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How We Designed Australia’s Best Mattress in a Box

Bedbuyer and Choice

An interview with our design team explains how we did it.

Awarded by the industry, endorsed by the scientific community and beloved by our customers. Mattress manufacturers are famous for speaking in superlatives. Within 10 minutes of browsing, you’ll find hundreds of mattress manufacturers claiming to make sleep-inducing ache-curing flawless mattresses. Of course, we’ve made our fair share of bold claims, too — but in our case, we can back up each one.

  • The Sleep Republic hybrid mattress has been awarded Australia’s premier mattress in a box for 2020, 2021 and 2022 by Bedbuyer.
  • The licensed chiropractors at The Australian Spinal Research Foundation have officially endorsed it, recognising our hybrid pocket spring mattress for its “high quality in relation to ergonomic design, function, and for its proposed use.”
  • As for our buyers? Well, their reviews speak for themselves.

It’s important to take pride in one’s work, but when we celebrate the success of our hybrid mattresses, there isn’t a nebulous corporate ‘we’ behind the boasting. Instead, there’s a real team of designers, manufacturing technicians, quality control testers and store staff who deserve every boast. 

Every win we make is a credit to our team, and we want to highlight that effort.

So we’ve interviewed Mark Ottley, founder of Sleep Republic, for his insights into how Australia’s favourite mattress is designed, manufactured and tested.

Who Designs Australia’s Best Mattress?

Mark Ottley, the founder of Sleep Republic, has been in the mattress business quite literally his whole life. Scuttling around mattress factories since he was 5, he found his calling quickly and has worked in production, purchasing, design, logistics, sales and customer service. 

When the time came to create Sleep Republic, he knew he needed the right team. And so, he surrounded himself with mattress industry experts, experienced chiropractors, raw material specialists, and manufacturing and product design experts. 

Who you won’t find on the design team is anyone from Marketing — unusual for most manufacturers. It’s uncommon for most industries. Still, Ottley wanted a total focus on creating the perfect mattress “without any external factors affecting our decisions on how it should look or what features are good to market.”

The crucial design focus? “The mattress is purely designed for comfort, support and durability,” says Ottley.

Where Did the Sleep Republic Mattress Concept Come From?

Ottley remembers the chaos of buying a new mattress — a job that should have been perfectly painless. “Mattresses were missing honesty,” as he put it. Quality, construction and material weren’t the key selling points for mattresses. Marketing was.

“It was almost impossible to wade through the marketing jargon while trying to compare each model”, shares Ottley. “In a lot of cases, most mattresses were the same, but just made in a different fabric with a different name.”

Customers needed a new mattress manufacturer. One that could prioritise sleep quality, speak directly and sincerely listen to them. Cue Ottley’s light bulb moment. “We realised that 80% of customers wanted the same thing: medium/firm mattresses that were comfortable, but also very supportive.”

Analysing over 30 years of sales data, it became clear to the growing design team that customers “wanted the mattress to be temperature neutral, have natural materials and last longer than 10 years.” At the time, no mattress had successfully combined all the desired elements.

Ottley and the design team needed to break new ground, to come up with something truly revolutionary. But where would they even begin?

How Did the Sleep Republic Mattress Design Evolve?

The team already knew that no existing mattress type met the brief. None really even came close. 

Innerspring mattresses offered decent support but lacked comfort and longevity. Memory foam mattresses offered plush comfort but slept hot and lacked support. Other mattress types excelled at some features and failed at others. No mattress was quite right for any sleeping position.

What other option did Ottley and the Sleep Republic team have? “We started from the ground up in designing the mattress.”

The first element they tackled was the support system. Customers needed a firmer mattress that wasn’t a brick to be thrown out in a year. What if they could redesign the standard innerspring mattress to cut the downsides and boost the benefits?

“This took the longest to perfect, says Ottley. “We went through multiple iterations before we settled on the HD pocket spring system.” The new high-definition springs provided strong body weight support across the entire mattress, as well as significantly more partner isolation than existing innerspring mattresses. “We then had to marry up the comfort layers on top of the spring so that they provided the right comfort without sagging,” he continues.

