Beds are where people spend a large portion of their lives and, over the years, retailers have rolled out a series of innovations to make mattresses more comfortable... or not. Anyone who has lived through the 1980s will surely remember water beds.
The latest trend for mattress retailers is to take the customisation route, allowing customers to pick and choose elements for a bed that will provide a perfect night's sleep.
This service has been offered by high-end mattress-makers for a while now, but of late, mid-market retailers are also getting in on the customisation game.
Furniture retailer Courts has launched CustomiseYourBed, a six-step process where consumers can build their beds from scratch.
Available at all Courts retail outlets, the service lets consumers choose the type of spring, firmness and cover of their mattress, as well as the headboard and bed base. Prices start from $817 for a single bed and go up to $3,700 for a queen bed with premium features.
Another manufacturer offering customisation is Coco-mat. Founded in 1989 in Greece, Coco-mat came to Singapore last year. The company markets its products as 100 per cent metal-free and made entirely from natural materials such as goose down, coconut fibre, seaweed, horsehair and cactus fibre.
Each of these materials possesses different properties and is used in different layers of the mattress to cater to the user's body type and preferences.
You can also adjust the length and breadth of the bed beyond the standard sizes - a provision which customer Mattijs Sibbing, 45, appreciated. Originally from Amsterdam, the managing director in a business consultancy firm here bought a queen-size Coco-mat mattress and top mattress last year for about $12,000 to address his back problems.
"Most of my discomfort has gone since my purchase," he says, adding that he appreciates the company's environmentally friendly practices.
Coco-mat mattresses have a 96 per cent recycling rate and the company abstains from using plastic, even during delivery. Prices range from $119 for a Narkissos pillow made of natural rubber flakes to $1,689 for a single-size Nefeli mattress.
At the upper end of the market, there are other technologically advanced products that purport to enhance the sleeping experience.
American mattress brand Sealy recently launched its Posturepedic Enhance Collection with a new Titanium spring coil, said to be stronger and more durable. A queen-size mattress goes for up to $6,782.
Mr Sai Chao Yong, 34, who works in a bank, recently bought a Posturepedic mattress in king size for $4,040.
He says: "My wife is a side sleeper, so we need a mattress that isn't too firm. The Sealy mattress we chose has just the right degree of firmness."
Luxe mattress-maker Simmons also introduced its Beautyrest Black Series featuring a micro- diamond-infused memory foam which supposedly draws on the cooling properties of diamonds to move heat away from the body during sleep. A bed made from this material starts from $23,000.
In the face of so many newfangled products, it can be difficult for buyers to identify the best option.
Experts say it is best to go for a trial run.
Courts Asia's group furniture director Steve Church says: "Customers tend to be too shy to lie flat on a mattress before buying it. They sit on it and bounce around a little, but that is not good enough.
"We encourage anyone who comes into the store to really take the time to lie down, roll around and evaluate if the mattress is what they want to sleep on every night."
Marketing director for Coco-mat Asean Sotiria Kostavara says that in New York City, Coco-mat has a nap chamber where customers can test their mattresses for up to three hours.
"We hope to replicate that kind of system in Asia," she adds.
That said, there is a limit to the impact that mattresses have on the quality of sleep.
Dr Kenny Pang from Asia Sleep Centre says: "Good mattresses and pillows are important for correcting issues with posture and spines, but they won't help people who face clinical problems such as sleep apnea or insomnia. Environmental aids such as scents have also not proven to be helpful.
"In general, people should just look to buy a firm, comfortable mattress. If they have severe difficulty falling asleep, they still need to approach a specialist."
Also, most people now use their beds for a lot more than sleep. They lie in bed to watch television, surf the Net and read.
To cater to this, some retailers have introduced beds with snazzy bells and whistles.
For example, those looking for a technologically advanced bed to match their swanky surround- sound system can consider the Zero Gravity Prestige bed system from American brand Tempur.
The premium bed-maker is known for its Tempur material which was originally developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or Nasa, to relieve the pressure experienced by astronauts during lift-off.
Retailing at $21,999 for a king-size bed, the Zero G Prestige is an adjustable bed system with four pre-set positions catered to different activities.
One pre-set is the Zero Gravity position, which claims to simulate the experience of weightlessness by elevating the user's legs and increasing circulation throughout the body.
Another option is the Gaze leather bed from South-east Asian furniture-maker Cellini.
Launched last December, the model features a Bluetooth-pairing audio system with hidden speakers, so you can plug your music device into the bed and enjoy music piping out from your bed frame. Prices start at $1,580 for the queen size.
Customer service manager Mavis Lin, 29, recently visited the Cellini showroom and is keen on buying the Gaze model.
"I listen to music very often in the bedroom. When my husband is not around, my radio is switched on almost permanently," she says. "That is why I find this bed quite interesting and suitable for me."
Additional reporting by Ong Kai Xuan
Choose the right mattress
- Test the bed yourself
If the bed is the right degree of firmness, you should be able to slide your hand under the hollow at the base of your spine. If the gap is too large, the mattress is too hard. If there is no gap at all, the mattress is too soft.
- Shop with the one you share a bed with
People of different weights will need different pressures to feel comfortable. Some retailers such as Coco-mat offer customisation of different sides of the same mattress - this may be ideal for couples who differ vastly in size or sleep preferences.
Take note of the spring type. Pocketed springs - individual coils packed tightly in a mattress - move more independently than bonnel springs, which are coils connected laterally by a wire. Pocketed springs will prevent lighter people from rolling into the space of their heavier companions.
- Take note of the kind of sleeper you are
Side and back sleepers generally prefer softer mattresses while those who sleep on their tummies prefer firmer ones.
- Think about your allergies
If you are sensitive to dust or bacteria, consider buying a hypoallergenic mattress (mattresses made of natural latex or wool are advisable) or a mattress cover. Alternatively, make sure to vacuum your mattress regularly.
- Exchange policy
Buy from a shop that will let you exchange the mattress if you are not happy with it.
- Rotate and flip your mattress every six months
This evens out the pressure exerted on the mattress, allowing the support systems to last longer. However, do note that some mattresses such as the Simmons Beautyrest Black series do not have to be flipped, only rotated.
- Do your research before shopping
Many mattress-makers have online services to help you decide the kind of mattress most suitable for your profile and budget. For example, Courts has a new Sleep EZ quiz, which picks out the three most ideal mattresses for you from the 800 at its store.
- Consider your age and health
Even the right mattress will not be a cure-all. If you experience severe back discomfort even after switching mattresses, you should approach an orthopaedic specialist.
Sources: Sealy website; European Bedding Singapore website; and Greatist magazine