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Forget memory foam mattresses on the road.
By Barbara Correa
Thursday, 26th October 2006
 
For all the amenities available at top business class hotels - a good night's rest is arguably still the most important. The hotel bed wars, which kicked off in the late 1990s when Westin launched its 900-coil, down-blanketed "Heavenly Bed,'' pretty well laid to rest the image of the traveling salesman with the bad back lugging a solid board with him wherever he went.

For all the expense and trouble big hotels have gone to in recent years to improve bedding and beds, it's difficult to get much detail until you're actually in the room, lying down. Indeed, it took some online digging to help answer a question posed by a reader.

Business traveler Phil Magnotti writes: "I usually travel 7-9 days a month, and stay at a Mirage or four-star hotel.I do like to have a good night's sleep and am wondering why there hasn't been a trend toward using memory mattresses at the hotel chains?''

Magnotti is right about the lack of NASA-created "memory foam" mattresses in hotels. Among all the dreamily-described bed linens and mattresses, I found not one mention of the stuff.

Luxurious linens, no foam

The Crowne Plaza touts its "Sleep Advantage'' system, which includes a bed with seven (!) pillows, a plush duvet,luxurious sheets, special CDs and designated "Quiet Zone" floors free of children or housekeeping crews before 10in the morning.Starwood's W Signature king bedhas 350-count linens, custom pillow-top mattress and featherbed, down-filled duvet and goose down pillows.

Hilton's Suite Dreams bedding program features a plush-top mattress designed by Serta that is posturized, meaning it is custom-designed with added coil support, particularly in the center of the bed, where most weight is concentrated. In addition, the innovative patented quilt design reduces tossing and turning and helps to improve circulation while sleeping. Marriott has a special "bedding package'' with feather and foam pillows. But no memory mattresses.

The Web site of memory-foam maker Tempur-Pedic lists lodgings with memory foam mattresses, but there are very few, and no major chains.

Stay tuned

Tempur-Pedic marketing director Mike Mason says the reason for its spare hotel presence has nothing to do with the relatively high cost of its beds (an original king size Tempur-Pedic mattress retails for almost $1,500). Instead, he says you won't find Tempur-Pedic in the rooms of big hotel chains because the company's rapid growth has limited inventory. "There weren't beds to go around,'' he says, adding that he expects that to change next year, when Tempur-Pedic plans a major marketing appeal to the hotel industry. Not that the Ritz-Carltons and Hyatt Regencys of the world have been beating the door down to get memory foam in their rooms. "They've been focusing more on the bedding than on the mattresses.''

As for consumer complaints about an odor the beds give off when they are new, Mason shrugs that off as a few people making a mountain out of a molehill. "When the mattresses are produced, they emit a harmless gas, but it goes away within a few days.'' He admits he's heard a few stories "close to urban legends'' about owners suffering from headaches and worse after sleeping on memory foam for a few nights, but says those ailments aren't caused by the chemicals in memory foam.

Something to sleep on.

Write to: Barbaracorrea@yahoo.com, business travel columnist for Yahoo! News.

Barbara Correa has been writing about business and travel for more than 15 years. At The Wall Street Journal, she was co-creator and editor of Business Fare, the online business travel section launched by the Journal's Interactive Edition in 1998. She has also written for Variety, TravelAge West, and the Los Angeles Daily News
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