Mattress Overlays

Mattress overlays are products which are designed to be fitted on top of an existing mattress to increase the comfort and pressure relieving qualities of the mattress. They are usually less expensive than replacement mattresses but are also less effective.

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Egg crate mattress overlays

Eggcrate Mattress

Eggcrate mattress overlays are the absolute bottom end of the mattress overlay products is known as an egg crate mattress. These overlays come in 2", 3" and 4" thick versions and are made from low end foam which is flat on the bottom and bumpy like the inside of an egg carton on the top. I've been told that anything less than 4" thick is a waste of money. They come in single, twin, double and queen sizes and will probably last about a year before they need to be thrown out.

Memory foam mattress overlays

Memory foam mattress overlay

Memory foam mattress overlays are the same idea as an egg crate mattresses except, the quality of the foam is substantially better, they are 2 or 3 inches thick and they are flat on both sides. Memory foam is a higher density and has different properties than regular foam. When pressure is applied to regular foam it will depress but it also tries to push back which is okay for couches and pillows but can be a problem to those at risk for pressure sores. Memory foam will depress under pressure but it the amount it pushes back is very low. This is demonstrated by how slowly it returns to it's original shape when pressure it removed from it. These traits of memory foam enables the mattress to disperses the weight of the person on it thus reducing the areas of high pressure. The covers of these mattresses allow the skin to breathe which reduces the moisture caused by sweating and the heat generated by the body. Memory foam does not break down and wear out as quickly as regular foam and will last the purchaser many years.

Gel mattress overlays

Polymer type gel mattress overlay

Gel mattress overlays are about 3/4" to 2" thick, are made of a polymer (or similar) gel. Some are designed to cover the entire surface while others are smaller and for isolated areas of an existing standard mattress. Often used by hospitals and long term care facilities as a component in prevention and treatment of pressure sores because it does not promote bacterial growth and is easily cleaned. These overlays are fairly heavy and work amazing well considering the thickness of the product.

Air mattress overlays

Air cushion mattress overlay

Air mattress overlays are placed on an existing mattress are basically a bladder filled with air that the patient floats on. The air mattress consists of many rows of fist sized cells which have to be inflated to the proper air pressure to provide the proper pressure reducing results. While providing excellent pressure relief, to much or too little pressure in the mattress overlay will greatly affect the pressure relieving qualities. This style of mattress overlay is susceptible to air leaks which take some time to find and repair.

Alternating pressure pads

APP mattress overlay

Alternating pressure pads are two air cells which are intertwined throughout a plastic mat which is placed directly on a mattress. This mat is then covered by a sheet to sleep on and two small air hoses are routed to a small electric air pump. This is a completely different system than the other overlays mentioned in that there is nothing soft about it. How it works is, one cell is inflated creating pressure points on the body while the other cell deflates. Then the deflated cell inflates and the inflated cell deflates. The theory is, the pressure points keep changing back and forth in a sort of massaging action thus simulating movement by the patient. This "massaging action" actually stimulates blood flow which reduces the chances of developing a pressure sore. The length of time for an alternating pressure pad to produces a full cycle is probably 10 to 20 minutes. With the improvements in mattresses over the years I don't believe alternating pressure pads are used very often anymore but there may be a few around. They were also prone to leaking if accidentally pricked with something sharp. 

Low air loss alternating pressure overlay

Low air loss mattress overlay

The low air loss alternating pressure mattress overlay is a step up from the standard alternating pressure pads. Added to the benefits provided by alternating pressure, low air loss mattress overlays provide the patient with additional pressure relief, a reduction of heat and moisture. While the other overlay options presented here are designed to help delay or prevent pressure sores, the low air loss overlay may actually contribute to healing of minor pressure sores.




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