Top 2014 Consumer Reports mattress ratings comments.

2014 Consumer Reports Ratings
  Serta,Charles P. Rogers,  & Simmons 
Earn Top Grades In Lab Tests. 

The top-rated mattress retailer  again is a factory-direct franchise operator, Original Mattress Factory with most stores in Ohio  and  at the bottom of the list and the least best for two years in a row is Sleepys, an East Coast large specialty retailer who apparently has been unable to shake off  an unenviable earned reputation.  These opinions are from many thousand CR subscribers who share their good and bad experiences with Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports,  the nations’s premier product rating organization  published its annual mattress report in their March issue.  Consumer Reports does not accept advertising or any anything  else that might compromise their judgment and reputation. Their sole source of support is annual dues and donations from members.   I consider their reviews to be a highly reliable source for any mattress shopper.

Consumer Reports laboratory physically tests mattresses using purpose built devices. Some evaluate wear and others to accurately describe the amount and quality of support and air circulation.  This methodology aside from being completely unique is capable of predicting comfort for back and side sleepers as well as issues of heating and cooling. Their professionalism removes much of the surprise when buying a new mattress.

Other recommended innerspring mattresses in addition to the Charles P. Rogers St.Regis include several from Beautyrest, Sealy, and Stearns & Foster.  Recommendations  for Memory Foam included   Novaform , a Costco exclusive and the heavily advertised Bob-O-Pedic  featured at Bob’s Discount Furniture as well as the Simplicity from Tempur-Pedic.    CR’s Best Buy formula (nothing to do with  Best Buy stores) awards the $800  memory foam Novaform at Costco.

The ratings of walk-in stores are based on over 6,000 reported shopping experiences commencing in 2011 and ending June 2013  CR takes pains to point out that their praises or condemnations are based solely on reviews from their members and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the general public.  Costco has come in second twice in a row as a good place to shop owing partially to their clear and workable customer service policies and competitive prices.  Possibly the non-existence of sales people is , unfortunately, another reason.

The top three recommended innerspring mattresses are the Serta Perfect Day iSeries Applause, the Beautyrest Recharge Palisades Court Luxury Firm Pillow-top,  and the Charles P. Rogers St. Regis Pillow-top 

And now, as is my old guy right, I now go off message and ramble a bit.

This Old Bed Guy was pleased to notice that the sleep set that we have happily used for the last eight years,  the Charles P. Rogers St. Regis was recognized for outstanding quality, durability, and as “the coolest”.  It is nice to now that by taking our own advice a decade ago we foreshadowed an eventual Consumer Report test confirming my choice.

Equally interesting is that the St. Regis which has been now tested by Consumer Reports for the first time has been in production since before I was born 83 years ago. It has been improved continuously and was produced every year except during WW2 when the military used all the steel available.   The Beautyrest that shares this year’s top is based also originated more than eighty years ago and made in Elizabeth, a few miles down the road  from the new Charles P. Rogers bleeding-edge factory in East Rutherford, NJ. The New York area once had hundreds of  mattress factories.  I don’t think that five or six survive.   I slept on one when I was very young and always wondered why I couldn’t feel the metal buttons.   The Charles P. Rogers of those days was also tufted as no one had yet invented quilt top mattresses.

We  have been praising  old time family owned  NYC area based mattress companies such as Shifman and Charles P. Rogers for decades and the last few years on the blog.  Another local survivor is the Beckley company in the Bronx that literally makes nineteenth century mattresses for the design trade.  They have no technology newer than the Spanish American war and use mainly animal products. Their coils are tied to one another with twine.  I am mentioning but not praising as their mattresses are unnecessarily costly and, in my opinion, not very comfortable.  However, if one owns an odd size antique, Beckley can fill it.    Shifman has also been making one of the worlds best, mostly by hand, and mostly unchanged except visually and thickness since 1950 when “Mrs Coyle” and I started our now 63  year marriage sleeping on a gift Shifman Sanotuft. Beautiful grey striped 8oz. cotton fabric.  By hand is a euphemism because Shifman has plenty of machinery including their own cotton felt processing, but the final finishing must be done by hand. It was hard as a hunk of New York Central Park rock but those were the days when Sealy grew to leadership  by promoting, “No Morning Backache From Sleeping On A Too Soft Mattress”.  To their credit, Shifman does make use of latex foam where appropriate including a two sided all latex mattress. Nothing at all wrong except that many of their mattresses cost as much a nice small car.    I sometimes feel nostalgia for the good but hard old days, nevertheless, current mattresses are capable of giving you a much more comfortable and healthful night’s sleep.

To their credit, even if they are not New Yorkers,  Marshall Mattress in Toronto and McCroskey in San Francisco are far better in every respect than the major brands, but tend to be almost as unaffordable as  most Shifman.   Shifman, out of character, makes a tiny line of machine tufted reversible mattresses at very competitive prices. Apparently not for Bloomingdales, but these rock hard mattresses show up at furniture store sales.

We also opened our first store about that time and  for decades were in the habit of constantly taking the newest mattress design breakthroughs home for a long test.  We sold every important name brand, and slept on all for weeks or months at a time, but nothing received permanent status in decades except this one, the Charles P. Rogers that we bought at full retail after retiring.  Shifman, in the era of hard mattresses was unquestionably as good as one could get in a retail store and comparatively was not as strikingly expensive as the line  on Bloomingdales sales floor.   For decades Stearns and Foster occupied a reputation notch above the best Beautyrest or PosturePedic but the king size super pillow top with foamed in place edge was the worst I ever took home.  In less than six months it was history.  Soon after that, Sealy bought S&F, mainly for the name, closed the S&F factories and today makes both brands on the same line with the same labor.  Last year as their fortunes sagged, TempurPedic bought them on the cheap and is in the process of integrating the three brands.  I have seen a lot of newish PosturePedics with knock-off pocketed coils trying to emulate the Beautyrest, and what appears to be a large proliferation of synthetic foam in both Sealy and S&F.  This is progress?

We got the Charles P. Rogers mattress when we moved back to the city after a period of country living following my retirement.    No longer in the business, not wanting to ask for a favor from old suppliers , we went to Charles P. Rogers who then, as now, only sold direct to the public, and for the quality just about wholesale cost for a similar Sealy or Serta.  No favors needed.  At that time the top of their line was the St.Regis which earned the name in  the 1920′s when Rogers designed it for what was then the best hotel in NYC, the St.Regis.   They had upgraded the cover occasionally , but it still had hand assembled pocketed coils and the best possible filling materials of the era regardless of cost.

Now, almost nine years since I spent maybe $5-600 in 2004 dollars. The perception of comfort was immediate on night one.  The mystery would be durability as I had no personal experience selling the product, just some Beautyrests with fairly similar specifications.   Time has passed my St. Regis by.  It is amazingly like new, but unfortunately “Mr. and Mrs. Coyle” are not. We have not been able to stave off the ravages of time. Every ache and pain known to modern medicine inhabits one of us some of the time or both all the time. The medical profession has done miracles and at this rate we can just go on and on, one or new two meds at a time, an occasional joint replacement and we are up and mobile, but we really needed a softer mattress.

I shopped all three big brand mattresses praised most highly in the Consumer Reports. NYC stores have everything except legitimate bargains. They all felt good.  The big brands were twice as thick as good mattresses used to or need to be.  I visited the Charles P. Rogers showroom on 17th street.  ”My” St. Regis is still being sold  but costs twice as much as when when we got ours.  In fairness, the current top rated model has been updated technologically with more and better coils and a lot more padding. And it no longer needs turning.  It still weighs in queen size, 120 pounds owing to the added quantities inside.  For the record, competing highly rated mattresses from major makers in this Consumer Report weigh more than 25 pounds less but don’t cut the price. Charging for air.  The extra filling in the St.Regis is one reason that it defy’s time.   A pressing need for economy in raw materials   is the major reason that mattresses from the big S companies tend to need replacing  so much more rapidly than a Marshall Mattress in Canada, Charles P. Rogers or a Shifman , or for you Left Coast people, McCroskey Mattress in San Francisco.  ”Marshall Coyle” recommends all  four as “good old quality” with modern materials and techniques. Comfort varies, but so do people’s needs. Rogers is sold direct only through their two showrooms and the internet.  The others have limited retail regional distribution.

Displayed next to the St. Regis on the Charles P. Rogers  mattress floor was their new three-number line, the PowerCore Estate.  If it’s only difference was that it had more coils than just about any other mattress,  it wouldn’t be such a big deal, however, it is.  We ordered one on the spot.   Rogers, alone in the USA has  recently invented bleeding edge, computer controlled coil making machines needed to make the PowerCore proprietary coil.  This coil is wound and shaped differently and is capable of sensing the weight and contours of the sleeper(s).  This dynamic coil doesn’t just go up and down like every other.  It moves at different speeds and with different resistance depending on whether a shoulder or a butt is weighing it down. Rogers has achieved the mattress Holy Grail with an innerspring that really conforms to the occupants, not the other way around.

“Mrs.Coyle” and I had a hard time deciding which of the three as they all had the same  innerspring unit, however the 100% layered Talalay latex in all three was designed for three discrete “feels”.   The common thread was that all three have the most coils with the most wire packed in the most intelligent way to provide the most comfort and durability and they feel enough different while remaining very comfortable that it makes a decision difficult.  We have one on order and after the ultimate test, sleeping at home, I will reveal which model.

