Flippable Mattress Review: Where Did They Go?

‚ÄčSleep is as important as getting enough water or vegetables in your diet, but it is one of the things that people seem happy to sacrifice. One of the reasons might be that they don't understand how far the mattress industry has come since the days of the flippable mattress.

MATTRESS TEST REVIEWS: FLIPPABLE MATTRESSES

Since the creation of the modern mattress, one debate has raged on: to flip or not to flip? Do you remember your mom or dad telling you it was time to flip your mattress? It never seemed like a big deal. Odd, but it seemed to make sense. After all, after sleeping on one side, it only made sense that the other side was going to feel like sleeping on a brand new bed. So you did as instructed and flipped your mattress faithfully.

Fast forward to now. As an adult, you can't recall ever flipping your mattress. Maybe in college that one time, but that's a different story. So what has changed and where have all the flippable mattresses gone? We've taken a look at the product availability and specifications of this once-super-popular product.

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HOW DOES A FLIPPABLE MATTRESS WORK? 

The type of mattress that you flipped typically consisted of 5-inch coils surrounded on both sides by a 2.5-inch layer of relatively firm foam and fiber polyester blend fill. You had to flip because, over time, that fill material started to compress and flatten out to the coil. When that happened, you would begin to notice a crater form in the area of the bed where you normally sleep. Then you would flip the mattress, and magically, you gained some comfort back for a bit. Over time, that top layer would start to flatten out, crater, and the whole process would begin anew.

How was it that when you flipped the bed, it suddenly felt better? The fiber and foam fill sat compressed under your weight and the weight of the 5-inch coils for a few months. Once you flipped it, that allowed the fibers to pop up, albeit momentarily. It gave enough of an illusion that the bed was springing back to life and rejuvenated.

WHERE DID THE FLIPPABLE MATTRESS GO?

a white mattress with redo and undo icons on each side

In the early 1980's, a new sleep revolution began, introducing a crazy bed advertised as the pillow top. It was the first mattress created solely for comfort in response to people's complaints that they were waking up feeling uncomfortable and sore frequently. People across the country were exhausted, mostly due to their difficulty in attaining a good night's sleep. Since a large majority of the population were (and still are) side-sleepers, the firmness of a flippable mattress just wasn't allowing the good night's rest so desperately needed. Backs ached due to improper spinal alignment. Shoulders were sore due to the hard mattress.

The pillow top was made to be softer. It still contained 5-inch coils, but now it had 5 inches of foam and fillers on both sides, doubling the amount of stuffing on either side to make it softer and give it a more comfortable feel.

The problem with the pillow top was it broke down much quicker. Over time, manufacturers realized that as you slept and the coils compressed, the 5 inches of foam and filler on the bottom were not as dense as the old 2.5-inch foam and filler. As a result, the material compressed quickly and did not return to its original shape when flipped. The support wasn't there, resulting in more frequent flipping, which in turn caused the foam to break down much faster.

We liken it to sitting on a 1-inch layer of cotton while someone else sits on a 1-inch layer of wool. When you both stand up, take a look at the condition of the materials. The wool will bounce back somewhat, mostly because it was never really too fluffy to begin with. The cotton, however, is as flat as a pancake. It isn't going to become fluffy and soft again suddenly. As people started to demand comfort in their mattresses, they realized they had to replace them more often. While the pillow top added comfort, it detracted from the premise of a long-lasting flippable mattress.

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THE FLIPPABLE MYTH

The answer to this dilemma was that major bedding manufacturers started to move away from flippable mattresses. Instead of pillow top material on both sides, they returned to having a base that the coils could sit on, and reserved the comfort layer for the top. It gave people the lifespan of the traditional flippable mattress, but the comfort of a pillow top.

However, people weren't too crazy about this. Why? The basic perception was that flippable mattresses lasted longer because the act of flipping them basically meant you were "regenerating" the top layer of your mattress every six months. In fact, we now know that wasn't the case at all. The flippable mattress was just biding its time with every flip, and because of the firmness, only had the appearance of being rejuvenated. In reality, it wasn't a comfortable bed for a majority of the population. They just didn't know they had a choice until the pillow top became available.

THE FOAM REVOLUTION

features of a flippable mattress

As the sleep revolution continued, bed manufacturers started to invest in research and development. They were looking for ways to give people a better night's sleep. Since a majority of people are side-sleepers, this meant making beds that were softer, yet still provided proper spinal alignment. The answer came in the form of something called memory foam. This was a groundbreaking product designed to allow you gradually to sink into the bed as you slept. Your body would naturally fall into proper alignment, and you would, in turn, get a great night's sleep.

