Updated: December 25, 2019
All of the Mattress Terminology You Need to Know
By: Ryan Fiorenzi Certified Sleep Coach
We have compiled the industry's most extensive mattress glossary to help you better understand this increasingly complex space. Getting a good night's sleep isn't always simple, and your mattress can have a lot to do with it. There are many factors to consider in shopping for a mattress, and understanding the terminology can help you to make the right decision. Whether you're looking online or in brick and mortar stores, we recommend familiarizing yourself with these concepts before you start your search.
Table of Contents:
Adjustable Base Compatibility
The ability of a mattress to be bent when used with an adjustable bed.
A base that can be raised or lowered, and often the back can be raised to a 45-degree angle, and/or the legs can be elevated. These beds are chosen by people who like to read in bed without having to prop up lots of pillows, and are also used in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
A bed filled with air instead of traditional innerspring coils, or another option such as foam, gel, or a hybrid. There are convenient for traveling as these beds can be deflated and rolled up, but are not good for support and aren't recommended for long-term use.
The sections inside of an air bed that holds the air.
The largest mattress measuring 9 feet by 9 feet.
A mattress measuring 8 feet by 8 feet.
Something that causes an allergic reaction.
Material that has been treated to prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, fungus, and dust mites.
An adjustable bed with "1-point articulation" folds in one spot (usually so the back will raise), "2-point articulation" will fold in 2 spots (usually the back and the legs will raise).
A patented foam that has properties of latex (cool and responsive) but is more durable.
A soft, breathable fabric that's anti-microbial that wicks away sweat and moisture.
Also known as wadding, it's the filling that makes quilts warm and heavy. It can be made from cotton, polyester, wool, or bamboo.
Made of wood or metal, this is what raises the bed off of the floor and gives it support. If your mattress seems to lack support, it may be that your bed frame is bend or part of it is broken, which can damage your mattress.
Applied to a product that will break down into non-harmful organic matter. Note that as of yet there's no legal definition for this term and some products are mislabeled.
A chamber that holds water in a waterbed.
A combination of synthetic and natural latex that provides both elasticity (from natural latex) and consistent quality (from synthetic latex).
Hourglass-shaped springs that provide support in innerspring mattresses.
A wire that surrounds the perimeter of a box spring or innerspring mattress. It helps the mattress maintain its shape and improves durability by connecting to the outer part of the coils.
A foundation that goes underneath a mattress that will help give support to a mattress. A box spring is made of heavy coils inside of a wood frame with little to no padding on the top.
When a foam mattress is delivered in a medium-size box and you have to allow up to 3 days for the mattress to sit outside of the box to decompress and reach it's intended size.
A thin, stiff board that's placed under a mattress as opposed to a box spring.
A mattress that measures 72" wide by 84" long, a little more narrow and longer than a standard King.
A mattress that measures 60" wide by 84" long, which is a little longer than a standard Queen.
Normally for a product to qualify as USDA Organic, at least 95% of the materials need to be organic and to be processed without potentially harmful chemicals. As of now, the USDA won't certify mattresses as organic, but a mattress can be certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards).
Spirals of wires inside or an innerspring mattress that give it both support and softness. There are variations in shape, size, and gauge creating different levels of support and feel to a mattress.
Two layers of coils in top of each other that improves comfort and support. These mattresses are more expensive.
This usually means that you can return a mattress for another one, but not get a refund.
The upper few inches of a mattress that help give a softer feel to a mattress.
An innerspring mattress design where s-shaped springs form a single wire, creating a stable and durable mattress. Its the least expensive of all the innerspring coil designs.
A mattress that provides a mixture of softness and pressure-relieving support by conforming to your body.
Foam shaped similar to an egg carton, giving additional surface cushioning.
The support layer of a mattress such as innerspring or foam.
A natural fiber used in making some mattresses.
A narrow width roll of uncompressed carded cotton, or cotton and wool mix, sandwiched between thin paper layers.
The fabric that encases a mattress.
A mattress designed for use in a baby crib that normally has a water-resistant cover and is firm.
When a mattress lifts up in the center.
The layers of latex, foam, felt, polyester, cotton, or other material between the insulation and the quilting of an innerspring mattress.
The measurement of how much a person sinks into the mattress.
A woven fabric used to upholster a mattress, also known as ticking. Damask is usually made from cotton, rayon, or linen, and gives a classic woven look. Designs usually feature motifs or leaves, vines, or flowers.
Furniture that functions as both a couch and a bed.
A measurement of weight over volume that tells how durable and often the firmness of a mattress, expressed in pounds per square foot.
Deep Compression Support
A measure of how well a mattress adapts to a heavy sleeper. These mattresses are usually thicker and have more layers of support.
A bed that measures 54" wide by 75" long, designed for two people, but smaller than Queen and King sizes.
A frame that can use a headboard as well as a footboard.
The same width as a double (54"), but 5" longer (80").
Double Heat Tempering
A process of making innerspring coils more resilient and durable by heating a coil, cooling it, then heating it again.
