What Is Memory Foam?

11 min read
11 min read

If you have gone shopping for your bedding lately, you are familiar with the term ‘memory foam.’ But, what is memory foam? It is a synthetic material used in mattresses and other bedding. Its soft and elastic nature makes it suitable for body aches.

If you are planning to buy a memory foam mattress, we have got your back. This blog will take you through everything you need to know about memory foam mattresses- the features, pros, cons, and different types of mattresses.

What Is Memory Foam?

Memory foam is a synthetic material that is viscoelastic. It is made of polyurethane combined with some chemicals. 

NASA first designed the memory foam in the 1960s for use in the spaceship seats and belts. They would provide extra cushioning and safety to the pilots. Due to its shock-absorbing properties, memory foam was also used in helmets and shoes. Gradually, mattress companies began to use this material, and today memory foam mattresses have won several hearts.

The popularity of memory foam is growing every day. Reports show that memory foam mattresses and pillows will cross 8 billion dollars in sales by 2023.

Different manufacturers have their techniques to manufacture memory foam mattresses tailored to the needs of various sleepers. However, all memory foam mattresses are viscous and elastic. Viscosity means that the mattress takes time to change shape under pressure. And, elasticity refers to the fact that these mattresses will return to their original shape once the pressure is released.

What Is Memory Foam Made of?

Let us take a sneak peek at how is memory foam made. Memory foam is a viscoelastic foam made of a kind of polymer known as polyurethane. Manufacturers mix several chemicals with polyurethane to give it a viscoelastic nature.

Different manufacturers use different chemicals with polyurethane. That makes every memory foam product unique. However, all memory foam mattresses contain a compound called polyether polyol which makes them viscous and elastic.

Memory foam tends to trap body heat. So, manufacturers are using materials like gel and copper along with foam for a cooling effect. That’s why you can get a gel memory foam mattress these days to keep you cool.

How Does Memory Foam Work?

Memory foam adapts to the contours of your body, keeping your spine in its natural alignment. So, if you ask, “Is memory foam good for your back?” the answer is a resounding yes. Since your spine stays aligned, you don’t get back pain. Moreover, it also offers adequate pressure relief to your hip joint.

Since memory foam is viscous, it takes time to change its shape on the application of pressure. This quality makes it an excellent shock absorber. Thus, memory foam mattresses cushion your body, giving you a snug and comfortable sleep.

The viscosity and elasticity of memory foam also reduce motion transfer. When you move in your bed, the mattress takes time to transfer and dissipate the energy. So, your partner will not get disturbed by your movements and vice versa.

Another cool feature about memory foam is that its viscosity decreases with a temperature rise. That means it becomes more flexible as it gets warmer. Thus, your mattress feels softer after sleeping on it for a while. That is because its temperature rises when you lie down for a long time. So, memory foam mattresses will feel cozier when you sleep longer.

Types of Memory Foam Mattress

Now that you know what is a memory foam mattress, let us look at its different types.

Traditional

Traditional memory foam is the first type of memory foam that was invented by NASA. It adapts to the contours of your body, giving a snug and cozy feeling.

One drawback of this type of foam is, however, it traps your body heat. So, you might get up in the middle of the night all drenched in sweat. That’s why manufacturers are making several improvements to make these mattresses cooler so that you can get better sleep.

Open-cell 

Open-cell memory foam mattresses come with pockets on the surface to allow airflow. That doesn’t let it trap body heat and keeps you cool throughout the night.

Though these mattresses are cooler than the traditional ones, they are less dense on the surface due to holes and pockets. Open-cell mattresses are often made of lower-quality materials.

Gel 

There is not much difference between memory foam vs gel memory foam. In the latter, gel is infused in the foam of the mattress. It acts as a coolant by regulating your body temperature.

If you tend to sleep hot, gel memory foam mattresses are the perfect choice for you. However, these mattresses are denser and heavier than the traditional ones because gel adds to the weight of the mattress. So, it’s difficult to move them from one place to another. Moreover, they are not as durable due to their weight.

These days, some manufacturers also use copper instead of gel for its cooling effects. Copper is an excellent conductor and helps in both heat dispersal and moisture-wicking. Thus, it would be comfortable to sleep on such a mattress on a hot and humid day.

Eco-Friendly foam

As concerns for the environment are rising, t=you will find new types of materials in mattresses. Instead of the petroleum products that can harm the environment, eco-friendly and biodegradable materials are being used.

