K6JRF's Page
formerly W6FZC

Designing a Perfect Sleeping Machine!

Photos by K6JRF
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(Update: Feb 21, 2018)

Making the Perfect Sleeping Machine
My quest to come up with the perfect sleeping machine is something most do at one time or another b/c we all like a good nights sleep.

It seems that finding the perfect mattress is difficult. Why?? It's due to the confusing way that data for the mattress material is reported for different kinds of mattresses. This page details of how I arrived at my current sleeping "system". It's better than all other previous versions and is the best that I've constructed to date. It is also priced economically which was also one of my goals.

About 15 years ago, I purchased my first Memory Foam [MF] mattress at a cost of $1600 from Bragada. When it was new, it provided great cushioning and support to the body. However, in 4 years, the MF lost much of its "memory" and it sagged like a hammock. The good nights sleep had flown the coop! And, I find, that they are no longer in business.

Latex v MF Features It was then that I found that MF while providing great body support, doesn't last as long as I would like. The chart at the right shows that a Latex mattress will provide 65% more life than a MF mattress. IMO, you should get at least 10 usable years from a latex mattress. But for pressure point relief, MF is 60% better.

Based on my experience, a MF mattress gives 5 years of useable life. On the other hand, a latex mattress is more expensive and will last longer than a MF mattress. However, a MF mattress gives more pressure-point relief.

I should point out that my wife and I are over 75 years old so body comfort and support when sleeping is a must! I weigh 195lbs and she weighs 165lbs.

Selecting the Mattress or Topper Material
I've not considered the conventional box-spring mattress but have concentrated on the foam constructed mattress/topper.

In this arena, your choice is between two (2) main mattress foundations, Latex and Memory Foam. The main difference is simple: latex compresses under your weight and instantly springs back. Memory foam compresses under your weight but takes some time to spring back depending on the density of the foam. Medium density Latex is "bouncy" so that induces a completely different feeling to your body than medium density MF.

As you read, I've found that MF is great but as it ages and starts to fail, you end up sinking into the mattress/topper and is, at some times, difficult to get out of the "body-hole". Not so with latex.

I've found that if you want a latex mattress you should choose the higher density that gives a FIRM support for the BASE layer. However, for a topper, you should choose the LOWER density (firmness) construction, giving SOFT support.

The density is expressed in "ILD" which stands for Indentation Load Deflection. It is a measurement of how hard or soft a foam material is. In technical terms, it's the number of pounds of pressure required to indent 4" of foam by 25% using a 50 square inch indentation. For SOFT, the ILD is around "20". For MEDIUM density, it is around "30". For FIRM density it's around "40".

Too Firm Mattress As springy [you feel like you are bouncing] as medium density latex can be, it also can be too "hard" depending at this firmness for the mattress or topper. MF, on the other hand, even if it is made of medium or high density (firmness) foam always appears more comfortable than latex. It's important to understand that you don't want MEDIUM or FIRM density for the top layers of a latex mattress. The top layer should be SOFT for latex; soft or medium for MF.

A mattress or topper with medium to firm density, for most people, is akin to sleeping on a slightly padded "tabletop" as the woman in the right-side picture shows. Very, very hard and that in turn, doesn't allow the body's "pressure-points" (hips and shoulders) to be supported especially if you are a "SIDE-SLEEPER". Consequently, you toss and turn trying to relieve those pressure points and feel like you are bouncing to boot!

Selecting the Correct Topper Thickness
This is one of the areas that many, including me, were confused b/c I thought that a THICKER topper is better than a THIN one. It depends on WHAT YOU WANT THE TOPPER TO DO!!

There are three (3) main thickness, 1", 2" and 3".
1": This topper is great for adding a subtle change to the surface of a mattress without adding much additional height and it will not provide a drastic change but can be used to tweak surface feel of the mattress.

2": This topper is the most popular topper height. It can add a significant change to the surface of the mattress while still retaining the general support of the mattress underneath.

3": This topper provides a "mattress make over". It dominates the feel of the mattress to revitalize and reinvigorate an old mattress. It creates large changes in the firmness of a mattress.

