Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From Foam to Foundation

We sleep on them every night, look at them every day and complain when they're too small, but how much do we actually know about mattresses, and what are some of the advances made in recent years to ensure that just your extra bit of rest goes down well..?
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The actual word mattress comes from the Arabic words meaning "to throw" and "mat" or "cushion", the relevance being that in the Middle Ages, European crusaders adopted the Arabic way of sleeping on a number of cushions that had been thrown on the floor, paving the way for the modern mattress.

Modern mattresses are typically made-up of a spring core, or sometimes materials such as latex, viscoelastic, and other poly-urethane type materials. Also mattresses can be filled with air or water, and more rarely a variety of natural fibres.

Mattresses in the UK in particular come in many sizes, from mini single mattresses - which measure 30×75in (76.2×191 cm) - right up to super king - which measure 72×78in (182×198 cm). Other sizes of mattresses include twin single and queen size.

Inside the mattress springs are used to support the body of the user, there are many types of spring in use, and they all have different features which set them apart from each other. One of these types of spring is the Bonnell coil which is one the oldest and most common type of spring, prevalent in cheaper mattresses. This type of coil is hourglass shaped and was devised for the pushchair seats of the 19th century. Another type of coil is the offset coil, which is hinged thus allowing the bed to contour to body shape for greater comfort.

One of the most significant advances in ‘mattress technology' are memory foam mattresses, which are made of either latex or viscoelastic memory foam. Amazingly memory foam technology was first introduced by NASA as a way to increase the safety of aircraft cushions, but has been on the civilian market for a while now as a futuristic alternative to conventional mattresses.