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A mattress is a large pad for supporting the reclining body, used as or on a bed. Mattresses may consist of a quilted or similarly fastened case, usually of heavy cloth, that contains hair, straw, cotton, foam rubber, etc.; a framework of metal springs; or they may be inflatable.
The word mattress derives from the Arabic matrah, which means "something thrown down" or "place where something is thrown down" and hence "mat, cushion". During the Crusades Europeans adopted the Arabic method of sleeping on cushions on the floor, and the word materas eventually descended into Middle English through the Romance languages.
Mattresses are usually placed on top of a bed base which may be solid, as in the case of a platform bed, or elastic, e.g. with an upholstered wood and wire box spring or a slatted foundation. Flexible bed bases can prolong the life of the mattress. Popular in Europe, a divan incorporates both mattress and foundation in a single upholstered, footed unit. Divans have at least one innerspring layer as well as cushioning materials. They may be supplied with a secondary mattress and/or a removable "topper."
Early mattresses contained a variety of natural materials including straw, feathers or horse hair. In the first half of the 20th century, a typical mattress sold in North America had an innerspring core and cotton batting or fiberfill. Modern mattresses usually contain either an inner spring core or materials such as latex, viscoelastic or other flexible polyurethane foams. Other fill components include insulator pads over the coils that prevent the bed's upholstery layers from cupping down into the innerspring, as well as polyester fiberfill in the bed's top upholstery layers. Mattresses may also be filled with air or water, or a variety of natural fibers, such as in futons. In Southeast Asia, bedding is made with kapok. In 1900 English-born engineer, James Marshall introduced the first individually wrapped pocketed spring coil mattress now commonly known as marshall coils and founded Marshall Mattress, a company that bears his name and is still in operation in Toronto, Canada. He allowed VI-Spring patent rights in England where they were known as Marshall Mattress of England until the 1930s.
In North America the typical mattress sold today is an innerspring; however there is increasing interest in all-foam beds and so-called hybrid beds, which include both an innerspring and high-end foams such as visco-elastic or latex in the comfort layers. In Europe, polyurethane foam cores and latex cores have long been popular and make up a much larger proportion of the mattresses sold. In South Asia, coir is a common mattress material.
Mattresses thicknesses range from four to eighteen inches (10 to 46 cm).
A conventional mattress consists of two primary sections – a core or "support layer" and the upholstery or "comfort layer" – wrapped in a thick fabric called the ticking.
Upholstery layers cover the mattress and provide cushioning and comfort. The upholstery layer consists of three parts: the insulator, the middle upholstery, and the quilt.
TYPES OF MATTRESS
The gauge of the coils is another factor which determines firmness and support. Coils are measured in quarter increments. The lower the number, the thicker the spring. In general, higher-quality mattress coils have a 14-gauge (1.63 mm) diameter. Coils of 14 to 15.5-gauge (1.63 to 1.37 mm) give more easily under pressure, while a 12.5-gauge (1.94 mm) coil, the thickest typically available, feels quite firm.
Connections between the coils help the mattress retain its shape. Most coils are connected by interconnecting wires; encased coils are not connected, but the fabric encasement helps preserve the mattress shape.
There are four types of mattress coils:
The insulator separates the mattress core from the middle upholstery. It is usually made of fibre or mesh and is intended to keep the middle upholstery in place.
The middle upholstery comprises all the material between the insulator and the quilt. It is usually made from materials which are intended to provide comfort to the sleeper, including flexible polyurethane foam [which includes convoluted "egg-crate" foam], visco-elastic foam, latex foam, felt, polyester fibre, cotton fibre, wool fibre and nonwoven fibre pads. In Europe and North America, mattress makers have begun incorporating gel-infused foams, soft-solid gels layered over foam, and poured gels in the top comfort layer of the bed.
The quilt is the top layer of the mattress. Made of light foam or fibres stitched to the underside of the ticking, it provides a soft surface texture to the mattress and can be found in varying degrees of firmness.
Until the early 2000s, beds were normally upholstered with a single fabric. This was usually a damask ticking or, for inexpensive bedsets, a nonwoven fabric covering all surfaces of the mattress and foundation. Today's bedsets are covered with up to six different fabrics: A better quality circular knit or woven damask on the top panel—the bed's sleeping surface; a matching or contrasting [usually woven] fabric on the border of the mattress; a matching or contrasting [usually woven] fabric on the foundation side panels; a 'non-skid' woven or non-woven fabric on the surface of the foundation and reverse side of the mattress; and a nonwoven dust cover on the under side of the foundation. Some North American mattress producers are beginning to use furniture upholstery fabrics on the bed's borders giving beds a more European, home furnishings look.
Latex foam in mattresses is generally a blend of the latex of the Hevea brasiliensis tree and synthetic latex, which is derived from petrochemicals and other substances and fillers. Latex foam is produced using either the Talalay or the Dunlop process. Each provides a different feel. Dunlop is generally a firmer foam, Talalay is softer. While the Dunlop process produces a foam that is more dense, the Talalay process produces a lighter foam that has more air in it. If you were to weigh each as latex cores, the Dunlop foam would be heavier because it has more latex in it. Talalay is more expensive as its production is more resource intensive. One hundred percent natural latex foam mattresses are also available from niche mattress makers.
Memory foam is affected by temperature. In a cool bedroom, a memory foam mattress will feel firmer than it does in a warm bedroom. Memory softens and conforms to the sleeper in response to body temperature and body weight. Traditional memory foam moulds to the body creating a depression the sleeper must roll out of when changing sleep positions. Mattress manufacturers have responded to this issue by using "faster response" memory foams. They spring back more quickly when the sleeper moves. Foam mattresses are also known to generally "sleep warmer" than innerspring mattresses. Mattress makers have addressed the issue with "open-cell" memory foams, pinhole cored memory foam, gel-infused memory foams, channel-cut foam cores, reticulated foam support layers and other technologies to improve air circulation through all-foam beds.
