Pocket Springs Explained
- What are pocket springs?
- How do pocket springs work?
- What is the difference between pocket sprung and open coil?
- What are the benefits of a pocket sprung mattress?
- What is meant by the spring count?
- Is a higher spring count better?
- What spring count should I choose?
- Are there different types of pocket springs?
- Is a pocket sprung mattress good for a back back?
- Difference between pocket sprung and memory foam
- Pocket springs and memory foam
Pocket springs start simply enough with coiled metal springs, usually made from steel. These springs are uniform in height and are individual from each other. The metal springs are then each encased in a fabric sleeve, which are often formed by crimping a continuous length of material together, locking each spring in place. Generally this process is done by an automated machine, which sews each end of the sleeves together, securing the top and bottom of each spring. The appearance is that each metal spring is wrapped in its own fabric 'pocket'.
You can head over to our memory foam mattress page, to have a look at the various products.
The construction of a pocket sprung system allows each individual spring to move without having an effect on its neighbouring springs. The level to which each spring depresses is only in accordance with the weight placed directly upon it. In practice while laying on a pocket sprung mattress, this means that the heavier parts of your body, such as the hips, will cause the springs below to depress further than the ones beneath lighter things such as your arms.
Open coil or Bonnell Springs have been the mainstay technology behind mattresses over the last century and a half, originally being used within the cushioned seats of horse drawn carriages. These buggy seats became popular due to the way that they wouldn't begin to sag as quickly as cushions which were only filled with straw, horsehair or wool. With an open coil spring system, every spring is hourglass shaped; wider at the top and bottom than they are in the middle. They're also laced into the framework using cross wire helicals, forming what has now become the simplest form of innerspring unit still available today.
Pocket springs are vastly superior to their open coil counterparts, due to the way that they don't move as an entire unit when weight is placed upon them. As described in the section above, only the springs which have weight placed directly upon them move, and they only contract in accordance with that level of weight. Read the section to learn how this translates to tangible benefits, which enable a higher quality of sleep.
A pocket sprung mattress is essentially able to 'follow the shape' of your body as you lie on it. The natural curves of the muscles and spine are accommodated by the springs, ensuring maximum contact between your body and the mattress at all times. This is the very definition of support, preventing any excess strain on your back, as the mattress takes your weight directly. Next, this also means that your body weight is evenly distributed across the unified surface, which in turn prevents pressure points. This helps to promote a healthy posture and efficient blood circulation, leaving you feeling more energised in the morning and ready for the day ahead. Speaking of posture, this is aided by the ability for the mattress to keep your spine correctly aligned, regardless of whether you've been sleeping on your back or your side.
When two people share the bed, this process is able to work for each person, and they'll be able to enjoy their own unique support zones, without having any bearing on their partners. One of the main downsides of open coil mattresses is something which is referred to as 'roll together' - the combined weight of a couple causing them to both accidentally roll into the centre of the mattress instead of lying separately. The individual nature of pocket springs, prevents this issue almost entirely. In fact, even your body movements as you sleep, are absorbed by the mattress and not transferred to where your partner is resting. Pocket spring mattresses reduce you from disturbing your partners sleep.
This sounds self explanatory but as you've no doubt suspected, it's not quite as simple as it seems at first. Yes, the spring count refers to the number of springs inside of the mattress, but the approximate count is actually based on the king size version. This is done as an industry standard and applies to all manufacturers and retailers. So for example, a single size mattress listed as having 1,000 pocket springs, will actually have closer to 700 springs in it. In practice, there isn't really an issue. The springs in a particular mattress model are of the same diameter and strength, regardless of the size you choose, meaning the same level of support is given and the mattress is of the same quality overall.
When comparing mattresses in a particular range, belonging to the same manufacturer, a higher spring count does often mean a 'better' mattress. This is because the benefits which come with pocket springs are essentially amplified over a higher spring count, and the accuracy to which the mattress follows your curves is greatly improved. For example, a mattress with 2,000 springs can more closely follow your shape compared to a mattress with 1200 springs, ensuring that support is given with even greater precision.
However...it's unwise to assume that a higher spring count always means that a mattress is better than one with a lower number of springs. Take the Sleepeezee Cool Sensations 1400 Mattress, which as the name suggests has 1400 pocket springs. If you were comparing it to a cheaper unbranded mattress, which has 2,000 pocket springs in it, this doesn't necessarily mean you've found a product which is better value for money. Budget bed companies tend to use springs which have less rotations between the top and bottom when compared to household names such as Sleepeezee. As the springs don't have as many 'active turns' this means that they aren't as supportive as a result.
The bottom line is that 1400 springs in a quality mattress, can indeed be better than the 2,000 springs in a budget product.
There isn't an exact science to the number of springs each person should have in their mattress. The best advice is "the highest number of pocket springs you can afford", remembering that within a particular manufacturer's range, as a spring count increases, so to will the price in most cases. The benefits of pocket springs are universal in the way that they are beneficial to every body type, whether someone sleeps on their back or side. As described in the previous section, a higher spring count amplifies these benefits by allowing the springs to more accurately and effectively follow the shape of your back and muscles as you lie on them.
You should never choose a mattress based on spring count alone. Look at the additional fillings, overall mattress depth, firmness rating, guarantee periods and price. You might be much more comfortable on a 1200 pocket sprung mattress which has a layer of memory foam, as opposed to a 2500 spring count mattress which only has polyester fillings.
