Why can’t mattresses just last forever? There are few bigger nuisances than cramming a king-size bed through a normal-size bedroom door. Except perhaps listening to someone groan about how badly they slept over the weekend. Sorry John, nobody cares.
Unless you’re an accommodation manager, in which case it’s your job to care. At least about how well your guests are sleeping under your roof. When was the last time you inquired about your own mattresses? It might be worth asking a few honest visitors how comfy your mattresses are, or whether their backs have been playing up since they arrived. Particularly if you have older customers frequenting your rooms. It might be a dull affair listening to someone ponder aloud about the pitfalls of trying to get comfortable on a lumpy mattress with an ailing spine, but it could be the most productive few minutes of your day if you prevent that person from venting their frustrations in an online review.
As it turns out, mattresses are rather key to spinal health and posture. AMG spoke with Dr David Johnson, a neurosurgeon, spinal surgeon, functional movement and Olympic weightlifting trainer specialising in the treatment of low back pain at City To Coast Neurosurgery, The Queensland Back Pain Centre and Functional Movement Training Centre in Brisbane.
He stressed the enormity of the issue: “Spinal pain, in particular low back pain, is one of the most frequent medical complaints in our society. While awake, most people appreciate that healthy posture and movement is critical to preventing musculoskeletal de-conditioning and pain. A lot of people feel that simply because they are older, it is normal to feel pain. This is absolutely not the case. That’s equivalent to saying that as you age, your skin will hurt because you have wrinkles. Of course, the spine will age too but the experience of pain only occurs when the integrity of the spine, be it of any age, becomes inflamed. The process of inflammation in the spinal structures occurs due to poor positions.
“One third of our 24-hour day is horizontal while in bed and therefore, for eight hours, we can either be inciting inflammation in our spine or preventing it.”
Dr Johnson told us what kind of mattresses are optimum for spinal support.
“A firm mattress is the key to supporting the spine because it maintains and supports a neutral posture without sagging into soft or pillow-top type mattresses. Neutral for the spine is like neutral gear in your car, which means the system is under the least amount of stress. Minimising stress means reducing inflammation and preventing pain.”
Speaking of stress and pain, making refurb decisions can be a big deal. Especially for those who have to coordinate lots of different opinions and finances. With something like mattresses though, it’s a little more cut and dry because you can go straight to the horse’s mouth and find out from your guests whether upgrading is something you need to do.
Industry viewpoints: are managers finding comfort in commercial grade mattresses?
AMG asked AH Beard representative Peter Deveny for his opinion on what managers (versus guests) want. He said: “Beds are certainly an important component of any room, fortunately more operators are recognising this and investing in better quality bedding for their properties.
“Zoned spring systems ensure that spinal alignment and support are correct and that the sleep delivered is restful, but also as healthy as possible.
“We run a Six Week Sleep Challenge several times throughout the year, which gives subscribers to the program access to interactive forums and sleep tips, suggestions on how to improve the quality and quantity of sleep they get and also gives us a valuable first hand insight into what the public are looking for in terms of construction, comfort and features in the beds they sleep in. This includes things like materials, features and also technology. One of the most consistent and overwhelming responses from these challenges is that people want to see beds that are more technologically advanced, that adjust to suit varying sleep patterns, different preferences for feel and the biological variations that impact the type of support our bodies need as they change as a result of age and general health.
“These demands are clearly reflective of the challenges that are being posed to hoteliers. Generally speaking, we are seeing properties investing in much higher specification bedding, regardless of what segment of the market, or star rating, they fall into. This has been partly driven by competition within the industry as global and local brands all strive to win the ‘battle of the beds’ but also clearly by consumer demand and the ability to immediately critique the beds they have spent the night in on social media and other interactive channels.
“We are seeing a bit of a paradigm shift in terms of what operators expect from their beds as well. Hotels don’t expect the technology in their rooms to be still current in 10 years’ time, so in some ways the expectation that a bed design that is cutting edge in terms of technology and raw materials now still being so in seven-to-ten years is also being challenged. What was a four-star bed 10 years ago, is generally not the case now as construction, materials and expectation have changed. Smart operators now are looking around the market and analysing what their competitors, or aspirational brands and properties are using, and then setting their expectations for bedding to suit. Properties are far better attuned to the expectations of guests and are selecting beds to meet that expectation. I think in general, most savvy operators are responding to the demands of the guest and selecting their beds accordingly, rather than be governed by historical purchase patterns or bedding design.
“That said, a bed with the ability to be adjusted to suit any guest would be nirvana for properties. Regardless of how well they select their bed, you can never satisfy every guest, so having the ability to adjust the comfort level, and other features of the bed would be a great advantage to hotel and resort operators.
“This is without doubt the future of hospitality bedding. Adjustability, interactive feedback and the flexibility to link these settings to the property’s guest loyalty program so that the bed can be pre-set to suit the incoming guest will help to overcome the ‘I like firm beds’ or ‘I can only sleep in a lovely soft bed’ variation in guest preferences and will be another determining factor in the brand or property that travellers choose.”
How to take the plunge and make it last
Summer is looming, so abuzz with determination and the dizzy enthusiasm sunshine brings, you might be telling yourselves, no more ‘lumpy bed’ reviews for me! You’ll finally be able to slap ‘mattress refurbishment’ down on your TripAdvisor page and respond to all those niggling ‘the beds were a bit uncomfortable’ comments. But in terms of choosing the right technology and style, it really depends on your needs. A boutique hotel with hugely varied room sizes and shapes will have different needs to a standardised motel. If you don’t have a huge budget you might need to prioritise which of your rooms get new mattresses and when, because getting good quality upgrades staggered over a few years is surely a much better option than getting all your rooms a lesser quality upgrade at once. The lower the quality, the more often you’re going to have to make the upgrade anyway. In terms of warranties, most companies will offer one but it most likely won’t cover wear-and-tear or the dreaded body impressions that can form over time, even with commercial grade mattresses designed for heavy use. However, there are things you can do yourselves to stave off the inevitable.
How to help your brand new, shiny mattresses last for as long as possible
Mattress turning is one maintenance must. It’s a great tip for evening out body impressions so the mattress doesn’t become an in-room sinkhole equivalent. It’ll just take two of you pushing at opposite corners of the mattress while it’s sat flat on the frame to turn it around. No pivoting, flipping, dragging or squeezing through doors required. Getting on board with a regular turning schedule (at least once every eight weeks) can really save you a lot of queen-size heartache.
Airing mattresses every now and again, letting them enjoy the breeze without heavy quilts, sheets or mattress toppers raining on their springy parade can also do a world of good. It turns out that mattresses like alone time just as much as the next hotelier, and will happily spend a couple of hours evaporating any condensation created by body heat.
Of course, it’s also a good idea to read the fine print of any manufacturer’s warranty because there might be other things excluded that you can prevent. One example would be remembering not to bend a mattress in half (while squeezing it through doors, for instance) because this can cause some internal mattress damage that isn’t classed as a manufacturing fault and will most likely therefore not be covered by any warranty. It’s also worth checking with your chosen supplier about cleaning maintenance because chemicals can sometimes damage the materials present in the mattresses.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to stop people from jumping on your beds but hey, at least that’s evidence you’re doing right by their spines!