A foam-making process that creates a foam that's high-density, lower cost, and has progressive compression characteristics.
How long a mattress will give you support. The average lifespan of a mattress is 7 years, although each type of mattress has a different lifespan.
Microscopic creatures that live in mattresses and pillows that feed off of dead skin, triggering allergies in many people.
Ease of Repositioning
How easy it is to change positions in bed.
A mattress measuring 76" wide by 80" long, also known as a King.
A loss of support on the outer edge of a bed, which can lead to a person sliding off their bed, or feeling like they're slipping off.
Additional innerspring coils or stronger coils near the edge of the bed that help prevent edge breakdown.
The ability of a mattress to hold its shape at its edges.
The climate in Egypt allows cotton fibers to grow extra long and creates an extra-long staple (ELS) cotton, which is stronger and softer.
Similar to a pillow top, which provides a softer feel to a mattress by adding a padding layer on top of a mattress, but usually denser and higher quality. Instead of being sewn to the top of the mattress, they're sewn flush with the edges of the mattress.
When a mattress can no longer support a person due to the degradation of the material in the mattress (usually coils or foam).
Used in bedding, fiber filling is made by exploding polyester fibers into fluffy clusters. It has a similar feel to goose down and is used in pillows and mattress toppers.
The depth of a bladder in a waterbed.
Since 2007, all mattresses sold in the U.S. are required to meet a standard for fire-resistance.
A section that wraps around the core of a mattress that will melt in the event of a fire, and distinguish the fire.
How well a mattress stands up to pressure, also referred to as support. Some people require more firmness others less depending on their size, what sleeping positions they prefer, and other factors.
Turning your mattress over to prevent wear and tear in the same spots. Mattresses can also be rotated for the same purpose.
An alternative to innerspring mattresses, usually memory foam, polyurethane, or latex.
A section below the top layer of the mattress that acts as the main support system of the mattress.
Stiff sections around the outside edge of a foam mattress to help protect against edge breakdown.
A board that connects to the foot of a bed frame.
A waterbed with one chamber and no motion dampeners. A common complaint about these beds is that one partner will feel the other partner's movements.
Also known as a standard bed or a double bed, it measures 54" wide by 75" long.
5" inches longer than a full, also known as a double extra long.
The Japanese word for "bed," they're made of compressed layers of cotton, wool, or latex. These layers are tufted into place, and futon mattresses are generally only 3 inches thick.
The measure of the thickness of a coil inside of an innerspring mattress. Most range between 12 and 17, with the lower number being the thicker measurement, which will result in a firmer spring.
A squared-off edge of a pillow, comforter, or upholstery layer that adds strength to the edges.
The board that sits at the head of the bed at a 90-degree angle to the mattress.
Small, spiral-shaped wires that connects coils in an innerspring mattress.
Foam that is more durable and compresses less than regular foam.
Usually a combination of an innerspring system to provide support, and foam for its pressure-relieving benefits.
In this mattress, the bladder is divided into smaller compartments where water can travel between compartments through small holes to reduce motion transfer.
Less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
Indentation Force Deflection
Also known as internal load deflection, it's the measurement of the firmness of foam. It's calculated by the amount of force needed to compress foam by 25%. A rating of 14 is considered super plush, and 40-44 is extra firm.
Coils in an innerspring mattress that work independently of each other to reduce the disturbance of one person's movement for the other.
The layer of quilting a pillowtop is sewn into.
A mattress constructed of coil springs surrounded with layers of upholstery to provide a softer sleeping surface. The benefit of these mattresses is that they're usually cheaper, and don't retain body heat through the night, unlike foam mattresses that compress and don't let the heat escape.
A mattress that measures 76" wide by 80" long.
A bed with two Twin Extra Long mattresses measuring 30" wide by 80" long.
Fabric used in mattress covers that softer than a woven one.
A term that describes the height of material or padding.
A thin foundation to go with an extra-thick mattress so that the total height of the bed is close to a normal bed.
This usually means that a mattress costs $2,000 or more for a queen size.
Also known as encased coils or, encased springs, or pocketed springs, these are components of a mattress in which each coil is separately wrapped in a textile material.
A topper is a layer of foam or other material that can change the resistance of a mattress, making it softer or firmer.
Also known as viscoelastic foam, or low-resilience polyurethane foam, it's used in mattress because it contours to the sleeper, relieving pressure points.
Memory Foam Gel
Gel takes longer to warm up, so when it's added to a foam mattress, it slows the process of the mattress radiating the sleeper's body heat back to them, warming them up and lowering the quality of sleep.
The displacement of fibers within a mattress over time.
The degree to which one person can feel the motion of their partner while laying on a mattress.
The Mulesing procedure is done on Merino sheep to prevent an infection called flystrike. This procedure is said to cause pain in the sheep. Animal rights advocates claim that there are humane alternatives to preventing these infections.
A process that uses multiple needles, but still creates a continuous pattern. Also known as continuous quilting.