I am not a fan of synthetic foam. Too many variables and too many are negative.  I know that like many other products you can’t paint all with the same brush.  Synthetic foams can be as hard as your hiking shoe sole or ethereally light and fluffy.  Depends on the chemical and the ratio of solids to air. It is like a sponge cake. Tiny bubbles with thick cell walls is hard and great big bubbles with thinnest membranes can start out feeling like sleeping on a cloud.  Unfortunately,  these plush foams start to lose their feel and support in the first five minutes of use and each time they are forced down by the weight of the sleeper crush a little more speeding to an early trip to the landfill.   You can get good synthetic foam and you can get awful synthetic foam.

The PowerCore Estate mattresses are upholstered and padded exclusively with layers of genuine clean and cool foamed latex from the actual sap of the rubber tree.  You can get good or better latex foams, but you can’t get bad latex foam.  The mattress maker can order from a wide range of firmnesses to dial up any feel he or she wishes without worrying that the mattress will lack durability.  The big drawback of genuine Talalay Process latex foam is cost. And it is a big deal for cost-cutting major brands.  Therefor little or no latex, and when they use it, a mattress can quickly hit five figures. They spend so much on advertising and distribution that the mattress filling comes last.  It is far more expensive and cooler than synthetics like memory foam.    It is naturally cool, naturally comfortable, and naturally durable, and unlike chemically derived foam. It does not continually bleed invisible but not odorless gas.

When trying to empty my crowded mail box daily, I have not yet found a situation  that called for me to recommend memory foam.  New versions seem to come out hourly and possibly when the heat, odor, and outgassing problems will dissipate and I can become a fan.  Rogers uses a mixture of memory foam and gel in one or two models below the PowerCore line.  They also use where called for, a latex foam infused with gel. I doubt, but have no direct knowledge  that they would offer anything with noxious characteristics.  Makers of Gel assisted foam tout  the gel’s ability to temper the heat issues present in memory foam while adding a certain undefined bounce.

As usual, I welcome emails to  You can post a comment, but will get a quicker answer by mail.  Please try to supply me with details such as I request  in many places in this blog.  I can not recommend a mattress if I do not know at least basics about the users.  I can’t tell you about your antique bed without some clear pictures.   I can sometimes supply simple ways to deal with a mattress service problems and your dealer is not living up to your expectations.  The mattress brands that I may have praised above are not necessarily the best ones for you specifically to buy.  They are at least four outstanding companies that make honest mattresses.   I can often tell you how to make some simple changes to make your present mattress more comfortable.   I can not provide a solution to some memory foam being hot and saggy.






Posted in Bed Buying Tips, Bed History, Bed Value, Bedding, Iron Beds, Mattresses, Old-Bed-Guy, Uncategorized, Wood Beds | 4 Comments

I am the Old Bed Guy.

Welcome to the Old Bed Guy. I am said old bed guy and have been involved in the bed and bedding industry for over 60 years, and life in general, for more than 83 years. I have seen it all.

I constantly shop the web, read trade papers, visit a route of many local stores ranging foreign imports, sleazy chain sleep shops, department and furniture stores, and local factories. For the record, I am based in Manhattan, New York, (not Kansas) and have access to almost every kind of bed store and wholesale showroom. A very few of my old mattress buddies around the country help with out of town information

If you are in the market for a bed, bedding, mattress, or bed linen, pay attention. You are going to learn a lot. Questions encouraged.

We have a lot of current information about Aireloom, Shifman, Kluft, Simmons, Sealy, Sleep Number,Charles P. Rogers, St. Regis, Kingsdown, Carpe Diem, Vi Spring, Hastens, Duxiana, Dux,  Stearns and Foster, Leggett and Platt, Serta, TempurPedic, Hotel Mattresses and on and on. We try to stay informed on most store private labels but since most stores private labels are models of inconsistency, the information is less valuable that for real brands.

I am happy to personally answer your questions on anything about the furniture business if you write me with your bed and mattress questions. If you want useful mattress advice, I request that you tell me enough about yourself and partner for me to zero in as closely as possible.  I need to know age, height,  sleeping position, physical activity or lack of it, any health or physical reasons that now interfere with sleep, current sleep equipment.

Please allow a day or two for an answer.  The most detailed questions tend to get my attention more quickly.   Anyone seriously shopping for a good mattress owes it to him/herself to read the current Consumer Reports mattress test.  Available on the net and worth many times the insignificant membership fee.  I suspect that they are the only absolutely unbiased mattress reviewers on the net.  The most popular mattress and sleep blogs, especially those with forums, have a paid-for agenda to subtly or not so subtly steer you to a product or website that is invisibly paying for this service.  ”let the buyer beware” now that you know.

I don’t say that the only two unbiased web services are The Old Bed Guy and Consumer Reports.  There may be others. Never the less, I have searched long and strong and those that I have found in several years of searching  can be summed up with one word “phony”.

I have lived in the New York metro area for more than eight decades and I often recommend Shifman and Charles P. Rogers, two local NY/NJ old time mattress makers not very well known across the country.  Rogers only sells factory direct on the internet and two bricks and mortar stores.  The NYC store now is about 200 feet from a smaller one that they operated in 1855 and for decades thereafter. Shifman  sells only through a small cadre of fine furniture stores and, recently, some Bloomingdales branches.  New Yorkers in the know have relied on Shifman for about 117 years and Charles P. Rogers, America’s oldest mattress shop, for almost 160 years.

Our family has relied on Charles P. Rogers and Shifman for personal use for many generations, occasionally using Beautyrests when a new one came out, or five and six inch thick solid latex foam. Sealy and Stearns&Foster, both now made on the same assembly lines rarely get a nod from me from personal sleeping experiences and the years and dollars I literally spent buying back these two brands of sagging mattresses. My store policy was to buy back any mattress regardless of a maker trying to avoid responsibility  with a too clever worthless warranty.    ”Been there and did that”.

When we were retailers we took home every ” new breakthrough” invention or construction to try personally.   If it taught me anything, I learned that the progress was usually verbal.  We did try to like Tempur-Pedic and came close. The first few minutes were always very good.  However, as the unventilated temperature sensitive foam accumulated and responded to our body heat and perceptibly slumped and hardened, we, and anyone else with real memory foam, will find yourself sleeping in a tub inches deep. I was only in my late sixties and even then found it annoying to climb out when I had to turn.  This was at least twenty years ago when they still used genuine Swedish (from Sweden) odorless foam. Today’s visco/memory foam(s) seem to be far more gassy than the early versions. If the gas wasn’t formaldehyde related all it would be is an annoyance for a few months.  Never the less, science seems to believe that formaldehyde is cause of liver cancer and OSHA is very concerned about factory ventilation.  No one knows if or how many molecules it takes to start a cancer and since there are so many other things to sleep on, why bother?  When you see a memory foam mattress advertised at an unbelievable price, believe it because of China.  Chinese foamers completely unregulated are shipping container loads of incredibly cheaply made short-lived, odorous, and probably dangerous local version of “memory foam”.  Our laws do not protect you, only your good judgment.

In my opinion, natural latex foam, foam that appeared around 1930 when I did, can make a wonderful mattress.  I know of nothing better to top off a good innerspring unit when you want the best comfort and support.  Caveat: like all foams, latex is made in a wide range of firmnesses and it is important to know the differences.    Memory foam has a lot of issues and not enough benefits in general for me to recommend it to a reader.  More elsewhere in the OldBedGuy blog.

Before you ask me , “which is better, a one sided or two sided mattress”, the answer is “yes”.  I go into detail somewhere else in this blog.

There are a few West coast such as Aireloom and Canadian craft mattress makers that I occasionally recommend when geography is important.   Very often Simmons Beautyrest in their better priced lines are worth recommending for specific body types and health needs.  I don’t profess to know everything and sometimes I rely on a small network of other retired mattress guys to solve a knotty problem.

What I do not do is reveal my real identity as I am rather well known in the home furnishings industry and I do not wish to risk losing friends over my pointed opinions.

So let the buyer beware.

If you want advice as to how to stay married more than sixty-three years, make money, deal with all the bad news on every front page, I charge ten cents. Advice on dog raising is free. Medical advice questions should be limited to aches and pains.

Thank you for reading my blog and please answer the not-too-personal questions above if you want a most useful reply.

Marshall Coyle

Posted in Bed Buying Tips, Bed History, Bed Value, Bedding, Iron Beds, Mattresses, Old-Bed-Guy | Tagged | 1 Comment

Why Mattresses Are So Darn Thick, And Is Thicker Better?

For oatmeal, yes.  For mattresses, usually not.

This is true for most foam and all innerspring mattresses, and there is a personal connection to the phenomenon.  I am sure that I did not invent “perceived value”, but back in the ‘fifties, I thought I did. All innerspring mattresses were padded on both sides and never thicker than seven or eight inches.  Latex was usually four inches, rarely five, and almost never padded.   Mattress ticking was almost all cotton and most mattresses were made with dozens of metal buttons attached to cords under tension that went to the opposite side.  All box springs had real coil springs.   Choices were very limited.  I soon became aware that customers who had no real way to determine quality seemed to value thicker and smoother mattresses more than thinner and tufted mattresses.

