New formulations in foam and spring mattresses are making the mattress industry a hotbed of innovation. This article delves into the broad contours of the industry, how it has moved so far and where is it headed throwing light on how future products will change the way we sleep.
Foam and Spring mattresses have long been the mainstay of the mattress industry, going back to the 1800s. There have been variations but not a revolution. However, there are exciting inflection points and some developments are acting as an indicator of the things to come. We try to look through the future and predict what happens beyond foam and spring.
Memory foam versus Pocket Spring
In the majority of today’s mattresses, you’ll find the primary support is delivered from one of two options, memory foam and pocket spring. These are either – memory foam or pocket springs. Memory foam was invented at NASA for use inside the space shuttle. However, today it’s everywhere, it’s affordable and comfortable and you bet that it has clever properties – with this plush feel, body contouring and pressure relief features, memory foam is best for side sleepers. It feels as if the sleeper is engulfed by the foam — as if sleeping inside it.
Meanwhile, the steel coil spring was developed and patented for chair support way back in 1857 and used by German inventor Heinrich Westphal who constructed the world’s very first innerspring mattress in 1871. It caught on quickly and has since become a mattress staple across the globe. It is supportive, bouncy, and firm, spring mattresses are especially popular with folks who like a “traditional” feel designed to position the sleeper more “on top” of the bed than “in” it.
With that, we are through with the basic definitions of memory foam and spring mattresses. In order to figure out how these ingredients may pan out in the future, let’s take a deep dive into the nature of these two ingredients.
How Did We Arrive Here?
It is interesting to note the path we have taken to arrive here. Steel springs made up the early beds with a thin layer of cushioning. Today, these steel springs have given way to tiny inner springs, each of which is independent of the other and can react to the pressures independently of the other. And there will be thousands of such inner springs.
Whereas memory foam was an innovation from regular foam. Memory foam, (Visco-elastic material) is denser and heavier when compared to a version of regular polyurethane foams that are oil derived. The real difference is a set of characteristics that determines the way memory foam ‘returns’ and ‘responds’ to pressures. While both are made out of the same ingredients, the precise mixture and ‘curing’ process vary.
When you lie in a memory foam bed, the heat from your body triggers a mild chemical reaction within the memory foam making the foam shape into an imprint of your body — that is, it matches the contours of your body. Memory foam does a great job of absorbing whatever pressure you apply to it. Lying on top of a memory foam mattress feels like stretching out on a soft patch of grass.
The Challenges to Overcome
• Memory Foam
The problem with memory foam is twofold. While it offers a soft, cushiony feel to sleep in, its ability to absorb heat and breathe makes it a hell of a choice for long use. Thick layers of foam act as an impassable barrier causing the heat and moisture from our bodies to build up. This makes it extremely uncomfortable to lie on for long. Because the memory foam reacts to heat, it can feel too hard in cold and saggy when it’s warm.
• Spring and Innerspring
On the other hand, pocket springs or innerspring offer more support and ventilation than foams do. They have a more open structure than their foam counterparts which allows air to circulate more freely. Also, the individual springs that make up the mattress are housed in their own little pockets and work independently of each other. So when you compress them the movement is isolated to that specific area of the mattress. Overall, a pocket spring mattress will allow you to have a cooler, more comfortable and undisturbed sleep. Preferably, look for one that has natural layers above and below the pocket springs. In order to discover the perfect mattress ingredient, the inventor needs to figure out a way to deal with three factors: Heat, Sinkage and Bounce.
Here’s a Quick Look at These Factors
Hybrid is the future- (Memory) Foam and Innerspring: With the advantages of one playing down the disadvantages of the other, some leading mattress manufacturers are experimenting with a hybrid approach. These mattresses are made of both memory foam and innerspring or pocket springs. Several layers of specially treated memory foam are placed on top of innerspring coils which are specially wrapped with foam to minimize motion transfer.
To avoid excessive heat absorption, memory foams are either gel infused or will contain copper strips. Whereas, inner springs are wrapped with foam in order to mitigate excessive transfer of motion.
The combination ensures that excessive heat is not absorbed and the mattress is not allowed to build up heat overnight. The use of memory foam and wrapped innerspring reduces excessive bounciness. So with hybrids, you get the best of both worlds.
Latex is another material we cannot forget in the mix. We believe that latex will join the Hybrid revolution and get mixed innovatively along with memory foam and innerspring fillings in mattresses. One cannot forget natural and synthetic fibre materials that are used as layering inside mattresses. These along with gels will make for the future hybrids.
Plus, sensors and digital gadgets promise a heavenly sleeping experience through intelligent temperature control, contour matching, pressure distribution through gel transport inside the mattress via inner pathways, and many more. All of these promise a new future in mattress making.