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Mattress jargon buster: key mattress terms explained

Image shows a mattress floating under a white cloud on a blue background
(Image credit: Getty)

If there’s one thing mattress manufacturers love, it’s jargon. From ‘motion isolation’ to ‘reinforced edge support’, you’ll see the same terms and phrases pop up across multiple brands, but what do they all mean? 

Here we look at the most common jargon you’ll come across when shopping for the best mattress for you, so that you know what these companies are talking about when they mention things like ‘temperature regulation’ and ‘recovery time’. 

These all relate to key factors that we look at during our review process, and you can read more about that in our mattress methodology.

If you are looking for a great new mattress in a box, we’ll soon be approaching that time of the year when all the Memorial Day mattress sales start arriving, meaning cheaper prices for you on a host of leading sleep brands. For now, let’s do some jargon busting… 

Mattress jargon buster: key terms explained

Adjustable base compatibility – the degree to which a mattress can be elevated (top, bottom or simultaneously) or bent into an upright position on top of an adjustable bed base.

Antimicrobial materials – usually cotton, fiber or foam that has been treated to prevent the growth of dust mites, bacteria and fungi.

Certified organic – applies to mattress materials that are organic and Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) certified. You'll find a lot of GOTS-certified materials inside the best organic mattresses.

Coils / coil springs – wires, formed in the shape of spirals, usually found in the support layer of an innerspring or hybrid mattress.

Photo shows the Saatva Classic innerspring hybrid on a luxury bed base placed in a summer home overlooking a blue pool

The Saatva Classic (pictured) is a great example of an innerspring hybrid mattress (Image credit: Saatva)

Comfort layers – these live at the top of the mattress and are responsible for how comfy the mattress feels when you lie on it.

Cushioning depth – this measures how far you sink into the mattress and how much it conforms to your body. The best memory foam mattresses are an ideal choice for anyone seeking maximum cushioning and a body-hug feel.

Ease of repositioning – how well the mattress supports you when you’re moving into a new sleeping position.

Firmness – used to describe the compression resistance of a mattress, and also how soft or hard the surface is when you lie on it. 

Hypoallergenic – mattresses made from materials that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. You’ll see this term used a lot on organic and natural mattresses.

Motion isolation – how much movement can be felt on either side of the mattress. If you share with a restless sleeper, motion isolation is important so that you aren’t disturbed by your partner's movements. If you prefer side sleeping but find it uncomfortable on your current bed, see our guide to the best mattress for side sleepers.

Moisture wicking – this refers to how well the materials used within the cover are able to wick away moisture, keeping the mattress fresher, drier and more breathable. Even then, we'd still recommend investing in a great mattress protector to keep your bed safe from sweat stains, body oils, spills and more.

Off-gassing – the smell that accompanies some mattresses when they are unboxed. This is normal and the smell is caused by certain chemicals evaporating into the air. We cover this in more detail in our feature: what is mattress off-gassing

Pressure relief – all the best mattresses offer this. Pressure relief refers to how much a mattress minimizes pressure points on your body when you’re lying down. Common points of pressure are the shoulders, hips and back. Without good pressure relief, you could be dealing with soreness, loss of circulation, and restlessness due to in-bed discomfort.

Recovery time – the speed with the mattress returns to its normal shape after being compressed.

Photo shows a black 25kg weight placed on the edge of the Eve Premium Hybrid Mattress during edge support testing

(Image credit: Future)

Reinforced edge support – keeps your mattress stable and supportive by creating a solid structure around it, and ensures you can sleep up to the edge of your mattress. Edge support is achieved with materials such as foam, steel rods or thick coils.

Sagging – refers to dipping or a loss of support in specific areas of the mattress. Sagging occurs mainly in older mattresses. For more, see our guide to: how often should you replace your mattress guide.

Temperature regulation – unless a mattress is designed with cooling technology, temperature regulation refers to how well the materials inside the mattress stay temperature neutral while you're sleeping. If you sleep very hot or are dealing with night sweats, the best cooling mattresses should be top of your list.

Trial period – also known as the sleep trial or break in period. This refers to the length of time you are given by the manufacturer to test your new mattress at home. For more on trials, read our guide to mattress trials and how they work.

Warranty – the manufacturer’s policy outlining what it will and won’t cover in terms of repairing or replacing the product if faults occur within a specific period of time. Learn more in our how do mattress warranties work feature.

Claire Davies
Claire Davies

Claire Davies is a qualified journalist and Sleep Editor at Future who writes about all things related to sleep, from mattress reviews to the latest sleep techniques and research. Claire has interviewed a wealth of experts, from mattress designers and innovators to neuroscientists and doctors of sleep medicine. Before taking on the role of Sleep Editor, Claire worked as Health & Wellness Editor at Top Ten Reviews, and before that was a Senior Content Editor at T3. Claire is super-passionate about how consistent, good quality sleep can boost our physical and mental wellbeing, and would love to hear from PRs and brands regarding sleep products, services and research that can help our readers sleep better than ever.