Memory Foam Mattresses

    Memory foam's foundation is polyurethane foam, which was developed in the 1950s by mixing water with halocarbons or hydrocarbons. Depending on the chemical reagents utilized, this liquid that turns into foam can be used to manufacture everything from automotive parts to spray liners to sleeping surfaces. Polyols mixed with water and a chemical known as diisocyanates are currently widely utilized to make memory foam for mattresses. Depending on the blowing agents and additives employed to provide more or less airflow and spring, the solution rises with the structure opening. These mattresses vary greatly in firmness, density, and thickness. When I use memory foam mattresses, these deeply press into the body to relieve pressure points and it provides a very high level of comfort compared to other mattress stuffing. This is also apparently one of the main reasons it has become popular amongst consumers.

    Remember, if you are actively searching for the best memory foam mattress in Australia , don’t forget to try out these mattresses for yourself and see how they relieve pressure on different parts of your body.

    A memory foam mattress on a bed frame
    A memory foam mattress on a bed frame

    Innerspring Mattresses

    Modern innerspring mattresses are a variation that uses individually wrapped steel coils. This adjustment was made to reduce noise and motion transfer and improve sleep quality. Customers prefer these mattresses because of their inexpensive cost, range of hardness options ranging from ultra-firm to very soft, and their capacity to deliver effective airflow for a cooler sleeping experience. Diverse organic materials like canvas, cotton, or wool are used as coil coverings, and the thickness and amount of these innerspring coils vary across models and impact mattress cost. As innerspring mattresses tend to be the most cost-effective, if you are looking for the best cheap mattresses in Australia, there may be a chance these will be innerspring mattresses. 

    Latex Mattresses

    For latex mattresses, its main constituent is taken from the rubber milk of the Hevea-Brasiliensis or Radium Natural Talalay trees. Butadiene or styrene, two petroleum-derived byproducts, are combined with natural rubber in synthetic or blended latex mattresses. These mattresses are available in several configurations, with 100% natural organic latex costing more than mixtures of synthetic materials.

    Variations in firmness and thickness provide versatility. Latex mattresses can be further customized for more individualized comfort by adding or removing unique layers.

    Like fans of memory foam, those who favor latex mattresses enjoy how it molds to their bodies, easing aches and pains. Additionally, the interchangeable layers accommodate various sleeping habits within a single bed.

    I’ve also looked for more eco-friendly sleeping choices. I’ve noticed that latex mattresses tend to be quite a popular choice if one of your priorities is finding a mattress that is made from organic or eco-friendly material. If you are looking for latex mattresses for your home, you may want to consider these best latex mattresses in Australia.

    Hybrid Mattresses

    Nowadays, a lot of mattresses feature traditional innerspring support structures inside of a mattress together with memory foam or latex comfort layers on top. (1) Hybrid mattresses come in a variety of thicknesses. These can range from 1-2 inches of foam, even up to 17 inches. The range of firmnesses is from firm to plush. The coil type, mattress thickness, and gauge vary just like any innerspring mattress. It has the widest range of features, and it is exceptionally versatile. Moreover, hybrid mattresses may offer excellent back pain relief and do some conforming to the body if this is what the user prefers. Maintenance requirements, noise levels, and motion isolation are minimal for this kind of mattress.

    Other Materials For Mattresses

    Aside from the usual parts of a mattress filled exclusively with solid materials, airbeds and waterbeds exist. These provide a different sleeping experience because of their distinct mattress fillings in the liquid and gaseous state. These unique mattress types demonstrate how different components, such as air or water, may adapt to our body movements and sleeping environment.

    Waterbeds 

    Water mattresses provide a unique and incredibly adaptable resting surface since they have a bladder or a chamber made of durable and flexible vinyl that is filled with water. This water chamber is typically divided into several compartments for increased stability and decreased motion transfer. Waterbeds offer the impression of floating, and comfort layers can be added for more support and cushioning. So, if this is the kind of sleep experience you want, think about this mattress.

