Penicillin was dicovered by accident when Alexander Fleming noticed bacteria dying in the presence of certain molds. Vulcanization of rubber by sulfur was also accidentally discovered by Charles Goodyear. In 1898 in Germany, Hans von Pechmann accidentally synthesized polyethylene. It took longer for polyethylene to become widely used than for rubber and penicillin, but now it is one of the most widely used food packaging materials. And it is also being used in bedding.
Polyethylene is a polymer. Polymers are made by linking smaller molecules together into long chains or sheets.
Polyethylene is named after ethylene, the gas it is synthesized from. It is a chain of methyl (CH2) units linked carbon-to-carbon. It is an extremely stable and non-reactive material, which makes it suitable for food and skin contact. It is non-toxic if consumed or inhaled.
Most of the ethylene produced to make polyethelylene is made from petroleum, but it can also be made from ethanol produced by fermentation of plant materials. Unlike “plant-based” polyurethane (in which only a portion of the polyols come from plant oils), it can be 100% bio-generated.
Polyethylene is strong and impermeable to fluids. This is why it is used for food containers and trash bags. This is also why it is used by a few manufacturers (such as Naturepedic) as waterproofing for bedding materials, such as mattress protectors, and mattress covers. Its non-toxicity makes it preferrable to other plastics, such as vinyl, polyurethane and polypropylene.
Since catalysts are used to polymerize polyethylene, there was the possibility of some of the catalyst elements being in the plastic and migrating out of the material. One much-used catalyst has antimony. Experiments show that extremely little antimony migrates from polyethylene when it is there. But antimony does not have to be there. Magnesium chloride, a naturally ocurring salt often found in foods, can also be used as a catalyst, and it causes no concern.
Since polyethylene is very stable, it does not easily break down. This has been a concern for environmentalists, since it can build up in waste landfills. However, bacteria have been found that can digest polyethylene, making it biodegradable.
As of now, only a very few manufacturers use polyethylene for waterproofing covers on mattresses and adjustable beds. Most use sheets of vinyl or polyurethane. Some use high denier nylon, since it is also breathable. It remains to be seen if more will switch to polyethylene.
We in North America (United States and Canada) are conditioned to think of divans as some kind of couch or sofa which may or may not have armrests at the ends. Thus we are initally puzzled when a divan is one of the foundations available for a mattress. However, the two usages are related. After all, many people will stretch out on a divan for a nap.
Ottomans, likewise, come from across the Atlantic with a different application than what we are used to. Here an ottoman is a large, fully upholstered footstool. In Great Britain, however, it is a type of divan where the top is hinged to lift up, revealing storage underneath. This feature does relate to some American ottomans, those with a hinged top and interior storage space.
The word divan comes to us from diwan in the Persian language through Turkish and French. It was originally a long cushion (“mattress” if you will), placed against a wall. Sometimes it was on a raised surface. The wall provided a back for sitting. From here it evolved into a self-standing piece of furniture with its own back.
Divans were introduced into Europe in the Rennaisance and into England in the 1700s as both a couch and a bed. In America, the general sense of the term centered primarily on a couch or sofa, while in Britain the sense moved to beds, then more particularly to a boxed supporting frame.
Ottomans were named after the ruling Turkish ethnic group in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). They came into use in Europe about the same time as divans.
The British divan is a box foundation, supporting the mattress as part of a bed. The kind of support is variable. The sides of the divan are predominantly made of wood. There are several kinds of divans.
Sprung divans have supporting springs, often coils, the equivalent of our box springs. There are two basic types, edge sprung and solid edge. In the solid edge divan, the wood side continues up to or very near the top surface, enclosing the coils on the sides and ends. In a fully sprung divan, the coils continue to the edge, the outer coils providing edge support to the mattress. This kind of support is suitable for Bonnell coil, offset coil and continuous coil innerspring mattresses, but its use is often discouraged for pocket coil, memory foam and latex mattresses.
Another type of mattress support in a divan is wooden slats, the equivalent of the European style wood slat base. Slat bases are the preferred foundations for some American mattress companies, such as European Sleep Works in California and Design Sleep in Ohio. Slatted top divans are quite commonly sold by British bed retailers, paired with all kinds of mattresses.
A solid top divan is essentially a platform bed, and it is a frequent match for specialty sleep beds with memory foam mattresses and latex mattresses. For example, the divans Dormeo pairs with its foam spring mattresses are described as “all wood construction,” the perfect description of a platform bed.
Another style is the adjustable divan. It comes with the adjustable bed fitted into the wood framed box. In the flat position, it looks like any other divan bed.
One advantage of divans as bed foundations is the availability of storage space. Most divans have drawer options: 2-drawer, 2+2 drawer, 4-drawer and foot drawer. In a 4-drawer divan, all four drawers are the same size, while with the 2+2 option the drawers near the head are narrower. The named options are for two-person beds.
Sprung divans may also have storage, but the drawers are not as high since springs take up the top half of the frame. Foot drawers are found on adjustable divans, since that is the only accessible space left.
In US retail terminology, “box spring” has come to mean any box-type foundation, whether it has springs or not. This is a carry-over from when the foundations were almost all box springs. Now real box springs are in the minority. Most box foundations here have solid or fixed slat tops.
Almost all divans Full size and up are split models, with left side and right side units. This is reasonable, since it facilitates delivery and set up.
So far, at least two mattress companies sell divans with their mattresses in the U.S. Hypnos Beds USA is a joint venture of Paramount Sleep of Norfolk, Virginia, and Hypnos, the British luxury mattress manufacturer with a royal warrant. The other is Dormeo North America, a subsidiary through the London branch of Dormeo Octaspring, an international manufacturer of foam spring mattresses. If more British beds are marketed here, we will hear “divan” more often as the foundation for a bed.
