Body Impressions ... opinions from people who have been around for a long time?
Oct 12, 2010 11:56 PM
Joined: Oct 3, 2010
Points: 809
It seems that in the "old days" before the time of more and more hi tech foams, that most mattresses (besides the latex ones) were made much more out of basically two components ... the springs ... and stuffing like cotton, wool, horsehair, and other "stuff". The idea seemed to be that the "active" contouring support came from the springs and that the comfort and surface feel came from the material or padding. Now they obviously knew that these materials would compress to some degree and would often pre-compress or tuft the material but unlike the polyfoams of today, the compression wasn't because of the breakdown of the material and the quality of the stuffing wasn't degraded.

Now here's where I'd love the opinions from people who have been around a while. It seems at this time (and some of the higher end manufacturers and even some smaller manufacturers seem to still abide by this to some degree) that body impressions were actually a desireable part of the break-in process in that over time it allowed the stuffing to conform to the shape of the body in a more passive and general way and help with pressure and comfort issues. This would be the equivalent to what memory foam does today (in theory anyway) except the impression would come more from a combination of sleeping positions rather than be re-formed every time a person changed position. It seems that a body impression would personalize a mattress and help spread pressure out more passively with a relatively even level of support throughout (because the stuffing wasn't degraded), while the springs were responsible more for the active support when a person changed position or if part of their body sunk in deeper than the body impression. The habit of regularly turning a mattress would also help the body impressions to form in a "more ideal way". The upper layers were more "passive" than today and the springs were more important in the "active" part of the mattress in other words.

This approach still seems valid today and while it may not lead to a "perfect mattress" it does seem that there may be some value to this approach which is why some manufacturers still make them this way. It also seems that some people would do better with this approach than what they may otherwise end up with using a really complex layering scheme that "goes wrong". It may not be perfect but it would probably be 75 or 80% or maybe more. This is probably also where the idea of "firm is better" came from as a firm mattress didn't mean there was no contouring but that with a good and conforming body impression that once a mattress had broken in that an even firmness along the length of the body was desireable (similar to memory foam today where the pressure along the entire body is equalized) and that this even firmness came from a passive body impression working with an active spring (which didn't have to conform quite as much because the body impression had already done some of the equalizing).

I'd love to hear some feedback on this. How desireable was a body impression in these mattresses? Do you think that there is still some validity in this idea today for someone who isn't sure what else to do or is this just a "relic" of old thinking?


This message was modified Oct 13, 2010 by Phoenix
Re: Body Impressions ... opinions from people who have been around for a long time?
Reply #8 Oct 18, 2010 5:33 AM
Location: L.A. area
Joined: Jan 18, 2008
Points: 1160
I'm not sure this really adds to the discussion but I think the bottom line is that the S companies (and most others) did not change to pu form because it was better (it's NOT) but because it was cheaper and they were trying to keep the price point low because they knew most people would not want to spend over $2000 for a mattress.

Body impressions seem to be unavoidable yet it seems clear that certain materials will get them less than others. Natural latex is one that gets them less than others.

Then there's memory foam which is built on the concept that body impression is good. I think the idea of memory foam is good in theory but they have not perfected it. The fact is it breaks down too fast for many people who have sensitive backs. I believe the people who like it are mostly people who "can sleep on anything" (even though the advertise it as being good for bad backs). I'd be curious from some of you who sell mattresses (Budgy?) if you fid that to be true: that people with bad backs are more likely to NOT like their Tempurpedic. That would be my guess, based on my own experience. It started out great and after a week or two it was killing my back due to not having enough support.

I think it is clear that cotton batting and wool and silk and such natural materials make a better mattress, no? It's just that most people can't afford them.

I think the bottom line on the mattress industry today is that not only do they use cheap material like PU foam but they use the CHEAPEST of the cheapest, crappiest of the cheapest PU foam in order to make a mattress that feels fine in the store but will end up breaking down in only a few months - after the exchange option is passed.

I also think that probably a good 50% or perhaps much higher percentage of people "can sleep on anything" and that's how they get away with making and selling so many cheap crappy mattresses.

Those of us who have sleep "issues" such as bad backs or bad shoulders are the ones who have a helluva time finding a good quality mattress that works for us, and for us these cheap mattresses with PU foam are simply not going to work. I wish I was a millionaire  - for many reasons! ;-D But for one thing, so I could go out and try some really high end mattresses made with materials like cotton batting and wool and silk and see if one of them might actually give me a satisfying night's sleep.

Meanwhile I believe that DIY mattresses are the only option for those who aren't rich.

Re: Body Impressions ... opinions from people who have been around for a long time?
Reply #9 Oct 18, 2010 7:38 PM
Sweet Deals, Sweet Dreams! Premium Mattress Outlet
Location: Anaheim, CA
Joined: Oct 2, 2010
Points: 32

The big S's used poly foam because it solved two problems - it was about the same price as garneted cotton (at that time) and it met GOVERNMENT regulations to make mattresses resist combustion from a smoldering cigarette.  In fact most of the major companies kept using cotton with poly on top of the cotton because we thought cotton made a good mattress.  Cotton has some drawbacks - ever try to dry a cotton mattress after it got wet?  If a cotton mattress did have a cigarette drop on it it was not uncommon to smolder for hours before bursting into flames!

