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Health Concerns with memory foam 28 Jan 2013 19:48 #1

  • Reggie
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Hello, and thank you for putting this forum together. I have been in mattress hell for some time now! I live in Charleston, SC. I've already done a lot of reading on this site about foams and how they are made. Falling into the trap you described in another post - of thinking that this brand was "the best" - my husband and I purchased a Tempurpedic Rhapsody in November, which stunk to high heaven and was too firm for us. We traded it in for the Cloude Supreme, which felt great. We were still hopeful that the chemical smell would air out, as we have been told it would. It has not. We kept it for this long becuause we really wanted to make it work. We've been airing it out for over a month now. I can't sleep on it. We have it locked away in the back bedroom with vents closed, windows open. It is seriously that bad. Why aren't more people talking about this!? (That's not really one of my questions for you.) Luckily we bought from a store with a 90 day satisfaction guarantee, and that thing is getting picked up today. While sleeping in the guest room, I began internet research on mattresses, health hazards, etc. While I do have some health problems, I don't consider myself to be SUPER sensitive to smells, etc. *I purchased a regular spring mattress new about 5 years ago, super cheapo from some store with big orange billboards - college! - and had no similar issues. The reason for not doing this again is needing the pressure point relief that the Tempurpedic (or foam in general) offers for back problems. I'm really conflicted bc I do have significant back problems and the FEEL of the Cloude supreme was perrfect. Here's where we are now:

I read this article www.oprah.com/world/Tips-for-Buying-an-Eco-Friendly-Mattress, which recommended Magniflex and Organic Mattresses, Inc.
OMI - I'm confused by the prices she mentions for the OMI mattresses, because I was not able to find any under 5 grand. The other big (bigger) issue with them is that the closest retailer is in Asheville NC, and there are no returns at all. If I am getting a great product, spending that much is not out of the question, but having the option to try at home and still return it is a must. All that said, do you know anything about this company? Are they legit?

Magniflex - I was not able to confirm on their website most of the great things that I read in the Oprah article. I did find a retailer in my area that carries this brand, so I've got a bit of hope when it comes to this option. Can you give me any information as to the accuracy of the information in the article I read? Are these mattresses Oeko-Tex certified? or just some of the textiles used in the mattress? Where can I find what it's actually made of!? The salesperson frankly new nothing :( I have not laid on one yet so I have no idea what they feel like.

PureFit - Through a recommendation from a friend who also had Tempurpedic problems, I've looked into the PureFit, sold by Relax the Back, made by Anatomic Global. I've read some information on this site already about this bed and the larger company. I was able to lay on the bed in the store and liked it, although I would ideally like something a little softer on top. I was assured in the store that this bed would present NONE of the issues with smell that I had with the Tempurpedic. But of course now I'm thinking about all the things you can't smell ...?? since it is still made of foam, right? I was also told by the Relax the Back retailer that this company was not willing to refrain from the use of chemical flame retardents even with a note from a doctor, something I am interesed in doing. Do you know if this bed is sold directly from AG under another name? Now I'm wondering if I would get a different answer about flame retardents if I worked directly with them.

Naturepedic - seems great on the website but where can I get one!? (This actually applies to several brands I've encountered.)

One local source that I found is this place - palmettomattress.com, but the densities of some of the foams I read about have me wondering about the quality (based on some of your other forum posts). These seem to be in the same class as the PureFit in that they are still foam, with a percentage of the yucky stuff replaced by plant based materials. Is that correct? And the fact that they are planning to start carrying Tempurpedic makes we wonder how eco-minded they could really be!?

Other ideas!? I would love something in my area but at this point I am willing to travel a bit or even just order something, provided that I have enough information to think it's a good choice, and it's returnable. The huge issues I am running into are:

I live in SC.

I have been trying to use the Oeko-Tex certification as a shopping guide, but am having a hard time finding a list of mattresses that actually have this certification.

I want the FEEL of the foam, without the nasty chemicals that come with it. Does this exist!?

Thank you !!!!

