Inside of a Mattress – A Layer by Layer Guide

By: Ryan Poppie Reading Time: 14 minutes

Inside of a Mattress
Reading Time: 14 minutes

Did you know many people don’t consider what’s inside their mattresses? Most don’t understand there may be components (or missing components) contributing to their insufficient sleep.  And many don’t even know that they may be sleeping on the wrong bed type. 

We’re here to describe the inside of a mattress (parts of a mattress) while also showing you how mattress components can significantly impact your sleep at night.

So if you are curious about what’s inside of a mattress – keep reading. And as a bonus, we’ll also cover what’s inside the most popular mattress types.

With this information, you’ll better understand what you’re sleeping on (and which mattress may be best for you).

Table of Contents

What Are The Layers of a Mattress?

While some mattresses, latex mattress models, are made with one or two layers, many hybrid and innerspring mattresses comprise multiple layers. 

Most of the highest quality brands will have three core sections inside of a mattress,  comfort layer, transition layer, and support layer. Each individually layers with components designed to give you the best comfort and support.

Oh, and just a quick insight, while the layers of an actual “mattress build” start from the bottom up, we’ll display it from the top down for this example. 

So, let’s take a closer look at each layer.


The Comfort Layer

The main goal of the comfort layer is just what you’d expect—to make the bed more comfortable. You’ll find ticking and quilting within the comfort layer and padding layers.

Comfort Layer - Cover

Comfort Layer – Cover

Ticking & Quilting

The actual exterior of your mattress is covered in a layer usually made up of cotton or a cotton-polyester blend. This is the part of your mattress you cover up with your bed sheet.

But just because you’re covering it up doesn’t mean ticking and quilting aren’t necessary.

A mattress with quality ticking and stitching will typically last longer before it needs replacement.

And handcrafted beds usually offer the best ticking and stitching compared to other brands.

On top of that, the best mattresses will be quilted with all-natural materials, such as 100% natural cotton ticking.

Padding

Comfort Layer - Padding

Comfort Layer – Padding

Underneath the ticking and quilting are several layers of padding.

The top layer is right below where you sleep and dramatically impacts the mattress’s comfort.

The uppermost layer may be cotton, wool, foam, or a softer Latex.

The goal of this layer is comfort and how much support the mattress gives the pressure points in your body.

The Transition Layer

The transition layer is between the comfort and support layers.

And as its name implies, it’s meant to be a transition zone from the upper comfort layers to the lower support layers.

Transition Layer

Transition Layer

You’ll usually find materials within the transition layer that provide extra padding and support.

Extra Padding & Support

Unlike the upper comfort layers, the padding found in the transition layer adds overall support.

High-quality mattresses may use more medium-firm versions of latex and micro coils.

After that may come a layer of extra technology materials such as HD micro coils and an insulator pad.

The Support Layer

Support Layer

Support Layer

After the transition layer comes the heavy hitters for the bed support.

The supportive layer is made up of either springs and coils or foam. 

Don’t forget to choose the proper foundation. More on that later.

Springs & Coils

Under the padding is a bed of springs or coils that support your body. The quality of those components is essential.

For instance, a Quantum Edge® unit from Legget & Platt features side rails made up of our narrow-diameter Quantum coils with Caliber steel coils at the head and foot.

Steel coils are tested 26% more durable than foam and bend 24% easier, meaning less wear and tear when used with an adjustable base.

Foam

Mattresses that do not contain springs typically use foam in their support layer. There are pros and cons to selecting this type of mattress, so it’s essential to carefully evaluate this option and the alternatives before making a final decision.

If you are considering a foam mattress, find one that is comfortable, supports your body, and helps keep you cool while you sleep.

Foundation

The mattress foundation, often called the box springs, rounds out the recommended components to build your perfect sleep system. Some newer bed-in-a-box mattresses include very cheap foundations. We don’t recommend them.   

A well-built foundation will extend the life of the bed, help reduce motion transfer if you have a partner, and more.

Popular Bed Types & Components

Now that you know a mattress’s general sections and layers, let’s quickly discuss the more popular types of beds.

  • Innerspring
  • Hybrid
  • Latex
  • Memory Foam

Innerspring Beds

Innerspring mattresses gained widespread use in the U.S. in the 1930s and are still the most popular mattress type sold today. 

The traditional innerspring mattress, typically sold with a box spring, features a core made of steel coil springs connected by a strong border wire or encased in fabric and topped with an upholstery comfort layer.

Coil counts, gauge, and tempering aren’t considered significant factors like they used to be when choosing an innerspring. But at a minimum, select 300 coils for a complete, 375 for a queen, and 450 for a king mattress.

What matters more when buying an innerspring mattress is whether it has edge support, which will help it retain its shape by reducing sinking on the outer edge.