Directly or indirectly my perceived need was for higher markups. The industry standard in the industry language 75 years ago was “a number”, or “one number”. A very simple method for even the most math-challenged shopkeeper was to double the cost. You could multiply by two or even do it by addition. My goal was to get mattresses that were made to my own specifications by name brand manufacturers. Two of these makers are still in business, Simmons and Sealy. The Simmons family owned and operated the business. Sealy was a group of individually owned local factories making mattresses to the franchisor’s specifications. Price maintenance “Fair Trade” national laws put in place by racist conservative Republicans elected under Hoover, authorized manufacturers to place minimum selling prices on their branded mattresses. This Great Depression law which protected Sears, Penneys, and WASP owned department stores from price cutting first and second generation European immigrants who owned most of the small stores in the country.

A Beautyrest and/or a Sealy Posturepedic sold at retail for $39.50 and cost me $21.50 and the price protected department stores paid $20,00. No negotiating. Twin and full size were the same price and there was only one quality. The Beautyrest in the early fifties was about seven inches thick covered in a blue/white/orange striped heavy cotton covering. Of course it was reversible and it was deeply button tufted. A heavy tape was stretched between the top and bottom and held in place by circular metal buttons. The innerspring was an in-house made proprietary hand-assembled wonder of muslin pockets with light wire coils sewn in place. When every other mattress had a few hundred coils at most, the Beautyrest had the equivalent of today’s 800 coil mattress and was very flexible. Virtually all of the upholstery padding was high quality felted cotton fibers. The button tufts piercing the mattress and keeping the springs under tension kept the mattress in shape. Even as it sometimes spent decades on a soft coil spring base, flexing, it never sagged or collapsed. It was a wonderful product for sleeping, but not so good for profit.

The Posturepedic rose to prominence, challenging Simmons after World WarTwo. The Posturepedic was also price fixed making it illegal for any retailer to sell at a lower price than the major stores. It also was very thin by current standards and also had a proprietary coil innerspring that was less flexible than the Beautyrest but capable of being far firmer. Sealy bombarded the country with magazine and early television ads proclaiming, “No Morning Backache From Sleeping On A Too Soft Mattress”. The idea resonated and the customers came. To be even more competitive, Sealy developed a way to conceal the tufts under the cover and make their Posturepedic more visually appealing.

When I opened my first store, I groped for a way to offer better value and service to give everyone a reason to buy from me and not the great big store down the block. It was illegal to cut price but for shopkeepers willing to do it, the reward was a ringing cash register. For you younger readers who may have never heard or seen a cash register, they were ornamental boxes with number keys, a cash drawer, and moving numbers on top to show the amount of the transaction. Today ringing the register is just a phrase, but when I had the obligation of caring for a growing family and a few employees, it was music to my ears. I had to haggle to make the sale, but hated it enough to change the system. The other sure fire way of improving business was actually giving wonderful service. My competition took weeks to make deliveries and then wouldn’t even put the new mattress on a customer’s bed. We gave immediate same day or tomorrow delivery, placed the mattress and removed the old one. But the real way to open the floodgates was offering demonstrable value in addition to the superior service.

From my vantage point of being on the sales floor six days a week and interacting 60 or 70 hours a week with shoppers, I listened as much as I spoke. Customers almost universally disliked button or similar lace-tufted mattresses. It was much easier to sell a smooth than a tufted mattress even if the tufted mattress might be much better. At the same time, I became aware that most shoppers equated thicker mattresses with more comfort.

Even though I sold tons (literally) of Beautyrests and PosturePedics the cost of the surreptitious discounts and the extreme customer service kept us from growing and doing what we went in business for. Making money. The answer was in designing new combinations of springs, filling, and most important, outside appearance. Getting them made by the same suppliers was one of the hardest negotiations I have ever undertaken, but slowly and steadily, our display floor sported recognizable names on unrecognizable mattresses. Because these mattresses were negotiated for and the name brands that made them saved advertising and other expenses, our wholesale price was very favorable. Our margins (the difference between wholesale and retail) climbed. We found ourselves with substantial income and plowed it back into an unprecedented advertising program. I am condensing years of struggle and the usual wrong steps into a success story.

After some years of growth, we were large enough to often get just what we wanted with our buying power. Success breeds success and we were doing very well, but still having to be furtive about underselling Macy’s and the other department stores. Our display consisted of twenty five, no more, no less, brand and private label mattresses and each one looked like a good value at it’s assigned price. None were available elsewhere. Not just different labels as is today’s practice, but, at least in my opinion, better inside ingredients and visibly better exteriors.

From the beginning until the early seventies, the concept of buying a mattress and box spring for one combined price hadn’t surfaced. Mattresses and matching box springs sold for the exact same price even though the box spring cost the maker far far less. Some of the facts are getting hazy from the weeks of the big mattress bang. I decided to openly break fair-trade fixed prices and do it very visibly. My math showed a large enough increase in sales volume would prove profitable. If we gave a price war and no one showed up, of course, we would have been losers. We placed full page ads in major city papers and floods of radio commercials, all with the same offering. Sealy Posturepedic, Buy the Mattress and Get the Box Spring free. Just another way to say “half price”. Prior to the advertising, we bonded with a non-local Sealy Franchise who sold us carloads at a discount as well as more carloads of custom made private label mattresses and discontinued dealing with our local department-store-loving Sealy Franchise. The outcome from a profit and loss viewpoint was exceptional and our town got to know us a lot better. Of course, we lost a valued relationship with the local supplier and regret it to this day, but our new supplier proved a staunch friend in the decades to follow. And, by the way, Fair Trade just died away, forgotten and unloved.

The mattress business was coming into its own around that time. Sleep Shop chains were opening in every town and neighborhood. Department stores were enlarging their departments. Big box stores, also a fairly new phenomenon, added their competition, one visionary started a telephone selling business. This was fueled by the rise of queen and kingsize as new profit sources, and crazes such as the waterbed. The invention of inexpensive polyurethane foam brought smooth and firm sleep sets to short-lived popularity. Heat sensitive visco-elastic chemical foam was soon to be invented. As innerspring got thicker and thicker to justify higher and higher prices. Tempur-pedic came out with a foamed mattress material that could be made in any firmness and still be durable. Some, but not most who tried it, found it comfortable. Many would be owners have been put off by undesirable odors. No matter what, TempurPedic made a high priced and very thin mattress that they marketed very effectively and have become part of the establishment. Unfortunately with very thick foam mattresses that have all the bad points of foam and not many of their good original product. Thick sells for them and every other maker.

When the current century rolled around some makers were experimenting with one-sided innerspring mattresses that can not and/or need not be turned. These are even thicker and far less durable than most of the mattress constructions that they replaced. Never the less, they cost less to make, and as they are so thick, still command high prices.

As I blame myself for the roots of the make-it-thicker movement, I apologize to anyone who has purchased a fat and fluffy one sided mattress that prematurely died. If I am re-incarnated I will never do it again. If you take the time to follow this blog and agree with my opinions, you might become a smarter shopper. Consumer Reports last month did one of their recurring mattress reviews and gave three mattresses top ratings. All three are around 13″ thick and will be dwarfed by almost everything else in the stores. These three from Simmons, Sealy, and Charles P. Rogers, have pocketed coils like the Beautyrest I trained on in the fifties, only better. None have fluff, just good flexible materials, and two of them are around $1,200 in queen size. This really proves some of my points.

Marshall Coyle

Posted in Bed Buying Tips, Bed History, Bedding, Mattresses, Old-Bed-Guy | 4 Comments


A shopper journeying through the internet will reveal countless websites claiming that they will share the revealed truth about the comfort, quality , and value of brand name mattresses. Google finds about 634,000 websites if you type in “Mattress Reviews”. Most of them appearing in the top listings seem to be owned by retailers or manufacturers seeking to drive business their way.

The only truth is that virtually everyone who publicly judges mattresses on the web has some kind of agenda that pre-determines the outcome. Claims of comfort or durability are always subjective and since they are unprovable can not be called true. Claims of value can only be slightly more objective, and then, only if they could compare two identical mattresses offered at different prices. Consumer Reports, the only consumer oriented and supported magazine, has made legitimate efforts from time to time. The quality of their advice varies, but you often can get very good guidance. Where they, in my opinion, are completely wrong is in their advice to always haggle. This is rarely possible or necessary when buying from internet merchants. I have tried to comprehend why they do so and have come to a conclusion that it is geography. They are physically located just north of NYC and tend to buy all of their test products locally from stores. The NYC area is inundated with Sleepys sleep shops. They are the poster child for stores that put extreme markups on their price tags and give almost every shopper ” a deal for them”. After the deal, the price may be twice as high as some of their competitors, but by having exclusive names and labels, comparison shopping is well nigh impossible. Consumer Reports members rate Sleepys at or near the bottom in all categories except delivery. Despite the difficulty in identifying similar products, Consumers as of late has been getting results that mostly meet with my experienced boots-on-the-ground opinions. Reading their reports carefully can save you money and aggravation.

Where you buy your mattress is as or more important than what you buy. It is so difficult to know what you are getting into even with brief trials in a store. If you need a replacement, you don’t want to be ripped off and abused, you want a comfortable mattress at an affordable price. Factory direct stores tend to be the best for value and service and large chain sleezy sleep shops the worst. Ikea, Sams, Costco, and other big box stores can often have bargains, but sometimes with questionable after delivery service. Department stores are in the middle. Internet mattress sellers are all over the place ranging from ultimate integrity for one 157 year old NYC factory direct with a mattress that CR highly recommends,Charles P. Rogers, to fly by nights that bring in a container of Chinese foam mattresses and then disappear.

