You’ve probably come across a memory foam mattress now and then. Perhaps you laid on one in a retail store, or maybe you know somebody who has one and talks about how much they love it. You probably already know something about memory foam mattresses. You’ve probably heard they are expensive, costing a few thousand dollars from such manufacturers like Tempur-Pedic and Sealy.
What if I told you that a new memory foam mattress is more affordable than ever, and that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get one. In fact you can spend well under a thousand dollars for a new memory foam mattress and bed-frame, and have a ten to twenty year warranty on your purchase.
Below I will detail some brief information about memory foam beds. I’ve been using them for nearly ten years now, and I will never go back to an innerspring mattress. The reviews found on this web page are of memory foam mattresses I actually own and have in my house and cabin.
What Is A Memory Foam Mattress
Memory foam was developed in 1966 under contract by NASA‘s Ames Research Center. The intent was to improve safety features in aircraft cushions so that the affects of g-forces would be reduced as felt on the human body. In the early 1980’s NASA released memory foam technology to the public domain. Memory foam was most typically found in medical settings in the 80’s and 90’s. It was commonly used where patients were required to be immobile in their beds on a firm mattress for lengthy and unhealthy periods of time. Pressure on some of the body regions in immobile patients impaired blood flow that caused pressure sores and even gangrene. Memory foam mattresses decreased such events significantly.
Manufacturing memory foam in the 80s and 90’s was expensive and difficult, but in recent years the process has become simplified and costs have come down. Memory foam beds have a higher approval rating among their users than any of type of bed. Recent studies show that over 82% of memory foam mattress users approve of their beds, while only 60% of spring loaded mattress users approve of theirs.
The foam used to manufacture these types of beds is different from other types of foams in the regard that there are individual cells that have holes in them. When weight is applied the pressure from the weight gets evenly distributed and the foam molds to the weight and shape of the object applying pressure. When applied to the human body as the object providing the weight, it balances and reduces stress on the body’s pressure points. When heat is applied to the weight, as is typical from a human body, the memory foam becomes softer and conforms better to the body.
Memory foam mattresses are manufactured using viscoelastic polyurethane foam and usually consist of three layers. Some beds will have more, or multiple layers of the comfort and support layers.
Memory Foam Mattress, basic three layer design.
- Comfort layer: Is the top layer and is made to mold to your body’s shape when it comes in contact with weight and body heat. By conforming to your body the downward pressure that causes stress on your joints that is created by gravity is eliminated. When you are no longer laying on the foam it will cool and return to its original flat form.
- Support Layer: Located in the center of the mattress, it is more rigid than the comfort layer so that the overall mattress shape remains the same and supports the top layer.
- Base Layer: This is the bottom layer which is the most stiff, or firm, and supports the other layers above it.
Each of the above layers mentioned can have additional sub-layers of the same foam support that allows for additional benefits depending on manufacturer, such as increased airflow.
Why Is A Memory Foam Mattress Better?
You know what these beds are made of. And you also know about their various layers. But what makes these beds so much better to sleep on than spring mattress?
- Pressure Point Relief: When a person lays in a position for a very long time the pressure of downward pulling gravity in spring beds can affect circulation and damage soft tissues by pushing back on the body. When you lay on memory foam it adjusts to your shape and does not push back, thus it does not add upward pressure on the sleeper.
- Supports Back and Spine Alignment: Memory foam conforms to the contours of one’s body, minimizing and eliminating gaps between the person and the mattress. This means that your weight is distributed almost equally on the foam mattress which minimizes pressure points that can cause aches and pains from poor spine alignment.
- Lifespan and Durability: On average memory foam mattresses have a life span of seven to fifteen years, and most manufacturers provide warranties from ten to twenty years.
- Motion Isolation: Foam mattresses isolate movement that allows a person to move around on the bed, and get on or off without causing any disturbance to their partner.
- Little to No Noise: Memory foam mattresses are typically silent under all conditions, unlike innerspring manufactured mattresses.
- Sleep Positions: Back sleepers as well as side sleepers have reported being more comfortable and sleeping better under supervised studies when sleeping on foam mattresses.
- Fully Relaxed Sleep: The more relaxed you are, the faster you fall asleep and the better sleep you have. Since every part of your body is being supported evenly by the memory foam despite your weight and curvature, you become more fully relaxed. Being fully relaxed means you will enjoy deeper sleeping for longer periods.
- Allergies/Dust Mites/Fungus/Bacteria: Memory foam is better for your health in many ways than traditional beds and pillows. Polyurethane inhibits the growth of mold, fungus, and dust mites. Memory foam is considered naturally hypo-allergenic.
