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Manufacturers - overview
There is a wide variety of manufacturers, divided into broad categories that can be "differentiated" by the corporate culture instilled by their ownership in the case of larger manufacturers, or the personal values of the owners in the case of smaller manufacturers. They are also widely differentiated by the value they produce, their knowledge and skills, and how they incorporate these into every mattress that they make. In spite of most of the information you will be exposed to, so-called "off-brand" manufacturers are quietly making better mattresses than any of their more well-known counterparts... and doing so at a significant difference in quality and price. Knowing which of these brands have better value or even more importantly, knowing how to tell based on the materials they use and the information they will share with you, can save any consumer a significant amount and allow them to get much greater value for the money that they spend.
These manufacturers fall into four main categories, depending on their size and the areas that they service, and knowing these and some more general information about each of them can help you determine which may better suit your own unique needs and circumstances. The differences will not be so much about the brand name itself, as many of the largest "name brands" are also the source of the highest levels of complaints and consumer dissatisfaction, but about the materials used and the quality of construction that is in the mattress itself, regardless of brand. As a group, these many different manufacturers make a huge variety of mattresses and can be very different from each other in the options they provide and in their mattresses themselves.
They do however have one thing in common and that is they are all considered to be "off brands" by the larger manufacturers who would like nothing better than consumers who never did any further research into any of them. We have used this "off-brand" name throughout the website to describe them because in spite of the fact that it has some "derogatory" implications attached to it, we believe that producing an "off-brand" is something they can be proud of and that in almost every case one of these represents the best choice for any consumers. It didn't take nearly as long in the earliest part of our research to discover this than it did to actually come to realize and understand that we weren't "missing something" in making a statement such as this.
In the 2002 census, there 597 mattress manufacturers in the US and over 100 more in Canada. There are probably many less than this 9 years later. These mattress manufacturers (especially the larger ones) will sometimes produce their own materials in a mattress but in more commonly they will purchase raw materials, fabricate it to their needs, and then use it to produce their mattresses. In other cases, they will purchase materials that have already been fabricated and primarily "put the materials together" in a mattress using the skills and knowledge they have learned, in many cases over several generations.
Regardless of which group they fall in, the materials and quality of construction, the length of their supply chain from raw materials to consumer, the level of profits that are added at each level of the chain, and perhaps most of all, the values of the company itself, either on a corporate level in the case of larger brands or on a more personal level in the case of smaller privately owned brands, are the distinguishing features that determine whether they are already in a "mattress underground" that is already "resisting" the general trends of the industry. We hope that these will also choose to become part of "The Mattress Underground" itself and help them to re-connect with the millions of consumers that are looking for the kind of quality and values that they have always incorporated into their business.
These four main categories of manufacturers each have a separate page in this section which describes them in more detail but in general, they are:
National manufacturers: These make mattresses that are sold throughout most of North America through various distribution chains. In some areas, it often appears that the largest of these companies, especially if they are in the "top 5" or happen to be an "S" brand, in combination with the larger chain stores, have such dominance that there seems to be little else available. This is rarely the case and it is often a matter of knowing where to look. There can be some real surprises here too with the value of a few national brands, sometimes even through these same chain stores, although they are more few and far between and it sometimes takes a little bit of knowledge or help in finding them.
Regional manufacturers: These are usually available in a region or several states or provinces and some of the larger have a much larger presence in their region than they do in other areas of the country. There is a wide range of value here and again, knowing what to look for and how to recognize the better ones can make a big difference in your choices. Some of the best of these have very good value.
Local manufacturers: There are hundreds of these spread out over all of North America and few of them are well known outside of a very small local area. Even in cities where they produce their mattresses, many consumers never discover them in the "noise" of the heavy advertising of other larger manufacturers and retailers. While there is a range of quality and value in every group including this one, they are well worth the time and effort spent to find them as they often have excellent value.
Online manufacturers: Many of these specialize in online sales of higher quality "do it yourself mattresses". Here again, there is a range of quality and value but the best of these are an intriguing and growing segment of the industry that as a group produce some very high-value mattresses. Some of them may have a retail outlet or even several but they are widely available anywhere because of their focus on online sales, service, and shipping.