Plant-based materials like soy or corn oil are used in the manufacturing of mattresses. They are called green mattresses since they do not harm the environment in any way. However, they are still not that common, and more research is underway.

Memory Foam Mattress Construction

Before diving into the pros and cons of memory foam mattresses let’s look at their construction.

There are several ways of constructing memory foam mattresses. It depends on the level of comfort and support the manufacturer wants to give the mattress. However, there are three basic stages common to all memory foam mattresses.

1. The comfort layer

It is the topmost layer of the mattress on which you lie down. It is made up of one or two foam layers to provide cushioning to your body. This layer adapts to the contours of your body, letting you sleep comfortably.

These days, mattress companies are using breathable foams in this section to wick heat away.

2. The transition layer

The transition layer lies between the comfort layer and the core of the mattress. It consists of a single or double layer of memory foam. This latter is slightly denser than the comfort layer and its main function is to absorb heat away from the comfort layer.

 3. The core

It is the innermost layer of the mattress also known as its base. This layer is the firmest and the thickest. 

The primary function of the core is to provide support and stability to the mattress. It might have two or more layers of foam. However, in hybrid mattresses, the base contains springs and coils instead. That adds enhanced support and bounce to your mattress.

Memory Foam Mattress: Pros and Cons

Pros 

Here are the numerous advantages of memory foam mattresses.

Pressure Relief 

Memory foam adjusts to the contours of your body. So, it keeps your spine in perfect alignment and prevents back pain. Moreover, it provides a cushioning effect to your joints, keeping all aches and pains at bay.

Memory foam mattresses are also a perfect fit for side and stomach sleepers. The firmness is perfect for them so that they don’t feel they are sleeping on a hard surface. 

Hypoallergenic

Do you wake up rubbing your eyes and nose every morning? Sometimes, even your sleep might get disrupted due to sudden sneezing. Stop suffering and bring home a memory foam mattress. The dense foam will not allow dust particles, dust mites, pollen, and other allergens to settle on the mattress.

Many people are allergic to wool and feathers. You can stay assured since memory foam mattresses don’t contain any such materials that can trigger allergies.

Memory foam is quite dense and has no space for moisture to accumulate between the layers. Trapped moisture forms a breeding ground for dust mites and other allergens. So, you don’t have to worry if you are using memory foam mattresses.

Suitable for all sleeping positions

It doesn’t matter whether you are a side sleeper, back sleeper, or stomach sleeper. A memory foam mattress can accommodate anyone and that too without compromising your comfort.

Side sleepers will get adequate pressure relief and back sleepers will get the perfect support for their spine. Stomach sleepers won’t find the surface hard. At the same time, they won’t sink into the mattress, putting strain on their backs.

Some people are combination sleepers. If you change your sleeping position throughout the night, there’s no reason to worry. Memory foam mattresses are viscoelastic and adjust well to the contours of your body.

These mattresses are also perfect for couples. That’s because you and your partner might sleep in different positions but none of you have to compromise with your comfort.

Minimum Motion Transfer

Do you move a lot in your sleep? It might disturb your partner. Well, you might also be the one getting disturbed by their movements. But you don’t have to worry about memory foam mattresses. You will not even realize if your partner moves in their sleep and vice versa.

Their viscosity makes these mattresses excellent shock absorbers. They don’t bounce like innerspring mattresses. Instead, they stay put.

Durable 

One of the superb benefits of memory foam mattress is that it is more durable compared to other mattresses. A good-quality memory foam mattress can easily last 10 to 15 years.

Since these mattresses are dense, they don’t sag like spring mattresses. So, buying a memory foam mattress will be a worthwhile investment for you.

Suitable for Adjustable Beds

You can adjust these beds according to your convenience. Doctors often suggest adjustable beds for treating various medical conditions. However, it is difficult to choose a mattress for these beds because the constant bending might ruin your mattress. That is where memory foam mattresses come in as the savior. They are flexible enough and won’t get damaged due to bending and compressing.

Cons

Besides these numerous benefits, there are also a few disadvantages of memory foam mattresses. Let’s take a look at them.

Retains Heat

A memory foam mattress can retain your body heat, making you warm and uncomfortable at night. Many sleepers tend to avoid these mattresses because of this drawback. However, innovations have removed this con by infusing gel or copper to provide a cooling effect.

Not Water Resistant

Memory foam mattresses are not water-resistant. So, you have to be careful with food and drinks. Spilling liquids on your mattress might reduce its lifespan.