Using “divan” as the term for a framed box foundation may be a good thing. Since the market share expansion of memory foam, latex and pocket coil mattresses, real box springs have declined, even as foundations for traditional coil mattresses, replaced by platform and slatted box foundations. Yet many major retailers still habitually call any framed foundation a “box spring,” which is confusing to consumers. “Divan” is an inclusive term, making a box spring one of the divan types.
Ahh! A good massage is so nice! Especially when I am tired and/or sore. A well-done massage stimulates blood circulation. It relieves tension and relaxes muscles. Stimulating the nerves coming out of the upper back will stimulate the digestive system, improving digestion and movement of materials. A massage can sometimes even manipulate joints back into place. And it helps me get a good night’s sleep.
We used to have a Homedic massage pad for our armchair and rocking chair. Zones, intensity, and pulse patterns could be selected to customize the massage for specific needs. It was, within limits, like having our own personal masseur or masseuse.
For the past 30 years, the market for adjustable beds used at home has grown until it is a significant segment of the bedding market. Once used almost exclusively in healthcare facilities, they are now found in many homes and even in some hotel rooms.
Now most adjustable base manufacturers sell beds that have a massage function. For some companies, this is most of their models, for others a few higher end beds. Almost all manufacturers have at least one or two models without a massage, either to make them less expensive, or for customers who’d rather not have a massage.
One or more motors generate impulses, vibrations or mechanical motions which are felt through the mattress. Like the Homedic pad, this is usually a vibro-massage. Also like the pad, most of these have timers for limiting the time to reduce the chance of injury from overuse.
There are two basic patterns of massage, wave and pulse. A wave massage begins at one end of the bed, flows through to the other and back again. Pulse massages can be in various patterns (more common) or for the entire surface.
A massage feature can be either a dual massage or a full body massage. A dual massage has separate massages for the upper body and lower body. It requires two or more motors (three if there is a separate lumbar massage). The motors can be 110 volt AC or 24 volt DC. The newer ones are DC.
Not all massage beds are adjustable bed foundations. There are three notable exceptions. These are the Vivon Prestige II and Prestige III, the Amazing Bed by Innovative Standards, and the Night Magic Sleep Massage Therapy Unit by Innomax.
The simplest of these is the Innomax Night Magic Sleep Massage Therapy Unit. It consists of seven massage motors arrayed in four zones with a wall outlet power adapter and a wired remote control handset. The customer justs arranges the motors on the foundation under the mattress, plugs it in, lies on the bed and turns it on. According to Innomax, the Night Magic has 15-minute and 30 minute preset sessions, speed control, three levels of intensity, and ten customized (or customizable?) modes (rhythmic pulses or soft waves). One button switches between auto or manual modes of operation.
The Vivon Life Positional Mattress was introduced in 2010 by Vivon International (now Vivon Life). It functions as a mattress and adjustable bed in one adjustable mattress (also called a folding bed) with a massage. Two series that followed were the Prestige II and the Prestige III (which is sold by US Beds). This uses a Brookstone massage unit and wireless remote. The full body massage has five modes.
The most amazing massage bed is the Amazing Bed. Designed and made by Innovative Standards, the Amazing Bed has mechanical massage heads that imitate the actions of fingers. These travel between the head and foot of the bed on pairs of rails which can be raised or lowered. The mattress and the foundation are integral parts of this bed, making the whole bed one unit. Innovative Standards has beds for residential use, for spas and chiropractic clinics, and for the hospitality industry.
So, there are basically four options if we are shopping for a bed with a massage: an adjustable bed with a massage function, an all-in-one adjustable mattress with massage, an all-in-one bed with mechanical massage, or massage units we place between the mattress and the base.
Ahh! If I could get one of these beds with a built-in massage, then the bed would be my masseuse!
Absolute Comfort On Sale:
Adjustable Bed Mart:
American Discount Home Medical Equipment:
Leggett & Platt:
American Massage Products:
With just a slip in pronunciation, “sleeping on air” becomes “sleeping on hair,” and is not taken as a joke, because even today horsehair is the stuff (or stuffing) of several luxury mattresses. These include some of the most expensive mattresses in the world, made by high-class names such as ES Kluft and Aireloom, Hypnos, WJ Southard, Hastens, and others. Besides filling, horsehair is also used in the covers or quilting of a few models.
This is nothing new. For hundreds of years, better mattresses were filled with horsehair, along with other natural fibers. Those who could not get horsehair settled for grain husks (chaff), sawdust, straw and other cheaper alternatives. Horsehair was generally for the nobles. Today it is found in mattresses made for English royalty. The feel of a horsehair mattress is used in describing mattresses made by Organic Mattresses, Inc., even though they do not contain horsehair.
The most common sources of horsehair are the mane and the tail. Some of this is obtained by collecting loose hairs from grooming, but most comes from clipping hairs from manes and tails. Body hairs of shaggy northern horse breeds could conceivably be harvested in late Spring, but that is currently unheard of for commercial production.
Horsehair is classified by the length of the hairs. The longest ones (6″ or longer) are called horsetail hair, the medium ones (4″ to 6″) tail hair, and the shorter ones (under 4″) horsehair. This means that horsehair contains some of the shorter horsetail strands. And, depending on the processor, some tail hair and horsehair can have some hair from cattle in it.
Harvested horsehair is washed, steamed and rinsed, but not bleached. This clears it of almost all allergens. The cut and washed horsehair is curly. Since horsehair is stiff, it is cushioning.