Quick question...I see that DreamFoam Bedding are no longer a recommended member of your site. I was seriously considering their 13" Ultimate Dreams Memory Foam mattress. Can I ask if you no longer feel they use high quality materials in their memory foam mattresses?
and ... Quick answer....
I understand your concern … U Dreams would meet the quality/value criteria for a Memory Foam product and would and raise no “red flags” for someone in a more “normal” BMI range, but I would advise a slight caution for someone in a higher BMI range.
I always have problems with pressure points, and this mattress sounds like it may help combat that. I was really torn between this and the Novosbed, but I think I will purchase the Ultimate Dreams based on cost and materials.
The only thing I am concerned about with this mattress is proper spinal alignment. When a mattress has deep memory foam layers, I am guessing this can be an issue? But since you have confirmed that they still use high quality materials, my hope is that the 3" of 4lb gel memory foam will offer good pressure relief, while the 2" of denser 5lb memory foam will help to support me and make a nice transition into the base layer. I have had cheap memory foam mattresses (low density foam) in the past with a 3" comfort layer over the base, and have pushed through them, ending up feeling that hard base layer below.
Anyways, thank you for your reply. I think I will pull the trigger on the Ultimate Dreams mattress today, and will update when I have been sleeping on it for a bit. Thank you for creating such an awesome website!
Thank you for your kind words! I am happy to be of help.
The Ultimate D memory foam is quite plush and rated the softest on their comfort scale with 5” Memory Foam top layers. The 6" polyfoam core of 1.8 lb would be suitable for your BMI. I would have a bit of a concern for a or back stomach sleeper who would need more firmness, but side sleepers can do well with this product.
Good luck with your purchase, and we look forward to any updates after you have the chance to sleep on it for a while.
I just wanted to give an update on the Ultimate Dreams 13" memory foam mattress. I have been sleeping on it for about 8 nights now. Overall, have been sleeping more soundly on this mattress, compared to the Nolah mattress. I am getting about 40-50 more minutes of sleep a night, and feel like I am tossing and turning much less.
I am having a problem though, which makes me wonder if this mattress is wrong for me. I know I should still give it some time, but it's hard to do when you're dealing with pain. I have been waking up with shoulder pain that is lasting into the later part of the day. My hands feel stiff in the morning, and I have pain in my thumbs (pinching a nerve?). I also have pain in my shoulder blades which feel like they are being pushed together all night. I feel like the shoulder that I am lying on is collapsing and pulling forward, and has a weird feeling of almost wanting to pull out of the socket. I am unsure what this says about the mattress (too soft, too firm)?
Last night I went back to the Nolah mattress in hopes to relieve the shoulder pain (shoulder pain was never the issue with this mattress). I slept terribly, but didn't have that collapsed shoulder feeling or pain in my hands when I awoke. The problem with the Nolah mattress is that I get very bad lumbar pain that wakes me up throughout the night. I once woke to actually feel myself tightening the muscles (to slightly raise my hips) in a way to try and alleviate the pain. I put a folded towel under my waist, which seemed to help some. This feels kind of awkward though, do you have any recommendations as an alternative to lumbar support?
I had someone check my alignment on both of these mattresses this morning, out of curiosity. The Nolah mattress (which is medium firmness) looks like it keeps my spine straighter. You think I would sleep better because of this, but I toss and turn all night. My spine appears to dip in the lumbar area with both mattresses (small waist, wider hips). I guess this is an area I need extra support?
Going forward, I have made an appointment for an evaluation with a physical therapist to see if there may be something deeper going on before trying yet another mattress. I am wondering though, if a zoned mattress might be a better option for me based on my body type (very wide pointy shoulders, small waist, somewhat bigger hips)?