Yes there is cheap poly out there and there are cheap manufacturers who will use it - but it is cheap... why are you even looking at that kind of product?  The better manufacturers use very good high quality poly.  TDI a componet used in the making of poly is in very short supply so the poly makers would rather not use their limited supplies of TDI on junk poly.  Poly is not all that cheap.  But it does make sure that the mattress you try on the sales floor feels like the one you get home.  Thats a good thing.

Major mattress makers now have to meet new government regulations (1633) and having been on the manufacturing side I can tell you, you may not have any idea just how difficult it is to make a mattress resist an open flame of 1180 degrees for 60 minutes at five different ignition points on a mattress without bursting into flames - and do this on a national basis - meaning perhaps as many as 30 factories can get the same certified raw materials on a consistent day to day basis to meet their volume needs.  Remember there are lots of ways to meet federal 1633 regs, but only a few are applicable on a national level for 25 - 30 factories needing a reliable supply ot make mattresses five or six days a week.


As far as mattress makers making the cheapest stuff designed to last just a day or two past exchange limits or warranty limits then again I ask just what kind of product do you buy?  There is cheap product for sale and there is High vale product but at a higher price, and better performance.  However, no matterss maker can make product that will solve all sleeping problems, back problems, alergy problems, or every other problem that people want a mattress to fix.  Remember factory owners are just that factory owners - they have invested their personal money because they think they can do this as well as others or better than others - and because they are taking a risk with their own money they want a return on that investment - that seems fair to me!


If you are upset because they can't solve your sleep related problem - have you asked your doctor how to solve your problem?  And if they (Doctors) just want to throw drugs at you, or invite you back evey week for two years for another adjustment, or another round of having pins stuck in you... charging you each time for their services, and you go...    Yet we get upset at mattress makers for making money...


Most every mattress factory owner takes great pride in the product they make.  Not every maker wants to be that ultra high end mattress maker but they see a need they can fill and they make the best product they can make for a price that will sell - time after time to meet a need.  But they have pride in what they do. Most are not out to just make a buck and run! 

Now if the market place is demanding lower and lower priced product and there are only three ways to meet that demand - cheaper raw materials, lower profit margin, or new types of raw materials or technoligies - then you through in the government says certin standards have to be met, then a class five hurricane wipes out half of the worlds supply of TDI,  you have to believe mattress makers are doing a very very good job!!!.



This message was modified Oct 18, 2010 by gunman4440
Re: Body Impressions ... opinions from people who have been around for a long time?
Reply #10 Oct 18, 2010 8:01 PM
Joined: Oct 3, 2010
Points: 809
Just to add to your comment, I've been doing quite a bit of reading on the different foam manufacturers sites and they are clearly making great strides in their polyfoams.

There are quite a few who are claiming that their polyfoam is superior to Latex

Energia from Foamex is making similar claims (which they also did with resilitex which has been discontinued) as are many others.

Part of the problem I believe is that the newer and better polyfoams are not "real world" tested in terms of how long they really do last and keep their qualities. Resilitex was supposed to be amazing but then apparently the complaints started rolling in. There could be other reasons that I don't know about why they discontinued making it.

What is clear to me from the research I've done is that for now, I don't trust them as much as latex ... at least in the upper layers.

And the fire regulations in my opinion are a joke. They enact laws to "keep people safe" and protect them from themselves yet at the same time who knows how many health problems have been caused with the toxicity of some of the solutions .... not to mention the money they have cost consumers and the (mis)direction it led the mattress industry.


Re: Body Impressions ... opinions from people who have been around for a long time?
Reply #11 Oct 18, 2010 8:26 PM
Joined: Dec 17, 2009
Points: 850
obviously as with everything there are varying degrees of quality to all types of materials.  There are 'bad' poly foam's and 'good' polyfoams.  Personally I would be weary of any claim that a plastic based material will be as durable as something rubber based.  Ask a chemist what he thinks and you will get a straight answer on that, ask a poly foam manufacturer and you get marketing.  As we have seen with polyfoam, although there are likely many factors the durability is almost directly proportionate to density.  And even the highest density polyfoams (7lb Tempur foam and 8lb Venus foam) do get tremendously softer with use.  As Phoenix pointed out, we had the resilitex stuff from foamex a while ago.  I remember when that stuff came out and I was told by sales reps from Serta at the time that the stuff was like latex on steroids.  I would like to ask them directly how that all worked out for them.  Probably better for them then the consumer since they sold a lot of it and now no longer make the stuff.  In the end it was not really dramatically different from any other polyurethane foam available in the past. 

Jim: Good question about what our customers experience.  I can actually say whole heartedly that on Tempur beds in general people are much happier than on a typical mattress....but....yeah we have had people with legitimate back problems or even pressure relief issues find a good dunlop latex mattress with a healthy layer of wool to be better.  100% of our customers that ever brought back a Tempur on a comfort exchange went for a latex mattress of some variety or another and all have since been happy, two thirds of that crowd now own a Green Sleep mattress.  All told though, way less problems with that product than say a typical pillowtop mattresses which we have seen break down excessively within as little as 3 months.

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