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Health Concerns with memory foam 28 Jan 2013 22:55 #2

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Hi Reggie,

Health concerns with mattresses are certainly a concern in this era of fire retardant mattresses. It's a very complex question but you are not alone in being affected by offgassing in a mattress. there are many who aren't affected by this and it can also depend on the foam producer and even on differences between various batches of foam but for those who are it can be very disturbing. This is the reason that testing such as CertiPur for polyfoam and memory foam and Oeko-Tex for latex can be so important so that there is at least some assurance that what you are smelling isn't harmful. In spite of this ... there are still exceptions though where people are more sensitive and more affected even with testing. This can be the result of fire retardant materials or even various glues or other sources of offgassing in a mattress.

Post #2 here has more about this and links to other posts and other good sources of more information.

OrganicPedic certainly uses high quality materials and they do have a certified manufacturing facility but I would question their "value" when so many other mattresses that use the same materials and are available for significantly less. Most of their mattresses use Talalay latex and there is no "organic" Talalay in the world ... only Dunlop. Post #6 here has more information about the different types of latex including organic Dunlop.

As with any mattress the quality and value of a Magniflex would depend on your ability to find out the quality of the materials that are in it. It may be very difficult to find this out. At least they have been certified to the Oeko-Tex standard 100 level (like much of the latex that is available) but "safety" and "quality" and "value' are all very different things.

Purefit is made by anatomic Global which is owned by Foamex/FXI which is a foam manufacturer in the US. Like most of the American foam manufacturers (and some Chinese manufacturers as well) ... they are CertiPur certified* . Once again though ... CertiPur certification has nothing to do with the quality or value of a mattress and there are many mattresses that use CertiPur certified foam that are better quality and value. I would also bear in mind that some people may still be sensitive to polyfoam or memory foam that is Certipur certified.
ADMIN NOTE: *Removed 404 link|Archived Footprint: certipur.us/pages/for-industry/find-a-foam-supplier/ & replaced with latest CertiPUR list

Naturepedic is another manufacture that uses high quality materials and has an organic certified factory but they are also not good value and are much more than other mattresses that use the same materials.

One local source that I found is this place - palmettomattress.com, but the densities of some of the foams I read about have me wondering about the quality (based on some of your other forum posts). These seem to be in the same class as the PureFit in that they are still foam, with a percentage of the yucky stuff replaced by plant based materials. Is that correct? And the fact that they are planning to start carrying Tempurpedic makes we wonder how eco-minded they could really be!?


Polyfoam and memory foam are primarily petrochemical products and while it's true that many foam manufacturers are replacing a small part of one of the two main chemical used in its production with chemical polyols that are derived from plants ... they are certainly not natural materials. You can read more about this in post #2 here and post #4 here .

Palmetto also makes latex mattresses though which is not the same as polyfoam or memory foam and are generally considered to be much "safer".

They are also included in the list of some of the better options in and around Charleston, SC which is in post #2 here .

I have been trying to use the Oeko-Tex certification as a shopping guide, but am having a hard time finding a list of mattresses that actually have this certification.

I want the FEEL of the foam, without the nasty chemicals that come with it. Does this exist!?


There are three types of foam which are basically polyfoam, memory foam, and latex. If you are looking at polyfoam or memory foam then CertiPur is probably the certification you should be looking for (their testing protocol is very similar to Oeko-Tex). If you are looking at latex ... then Oeko-Tex is the most common certification (and all the Talalay latex you see will have this) but there are others that you can read about in some of the links I provided earlier in this post. Keep in mind that some people may still be sensitive in some cases regardless of a certification and also that some of the most toxic VOC's have no smell at all.

You have some good options in your area and if you stick with more natural materials you should have no problem meeting your criteria without having to spend a fortune with some of the very costly manufacturers you've been mentioning.

Phoenix
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Health Concerns with memory foam 29 Jan 2013 01:29 #3

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Hi Reggie,
per Phoenix earlier, I also found www.mattresses.net/ecofrmefo.html, more info can be found at ecosleepmattress.com. I called up ecosleep today and while they don't normally talk directly to consumers they were very nice. I plan on buying one of their mattresses through us-mattress soon.

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Health Concerns with memory foam 29 Jan 2013 03:26 #4

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Hi BedHog,

I thought I should clarify that I called mattresses.net and the talalay GL is not in the two ecosleep mattresses pictured there (Ecosleep doesn't have any mattresses that use it) but they do sell it as a topper. The two Ecosleep mattresses on the page use their 4 lb memory foam and the 2.0 lb acella-flex polyfoam in the support core.

