Choosing a mattress for your home hospital bed can be confusing. There is a bewildering array of mattresses available on the market. Stores use different terms to describe their mattresses, but most mattresses suitable for home hospital beds fall into one of three categories: innerspring mattresses, foam mattresses, and air mattresses.
In this article we explain the differences between these three types of mattress, their advantages, and when you should consider buying them (or not buying them) for your home hospital bed.
An innerspring mattress, as the same suggests, has a core of coiled metal springs that provide support, with upper and lower layers of upholstery that provide cushioning and insulation. Until the late 19th century, a mattress was nothing but a fabric outer layer stuffed with cotton or some other filler. Innerspring mattresses were an innovation that quickly became the dominant mattress in the U.S.
Unless a mattress is explicitly advertised as a foam or air mattress, it is almost certainly an innerspring mattress. Innerspring mattresses are easy to manufacture and the least expensive mattresses are dominated by this group.
Although less comfortable and long-lasting than other types of mattress, innerspring mattresses are perfectly adequate for normal use. They are, however, not ideal for home hospital beds, especially the bed of a bedbound patient or a patient who spends long periods in bed.
Innerspring mattresses don’t distribute weight as effectively as the other types of mattress we’ll discuss here. They are less durable and they are prone to developing lumps and dents. Over time, the springs lose their tension, deforming the shape and support profile of the mattress surface. These shortcomings are annoying for the average person, but for bed-bound people they are a hazard because they increase the likelihood of bedsores and other skin damage, as well as exacerbating back and neck pain.
Early foam mattresses were made of latex foam, but modern mattresses are made of memory foam and/or a type of high-density polyurethane foam—often memory foam is layered over a high-density foam core. Foam mattresses are an improvement on innerspring mattresses: they are more durable and they provide better support, reshaping to fit the body of the individual.
Memory foam is also known as viscoelastic foam. It is made of polyurethane, with the addition of other materials that make it denser and more viscous. Viscoelastic foam readily deforms under the pressure and warmth of the human body, but it regains its original shape—known as springback—when the pressure is lifted.
Unlike spring mattresses, memory foam evenly supports the body with pressure equal to the pressure the body puts on it, whereas the pressure of different areas of an innerspring mattress vary depending on the condition of the springs. This makes memory foam a significant benefit for bed bound people who are at risk of pressure sores. Before memory foam became inexpensive enough to be widely available, it was primarily used in situations where bedsores were a risk, substantially reducing the incidence of pressure-related injuries.
Modern home hospital bed mattresses like Transfer Master’s Soft Touch Memory Foam Mattress are made of high-quality memory foam, which provides the safest and most comfortable surface for people who spend a lot of time confined to bed.
Air mattresses, as the name suggests, feature a series of air bladders that are inflated to provide support. The most primitive air mattresses are camping mattresses that are inflated with a tire pump or a detachable electric pump. Pressure-relief mattresses are a more sophisticated variety of air mattress often used to treat people with existing bedsores and to reduce the risk of new ulcers forming.
A pressure relief mattress such as Transfer Master’s PressureGuard® APM2 Mattress have electronically controlled air bladders beneath a layer of foam. The amount of air in each bladder can be independently adjusted, which allows the amount of pressure exerted by different areas of the mattress to be varied. In the case of the PressureGuard APM2, the mattress can also automatically rotate the patient—known as lateral rotation—in cycles, gently adjusting the pressure experienced by each part of the body.
Pressure relief air mattresses are used for patients who already suffer from pressure ulcers and those who are at most risk. The pressure adjustments ensure that damaged tissues are not exposed to excessive pressure, accelerating healing, and that existing pressure sores are able to heal.
Transfer Master recommends that home hospital bed owners choose either a foam mattress or a pressure-relief mattress depending on their circumstances. We manufacture several mattresses in both categories:
- The Supernal Sleep System includes the Ascent Hospital Bed Mattress, with state-of-the-art laminated foams, and the Soft Touch Memory Foam Mattress.
- For heavier patients, we offer foam bariatric mattresses that support up to 750 lbs.
- For people with or at risk of pressure ulcers, we offer a range of pressure relief mattresses.
If you have any questions about which mattress is right for you, contact a home hospital mattress expert for a free consultation.