Why can’t mattresses just last forever? There are few bigger nuisances than cramming a king-size bed through a normal-size bedroom door. Except perhaps listening to someone groan about how badly they slept over the weekend. Sorry John, nobody cares. Unless you’re an accommodation manager, in which case it’s your job to care.
At least about how well your guests are sleeping under your roof. When was the last time you inquired about your own mattresses? It might be worth asking a few honest visitors how comfy your mattresses are, or whether their backs have been playing up since they arrived. Particularly if you have older customers frequenting your rooms. It might be a dull affair listening to someone ponder aloud about the pitfalls of trying to get comfortable on a lumpy mattress with an ailing spine, but it could be the most productive few minutes of your day if you prevent that person from venting their frustrations in an online review.
As it turns out, mattresses are rather key to spinal health and posture. AMG spoke with Dr David Johnson, a neurosurgeon, spinal surgeon, functional movement and Olympic weightlifting trainer specialising in the treatment of low back pain at City To Coast Neurosurgery, The Queensland Back Pain Centre and Functional Movement Training Centre in Brisbane.
He stressed the enormity of the issue: “Spinal pain, in particular low back pain, is one of the most frequent medical complaints in our society. While awake, most people appreciate that healthy posture and movement is critical to preventing musculoskeletal de-conditioning and pain. A lot of people feel that simply because they are older, it is normal to feel pain. This is absolutely not the case. That’s equivalent to saying that as you age, your skin will hurt because you have wrinkles. Of course, the spine will age too but the experience of pain only occurs when the integrity of the spine, be it of any age, becomes inflamed. The process of inflammation in the spinal structures occurs due to poor positions.
“One third of our 24-hour day is horizontal while in bed and therefore, for eight hours, we can either be inciting inflammation in our spine or preventing it.”
Dr Johnson told us what kind of mattresses are optimum for spinal support.
“A firm mattress is the key to supporting the spine because it maintains and supports a neutral posture without sagging into soft or pillow-top type mattresses. Neutral for the spine is like neutral gear in your car, which means the system is under the least amount of stress. Minimising stress means reducing inflammation and preventing pain.”
Speaking of stress and pain, making refurb decisions can be a big deal. Especially for those who have to coordinate lots of different opinions and finances. With something like mattresses though, it’s a little more cut and dried because you can go straight to the horse’s mouth and find out from your guests whether upgrading is something you need to do.
Industry viewpoints: are managers finding comfort in commercial grade mattresses?
AMG asked Sleepyhead representative Damien Hegarty for his opinion on what managers (versus guests) want. He said: “Generally, hotel buyers are seeking the biggest mattress and base ensemble each room can comfortably accommodate. We know that hotel guests are seeking a luxurious experience and we work with our hotel partners to ensure we are providing the most comfortable mattresses.
“Quality and comfort are two trends that will never leave the industry. Hotels are looking for a high quality product that will provide their guests with an unforgettable sleep. Across the market, we are seeing more and more environmentally friendly approaches to products, and an increase in technology offerings. We are continually researching and developing the highest quality fabrics, comfort layer foams and spring systems.”
He also described the technical advantage of mattresses that prevent partner disturbance by using “individual, electronically heat-tempered springs that are totally independent of each other” rather than “connected to helical wires”.
Haven Distributing director Roger Harris shared his view with us as well, noting: “Our main market sector managers are looking for bunks, frames and mattresses, which provide ease of making by their housekeeping personnel. This includes using lighter weight (foam) mattresses on the upper level bunks, for example, to reduce the lifting weight when making upper level bunks, while at the same time offering the guest a high level of comfort, to ensure that their stay, however long, is memorable.”
Mr Harris was also able to tell us his point of view on the most asked-about elements of commercial grade beds. He said: “With the increasing occurrence of lower cost, imported mattresses, the most important and required mattress elements include the use of quality heat-tempered spring systems, for internal structural support, combined with consistent high-grade foam, latex and fibre comfort layers, which are available in NZ-made products by using environmentally friendly, local manufacturing techniques. The focus on these quality manufacturing processes will ensure that the life of the mattress is extended and therefore usually costing no more than a lower initial cost alternative.
“When selecting bed frames, especially for use in high volume and price sensitive accommodation, the use of frames with high levels of support, for example in a ‘mesh base’, ensure that the mattresses are evenly supported and able to breathe, therefore maximising the life of the selected mattresses.”
Alan Hawkins from AH Beard was also able to share his viewpoint on the subject with AMG. When asked what he feels the bed of the future will look like, he said it “will involve more comfort layers being placed in the mattresses as travellers generally will be paying more for their room rates, so will be expecting more upmarket beds”.
He added: “This will follow a trend that has happened in retail over the past five years. People are becoming more health conscious about sleep, so comfort layers that have been treated for health reasons.
“Following on from Europe and Asia, we could see the bed-size getting bigger instead of your standard sizes and could be looking at split super kings or even Californian kings. Adjustable bases are also starting to become more popular. These lifestyle bases are used for massage and adjusting head and feet for the perfect sleeping position.”
How to take the plunge and make it last
Summer is looming, so abuzz with determination and the dizzy enthusiasm sunshine brings, you might be telling yourselves, no more ‘lumpy bed’ reviews for me! You’ll finally be able to slap ‘mattress refurbishment’ down on your TripAdvisor page and respond to all those niggling ‘the beds were a bit uncomfortable’ comments. But in terms of choosing the right technology and style, it really depends on your needs. A boutique hotel with hugely varied room sizes and shapes will have different needs to a standardised motel. If you don’t have a huge budget you might need to prioritise which of your rooms get new mattresses and when, because getting good quality upgrades staggered over a few years is surely a much better option than getting all your rooms a lesser quality upgrade at once. The lower the quality, the more often you’re going to have to make the upgrade anyway. In terms of warranties, most companies will offer one but it most likely won’t cover wear-and-tear or the dreaded body impressions that can form over time, even with commercial grade mattresses designed for heavy use. However, there are things you can do yourselves to stave off the inevitable.
How to help your brand new, shiny mattresses last for as long as possible
Mattress turning is one maintenance must. It’s a great tip for evening out body impressions so the mattress doesn’t become an in-room sinkhole equivalent. It’ll just take two of you pushing at opposite corners of the mattress while it’s sat flat on the frame to turn it around. No pivoting, flipping, dragging or squeezing through doors required. Getting on board with a regular turning schedule (at least once every eight weeks) can really save you a lot of queen-size heartache.
Airing mattresses every now and again, letting them enjoy the breeze without heavy quilts, sheets or mattress toppers raining on their springy parade can also do a world of good. It turns out that mattresses like alone time just as much as the next hotelier, and will happily spend a couple of hours evaporating any condensation created by body heat.
Of course, it’s also a good idea to read the fine print of any manufacturer’s warranty because there might be other things excluded that you can prevent. One example would be remembering not to bend a mattress in half (while squeezing it through doors, for instance) because this can cause some internal mattress damage that isn’t classed as a manufacturing fault and will most likely therefore not be covered by any warranty.
It’s also worth checking with your chosen supplier about cleaning maintenance because chemicals can sometimes damage the materials present in the mattresses.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to stop people from jumping on your beds but hey, at least that’s evidence you’re doing right by their spines!