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    The outside of the mattress, called the quilt, is the final layer that holds the mattress together. It plays a role in the feel of the mattress. Photo courtesy of Sealy

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    While the "fit, feel and finish" of mattress covers have come a long way in recent years, it's what's underneath the cover that matters when it comes to quality sleep. Photo: Sealy Mattress.

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While the "fit, feel and finish" of mattress covers have come a long way in recent years, it's what's underneath the cover that matters when it comes to quality sleep. Photo: Sealy Mattress.


Do You Need a New Box Spring Foundation to Go with Your New Mattress?

A box spring has an interworking of steel wires that flex to support the mattress. Sealy researchers point out that the box spring acts as kind of shock absorber that takes a lot of wear and tear over the life of the sleep system. If your mattress is worn out, it’s a good bet your box spring is too. Some other points to keep in mind:

  • The foundation or box spring is meant to work in concert with the mattress to provide restful slumber. Purchasing the mattress alone means you might not get the full benefits the mattress is designed to provide.
  • The warranty on your new mattress might be voided if you don’t use the mattress with a recommended box spring.
  • Finally, federal fire safety guidelines have changed in recent years. Your old box spring may not meet those safety guidelines.

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  • Mattress Matters—A Bedding Primer

    Innerspring, foam, air or water? Learn the ABCs of mattresses for better ZZZs!

    by J.D. Walker

    With so many types of mattresses on the market, it’s enough to make Goldilocks' head spin! Clear the confusion with some basic information to help you make the best decision for a good night’s sleep.

    From the outside, all mattresses can look pretty much the same. Most feature an attractive, quilted cover over a support system (that can be made of foam, coils or springs) and some type of padding. Other sleep systems are based on air or water. However, it’s what’s underneath those pretty covers that really matters.


    Spring into Sleep

    The most popular bedding remains the innerspring mattress, accounting for almost 75 percent of mattress sales according to Consumer Reports researchers. 

    • Coils—Wire Gauge: A common way to evaluate an innerspring mattress is by its coils. Coils are made of wire, and a good mattress will have springs with a wire gauge between 12.75 and 15. When it comes to wire gauge, less is more. The lower 12.75-gauge wire will make a firmer mattress and one that will tend to be more durable. The higher 15-gauge wire will make a softer mattress, but it may not last as long as a lower gauge coil.
    • Coils—Arrangement: Beyond the basic coil, innerspring mattresses can be evaluated on how their coils are arranged. Some have hourglass-shaped springs, while others have continuous coil springs or pocket springs. Hourglass springs compress easily while they are new but with use, and over time, the mattress can be expected to become firmer. In both hourglass and continuous-coil spring mattresses, the coils are interlocked. In pocket spring mattresses, the springs are individually enveloped in a fabric covering. Each spring can compress independently, theoretically reducing the transfer of motion.
    • Coils—Amount: The number of springs in each mattress can also impact the quality of the bed. Consumer advocates say a good mattress should have a minimum of 300 coils in a full-size bed, 375 in a queen size and 450 in a king size. But don’t rely on coil count alone. Bedding manufacturer Serta points out that the construction or distribution of the coils, along with the wire gauge of those coils, will make a difference in how the mattress holds up.
    • Mattress Padding: Resting on top of the coils, but beneath the quilt (the outer fabric of which has traditionally been called ticking), is the mattress padding. It can be made with a number of materials including cotton, silk, wool, cashmere, goose down, manmade fibers, foam or combinations of the above.
    • Quilt: The outside of the mattress, called the quilt, is the final layer that holds the mattress together. Interestingly, even the quilt pattern (what appears to be the sewn pattern on the top of the mattress) can affect the feel of the mattress. Large quilt patterns make a mattress feel softer. Smaller, tighter quilt patterns make a mattress feel firmer.


    Clouds of Foam

    Another type of mattress is constructed with foam. This includes natural latex foam from the tropical rubber tree and viscoelastic foam, a manmade product developed in the 1960s by NASA for space travelers. Tempurpedic is a popular viscoelastic foam bed. Foam beds are made without springs. Instead, varying layers and thicknesses of foam provide the support. Like innerspring mattresses, all of this is encased in a quilt. While innerspring mattresses are judged by coil count, foam mattresses are often sold by density.


    Sleeping on Air

    Air mattresses have come a long way from the portable ones used for sleepovers. Like foam mattresses, air mattresses have a base foundation. The mattress that goes on top of that foundation is constructed with a series of air chambers encased in a frame. The air chambers are electronically controlled and can be automatically pumped up or deflated to give either a firmer or softer sleeping surface. On top of the air chambers is a support foam, a cushion pad and a mattress cover or ticking. Sleep Comfort, manufacturer of the Sleep Number air mattress, has even added a layer of viscoelastic foam to one of its lines of air mattresses.


    Deep Sleep

    Beyond springs, foam and air, a final category of mattress is the waterbed. A perennial favorite that seems to come and go in popularity, waterbeds offer the advantage of adjustability. Today’s waterbeds have improvements over those that were popular in the 1960s. including separate internal chambers to minimize sloshing and electric heaters that take the chill off in the winter.