It has been almost 4,000 years since Jacob used a stone for his pillow. Honestly, it was not the pillow that caused him to dream about angels walking up and down a tall ladder, but our pillows can affect how well we sleep, and perhaps whether or how we dream.
What is the primary purpose of a pillow? To support and cushion the head. When a person lies down to sleep, the head needs to be high enough to keep the neck in line with the rest of the spine. Notice how many people who don’t have a pillow will rest their heads on their arms, a rolled up coat, a book, or even a stone. Ancient beds were made with head rests built in or attached.
For most of us, pillows are neccessary items—we can’t do without them. I know from personal experience that what pillow you have does make a difference. It can be too large or too small, too firm or too soft. The shape may or may not be suitable for its use, or it may have the right or wrong texture.
There are several kinds of pillows to choose from in a number of categories. The most important of these are Fillings, Size & Shape, and Covers.
The most significant category is the Filling, or to quote a well-known aphorism, “It’s what’s inside that counts.” When I was growing up, most pillows were filled with down, or a mixture of down and small feathers, and covered with cotton. Now most are one kind of foam or another. At home, we do have one buckwheat pillow and some wool pillows, but most of ours are filled with polyurethane foam.
A pillow may be filled with natural or synthetic ingredients, or a mixture of the two. Natural pillow fillings include down, buckwheat, wool, cotton batting, and natural latex. There are even pillows filled with air or water. Among artificial fillings are synthetic latex, polyurethane foam, memory foam, and polyester fibers. A large number of pillows use shredded foam.
Pillows share their history with mattresses. Early pillows had the same fillings as early mattresses, including straw, sawdust, wool, horsehair and feathers. The last three are still used in commercially produced pillows, with the feathers now being down off ducks or geese.
As stated earlier, we have a few wool pillows with cotton ticking, bought at Design Sleep in Ohio. The pillows were made in California by a company affiliated with European Sleep Works. They are comfortable, but do need periodic fluffing.
Pillows with horsehair in the filling are almost always high-end products. They usually have double ticking, with the liner designed to contain the hairs.
Buckwheat is very supportive, but a buckwheat pillow can also be shaped to suit its immediate use. Most covers are zippered so they can be opened, the buckwheat hulls poured into a container, and the cover washed. If you happen to lose some of the hulls, or if you just want a fresh filling, buckwheat hulls are available for sale.
Shape & Size is another important category, which is most often determined by the intended use. A few shapes & sizes are body pillows, bed pillows, throw pillows (small and usually square), neck pillows (straight or horseshoe), slim pillows, and dog-bone pillows. The choice here depends on the part of the body the pillow is intended for and the desired level of support.
Body pillows are intended for more than just the head. Bolsters are meant to support narrow recessed parts of the body, such as the lumbar or the neck. Most head pillows have the familiar rectangular outline and are usually 20″ or more in length. Horseshoe pillows are made for supporting the neck even when the user is standing or sitting, such as riding in a vehicle. There are pillows designed to support arms and knees while sleeping. And wedge pillows are designed to elevate the upper body or the feet.
The Cover (or ticking) of the pillow is a significant factor in how a pillow feels. This involves features such as surface texture, fabric weight and flexibility, temperature control, and substance sensitivities (such as allergies). The ticking serves to contain the cushioning materials inside and to protect them. Down pillows need covers with tight enough weave and and seams to keep the down and feathers from leaking out.
Many fabrics find use in pillow covers. Common ones include cotton, polyester and rayon, Also common are fabric blends, sometimes including bamboo fibers. Silk is used on some high-end pillows, alone or in a blend.
Most pillows used in bed are enclosed in pillowcases. These are usually in sets with the sheets. More than just a comfort or fashion item, a pillowcase serves to keep the pillow clean, just as the sheet keeps the mattress clean.
What you are sleeping on includes not only the bed and the mattress, but also the pillows. What pillows are best for you depends on your own personal needs and preferences. You have to experience different pillows to know what is best for you.
What are you sleeping on? A few of the readers of this article may sleep in a sleeping bag or on folded blankets or quilts on a sleeping mat or an air mattress, especially if they are camping at the time and using a smart phone or tablet. Most of us, however, sleep on beds of one sort or another, also including sofas, futons, semi sleepers, and built-in beds.