Phoenix
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Health Concerns with memory foam 29 Jan 2013 17:18 #5

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Thank you thank you!! I'm feeling rather silly that I had not found several of those local gems that are right under my nose! It sounds like natural latex is going to be the way to go for us, and I had no idea that there were so many great sources in Charleston. I'm impressed by Sleep Organic, and we have an appointment with them this weekend. My biggest regret with this mattress saga is that we didn't find your website sooner!!! Thank you so much!!

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Health Concerns with memory foam 29 Jan 2013 21:56 #6

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Hi Reggie,

Thanks for the kind words :)

I'm feeling rather silly that I had not found several of those local gems that are right under my nose!


Unfortunately this is the "norm" in the industry and most consumers are only exposed to the larger chains and national brands that have a much bigger "presence" through their advertising.

The local "gems" are much more difficult to find because they depend more on word of mouth or a different type of "research" that is more materials and quality/value oriented instead of massive advertising budgets based on marketing stories instead of more meaningful information. The larger brands and retailers also tend to imply that they are lower quality by calling them "off brands" and discourage even considering them when in fact the opposite is usually true.

Once you find them though and have verified their quality, value, and service for yourself ... the goal is to spread the word so that others can also bypass the hype and marketing and one small step at a time the better local or smaller independent manufacturers that are sold either factory direct or through better sleep shops can regain the market share that they deserve and consumers can make more meaningful comparisons, verify the quality and value of a mattress for themselves, and learn to ignore the "stories" :)

Phoenix
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Sinking Latex!? 08 Jul 2013 13:47 #7

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Hi, Phoenix. I'm writing again, several months and a few mattresses after our last correspondence. I appreciate the local recommendations you provided. I want to begin by saying that I don't intend this post to be a negative review of any mattress retailer, because I have not had a particularly bad experience with any of them. But, I am, sadly, still without a mattress that works.
After your email, we purchased a 4 layer (split) latex mattress from a local retailer here in Charleston. While this certainly satisfied the criteria of being natural/ not smelly, we could not get the comfort worked out. Everything that felt comfy and soft enough on top in the showroom turned out to be way too soft (lacked support, felt hammock-like) after sleeping on it for a whole night or two. As soon as we made the bed firm enough to avoid the sinking feeling, it felt too firm. We were unable to find that middle ground of support that still felt comfortable. We traded layers several times to the point of becoming completely exhausted with the process (and exhausting the staff, I'm afraid) and never found what worked. We were reminded by the staff that every layer swap costs them money, and we eventually gave up and returned the whole thing.

We've now purchased another latex mattress from another local retailer you recommended. This one is advertised as all Talalay and is a fixed configuration. When we first tried it in the showroom, it felt like exactly what we'd been looking for. The first few nights of sleeping on it, it felt a bit firmer than what I ideally want, but I was totally okay with that (easy to add a little soft topper to a firm mattress than try to work with one that's too soft). I was certain this was the one!!!! #6 is the charm? Anyway, around week 2 I noticed that it was not as comfortable to me as it once had been, and it got gradually worse. It felt like I was sleeping in a hole. After removing the sheets, I discovered that there were in fact 2 visible indentions where my husband and I each sleep, and a visible raised hump in the middle. What I don't understand is how this could happen. Latex is supposed to be this super resilient material that lasts for years! What kind of manufacturing mistake could cause this to happen in 3 weeks? Could this be a fluke/ one time defect that would be solved by getting another version of the same mattress? Or would we be smart to move on to yet another model and/ or company altogether?? I'll be happy to let you know where we purchased this mattress if necessary, but did not include that information here because we are still working with them, and I do not want this to be read as a bad review. So far I am hopeful that they will rectify the situation.

On a broader scale (in case we end up starting over again,) do you have any recommendations as far as configuring the latex goes? It seems that the feel I'm really looking for is similar to what is achieved by putting a memory foam topper on a very firm mattress --- VERY soft top, but then firm support under the first inch or so. The problem we ran into previously is that the latex layers are 3 inches thick, so even if the bottom layers were firm, if you put something meduim/ soft in the top layer, it still felt too "sinky". I really want latex to work for us one way or another. What am I missing!?

