A good night’s sleep often begins with the right mattress, but the process of selecting one can be as daunting as it is crucial. Mattress shopping is rife with lingo that can feel like a foreign language, but understanding this jargon is essential to finding your perfect sleep surface. From coil counts to foam densities, this article breaks down the most common mattress terms, giving you the knowledge to make an informed purchase and, ultimately, a more restful night’s sleep.

1. The Coil Question: Understanding Mattress Springs

When it comes to innerspring mattresses, the term ‘coil count’ is thrown around a lot. But what does it actually mean, and why does it matter? Coil count refers to the number of coils (or springs) in a mattress and can indicate the level of support and firmness. Generally, more coils mean better weight distribution and support, which can be beneficial, especially for those with back issues.

High Count, Low Count – What’s the Right Count?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to coil counts. For twin size mattresses, a count of 300 to 400 is considered good, while queen and king sizes typically range from 600 to 1000. However, it’s not just the count; it’s the gauge, or thickness, of the coil, that can tip the scale in terms of firmness and support. Thicker coils are generally firmer, while thinner coils may render softer mattresses.

The Beauty of Bonnell and Offset Coils

Two common types of springs are the Bonnell and offset (or “hourglass” shape) coils. Bonnell coils are interconnected, with an hourglass shape at the top and bottom, providing sturdy support. Offset coils are similar in shape but are designed to respond to pressure individually, which can enhance comfort and reduce motion transfer.

2. The Foam Formula: Making Sense of Mattress Foams

Foam mattresses are lauded for their contouring abilities, but there’s more to them than meets the eye – or the back. Foam density and type are crucial factors in determining a foam mattress’s quality and feel.

The Densities that Define Comfort

Foam density is a measure of how much mass is in a specific volume of foam. For mattresses, this typically ranges from 1.5 to 7 pounds per cubic foot. High-density foam lasts longer and provides more support than lower-density foam, but the latter is often more cost-effective. When shopping, look for descriptions like “high-resilience foam,” which generally has a density of about 2.5 pounds per cubic foot or higher, indicating better quality.

Memory Foam – The Material That Made an Impression

One of the most popular types of foam is memory foam, known for its ability to contour to the shape of the sleeper’s body. Originally developed by NASA, memory foam, or viscoelastic foam, is temperature-sensitive and softens in response to body heat, which is why it’s often associated with ‘sinking in’ as you lie down.

The Cool Comfort of Gel Memory Foam

For those who love the contouring of memory foam but sleep hot, gel memory foam offers a solution. Gel beads or gel-infused foam help dissipate body heat and can provide a cooler sleep surface while maintaining the support and pressure-relieving properties of traditional memory foam.

3. The Latex Lowdown: Natural vs. Synthetic

Latex mattresses are celebrated for their bouncy support and durability. But there’s a distinction to be made between natural latex, made from the sap of rubber trees, and synthetic latex, derived from petrochemicals.

The Benefits of Natural Latex

Natural latex is hypoallergenic, biodegradable, and often more durable than synthetic options. It’s also known for its breathability, making it a popular choice for those who tend to sleep hot or are allergic to synthetic materials. However, these benefits often come with a higher price tag.

The Synthetic Standpoint

Synthetic latex offers a more affordable option without sacrificing the general feel and support associated with latex mattresses. However, it’s less eco-friendly and may not be as durable or breathable as its natural counterpart.


Navigating the world of mattresses doesn’t have to be a labyrinth of jargon. Armed with the terminology and knowledge of what it signifies, you can approach mattress shopping with confidence. Remember, the ultimate goal is to find a mattress that fits your sleep style and comfort preferences, and the ability to decode the comfort conundrum is the first step in achieving a good night’s rest.