Most Americans sleep on three basic types of mattresses; innerspring , and synthetic foam, and pneumatic, or some combination of all or any of them. 90% of North Americans still sleep on innerspring mattresses and usually pay much less than for “magic” alternate sleep. ( I will explain “magic further down in this essay}. Various synthetic or latex foams without innersprings are a distant second but gaining, and air mattresses are insignificant but do have one strong maker that CR recommends, Sleep Number. For many years the air bladder mattresses were not much more than thick campers blow-ups. However Sleep Number figured out how to use very small air bladders with thick foams padding and a small percentage of buyers swear by them instead of, as they once did, at them. Adjustable beds are appealing to a lot of aging boomers. Chinese imports have forced prices down and competition is keeping them down for careful shoppers. A few major mattress makers buy adjustable metal foundations wholesale from Leggett and Platt and package them with their mattresses. Cost is much higher than a plain lay-flat foundation, but if you can sleep on your back, you may like the versatility for reading and watching TV. You aging boomers have to be careful about your sleeping position. Sleep Apnea, although not contagious, can be very serious and if you have it, your doctor may prescribe side sleeping and often wearing a pressure mask to keep breathing regular.

There have always been a small minority of counter-culture shoppers who choose alternate sleep-systems such as air, or water. They tend to be first-time buyers out to prove that their mother’s judgement is faulty. Many of the same people own gadgets that make their cars run further on a gallon of gas. Synthetic foams such as Tempur-Pedic have won over a large and increasing market share thanks to brilliant merchandising. They have done well enough to have the cash and credit to take over Sealy and Stearns & Foster in 2013. These smart promotors have been fighting shrinking sales, and acquiring a competitor short-term is good for your stock. Problem for them is that apparently, despite their advertising otherwise, not enough owners would recommend their product or buy it again. You can sleep on it and it is durable. However it is much warmer to sleep on than an innerspring and when first delivered many new owners are very unhappy with chemical odor. The purchase is often regretted but the process of changing seems to be worse than just getting use to it. They once had just one model maybe twenty years ago, but they have continuously expanded to newer, thicker, and more costly models. When they get thick, you sleep in it and not on it. This is a reason, in my opinion, of the heat causing sales slump. Now that they are combined with a major innerspring maker, we should start to see their name on innerspring mattresses and lots of Sealy full of foam from their parent.

Serta has been marketing the Perfect Day, a gel-infused foam that has been winning praise including from Consumer Reports. The gel allegedly helps dissipate body heat and it is highly likely that it does do some good. Juries are still out. Many, many other brands now use similar gel-infused foam and, like everything else, comes in range of quality. Current tests that the St.Regis 1000 pocket coil innerspring from Charles P. Rogers, a recommended choice, is as cool as you can get and cooler than most. This is because of controlled airflow starting with the cover. Leggett and Platt, the firm that makes most of the components for most American manufacturers paid for a university laboratory to run tests on various mattress to determine heat retention. The findings were that mattresses with an innerspring core are 28% cooler than solid foams.

Hotel mattresses deserve special mention. A few that are made with time-honored pre-war designs but making use of modern materials are extremely good. However, fat and soft disposable mattresses sold by major hotel chains are fun for a few months and then, absence of both durability and usable warranties, makes for a “never-again” scenario. This is a real buyer beware from me. Department stores and especially Sleep Shop chain stores that peddle super fat medium price mattresses with hotel labels glued on just reflect the fact that they are chasing short term profits, not of satisfied customers. Even if Simmons, Serta, or Sealy, has made the mattress to meet the store’s prices, it is made of poorer ingredients which have short lives. I doubt, if if anyone has ever bought a second luxury chain mattress. The hotels that use them expect to recycle every two or three years, you don’t. I am sorry to sound all doom and gloom, but if you have the patience to read through this article, you will learn that you can find high quality mattress at affordable prices. The power of knowledge can free you up from “let the buyer beware”

Coiled wire innerspring units are the heart and core of most the mattresses sold in the United States. 93% of all innerspring mattresses have springs supplied by the Leggett and Platt company. There are a few smaller spring makers and even smaller importers. Leggett and Platt are a very successful component manufacturer of the springs, foams and textiles used by the furniture and automotive industry. Over many decades they have bought and absorbed most of their competition. This is the major reasons why most brand name mattresses have virtually identical specifications insides and outside. Machinery to manufacture quality bonnell and pocketed wire coils is very expensive and requires highly skilled labor.

A handful of long-established European mattress makers such as Hastens, Duxiana, VI-Spring, Carpe Diem, and Americans Charles P. Rogers established 1855, in the East,, and McCroskey Mattress in the West, established 1899, still prefer make their own wire coils and maintain control over quality and innovation. Charles P. Rogers, using recently developed computer guided machinery in their New Jersey workrooms has been able to get very close the holy grail, a mattress that feels luxurious but still provides healthful support and according to Consumers testing, shows no wear in eight simulated years of machine torture. These two characteristics used to be mutually exclusive and have eluded the industry since its beginning. McCroskey with over a century of experience, has refined the original wire tied coil on their trusty old machines to as good as the design can get. Not flexible like the Rogers “PowerCore” but so much better than anything you may likely find in a name brand mattress at any price. The European luxury imports rely on exotic materials such as hair from butchered horses, more than innovative innersprings, with one outstanding exception. Scandinavian maker, Duxiana makes a very good sleep set that relies more on higher and more flexible coils than American name brands. Their beds tend to be very comfortable on the soft side with average durability.

The construction of the innerspring unit, the thickness and metallurgy of the coil wire, the manner of tempering the wire, the number and height of the coils, the method of fastening them to each other, and the support built into the edges, can be tailored to provide a far wider range of comforts to mattresses when you make your own. Each mattress maker whether buy assembled components from L&P or they assembles from scratch all seek to make a desired “feel” and comfort life. The feel can be manipulated for a desired firmness with little or no cost difference but with major quality differences. The number of years, or sometimes months, that a mattress will provide comfort and support can not be faked using inexpensive materials.

Ultimately, the highest quality mattresses will have more coils with more wire in each coil than a pretend-good mattress. These long-life electrically tempered and indurated coils will be wrapped in soft textile pockets and fastened each to the other in a flexible mat that makes the core of the mattress. This mode of construction permits the mattress to have varying firmnesses in zones that can provide ideal support for any body. Opinions vary but the consensus believes that proper healthful support requires springs that are soft enough to yield under pressure points and firm enough to support the weight of the occupants without sagging in the middle. The “PowerCore” mentioned above is the pinnacle of this design. The average Charles P Rogers queen mattress weighs around 120 pounds. The average top Sealy or Simmons is in the mid nineties. The difference is simply more steel and denser, more durable padding. When you buy a $1200 mattress direct from a mattress maker with no middlemen, you are getting $1200 dollars worth of mattress. When you buy the same price mattress at a retailer, you are buying a mattress that the store might have bought from the maker for $600, and sometimes less. That is why the factory direct is so much more mattress for the money.

The exterior of the mattress is made of woven or knitted fibers that form a sack to contain the springs, filling and insulation. Most one-sided mattresses use cheap non-woven material which may wear out for the underside prematurely. Charles P. Rogers is the only exception I am aware of with woven or knitted material on all sides. Some knitted covers offer more flexibility than woven covers and can feel demonstrably superior on mattresses with soft surfaces. All woven or knitted covers permit free passage to air helping keep the interior of the mattress dry. Many mattresses have pillow tops which add a layer of soft padding. This padding can be any of many kinds of foams and/or fibers. Some mattresses have metal or plastic air vents on the sides to further enhance ventilation and lower the temperature of the sleep surface. These vents are mostly eye candy serving as selling points with little or no basis in fact.

Between the sleeper and the steel springs are multiple layers of textile, foams and fibers, each with a purpose. Directly under the mattress cover material is a layer of textile that may or may not have chemical treatment and will stop an open flame from causing the mattress to break into flame as certified by the US CPSC. Some better mattresses use special flame retardant textiles treated only with natural boric acid that is considered perfectly safe.

Between the top of the springs and the flame retardant is a layer or layers of resilient padding known as the upholstery, and one layer of an insulating barrier to keep the padding and the springs separate. The padding can be virtually anything that will provide the cushioning and durability that the mattress designer is trying to achieve. The goal is to make a mattress that will provide years of healthful comfort with only insignificant permanent compression of the upholstery materials. High quality foams both synthetic and natural can often meet these needs better than traditional vegetable fibers. The perforated and gel infused foams can also permit more airflow to enhance the desired coolness of the sleep experience.

Many mattresses at all price ranges are padded with cotton fibers that have been compressed and felted. Historically, long before innersprings were invented there were two choices for an affluent mattress shopper. Cotton felt or animal hair. Hog and cattle hair being short was usually glued or sewn together into pads that were firm but relatively short lived. Horse mane and tail hair, a byproduct of the South American and Asian meat industry, were then and still are used in top end hand, faux-antique,luxury European mattresses. See above.

