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Various types and amounts of foams are what accounts the different firmness of a mattress. While there might be the exact same innerspring system in both a pillowtop and a firm mattress, the foams used on top of the spring system make one feel firm and one feel extremely soft.
The amount of foam and the way it is incorporated into the construction of the mattress in an innerspring system bed produces three basic types:
- plush, and
Once you have determined which of those comfort levels you like the most it is easy to narrow down the selection.
There are also completely foam mattresses with no springs in them. These use either latex or memory foam and are a great option for some people.
Memory foam, sometimes referred to as viscoelastic foam, is made of open cells. The material "flows" to match the contours of the body and slowly returns to its original shape once body pressure is removed. When you lie on it, air moves from one cell to another and the foam contours to your body. The air is spread to adjoining cells and the foam "melts" under you to provide long-term balanced support and comfort. This relieves pressure points and properly distributes your weight. This even support is what makes memory foam so comfortable.
Mattresses without memory foam can create pressure points. These are places, generally around the hips and shoulders, where circulation is greatly restricted. When your body senses this restriction, it signals your brain that you are uncomfortable and your brain reacts by telling you to turn over. This can happen 40-60 times a night. Memory foam in mattresses decreases this tossing and turning resulting in a more restful sleep.
Memory foam is also temperature reactive. In other words, it will become softer as your body temperature starts to warm it up. Likewise, when it is cool it will feel firm.
Two important qualities to take into consideration when selecting a memory foam mattress are density and thickness. Density is proportional to quality. The denser the foam, the better quality it is, and the more expensive it is to make. Cheaper memory foam is made up of a lot of air and can break down in a matter of 3 to 5 years. While it might seem cheaper to get a lower quality mattress, you will be replacing it in a few years and will not experience the good support while you have it.
Memory foam thickness is important too. Too thin of a layer of memory foam can leave you resting on the high resiliency foam in the base of the mattress which is hard and uncomfortable. Too much poor quality memory foam can lead to extensive body impression and sagging. The more high quality memory foam the better.
Latex foam used in mattresses is made by processing chemical substances or by mixing natural rubber with special additives. It is a milky white liquid made of tiny rubber particles dispersed in water. It is then whipped with air to become foam, then heated, vulcanized, and cured. This is the traditional and least expensive way to make latex material used in mattresses and is called the Dunlop method.
The other way is called the Talalay method. This is a 7 to 8 hour process and produces finer and more resilient latex called Talalay latex. While memory foam tends to be softer and more pliable, latex has more elasticity and a quicker recovery.
Latex is also more breathable and tends to dissipate heat better. The surface elasticity of latex provides for diminished pressure on the body while still conforming to the sleeper's profile. One of the best benefits of latex is its durability. Latex is extremely durable and can literally last a lifetime. It is also naturally hypoallergenic making it the perfect choice for allergy sufferers. It is naturally resistant to dust mites, mold and mildew.