The most common configuration for a bed in North America is a mattress on a foundation, which may be on a bed frame. Sometimes the bed and the foundation are the same thing. Platform beds are commonly used with memory foam mattresses. And an adjustable bed is often used without another frame.
Other than wood, wood substitutes, structural metals, and mechanical, electrical and electronic components, the materials in foundations are the same as those in mattresses. Many materials are used in mattresses. The list is long, but it can be organized into a few categories as to their types and their applications.
The types of materials used in mattresses are Fibers, Metals, Foams, Rigid and Semi-Rigid Materials, Chemicals and Special Use Additives, Natural Materials, and Synthetic Materials. The last two categories are sub-categories of some of the other categories.
The application of materials used in mattresses has several ingredients in different categories. These applications are Cushioning (padding & upholstery), Covers & Liners, Separators & Insulators, Climate Control, Safety, Containment, Support and Framing, Decoration, Fashion & Aesthetics, and Convenience & Handling.
Fibers are generally used in two application categories, Covers & Liners and Cushioning.
In Covers, fibers are woven or knit into fabrics to form the top panel, sides (borders) and bottom panel of a mattress. Most of these cover fabrics are very breathable, since ventilation is an important way of keeping the mattress cool and dry. The most common fibers used in covers are cotton, polyester, rayon and wool. Other fibers used are linen, silk, cashmere, and bamboo. Less common in covers are horsehair, mohair, and aloe fiber. Two or more of any of these may be blended or used together in a fabric.
The cover also includes quilting material, which may be foam or fiber. Quilting fibers are usually polyester, wool, cotton or rayon, but may include other fibers. Quilting is used to add loft or cushioning at the top of the mattress. But some of the quilting materials serve in the Safety category as fire barriers to meet federal flammability standards without chemicals. These include dense wool batting and rayon infused with silica.
Liners are usually denser than cover fabrics, since they protect the interior of the mattress from moisture or help contain some loose material, such as horsehair.
Fibers that are used in cushioning are usually looser than in cover fabrics and quilting. The individual strands of the fiber need to be stiff enough for the fluffed fiber or batting to retain its resiliency. This kind of cushioning is usually used to avoid or lessen the use of foam. Common cushioning fibers are cotton, wool, and polyester fiber filling. The use of horsehair as cushioning is usually in high-end luxury mattresses, such as those made by Aireloom, Vispring and Hypnos.
Fibers are also used as Separators (also called Insulators) to protect the contents of one layer from those of another. For instance, innerspring mattresses usually have an insulator above and below the coil unit. This keeps softer materials from being damaged by the wire coils, and keeps them from binding or clogging the coils. An insulator can also separate coil units in a mattress with stacked coils.
Coconut husk fibers are used in coir, which is used for Containment as well as for Support.
The most common use for metal in a mattress is in spring coils. Coils are made from spring steel wire. Steel is iron alloyed with other elements to give it certain properties. Titanium and vanadium makes steel more resilient. Titanium, nickel and chromium are used in stainless steel. The right degree for the kind of steel being used can make it more durable. Steel is also used in helical wire and perimeter rods to hold a Bonnell coil, offset coil or continuous coil innerspring together. Pocket coils are in fabric pockets.
Metal may be used elswhere on a mattress, such as brass for air vents, buckles, and rings. Brass, gold and silver are also used for Decoration.
Foams are used in a number of these categories, most commonly for Support, Cushioning, quilting in Covers, and Containment (as foam encasement).
Foams are what they are made of and how they are formed. The most common basic kinds of foam are polyurethane and latex. Some insulating foams occasionally used in quilting are polyethylene and polyester.
Polyurethane foam is, for the most part, a petroleum based material. Most of the so-called plant-based foams only have a small percentage of polyols made from plant oils. These may be soy oil, peanut oil, or some other oil. Some manufacturers advertise foam made with coconut oil.
Magniflex claims to make water-based foams from soy and aloe vera. This eliminates the use of petroleum. Though I don’t know the chemical details, water-based foams sound a lot like latex, and latex-like substances can be made from several reduced-moisture vegetable liquids, such as aloe vera juice.
Latex foam is made from rubber tree sap. Synthetic latex is made from butadiene, and the two are often blended to combine their benefits. Latex is used for its resiliency.
Rigid and semi-rigid materials are used for framing and support. These include wood, particle board, composite hardboard, and sheets of metal and plastic. They are usually used in framing foundations. A few one-sided mattresses have a base layer that is rigid or semi-rigid.