Thanks again, very much.

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Sinking Latex!? 08 Jul 2013 20:36 #8

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Hi Reggie,

After removing the sheets, I discovered that there were in fact 2 visible indentions where my husband and I each sleep, and a visible raised hump in the middle. What I don't understand is how this could happen. Latex is supposed to be this super resilient material that lasts for years! What kind of manufacturing mistake could cause this to happen in 3 weeks? Could this be a fluke/ one time defect that would be solved by getting another version of the same mattress? Or would we be smart to move on to yet another model and/ or company altogether??


This would really depend on the specific construction of the mattress and whether you were sleeping directly on the latex or if there were other materials in the mix. It's certainly not normal for latex. Knowing the specific construction of the mattress you bought (layer thicknesses, type of latex, and any other layers or quilting besides just the latex) may provide some clues about what may be happening. It's difficult to say if the impressions are in the latex itself or with something else inside the mattress such as the cover or quilting (which may be "bunching up" towards the center) without removing the latex layers themselves and putting them on a flat surface like the floor and then using a string or a straight edge from side to side to see if they are impressing or if the impressions are coming from somewhere else.

As you can see in a similar post here I wrote just before yours though ... there have been more than I would consider to be a "normal" amount of reports about latex impressions and softening over the last few years coming from the Talalay made by Latex International although it's not a consistent issue and more sporadic than ongoing. In many cases what people feel as softening is a natural part of the "feel" of latex which can feel softer and more elastic and resilient than other materials (an unusual combination of both soft and firm) and some people perceive this as a "soft spot" when it isn't but there are certainly also instances where it's not subjective at all and there has clearly been softening and impressions beyond the norm.

Mattress design takes many different variables into account which includes the ILD of the latex but also includes many other factors in the design which among many others includes the thickness of the layers. While a 3x3 or a 6" + 2" latex mattress design in a "standard" firmness level works very well for the majority of people ... there are also exceptions where someone's needs or preferences is more specific or in a narrower range and layer thickness may also play a role in the success of a design in these cases along with other variables such as quilting layers or the material used in the cover, or where inside their "range" of needs and preferences their choice of a mattress falls. You can read a little about how this can sometimes work against people quite quickly in post #2 here . I certainly know of others that were never able to get their layering right and in some cases they may "want to like" latex even though a certain design or set of combinations may not work well for them. There are no "better or worse" types of material ... only better and worse quality inside each material type and different designs that work better for some than for others.

There is no formula that can predict how well a mattress will work for someone else and even though specific and objective testing is not always completely accurate ... it's the most accurate way of judging how a mattress may work for you. Sometimes this can involve a learning curve that identifies what was "wrong" with various mattress choices and then uses this to make better assessments for the next round of mattress testing. Each mistake can help you make better choices if you can identify what the mistake was and use your experiences to become more specific about what to avoid. The most common "mistake" in mattress choices is choosing a mattress that is too soft so it may mean that you need to make a choice that doesn't feel as soft as any of the mattresses you have tried so far (the learning curve may be telling you that the whole range of softness you lean towards may not work well for you).

Sometimes it's also just a "'feel" that may not be quite right even though there are no specific symptoms of pain or discomfort on the mattress. When you catch yourself using words like "it feels like" in describing what is wrong with a mattress then it's often a sign that you are focusing more on subjective perceptions than more objective issues which usually have more specific symptoms connected with them (such as back pain in a specific part of the back).

As soon as we made the bed firm enough to avoid the sinking feeling, it felt too firm. We were unable to find that middle ground of support that still felt comfortable.


This would be an example of a more subjective perception ("feels like" type of description) and my tendency would be to go with a mattress that "felt like" it was too firm as long as it wasn't producing symptoms. What you expect the "perfect" mattress to feel like may be part of the issue and it may be that you need a mattress that is firmer than it feels like it should be and then you may need to give it time to get used to it so a firmer range feels more comfortable. In many cases ... what you may find is that your feelings about what a mattress "should" or even what you prefer may change once you've slept on a mattress that is more suitable for you even though it may not feel like it for a while. More subjective perceptions are usually not an accurate indicator of the suitability of a mattress and actual "symptoms" are more reliable because your mind can fool you but your body will tell you the truth.