Horse hairs are hollow, so they funnel air through the batting. This serves to ventilate a mattress and keep it dry. Being hollow also makes them more resilient. Horsehair is also a very durable material. Some horsehair mattresses have lasted 80 to 100 years. Tail hairs are used in violin bows, and can last a long time even with frequent use.
Often horsehair is used in combination with other natural materials, such as wool, linen, cashmere, cotton and latex. Sometimes two fibers are mixed, but these components are usually in separate layers.
The ticking for a horsehair layer is tightly woven so the horsehairs don’t creep through. The ticking of the horsehair layer for a mattress or topper is normally sewn into chambers, each one filled with hairs. This keeps the horsehair in place, forestalling a lumpy mattress.
In closing, here is a quote from the NovosBed website:
Horsehair: the stuff of luxury for those for whom luxury is a given. Care to hazard a guess as to which is the mattress of choice for the Queen of England? Your average oil sheik? Billionaire-otherwise-obtained? They’re all sleeping on horsehair.
Chas. H Becley
John Ryan by Design
Wall Street Journal
My Custom Bedding
Horsetalk Nrw Zealand
Parker Sleep Systems (Toronto, Canada)
You’ve come to the conclusion that you need a new mattress. The first questions are, “What kind of mattress and bed do we want? What are our needs? What will help us get the restful sleep we really need?”
When you determine what kind of bed you want, you want to know what the best brands and models are. Other people’s experiences can help, so we get online and check the reviews. But which reviews can we trust?
Now it’s time for serious shopping. So do we visit mattress stores? Or do we shop online? This is a choice almost unheard of a decade ago. Now almost anything can be sold over the Internet—clothing & shoes, groceries, appliances, musical instruments, pets, even automobiles and mattresses.
Shopping for clothes involves getting the right fit. I don’t know whether a shirt or a pair of jeans really fits until I wear it. Shopping for a mattress is not far off. We don’t really know if the mattress is right for us until we’ve slept on it. We are like Goldilocks in a way. A mattress can be too soft or too hard, too warm or too cool; it may or may not be suitable for my sleeping position; and so on. So how do we know that a particular mattress is right for each of us before buying it?
A quick check on mattress prices reveals that they are generally lower online than in stores for the same or equivalent model from the same manufacturer. Also, online retailers usually have trial periods, which means that if the mattress is not the right fit, we can exchange it for another or just send it back. However, It has to be shipped back (unless a contract service company picks it up). In some cases you, the customer, have to pay for the shipping, which makes you wonder if returning the mattress is worth the hassle. So, before buying a mattress online, find out what the return policies are—not only for the seller, but for that mattress model—and get it in writing.
If we go to a store which sells several brands of mattresses, we can try several of them for comparison. But one to three minutes on a mattress in a retailer’s showroom is not the same as sleeping on a mattress for a week or a month.
☞Just a hint: Some mattresses manufacturers precompress their bedding materials so that they are already broken-in when you try them in the showroom and when they’re delivered.☜
The uncertainty of a showroom tryout is reflected in the satisfaction rates between mattresses purchased in stores and online, which generally differ by only a couple of percentage points. But returning a mattresss to a local store is easier than shipping it.
According to several reports, the current trend is toward combining shopping online with shopping in stores. This generally takes one of two forms: webrooming and showrooming. Webrooming is researching mattresses online then purchasing them in the store. Showrooming is visiting retail showrooms to look at mattresses up close, even try them out, then purchase the same mattress or an equivalent online. Some retailers sell both online and in stores, which makes either method easier (have you ever tried to compare mattresses at different retailers?).
This only works for lines of matresses available in both venues. However, there are a handful of mattress manufacturers who sell their products exclusively online.
Buying a mattress online and buying one in a store each has its own advantages and disadvanteges. In the end, you have to answer the question for yourself, “Should I buy a mattress online?”
Sleep Like the Dead
US News & World Report – Money
Mattress Inquirer (a supposedly independent review site owned by a mattress manufacturer)
Get Rich Slowly (a financial advice site)
Sleep.org (by the National Sleep Foundation)
Lycra, Spandex and Elastane are all names for the same fiber. First developed by DuPont, Lycra is a polyurethane fiber. The two prepolymers, one long and flexible and the other short and stiff, link to form a folded or twisted fiber which can be stretched up to five times its length. When tension is released, the fiber springs back to its original length.
Diagrams of Spandex Production (from How Products Are Made) —
Lycra is the trade name used by Invista, the DuPont spin-off which developed this material. “Spandex” is the generic name used in North America, “Lycra” has become the generic in Britain, while “Elastane” and its linguistic derivatives are used in Europe. “Spandex” was coined by switching the “ex” and the “s” in “expands.”
The development of spandex extends back to the search for rubber substitutes in 1940. Lycra was first produced commercially in 1962 by DuPont. Since then it has become widely used, especially as the cost of the material has dropped to more affordable levels. The popularity of this fiber is largely attributable to the use of spandex by entertainers and athletes. It is especially beneficial in activities requiring a great deal of movement, such as in sports. Loose clothing is no longer required for high flexibilty in doing a job. Also, loose clothing can get in the way, get caught, which gives spandex a safety advantage as well.
Several bedding manufacturers use spandex in the covers of their mattresses. Company and retailer descriptions variously call it Lycra, spandex or elastan. Many mattresses have stretch-knit ticking, which allows the cover to flex with the top-layer foams and the sleeper. Using spandex in woven fabrics makes them more flexible, while it enhances flexibility in knits (thus the “super-stretch” knits). Beds.org reviews of mattresses by seven manufacturers mention Lycra, spandex or elastan. Other manufacturers’ use of this super-stretch fiber may have escaped notice or have not been included in manufacturer and retailer accounts.
