Information About Innersprings

Innerspring mattresses remain the most popular type of mattress. They are generally less expensive to manufacture than a high-quality HR or latex foam and they have been developed over time to provide a wide range of characteristics that provide different benefits for different needs. Although there is a wide variety of different innerspring designs, they can be roughly grouped into 4 main categories. These are Bonnell, Offset, Continuous coils, and Pocket coils. There are also many different names for each type but they will all generally fall in one of these categories.

How innersprings respond to pressure and compression.

Each of these has a different type of progressive response to pressure and some are better than others at providing softness with initial compression and firmness with deeper compression. There is also a wide difference between categories in how well they shape themselves to an individual body profile and help the comfort layers form a deeper cradle to relieve pressure when necessary. While none of them are as effective at this as many foams or other materials, which is why they are only suitable as a support layer in a mattress, Pocket coils followed by Offset coils are the most effective at "body contouring" among the innerspring categories and make good choices when this ability is needed in certain mattress constructions that use thinner comfort layers. Bonnell coils are a good budget alternative when this quality is needed in a budget mattress. All innersprings can be made to be firm.

The thickness of innerspring wire ranges from the thickest 12.5 gauge to gauges above 16 which are much thinner and less firm although higher gauge thinner coils can shape themselves to a body profile more effectively. While the gauge of innerspring wire and the number of coils in the innerspring are the most commonly used "statistics" of innersprings used to measure its qualities, these by themselves can be very misleading.

All innersprings can be made less or more firm through the use of thicker gauge wire, a greater number of coils, a larger number of "turns" in each coil, tempering, type of steel used, different construction methods, coil shape, coil height, and different Insulator Layers that are placed on top of them. Bonnell, continuous coils, and offset coils are also joined together with a tightly coiled thinner wire called a helical and different types and designs of these can also make a big difference in how each individual coil is affected by its neighbors and the firmness and conforming ability of an innerspring. Pocket coils are kept together through the use of fabric "pockets" which are joined together (rather than the coils themselves being joined) or in the case of higher quality versions by "hand-tying" each coil to the other coils near it. These pocketed or hand-tied coils have more independent movement which gives Pocket coils their greater "shape conforming" ability while the other 3 types act more together in a group with other coils because of the helical connections. All other factors being equal, this gives them greater firmness.

The most important innerspring qualities.

Rather than get caught up in the many complex differences between different innersprings, which too often ends up becoming a meaningless distraction in the search for a better mattress, it is important to remember that the two most important qualities of an innerspring ... once you get past all the complexities ... are their ability to conform to your body shape if you are using thinner comfort layers in more progressive, layering constructions and their ability to hold up the heavier parts of your body so they don't sink out of alignment while you sleep. More than this and a general idea of which type of coil is best at each function is not really necessary.

Many mattress salespeople ... and consumers ... reduce the whole experience of mattress shopping to an exercise in "coil counting" sometimes with the coil gauge "sprinkled" in, which is among the worst possible ways to buy a mattress. Many cheaper mattresses use higher coil counts using lower quality coils as an enticement to buy a lower quality mattress and increase profits. Since innersprings can all be made more or less firm and more or less conforming in many ways, and since coil count is only one of many ways to change how an innerspring performs, remembering the two basic functions of an innerspring is the most important part of the innerspring puzzle. In general, terms again, if a queen-size mattress has approximately 400 coils or more in a reasonable gauge of wire (around 14 or better), then you can expect that it will provide you with good support. Higher coil counts are really only necessary (and other factors are involved here as well) when the innerspring needs to be more conforming to help with the pressure relief of a thinner comfort layer.

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