03.The comfort factor
CHOICE members told us the problems they experienced with their mattresses. Common complaints include how their mattresses were “too hot”, sagged too much forming ridges in the middle of the mattress. Mattress expert, Nick Ristevski, who has 37 years' experience selling and custom-making mattresses, explains: “A mattress is made up of many layers. The fabric on top can be made of polyester, cotton, viscose or bamboo and it covers the foam or latex layer, or a pillow top made up of thicker foam or latex. Below this, at the core is the memory foam, foam, latex, or springs. These materials react differently to weight, impact and body heat. Their capacity to retain and release heat depends on the nature of the material, its density and how all the materials are layered to allow the mattress to breathe.”
For example, some latex mattresses feel “too hot” because the perforations (or cells) in the latex core are small (see photo) and does not allow much airflow, compared to say, a latex core with much larger cells or a pocket spring mattress. “Unfortunately, consumers almost never get to see the cross-section of mattresses and this is critical in choosing the mattress that’s best suited to you,” says Nick, who shops regularly for mattresses and cuts them up after he buys them to analyse how the mattress is layered. He showed CHOICE the cross-section of a branded $4000 latex pillow top mattress, which was marketed to Nick as comprising a “full latex core”. Cutting through the mattress at his Rockdale Mattress Factory, Nick found the latex core sandwiched by several cheap foam layers. “Foam is less resilient compared to memory foam, latex or spring, and it allows good airflow, but it also loses its shape easily,” he says. That's how ridges or humps form on foam pillow top mattresses.
The logic of airflow also follows with the bed base. For example, a bed base comprising of slats allows more airflow than a box base.
Your mattress questions answered
Why are so many mattresses sold on discount?
Retailers mark up mattresses so they can heavily discount them, knowing most customers want to buy on sale. In reality, a “sale price” is usually the true retail price. However, mattresses discounted at more than 50% may have been repaired or returned.
Why do mattresses sometimes feel hot?
The density of materials (such as latex) compressed under your weight restricts air flow, which means the material under your body absorbs and retains your heat. Always ask how big the open cells in a latex mattress are; the bigger the cells, the less heat absorbed. Lack of airflow means a latex mattress will at first feel stiff and cold in winter, but becomes more malleable when it warms up from your body heat. Foam allows more airflow, but is the least resilient of mattress materials and loses shape quickly.
Why do ridges form on a mattress?
Ridges and body indentations are normal on almost every mattress, but bed buyers aren’t usually told this at the point of sale. Foam, memory foam or latex pillow tops are more susceptible to higher ridges. Body indentations up to 32mm are normal, but deeper dents formed during warranty may indicate a mattress defect.
Do more dollars always equal a more comfortable mattress?
Yes. Put simply, fewer materials are used in cheaper mattresses. Also, a mattress with Bonnell springs (an older spring system) is cheaper than one with multiple pocket springs. Ask about its composition and how much material is in the mattress – an expensive mattress will be considerably heavier.
Should I return a faulty mattress to the retailer or the manufacturer?
Under warranty laws, you should first contact your retailer. The sale of contract entitles you to insist that the retailer provide you with a refund, replacement or repair, even if it’s a manufacturing fault. If your retailer is unable to assess the damage, it should arrange delivery of the item to the manufacturer. You can also approach a manufacturer for replacement or repair, but not refunds, because your sale of contract is with the retailer, unless the manufacturer is also the retailer.
- 10% of survey respondents tried to return their mattress because they were dissatisfied and 36% of these members found difficulties doing so. See our warranties article so you know your rights.
- 41% replace their mattresses every six to 10 years.