There are four types of innerspring:

  1. Bonnell Coil: An hourglass-shaped coil spring-knotted at each end, usually less expensive than other coil systems. This is the oldest type of mattress coil and is generally used in more economical mattresses.
  2. Offset Coil: An hourglass-shaped spring with flattened edges at the top and bottom. This type of coil is similar to the Bonnell coil, but it has a hinging action that is designed to increase
    body conformance.
  3. Continuous Coil:  A system of coil rows made of continuous wire that runs head to toe. This type of coil is durable and offers firm support but provides poorer motion isolation.
  4. Pocketed Coil:  A grouping of independent coils that are individually encased in fabric pockets. Pocketed coils allow independent coil movement, decreased motion disturbance, and
    enhanced body conformance.

Innerspring layers might look like this:

  • A comfort layer made from cotton, wool, or foam
  • A denser transition layer made from the same materials
  • A support layer that includes a coil system as well as a layer of extra firm foam to support the coils

The innerspring coil system can range from incredibly basic (e.g., a single wire making up the entire coils system) to surprisingly advanced (e.g., individually encased coils that provide better motion isolation and support).

Hybrid Beds

Hybrid mattresses combine multiple mattress types to offer their benefits in one bed.

For example, a memory foam hybrid mattress may have a pocketed coil support layer combined with a gel-infused foam comfort layer to support an innerspring mattress with the pressure relief and motion isolation of a memory foam mattress.

Another latex hybrid model may contain a latex core topped with a memory foam comfort layer to give you firmer support that still conforms to your body while you sleep.

For many people, hybrid mattresses offer the perfect combination of mattress types and are quickly becoming our best sellers.

However, some manufacturers use the “hybrid” term without producing an actual hybrid bed.

Hybrid layers might look like this:

  • A comfort layer made from memory foam, Latex, or even poly-foam
  • A transition layer made from denser memory foam, Latex, or poly-foam (may also contain materials to aid in cooling)
  • A support layer of pocketed coils and a thin foam support base underneath

When shopping for a hybrid mattress, ask for details so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Latex Beds

Latex mattresses are made by processing naturally existing rubber; latex mattresses offer a naturally supportive, breathable, and more eco-friendly core.

This mattress helps relieve pressure points much like memory foam, but air moves through Latex better than memory foam, making Latex much cooler to sleep on.

There are two types of latex materials.

  1. Natural Latex: Natural Latex provides optimal elasticity, softness, and biodegradability but is less commonly used and more expensive than synthetic.
  2. Synthetic Latex: Synthetic Latex, or blended Latex, combines natural Latex for elasticity and synthetic Latex for consistency
    and durability.

Manufactures utilize two processes to produce Latex:

  1. Dunlop: In this traditional technique, which has been used since 1929, liquid Latex is “whipped” with air until it becomes wet foam. Then it is poured into a mold, hardened, and vulcanized. Dunlop latex feels firmer and may be slightly more durable than Talalay latex.
  2. Talalay: A newer process with a couple more steps than the Dunlop technique. With the Talalay process, wet latex foam is poured into a mold, leaving air or space at the top of it. The mold is sealed and vacuumed to remove the air, causing the foam to expand and fill the space inside. The mold is frozen and quickly vulcanized to lock in the expanded foam structure. Talalay latex has a softer, springier, more elastic feel than Dunlop latex.

Latex layers might look like this:

  • A comfort layer made of latex foam
  • A denser transition layer of Latex
  • A final supportive layer of ultra-dense Latex

If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly option without metals or chemicals, look for a natural latex mattress.

Foam Beds

Foam beds stand out for exceptional pressure relief and body contouring. Typically made from viscoelastic polyurethane foam, these mattress types do wonders for reducing motion transfer between partners.

There are two types of foam – polyfoam and memory foam.

  1. Polyfoam:  This type of foam is made to compress under pressure. It will not conform to your body as memory foam does. That’s why it’s primarily used as a mattress support rather than a comfort layer.
  2. Memory Foam: Designed to soften under pressure or heat. Memory foam responds to the weight and warmth of your body, offering excellent body conformance. Memory foam is often used as
    both a mattress support layer and a comfort layer. When buying a foam mattress, density is a critical consideration. The firmness of the foam has nothing to do with the quality of foam. When shopping for a foam mattress, you need to ask what the density of the foam is. Denser foam mattresses will typically feel firmer and last longer, but they will also cost more.

Memory foam layers might look like this:

  1. A comfort layer made from plush foam followed by a layer of memory foam
  2. A more rigid transition layer of support foam
  3. An even more supportive layer of high-density foam to work as a base

Some memory foam mattresses may be made from a single layer of the same foam type. But most people find these mattresses don’t offer the support they need to get their best night’s sleep.

