December 2019

What are Comfort Layers in Mattresses?

If you've just started mattress shopping you may suddenly be flooded with different bed options and choices. You're inundated with different descriptions of mattress fibres, upholstery and mattress types. It can be tricky knowing how to buy the right mattress so we have put together this guide on Comfort Layers. By understanding Comfort Layers you will be better prepared to make a more suitable mattress purchase.

Knowing how to buy the right mattress is essential because not knowing what to look for means you’ll probably end up buying something completely unsuitable leading to an even worse nights sleep.

Applying the insulator layer of a natural fibre mattress
Comfort Layer details are what the industry wants to keep hidden

The Comfort Layers of a mattress are essential to be able to work out whether a particular mattress is going to get you the feel and comfort you desire. Comfort Layers can be a really confusing part of mattress buying because retailers don’t want you to fully understand them so they can make a quick sale. However, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about Comfort Layers so you can become a Bed Buying Expert!

What are Mattress Comfort Layers?

Comfort Layers are the top layers of upholstery in a mattress that provide the ultimate feel of a mattress. Comfort Layers can be Natural Fibres such as Wool or Synthetic fibres such as foam or polyester depending on your budget. It is these Comfort Layers that make up the feel of the mattress whether this is Soft, Medium or Firm. As a rule of thumb the more upholstery there is in a mattress the better the Comfort Layers will be. This is why it is so important to both understand how the Comfort Layers will work but also to know exactly what is in your mattress.

Upholstery is ‘layered’ up to create the Comfort Layer that will allow you to both sink into and be supported by a mattress. If you have too few layers the mattress will feel flat and uncomfortable. It is these layers that will both support and comfort you during the night so it’s important to focus your mattress buying search on getting both the best combination and depth of these layers.

Mattress upholstery layers, wool , cotton and horse tail

What to look for in a Mattress Comfort Layer

When looking at mattresses you need to identify what types of upholstery it contains and then the grams per square meter of each layer. This may sound technical but we will show you with examples exactly how you can do this. By finding out exactly what’s in these top upholstery Comfort Layers you can then start to work out:

  • How a mattress will feel when sleeping on it
  • How durable a mattress will be
  • Whether its good value for money
  • How mattresses compare against each other

Knowing the GSM of each fibre will show you the depth of each layer allowing you to work out whether its a thin pointless layer or something more substantial. You’ll also need to keep your wits about you as sometimes fibres are ‘blended’ together to try and reduce the cost of upholstery layers. Ie a Cashmere layer could just be 1% Cashmere 99% polyester!

Springs should be chosen based on your body weight - they dont provide the 'feel of the mattress'
Springs should be chosen based on your body weight - they dont provide the 'feel of the mattress'
Upholstery Comfort Layers give you the true feel of the mattress & show its value
Upholstery Comfort Layers give you the true feel of the mattress & show its value

Types of Mattress Comfort Layer

There are two main categories of Comfort Layers in any mattress. The first is man-made synthetic materials such as polyester or foam. These are usually entry-level materials that have been manufactured to meet a certain price point. They offer basic comfort but are often heat retentive and have a far shorter shelflife than Natural Fibres. The second group is Natural Fibres such as Wool, Horsetail, Cotton, Alpaca and Cashmere fibre. These are fully breathable, have greater responsivity and a much longer lifespan. If you compare the two to clothing its the difference between a cheap polyester sweater and a cashmere jumper. They are worlds apart.

Synthetic Fibres

  • Polyester
  • Memory Foam
  • White Fibre
  • Solotex
  • Gel foams
  • Eco-fibres/ Recycled fibres (usually recycled garments)

Natural Fibres

Synthetic fibres are cheaper, retain more heat and are man made
Synthetic fibres are cheaper, retain more heat and are man made
Natural fibres cost more but are breathable and last far longer than synthetics
Natural fibres cost more but are breathable and last far longer than synthetics

Why won’t bed shops tell you what’s in a mattress?