Depending on the real life perfomance of spandex on mattresses used by consumers, more bedding manufacturers may use it in the future.
Several mattresses are described as having foams or fibers infused with graphite or diamond particles. Graphite and diamond are two kinds of carbon crystals. Both are pure carbon, but they differ in the crystalline structure. The structural difference makes diamond extremely hard and graphite relatively soft. Real diamond particles (a.k.a. diamond dust) are very abrasive and are used industrially for grinding and polishing. Solid graphite is commonly used for pencil lead, while granular or powdered graphite is a lubricant (for example in locks).
How and why are graphite and diamond dust used in mattresses? The stated reason given by those mattress manufacturers who use “diamond” particles in their mattresses is for cooling (it is usually infused into foams). According to them, diamond dust is highly heat-conductive, transferring heat away from the sleepers to where it can dissipate.
The same reason is often listed for the use of graphite, but graphite is also credited with adding strength to mattress components, from foams to fibers. Graphite is more heat conductive than foam, cotton, rayon and polyester. This would be true whatever the shape of the graphite: powder, flakes, sheets or fibers.
The strengthening factor indicates the likely use of oriented monocrystaline graphite fibers, similar to the carbon/graphite fibers used in high-performance fishing rods. In this case, the term graphite may have been applied to carbon nano-tubes. However, it may also be the use of graphene (a single sheet of graphite) rolled up into a fiber.
Technical literature about the use of graphite in foam and topside mattress components (just under the cover) addresses another, less glamorous reason, one seldom linked with graphite in mattress descriptions: fire safety. Certain forms of graphite flakes will expand at the combution temperatures of polyurethane foam (and its derivatives, such as memory foam). This will cover the foam and cut off the supply of oxygen. For this to be effective, the exact form of the graphite must be balanced with the combustion point of the foam. It’s not perfect, but it is a non-chemical method of flame retardation, which should be a selling point.
Graphite is not very commonly used in mattresses, at least not yet. Before 2013, a few mattresses with graphite were introduced. On Beds.org, reviewed mattresses with graphite or diamond represent only ten manufacturers out of 115.
As to diamond powder/particles/crystals/dust, I suspect that this could be a more fashionable wording for graphite. After all, both diamond and graphite are carbon crystals.
For two or three generations, most beds consist of a mattress, a foundation (box spring, box platform or slatted box) and a bed frame. The bed frame for these is usually side rails, cross bars, and (for larger sizes) a center beam, made of angle steel. These frames have legs (or feet), usually with gliders or casters to facilitate moving the bed.
The invention of this kind of metal bed frame without slats is credited to Henry Feldman of The Fredman Brothers Furniture Company, who developed it in the 1950s. Glideaway is a subsidiary of Feldman Brothers. By now, there are several manufacturers of slatless steel bed frames, including Mantua, W Silver Products, and Knickerbocker Advanced Bed Support Systems. Most United States manufacturers of bed frames use steel angle made by Jersey Shore Steel from recycled railroad tracks, one of the toughest types of steel.
Before Feldman developed frames without slats, particularly useful with the almost universally used box springs, most mattresses were used with wooden or iron beds. This kind of bed had a head and foot with side rails. Between the side rails were slats to hold the mattress.
With the introduction of innerspring mattresses, usually 6″ to 8″ high, and box springs, which were usually 8″ to 10″ high, a mattress and box spring on a bed with 18″ to 24″ legs made the surface too high for many people. The slatless bed frame sitting only about 6″ above the floor made for a lower bed, easier to get into and out of at about 20″ to 24″ high. Higher mattresses stimulated the introduction of low profile foundations, solidifying the roles of slatless steel bed frames.
Now there are many variations of steel bed frames. The category has expanded to include steel bed foundations. These are steel frames with a steel grid to support a mattress directly without a box spring, slatted box or other foundation. These can have longer legs, achieving the same overall bed height with room under the bed for storage.
In another development, the increase in heavier sleeper and heavier mattresses and foundations has led to the introduction of sturdier bed frames. One example of these is the Heavy-Duty Bed Frame by Knickerbocker, which is sold by several retailers in this country.
Although many steel bed frames are imported, a good percentage of those sold in North America are made in the U.S.A. or Canada. Most bed frames sold as brands of mattress manufacturers are made by Glideaway or Mantua.
A very old wish for a good night’s rest is “Sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite.” This is testimony to the fact that bed bug bites can disturb sleep, robbing a person of needed rest. Bed bugs have been recorded in ancient history, being mentioned as early as 400 BC. The historical accounts of these insects indicates their spread from the Mediterranean region to northern Europe, then to North America. Our word “bug” is derived from bugge, the original English name for these creatures.
The bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is a small, oval, flat wingless insect. Its only food is blood. The bedbug has mouth parts designed to pierce the skin of a host, inject an anti-coagulant with a painkiller, and suck the blood. A bed-bug can survive as long as half-a-year on one meal. These small parasites–an adult is only 5mm long–can hide in almost any crack or crevasse.
Bed bugs are so called because they are usually found in and around beds and mattresses. They can slip through the seams of mattress covers, hide in a box spring, or seclude themselves in the frames and upholstery of other furniture, or behind baseboards. Their small size and avoidance of light makes them hard to see, but signs of their presence can be found: feces, molted skins, stains from crushed bugs, etc., even odor.
