Overview of Mattress Support Cores

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Mattress Support CoresMost people have no idea how many components make up a quality mattress. The mattress core, also referred to as support layers, determines how deep you sink into the mattress and how the mattress supports your spine. The core is essentially the foundation that dictates the feel and comfort level of the mattress.

Some mattresses are also designed to cradle the body’s profile, so the lumbar area, neck, etc. feel supported, too. These mattresses are generally comprised of comfort layers that are considerably thinner than what is found in most others. This flexibility is what allows it to contour to your body.

The first thing to know about support cores is that you will see the terms “spinal alignment” and “pressure relief” mentioned a lot. Some are under the impression that these two terms are basically the same thing, but they’re actually very different. The firmness that is provided by the support core is associated with spinal alignment. Pressure relief refers to the degree of softness provided by the support layers. For them to be firmer of softer, they would both need to be adjusted.

Mattress support cores are available in five primary styles: innerspring, polyurethane, latex, airbeds, and waterbeds. Not only are they all very different; all types have several unique styles, as well. Buying a mattress is a major purchase. This is a piece of furniture that you will have for a long time and it affects your sleep quality and overall health. So, take a few minutes to get familiar with what is available to make sure you are making an educated buying decision. The mattress support core is a good place to start.


Nearly everyone is familiar with innerspring mattresses because it is the variety that is most widely available. They became popular in the 1930s, and have undergone a number of advancements through the years.

The core is comprised of steel coil springs that are typically just referred to as “coils.” The size and gauge of the coil, as well as the number of coils a mattress has dictates the feel that it provides. The four types of coils present in innerspring mattresses today include Bonnell, Continuous, Offset, and Marshall. Polyurethane foam, latex, memory foam, or natural fiber is used to provide the coils with a comfort layer that rests between you and the core.


Polyurethane is most commonly associated with comfort layers, but has become a fairly popular option for support layers in recent years, as well. Polyurethane has a high resistance and can stand up to weight, making it an ideal material to use as a core. It can be made very soft to extremely firm and everything in between. It is a very versatile material.

Polyurethane is often referred to as poly or polyfoam, as well. Low-grade poly with a maximum density rating of 1.5 pounds is not considered suitable to be used as a support core. However, it is used occasionally for very budget-friendly beds, but these beds do need to be replaced quite early. On the other end of the spectrum, high density (HD) polyfoam has a rating of 1.8 pounds or higher, and is also paired with memory foam or latex for a high-quality product.


Latex is durable and resilient. Its progressive firmness and ability to adjust to the contours of the body make it an exceptional option for a support core. Its versatility makes it suitable to offer full support or to be used as a layer of support. Due to its beneficial qualities, latex has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, it is also one of the most expensive types of foam.

Latex is available in a variety of firmness levels. Dunlop and Talalay are two of the primary types and both offer very unique feels. Latex is very elastic, so it returns to its shape well. It springs back after being compressed and it is incredibly durable.


Airbeds have experienced a significant jump in popularity in recent years, but this does not mean they are the greatest option. What this means is that there is a brilliant marketing campaign behind these products. At first glance they seem like they will offer the dream support core you have been looking for. Unfortunately, they are not all that they are advertised to be.

Airbeds are either extremely soft or very firm. There really is no middle ground with them. Even more advanced airbeds with multiple chambers in the bladder are a letdown. Plus, airbeds can be quite expensive, but they are cheap to manufacture. There are also additional risks to consider, including leakage, mechanical breakdown, construction deficiencies, and moisture-related issues. Are airbeds great for overnight guests or a temporary sleeping solution? Sure! However, they are not suitable for long-term use.Waterbeds

You may be surprised at how many loyal waterbed fans there are out there. Although much of the population thought manufacturers stopped making them after they peaked in popularity in the 1970s, they are still being made. Actually, not only are manufacturers still producing them; they have come a very long way in recent years.

Waterbeds are available as soft- and hard-sided varieties. The hardside ones are what most picture when they think of a waterbed. It is a large water-filled bladder contained in a hard frame. They are available in a variety of styles, from those that barely offer any movement to some that allow you to experience the full wave of motion. Soft-sided waterbed mattress cores look like a regular mattress. They do not require a special frame or sheets.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to mattress support cores, there is no shortage of options. Some are more popular than others, but sometimes this popularity is resulted from marketing. Focus on your needs when making a decision; not on what others swear by. Airbeds are fine for short term use, but as a permanent sleeping solution the other four options are recommended. Innerspring and polyurethane tend to be more affordable while latex support cores are generally used in high-end luxury beds. Waterbeds really offer a unique feel, so it is not fair to compare them to more traditional options. Just make sure you are aware of the disadvantages waterbeds have when making your decision.

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Gravatar for Joe Auer

Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.

He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.

Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.