You don’t have to kill a horse to harvest the hair, but in reality, virtually all upholstery quality horse hair comes from Mongolian and Argentinian horses that were slaughtered for their meat and hair. When you pay thousands or tens of thousands for an ultra-luxury English or European mattress it has the hair of many dead horses as a main ingredient. Whether the horse is slaughtered on an Argentine estancia or the steppes of Mongolia, the hair destined for Europe makes its way to Switzerland where the animal waste is removed, especially from the tail, and the hair is steamed and hand braided which makes it springy and curly with little or no odor. There is no such commerce in the United States but it is legal to use imported horsehair in upholstery and mattresses if it has been sterilized and some makers still do.

Europeans who desire green products often choose to use a foam from natural latex from the sap of the rubber tree to cushion their mattresses. Some progressive old line American manufacturers now feature natural latex products. There are several ways to convert liquid tree sap to a durable clean spongy material and each has its backers, but it is difficult to get poor quality latex. Gel Latex and Gel Synthetic foams have recently made it into many mattresses. Some of it is actually cooler than ordinary foams, especially when it is blended in and not in pellet form The gel does not make the foam more resilient, but it can make it you more comfortable if you fault ordinary mattresses for holding heat.

I will be happy to answer your comments or provide personal answers or clarification to personal email sent to

Posted in Bed Buying Tips, Bed History, Bedding, Iron Beds, Mattresses, Old-Bed-Guy, Wood Beds | 2 Comments

Why You May Need A Special Platform Bed Mattress

I am “The Old Bed Guy” who has seen and done it all in the bed business. Sixty years ago, a then virtually unknown mattress company called “Sealy” came up with a slogan that endured for forty years and was responsible for millions of lost sleep hours. “No Morning Backache From Sleeping On a Too Soft Mattress” worked miracles for them and, along with some excellent decisions, and good business sense, vaulted them to the top of the business. Along the way they absorbed the “Stearns and Foster” company. The major competition was “Simmons”, makers of the very soft, durable, and comfortable “Beautyrest”. In those days almost every mattress had some kind of resilient spring underneath.

Somewhere in the eighties or nineties, “Simmons” discovered how to make a  good ard “Beautyrest” called the “Gibralter” for people with not much imagination. So, “Sealy” started to soften their “Posturepedic” and made many new friends. Why? Because hard beds are neither very comfortable or good for your health. The are especially unsuitable for side sleepers.

Since the stone age, people have been looking for something soft to sleep on. For the history of the bed you can go to, but for what to do now if you need a platform mattress, stay tuned right here.

Platform mattresses have to be as flexible as possible. The most flexible mattress is made of foam. a material that is almost always comfortable, and almost always a disappointment. The temptation to make it cheaper instead of better is virtually universal. The most flexible and predictable is made of individually pocketed coils covered with various padding materials usually including some foam.

The need for the flexibility is because of the absence of flex in the platform. Hard on hard means nights of tossing and turning. Flexible on hard and straight can provide wonderful support and comfort. At least one platform bed specialist, Charles P.Rogers has a proprietary line of innerspring platform mattresses that are designed to provide maximum comfort on a wood platform. Charles P.Rogers own make platform beds have padded decks and will be more comfortable than solid wood decks when you use a non-platform mattress that you might own.

Marshall, The Old Bed Guy.

I am happy to answer your questions if you write me at

Posted in Bed Buying Tips, Bed Value, Bedding, Mattresses, Old-Bed-Guy, Wood Beds | 3 Comments


Bedding Industry Glossary

Adjustable base: An electro-mechanical or manual bed frame construction that permits the raising and lowering of the head and/or foot portions of the mattress.

Airbed: An air mattress with a core that is an air-filled vinyl bladder. Better airbeds are multichambered, covered with cushioning, upholstered with ticking and sold with a foundation.

Anti-microbial fiber and foam: Treatment that inhibits the growth of microbial contaminates.

Backing: Any fabric or sheeting material that is used during quilting to anchor the stitches.

Batting: See Cotton Felt.

Bed: Generally refers to a mattress and foundation set.

Bedding: Commonly used as a generic term for a mattress and foundation set, but may also apply to accessory items such as blankets, sheets, pillows, comforters, mattress pads, etc.

Bedding ensemble: A complete sleep support system, consisting of a metal frame or a bed, a foundation and a mattress set.

Bed frame: A metal or wood frame with legs used to support a mattress and foundation. Conventional height is 7-1/4 inches and the low-profile version is 5-3/4 inches when measured from the floor to the bottom of the foundation. Generally a headboard can be attached. Metal frames are sometimes known as a “Hollywood” frame.

Bedsprings: Open-spring or wire fabric box springs without upholstery materials or cover.

Binding tape: Fabric tape used to bind and close the mattress or foundation where the vertical and horizontal panels of outer ticking come together, providing the edge trimming for the mattress or foundation. See Tape and Tape Edge.

Body impressions: Indentations occurring on the surface of a mattress over time, due to the compression of materials by the human body.

Bonnell: A knotted, round-top, hourglass-shaped steel wire coil. When laced together with cross wire helicals, these coils form the simplest innerspring unit, also referred to as a Bonnell.

Border: The vertical side or edge of a mattress or foundation. Pre-built borders are constructed by stitching together the ticking, foam or other filling materials and a backing material. Commonly quilted or vertical-stitched.

Border rod: A heavy gauge wire rod attached to the perimeter of the innerspring unit (top and bottom) by means of a helical wire or metal clips.

Boric acid: A chemical additive applied during the garnetting of cotton and/or other fibers to provide cigarette ignition resistance characteristics.

Box spring: Also referred to as a “foundation.” A base for an innerspring mattress, consisting of coils or other forms of springs mounted on a wood or metal frame and secured with a wire-interlaced or welded-wire grid, topped with upholstery and insulating materials (felt, urethane or other resilient materials), and covered on the top and sides with ticking and on the bottom with a dust cover. It is an important part of a bed set since it serves as a shock absorber, distributes weight, and supports and interacts with the innerspring mattress to properly support the body.

Box-top mattress: A mattress featuring a raised surface finishing treatment where a separate, sided and rectangular encasement of soft materials is attached via a welt to the entire surface on top of existing cover and upholstery.

Bunk bed: A two-tiered wood or metal frame designed to accommodate two mattresses, typically twin-size, one above the other. Some models allow the upper and lower units to be detached and used as separate beds.

Bunkie: A mattress, usually twin-size, and platform base used on bunk beds.

Cal 117: Refers to California Technical Bulletin 117, which specifies a vertical flame testing procedure for bedding and furniture component materials. Foam referred to as “Cal 117 foam” has passed this test.

Carbon: The principal hardening element in steel. The higher the carbon content, the harder the metal and the more temper it will take, thus giving longer “memory.”

Cellulose acetate pad: Woody fiber compacted into a pad and used as an insulator. May be glued or sandwiched between plastic netting to help hold it together.

Coil count: The number of coils in an innerspring unit. Though the count can effect weight distribution, it is not the determining factor for firmness. The count is usually based on the number of coils in a full-size unit.

Coils: The individual wire springs that form an innerspring unit. See Hourglass, Continuous and Offset Coils.

Coir pad: An insulator pad made from coconut husk fiber, garnetted, needled, bonded and pre-cut to size.

Comfort system: Refers to the upholstery layers of the mattress, generally consisting of a combination of materials (cover, cushioning, topper pad, insulators, etc.).

Conjugate polyester fiber: Spirally crimped fiber that is crimped chemically rather than thermally. Is very durable and resilient.

Continuous coils: An innerspring configuration in which the rows of coils are formed from a single piece of wire.

Conventional bedding products: Mattresses and foundations in the conventional adult sizes of twin, twin extra long, full, full extra long, queen and king.

Convertible sofa: A sofa with a bed folded beneath the seating surface, generally consisting of a mattress resting on a metal mechanism. Also called “sleep sofa” or “sofa sleeper.”

Convoluted foam: Better known as “egg-crate” foam that is specially cut to produce hills and valleys, giving gentle softness and more surface comfort. Foam surface treatment is available in multiple patterns.

Cornell test: Devised by Cornell University School of Hotel/Motel Administration. Designed to test cosmetic performance of bedding sets, such as body impression or support firmness. Two round surfaces are pounded into the finished product 100,000 times and checked periodically for failure or changes.

Corner guards: Molded plastic or metal, (sometimes upholstered) fittings secured to foundation corners to prevent material damage from the bed frame.

Cotton felt: Produced by a garnett machine which combs cotton and other fiber binders into a continuous web or layer. Several such layers combined are called cotton “batt”. For compressed cotton felt, thick layers of garnetted cotton fiber are mechanically compressed to reduce body impressions.

Cotton linters: The short fibers adhering to the seed after the long staple fiber has been removed in the ginning process. Used in making cotton felt.

Cotton pickers: “Fall out” from ginning or garnetting. These shorter staple cotton fibers are blended with linters to produce cotton felt.

Crown: A convex surface on a mattress. Mattresses with a half-inch crown are a half-inch thicker at the center than at the edges.

Cushioning: Materials that lie above the insulator and below the fabric covering in an innerspring mattress. These materials are typically combinations of polyurethane foam, cotton felt, and/or made-made fibers.

Damask: Woven ticking produced on a loom that has yarns running at 90-degree angles to each other, the warp and the weft. The damask design is woven into the fabric rather than printed on the surface.