Are foam mattresses flippable? No. Because of the nature of foam, and its ability to allow you to sink in, manufacturers built a dense core to give you the support you need in the memory foam. All-foam beds are also extremely heavy for this reason. If the mattress is 12 inches thick, then 8 inches is the dense core that gives you support as you sleep.

IF FLIPPABLE MATTRESSES ARE FIRM, THEN SUPPORT IS BETTER

When we use words to describe the inner core of foam beds or the coils in a flippable bed, we don't want to mislead you. There's a big difference in firm support and firm feel. You can get a firm support in a variety of comfort levels that suit your individual needs. If you are strictly a back or stomach sleeper, and you're fine with a firm feel, then a two-sided mattress is fine. If you're a side sleeper, and you go with a firm flippable mattress, you're going wake up sore and uncomfortable. If you tend to sleep mostly on your side, back or stomach, but you prefer a softer feel, then it needs to be a one-sided or all foam mattress.

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BEDDING COMPANIES ARE TRICKING US

If you hold the belief that manufacturers stopped making flippable beds as a ploy to get you to replace your mattress sooner, consider the following piece of research. Every eight years, your mattress will double in weight whether you flip it or not. How is that? As you sleep, dead skin cells, oil and sweat rub off onto your bed and sink down into the mattress. In eight years, you've shed a lot of cells. Have you ever had to help heft an old mattress away and wondered why it was so heavy? Now you know what causes that phenomena.

The fact of the matter is, you can get a one-sided mattress cheaper than a flippable. How? All major mattress manufacturers and retailers typically only carry one-sided mattresses. Is this because they want you to spend more money over time replacing your one-sided mattress instead of a flippable? Considering that the one-sided mattress is cheaper, then no, that doesn't make sense. Even if you think it's a scheme to get the poor unsuspecting public to buy more beds, the math works out in the one-sided mattress' favor because they are cheaper. Flippable mattresses are more expensive because they're made to order, or you can only purchase them from off-brand manufacturers. The beds also have a higher cost of materials.

After we completed all this research, we came to realize that our idea of the flippable mattress as being the end all and be all wasn't true. If in the end, you need to replace it after around eight years anyway due to allergens, skin cells and the like, then it no longer becomes an issue of economics. You can generally get three one-sided mattresses for the price of a flippable one. That's 24 years of new beds every eight years.

WHAT DO WE THINK?

person flipping a mattress

After we concluded our research and we weighed the pros and cons of the flippable bed, we can honestly suggest that you do not invest in one. Below are some reasons we made this recommendation:

Money: You'll end up paying more money over time for less comfort, all because your mom told you that flipping a mattress makes it last longer. Considering after eight years you may not have the strength to flip it, this is not a viable reason. Quality one-sided mattresses are less expensive in the short and long term.

Comfort: Getting a good night's sleep has been proven to be one of the most vital parts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You work hard, and the last thing you want to do is go to bed exhausted and wake up sore or even more exhausted. You should figure out what kind of sleeper you are and find a bed that works for you. If you're a side sleeper specifically, you should never consider a firm mattress, such as most two-sided mattresses are. It will throw your body out of alignment and leave you feeling achy. You should always instead go for a medium to soft comfort level. Even if you're a stomach or back sleeper, an ultra-firm bed isn't exactly the best option.

Quality: Research and technology have come so far in the last decade of bed manufacturing. There are so many options that are made with better materials and offer you a better night's sleep. Even if you like to live frugally, your bed is not the area you want to go cheap on. In researching this information, we were surprised to find that most parents spend more money on a crib mattress for a newborn than they do on their own. They believe that the more money they spend, the better the quality of the crib mattress. While this adage is true with some things, it's not always true with others. A two-sided mattress is generally more expensive than its one-sided counterpart, and it's less comfortable and made with subpar materials.

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gET A gOOD nIGHT'S sLEEP

At the end of the day, you are the one who has to deal with the consequences of your nighttime decision. With so many options out there, it's tough to make the decision to buy a bed by research alone. It is important to go to a mattress retailer and try the beds. We understand that with the internet and e-commerce being what they are, it's tempting to order a bed in a box and be done with it. However, we implore you to do your own personal research before making this decision. While we can tell you that the flippable mattress is not a great product, we can't tell you what is. That's because mattresses vary based on each person's need. It is imperative that you take the time to go out and find the bed that will give you the best sleep of your life. Now that you at least have some knowledge of what works and what doesn't, you can go into a store armed with some ideas of what to look at and what to steer clear of. Your health is important. Getting a good night's sleep is an integral part of staying healthy for many years to come.

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