Understanding bed comfort terms

Making sense of mattress comfort options

Buying a mattress is such a personal thing. What feels comfortable to one person may feel too firm or too soft for another. And there are so many terms used in bed stores that it’s hard to know what to ask for! We’ve explained some of the comfort terminology in this blog post to help you.

Plush / medium / firm

These terms are used to explain the comfort “feel” of the bed when you lie on it. Plush mattresses feel softer than firm mattresses, while medium beds are somewhere in between. A plush mattress can offer just as much spinal support as a firm one, but the feel will be different, and it’s important to know what you find comfortable to ensure you get a good night’s rest.

The difficulty in picking a mattress is that there’s no industry standard for measuring firmness or plushness, so one manufacturer’s firm might feel softer than another’s. However, as you test mattresses, these words can be helpful in giving feedback to a salesperson. “I like this level of firmness” or “I’d prefer something plusher” can help them to suggest products that might suit your needs.

Side sleepers may find plusher mattresses more comfortable (as they have acute points of contact with the bed – such as the shoulder and hip). Stomach sleepers may find firmer mattresses better as they will help to prevent the back from arching. Back sleepers tend to have the widest range of mattresses that feel comfortable.

Mattress tops

You might be surprised at the amount of engineering that goes into modern mattresses. They are made up of several layers and components. These differ depending on the type of mattress and the manufacturer’s aim in creating it. For example, a pillow top will give a much plusher feel to any mattress, like you’re sinking into a big, fluffy pillow, without compromising on support.

A pillowtop is an extra layer of padding that is sewn on top of your mattress. Pillow top mattresses will generally be no-turn beds (so you should rotate them horizontally once a month, but not flip them over). The pillow top creates a barrier between the mattress’s core and the person sleeping on it, which can help to reduce the transfer of motion (in other words, it cuts down on that feeling of the bed bouncing as you move on it).

A Euro top, also known as a box top, is like a pillow top, but instead of the extra cushioning layer being sewn over the top of your mattress, it is stitched in underneath the mattress cover. This means it is flush with the edges of the mattress and therefore less likely to flatten, sag, or shift. Euro top mattresses are also no-turn and offer good edge support.

The soft cushioning layers on pillow top and Euro top / box top mattresses can be made of a variety of materials, from memory foam, to latex foam, polyester foam batting, and natural fibres.

If you’re looking to buy a bed and need more help on how to choose between all the options, you can reference our handy mattress-buying guide.

For more fun sleep facts and expert sleep advice, visit our Sleep Blog.

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