The most personal sign of bed bugs is their bite. When a bedbug bites, a pain killer is injected along with the anti-coagulant. This anesthetic keeps the victim numbed long enough for the bug to finish its meal. But later, the bite site begins to itch. It may swell and become fevered. If scratched or rubbed, it can become infected. It is the irritation of the bite which disturbs sleepers, causing restlessness.
From the time they hatch until they die, bedbugs are bloodsuckers. The chart above shows their average sizes from the egg to adult from less than 1 mm as a newly hatched nymph to the 5 mm long adult.
Bed bugs had become almost unheard of in North America and Western Europe, but now they have made a comeback. A few years ago, these pests were being found in many high-class hotels. This has been blamed on travelers going to and from areas of the world where bed bugs and other parasites are common. Due to their minute size and secretive habits, they hitchike unnoticed in luggage.
Because they hide so well, bed bugs are hard to combat. Complicating this is the fact that many of them have become resistant to insecticides. The only sure way to eliminate bedbugs in a room is to heat it to about 130° F long enough to kill them. This is a job better left to experts who know how to do it safely.
The most effective way to prevent bed bug bites is to keep the little critters from getting to you. As noted in a previous Beds Blog article, mattress encasement serves this purpose two ways. First, bedbugs cannot get into a properly encased mattress. Secondly, if a bed bug happens to already be in a mattress, encasement will keep it from biting you.
All the seams in an effective mattress encasement will be sealed to close this avenue. And the zipper must have not gaps in the teeth big enough for a bed-bug, with the zipper kept tightly closed at the end. Some manufacturers of encasements have a special bug-proof zipper for this purpose.
The most effective means of prevention is to deny the bed-bugs a place to hide or to prevent them from getting up to the bed. This means reducung or eliminating clutter. Other measures are keeping bedding from touching the floor and drying bedding and nightclothes with heat to kill any bugs which may be there, and thoroughly cleaning luggage when returning from a trip. A couple of generations ago, some people placed the feet of their beds in cans or pans of kerosene and kept the bed away from the wall. This worked because bed bugs cannot fly or jump.
Bed bugs have not been found to transmit disease-causing organisms from one human to another, even though they ingest pathogens with a host’s blood. The apparent reason for this is that, unlike mosquitoes, bed-bugs do not insert any of a previous host’s blood when they inject the anti-coalgulant. However, there is the opportunity for infection to enter the wound. Also, some persons may be allergic to bedbugs with the potential for a serious reaction, especially if they are already allergic to other insect bites and stings.
Although the potential for infectious diseases from bed bugs may be very low, sleep disturbance and lack of rest can be a hinderance to good health. We all need a good night’s rest, and one way is to not let the bed bugs bite.
Sleep Train: http://www.sleeptrain.com/education-bed-bugs.html
Many producers and sellers label or describe their merchandise as “natural” or “organic” products. “Organic” and “natural” food, clothing, bedding and many other goods are fashionable. Significant numbers of shoppers now ask, “Is it natural? Is it organic?”
Two concerns drive this trend: health and the environment. There is also, for some, a philosophical or religious undertone, a belief that there is an intrinsic value to being as natural or organic as possible. While the last perspective may be considered debatable by many, the first two considerations do have some empirical basis.
Before going on, let’s define natural and organic.
Natural materials are those produced by natural means, as opposed to artificial materials. These may be produced by plants or animals or be naturally ocurring compounds and elements (for example, minerals). For instance, natural fibers include linen (plant), wool (animal) and asbestos (mineral). One fiber used in bedding and clothing is on the borderline between natural and artificial. Rayon is naturally produced cellulose, but it has been extracted and liquified from natural sources and reconstituted as sheets (cellophane) and fiber (rayon/viscose).
Organic is not the same as natural, though it is related. Cotton, for instance, is a natural fiber, but not necessarily organic. Modern cotton farming uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Organic farming, whether of cotton or some other crop, is without any applications of chemicals. Being organic extends to the processing of raw materials into finished products without the uses of harmful substances.
There is good reason to be concerned about the impact of what we eat, wear, sleep on or otherwise use on our health. Many things once assumed to be safe have now been found to be detrimental to health, some even deadly. For example, Paris green was a fashionable color for walls. then people with Paris green in their houses became ill, some even dying. The pigments in Paris green contained arsenic, which escaped into the air and poisoned the residents. Now we ban lead-based paint and asbestos because they are health hazards.
Many chemicals used in agriculture and manufacturing are suspected or proven health hazards. Notable are pesticides and fungicides, designed to be deadly to organisms that damage and destroy crops, and chemical fire retardants applied to clothing and bedding. Also suspect are cleaning and bleaching agents and certain fabric dyes and food colorings. Recently added to the list are BPAs used in plastics.
Concern for the environment includes not just the natural ecosystem, but also those who work in the fields, mines and factories, and the communities in which they live and work. Today, for many, this also includes the economies where materials are produced and products made.
The keyword for agriculture is now not just organic, but organic and sustainable. More than how a crop is fertilized and pests are controlled, it is also how agricultural practices treat the land itself. Consumers today want to know how rubber plantations affect the rainforests, how much water is used on the cotton, and whether trees cut for wood used in the foundations are replanted.
This is the easy question. The two sources of natural materials in beds and bedding are plants and animals. These include fibers in the textiles and padding, wood for frames and slats, and oils for foams. It also includes plant-based dyes for fabrics.
Until early in the 20th Century, all fibers used in textiles came from either plants or animals. Even the first man-made fiber was made of cellulose extracted from plants. Plant produced fibers used in beds include cotton, linen (flax), kapok, bamboo fibers, hemp, sisal, ramie, and others. Some of these, such as cotton, come from the seed pods. Linen is from the bast (outer layer) of flax stems. Hemp fiber is from the hemp stem, while coconut fiber comes from the seed itself.