Essentially it breaks down like this: Spring mattresses push back on your body when you sleep. After a period of time parts of your body feel the effects of that push back and your body wants to change positions. When changing positions your slumber is usually interrupted to greater or lesser extents. This is one of the major factors of how your bed affects you getting a good night’s sleep. Spring mattresses also do not support your weight evenly, causing you to feel uncomfortable sooner.
Memory foam mattresses cradle all the parts of your body evenly based on weight of the body parts. It does not push back on your body. So you can sleep in a comfortable position much longer without adjusting positions. It gives you a better night’s sleep.
A memory foam mattress will provide a great deal more comfort and relief of body aches and pains than any innerspring mattress. They have been associated with helping people who suffer from teeth-grinding, migraines and headaches, chronic body and back pain, pins and needle sensations from poor circulation, snoring and of course sleep apnea.
Yes, there are a few negatives about memory foam beds. But with that said the negatives are actually rather minor. In fact recent technology in foam bed manufacturing has helped alleviate two of the negative issues.
- Heat Retention: About 9% of people who sleep on a memory foam mattress say their bed retains heat, and as a result sleeps hot which results in sweating and sometimes poor sleep. In addition 15% of owners report that their beds sleep warm but to a comfortable enough level where the warmth didn’t bother their sleep. Those are low percentages, which should tell you that most memory foam bed owners experience no heat related issues. Furthermore, new manufacturing in foam beds on some models includes a gel layer that is meant to keep the mattress cooler when sleeping on it. If heat may be an issue for you, consider getting a foam mattress with a gel layer.
- Gassing Odor: Memory foam mattresses are made of polyurethane and vacuumed sealed at time of manufacturing. When unwrapped and setup at home they can produce an odd chemical smell called ‘offgassing’. All memory foam beds do this to a lesser or greater extent, which can last a few days or a few weeks. It does eventually stop however, and is not a serious issue with 98% of new owners. Newer beds use plant product in their foam to reduce offgassing odors.
Break In Period: Depending on the density of the mattress (more on this later), it can take a few weeks to break in a new memory foam mattress.
Types Of Foam
When learning about memory foam mattresses, the type of foam that they are generally made from needs to be discussed. There are essentially three different varieties of foams; traditional, gel, and plant based. All of those various types represent the visco-elastic characteristics of the memory foam and the methods of manufacturing.
- Traditional Memory Foam: Made of polyurethane with petroleum based components. This is how memory foam beds were traditionally made.
- Plant-based Memory Foam: These types of manufactured foam beds replaced some ingredients with plant-based materials. In turn by doing this the offgassing issue is shorter in duration and these types of beds are said to have more stable temperature sensitivity.
- Gel Memory Foam: Uses traditional polyurethane foams but layered or infused with gel. These types of foam beds are reported to sleep cooler. There has been concern that these types of beds may not have as much longevity as traditional memory foam and latex versions, but that has not stopped manufacturers from providing lengthy warranties as far out as twenty-five years on such mattresses.
More On The Gel Memory Foam Mattress
One of the latest things to come along in memory foam mattress technology is gel memory foam. These types of mattresses are designed to meet the 9% of memory foam bed owners that may have issues with being to warm when they sleep. Memory foam absorbs and holds heat while you are sleeping. Any heat your body gives off will be trapped in the mattress until you change positions or get up. Gel memory foam has been designed with airflow technology, which allows air to pass through the foam cells and disperse heat.
The latest technology actually infuses ‘gel’ into the mattress and helps dissipate heat and provide extra comfort. Since coming out on the market gel memory foam has been a huge success. However, it can cost a little extra to get such a mattress. If you don’t have a problem paying a little more and think you may be one of those 9% that has a heat issue with your bed, then a gel mattress is probably the way to go. I own such a bed and review it here.
Memory Foam Density
Now we are getting into some interesting information. I could display some math charts and really start to bore you, or I can hit on the basics that a potential consumer is going to be interested in.
Density is one of it’s key important factors in a memory foam bed’s manufacturing. Density of a memory foam mattress is measured in the weight of the mattress found within a 12″ by 12″ area of square material. Foams are made more or less dense by adjusting the ratio of polymers to air. That is the least complicated way of explaining density.
Lower density beds are more responsive when you lay on them. They are also cheaper and less likely to trap heat. That sounds nice, but they are also much more likely to break down quicker and may not offer much support as they age. Higher density beds last longer and really excel at support, but tend to trap more heat and hinder movement and cost more. Medium density beds are between the two, and is usually where most people tend to gravitate when looking for a memory foam bed. The best of both densities.
- Low Density: 3.5 lbs or less per square foot.
- Medium Density: 3.5 – 5.0 lbs per square foot.
- High Density: 5.0 lbs or more per square foot.