One Size Does Not Fit All

As you have read, there are many types of mattresses, each with a unique configuration of mattress layers, components, and materials.

But with so many different mattress types, it’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all bed out there. Some people may find a latex or memory foam mattress to be ideal. Others might prefer sleeping on a hybrid or innerspring. 

But that one bed that fits everyone is a myth.

To determine which type of mattress fits your specific body, comfort, and support needs, we designed Mattress Match.

This quick and simple tool will help you find the perfect bed for your unique needs.

And it only takes a minute or two to use. So click below to find your perfect mattress today.

[Find Your Perfect Match]

What Is Inside of a Mattress?

To help you get a better idea of what is inside of a mattress, we look at the anatomy of a popular hybrid mattress called Rejuvenate 90th Anniversary.

This hybrid features some of the best sleep technology and all-natural materials, so it’s an excellent model to demonstrate for this purpose.

Inside of a Mattress, 3 Sections

Comfort Layer

A comfort layer (or top Layer) typically contains latex or memory foam. An actual hybrid mattress should have a minimum of a 2-inch comfort layer. The comfort layer will help your body conform and relieve pressure points such as the shoulders and hips.

  • Uniquely tailored smooth Airtex™ cover
  • IQ Fit Glass Free, Zero Chemical, Zero Glass, 100% safe fire-retardant layer
  • 2 inches of soft, 100% Natural Latex

Transition Layer

A transitional layer contains medium firm latex or a poly-foam. These materials add extra cushioning and padding between the comfort and support layers. This Layer is more responsive to help promote proper spinal alignment.

  • 1 inch of medium 100% Natural Latex
  • 1-inch of 1989 coil 3-zone Posturfil HD Micro Coil
  • 1.4-ounce cotton blend 1/3 insulator pad

Support Layer

A support layer typically comes with a coil system of individually wrapped coils. A coiled support layer is required to be considered a true hybrid. Most pocketed coils help reduce sound and will also restrict motion transfer. So if you sleep with a partner, you’ll be less likely to feel them move while you sleeping.

  • 1130 Coil Combi-Zone® Comfort Core ™ Spring System with Quantum® Edge Steel Perimeter
  • .75 inch extra firm coil support foam

 
Woman sleeping on a quality mattress

What Else To Consider When Choosing a Mattress?

First, remember that you deserve the best sleep possible, so choosing the right mattress matters most.

And while there is a lot to choosing a mattress, we encourage you to consider a few other important things when investing in a bed, outside of making sure you choose the right mattress to match your specific body and comfort needs.

The Craftsmanship

Not all mattresses are built the same. And whether you’re after an innerspring, memory foam, Latex, or hybrid, the quality of the craftsmanship will always impact your sleep quality.

It would be best to look for mattress brands prioritizing craftsmanship over profits.

Fact; handmade mattresses tend to last longer. Ask questions to the sales rep and pay attention to the answers. If you do not understand the answer, ask it again until you do. 

The bottom line is that a quality crafted bed will last longer, support your body correctly, and give you a better, more restful night’s sleep.

The Quality of Materials 

Quality Natural Materials

Quality Natural Materials

Quality materials will ensure you experience the ultimate comfort, durability, and support.

When considering a particular mattress, ask the salesman about the materials used in the bed you are interested in. 

For example, here’s a short list of companies making high-quality materials.

  • Jones Nonwoven cotton, including its insulators and cotton batting, will provide a healthier night’s sleep. 
  • Talalay Latex uses all-natural, environmentally-friendly, certified Oeko-Tex class 1 Talalay latex. This Latex does not off-gas like synthetic foam or polyurethane. It allows our mattresses to breathe up to 7 times better than other Latex or foams for a cooler sleep. And it’s hypoallergenic and resistant to mold, mildew, bacteria, and dust mites.
  • Joma Wool is 100% biodegradable, free from plastics, sustainable, and ethically sourced.
  • And BekaertDeslee is the world’s leading manufacturer of mattress textiles and covers that create the ideal environment for a blissful night’s rest. 

Lastly, Is the Mattress Flippable?

It’s worth considering whether or not you’d like a flippable or a one-sided mattress.

Flippable mattresses feature a supportive core and transition and comfort layers on both sides of the bed. This unique construction lets owners “flip over” their mattresses several times a year, allowing for a longer lifespan and less noticeable wear and tear.

Regular mattresses cannot be flipped as their layers are designed to support sleepers on one side only.

As bedmakers, we believe one-sided models are a better fit for most sleep and comfort needs, particularly if you need a softer surface.

Why?

One-sided models also offer more durability, support, and comfort on the sleeping surface because the core layers start from the bottom up.

On a two-sided mattress, core and comfort layers start from the center up since the same layers must be added to both sides of a flippable mattress.