Density: A measure of weight per cubic volume, usually expressed in pounds per cubic foot. Often referred to when discussing foam.

Double tempering: Heating of wire components, usually in an oven, after they have been given shape or form and have been electronically stress-relieved. Refers to tempering coils as well as border rods and helicals in a complete spring unit.

Dual-purpose: A broad term used to include all sleep pieces, which can be converted to other uses, including: convertible sofas, high-risers, daybeds, futons, etc. See Convertible Sofa.

Dust cover: A woven or non-woven fabric attached to the underside of a foundation to prevent the collection of dust inside. May also be known as “sheeting” or “cambric.”

Edge guard: Generally an extra component added to the edge of a mattress and/or box spring to give support on the sides.

Engineered edge support: A special design where the coils on the outer edge of an innerspring unit are actually positioned under the border rod. Most units have the coils recessed from the edge, which can contribute to a “roll out of bed” feeling.

Euro-top mattress: A mattress featuring a raised, squared-off surface finishing treatment filled with soft comfort layers and attached to the mattress upholstery at the tape-edge.

Fabric cover: Cloth or textile material woven, knitted or felted of any fiber or mixture of fibers. Often referred to as “ticking” or mattress fabric.

Fales pad: Compressed cotton felt that is stitched together to better retain compression.

Fiber pad: Usually refers to man-made or natural fibers (wool, silk, etc.) that are garnetted, needled, carded and/or bonded together. Often used in quilting panels for mattress tops.

Filler cloth: Refers to a plain fabric used on the top of a foundation instead of ticking. Commonly offers non-skid characteristics.

Flanging: The process whereby a strip of fabric is sewn to the edge of the mattress cover and, in the assembly process, secured to the perimeter of the innerspring unit to prevent the cover and filling materials from shifting.

Foam foundation: Consists of a built-up wood slat frame covered with a sheet of cardboard or similar material, topped with at least 2” of foam and covered with ticking.

Foundation: Any base or support for a mattress, though typically used as a generic term for box springs. See Box Spring and Foam Foundation.

Futon: A Japanese-style mattress construction, consisting of a cover and filling material, which is typically cotton but can be innerspring and/or foam.

Garnetting: A mechanical process whereby short cotton fibers and/or other fibers are combed into a specific orientation and formed into a thin web, which are then layered to create a batting used as an upholstery material. See Cotton Felt.

Gauge, coil: A measurement of the diameter of the steel wire used in coil construction. Wire gauge for innerspring coils range from 12.5 to 17. The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire.

Gel foam: Generally a visco-elastic foam that is infused with beads or swirls of gel during the pouring process.

Hair pads: Horse tail or mane, cattle tail or hog hair, which has been processed and curled for use as a mattress or upholstery filler.

Hammocking: An undesirable characteristic sometimes associated with worn out or low-end mattresses. When weight is placed in the center, the corners tend to rise and bow in response to deep compression much like a hammock. Terms “dish” and “sagging” also used to describe this phenomenon.

Hand: Term used to describe the touch or feel of fabrics (e.g., soft, smooth, etc.).

Hand-tied: The process of hand-lacing the coils in a box spring together with twine. Seldom used, this process has been replaced with modern technology and new designs.

Headboard: An upright unit of wood, metal, plastic, or upholstered material, to be attached at the head of a bed, usually with the bed frame.

Helical: A tightly-coiled, elongated wire used in the manufacture of innerspring units to join individual coils to each other and to the border rod.

High-contour mattress: Measures 9” – 13” thick. A mattress under 9” thick is considered “standard”; over 13” thick is considered “custom.”

High riser: Usually a frame or sofa with two mattresses of equal size without a backrest. The frame slides out with the lower bed and rises to form a full bed or two single beds.

Hog ring: Metal ring used to secure the insulator and flange material to the innerspring unit. Takes its name from its similarity to the metal ring in a hog’s nose.

Hourglass coils: Coils that taper inward from top to middle and outward from middle to bottom, thus resembling an hourglass in shape. Employed in bonnell and offset coil designs.

Hybrid: A flotation mattress consisting of vinyl components (bladder and liner) typically encased in foam and made to look like a conventional mattress, usually paired with a regular upholstered foundation. Also called a “softside” waterbed.

Ideal weight distribution: Equalization of support in such a way as to eliminate pressure points that cause discomfort resulting in tossing and turning. Best achieved with coil on coil construction and properly designed insulation and cushioning material.

Innerspring unit construction (for mattresses): The spring construction used as the main support system inside an innerspring mattress. Some common types are: pocketed (see Marshall) and all metal (i.e., bonnell, offset and continuous wire).

Insulator: Any material used on top and bottom of an innerspring unit to prevent the upholstery layers from cupping down into the coils. Some common types are: a fiber pad, non-woven fabric, netting, wire mesh or foam pad.

Knit: A basic polyester or nylon ticking fabric produced through a knitting process (tricot) rather than weaving. Designs are printed onto the surface.

Lacing wire: Finer gauges of wire used to form helicals.

Latex: A flexible foam created from a water dispersion of rubber, either from the rubber tree (natural latex) or a man-made, petroleum-based product (synthetic latex). Most latex used in mattresses today is a combination of natural and synthetic latex rubber.

LFK: An unknotted offset coil with a cylindrical or columnar shape.

Link fabric: A wire foundation for bedsprings, cots, studio couches, sofabed mechanisms and gliders. So called because the fabric is a succession of metal links.

Marshall: A type of innerspring construction in which thin gauge, barrel-shaped, knotless coils are encased in fabric pockets. Also known as “pocketed coils.”

Mattress: A manufactured product to sleep on, consisting of various resilient materials covered with an outer ticking. Comes from the Arabic term “matrah” meaning to throw down. Early Arabs traveled with their bedding and threw it down on the ground or floor at night.

Memory: The ability of tempered steel, foam or some fabrics to return to their original state after being compressed or stretched.

Mesh: Plastic netting generally stretched across the face of an innerspring unit as an insulator.

Microcoils A low-profile metal spring unit, typically with individually wrapped coils, used in the top comfort layers of a mattress.

Molded foam core (for mattresses): A core made of flexible foam is made in molds and used as the main support system in a foam mattress.

Mounting: Attachment of a box spring unit to a wood or metal frame.

Needlepunched fabric: A manufacturing process for which high strength, lightweight, non-woven construction fabrics are produced. These fabrics are produced by garnetting fibers, entangling or inner-locking these fibers together by a series of needles and then mechanically bonding or fusing them together via heat to produce a fabric without glue or binders.

Needlepunched pad: A manufacturing process used to produce insulator pads and non-woven fabrics whereby loose, garnetted fibers are inner-locked by a series of “needles.” This process usually requires additional bonding to keep the fibers in place.

Offset coils: An hourglass type coil on which portions of the top and bottom convolutions have been flattened. In assembling the innerspring unit, these flat segments of wire are hinged together with helicals.

Orthopedic: Generalized term to imply set gives proper postural alignment and support. Should not necessarily mean hard or board feeling. Proper support with a degree of comfort to contour to the body is best.

Panel: The part of the ticking that constitutes the top sleep surface of a mattress, as well as the bottom of a mattress on a two-sided bed.

Pedestal-type metal or wood bed frame: A low-profile bed frame with a solid pedestal base underneath each side of the frame, instead of legs.

Pillow-top mattress: A mattress featuring a surface finishing treatment where a separate encasement of soft materials is attached to the entire surface on top of existing cover and upholstery.

Plus 4 edge: Two border rods engineered with one inside of the other and designed so that they make the edge 4% firmer than the balance of the sleep surface to eliminate that “roll out of bed” feeling and edge sag.

Pocketed coil: See Marshall.

Polyurethane foam: See Urethane Foam.

Print: A ticking fabric, which can be a woven or non-woven sheeting, commonly of synthetic fiber composition, on which a design has been printed.

Quilting: The surface treatment in which the cover, foam and/or other fibers are sewn together, using various stitch patterns on quilting machinery, including scroll or panel quilters (single needle) and multi-needle quilters.

Resilience: Surface liveliness and spring-back ability.

Rollator test: An approximately 230 lb., six-sided roller is passed across a sleep set to determine the structural strengths or weaknesses of the set and components (i.e., foam or quilt failure, breaking of helicals and coils). The industry standard to duplicate the life of a mattress is 100,000 passes.

Rollaway bed/cot: A portable metal bed/cot with a frame that folds in half with the mattress when not in use so it can be rolled away into a closet (or elsewhere) for compact storage.

Sheeting: a woven or non-woven fabric other than knits that have a degree of sizing and are somewhat stiff.

Side rail: A metal or wood rail, which hooks into the outside edges of a headboard and footboard to provide the support base for a foundation and mattress.

Sisal: A product of the henequen plant formed into a pad and used as an insulator. Named after the.small port of Sisal in Yucatan.

Slats: Narrow strips of wood used to support the coils in the box spring frame. Also used in a bedstead to support the box spring.

Sleep Products Safety Council hangtag: Used voluntarily by bedding producers since 1987, the safety hangtag program provides critical consumer information about the safe use of sleep products. Manufacturers certify that they use the tag only on mattresses that meet the Federal Standard for the Flammability of Mattresses and Mattress Pads.The tag is available in a hangtag or permanent label.

Smooth top: A plain surfaced mattress, neither tufted nor quilted. Also called button-free.