Memory Foam Firmness
Firmness of mattresses that people like to sleep on varies from person to person, but studies have shown that most people who have purchased and sleep on memory foam beds prefer beds that have a medium-firmness. Mattresses with thicker layers tend to be more plush than those with less. Heat in the house and room can also affect firmness of a foam mattress. Cooler rooms will make a mattress feel more firm, while warmer rooms will make it feel softer. Heat from your body will gradually soften the firmness of the bed during use, cradling you comfortably.
- Back Sleepers: Tend to prefer beds that are firmer, so look for a bed that is medium firm to firm.
- Side Sleepers: Tend to prefer beds that are medium in firmness.
- Stomach Sleeper: Tend to prefer beds that are soft and more plush.
- Multiple Position Sleepers: Look for a mattress that is medium to medium firm.
How do you know what firmness level a bed has? Firmness is measured by ‘Indentation Force Deflection’ (IFD), which ranges from numbers 8 to 16. Most all memory foam mattresses fall between 12 and 16 (medium to firm). The higher the number is the more firm the bed will be. Not all manufacturers relay this information when selling their beds, in fact most do not. However, a good rule of thumb is that the thicker the mattress the more forgiving it will be. Back sleepers tend to prefer memory foam beds that are 6 to 10 inches thick. People that like to sleep on their sides, that are heavier, and who are multi-positional sleepers will prefer beds that are 10 to 14 inches thick.
Older people or people with limited mobility may find it a little harder to get up or roll off of a memory foam mattress. ‘Response time’ is how fast it takes a memory foam bed to return to its original state. This can have a direct impact on how hard or easy it is for a person to get up from a bed that they sink and cushion into when laying on it. Difficulty may be a factor for people with low mobility, but everybody else will likely not find this an issue. It is a side-affect of sleeping in a memory foam bed.
Benefits Of Sleeping On A Memory Foam Mattress
What is a memory foam mattress good for? Sleep! A good night’s sleep is at the top of most consumer’s minds when they are shopping for a bed. Studies have been done for decades on the benefits of a good night’s sleep. People who have made the switch to memory foam beds insist they get better quality down time than when sleeping than do ever did on an innerspring mattresses.
What can you expect from a good night of sleep?
- Less sickness
- Improved memory
- Better performance at work/school
- Reduced stress levels
- More energy
- Better interactions with relationships
- You will be more alert
- Less affected by depression
- Live longer
- Increase creativity
Density of a memory foam mattress has a direct link to the lifespan and durability of the mattress. Foam mattresses that are less dense will usually not last as long. Mattress that have more dense foam hold up better.
Many manufacturers have warranties both limited and full from just a few years up to twenty-five or even thirty years. Most people don’t hang onto a mattress for more than several years. But that doesn’t mean you might not do so now with the new memory foam beds that are coming out on the market.
What Do People Complain About
There are not many bad things that people have to say about memory foam mattresses. Two drawbacks stand out, and even then they are really not that bad.
The first is that 9% of the people who have bought them have complained about their being warmer than they would like when sleeping. Only nine percent. That’s a small number. If you suspect you may be one of those people who may have a problem with that, there are alternatives and you can get a mattress that has more airflow layers or a gel foam layer. Other options would be to use less bedding, or lighter bedding when sleeping.
The second drawback is the smell. They tend to smell for a few days after you set them up. They arrive at your doorstep in an airtight vacuum sealed bag. When you unpack the mattress (which you should only do in the room you plan to use it and on the foundation you plan to place it on), it emits a chemical smell that I mentioned above called offgassing. It takes a few days for the worst of the smell to dissipate from the mattress. But it can sometimes take a couple weeks for it to entirely disappear. Most people don’t have a problem with this. They close off their bedroom and crack a window, letting the mattress air out for a few days before even using it. However, some people are sensitive to the smell and have a harder time during this phase.
The good news is that newer memory foam beds are now being manufactured with plant organics, making the offgassing less of an issue.
Despite those two drawback, there are so many more positive things about these types of mattresses. That is why they are so popular and why most everybody wants to get one. The benefits are many.
Of course finding a new bed has a lot to do with personal choice and your budget. A good mattress can last you several years or longer. Finding one that fits your needs and that has a good warranty is now easier than ever. And the best part is that you don’t have to spend thousands on a new memory foam mattress. You can get a fantastic one, king size even, with a ten year warranty for less than $399. For a few hundred dollars more you can get one with gel foam technology and a twenty five year warranty.
These types of mattresses are easy to order, come straight to your door, and are a snap to setup. Buying a new bed has never been more easy!
Interested in reading some reviews of the memory foam mattresses I own and use? The links below will bring you to the reviews of the beds I own.
Any comments or questions? Please feel free to leave them below.