Organic concerns for plant fibers are the fertilizers and pesticides used in growing the plants. For instance, raising cotton uses an extraodinarily large proportion of pesticides and fertilizer compared to other crops. Only in the past two decades has raising cotton organically become economically viable.
With bast fibers, this extends to extraction of the fibers. Traditionally, linen fibers have been extracted from flax stems by retting, letting the stems rot until the fibers are separated. Modern extraction uses acids or enzymes to speed the process. However, disposal of the retting water is a problem.
Bleaching of plant fibers raises environmental concerns, especially with the disposal of liquid waste.
Animal fibers are the oldset used in clothing. Wool seems to be the longest used animal fiber. Other animal fibers used are cashmere and mohair (goat hair), alpaca, angora (rabbit) and silk. All but silk are hairs shorn or combed from the animal. Silk is threads extruded by silk moth caterpillars to make thier cocoons.
Concerns related to animal fibers are care of the animal, pest control and processing the fiber. Does raising the animals damage the land? Are the animals treated humanely?
With wool, are chemicals used to treat the sheep for ticks? How is the wool cleaned after shearing?
In 2013, leaders of clothing companies discussed the environmental impact of their businesses, whether synthetic or natural. The answer was not simple. It was complicated by the raising of cotton, the most widely used natural plant fiber. The same issue is also faced in choices of materials for mattresses, pillows, sheets and blankets.
Organic Trade Association – http://www.ota.com/
Organic.org – http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-224
NCBI – NIH – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10968564
Sustainable Cotton Project – http://www.sustainablecotton.org/
CoolNotCruel – http://www.coolnotcruel.com/
Hemp Industries Association (NA) – www.thehia.org
Natural Life Magazine – http://www.life.ca/naturallife/0406/organic_fibers.htm
Vermont Organic Fiber – http://vtorganicfiber.com/
Fabric University | Fabric Seminar | Fiber History – http://www.fabriclink.com/university/history.cfm
Suppose someone taking a survey asked you, “Do you get enough sleep?” How would you answer? The answer to this depends on knowing the answers to two other questions: “How much sleep do you get?” and “How much sleep do you need?”
For most of us that means how long do we sleep in bed at night? That is, minus interruptions. New parents know all about this, waking up to check on the wee one, responding to a cry or a whimper in the dark, taking time to feed, change, or rock the newest member of the family. But most of us sleep through hours at a time with little or no interruption.
For some others, this includes a nap or two taken during the day. This may include a new mother or father compensating for nighttime interruptions. It could include a rotating shift worker trying to reset his body clock on days off. Sometimes it is a bored stay-at-home person, or an older adult whose body no longer tolerates lying down very long at one time.
The simplest answer is, “That all depends.” How much sleep is needed depends on a few factors, such as developmental stage, age, sex, physical condition, and health. It may also be affected by the demands of ones occupation. It may surprise many to learn that more rest may be necessary for non-physical work requiring alertness and a sharp mind than for physically demanding jobs.
It is common knowledge that babies sleep a lot. A newborn is asleep for more time than awake. By the time an infant is a year old, this balance is even or reversed, but a large part of the day is still spent sleeping. Kindergarten used to be known for the naptimes when the entire class lay on their mats. By the time a child is in the grades, all the school day is waking hours. The average time needed for sleep lessens as one approaches adulthood, where it levels off for the last two-thirds of a person’s expected lifetime. But in the senior years, it does shrink by about an hour.
I was surprised to learn how prevalent sleep deprivation is. Study after study shows that a significant percentage of people own up to dozing in meetings, glazing over while working, and driving while drowsy, some of the common signs of not enough sleep. This and statistics underscore the importance of adequate sleep. Lack of sleep causes accidents on the road, in the shop and at home. Quality of products depends on engineers, technicians, operators and inspectors being alert. How many costly recalls are due to sleep deprivation? How much lost business? How many injuries and loss of life? Sleep deprivation has economic and social costs.
Most youth enter adolescence during their teenage years. The hormonal changes include the circadian rhythm, the cycle of wakefulness and sleep. The adolescents naturally stay awake later (such as until 11 PM) and naturally wake up later. Studies show that they need, on the average, 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep a night. This includes a long deep-sleep (slow-wave) cycle in addition to the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle.
Statistics show that sleep deprived high school students have more traffic accidents, doze more in class, and have lower scores on tests. One contributing factor in teen sleep deprivation is early school hours. High school students do better overall when school begins at 8:30 AM or later (the “ten-o-clock scholar” in the nursery rhyme).
Class schedules are not the only culprit in teens’ lack of sleep. Others include extracurricular school activities, non-school activities, and modern technology. Some of the observations made by organizations and professionals include keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom and allowing non-structured social time within accepted waking hours. Also recommended is encouraging and promoting physical activity each day. Of course, it is easier to motivate a teen to get more sleep when we set the example.
Several organizations have recommended hours of sleep for childrenn, youth and adults. The National Sleep Foundation, which Beds.org is a member of, has used decades of sleep research to make a chart of recommended hours of sleep per night for nine age groups: Newborn (0-3 month), Infant (4-11 months), Toddler (1-2 years), Pre-school (3-5 years), School age (6-13 years), Teenage (14-17 years), Young adult (18-25 years), Adult (26-64 years), and Older adult (65 years and older). In each of these categories, the recommendation is a range of hours per day, from 14-17 hours for a newborn to 7-8 hours for an older adult. Outside each recommended range is a range of acceptable hours, from 11-19 to 5-9.