Spring wire: Wire made from high carbon steel, characterized by toughness, strength and ductility. Typically furnished in 8 to 18 gauge for bedding industry applications.

Steel unit construction (for box springs): The spring construction used as the main support system inside a box spring.

Stitch bonded pad: See Fales Pad.

Straightline deflection: Pertains to mattress innerspring construction and refers to the constant ratio between stress and strain, weight and movement. The benefit is that constant support is provided regardless of the weight applied. No bottoming out of soft spots. Basically it means that two people of unequal weight, sleeping on the same mattress, receive the same support.

Stretch knit: A heavy-weight mattress ticking consisting of a top layer, bottom layer and filling material knitted together and intermittently stitched to keep the filling yarns stable.

Super zoned box spring frame: A support, generally wood, attached longitudinally to the underside of a foundation for added support where the main body weight rests. Another important structural point is that the vertical slats are turned on edge for added strength. This is extremely important on queen sizes and for 4-poster beds where typically no center support is provided. Also known as a “center rail.”

Tape: Fabric material that closes over the rough-sewn edge where the top and bottom panels are joined to the border of a mattress or box spring.

Tape edge: A specified type of sewing machine designed to stitch binding tape around the top and bottom edges of the mattress, joining the panels with the border and closing the mattress.

Tempering: Heat treatment of wire to reduce brittleness. Accomplished by electric charge, oven heat or both. Also known as “stress relieved”.

Ticking: Fabrics for covering mattresses and foundations. Common types include: stretch knits, woven damasks, knits and nonwovens.

Torsion bars: A type of spring system used in box springs characterized by square-shaped wire forms.

Trundle bed: A low bed that is rolled under a larger bed. In some constructions, the lower bed springs up to form a full bed or two single beds as in a high riser.

Tufting: Consists of passing twine, cords or tape vertically through the mattress from top to bottom, knotting and securing the loops thus formed with tufts, buttons, or lacing. The purpose is to hold the mattress filling in place.

Uniflex grid: A steel wire grid used to bridge the “mouth” of the coils on an innerspring unit to prevent “pocketing” of insulation down into the coil and to eliminate “coil feel.” Also helps to distribute the body weight of a person.

Urethane foam: Synthetic (chemically foamed) flexible urethane used for mattress cores and as a cushioning material. As a core, it’s the main support system. Generic term covering both polyester and polyether foams.

Ventilator: Metal or plastic screens attached to the sides and sometimes the ends of mattresses to permit the passage of air. Unnecessary with normal high quality materials used today, except for hospital type mattresses with wet-proof covers.

Visco-elastic foam: Also known as “memory foam.” Slow recovery urethane foams that are temperature sensitive. They conform to the body and distribute pressure according to body heat and dynamics.

Waterbed: A sleep system employing a water-filled vinyl bladder as its primary support system. It relies on rigid framing to contain the vinyl components and is known as a “hardside”. See Hybrid. All versions are sometimes referred to as “flotation beds.”

Welded grid top: Basic wire welded into a lattice to which box spring coils, formed wire or modules are fastened. Offers even weight distribution, yet allows some flex and give.

Wood bed: A bed with a headboard and footboard made of wood, having side rails of wood or metal that support the foundation and mattress.

Wood frame (for box springs): The wood frame in a box spring on which the spring construction is mounted.

Woven stripe: A woven ticking with colored stripes. Sometimes referred to as “ACA”, the traditional designation for an 8 oz. blue- and white-striped ticking.


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New York Times Debunks the High Priced Mattresses

Not Feeling Rested? Don’t Blame the Mattress

“If you spend $20,000 on a mattress, it’s not necessarily better than a $500 mattress,” says one sleep expert.
Published: October 21, 2011

MY older son asked for an iPhone for his bar mitzvah. My younger son, Gabriel, will be celebrating his in about a month and wants a Tempur-Pedic mattress.

This may not be as odd as it sounds. Gabriel has been interested in mattresses for a long time, and we bought him a new one a few years ago when he complained his old one was lumpy and he couldn’t sleep.

But somehow, it wasn’t enough. Although to me he seems to sleep just fine, he is convinced that the perfect mattress will make his nights blissful.

In this, he is not alone. Judging just by the many commercials and advertisements, there are a lot of Americans out there looking to buy a great night’s sleep. Companies offer a heady array of mattresses, sleeping pills and even soothing noise machines to usher us into the land of nod.

But is this a case, like losing weight, where the quick and easy (if not necessarily cheap) option is not a solution?

According to James Wyatt, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center, people who have sleep problems actually need to be divided into two broad categories — those who have sleep disorders and those who don’t sleep enough.

“There are over 70 different types of sleep disorders,” Mr. Wyatt said, including problems with breathing, like sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep terrors and nightmares and sleepwalking.

For those kinds of disorders, it can be helpful to go to a sleep disorders clinic and unlearn patterns and behavior that may be causing these problems, Mr. Wyatt said.

What about, to go back to my original question, a new mattress? Can that help?

“There’s not a lot of science in the mattress area,” Mr. Wyatt said. “I’ve treated people for insomnia for 20 years and if a patient asks me what mattress he should buy, I can’t tell him. If you spend $20,000 on a mattress, it’s not necessarily better than a $500 mattress.”

While few sleep experts will recommend a particular mattress brand, Howard Levy, an assistant professor at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said the best mattress for people suffering from lower back pain was a mattress with a soft pillow top and a firm mattress underneath.

“You want something on top that doesn’t put a lot of pressure on the shoulders and sacrum,” Dr. Levy said. But you don’t want a mattress too soft, he added, “where your shoulders fold up like a pretzel.”

It’s hard to test a bed in a store. After all, how many of us lie down fully clothed in front of passing strangers when we go to bed? So if you feel you need a new mattress, try one overnight.

Helene A. Emsellem, a clinical professor of neurology at George Washington University and director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md., said many hotels advertised what types of mattresses they offered.

“Check in for one night,” she said. “It’s cheaper than investing in a mattress.”

Dr. Levy agreed.

“I get a lot of patients who are miserable, but fine when they travel,” he said. “I tell them to check out the mattress in the hotel.”

There are plenty of testimonials out there from people who swear that high-priced mattresses have changed their lives — and maybe they have. Or maybe they need to justify the expense, which can work just as well.

“I’m all for a robust placebo effect,” Mr. Wyatt said. “If they convince themselves that by buying a mattress, they sleep better, fine.”

You don’t need to invest in a whole new mattress, however. Dr. Emsellem suggested just buying a topper — filled with memory or latex foam, feather or wool — to put over the existing mattress.

“Even for a king-size bed, it’s not going to bankrupt you,” she said.

One sleep aid I did buy years ago is a white noise machine, and I’ve found it invaluable. I purchased it when we lived in London and our apartment shared a wall with a noisy neighbor. The machine is straightforward — it has two settings, so basically it sounds either like a quiet vacuum cleaner or a slightly noisier one.

“The brain is always monitoring even while we sleep,” Mr. Wyatt said. “A car alarm, a dog barking, traffic, will disrupt sleep. If that’s the case, it may be a good time to make a modest investment in a noise generator. You don’t need eight different sounds with a rainforest, whales and waterfalls.”

Is it ever a good idea to resort to a sleeping pill?

“For short-term insomnia, such as one to two weeks, it’s perfectly appropriate to consider sleeping pills,” he said. But if insomnia is going on for months, you need to look deeper, he added.

All this advice is helpful for people who sleep poorly. The real problem, however, for most of us, is not that we can’t sleep, but we don’t.

Despite tales of high-powered executives who sleep only four hours a night, most adults need seven to nine hours, Dr. Emsellem said.

“Clinically, we see very few who sleep eight and a half to nine, but we do see an enormous number of exhausted people who sleep six hours or less,” she said.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Web news site The Huffington Post, has made getting more sleep into a campaign.

Several years ago, she said, sleep deprivation caused her to faint, hit her head on her desk and break her cheekbone.

“I began on a journey reacquainting myself with sleep,” she said. Last year, along with Glamour magazine’s editor Cindi Leive, she pledged to get eight hours sleep a night for a month — a promise she continues to keep.

“When I’ve had a good night’s sleep, I feel more creative and enjoy life more,” she said.

The Huffington Post offices even have two nap rooms with couches and headphones.

“They’re called Napquest 1 and Napquest 2, and people use them endlessly,” she said.

Research shows that lack of sleep can contribute to stress, depression, weight gain and poor decision-making. And the country’s philosophy about sleep is slowly shifting away from the macho one of the past, with the mistaken attitude that successful men and women should spend no more than five hours in bed a night.

Getting enough sleep is as easy — and as difficult — as getting into bed at a time that allows you at least seven hours sleep, Dr. Emsellem said. And learning to wind down before bed. It can help to dim the lights, she said, and plug into music.

If you do watch television before sleep, use a timer so it disconnects for you and you don’t stay up late watching one more sit-com.

“Most of the things we can do to improve our sleep take time,” she said. “But they tend to be more productive than spending a lot of money on the adventure.”

If sleeping more catches on, my husband, and I, for once, will be on the cutting edge of a trend. For years we sheepishly admitted — and only to close family and friends — that we loved sleeping. While friends were out exercising early Sunday mornings, we were snoozing away.

It’s now nice to know it’s not that we’re lazy. We’re just healthy.

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How Can Steel Be Softer Than Air?