You may not have even heard of a Comfort Layer in a mattress as mattress manufacturers and bed retailers very rarely like to talk in any detail about them. Why? Because the more they explain about them the quicker you realise that they don’t have any real detail on what’s inside their mattresses. It’s really shocking that if you ask about the Comfort Layers you will get told that it ‘contains..’ this and that but there’s literally no more information offered or available.

It goes much further than just bed showroom staff even the manufacturers don’t want you to know exactly what’s in their mattresses. If you try asking any of the leading brands for the grams per square meter of their fibres you’ll either get told that they are not at liberty to disclose it or that it’s full of ‘generous layers’. All of which is meaningless for you to work out whether the construction of the mattress is sound or good value. This can make finding the right mattress for you really difficult and that’s where knowing what you’re looking for in a bed will help you avoid expensive mattress mistakes. If a retailer won’t or most probably can’t tell you exactly what’s in their mattress models then really consider whether you’re able to choose the correct mattress without this information.

All of which is meaningless for you to work out whether the construction of the mattress is sound or good value. This can make finding the right mattress for you really difficult and that's where knowing what you're looking for in a bed will help you avoid expensive mattress mistakes. If a retailer won't or most probably can't tell you exactly what's in their mattress models then really consider whether you're able to choose the correct mattress without this information.
Retailers don't want you to know fully what's inside their mattresses
Beds in a showroom
Bed retailers won’t disclose what’s in their mattresses easily. So make sure you ask!

I thought springs gave you the feel of a mattress?

This is another misconception when choosing a new mattress. Many people believe the spring tension will provide the overall feel of the mattress. The spring tensions are based entirely on your body weight and won’t give to the actual comfort feel of the mattress. In fact, many bed buyers are missold the wrong spring tension by uneducated salespeople who wrongly advise that the spring tension will give the overall comfort feel of the mattress.  Springs are designed to work within certain weight tolerances so you really do need to select the correct spring gauge/tension based on your weight. If you and a partner have different weights then you need to look for either a split tension mattress (one with two different sided spring tensions in the same mattress) or a zip and link mattress (a mattress as two separate parts that link together to form one mattress). Zip & link beds can be an excellent choice if a partner moves around and wakes you frequently. They also make larger sized mattresses accessibly into tight access properties or rooms so are well worth investigating if this suits your needs.

Spring TensionWire diameter (Gauge)Weight Range
Soft1.2mmBespoke Tension (Please Call)
Medium1.4mmUpto 16 stone
Firm1.6mm16 stone plus
Extra Firm / Orthopaedic1.9mm20 stone plus

When looking for a Soft, Medium or Firm feel mattress you need to choose the spring tension first based on your weight and look exclusively at the upholstery that will create the Comfort Layers. These Comfort Layers are the end Soft, Medium or Firm feel of the mattress, not the spring unit.

Calico pocket springs in a soft spring tension take 2
Springs should be chosen based on our body weight, it’s then Comfort Layers that create the feel of the mattress.

How will comfort layers affect the feel of my bed?

When selecting upholstery for your mattress Comfort Layers it’s important to know exactly how each layer performs. Then you can start to work out whether its a Softer or Firmer feel mattress. Of course, each layer when combined will bring a different feel so it’s sometimes worthwhile asking our small expert team. However, the table below will give you a good idea for how certain fibres compare against each other.

