An Introduction to Zoned Construction

This third method of construction uses different materials or levels of firmness in different parts or "zones" of a mattress support layer. It is also a way of combining comfort ( spinal alignment) in a single layer similar to a progressive construction. While it is often used in more "difficult" circumstances, some zoning schemes are poorly thought out in manufacturing or poorly understood by the person selling them and "suggested" when they are not appropriate. In these cases they they can do more harm than good. Some zoning schemes are also so similar in ILD or firmness between zones that they are not as effective as a higher quality material without zoning. While zoning when done correctly can be very beneficial, it is also the subject of some misinformation and deceptive sales practices which are used to sell mattresses. If you choose a zoned mattress, 2 or 3 zones are generally the most important, and more than this can have questionable benefits and can sometimes lead to the purchase of an inappropriate and very uncomfortable mattress.

The reason for zoning is because of the difference in weight, thickness/thinness, and surface area of three main areas of the body that are the most difficult to accommodate. The first of these is the hip/pelvic area which carries the greatest amount of weight and has the greatest density, no matter what type of body you have, and often has a wider profile (especially in women). The second is the waist/lumbar area which is often lighter and thinner and has a lower density. The third is the shoulder/chest area. The shoulders are narrower and have less surface area (on the side) and will sink in more easily until they reach the torso which is often wider than the hips but lighter and lower density. Dealing with these 3 areas in all the different sleeping positions and differences in body profiles and the difficulties associated with balancing them in terms of pressure relief and alignment is the reason that zoning is sometimes used in more difficult or extreme body weights or profiles. It is appropriate and can be very helpful when a progressive or differential method of construction cannot accommodate the circumstances.

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gardenguy's Avatar
gardenguy replied the topic: #2 26 Feb 2018 16:01
Greetings,
I am looking to add a 2 inch zoned Dunlop topper under my 2 inches talalay and above 6 inches dunlop core. My hope is that this would allow my shoulders to sink in just a touch more and relieve some pressure, which is a problem area for me. I was hoping to get some input on where I could purchase one, and how much seperation of ILD would it take to tell a difference from hip and shoulder?

I found one sold which is advertised as 7 zone, from Lake Mattress, which is a retailer I found on the component list here. There is a 2-3 Ild difference between zones, and I can get this in 2 inch. I am not sure 3 Ild will make much difference. I would prefer just having a 3 zone at most, but aside from Flo-beds and other shredded toppers ( which don't interest me) there seems to be little to no market pushing these types of products into existence, at least in a solid slab form. I know about the 6 inch cores, but this is too thick for me, as I already have my dunlop core. Maybe I could make something from two types of soft foam, say 15 and 20, but this could get expensive, since I will need to purchase two sheets of two different ild foams and throw most of one away.

Will a 7 zone topper cause more problems than it could solve? Maybe this is impossible to answer, but any input would be appreciated.

Thanks!
Phoenix's Avatar
Phoenix replied the topic: #3 27 Feb 2018 15:48
Hi gardenguy.

Welcome to our Mattress Forum! :)

I was hoping to get some input on where I could purchase one, and how much seperation of ILD would it take to tell a difference from hip and shoulder? I found one sold which is advertised as 7 zone, from Lake Mattress, which is a retailer I found on the component list here. There is a 2-3 Ild difference between zones, and I can get this in 2 inch. I am not sure 3 Ild will make much difference. I would prefer just having a 3 zone at most


I am not very sure what you mean by “separation of ILD… to tell between the hip and shoulder” because the zoned layer itself is usually not made from separate pieces of different ILDs which are laminated together. E.g. zoning in dunlop latex is achieved using different size pins to increase or decrease the amount of material in a section of the foam which in effect alters the amount of material in that particular section which will change its overall density/ILD. Depending of the pin size used, this results in a softer or firmer overall zone feel. One of the concerns with zoning is that people have different body configuration, height, weight, and profile, and a particular zoning configuration might not work for everyone because the zoning does not adjust to the size of the people. Whatever type of zoning you are considering, make sure to verify that the “zone” falls under the areas of your body that needs adjustment

Placing zoned latex as a transition layer under a top layer, can provide more sinking than a layer that has the same ILD without zoning, but as all layers work together, how much you’ll sink depends on your body specifics and also on the overall layer combination, including the encasement and the bedding being used. Adding extra layers (zoned or not) also can help with pressure relief provided that the ILD is soft enough. This may be just the “touch” you need to help with taking the “edge off” the pressure points you are experiencing in the shoulders area. FloBeds site is a good source to see configurations and zoning combinations and as they are an expert of our site you can reach out and discuss your specifics with them.