What To Avoid Inside A Mattress?

Whether you are looking to purchase a new mattress or are curious about the materials inside of a mattress, you want to avoid any mattresses made with fiberglass inner covers.

Some mattresses on the market have an inner cover manufactured with fiberglass to prevent highly flammable mattresses (usually memory foam) from catching fire.

When removing the decorative zippered outer cover of that mattress to wash it, the fiberglass particles can get dislodged from the inner cover and launched into the surrounding environment.

These particles can land on furniture, become embedded in clothing or carpeting, and even be sucked into your HVAC system, spreading to the rest of the home.

While fiberglass is not currently rated as a carcinogen for humans, it poses plenty of other hazards to your health.

Some health concerns include:

  • Skin Irritation – Accidentally rubbing against home fiberglass insulation can irritate the skin. 
  • Eyes, Nose, & Throat Irritation – Some fiberglass shards are so tiny that they can be suspended in the air. 
  • Aggravating Other Conditions – Inhaling fiberglass can worsen underlying conditions like asthma and bronchitis.
[Read more on the dangers of fiberglass]

Why is a Factory-Direct Mattress Best?

Regarding factory-direct mattress companies, we feel it necessary to tell you not to assume “handcrafted mattresses” cost more than the mass-produced brands the big box stores offer.   

When you consider buying direct with a factory-direct mattress company, you should save up to $1,000 on similar types but better-built ones.

How can that be?

Good question. Investment firms, not bedmakers, now own most major national mattress corporations. These large corporate brands are more concerned with maximum ROI than making a quality mattress to get you the best possible sleep. 

Corporations have many layers of individual companies, from concept to delivery, that all need to profit.

This means that the value of the actual mattress you purchase from a corporation is far less than what you paid.

We recommend cutting out the middleman.

Unlike the big box brands, factory-direct mattress companies don’t have to increase prices to split profits across a handful of corporations. Instead, a factory-direct company will provide a higher quality mattress for a much better value, passing the savings along to you.

When you purchase a factory-direct mattress, you’ll cut out the middleman, save big, and sleep on a better-made bed.

So, are you ready to shop for a new mattress?

[Shop Mattresses]
[Try Mattress Match]

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about what’s inside a mattress.

What are the components inside of a mattress?

A mattress comprises three layers: the comfort layer, the transition layer, and the support layer. Within these three layers, you’ll find a range of components depending on your mattress type.

Usually, you’ll find components like:

  • Ticking and quilting (the outside cover)
  • Natural ingredients like organic cotton and wool
  • Springs, coils, foam, and Latex
  • A foundation for added support

How do you break a mattress evenly?

If your new bed isn’t as comfortable as you thought it’d be, you may need to spend some time breaking in a mattress. This process usually takes about 30 to 90 days. 

  • Give it Time – The break-in process can take a minimum of a month. The more complex the mattress, the more time you should allow it to break in and form your specific body.
  • Don’t Forget to Rotate – Be sure to rotate a single-side mattress, or flip your double-sided mattress, routinely and solely based on the manufacturer’s recommendation. At a minimum, we rotate your mattress every three months.
  • Double Check the Foundation – If your mattress is laying on a faulty foundation (sagging, tearing, etc.), it can alter how your new bed breaks in. Plus, different mattress types need different foundation types. Innersprings usually work well with box springs, but memory foam and Latex perform better on platform-style bases.

What is the top part of a mattress?

Mattresses usually are covered with a comfort layer on the top of the bedding. This is the outermost layer that comes in contact with the sleeper. For flippable mattresses, it’s also the bottom-most layer.

The comfort layer consists of padding determining how much “give” the mattress has. Some comfort layers are firmer, some provide a “sinking” feeling for maximum body contouring, and others feel like you’re lying on a cloud.

Comfort layers can be made from a wide variety of materials. Some mattresses use memory foam or Latex in their comfort layers. Others use filling like cotton or wool. And some may use both, opting for a layer of fleece on top of a layer of Latex, for example.

No matter what material is inside a mattress, this comfort layer is usually enclosed in a fabric cover to keep all the layers together.

 


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Did you know we’re a direct-to-consumer manufacturer? Every mattress is made by hand, one at a time, out of our Beloit, WI factory. So cutting out the middle man gives you the best in value, comfort, and quality. However, check out our mattress deals for a limited time to save even more!

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About Ryan Poppie

Ryan Poppie, President and Chief Bedmaker at The Beloit Mattress Company. He's not just a mattress maker but a true expert in sleep. Leading a 4th generation family business, Ryan uses his deep sleep knowledge to ensure every mattress made gives his customers the best rest possible. Each custom mattress is handcrafted to show his love for sleep and how it can improve our lives. With his team, Ryan's passion is to improve your quality of life through a better night's sleep.

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