It is best to get a mattress protector that will protect your mattress from spills and also enhance your comfort.

Heavy

Memory foam is a dense material and that makes these mattresses heavier than others. You can’t move them easily from one place to another.

The high density, however, makes these mattresses high quality. So, you can’t compromise with it. Manufacturers have made several innovations and you can get these mattresses transported to your homes in small boxes.

Unpleasant Odor

Some people complain of a distinct odor from these mattresses. It happens due to off-gassing. When the volatile organic compounds in the mattress break down on exposure to air, they release an unpleasant odor. You might also find it allergic.

Airing out your mattress for a few days will solve the problem. However, if you want a permanent solution, you can choose a plant-based mattress.

Expensive 

Memory foam mattresses are far more expensive than other traditional mattresses. But, the investment will be worth your money as you will get the maximum comfort. Moreover, your memory foam mattress will last for several years.

How to Choose the Right Memory Foam Mattress?

You might get confused by the different types of foam mattresses. How will you choose the best one for you? You have to consider some factors before buying your memory foam mattress so that you don’t have to compromise with your sleep quality.

Weight 

The weight of your memory foam mattress is a crucial thing to consider. But how will you understand whether you need a heavier or lighter mattress?

If you are large and bulky, you will require more support to ensure that you don’t sink into the mattress. Thus, a dense and heavy mattress would be perfect for you. It will hold you in place and provide adequate support. A lighter mattress might make you sink into it, making you uncomfortable.

Heavier mattresses will also last longer if you are bulky. That’s because a light mattress will sag and deteriorate faster under your weight.

What if you are thin? In that case, you will need a lighter and softer mattress. A dense mattress might feel too hard when you lie down. A lighter mattress will give you a comfortable night of sleep.

The Material

Not all memory foam mattresses have the same material. If your seller tries to convince you that all memory foam mattresses are the same, you better not believe them.

Choose the material of your memory foam mattress according to your preference and level of comfort. If you tend to sleep hot, you can choose a gel memory foam mattress to keep you cool.

These mattresses also have different levels of firmness. If you have back pain, you might need a firmer mattress for more support. While, if you have aching joints, a softer mattress will provide more pressure relief. 

It is crucial to choose your mattress material with caution so that you don’t have to compromise with your sleep quality.

Durability

What is the use of investing your hard-earned money if your mattress does not last long enough? Moreover, buying a memory foam mattress isn’t a small investment. And, you will want to make sure that your money doesn’t get wasted.

You can determine the durability of your mattress by three factors

  • The density of the foam
  • The material used in the foam
  • Your BMI ( body mass index) or weight

How long should you use your mattress? Well, you can use it as long as it gives the same level of comfort as when you purchased it.

Standardized Testing Certifications

You would want to make sure that your mattress is safe and does not contain harmful chemicals that can take a toll on your health. Some chemicals used in mattresses are also harmful to the environment. Look for the Certipur-US certification while purchasing your mattress. This certification indicates that the memory foam of your mattress does not contain any chemicals that can harm your health.

If your mattress has a Certipur-US certification, it will not contain any mercury, lead, or formaldehyde. These are toxic substances that can harm your health.

Don’t forget to check the certifications of your mattress before buying. That will give you one less thing to worry about.

Final Word

Sleeping on memory foam might be the best decision in your life./ It will give a cozy and comfortable night of sleep after a tiring day. Moreover, it will; take care of your body aches and pains. However, make sure you read our guide carefully before purchasing your mattress to ensure you get your perfect match.

Is memory foam good for your back? The answer is a resounding yes. Memory foam mattresses adapt to the contours of your body, keeping your spine in its natural alignment. That prevents back pain.

There is not much difference between gel memory foam and memory foam. The former is nothing but the regular memory foam infused with gel for a cooling effect. So, you can buy a gel memory foam mattress if you tend to sleep warm.

Memory foam mattresses can last 10 years or more. They are more durable than other mattresses.

No. Memory foam mattresses don’t need a box spring. A bed frame with a regular bed base is enough. Box springs go well with innerspring mattresses.

Not all memory foam mattresses are eco-friendly. However, some manufacturers use natural materials which are eco-friendly and biodegradable.

A good-quality memory foam mattress can cost you somewhere around $ 800 to $ 1000. You can also get it at a lower cost. However, the quality might differ.



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Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

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Sleep Coach

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Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

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Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians