The rough idea of a mattress has been around for millennia; our ancient ancestors relied on piles of leaves or other greenery to lie down on. As people settled in areas as opposed to keeping with nomadic traditions, beds and mattresses could become a little more elaborate, although the mattresses stayed fairly rough in feel and materials until the last 100 years or so. A mattress used to be a simple casing stuffed with whatever was handy and cheap; generally corn cobs, horse hair or straw. Even the wealthy didn’t exactly lie down on billowy softness, and it wasn’t until the mid 1850’s that internal stabilizing springs were offered. This gave mattresses a far more resilient and uniform texture, but they were expensive, so only the elite upper classes could afford them. It was in the early 1920’s that millions of American’s scrimped and saved to afford this better innerspring bedding that was a far cry from the stuffed mattresses they’d tolerated until then.
The mattresses we enjoy today come in a variety of materials, although the vast majority fall into standardized sizes, making it convenient to replace them when they’ve served their purpose. Obviously, depending on the type of mattress and materials used, they’re made in very different ways, so for the purpose of keeping this article readable, we’ll focus on the very popular memory foam mattress.
Memory foam was originally intended to be used to improve the safety of aircraft seats. It was made by feeding gas into a polymer matrix and it was discovered to create a product that is both temperature sensitive, and springs back into place after pressure has been applied and removed. Over the years, the formula has been improved upon, fusing visco foam with gel particles to create memory foam that doesn’t trap body heat and has a faster spring back time. As if that weren’t enough, the gel was then produced in “beads” which has an even more efficient method of reducing trapped heat and even cools the body as it rests. Since then the addition of green tea extract, activated charcoal or aloe vera can help reduce mattress or room odours and even provide aromatherapy.
A foam or memory foam mattress comes in a range of soft to firm, which is measured by the indentation force deflection (IFD), although the foam’s density will also play a part in determining the range.
A memory foam mattress has a great way of letting the sharper parts of your body (elbows, hips, shoulders) sink deeper into the depths, allowing for a better distribution of body weight and less likelihood of waking sore and stiff or developing pressure points. It can also reduce the issues when one partner is a restless sleeper and moves around a lot, as the movements are largely absorbed by the foam. This type of mattress is durable and long lasting, as it continuously bounces back and retains its shape, and requires very little maintenance over its lifetime.