A bed that can be folded up and stored vertically in a cabinet which frees up floor space in a room during the day.
A meaningless term that has no standards to define it.
A mattress that is only designed one side up. Many mattresses require flipping to last longer, or to maintain their warranty.
The evaporation of volatile organic compounds in a mattress into the air. Off-gassing is potentially harmful to humans and sometimes will create a chemical smell.
A type of innerspring mattress coil that has an hourglass shape but is supposed to have better hinging action that a Bonnell coil. These are quieter, conform to the sleeper's body better, and are more expensive.
A mattress that's 66" wide by 80" long.
A part of a hard-sided waterbed's foundation.
Polybrominated Diphyenylethers (PBDEs)
A class of chemicals that are flame retardants used in foams and other materials.
A chemical used to soften plastic that has been used in baby's mattresses, but some of which have been banned in products for babies.
A layer that is added to a mattress to make it softer.
Similar to Egyptian cotton, it's a generic label applied to cotton grown in the US with an extra-long staple (ELS), making it softer and more durable.
Holes in a latex mattress to help soften the mattress.
Also known as a cabin bed, it's a mattress placed on a foundation.
A softer surface.
Springs individually wrapped in fabric sleeves, allowing them to react to pressure independently instead of all together, minimizing movement and creating a more buoyant feel.
Innerspring mattress coils that are individually wrapped in separate fabric pockets, providing motion separation.
Support added in the center of a mattress to prevent sagging.
Pressure relief mattresses help distribute body weight evenly, preventing discomfort that often occurs in the hips and shoulders.
A mattress warranty that doesn't cover the full price or replacement price after a certain period of time.
A mattress that measures 60" wide by 80" long.
Two mattresses that are each 30" wide by 80" long.
The top layer of a mattress that is part of the cover, adding thickness and softness to the mattress as well as keeping the comfort layers below from shifting.
How long it takes a piece of foam to return to its original shape after pressure is applied to it.
When part of a product has been reused.
Material that has been reprocessed into new material.
From sources that are renewed naturally.
Changing sleep positions during the night.
The ability of a material to return to its original position after the pressure that was applied is no longer applied.
The speed and degree that a mattress responds to motion or pressure.
The liner that surrounds a bladder in a waterbed in case of a leak.
Loss of support in a mattress due to the degradation of the mattress due to age, use, or a poor or broken support beneath the mattress. Sagging often occurs in the center of a mattress.
An air or foam bed that can be compressed to take up little space, often used by campers.
A resting position where the back is at a 45-degree angle to the legs.
A waterbed with a bladder that has a small amount of material inside to reduce the movement of water.
A mattress and the foundation, also known as a sleep set.
Also known as a twin bed, it measures 38" wide by 75" long and is the smallest of the adult-sized beds.
Also known as a twin extra-long, they measure 38" wide by 80" long, 5" longer than a regular single bed.
A base to put a mattress on that is made of planks of wood or slats.
A mattress cover that isn't quilted.
A waterbed that combines elements of a foam mattress by encasing the bladder in foam.
The wires used to make coils in innerspring mattresses.
A mattress that measures 48" wide by 84" long.
The ability of a mattress to hold your spine in a good position while sleeping so that you wake up without stiffness.
Man-made with a chemical process as opposed to occurring in nature.
A latex manufacturing process that creates a more consistent firmness than Dunlop latex.
The seam that runs along the edges of a mattress.
How warm a mattress can become during the night. Mattresses that retain heat (this is one of the drawbacks of foam) warm the sleeper and then to reduce the quality of sleep.
Also called heat-tempering or heat treatment, a process of strengthening innerspring coils by heating them to a high temperature then letting them cool naturally.
The number of threads per square inch in fabric. The higher the thread count, the more smooth and fine the fabric, and more expensive.
The fabric surface of a mattress or foundation.
A mattress without a pillow top but has a quilted surface.
90-degree angle bars inside of a foundation to absorb pressure.
Many mattress retailers will allow you to try a mattress at home for a period of time, such as 90 days, within which you can return it for a full refund.
A bed that has a second bed underneath it that can be slid out, making a sleeping space for a second person. These are common in small spaces as they take up less space when not in use.
The stitching that holds the padding layers in place.
We have compiled the industry's most extensive mattress glossary to help you better understand this increasingly complex space.
A mattress that measures 39" wide by 75" long, also known as a single.
Twin Extra Long
A mattress that measures 39" long by 80" wide, also known as a single extra long.
The soft layers in a mattress that include ticking, quilting, insulation, and cushioning.
Eyelets on the sides of a mattress that allow air to flow in and out.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Products that can off-gas chemicals that are potentially harmful to humans.
A bed that uses water inside of bladders as the core of a mattress, as opposed to foam, gel, or an innerspring system.
A motor or pump for an airbed that is very quiet.
Delivery service where two people will deliver your mattress, set it on its frame, and often take away your old mattress.
A mattress that's 7 feet by 7 feet.