Stack of mattresses

Interview with a Mattress Expert

We are currently working closely with a few British factories to develop our range of mattresses and although over the 5 years that we have now been operating we have learned a fair bit we realised that we still have a lot to learn.

Mark, who is our key contact at our mattress and upholstery factory in Wiltshire has been involved in mattress manufacturing for over 15 years and kindly took the time to tell us all about what is most important to consider when buying a mattress.

How important is it to get the right mattress? Can the type of mattress we use really impact sleep quality?

It is so important. Your mattress can make such a difference not only to your sleep, but to your whole day. For example; a mattress that is too firm or showing signs of age can cause interrupted sleep and that will impact massively upon your waking time too.

How can each of us best determine the right mattress for us?

Whilst a mattress is not a ‘one size fits all’ item; it is possible to apply some common sense. A couple of points that will help improve your sleep are: get a mattress that is as big as you can, and get one that has natural fillings on top of pocket springs. The size will keep you cooler as any partner will be further away. The pocket springs offer the best support.

Pocket sprung mattress cross section

How much do you need to spend to get a quality mattress? Is there a minimum you should spend and at what price point is quality no longer really improving?

A mattress is like almost no other item that you will buy. Think about the length of time that you will spend in it. Also think about the use you will put it through (sitting, sleeping, reading, eating, family time etc). Then consider how much you will spend on a sofa that you will use for less than half the time of a mattress. So spend what you can afford to spend, it’s an investment in your health and well-being too.

Pillowtop pocket sprung mattress

Like any product, there does come a point where any improvements to the product are not that notable. A good friend of mine who owned wine shops in France, always maintained that there is a price point where vanity overtakes the quality and the satisfaction of the item.

MTL – Thanks Mark – This is a great answer but people may be left wondering what the price point is where vanity takes over in the case of mattresses – If money were no object for you what would you spend on a mattress assuming you also did not want to spend on vanity?

I would spend a lot more than most folk, as I know about mattresses, of course. I would spend £15 on a decent bottle of wine and about £900 to £1000 on a decent mattress with hand side stitching. King size.

When should you get a new mattress? Are there indicators that your current mattress is nearing it’s life’s end?

Our industry generally acknowledges that eight to ten years will be a good life span of a mattress. The end of a mattress sneaks up on you gently. Your mattress wears, and you get used to it wearing out as it is a slow process. It doesn’t just ‘pack up’ overnight like a boiler or your car may.

MTL – Are there any specific signs that a mattress should be replaced?

One may notice that a hotel mattress offered a better nights sleep, or that one settles into a ‘hollow’ where ones body shape has left an indentation over the years. indicators like these will tell you.

Please tell us a bit about the differences between sprung mattresses and pocket sprung mattresses? Which is best?

Sprung, or ‘open coil’ mattresses are made using a continuous spring system where one spring is wound to the next, and so on. Pocket springs are kept in individual pockets (usually sewn), so offer greater support over your whole body, and less deferred movement from anyone else who may be sharing your mattress.

pocket sprung mattress

For a child’s single bed or a single guest bed an open coil mattress may be ok. For all other applications choose pocket springs.

We see sprung mattresses with 1000 springs, 2000 springs or even more – Please tell us a bit about this – what should people be looking for?

As an industry, we have got a little carried away with the spring count of a mattress. It’s difficult to explain but if you can imagine one 6” spring…. Then think of two 3” springs, one on top of the other. Is two better than one? What I’m trying to say is beware of high spring counts as it simply not a good indicator of quality or value. A reasonable amount of pocket springs, coupled with some lovely natural fillings will provide an excellent nights sleep.

Luxury deep pocket sprung mattress

Thanks Mark, What is the point where the spring count becomes pointless based on a double size? 1000 springs? 2000 springs? Is there a difference in the quality of the springs? What is important here?

Spring counts are always in king size (150cm wide). The most pockets in a single layer will be about 1700. The double stack 2000 is a really good unit and works well with generous upholstery and also with mini springs too.  

Pocket sprung mattress with natural fillings cross section

If you are looking for real luxury then I would say that mini springs can do a good job absorbing the initial impact of a body laying on it. So two layers of 1000 each plus a top and bottom layer of 1100 mini springs = approximately 4200 springs (shown above). We usually work in nominal numbers so would call that a 4000 spring mattress.

How about foam and memory foam in mattresses – Are there certain circumstances when a memory foam mattress may make more sense than a sprung mattress?

In my opinion, as a bed professional with fifteen years experience, foam should be avoided at all times and memory foam most times.

A good nights sleep will come with the correct support and a cool breathable mattress.

Foam is sometimes used in the lower reaches of a mattress as a support layer but if too near the top it will make you hot and won’t offer enough variance of support across your body. Memory foam is a mine field.

‘Memory foam’ or ‘Visco elastic foam’ reacts with your body weight and heat. It will sink in the warmer, heavier areas of your body, so spreads your weight quite well.

Unfortunately the more you sink in, the hotter you will get, so you will sink further…

There are lots of different densities and depths of these oil based products, so you should be sure of what you are getting if considering one of these. 40mm will offer support, but may also make you hot.

There is a premium brand product which offers good support and attempts to address the heat issue. Sometimes this type of product is sold as a sports mattress. It’s good marketing.

Please tell us a bit about mattress firmness – why are there different options and what should people consider when selecting their mattress firmness?

One of the biggest myths in mattresses is that you need a firm mattress. In reality, as I’ve said before, you need good support over your whole body.

Obviously we are all different shapes and weights so consider that the better the quality of the mattress the better support it should offer. A mattress that is too firm will not allow you to sink down in the areas where needed and may prevent good body fluid circulation.

OK, so how can people understand what is the right tension for them? Can they determine simply by their weight (e.g. under 10 stone then medium or over 15 stone then firm?) or is it by how much they sink into the mattress? Something else?

It’s tricky, eh? It’s more about where the weight is really.

However your summation is not far off, but be careful using that, as it may be best to avoid telling someone what is best for them.

In reality a skinny person of say 8 stone or so is going to feel that every mattress is pretty much the same until they get to the luxury end of the market. A really heavy person will feel more of the subtleties of the mattress build.

At Made to Last we sell online – without actually lying on a mattress how can customers work out the best mattress for them? What is important to look at in the product specification?

This is not as tricky as you may imagine. A reasonable amount of pocket springs with some layers of natural fillings will provide you with a great sleeping surface. Reading reviews may help, but we need to think about the job that your mattress is doing. It’s spreading your weight across as big an area as possible and allowing air to flow around you. The mattress specification will tell you pretty much all you need to know.

How about heat control – are some mattresses better than others at keeping people warm in winter and cool in summer?

Generally speaking, all mattresses with natural fillings on top of pocket springs, will offer good air circulation and aid coolness. As heat rises your duvet tog will be the thing to offer more or less warmth.

People all prefer sleeping in different positions – front, back and side – Should this be considered when buying a mattress?

Not really. The springs are designed to spread your weight which ever way you choose to lay on them.

Are there certain types of mattresses that are best for couples who are different sizes and weights?

Absolutely there is. Again it’s pocket springs that will give the best support to varying weights. One further option is to consider joining two mattresses of differing tensions together with zips. These need to be turnable unless you and your partner are happy to swap sides when you rotate the mattresses.

How about people who suffer from some sort of pain – particularly back or neck pain – What considerations should they take into account?

I have no medical training so can only speak in general terms. Think about not only your mattress, but also about your pillows. Having too many pillows can twist your neck, as one of your heavier parts of your body is your shoulders that will be sinking into the mattress.

Are there any other insider tips from the industry that will help Made to Last customers to get the best mattress for them?

One thing which I am great advocate of is Hand Side Stitching. This is where the border of the mattress is stitched into the interior spring unit. Simply speaking it provides greater integrity to the product and helps provide all round support.

It does add cost as it is done by hand but you can tell the difference and it will add longevity to the product too.

Each night we lose about 250ml of fluid and each year about 450g of dead skin. That will mostly go into your mattress which may explain why your old mattress may be so heavy.

Get yourself a decent mattress protector!

Finally the one thing that we all forget is that we need to get used to our new mattress. When you replace your old mattress that has sunk over the years remember that you have got used to the lack of support over the years. Your new mattress will be putting you back in shape.

MTL – Mark, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. This has been really insightful for us and hopefully for everyone else who reads this too.

Click here to see our full range of mattresses.

Joel Chudleigh

Founder of MADE TO LAST. Very proud to be working with my Co-Founder Kinjal and our diverse range of amazing suppliers to create a retail site with a purpose. When not working I enjoy relaxing with family & friends as well as adventure sports - particularly bouldering, snowboarding & surfing as well as 5-a-side footie. Really interested in the environment and from this have been forced to learn more and get interested in politics and a bit of economics. Proud member of the Green Party.

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