Support vs. Comfort

Support vs. Comfort

While doing research or testing new beds you always face the question about proper amount of support and comfort. These are the two features of the mattress that are often missundestood and are used incorrectly.

Mattress Support

While doing research or testing new beds you always face the question about proper amount of support and comfort. These are the two features of the mattress that are often misunderstood and are used incorrectly. Support refers to the ability of the mattress to push back and resist the pressure applied by the weight of your body, thus keeping your spine aligned while you sleep. It is responsible for keeping your back in a position where muscles can relax and rejuvenate. Quality mattress will utilize different resistance to unequal body weights and provide customized support to two people. Quality of the mattress support is determined by the type of support, its construction and quality of materials used.

Firm support means that a support component of the mattress – the inner core – is made out of extra firm materials, either higher density foam for foam beds or larger amount and construction of coils for innerspring beds. Do not confuse firm support with firm comfort, where comfort is a feel on the top of the mattress utilizing higher density padding layers. There are several support systems available: innerspring or coil support, foam support using polyurethane foam or latex foam, gel support, air and water support.

Mattress Comfort

Comfort refers to the feel of the top of the mattress when pressed against your body surface. It is what makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. In other words, it is an amount of softness you feel or the level to what your body sinks into the mattress. Comfort is provided by adding upper padding layers, sometimes also called upholstery layers on the top the support system.

By using different shapes, amounts and densities of padding materials (polyurethane, gel, latex and memory foams, polyester, cotton, wool, cashmere) varying levels of softness or hardness can be achieved. It is primarily a matter of personal preference. Typically, model descriptions like firm, plush and pillow top refer to the amount of padding, and thus the overall comfort level and softness of the mattress. With the firm model having the least amount and pillow top having the most amount of padding on top. Comfort is primarily a matter of personal preference, but there are some basic rules you can follow:

Typically, if you are a side sleeper you need more padding on the top of the mattress (plush, pillow top models) to accommodate your shoulder and hip and relieve pressure from these body parts, so you don't toss and turn all night long. If you are a back sleeper or back and side sleeper you can choose between medium to medium-soft feel, where it provides enough padding to relieve pressure, yet it is not too soft for your hips to sink too much when you lay on your back. For stomach sleepers is recommended fairly firm feel to prevent your hips form sinking in and arching your lower back.

Some manufacturers will provide ILD number on their spec sheet that correspondents with foam firmness and is a most of the time is a good indication of the overall mattress firmness. Indentation Load Deflection or ILD refers to a measurement of the firmness of a layer of foam. The ILD number represents the amount of force in pounds required to compress the foam by 25%. ILD of 14-22 is generally considered soft; 23-29 medium; 30-37 firm; and 38 and higher extra firm. Also referred to as Indentation Force Deflection (IFD).