Air bladder construction varies from a simple polyethylene bag to internally baffled, multiple chambers of latex (vulcanized rubber) or vinyl with bonded cotton exteriors. Mattresses may have a layer of foam above the air chambers for added cushioning, and may be enclosed in a cover. Some such beds are termed soft-sided air beds.
Adjustable-firmness air mattresses are available. Some allow independent adjustment of each side of the bed. They are made in a variety of models from basic, no-frills ones that measure about 7" in height, to high-profile, 15" tall hybrids that contain several types of foam, pillow tops, and digital pumps with memory for individual pressure settings.
Air mattresses for medical use
Self-inflating air mattresses
Safety concerns for infants
Many parameters determine mattress quality. Laboratory test methods have been established for some of these parameters, such as pressure distribution, skin microclimate, hygiene, edge support, and long-term stability. Some of these have been developed by Duncan Bain, working on behalf of the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Other parameters, such as firmness, are more specific to the sleeper. In general, firm mattresses are recommended for stomach and some back sleepers, soft mattresses are recommended for side sleepers, and medium mattresses are recommended for the majority of back sleepers. Double mattresses are available with a softer and a firmer part, or with adjustable firmness levels, to accommodate sleepers with different preferences who share a bed.
Mattresses deteriorate over time, and the lifespan of a mattress depends on a variety of factors, notably materials, manufacturing quality, care, and the vigorousness of use. A poor quality foam comfort layer can deteriorate noticeably in 1 year, while a quality latex core can last 20 years or more; innerspring cores typically last around 10 years. The comfort layer is almost invariably the first area to fail, which is why mattresses are often double-sided, to extend the lifespan. A separate topper may be used instead of or in addition to a comfort layer, which reduces wear and is replaceable without replacing the entire mattress.
In the United States, mattress warranties are typically for 10 years or 20 years, sometimes 25 years, though this specifically addresses manufacturing defects and faster-than-normal deterioration, not expected deterioration with time. In the United States, as of 2008 there is a general expectation that mattresses should last about 10 years, and this is the average number of years Americans keep mattresses, though this varies by age group. This expectation is based on a number of factors, including: sales pitches; the expectation that mattresses will last the length of their warranty, hence 10 years or 20 years, accordingly; and comparison with other household items.
Mattress replacement cycle is a key driver of income and profits for the mattress industry – a 5-year replacement cycle yields double the sales of a 10-year replacement cycle, for instance – so the mattress industry has a financial incentive to shorten the replacement cycle. Notably, the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA) established the Better Sleep Council (BSC) in 1979 with the stated goal to "shorten the mattress replacement cycle", in addition to encouraging people to "invest in better bedding".
In terms of scientific studies, an industry-funded 2006 study by researchers at Oklahoma State University (funded by the BSC) of 59 people with poor sleep who received free new replacement mattresses for their existing mattresses 5 years or older (average age 9.5 years) found improved sleep, particularly when the existing mattresses was cheap. A followup paper by some of the same authors with additional statistical analysis reinforced these conclusions. The BSC has subsequently cited this study in the ISPA-published news magazine for mattress manufacturers, BedTimes, to advocate a more frequent replacement cycle, specifically to "consider replacing a mattress every five to seven years"; the recommendation is based largely on this study.
MAINTENANCE AND CARE
The main wear problems that can occur with a mattress are sagging, mildew, and staining. These are prevented by proper support, rotation and flipping, keeping it dry, and using a mattress pad or protector. Some symptoms of a broken or worn-out mattress include springs which can be felt poking through the upholstery layer, visible permanent sagging or deformity, lumpiness, and excessive squeaking.
Mattresses require a solid foundation which does not itself sag – a sagging foundation, such as by weak slats on a wide bed, will in turn cause the mattress to sag. Consistently sleeping in the same place and body position causes excessive wear, and thus rotating or flipping mattresses is used to reduce this: double-sided mattresses can be alternately flipped width-wise (about the long axis) and length-wise (about the shorter axis), or alternately flipped and rotated; while single-sided mattresses are only rotated, which is simpler but less effective. Flipping/rotation schedules vary between materials and manufacturers, but typically recommended is monthly for the first six months, and every two or three months thereafter. Foundations should also be rotated, if possible, though less frequently – rotating box springs twice a year is recommended. While sagging is undesirable, some level of indentation (about 8 cm or 1.5 inches) is natural if natural materials are used in a comfort layer.
Excessive wear on mattresses, such as folding and bending, placing heavy objects in one spot, or excess force on the handles, will also cause more rapid deterioration. Care should particularly be taken during transport or storage.
Mattresses require ventilation to remain dry and prevent mildew, and thus should not be placed directly on the floor or on a solid surface – slats or a box spring provide space for airflow, while solid wood or plywood (as in cheap bunkie boards) does not. Additional ventilation is recommended for natural materials, in which case leaving the mattress "naked" after stripping sheets (for example while laundering) is recommended. If a mattress is allowed to become damp, for example by wet cleaning, mildew may develop inside the upholstery; cleaning with a vacuum cleaner or mild surface cleanser and a slightly damp cloth avoids this.
Mattresses absorb fluids and stains readily, notably from nightly sweating (which results in a yellow stain) and other bodily fluids (sexual fluids or menstruation), in addition to accidental spills. These visibly stain the ticking, and seep through into lower layers. In addition to being unhygienic, hard to launder, and unsightly, such stains typically void a warranty. Thus a mattress protector is suggested to protect the mattress; this can be removed and cleaned separately, and replaced if damaged.
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