The ranges of hours of sleep are based on the needs of members of each age group. However, we are individuals, and our need of sleep does differ from one person to another. The same studies leading to these recommendations also show that some individuals require more or less sleep than the hours in the range for their age group. When considering our own needs, it can be hard to be objective, so it is wise to listen to other’s observations, such as, “You’ve been more irritable lately,” and “You’re nodding off.”
How much sleep we need involves not only the number of hours, but the quality of sleep itself. Our health status affects how long and how well we sleep. So do our activities and what and when we eat.
Another factor in how well and how long we sleep is what we wear. Even in a climate-controlled house, this can be a seasonal issue. We want to be warm enough in the winter and not too warm in the summer. Also, of course, irritating and ill-fitting nightclothes would interfere with sleep.
Another major factor is the bed. In this case, each one of us is a Goldilocks. Is the mattress too hard, too soft or just right? Mattresses are available from ultra firm to ultra plush and the range between. Do we prefer to lie on or in the bed? This could be the difference between memory foam and latex. Does a partner’s snoring or motion keep you awake? Motion isolation will eliminate partner movement disturbance. Is the bed too small? The next size up helps. Can you find the optimal position? Here’s where adjustable beds come in, and some of them deal with the snoring issue too. With so many choices, it pays to know what you yourself need and look for a mattress and bed that meet those needs.
National Sleep Foundation <http://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need>
Center for Disease Control <http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/>
Huffington Post <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/20/get-enough-sleep_n_4475645.html>
In February 2014, I posted an article about wood coils, a new kind of mattress innerspring invented and developed by a Hungarian company. Not long before the launch of wooden coils in the bedding market, another new kind of mattress spring was invented and introduced into the market by Willy Poppe, a Belgian. Poppe is CEO of a family-owned bedding manufacturer, Diamond Spring Company, in Sint-Niklaas, East Flanders, Belgium.
Willy Poppe’s invention is the foam spring, an eight-sided hollow column made of memory foam. The column is cut in a honeycomb pattern, which resembles expanded metal. Poppe dubbed this “Octaspring.” the Octaspring can be compressed like a spring. According to Willy Poppe in a video, these MemoryCoils were first used in memory foam pillows. However, while these memory foam springs worked well in pillows, they were not firm enough for mattresses. So the Octasprings were reinforced with the addition of firmer polyurethane. These EcoSprings could be made soft or firm or somewhere in between.
Now a grid of Octasprings would be the support core of a mattress. With a 1″ foam layer between, one layer of foam springs can be placed on another. Dormeo, a company set up to manufacture and distribute Octaspring memory foam matresses, has models with one to three foam core layers.
One advantage of foam springs instead of metal is that they are not felt the way metal springs are. Also, like the wood coils reviewed earlier, they do not focus environmental electromagnetic radiation on the users.
An additional advantage is airflow. The honeycomb cuts go all the way to the open core of the Octaspring, allowing air to flow all the way through. Pressing down on the “coil” forces air out, and releasing pressure lets it back in. So any movement by the sleeper pumps air through the mattress, increasing the cooling effect, another advantage over metal springs.
The article on wooden coils ended with a paragraph asking, “What Will They Make Springs from Next?” Foam springs were already being made, and foam spring mattresses are selling. Look for other firms to develop their own types of foam springs or buy a license to make Octasprings, the way that Tempur-Pedic was quickly and widely imitated in using memory foam.
Now at least two American manufacturers, Kingsdown and Reverie, have their own foam springs. Although at first glance these foam springs look similar, closer views reveal differences.
Models in Kingsdown‘s new Elliptica Collection have three kinds of foam coils made with different types of foam. Qualatex Foam Coils are made from Qualatex, a proprietary synthetic latex developed by foam manufacturer Carpenter. Omalon Foam Coils consist of Omalon, a foam also developed by Carpenter. The third kind of foam spring in Kingsdown Elliptica mattresses is the DNA Foam Coil.
Reverie, an adjustable bed manufacturer, is also a mattresses manufacturer, making mattresses for its adjustable bases. Reverie‘s models are Dream Mattresses with 10″ high latex foam Dream Cells for support and comfort. These foam springs are cylinder-like in shape. Each Dream Cell has a waist with the top and bottom segments tapering toward their ends. Like other foam springs, the core of a Dream Cell is hollow. Dream Cells are color coded, with each color representing on of four firmnesses: Pink for Extra Soft, Light Blue for Soft, Light Green for Medium, and Ivory/Tan for Firm. The cover of each Dream Mattress is zippered so the user can reconfigure the Dream Cells to change the zoning or the overall firmness level.
With two U.S. companies developing their own foam coils, the likelihood of more manufacturers using foam springs has increased. Look for more foam coil mattresses to reach the market in the next few years.
Nylon is a thermoplastic amide polymer.* Invented in 1935 by DuPont chemical engineer Wallace Carothers and first used for toothbrush bristles, nylon is the most used synthetic fiber. In 1940 it was introduced as a substitute for silk in stockings. Nylon is very similar to silk, and with Japanese occupation of China the supply of silk was restricted. Then in 1942, nylon replaced silk in parachutes. Ripstop nylon, developed for sturdier parachutes, is now used for tents and awnings, coats, ponchos, and bags. And solid nylon is used for gears, rollers and bearings in light applications. By the way, it is still widely used for toothbrush bristles.
Nylon is also used in mattresses. Invacare and Paramount Mattress use nylon in covers of institutional and healthcare mattresses. Some Beautyrest Recharge mattresses use a nylon/polyester blend. Boyd Specialty Sleep uses nylon tricot in the covers of the support modules for its Broyhill Cube Series mattresses.