The team experimented with mattress materials, testing latex, polyurethane foam, and memory foam formulas. Each element had to be tested for its comfort, support and durability. There was a perfect combination to be found, and they believed they were the team to do it.

“What we learned was that balance is key. Just because one material worked well across tests on its own doesn’t mean it will work correctly with other materials,” shares Ottley.

When the right recipe couldn’t be found, the team attempted to create their own proprietary memory foam. 

It was a long, tedious process. 15 prototype mattresses were built, and consumer tested. Every flaw found meant the team had to return to the drawing board. But 15 became 5, and in time, 5 became 1.

The ideal mattress design had finally been found.

What’s Inside the Best Mattress Australia Has to Offer?

“We believe in a ‘form follows function’ principle”, Ottley says, and the winning design proves it. The Sleep Republic hybrid mattress is a composite of high-definition pocket springs, latex and gel-infused memory foam.

The rigorous prototyping process left the Sleep Republic team with the infrastructure needed to manufacture the HD pocket springs and gel-infused memory foam in-house to their exact standards. What couldn’t be self-made was carefully sourced. Other materials, such as natural latex for the transitional layer and cashmere for the upholstery layers, are supplied directly by the manufacturer.

If you’ve ever wondered what is inside a mattress, let’s look inside our award winner.

High Definition Pocket Springs for Support

“The HD pocket spring was created because we could not find the correct support system,” explains Ottley.

The average coil mattress contains around 900 steel coils. The Sleep Republic hybrid mattress can fit up to 2500 pocketed coils. The HD spring system enables us to maintain the ideal firmness level for the vast majority of Australians.

Our high definition pocket springs are slimmer, taller and more tightly coiled than standard springs. Where other springs leave you with an unsupportive, soft mattress, our HD springs provide over 3 times the support. Each heat-tempered steel spring is individually secured in a fabric pocket to help maintain integrity over time.

Gel-Infused Memory Foam for Comfort

The comfort layer is vital for supporting the body’s pressure points. Stomach sleepers, back sleepers and side sleepers each have different considerations brought on by their preferred sleeping position. For example, side sleepers need a softer mattress to cradle their shoulders and hips, whereas back and stomach sleepers need firmer support to keep their spines aligned and ease back pain.

We knew memory foam would allow us to reach the medium/firm balance our customers needed. However, it is known to absorb body heat and sleep hot, making it even softer, giving sleepers the feeling of sinking into the mattress.

Manufacturing memory foam ourselves allowed us to tinker with the recipe and add a few more benefits. By blending liquid gel and particle gel into memory foam, we created a temperature-neutral foam that maintained enough supportive resistance to keep the spine and joints aligned, whatever the sleeping position.

Sleep Republic’s proprietary memory foam is CertiPUR-US® certified. They’re a collection of independent, accredited laboratories that ensure mattress materials are free of harmful substances. That means our foam has:

  • No heavy metals, like mercury or lead
  • No formaldehyde
  • No phthalates
  • No ozone-depleting substances
  • No flame retardants
  • Low volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions

Natural Latex for Breathability

Latex mattresses are renowned for their breathability, coolness and hypoallergenic properties. These are all qualities Ottley and the design team knew the mattress needed. Natural latex does come with a price tag, though. 

Synthetic latex, while cost-effective, lacks the supportive springiness, durability and breathability. The price cut wasn’t worth the cost of a good night’s sleep, though.

“The HD pocket springs are firm and supportive while the gel-infused memory foam is soft and contouring. We needed a super resilient layer in between to transfer the sleeper’s weight from the soft top layer to the firm bottom layer,” says Ottley. “We chose natural latex because it is 100% natural, non-toxic, antimicrobial and super resilient… it was a no-brainer to use in the mattress.”

5 Unique Body Zones and Improved Edge Support 

Most spring mattress types have 3 distinct body zones, if any. The spring tension in these zones is calibrated to better support the joints and spinal alignment of the sleeper. Going up to 5 distinct support zones allowed the design team to achieve more targeted calibration, making for an even more comfortable sleep than conventional mattresses could provide.