A good analogy is food choices. There are many people who have "learned" over time to prefer sugary or sweet foods (or salty is another example) in their diet and just don't like the taste of anything that isn't sweet enough for them even though in the long term it can cause them a lot of harm. The taste and the more immediate feeling that comes from eating something sweet that they are used to can become more important than the substance and content of the food and what they have learned to prefer actually works against them. In these cases ... there is a conflict between what they have learned to prefer vs what they need and even if they recognize that they need to make some changes and choose something that is "less sweet" to the point of being almost undesirable and feels like a good choice, it may still be too sweet for their needs because their whole range of sweetness is in conflict with what they need. It may be "less harmful" but it's still inside a preference range that can cause harm over time.

Mattress choices are somewhat similar and in some cases people's there is a comflict between the range of preferences that people have vs what they really need in a mattress (alignment and pressure relief) and they may need to choose something firmer than they prefer and learn to adjust to this in order to solve the underlying issues they are having. Needs should always take priority over preferences. Preferences can change over time and with new experiences as you get used to a new "range" of choices but what your body needs will stay more consistent over time (although it can also change as our bodies change as well).

None of this has to do with the quality of the materials in a mattress because a poor quality mattress or a good quality mattress can both provide you with what you need ... it's just that better quality will do this for much longer.

So I'm not sure exactly what your specific "symptoms" are on your mattress but my guess is that you may need to choose a mattress that is firmer than your current range of preferences and then sleep on it for a while until your body convinces your mind that it is better for you. Just like anything you are used to (and assuming this is even what is happening) ... this may mean sleeping on a mattress that is closer to what you need (firmer) even though for a while it may not feel "comfortable" to you.

On a broader scale (in case we end up starting over again,) do you have any recommendations as far as configuring the latex goes? It seems that the feel I'm really looking for is similar to what is achieved by putting a memory foam topper on a very firm mattress --- VERY soft top, but then firm support under the first inch or so. The problem we ran into previously is that the latex layers are 3 inches thick, so even if the bottom layers were firm, if you put something meduim/ soft in the top layer, it still felt too "sinky". I really want latex to work for us one way or another. What am I missing!?


While there are too many variables and unknowns for anyone to suggest a specific design for someone else (outside of very generically) that can possibly be more accurate than their own testing and experience (see mattress firmness/comfort levels in post #2 here ), my guess is that you likely need a firmer support layer than you are choosing and once you have this then it's just a matter of choosing the thinnest firmest comfort layer that relieves your pressure points. The most important part of a mattress choice is support and alignment followed by pressure relief followed by preferences. In other words ... choosing a mattress from the bottom up is usually a better approach than choosing a mattress based on the feel from the top down (which puts preferences and "feel" first then pressure relief and finally alignment). You may find that your needs and preferences are more towards the "stiffer" and less conforming feel of polyfoam in the support layers or a firm innerspring or perhas even much firmer latex rather than the "feel" of latex which has the combination of softness, firmness, and resiliency that may not suit your preferences even if you have no specific symptoms when you sleep on the mattress. One of the most difficult challenges whether it's in the food we choose, other habits we may have, or in choosing a mattress ... is choosing what we need when it doesn't match our preferences and this may be part of the difficulties you are having.

Phoenix
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I think we've found it 12 Aug 2013 14:30 #9

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Hi, Phoenix.

I wanted to write as another update, because after months of purchasing and returning mattresses, I think we've finally found what we were looking for! I hope this will help someone else in their search.

Even after 2 previous discouraging experiences with latex beds, my gut was telling me to try once again. For all of the reasons discussed on your site, and after horrible experiences with the offgassing smell of memory foams, it just seemed like this material was everything we were looking for.

A bit of a review...

The first latex bed we tried was at first way too soft and hammock-like. I had horrible back pain immediately after sleeping on it; complete lack of suppport. Had I known then what I know now, I never would've started with such a soft configuration. I also wish we had received better guidance from the salesperson in this case. At first, we had a combination of dunlop and 100% natural talaly layers, but ended up getting rid of the talalay (because those were the softer ones) in an attempt to make the bed firmer. So our last configurations with this bed were all dunlop, and felt too firm to me in a supportive-but-not-pressure-relieving kind of way.