When the air is compressed in an air mattress, it is can be as hard as a Conservative’s heart.  When steel is made into a pocketed coil spring it can be as soft as Congress’ budget predictions. 

The innerspring mattress has been around for almost 140 years and hasn’t changed much in the last 100.   The concept of making coils of tempered steel wire has given rise to hundreds of thousands of almost the same concept.  An innerspring unit covered with a strong insulating layer, topped with one or more layers of softer material for cushioning.   An extremely high quality mattress will have no more than 1,000 coils in a 60X80 queen size.   A piece of junk will have fewer than 400.  Within this range a mattress can vary from super hard to super soft depending on the amount of steel actually used, and the top layers of cushioning.   Mattresses with fewer coils usually have thicker and heavier wire.  This mattress tends to conform poorly to the sleeper’s body.  Mattresses with many coils made of lighter and thinner wire can completely conform while providing proper support to the weightiest sleeper(s).   In between there are a myriad of innerspring mattresses really not worth owning.    Mattresses with pocketed coils such as entire Charles  P. Rogers line and Simmons Beautyrest are examples of pocketed coil mattresses.    Sealy PosturePedic and Serta Perfect Sleeper innerspring mattresses are usually made with fewer and stiffer coils.

Many mattresses on the market today are made without springs.  The best selling brand is Tempurpedic heat sensitive 100% chemical memory foam.  In my opinion, if you want a foam mattress and don’t mind paying extremely high prices, Tempurpedic is the standard by which foam mattresses can be judged.    Their claims are exaggerated, but in contrast with their cheap imitators far more subdued.   If you examined a piece of  foam under a microscope you would seen millions of bubbles.  The walls of the bubbles are solid material and can be thick and strong, or thin and weak.  A consumer can tell the difference without a microscope by the weight of the foam.  It is measured in board feet density.  A board foot, 12X12X1 inch can weigh as little as a pound and as much as six pounds.  The extra weight is the extra strength and durability.   Foam mattresses usually have the best stuff in a top layer cemented on to cheap foam to make the mattress thick.  Coming up with the right proportions between cardboard like support foam and soft top memory foam is something that Tempurpedic gets right most of the time.  The competition, and I mean all the competition only rarely does because the good stuff is very expensive.

Real Latex foam, a very good mattress stuffer, is rapidly disappearing.   It is made only from the sap of the Hevea Sinensis, the Rubber Tree, and nothing else.  Good luck really finding it.  At prices higher than Tempurpedic some “organic” manufacturers  are blending the pure and good latex with soy oil, Tea Tree oil, and many other adulterants.  They then often add fine powdered heavy minerals to the mixture to bring up the weight.  Sort of like watering a ham.   I am currently researching where to find a genuine latex mattress and will post the findings here as soon as I do.

Mattresses filled with air and priced as if they weren’t empty bags are the ultimate mattress scam.   The best known one,  Sleep Number, sells you two  camping mattresses in a bag with urethane foam pads and two Chinese air pumps.   The whole production has to cost them around $50 at most before  they tack on the TV, Internet, Newspaper, and Magazine advertising.   They try to get Tempurpedic prices but have to discount very sharply to sell any.   Real people, not the actors in the commercials, are rarely comfortable at any number.   If you dial it up for hard, you have a the equivalent of hard hammock sagging in the middle because there is no support in the middle like a foam or innerspring mattress.  If you dial it down for soft, you get a soft sagging hammock.

Stick with pocketed coil innerspring made by a reputable manufacturer, or if the Tempurpedic advertising has convinced you to buy a chemical mattress, you can be comfortable and have good back support, but use it in a well ventilated bedroom.

Marshall Coyle

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Take Care Your Mattress and It Will Take Care of You

Modern mattresses require very little care, but benefit greatly when you do. Once upon a time, most mattresses were made with half the padding on each side.  It was necessary to frequently turn them over to equalize wear on each side.   If you follow the simple diagram above, you will see how to do it without any heavy lifting.  Never sharply fold any mattress when transporting.

State of the art mattresses today, both innerspring and synthetic  foams,  have thick body-conforming  padding on one side and little to none on the other.  They do not  need to be turned.  However, they do benefit from monthly rotation during the first year break in period.   Turning them will be counter productive because the underside is not designed to be slept on.

A protected and clean mattress will be usable for much longer than a neglected one.   The best possible, and most comfortable protection from human and pet stains  is provided by an absorbent quilted pad.  The thicker, the better.  You can use a  foam or feather pad between the quilted mattress protector and the mattress to provide greater softness, but always use a quilted top protector.  This not only prevents stains, but starves the dust mites that feed on your sloughed off skin cells.

Non-porous plastic or rubber covers may be needed in special situation for sanitary purposes, but they are to be avoided if not needed.  Air passing through your mattress helps keep you cool in a warm bedroom.

All the care in the world will be pointless if you do not buy a good mattress in the first place.    I recently got two platform mattresses from Charles P. Rogers, America’s oldest mattress maker.  They have been around almost twice as long as I have, and Herbert Hoover was president when I was born!

These mattresses are made with an extremely large number of pocketed wire coils held in place by structural foams.  They are then padded and upholstered  in various pre-compressed materials that are a perfect compromise of durability and comfort.  Too hard and the mattress will last longer, but you won’t: Too soft and your spine will sag as quickly as the mattress. It is an art, not a science, and  Rogers has figured it out very well in the last 155 years.

Marshall, the Old Bed Guy.


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How Important is Thread Count When Buying Sheets?

By  Marshall Coyle “The Old Bed Guy”

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Thread Count:  Thread count refers to the number of threads, both vertical and horizontal, in a one-inch square of fabric. While fabrics are available with thread counts up to a thousand or even more, anything in excess of 400-450 is considered by most experts to be simply superfluous, conferring no benefit while adding to the cost.

Thread count is affected by a number of factors, including ply and thickness of the threads used. The ply of the fabric refers to how many threads are wrapped together into a single thread. Single-ply fabrics use threads on their own, while two-ply fabrics twist two pieces together into a stronger thread, as well as doubling the thread count of the fabric.

I personally love the clean soft buttery feel of my 400 thread count Prima cotton sheets from in our West Side New York apartment,  and  almost as much, the smooth crisp feel on our vacation beds, of the 300 thread count Charme sateen hotel sheets from  The Rogers cost a whole lot less, but I got the Frette before the last financial crisis.

More Than Thread Count Counts: Advertisers trying to steer your decision towards their product have latched on to thread count as a simple, but false, reason to favor one sheet over another.  This has resulted in a flood of poorly constructed linens with the emphasis on numbers instead of actual quality. Sheets can have a good thread count but be cut and sew so poorly, made with short staple cotton, or finished so poorly that the final product is a disappointment.

Cotton: The cotton plant is actually a bushy tree and there are around five hundred species growing worldwide but only four are used commercially.   The seeds are protected by a soft and fibrous material that with much processing ends up as a textile.  Climate and soil conditions are just as important for cotton as for wine.  For many years, the finest cotton was grown along the banks of the Nile River in Egypt.  Cotton from transplanted Egyptian seeds are now grown around the world, rarely producing the same high quality, but usually also sold as Egyptian Cotton.   The best cotton has the longest and strongest fibers. The cotton fibers used to make threads are called “staples”.

Other notable quality designations are Prima, Sea Island, and Pima, all of which have extra long strong fibers.   Many retailers now offer “organically grown” cotton which is grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

Construction Counts:   Once you have decided on the particular brand or thread count, understanding the way a sheet is constructed can be a comfort when making your decision.  Checking out some of the factors requires professional skill, so you should try to deal with well established retailers.

When the thread count climbs above 450 to the square inch, the only way that the threads will fit is to make them thinner.  The weak thin thread required for the above 450 count, virtually guarantees that your expensive new sheets may not last as long as you expected.  The tightly spun cotton yarns can be woven using different techniques.  Sateen weaves are shiny and silky.  Percale has a soft finish like matte finish foundation or photo paper.

Size Matters: Almost invisible details such as the number of stitches per inch that were used to make the hems and pockets really matter.  More and smaller hem stitches, unlike thread count, are always better.

Finish: Most department and specialty store linens have had chemical treatments applied when finishing.  Some deal with shrinkage, many commercial major brands are processed or finished with one or more chemical agents.  These chemicals may reduce shrinkage and wrinkles.  Some well known sheets are coated with a chemical that gives a temporary smooth feel to sheets.  Quality makers such as Porthault, Frette, and Charles P. Rogers use long staple cotton and few to no chemicals in their finishing processes.

Care: Always use the gentle cycle and rinse with cold water.  Do not mix any polyester items with your fine cotton sheets because they can be rough and can make your sheets get tiny lumps or pills over time.

Avoid detergents with “Color Brightener” or” Whitener” and seek out products that are specifically designed for linens.   You can avoid most of the drudge of ironing by setting your dryer for a gentle, warm cycle and remove the sheets and cases just before they become bone dry.  If you have room to pull them flat while hanging, that is usually all that is necessary.  If you invest in a steamer, your wrinkled sheets placed on your bed and steamed in five minutes or less will banish the wrinkles and save a lot of work.

If you apply lotions to your face before going to bed, consider getting a pillow protector or even a special pillow to protect  your investment from discoloration from the dyes and caustics found in many products.

Take care of your fine linens and they will last for many years.

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