Finding The Perfect Mattress For Big&Tall, Larger And Obese People...Industry Secrets And A Mattress Industry Veterans Advice And Recommendations

Let’s face it, not everyone fits the boilerplate recipe that the mattress industry uses to design virtually all of their mattresses, whether an innerspring, memory foam, air bed, or hybrid bed. Designed to target a person of typical height and weight, the industry largely focuses on building beds that use the least costly materials available, spending the maximum amount of dollars possible on the outer covering, to create showroom curb appeal, with as little investment as possible made on the invisible internal ingredients. The reason? Like cars, mattresses are intentionally designed to offer a “reasonable lifespan” and then to fail, or so says a 24 year mattress industry designer and manufacturer, in my exclusive interview.

When I began writing articles for this site many years ago, my sole intention was to impartially evaluate many different kinds of mattresses so that I could educate consumers and give them a sense of confidence when shopping for a mattress, so they didn’t get taken like I did. I was misled by a big box retailer and left holding the bag on a $2,000 mattress which quickly developed ruts and depressions, and when I went to the retailer to complain, I was dismissed, told I was stuck with it, with no option for a refund or even an exchange. And I’m 5’9” and weigh 160 lbs., so it wasn’t like I was a larger person that put and extreme amount of stress on my mattress, either.

My industry veteran later told me that the trap I had fallen prey to was pretty typical, that many retailers offer no recourse for a purchase, even if the mattress is clearly defective. He explained, though, that over the last few years, this has changed, and competition is so fierce these days, that retailers are forced to offer trial periods, extensive warranties, refund and exchange policies that are clearly spelled out, but warns that these policies are often still designed to carry you just beyond the point of no return, with mattress failures usually occurring “4-5 years after purchase”, long after you can return the bed during a trial period, or during the warranty phase where you get 100% replacement coverage for defects and manufacturers design flaws.

“The system is designed to favor the mattress manufacturer, just like a casino”, the veteran said. And, the industry has begun to condition the marketplace by intentionally “grooming them” into thinking that a mattress should be replaced every “eight years or so” because of things like dust mites, bacteria, and other external issues. He states that the age of “disposable mattresses” is here to stay.

For Obese Consumers, Mattress Shopping Even More Of A Disaster, Expert Says

It’s even worse for consumers that are obese, or simply bigger in stature than the average mattress owner. Because highly specialized materials must be used to provide comfort and support, and lifespan, it’s hard to find a mattress manufacturer that has the skill set to create the perfect recipe for a person say, over 250 lbs. And building a better bed for an obese couple, says my industry guru, “is even harder, if not impossible”.

The reason is that most materials, including conventional foams, innerspring units, and filler layers are “mostly junk”, and are usually rock hard, and while they may last a bit longer, are like sleeping on a slab of marble. Fortunately, there are advances in technology that have yielded highly supportive materials that don’t have to “destroy your back and force you to crawl back to your lounger” in the living room.

Case in point, when asked specifically about what materials are often shoved into a mattress targeted at obese bed buyers: two inch thick pads made from plastic pellets and shredded garment fiber. “I visited a factory outside of Boston, and walked alongside a one hundred foot machine that melts plastic pellets and combines them with shredded clothing fabric, converting them into long, rectangular mats that are placed inside a mattress merely to add filler, make the mattress firm, and give it weight”, says the industry vet, calling it “jawdropping” to watch. He said also that metal coils should never be used in a mattress designed for people of stature. “Even technically advanced coil systems, including pocketed coils, are not really designed to support obese persons, and do not maintain the “spring back” they were built with, forever”. In other, words, they slowly mash down over time.


Also, conventional foam layers must be carefully calibrated, need to be higher density foams, and should have a demonstrated history of field use, meaning years of use, to prove themselves. To build a mattress for folks weighing more than 250 lbs or so, a mattress engineer needs to consider buoyancy, elasticity, how the edge of the mattress interacts with the center of the bed (transferring in and out of the mattress is a large consideration) and the use of fibers that do not easily collapse over time.

“The best advice I can offer, after doing this for 24 years, is to advise a person of size to buy a mattress specifically made to accommodate a individual, on each side of the bed that weighs 250-400 lbs., and buy a bed with a decent no questions asked trial period, a solid warranty from the manufacturer, not just the retailer, and preferably get it from a company that’s been around awhile”, states my mattress veteran.

“Go with a mattress made using high density foam layers, and if possible, the kind of foam should be what is called “H.R.” foam, or high resiliency foam. And it’s important that the density of these foam layers is high enough to resist compaction. I always suggest 30-36 ILD high resiliency foam (ILD stands for Indentation Load Deflection, and a number of 30 refers to the amount of weight occupying one cubic foot, such that when placed upon the material, will compress the material one inch). Another excellent top layer, which will provide a melting sensation and distribute your weight sideways, rather than downward, helping to eliminate pressure, is gel foam, but it has to be the right density,” he suggests.

According to industry veterans all across the board, if you are a person of stature looking for a mattress that will last, here’s a punch list of what you should be looking for.

  • Mattress should be made using specialized foam, preferably with support, or bottom layers made with 30-36 ILD density.

  • An advanced gel foam top layer, to distribute pressure and weight sideways rather than downward.

  • No coils, no wool, no thick fiber layers that will compress.

  • Get at least a 90 day trial period-make sure you get a full refund.

  • The mattress should be equipped with a decent warranty, say 15- 20 years, from the manufacturer themselves.

  • Avoid over stuffed pillow top comforters or duvets, since they will mash down and then to sleep hot.

Who I Recommend For A Mattress Designed Specifically For Obese Bed Shoppers..And Why

Shopping for a mattress can be a pretty intimate experience and in many cases, your worst nightmare might be spending a Saturday wandering aimlessly through a retail store test driving one uncomfortable or unsupportive mattress after another, There are a few companies out there starting to offer mattresses aimed at the Big & Tall marketplace, finally. I don’t think there was a public outcry, it’s more likely because the internet mattress marketplace has taken the industry by storm, and it’s just so much easier to purchase a mattress that gets shipped directly to your door. One company I tend to refer a lot is Habitat Furnishings, because of their reputation in the industry, their BBB A+ rating, but also because they offer a wide range of mattress options designed to target very specific audiences. Known for their pure latex mattresses and their digital air bed lines, they now have introduced a mattress specifically designed for people of stature, accommodating individuals from 250-400 lbs, with a unique mattress that contains no coils, called The Evening Dreams Mattress.

I really like the concept of an all foam mattress, and I like the fact that they partner with a company that was founded over 50 years ago, using field tested ingredients that stand the test of time. The Evening Dreams Mattress uses a specialized high resiliency foam made by Firestone (the same company that builds high quality racing tires) as the supportive layer of the mattress. According to Evening Dreams manufacturer Bill Beuhrle, the company has been using the Firestone high resiliency foam in their product line because he claims it is essentially “bulletproof”. “My father started using this material in mattresses a half century ago, and it just doesn’t collapse or fail”.

Habitat has been selling mattresses for the obese bed category for years, but recently refined their line by making the mattress sleeker looking, more supportive, cradling, and uplifting, with no dead or sinking feel. Check out their web site and at least consider their option.