I would prefer just having a 3 zone at most, but aside from Flo-beds and other shredded toppers ( which don't interest me) there seems to be little to no market pushing these types of products into existence, at least in a solid slab form.


A 3 zone layer is usually softer on ends (shoulders and legs) and firmer in middle (under hips) and could be a good solution for someone with wider shoulders as this would allow the shoulders to sink in past the support that is needed for the lumbar curvature of the of the spine. Five zone tends to give more allowance for shoulder and hip sinkage, but keep in mind that this varies by manufacturer. The 2 zone layer could be working well for someone with a large size differential between shoulders and hips and this is the type of zoning that is usually used in the comfort/transition layers of the mattress, as opposed to the 3, and 5 zoning which is found more in the deeper layers of the mattress.

I found one sold which is advertised as 7 zone, from Lake Mattress, which is a retailer I found on the component list here. There is a 2-3 Ild difference between zones, and I can get this in 2 inch. I am not sure 3 Ild will make much difference.


I don’t keep a record of all outlets selling zone latex in 2” layers and generally speaking zoning is usually applied more to mattress cores, so you’ll have to do some more searching, but you are correct that this is not something that you would easily find as thinner zoned pieces are not as common because the zoning in a thinner piece doesn’t make “as much” of a difference as in a 6” core.

2-3 ILD difference isn’t much, but whether or not it is noticeable depends mainly of each individual and where the zone is located in relationship to the area that needs zoning accommodation, but generally the closer to the top the more potential for the “difference” to more to be noticed. I would also keep in mind that ILDs are not exact numbers but ranges and they may slightly vary throughout the layer.

Will a 7 zone topper cause more problems than it could solve?


There are many interrelated variables when it comes to zoning, which are different for each individual, such as the difference in weight, surface area, thinness/thickness of the part of the body that needs a special zoning accommodation along with the sleeping positions and the differences in body profile of any particular person all of which makes it very difficult to predict whether this zoning will work for you. 7 zone layers IMO adds a level complexity to an already complex situation and I would advise you to approach it with caution as it can do more harm than good and be costly in the process of figuring this out.

You may find it useful to peruse a few more discussions about zoning in post #11 here . Also in post #2 here and post #7 here (latex momzone unique properties).

Best of luck and I'll be interested to learn of your eventual decisions.

Phoenix
jxp10's Avatar
jxp10 replied the topic: #4 21 Jul 2018 17:03
Thank you for your insight and recommendations regarding zoning. I have not found much on this topic and appreciated what you shared. I found your various comments in several of your articles. By any chance, do you have a single article about zoning with all of your advice and wisdom systemtically organized and explained? You are the most knowledgeable zoning expert I have found so far and it would be helpful if you had a single reference to share your wealth of information and explain it to those who may benefit from zoning. Thanks for your helpful website!!
Phoenix's Avatar
Phoenix replied the topic: #5 22 Jul 2018 10:24
Hi jxp10.

Welcome to our Mattress Forum! :) and thank you for your words of appreciation.

As you well noted ... while the basic information about zoning is summarized in a few articles on the main site many of the in-depth details connected with it and questions & answers can only be found in various threads on the Forum. I agree with you ... consolidating this information in one place is a consumer need that we are in the process of addressing and while we are already working on it ... this time-consuming manifold process and it may not be as fast as we would wish to.... the good news is that for those like you who are inclined to do a bit of homework most of the information is already on main site and forum and also our zoning expert FloBeds here is always ready to answer any zoning related questions :)

Phoenix
jxp10's Avatar
jxp10 replied the topic: #6 19 Dec 2018 05:59
I have a custom-zoned mattress topper (with latex in the middle and foam at the ends) that worked fine while the mattress was new. Now that the mattress is older, it could use a little boost in some higher pressure regions for a side sleeper in order to help fine tune my zoned mattress topper system. I have looked for a thin topper like possibly thin foam, maybe 1/4" or 3/8" (or 1/2") thick but I haven't found much in conventional mattress toppers. Do you have any recommendations about where to find such a topper or foam? Do you recommend any type of thin topper/foam? For example, regarding general thin foam, I have found sew foam, naked flex foam, upholstery foam, foam padding, and more but I am not sure what would serve best as a thin mattress topper. I'm considering trying/adding (thin) sew foam to custom tweak my existing zoned topper (combination) system. Is there anything, in particular, I should look for in a thin topper or thin foam? Your input, advice, and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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