What to Look For in a Bed

A piece of furniture with a flat surface for sleeping or reclining, generally consisting of a frame and a mattress. Beds have been used for centuries as the most important piece of furniture in a home and as a prized status symbol.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, a great many magnificent beds were made. Some had heavy carved frames and others were light in appearance and decorated with elaborate hangings, as was the custom at Versailles.

The most important thing to consider when choosing a mattress is the level of comfort and support. The “S” shape of the spine in a prone position (on back or stomach) requires a firm mattress that can hold up heavier parts of the body or else they will sink too low and create a painful pressure point. Similarly, a soft or foam mattress needs to be able to conform to the curves of the body or else the sleeper will feel uncomfortable.

To control these problems, most mattresses have a support layer that is designed to control how far different parts of the body sink down into the mattress. This layer also controls how much the spine flexes during movement and provides spinal alignment. This layer is often found in innerspring, latex, and hybrid mattresses.

Other layers in some mattresses provide additional cushioning and insulation, which adds to the overall comfort and support. These layers may be quilted, tufted or stitched to the mattress. A mattress with these layers is sometimes referred to as a pillow top, Eurotop, or deluxe Eurotop.

The bed base is the foundation of a mattress, and is usually constructed from wood, metal or a combination. A grid-top foundation bed base, for example, consists of a platform with wood or metal slats that are spaced apart to support the mattress and improve airflow, which keeps the mattress cool and dry.

Most modern beds require a mattress to be supported by a strong frame and a bed skirt or duvet cover, which conceals the mattress. The frame is usually either a solid construction or, as in North America, a box spring. The frame is often covered with a removable cover of ticking or a duvet, which gives the mattress a finished appearance and protects it from dust and dirt.

To keep the mattress in a clean and dry condition, a regular vacuuming or cleaning with mild surface cleaner and a slightly damp cloth is recommended. If the mattress becomes too wet, mildew may develop, and it should be dried quickly to avoid damage to the upholstery.