For ONE-ONLY topper, I recommend the 2" or 3" thickness b/c, by definition, you want to completely change the feel of underlying mattress. If you add a "tweak" topper (or 2nd topper), I recommend the use of 1" to 2" thickness depending on the gel foam density.

Selecting the Mattress
For a long lasting mattress foundation, I believe starting with a FIRM support section is the correct choice. The base portion of the mattress should be a thick as possible. The thicker the better, the longer it will last! 7" to 9" height makes great start for the base of a mattress.

The top layer should be SOFT for a LATEX mattress. For a MF or gel MF mattress, it should be soft or medium density depending on the amount of "sink-in" feeling you want. Gel MF is supposed to be "cooler" and not hold the body heat as M/F does.

Roma Latex Mattress Personally, in my quest, I've worked through MF as a "base" and now prefer a LATEX mattress b/c of the potential long life.

Currently, I'm using a latex mattress made by Sleep EZ USA Inc called the 2-in-1 Roma Mattress on the FIRM side. It's made in Arizona, USA and price is reasonable. One side is FIRM, the other side is MEDIUM. This allows you to select the side you prefer and if you want a change, you just turn it over!

I should add that this mattress served as a test-tool so that I could "find out" which firmness I should have. Now that I know, a FIRM or EXTRA FIRM base is preferable w/o the MEDIUM side.

Click here to see the details on the mattress.


Fix that Mattress Sag
All mattresses will sag after a number of years of repeated use! It's just a fact of mattress life. The better the material, the longer it will last. All mattresses become more and more concave over time, and mattress toppers will only give you a softer feel, but won't solve the problem.

I've read that that you can "fix" a sagging latex or innerspring mattress by the use of some household things such as a flat pillow, for example. You place the pillow directly under the sag area and it is supposed to raise it up.

There's also a number of commercial products that are basically Styrofoam [Extended Polystyrene] products that when placed under the mattress, raise the area subtended by the material. All of the following mattress "aids" assume that there are two (2) sleepers using the bed.

Mattress Helper  One such is shown here. It's 20" x 50" strip pad that costs $80. You need TWO (2) for a queen bed! Very expensive IMO.

Bed Helper  Another is here. The size is 20" x 27" and the cost is $40. You need TWO (2) for a queen size mattress. Also expensive!

Bed Boost  Still another is here. This uses compressed air to inflate a 'ballon' type element. It is fully adjustable comfort and supports up to 700 lbs. The ballon is 20" x 30". You need two (2) for a queen size mattress. Price is reasonable, $12.25 each.

DIY w/ Extended Polystyrene
Sagging Mattress My Roma mattress is five (5) years old and there's slight sag (apx 1/2") on both sides where we normally lie. I happen to have some Styrofoam sheets that are 1 inch thick; 24" W x 30" L. After measuring the "sag" area, the pieces were cut to what is the correct size for my mattress sag; 18" W x 28" L.

After cutting the Styrofoam, I placed two (2) pieces directly under the center of the 'sag' on both sides. It actually raised the sagging area up and removed the sag!! So the technique is solid and does work.

Height Balance
In order to BALANCE the mattress HEIGHT (due to the lifting effect of the EPS foam), I reccommend that you add two pieces at the bottom of the mattress as shown in the diagram. Those are apx 16" x 24" for a queen size mattress and they serve to raise the mattress to the same height as the head-section.

I reccommend that you check the 'sag' length and width and cut the appropriate size for your mattress. The key is to place the support just to fit the sag-area with apx 1 to 2 inch overlap.

Polystyrene Source
EP Sheets - 4 pack One source for the Expanded Polystyrene Foam Sheet is here. Price is $35.51 for a four-sheet package with dimensions: 24" L x 48" W x 1". With these sheets you can do all of the mattresses in your house!

As far as what may happen to the Roma latex mattress, I will report it here. After two (2) months, there is no change to overall mattress; the sag area is still flat!