If you're in a position to do so...simply have a try of some mattresses in a physical bed store before making a decision. You can always have a browse online afterwards to see if you can get it cheaper online once you've settled on a particular model.
As much as pocket spring units do all have the same general characteristics, i.e. metal springs encased within fabric sleeves, there are some interesting spins on the design, as various manufacturers have sought to innovate further.
Some premium mattress ranges contain what seems like an unbelievable number of springs in each mattress, as spring counts exceed 5000 and keep climbing. The Harrison Spinks Sapphire Mattress includes a whopping 16,700 pocket springs, which is achieved by including various layers of springs on top of each other. Whenever this is done, the layers of springs which are closer to the top of the mattress becomes smaller. For example, let's say we've got a 5,000 spring mattress, made from 2 layers of pocket springs. The bottom layer contains 2,000 springs which are both wider and firmer. There's then a layer of 3,000 smaller and softer springs on top of that. The layer closer to your body is able to cushion your muscles with a cascading effect between the two layers to distribute your body weight with even more efficiency than a single layer would give you, giving a sensation of weightlessness as you lie on the mattress.
Some manufacturers also include pocket springs which are wider in the middle as opposed to the ends where the coils are more tightly wound. This produces a 'bellows' like effect as you get on and off the mattress, which expels stale air out of the mattress and draws in cleaner air during the process. This keeps the mattress aerated which is good for hygiene, keeps the fillings intact for longer and helps keep you cool as sleep.
Another innovation is the 'spring within a spring'. The aforementioned Harrison Spinks have their patented Revolution Spring system, which means every pocket spring actually has another pocket spring inside of it. The inner springs come to about two thirds of the height of the outer spring. This allows a gentler level of support upon first contact with the mattress surface and gives a tiered effect to weight distribution.
Traditional wisdom says that the best thing for a bad back is a firm mattress...however that isn't necessarily good advice on it's own and can make your back worse if the mattress isn't properly supportive. The word 'firm' shouldn't be completely synonymous with 'support' when it comes to your back. 'Support' is about how well a mattress can maximise its direct contact with your body, whilst being firm enough to support your weight. For example, a firm open coil mattress can cause issues by not supporting the concave areas of your back, such as where the spine meets the hips (lower lumber). As the mattress fails to maintain contact here, the strain is instead placed on your back instead of the mattress, and this leads to aches and pains.
Whilst it is important to opt for a suitable tension level when choosing a new mattress, pocket springs offset the importance of this much more than an open coil mattress would. By actively 'following the shape' of your body as you lie on the pocket sprung mattress, this ensures that maximum contact is maintained. In that sense, pocket sprung mattresses are indeed better for you than open coil mattress if you suffer from a bad back, but you should never neglect the other factors that come into play. Pocket sprung or not, springs are made from metal. Ensure the mattress has suitable fillings which will cushion you from the feeling of the springs underneath. Many people opt for a pocket sprung mattress which has a layer of memory foam on top, as this also caters to your curves by adjusting to your body shape and sleeping position.
If you're unsure about memory foam, you should consider a mattress from a range such as Sleepeeezee's Backcare Collection. The Sleepeezee Backcare Ultimate 2000 Mattress features 2000 pocket springs, and is a firm tension mattress which has natural cashmere and wool fillings.
Although the physical characteristics of pocket springs and memory foam, are generally understood by most people who ask this question, it's still a natural one to ask. Pocket springs are described as being supportive because of the way that they adjust to your body shape...and you'll see very similar descriptions of memory foam working in this way was well. To cut out any confusion, you should try and think of any mattress as being constructed from two separate layers:
- Comfort/Fillings Layer
- Mattress Core/Support Layer
The comfort layer is just below the mattress cover and rests above the support layer underneath. Its main role is to provide comfort to your muscles, as the first point of contact with your body (aside from the mattress cover and your bedsheets). The fillings need to be soft enough to provide a comfortable sleeping surface and the specific types of fillings are chosen for their additional properties too. Polyester is the cheapest mattress filling and it doesn't really contain any additional benefits. Natural wool however, has the uncanny ability of being able to keep you warm in winter, whilst its absorbent quality allows it to help keep you cool in summer. Memory foam is soft to the touch and allows your body to sink into it. Unlike pocket springs, memory foam is present in the comfort or fillings layer.
The core or support layer is where you'll find pocket springs and with a traditional memory foam mattress (which contains no springs), this is where you'll find the high density reflex foam layer. Basically 'memory foam mattresses' always contain memory foam at the top, but firmer reflex foam in the core layer, to prevent you from sinking too deeply. Pocket springs are found in this support layer and this is where the 'following your shape' part comes in. Ideally if you want both the fillings and support layer to have this ability, you can go for mattress which has both a memory foam layer and pocket springs underneath!
Pocket springs and memory foam are a great combination within the same mattress. There are many people who love the soothing comfort that memory foam provides them, but they have been put off previously by a mattress which became too warm during use. By having a pocket sprung system at the core and just a shallow layer of memory foam on top, this ensures the mattress is kept aerated during use, which keeps you much cooler as you sleep. Both memory foam and pocket springs are designed to cater to your body shape and sleeping position, and the two layers work in tandem to distribute your body weight evenly across the mattress. Over the past few years, various companies have branded this type of mattress as a 'hybrid mattress'.