Our second latex bed was 100% natural talalay (according to the manufacturer) but was a fixed configuration. We loved this one at first but then had the strange experience of indentions forming in the places where each of us slept. We never got to the bottom of how/ why this happened, and couldn't do anything but return it since it was not a choose your own layer-type.

Both of the first two latex beds had quilted wool covers.

Since testing beds locally before purchasing had proven to give us no advantage, we decided to order from Sleep EZ in Arizona based on the reviews and information provided here. I ordered a King sized 9000 from the standard (non organic) line with all talalay - Xtra Firm/ Firm/ medium from bottom to top. We have the same configuration on both sides of the bed, but split the bottom 2 layers per Jeremy's suggestion for ease of potentially making changes later. I was warned when ordering that this configuration was really on the firm side for someone of my weight (125lbs) but I've found that sinking too far into the mattress really hurts my back, so this was a risk I was willing to take.

It's wonderful and we love it!! Two little things that made a big difference (IMO) with this mattress:

1) THE COVER!!! My husband and I had both observed with the 2 previous latex beds that, when they were configured in a way that was firm enough to be supportive, we lost the pressure relief that we wanted on top. This time around, we got a stretch cover rather than the quilted wool cover. (This is why our top layer is not split.) This gives a softer feel on top and really allows you to feel the latex contouring with your body. It's the most similar to the feeling of memory foam that we've been able to accomplish with latex. Feel free to add some better expert adjectives, Phoenix :) It's the feeling I was craving and missing previously. Really makes a difference!! I know that this configuration would be uncomfortably firm for me if not for this cover.

2) The thinner (2 inches rather than 3) top layer. This allows for soft pressure relief on top without sinking too far.

My husband (230 lbs) and I are both sleeping great on this bed, but Jeremy and Shaun were correct in that, if anything, it's on the firm side for me. I do think I may trade in my top layer for a soft instead of a medium. But even as-is, it's the most comfortable bed we've had so far! Jeremy explained that with the stretch cover you really have to have the top layers attached rather than split, because there is so little between you and the latex that you would feel the crack. He kindly offered to make us a top layer with a medium side for my husband and soft side for me attached together, if I decide to switch. I think that will equal the bed of my dreams!
So many lessons learned! We are sleeping on a configuration that is so much firmer than what I originally thought I needed. The relatively firm layer configuration with the stretch cover has proven to give us that combination of support and pressure relief that I was having such a hard time finding. I really recommend trying different covers if, like me, you want latex but have not been able to make it work for you yet. I've seen this mentioned on this site, but just want to emphasize again what a big difference it made for us.
I've now spoken with both Jeremy and Shaun at SleepEZ. Both were professional and very helpful. This bed was also much more reasonably priced than all others we tried!! I definitley recommend Sleep EZ, and I certainly would not have known about this resource without your site. Thank you again, so much.

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I think we've found it 12 Aug 2013 21:25 #10

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Hi Reggie,

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, experiences, and insights and writing such a terrific post.

I think your experience highlights several things that are mentioned on the site but are easily overlooked.

First is the difference that the thickness of the layers can make because the thickness of a layer and the softness of a layer work together and can affect the performance and feel of the mattress.

Second is the effect that a cover can make. When you use an unquilted stretch knit cover it helps the natural point elasticity of the latex (which is its ability conform and adapt to the shape of the body) more effectively and of course as you know this can also have a significant effect on the feel and performance of the mattress.

Third is the difference the right design overall can make when it "fits" in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences). Even though the materials are the same "quality" ... no matter what the quality of the material a design that works well for each person can make all the difference in how well you sleep.

Finally it shows the importance of dealing with a good manufacturer that can listen to what you need, make good suggestions, and that can even make custom adjustments if needed (such as splitting the top layer and gluing them together) so that you can go from good to perfect.

I'm thrilled that you had such a great experience and decided to try once again.

Most of all ... congratulations on your new mattress ... and thanks again for sharing your experience :)

Phoenix
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Last edit: by phoenix.
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