If you’re like most people, you’ve likely awoken after the best sleep of your life in a hotel room and wondered why you couldn’t recharge like that everyday. In hotel rooms, the lush beds constantly beckon you to dive into them in a cool gush of air; their magic touch melts your entire body over soft, smooth covers.. Back in your own bedroom, sleep is a task and chore – something you have to prepare for. Some mornings, you wake up feel tired, sore, and aching.
So why are hotel beds so darn comfortable? Can we recreate this luxuriousness in our own bedrooms?
Support and firmness
Comfort on a hotel bed really comes down to 2 things: the support it provides to your body, and the feeling of softness from the mattress.
Your body has a neutral position where the least stress is placed on your joints and soft tissues. When awake, your muscles are what maintains this neutral posture and alignment as you carry out your daily activities. In the nighttime, your mattress is supposed to take over the job of maintaining a neutral spinal alignment with natural curves. If it doesn’t, your muscles stay tensed and active in the same position throughout the night, which leads to morning soreness and tightness. You’ll find it harder to fall asleep, and will also experience lighter sleep.
That ‘melting’ feeling when you first lie on a supportive hotel mattress is the feeling of all your bodily muscles relaxing completely and handing over the load of your frame to the mattress. You may experience heavy breathing, as if you’d just unloaded a heavy weight at the gym.
It is important not to confuse support with firmness: while firm mattresses generally do provide more support, they may not provide adequate quality of support. An extreme example of this will be lying on the floor on your side: while the firm floorboards hold up your body and does not allow it to sink, the supportive pressure is concentrated at the hips, shoulders, and knees. Some parts of your body do not experience any support at all, such as your abdomen. Your abdominal muscles stay active to maintain neutral spinal alignment, or your spine will sag down and place stress on spinal soft tissue. The concentrated pressure also causes pain in the hips in shoulders.
Feeling of softness
The firmness of a mattress is a technical measure of how much it give or sinks when pressure is applied. A soft mattress has a higher amount of give when the same pressure is applied. Once again, this is not to be confused with support. Memory foam is an example of a soft material that provides excellent quality of support. It allows you to sink at high-pressure areas like the hips, while providing support at the abdominal areas as well. Hotel beds have special layers that make it feel soft, which creates an impression of luxury and security in our minds, allowing us to relax.
Layers in a hotel bed
A hotel bed may look simple from outside, but is actually a complex structure carefully designed to maximize support and softness.
Sheets, duvets and covers
Most of the layers in the diagram are a series of sheets, duvets, covers. These are not important for support and comfort and mostly serve to make the bed easy to clean, and keep the underlying mattress underneath uncontaminated. However, high-thread count fabric is used for the bedsheets, which feel smoother to the skin.
A firm high-quality mattress
A thick, firm mattress is the foundation of a great hotel bed. Without a firm platform, your body sinks in deep where it is heaviest (hips, shoulders), your spine curves into a hammock position and places stress on your spinal soft tissue. Latex mattresses are most commonly used by the best hotel beds because it lasts much longer, is firm and highly responsive, as well as hypoallergenic.
Various mattress toppers
The mattress toppers are where the magic of hotel beds really occur. Mattress toppers are relatively thinner layers placed on top of the underlying mattress to modify its feel. They’re usually only 2-3 inches in thickness, but make a world of difference.
Pillow-top mattress toppers
Almost every hotel adds a luxury pillow-top mattress topper as on top of the mattress as the final layer before the bedsheets. These usually contain some form of woolly filling that has lots of air between the fibers, which is responsible for the cool gush of air when you first lay upon it. This thin luxury layer does not provide support, but give the mattress a extremely plush feel, like lying in a sea of soft toys. With the thick, firm latex mattress underneath, the bed also pushes back to support your body after a limited amount of sinking (through the mattress topper). The result is a plush bed that is highly supportive both at once.
Memory foam mattress toppers
4 or 5-star hotels care more about your sleep experience, and may also add a memory foam mattress topper between the pillow-top mattress topper and underlying mattress. The memory foam optimizes the support of the underlying mattress by distributing supportive pressure from high-load bearing areas, like your hips and shoulders, to other body parts. This is made possible by its viscoelastic property, which means it allows sinkage at some areas while pushing back at others until pressure is distributed evenly across the surface of your body. The feeling of optimized support provided by memory foam mattress toppers is commonly described as ‘floating’ or ‘melting’ into the bed.
Latex foam mattress toppers
You’ll be lucky to find a hotel that splurges on latex comfort layers in their bedding, mainly because of its price. Latex is a highly responsive, supportive material. In contrast with memory foam, a latex mattress topper supports you on its surface, and feels firm but not rock-hard. Because it doesn’t conform to your body as much as memory foam, it doesn’t do as well in terms of relieving pressure points (though it is still excellent) as memory foam. If you hate sinking into your bed and prefer to sleep on something rather than in it, latex would be better for you.
Create a hotel bed in your own bedroom
You don’t have to include every layer a hotel bed uses to make yours feel just as luxurious. According to the 80/20 principle, 20% of the features are responsible for 80% of the effects. The same can be said for bed comfort, perhaps to an even larger extent.
A high-quality mattress
A sleep experience that makes you wake up completely satisfied starts with the mattress. If your mattress has aged to the point that it is sinking in the middle, it no longer provides adequate support and you’ll never be able to get a good night’s rest on it. Don’t be afraid to invest a larger amount in a new mattress – studies have shown that the cost per year of usage generally gets lower the higher the price of the mattress.
The right mattress topper(s)
Mattress toppers are one of the greatest inventions in the bedding industry. They not only help you optimize the feel of your bed, they also absorb most of the wear and tear to protect the mattress underneath – all at a fraction the cost of a new mattress! If you already have a satisfactory mattress that just doesn’t feel luxurious enough, getting a mattress topper will help you cross that line from “good sleep” to “hotel-grade sleep”. Consider your needs when choosing a mattress topper:
Are you looking for improved quality of support so you can melt right into your bed and avoid morning soreness? Go for a memory foam mattress topper.
Are you looking to have a soft pillow-y layer on top of a rather dense mattress? A luxurious pillow-top mattress topper will be a great addition.
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the main differences between a hotel bed and the one in your bedroom – it is now up to you to put that knowledge to use!