The best known use of chemicals in mattresses is for Safety. Unless the manufacturers use a non-chemical alternative, certain chemicals serve as fire retardants to meet federal guidelines for flammability. These fire resisting chemicals include some nasty ones such as phthalates, which have been linked to cancer. These are still used for lower cost mattresses. Among non-chemical alternatives, silica is infused into rayon to make it flame resistant.
Some additives are used for temperature regulation. These are generally harmless, as these substances rely on physical properties rather than chemical interaction. Phase change materials are added to cover fabrics, quilting materials, or foams to keep temperatures within a desired range. Gel is added to foams to modify their support and absorb heat. Aloe vera extracts and other herbal extracts, such as lavender, are added to fabrics to sooth the skin, control odors, and offer other benefits.
Fibers, ingredients for foams, and additives consist of both natural and synthetic materials. Natural materials are those found in nature, whether wild or cultivated. This also included minerals which have not been chemically altered. For instance, graphite that is mined is a natural material. If it is obtained by reducing compounds to carbon, then processed to crystallize the carbon to graphite, it is synthetic.
For biological natural materials, there is also the question of whether they are organic or not. To be classified as organic, certain standards have to be met as to how the plant or animal was raised, suah as what it was fed, and how the product was handled and processed. Now added to that is the question of whether the animal or plant was genetically modified. With bedding, the concern is the presence of residues from pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals, many of which are potentially harmful.
Synthetic materials are the product of creating new compounds from raw materials, usually by chemical processes. Most plastics are examples of this. First with coal tar, then with petroleum distillates, one substance was changed into another, usually by polymerization, the linking of short molecules to make longer molecules. Examples of this are the “poly” materials: polyurethane, polypropylene, polyester, and polyethylene. Other common polymers are nylon and vinyl.
Rayon bridges these two categories. It is cellulose which has been extracted from woody fibers, liquefied, and extruded as sheets, blocks, or fibers. Therefore rayon is natural in substance (it is still cellulose), but synthetic in form. The Federal Trade Commission has ruled that rayon (also known as viscose) should be identified as such, since cellulose is the only substance from the biological source. But the wood from which it is made can be named, for instance “bamboo rayon” or “rayon from bamboo.”
As long as this article is, it is not in any sense exhaustive. I can only hope that I’ve given you something to sleep on.
Aloe is a succulent plant which grows naturally in desert and semi-desert areas. Used for thousands of years as the source of medicinal and cosmetic products, this plant has been so widely cultivated that identifying its place of origin is a matter of educated guessing. It is also known by other Latin names, but the official one is Aloe vera.
The three most active substances in Aloe vera are derived from hydroxyanthrone. Collectively they are called aloin.
Two substances from the Aloe vera plant are commonly used, the juice and the gel. Aloe latex (not to be confused with rubber latex) is made by drying the juice. They are used both externally and internally. External use is safer than internal use, since aloe gel and aloe juice can be toxic in large qualtities or concentrations. Aloe latex, therefore, is generally not recommended for internal use because of its concentration.
Many uses of aloe have been documented over the past 5000 years. Its most common use has been as a skin softener or conditioner. It has also been used for burns and wounds. Many of us grew up learning that fresh aloe gel or aloe juice heals burns, including sunburn. Numerous clinical studies have been inconclusive or contradictory on actually healing burns, but it does have a postive influence. First, the gel will remain long enough to protect a burn or wound. Secondly, Aloe vera juice and gel are anti-microbial, and thus may protect a wound from infection.
One of the proponents of Aloe vera for health benefits is Dr. Andrew Weil, the founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. He has also recommended a mattress reviewed on Beds.Org, the Comforpedic IQ.
The leaves of the Aloe vera plant are fibrous. These are finer fibers than other natural fibers used in textiles, and they are not readily extracted. Therefore they are not commercially important. But recent research explores blending aloe fibers with other fibers. Since these fibers are cellulose, they can be used to make rayon, otherwise known as viscose.
Fifteen mattress models or collections reviewed on Beds.Org use Aloe vera. Most use it in the textiles, and some use it in the foam.
Aloe vera in textiles is most often not as a fiber. It is usually the juice or the gel applied to the fibers or to the finished fabric. The usual motive is cosmetic or medicinal, to sooth skin coming into contact with the fabric. The fibers may be treated by coating them with or soaking them in the aloe. On the other hand, aloe gel and aloe juice capsules can be spun into the threads. This saves the aloe until released by skin rubbing on it. Treament of fibers and/or fabric is the most common use of aloe in mattresses reviewed on Beds.Org.
