A mattress is a large pad for supporting the reclining body, used as a bed or as part of a bed. Mattresses may consist of a quilted or similarly fastened case, usually of heavy cloth, that contains hair, straw, cotton, foam rubber, etc., or a framework of metal springs. Mattresses may also be filled with air or water.
The word mattress derives from the Arabic matrah, which means “something thrown down” or “place where something is thrown down” and hence “mat, cushion”. During the Crusades Europeans adopted the Arabic method of sleeping on cushionson the floor, and the word materas eventually descended into Middle English through the Romance languages.
Mattresses are usually placed on top of a bed base which may be solid, as in the case of a platform bed, or elastic, e.g. with an upholstered wood and wire box spring or a slatted foundation. Popular in Europe, a divan incorporates both mattress and foundation in a single upholstered, footed unit. Divans have at least one innerspring layer as well as cushioning materials. They may be supplied with a secondary mattress and/or a removable “topper.”
Early mattresses contained a variety of natural materials including straw, feathers or horse hair. In the first half of the 20th century, a typical mattress sold in North America had an innerspring core and cotton batting or fiberfill. Modern mattresses usually contain either an inner spring core or materials such as latex, viscoelastic or other flexible polyurethane foams. Other fill components include insulator pads over the coils that prevent the bed’s upholstery layers from cupping down into the innerspring, as well as polyester fiberfill in the bed’s top upholstery layers. Mattresses may also be filled with air or water, or a variety of natural fibers, such as in futons. In Southeast Asia, bedding is made with kapok. In 1900 English-born engineer, James Marshall introduced the first individually wrapped pocketed spring coil mattress now commonly known as marshall coils and founded Marshall Mattress, a company that bears his name and is still in operation in Toronto, Canada. He allowed VI-Spring patent rights in England where they were known as Marshall Mattress of England until the 1930s.
In North America the typical mattress sold today is an innerspring; however there is increasing interest in all-foam beds and so-called hybrid beds, which include both an innerspring and high-end foams such as visco-elastic or latex in the comfort layers. In Europe, polyurethane foam cores and latex cores have long been popular and make up a much larger proportion of the mattresses sold. In South Asia, coir is a common mattress material.