The ergonomics arm of FIRA International has authored the latest publication from the Furniture Industry Research Association, entitled A review into the validity of interface pressure mapping to assess perceived comfort: Guidelines for best practice.

The 43-page research paper sets out to discover if pressure mapping can be used as a tool to assess comfort. It first examines how comfort is defined, then explores tools which can be used to evaluate it, including subjective data, interface pressure mapping and spinal alignment assessment methods. It concludes with a suggested mattress evaluation method, offering practical guidance for manufacturers, designers and retailers when comparing the comfort of mattresses, taking into consideration the test environment, the selection of participants, the positioning of subjects, test duration and the collection and analysis of data.

Levent Çaglar, head of the ergonomics unit, at FIRA International, comments: “Comfort can be perceived as such a subjective matter, especially when it comes to mattresses and sleeping – this is why we were so eager to undertake this project on behalf of the Furniture Industry Research Association.

"The industry has been looking for a more objective way of assessing mattresses during design and development to optimise the support and comfort of the sleeper, and to cater for the wide range of body shapes, sizes and weights. This research goes a long way to achieving this.

“One key takeaway from this research is that the combination of pressure distribution and spinal alignment can be used as strong indicators of long-term comfort, which in turn impacts quality of sleep. However, comfort perception is influenced by a large variety of factors, many of which are not directly relevant to actual physical comfort, highlighting how unreliable subjective feedback can be, and making this research into objective methods of assessment even more important.

“In such a crowded market demonstrating the scientific comfort of a mattress can give designers, manufacturers and retailers an edge. Consumers then can have a better night’s sleep, which brings so many benefits.”

The report is available to all members of the Furniture Industry Research Association here.