    Airbeds

    Airbeds are comprised of inflatable chambers inside the mattress itself. With this, the mattress can be adjusted with an electric or manual air pump until to your preferred degree of firmness. Also, additional comfort layers can be added to airbeds to improve overall comfort and feel, depending on the manufacturer.

    In the use of airbeds, it’s important to make sure that the material is thick and durable enough to withstand your weight over time. I’ve experienced airbeds eventually deflating or becoming punctured over time due to poor materials, and so it’s important to always know the weight capacity of your airbed, what your material is, and how long it is expected to last.

    Pro Tip: If you are unsure about how long your waterbed or airbed is meant to last, ask the staff or company you bought it from. Remember, these beds are more susceptible to hazards or spills should they become punctured or deflated.

    What Mattress Materials Should I Avoid?

    Questions have been raised concerning different additives and synthetic reagents added inside of a mattress during manufacturing, as they are health hazards if present in large quantities during off-gassing. These include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and flame retardants released by materials like polyurethane foam and other foams made from petroleum (X). If found to still be in large quantities due to incomplete reactions in these synthetic foams or materials, these may be linked to short-term health hazards (2).

    To mitigate this, there is a growing market for organic, natural, and non-toxic mattresses as safer substitutes. People can lessen their exposure to hazardous substances by choosing mattresses made from materials like cotton, wool, steel coils, and natural latex.

    My Experience With Uncertainty Towards Mattress Materials

    It is important to note that while some mattresses have the potential to harbor these synthetic toxic chemicals, when I’ve bought mattresses in the past, I’ve been reassured that all mattresses undergo quality assurance checks prior to shipment to ensure that these have been removed or minimized. While mattresses are generally known to be safe for use, it is still important to be wary and aware of these potential hazards. However, if you are uncertain about the safety of your product, feel free to consult with where you bought your mattress. 

    Pro Tip: Give your mattress enough time to off-gas. Keep the mattress in a well-ventilated room to off-gas, and do not directly inhale the fumes it is emitting.

    How Mattress Components Come Together

    Mattress components come together during mattress assembly. First, the core or support layers act as the main foundation. These are usually at the bottom of the mattress. The comfort layers are added above this, with transition layers being placed in between these two as needed. Above this, the cover is then placed, and it is ensured that all the layers are encased together to create the shape of the mattress. This also provides a protective layer for the mattress.

    Once placed, the layers and mattress components become secured through whatever bonding method that the manufacturer prefers. This is typically in the form of adhesives or, more commonly, stitching.

    Lastly, before being shipped for commercial sales, quality checks are the last step for these mattresses. They’re expected to be durable, consistent, and sufficient in achieving the parameters that the company has set. If it is able to pass these standards, then the mattress officially becomes ready for consumers. If you are in Australia and wish to have a mattress delivered straight to your doorstep, then you may want to consider these best mattresses in a box in Australia.

    FAQ

    Can I ask to customize a mattress' internal components to fit my personal sleeping and comfort preferences?

    Customizing the internal components of a mattress is possible, but it is uncommon and may prove to be challenging. Mattresses are already engineered with specific combinations of materials to ensure support and comfort, and so changing these components after purchasing your mattress requires an extensive understanding of mattress materials and technology. It is more practical to select a new mattress type or add accessories to your current mattress as opposed to having it reupholstered or extensively customized.

    Conclusion 

    Now that we’ve seen what’s beneath the surface of a mattress and its composition, we see that mattresses are not simply the padded platform or cushion we initially made it out to be. It comprises carefully chosen layers, materials, and combined inner workings that work collaboratively to ensure good-quality sleep for all of us.

    References

    1. Maya Dollarhide (July 13, 2023) What is a Hybrid Mattress? Here’s What to Know Before You Shop. Retrieved from: https://time.com/shopping/article/what-is-a-hybrid-mattress/
    2. Kacie Goff (August 2022). How Bad Are The Chemicals In Your Mattress. Retrieved from: https://www.cnet.com/health/sleep/how-bad-are-the-chemicals-in-your-mattress/

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