Mattresses 101

Everything you need to know about innerspring, foam, air and water mattresses.

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NASA originally developed viscoelastic foam for use in astronauts’ seats to reduce the pressure of G-forces and the discomfort of spending a long time sitting in the same position. Viscoelastic foam doesn’t bounce, so you’re less likely to be bothered by a restless bed partner, but it also doesn’t have the spring and give of an innerspring mattress, so it can take some getting used to.

Latex foam is another option. It’s hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, so it’s often billed as a top choice for allergy and asthma sufferers. It conforms to your body, so it relieves pressure points, and it’s breathable, so it’s warmer in winter and cooler in summer. It also has a bouncier feel than viscoelastic foam. However, those with latex allergies should consider something else.

Air Mattresses
No, this isn’t the blow-up version you take camping. This version has puncture-resistant chambers inside instead of springs. The chambers pump air into the mattress and release it, providing varying degrees of firmness. The air chambers are covered in a layer of support foam, and that in turn is topped with a comfort pad. A remote-control pump lets you adjust your side of the bed to whatever firmness level you like.

These days, water beds may be covered in layers of memory foam or have washable pillow tops. For those not wanting the full-motion experience, models that are practically waveless are available. Like latex and memory foam, water beds ease pressure points and are good for allergy sufferers.

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