I just wanted to give an update on the Ultimate Dreams 13" memory foam mattress. I have been sleeping on it for about 8 nights now. Overall, have been sleeping more soundly on this mattress, compared to the Nolah mattress. I am getting about 40-50 more minutes of sleep a night, and feel like I am tossing and turning much less…. I know I should still give it some time,
You are correct that you would need more than 8 days for your mattress to “break-in” a bit, as well as for you to adjust and lose some of your own personal “learned alignment”. This “period or retrogression” can be longer or shorter which each individual, but I would wait for at least 30 days and meanwhile collect more data points while sleeping on the mattress, along with making some postural adjustments and checking up with your physical therapist as you might be dealing with a combination of contributors to the pains that you are experiencing.
The problem with the Nolah mattress is that I get very bad lumbar pain that wakes me up throughout the night. I once woke to actually feel myself tightening the muscles (to slightly raise my hips) in a way to try and alleviate the pain. I put a folded towel under my waist, which seemed to help some. This feels kind of awkward though, do you have any recommendations as an alternative to lumbar support?
As you mentioned that you are a side sleeper only, the lumbar pain you experience on Nolah may come from insufficient secondary support that comes from the upper layers of the mattress that are not deep enough or that do not offer sufficient pushback for the recessed area of your waist, or could come from some spinal twisting or a combination of either. As a temporary solution an “ad hoc” zoning as you did with placing the towels under your waist could be helpful but with frequent repositioning during the night this arrangement may shift during the course of the night.
I have been waking up with shoulder pain that is lasting into the later part of the day. My hands feel stiff in the morning, and I have pain in my thumbs (pinching a nerve?). I also have pain in my shoulder blades which feel like they are being pushed together all night. I feel like the shoulder that I am lying on is collapsing and pulling forward, and has a weird feeling of almost wanting to pull out of the socket. I am unsure what this says about the mattress (too soft, too firm)?
While I am not a chiropractor or neurosomatic educator it seems to me from your previous description that you may also be dealing with some postural issues during your sleep due to your body configuration and side sleeping position and that your situation may be a bit more complex to pin it down.
Shoulder pressure points and pains while sleeping on your back can come from a mattress that is too firm and puts direct pressure on the shoulders, the shoulder blades, or on the back muscles and can also cause soreness or numbness and tingling in the arms or can often come from postural issues as well. There is a bit more information about sleeping positions and posture this in this article here .
Usually, when sleeping on your side your scapulae would be pushed apart and due to gravity, the tendency would be for the shoulders to “collapse” towards the chest. But the shoulder is an extremely flexible joint and it is also possible that (depending on the position of your “top” arm) your “top” shoulder could swing towards the back creating a spinal twist which may be amplified if this is counterbalanced by the twisting your hips in the opposite direction caused by gravity or unsupported knees.
Either way, I would first make sure to reevaluate your pillow to ensure that it is providing a decent alignment to keep your cervical/upper thoracic region in a relatively neutral arrangement. Improper pillow thickness is a common cause for shoulder issues, especially with a new mattress. To be a bit more specific, when on your side, if you have no pillow or a pillow that is too high the head will deviate and bend towards or away from the mattress and will impinge on your neck and the major nerves of the upper limb that branch eventually to the digital nerves. The head must be parallel with the mattress and the plain of the nose must be even with the spine to take off the pressure from your neck and upper neck.
Then because your larger hips and broad shoulders can cause rolling over and twisting the spine in the lumbar region I would also suggest placing a long pillow between your knees (in a stack knee position/one on top of each other) that would keep the “top” thigh parallel and would be long enough to keep the “top” foot from dangling.
I am wondering though, if a zoned mattress might be a better option for me based on my body type (very wide pointy shoulders, small waist, somewhat bigger hips)?
While you may be one of those more special cases where zoning systems can be useful and well worth considering in order to find a mattress with the right "balance" between comfort/pressure relief (under the shoulders especially) and support/alignment (under the hips/pelvis especially) I would still allow for the new mattress to break in and make the few adjustments suggested above which will allow you to collect more data points before deciding one way or another. There is more about zoning in this article and in post #11 here and the additional posts it links to but the only way to know whether any specific mattress (zoned or otherwise) will be a good match for you in terms of comfort, firmness, and PPP will still be based on careful testing or your own personal experience.
I look forward to any updates you might have once you have a chance to check things up with your therapist and sleep on your mattress for a while longer.