Upholstery LayerFibre TypeHow it will feel?Price Point
White FibreSyntheticSoft/MediumCheap
Recycled Fibre / Eco FibreSyntheticMediumCheap
Memory FoamSyntheticMedium/FirmMid Price
Igel / Hybrid FoamSyntheticMedium/FirmMid Price
PolycottonSynthetic/Natural BlendSoft/MediumMid Price
LinenSynthetic/Natural BlendMediumMid Price
Wool (Pure)NaturalSoft/MediumHigh-End
Cotton (Pure)NaturalSoftHigh-End
Latex (100% Natural)NaturalMedium/FirmHigh-End
Coarse CashmereNaturalFirmHigh-End
BambooNaturalSuper SoftExpensive / Exclusive
Horsetail NaturalFirmExpensive / Exclusive
AlpacaNaturalSoftExpensive / Exclusive
Cashmere (Pure)NaturalSoftExpensive / Exclusive
VicunaNaturalSuper SoftExpensive / Exclusive

If a mattress, for example, is using Memory Foam as its top upholstery layer but is listed as super soft, you know from the above that this is not going to be accurate. Also a mattress that’s £400 that claims to contain Cashmere may also be not what it seems.

Comfort Layers Explained
Example of what you need to know

Using our Artisan Bespoke 004 as an example we can break down each of the comfort layers to provide detail on how this mattress will feel. Given it is made of 100% Natural Fibre with a Calico Encased Pocket Spring system it will be far more breathable than a synthetic alternative. So the first thing to do when looking at Comfort Layers is to establish whether they are Synthetic or Natural. This is where most retailers want to keep the detail very vague so you don’t see just how synthetic most mattresses are.

The first layer: This is Wool and Cotton in a 50/50 blend 1200GSM (a significant amount) which gives it a soft but high loft feel. This will give a medium feel due to the blend of two fibres. Cotton is low loft so by mixing it with wool you get the best of both worlds.

The Second layer: A hair proof cambric cover is often used in high-end mattresses to stop fibres migrating between the layers. Without these softer layers like Bamboo or Alpaca can end up settling into other layers.

The third Layer: Bamboo 200GSM (for a light soft touch- this is very subtle layer) is a super soft plant-based Natural Fibre. It’s really high wicking so this acts as a secondary soft layer allowing for some sink in the top layer. This along with the top comfort layer helps keep the mattress cool at night.

The fourth layer: Horsetail 1000GSM is a medium to firm upholstery layer that also acts as a secondary layer of ‘mini springs’ giving support. This will give plenty of pushback to the sleeper which gives this mattress a medium feel overall. Horsetail is a really robust and resilient fibre when used in mattresses helps give you a much longer bed lifespan when compared to foams or white fibres.

The fifth layer: Wool & Cotton again 1000GSM is used in this instance as a medium feel Insulator Layer for the spring unit. This helps bridge the gap between the firmer spring support and the softer upholstery layers. It helps give the mattress a more solid construction method compared to other cheaper mattresses that skip the insulator layer.

You can see from the detail above that by knowing the fibres GSM and properties you can work out exactly how a mattress ‘Should’ feel vs what the retailers try and tell you. By understanding this information you’re going to be able to make a much wiser mattress purchase decision.

How to work out the comfort layers & how they feel
How to work out the comfort layers & how they feel
Upholstery How it feels
2 HAIRPROOF CAMBRIC COVER Stops fibres migrating
3 200GSM SOFT BAMBOO Super Soft
4 1200GSM PURE HORSETAIL Acts as a medium spring layer
6 1600 CALICO ENCASED POCKET SPRINGS [ 49MM ] [1.28MM] Support
TOTAL 3600GSM Medium Comfort Layer Feel
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Choose a mattress you can actually count on

It’s really essential that you fully know and understand what’s in a potential new mattress. Comfort Layers when correctly chosen, will bring you years of comfort at night. Firstly identify the spring tension for your bodyweight or a split tension if you and your partner are in different weight brackets. Then the devil really is in the detail in working out what kinds of fibres you can expect for your budget. Then its a case of finding out as much detail as possible about the blends, GSM and layers of these fibres. Only then can you work out whether the mattress is good value and will provide you with the right comfort feel. It may sound like a lot of work but it really can save you money and years of discomfort.

Alternatively, why not give our team a ring who can explain all about the fillings you will require and give you options for the perfect next mattress tailored just for you!

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