Selecting the Topper
Sleep on Latex SOFT Topper The above mattress can be used as is, if you sleep on the MEDIUM side. However, for me, it's still a bit too hard based on the rationale that I've stated above. So to soften the mattress, a topper is needed.

I've added one made by Sleep on Latex called the Pure Green 100% Natural Latex Mattress Topper - Soft that is 2" thick. It now gives the mattress a new feel and supports my body with almost perfect pressure point relief. You can freely roll-around and change positions w/o having to climb out of a "body-hole".

Click here to see the details on the topper.

Adding a Second Topper
Sure2Sleep High Density Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper However, it doesn't give 100% pressure point relief. So I've added a 2nd layer to buffer the latex topper.

The ideal density and industry standard for a memory foam mattress is between 3 lb to 5 lb. Higher density memory foam is NOT necessarily higher quality but will usually last longer. However, it provides the SINK-IN quality which memory foam is noted for but is not necessarily wanted.

The difference between lower and higher density foam is the memory characteristics. Lower density foam will have less of a memory effect when compared to higher density foam. Typically, MF of 5 lb or greater density will cause the user to experience that "sink-in" effect and feeling being “stuck” as compared to lower density foam. 3 lb density foam will NOT have the benefit of a sustained memory characteristics. It will slightly deform and spring back quickly.

This is Sure2Sleep Plush Gel Memory Foam Topper on top of the latex topper. It's 2" thick and provides that little extra pressure-point relief by allowing the body to slightly sink into it to provide that "floating on a cloud" feeling. There's no hole when you need to change positions b/c the topper is made of 3lb density gel foam. The manufacturer calls it "High Density" but it is not! 3 lb density foam is rightly called "Soft"; 4 lb density foam is called "Medium"; 5 lb density is called "Firm"!

Note, being lower density Gel MF, it will fail at some future time, however, the warranty claims 3 yr full replacement provided that the 'body-hole' is 0.5" or greater.

Click here to see the details on this Gel MF topper.

My Combo Topper
Cover for Both Toppers The picture shows the construction of my dual layer topper, consisting of a cotton-polyester zippered cover housing the 2" Gel MF - 3lb density over top of the 2" Latex low density (soft) foam.

My combo topper sits on top of the 9" Roma Latex mattress which is mounted on the wood base foundation (not visible).
Results & Conclusions
Styrofoam
The EPS Foam (1" thick) worked well; raised both sag areas and was like sleeping on a new mattress. This is a realatively inexpensive way of removing sagging areas from your mattress. It's a DIY so you can adjust the required width and length until the sag is removed. This is my recommended method.

Bed Boost
Bed Boost shown Inflated I also tried the "Bed Boost" device, one under each side. From the "physics" of the sag, which is concave, what could be better than correcting the sag than with a convex ballon.

However, for my mattress apx 1/2" sag, it needed to be only partially inflated. Because of this, the mattress "rolls" as the air in the Bed Boost moves! So unless you FULLY INFLATE it or at least 75%, it won't work properly.
Combo Topper+Roma+ EPS support - no sag The picture shows the My Combo Topper Cover over the Roma mattress with sag support provided by the EPS foam. The light from the door shows any sag areas. As you can see, it's "flat"!
Complete Bed Picture My Combo Topper with the 2 inch latex topper under the 2 inch gel MF topper makes an extraordinary "finish" for any mattress.

Pressing on the soft top produces an indentation which almost instantly comes back to its neutral state. It's the best of both worlds; the conformance of gel MF and the resiliency of the latex without the body-hole. Extremely nice sleeping with no body pressure-points!

So that's it! We have a very comfortable and supportive sleeping system. The price is under $1100* and is 'custom' designed for both of us. The three (3) layers do make make our bodies happy and has relieved any back pain that we had. The top layer (My Combo Topper) will need to be replaced at some future (4 - 5 years?) time but the base support will last for 10 to 15 years.

One other point, the Roma mattress with the FIRM side up and EPS 'sag' support correction, does NOT need to be turned or rotated!

*  With today's selection of FIRM mattress bases, it is possible to further
reduce the price of the complete mattress and topper to apx $700.

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