The two variations of nylon used today are nylon 6,6 and nylon 6. With essentially the same final product, the difference between these two is how they are made. The 6 stands for the six carbon atoms in the precursor molecule. Nylon 6,6 was patented by DuPont, so other manufacturers had to find another way to make nylon. DuPont‘s process simply linked two six-carbon chain molecules together with amide bonds (which also exist in silk). Other manufacturers discovered how to open the ring of an aromatic molecule (one with a six-carbon ring) and link it to others. Either way, what you get is nylon.
Two other types of fiber developed from nylon are Kevlar® and Nomex®. Nomex replaced asbestos in fireproof clothing, and Kevlar is used for bulletproof vests. These are called aramids, because they are actually made of carbon rings.
Nylon is not widely used in mattress covers. Except for the Beautyrest Recharge, it is used in top panels of healthcare and institutional beds. The advantage of nylon in this usage is that it can be resist fluids and still be breathable. This protects the mattress foam core and is easy to clean without trapping heat the way totally impermeable vinyl would. Boyd uses it for its support cubes so they can be removed and reinserted easily.
Thermoplastic means that it gets softer when heated.
Polymer means that it is made of bonded chains of similar molecules.
Amide means that one molecule is bonded to the next by an amide group: one atom of nitrogen with a hydrogen atom (NH) linked to a carbon atom with a double bond to an oxygen atom (C=O). The link can be typed out as NH-C=O. The two components are linked to the N and the C respectively.
Several manufacturers claim that some or all of the foams used in their mattresses are either partially or wholly made from plant oils. Terms used for these are soy foam, plant-based, botanical-oil, natural oils, etc. Plant oils used include those extracted from soy beans, castor beans, canola (rapeseed), palm kernel, coconut, peanuts, and other seeds. How are these oils used in making foam? And how does this affect the use of fossil fuel sources (petroleum and coal oil)?
Oil itself does not form foam, at least not the kind you can sleep on. Bedding and furniture foams, other than latex foam (foam rubber), are forms of polyurethane foam, a semi-rigid, flexible material which is both supportive and cushioning. Polyurethane is a polymer, chains of repeated links of molecules. These molecules are polyols, alcohols with several hydroxyl branches. An alcohol is an oil (hydrocarbon) which is partly oxidized. A hydroxyl is an -OH branch of oxygen and hydrogen.
Some polyols are always produced when refining petroleum. One plant oil, castor bean oil, contains a natural polyol. Most other plant oils have to be modifed to make polyols. The components of these oils are fatty acids, like mono-, di- and triglycerides, the precursors of cholesterol. The fatty acids used are long chains with a double carbon bond (C=C on a diagram) in the middle. Using ozone or other reactors, hydroxyls are added to the chains.
To make the polyurethane, the polyols are combined with isocyanates. The reactions form endless chains which cross-link to form the polyurethane. Gasses released by the reactions and air introduced during the process make the foam.
Until recently, only a small portion of petroleum in polyurethane foam could be replace by plant polyols (aka biopolyols) and still produce a quality foam. Refinement of the process, including using water for the solvent, make it possible to use a higher percentage of biopolyols. However, we need to carefully examine the claims of manufacturers and retailers in promoting their products. Don’t be afraid to ask what proportion of the oils used in making the foams are plant derived.
Use of polyols derived from natural plant oils reduces the use of petroleum in more than one way. First, it means less petroleum is used as the raw material. Second, this means less petroleum used as fuel for refining petroleum for polyols. Third, modifying plant oils requires less energy.
Other advantages of using plant polyols in manufacturing polyurethane and its derivative foams include 1) less or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and 2) less degradation of the foam by moisture (such as from sweat), and some plant-oil foams are less flammable.
However, use of plant oils has its own environmental concerns. First is land use for growing plant oil crops. Is the land chosen wisely? Or does it degrade natural resources (such as rain forests)? Second, are the farming practices environmentally acceptable? This includes preventing erosion and whether chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are used. Also, does raising and using plants for this purpose compete with food crops, thereby raising food prices?
In the final analysis, using natural plant oils to make polyurethane, memory foam, and other foams for bedding products is a net benefit for health, safety, and the environment. And this will grow as technological development improves the processes involved.
Damask is not a fiber, but a style of weaving, named for Damascus, Syria, where silk and linen were woven in this manner in the early Middle Ages. In damask weaving, patterns are created by longer warp threads on top (satin) for the foreground, and longer woof threads (sateen) for the background. This pattern is reversible, meaning the the negative image appears on the back side of the fabric. This was more commonly done with one color (monochrome). Damask can also be done with multiple colors (polychrome). In either case, the image is created by the pattern of weaving.
At the end of the Middle Ages, the art of damask weaving was brought to Italy, then spread across Europe. Many damask fabrics used in the bedding industries are produced in Belgium.
Today, most damask weaving is done with Jacquard looms. Invented in 1801 in France, these were controlled by punched paper cards, then by punch-hole paper tape. Now jacquard looms are controlled by digital computers.
The most common uses of damask are in tablecloths and draperies, sometimes in clothing. Several bedding manufacturers, for example Simmons Beautyrest, Sealy, E. S. Kluft, and Parklane Mattresses, use damask in the covers of some of their mattresses, often with the name and/or logo of the company repeated in the pattern.
Besides weaving, a style of knitting producing the same effect, also called damask, is used on mattresses, especially memory foam, latex, or foam-topped models. Fibers used include cotton, linen, polyester, silk and rayon.
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