“To get the perfect balance of support and pressure relief: 3 primary zones support the shoulders, lumbar and upper legs, and 2 secondary zones support the head and lower legs,” says Ottley.

Customer research revealed that one of the most important failings in modern mattresses is a lack of edge support. That’s especially true of all-foam mattresses. 

“Edge support is one of the most important features of a mattress. It not only provides a firm seating edge to get in and out of bed, it also stops roll-off and allows for the full area of the mattress to be slept on,” shares the experienced mattress maker.

A straightforward problem uncovered and solved by simply listening to customers.

3D Spacer Fabric for Cool Airflow, Stability and Coolness

Science fiction or marketing hoo-hah? The name, ‘3D Spacer’, is actually quite an accurate description of the material. In 3D spacer fabric, 2 fabric layers are stitched together by a fine layer of threading between their surfaces — that gap between them is the ‘space’. The ‘3D’ just refers to their manufactured structure. 

The design team realised spacer fabric would be the perfect material to wrap the mattress. Spacer fabric has excellent breathability, pressure stability and thermoregulation. As a result, sweat and body heat quickly dissipates, helping customers stay comfortable and sleep cooler.

All of the fabrics found in the Sleep Republic mattress, including the cashmere surface, are CSIRO certified and rated STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®. What do those mean, I hear you ask?

CSIRO is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. They’re Australia’s national science agency, and they certified us for high material quality and safety standards.

OEKO-TEX® is an international collection of independent laboratories that test products for harmful substances. STANDARD 100 is their highest standard and indicates that a product is entirely and absolutely free of hazardous chemicals or toxins.

What Makes a Mattress High Quality? 12 Years of Testing

The mattress that the Sleep Republic team initially designed has remained virtually unchanged. The design team fulfilled Ottley’s vision, and our customer’s satisfaction proved it. But that was years ago. So how are mattresses built and tested today?

“All Sleep Republic mattresses are handmade, and we have strict quality control processes that review every production run,” explains Ottley.

The materials are handmade to build quality control directly into the manufacturing process. Every step of the assembly process is intentional and careful.

Our testing runs in a 3 step process.

1 Material Gauging

All of the raw materials are checked to ensure they meet our specifications. Our specs include their quality, comfort feel, density, size and thickness.

2 Testing

After a batch of mattresses has been assembled, a tester mattress will be subjected to a battery of tests. These include:

  • Heavy-duty rollers
  • Deadweight compression
  • Seating edge test
  • Rapid bounce pressure

By subjecting the mattress to 1400 newtons of force 36,000 times, we can simulate the stress the typical mattress would endure over 12 years of use.

3 Quality Assurance

After being put through the wringer, the thoroughly tested mattress is compared to a master sample. That’s where our team of chiropractors and mattress specialists step in. If the used mattress holds up compared to the untouched one, we know the batch is ready to go.

The Endgame: Why Design The Best Possible Mattress?

To put it simply: someone has to. 

Sleep is a major component of a person’s overall well-being. People need good rest. And they need proper spine alignment while they do it. They trust mattress makers with the well-being of their loved ones. It’s not a light responsibility. 

Sleep Republic was founded because not all mattress makers take that responsibility seriously.

Nobody really knows who designs mattresses. People may not have the time or inclination to ask, ‘how is mattress foam made?’, ‘how are mattresses constructed?’ or even ‘what is the best mattress structure for me?’. They simply want to look at the latest mattress designs and hope they’re as good as the box says.

Sleep Republic makes mattresses that people can trust. That’s always been our goal. 

“There is no point in designing a mattress that looks cool or has a bunch of features when it doesn’t feel good or provides enough support and fails after a few years,” confirms Ottley. “It needs to be made totally for its intended use, which is sleeping,”

If you’d like to see what all the fuss is about, then maybe you’d like to sleep on Sleep Republic’s award-winning mattress yourself.