One of the reviewed models actually uses Aloe vera as one of the fibers. The cover fabric of the Aloe Alexis by Brooklyn Bedding is a 50/50 blend of organic cotton and aloe fiber rayon (literally “Viscose from the Aloe Plant Fiber”).
The most suprising use of aloe in textile fibers I found while researching this article has to do with silk. When silk fibers are processed for spinning, a gummy substance called sericin is removed. Sericin is anti-microbial, protecting the silkworm’s cucoon from being degraded by bacteria. This leaves the processed silk vulnerable to decay. According to an article written by Vinay G. Nadiger and Sanjeev R. Shukla of India, the silk can be treated with an extract of Aloe vera to make it antimicrobial once again.
Of the mattresses using Aloe vera in one way or another, they are a small portion of the models and collections reviewed on Beds.org. However, if treatment of silk with aloe vera extract becomes widespread, beds with silk may have Aloe vera as an un-named ingredient.
Coconuts are not only something you can eat, but something you can sleep on.
Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), a tree naturally found on tropical coasts. The coconut palm has spread by means of its bouyant seed floating on water, following ocean currents and tides. From beaches, it spreads to nearby low areas by dropped seeds. Coconuts are rather large and heavy for seeds, so coconut palms do not naturally range far from the shoreline. However, cultivated coconuts palms are found inland.
The coconut has three parts: the outer husk, the inner husk (coir) and the seed itself. All three parts have economic significance. The coconut is a source of both food and fiber.
Most people know the coconut as a food source. The solid white meat around the hollow interior is edible, as is the watery “milk” inside. Coconut oil extracted from the fruit is used in cooking. It is also used in cosmetics, lotions, ointments and plastics
Coconuts are also used in bedding, especially mattresses. Some bedding foams use coconut oil as an ingredient. The oil is actually infused into some fabrics as a skin conditioner, but this is not common, because that would have only a short term effect.
The fibers of the coconut are also used in mattresses, especially from the inner husk. These fibers, called coir, are extracted from the soaked hulls. The fibers themselves may be included in matting, such as base pads and insulators in a mattress.
More commonly, coir portions or fibers are mixed with rubber tree sap (latex) and cured, forming a very firm sheet, also called coir. India is a significant producer of this kind of coir. Its use in beds is usually as a base pad or an insulator (separating softer materials from coils). In several non-foam innerspring mattresses with pocket coils, coir is used for edge support.
There are dozens of other uses for coconut fiber, so raising coconuts for food and fiber is an important activity in many tropical and subtropical regions.
Wood slatted foundations, more commonly known as European wood slats, were developed in 1956 by Karl Thomas and his son Wilfried Thomas for better support of mattresses. Just as James Marshall invented pocket coils for his wife, Karl Thomas developed the slatted frame for his. In other words each invention was to meet a need.
The Thomases sold the slatted frames under the name of Lattoflex. Wood slats became the standard flexible foundation for beds in continental Europe just as box springs became the standard in America. Over the next 40 years, the Thomas Group improved the design of slatted frames. The first development was adjustability of the slats, a prime feature of slatted foundations used by Design Sleep and European Sleep Works in this country.
Meanwhile, sleep research continued on both continents. Thomas Group used results of this research in their research and development department in Germany.
In 1996, Lattoflex introduced a new kind of slatted foundation. Instead of wooden slats, metal rods went across beneath the mattress. Extending from these rods were wings, plates of metal at the ends of arms. These had two advantages over the wood slats. First, they were more flexible, with more response points under the mattress. Second, they provided full support with much less contact surface. This meant more ventilation for the underside of the mattress, making it cooler and discouraging mildew and mold.
There were–and are–two Lattoflex series, Lattoflex 200 and Lattoflex 300. The firmness of areas in the 300 series can be adjusted. Lattoflex also makes adjustable beds with this kind of surface.
The winged suspension concept is applied in the lower half of Thevo therapy mattresses, made by Thomashilfen, a member of the Thomas Group.
It remains to be seen how this concept will affect foundation designs by other bed manufacturers. But since Dormeo Octaspring introduced the foam spring, other manufacturers have begun making foam springs of their own.
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
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