The older amongst us remember growing up with these mattresses. We had great fun jumping on our beds as kids, despite the stern instructions of our parents not to do so, enjoying the trampoline-like sound of those creaky coils! These coils are made of a basic pocket-coil system wrapped in fabric. Spring mattresses are cheaper to make than modern beds, which is why they are still on the market today and they are significantly cheaper than a modern memory foam mattress.
If you have ever wondered about the cause of that uncomfortable mattress spring poking into your side, your spring-coil mattress has probably reached its sell-by date.
By design, a spring mattresses does not adjust to body heat, nor to the anatomical contours of a sleeping person, which is why some bed manufacturers add a layer of memory foam on top of the mattress to allow for extra comfort. Without this added memory foam, a spring mattress is incapable of reducing friction on anatomical pressure points, such as the shoulders and hips. The spring mattress simply pushes back against the body with the same force the body weight applies to the mattress. The long-term impact of the opposing forces result in poor blood circulation, restless sleep, and stiff joints.
However, spring mattresses are quite durable and can last up to 10 years, if taken proper care of. But, experts reckon that a spring mattress loses nearly 20% of its firmness and support in the first year of usages and starts to sag after merely two years.
There is no dispute amongst the informed that spring mattresses are rather dated. Modern advances resulting from sleep technology research and development, have dramatically impacted on the choice of mattresses available today. Traditional spring mattresses are a more affordable option, but no longer a long-term investment as opposed to modern mattresses manufactured with space-age engineered memory foam.
Memory Foam Mattress
One of the many useful inventions of the famous American space agency, NASA, is memory foam. From a mattress perspective, it consists of layers of foam to create a firm mattress that absorbs, or hugs, the anatomical contours of the human body.
Originally, NASA referred to memory foam as “slow spring back foam” because it has an open-cell solid structure that essentially matches pressure applied against it, yet slowly regains its original shape once the pressure is removed. The basic design purpose of memory foam was to improve the safety and comfort of spacecraft cushions.
Technically, this revolutional space-engineered foam mainly consists of polyurethane foam, with added chemicals increasing its viscosity and density, which refers to the thickness of the foam, as well as how compact it is. The natural, highly desirable response of the high-density memory foam to body heat is to soften, and then moulding itself to the anatomical curves of a sleeping person in minutes, which is highly desirable.
Memory foam mattresses are engineered to evenly distribute body weight, allowing for significantly improved balance and support. It reduces friction and pressure on anatomically protruding points of the body. The main benefits of this adjustment to the shape of the human body, is that the mattress allows the spine to remain virtually straight when sleeping on the side. This reduces strain on the spine resulting in less muscle tension, reducing sleep related backache. It also reduces pressure on the shoulders while sleeping.
Basically, memory foam mattresses have the same chemical composition, but the density and thickness of the layers differ between brands. Typically, a high-density mattress offers a longer lifespan because it has better compression ratings. The result is that the mattress does not loose its support during heavy, regular use. It is less likely to sag in frequently utilised places, such as the edges where a person sits when getting up out the bed every morning. Due to the superior design, manufacturers are confident enough to offer up to a 20-year warranty on these mattresses. This is about double that if traditional spring mattresses.
- A key benefit of the memory foam mattress is that it only needs to be rotated once every six months.
- A memory foam mattresses distributes the body weight evenly which implies that there is less pressure on different points of the body. Memory foam can reduce pressure by up to 80% compared to spring mattresses.
- There is is a significantly reduced motion transfer in a memory foam mattress. What this implies is a significantly reduced bounce when someone sits on the bed or when a sleeping person changes position. The benefit is that a spouse will be less likely to be disturbed by the movements of a restless partner, or in the event that the spouse gets up to go to the loo in the middle of the night.
- Memory foam mattresses are hypoallergenic. Dust mites typically live in the surface areas of the mattress because it’s a solid block of foam. It is therefore easier to extricate mites from the mattress by vacuum-cleaning.
- A good quality memory foam mattress spreads the body weight evenly and adjusts to the anatomical shape, which means a person will be less likely to toss and turn all night trying to find a comfortable position. The sleeper will also be less likely to wake up when their partner turns over. Basically, people are guaranteed a better night’s sleep on a memory foam mattress vs an old spring mattress.
The Cons (and solutions)
- Some, older design, memory foam mattresses tended to retain heat and sleepers could wake up hot and sweaty. Gel memory foam was invented, which mostly addressed this problem. Gel Visco or gel memory foam consists of particles fused with Visco foam to reduce trapped body heat, speed up spring back time and help the mattress to feel softer.
- A major disadvantage of a memory foam mattresses is that it may cause respiratory irritation if a person is allergic to certain chemical compounds. The mattresses are also more flammable than spring mattresses, although this has been addressed by the invention of the ‘fire sock.’ This is a flame retardant fabric that is wrapped around the mattress and acts to smother a burning flame, whatever the cause of the fire may be.
As is invariably the case with new technology, it started out as an expensive commercial option. Initially, memory foam mattresses were the mattress of choice of the more affluent, but over time, due to economies of scale resulting from widespread adoption, it became the de-facto standard for the modern mattress.