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What Is Memory Foam?

memory foam mattress


Memory foam mattresses have grown in popularity over the last years, but what are they? And is the hype around them worth it?

Viscoelastic foam, or commonly known as memory foam was first developed in 1966 by NASA scientists. Because of its energy-absorbing properties, it was first used in airplane seats and seatbelts to cushion the landing of astronauts. The idea behind this was that astronauts would be able to tolerate take-off, travel, and landing better if the equipment could absorb impact for them.

Being a success, it quickly found further use as cushioning in helmets and shoes, and even in medicine as prosthetics and seating pads of wheelchairs to prevent pressure ulcers for disabled and older people.

Seeing how soft and body-conforming the material is, mattress manufacturers became interested bringing memory foam to the market. In 1992 memory foam was first sold commercially by a company named Tempir-Pedic, and the first-ever products were a 3-inch mattress topper and a neck pillow. Though they only sold 70 mattress toppers in their first year, memory foam proved became a success in the grand scheme of things, as companies are constantly working on improving memory foam further.

What does “Viscoelastic” mean and what is memory foam made of?

Memory foam combines the characteristics “viscosity” and “elasticity”.

“Viscosity” means that the material reacts slowly and reluctantly when pressure is applied, like honey or peanut butter.
A material that is “elastic” can stretch and change shape while always returning to its former shape.

The main component of memory foam is a substance with large molecules all bonded together, also known as a polymer. However, the added chemicals are the ones that affect the feel of the mattress.

Different manufacturers add different chemicals to the memory foam to distinguish themselves, which gives you, the customer a large variety to choose from when it comes to memory foam. Each “formula” with which a mattress is creates changes the feel and sensation of a memory foam mattress, so you might have to try out different ones to find the one that suits you.

How do Memory Foam Mattresses work?

Depending on how you apply pressure to a memory foam mattress, it will react differently to you. If you add pressure quickly, say, you jump on your mattress, it will change shape more slowly or “reluctantly”. However, once you get up again, or remove the pressure it will slowly return to its original shape.

Over time, after using your mattress for a long time it will at some point “remember you” and not go back as far, having adjusted to your ideal sleep position. What you will also notice is that after sleeping on your mattress for some time it will feel softer.

Ideal spine alignment sleeping

By letting you sink into it and reverting to its original shape, memory foam can be ideal for all sleep types. Even if you sleep on your side, the foam beneath your shoulders and hips sinks in more, keeping your body perfectly aligned with itself. This will greatly reduce back pains or neck pains should you have been experiencing these after waking up on your old mattress (if the back pain results from the wrong mattress. Always consult your doctor or general practitioner for questions regarding your health).

Different types of Memory Foam

We mentioned further up that each manufacturer creates its recipe for memory foam, and while that is true, memory foam can still be divided into some general categories: Traditional, open-cell, and gel-infused.

Each is unique and has its advantages and disadvantages.

Traditional Memory Foam

Traditional memory foam is the one that NASA created. It is fantastic at conforming to your body, however, the main disadvantage is that is known to retain body heat, causing you to possibly wake up in the middle of the night as it is too hot.

Manufacturers realized that this was a major discomfort and that is how the following types of memory foam were created.

Open Cell Memory Foam

Open-cell memory foam is similar to traditional memory foam, only with a different structure. As the name suggests, the interior has pockets to allow for airflow. These pockets provide a cooler sleeping experience. Originally these mattresses were far less dense, but manufacturers have been improved so that they become denser and give better support while still retaining the cooling effect.

Gel-Infused Memory Foam

This last type of memory foam is regular memory foam filled with gel or gel microbeads. There are two types of gel available:

  • Heat absorbing gel: Creating a cool surface to prevent overheating.
  • Phase-Changing Material: Allowing your body temperature to remain constant by releasing or absorbing heat

Some mattresses only fit one of these categories, but many modern mattresses incorporate several, if not all three types. Sometimes even such things as copper, lavender, or bamboo are added to improve the feel of the mattress or make it even cooler.

How is a Memory Foam Mattress constructed?

Different layers of a memory foam mattress

Now, even though each memory foam mattress is also always built differently, there is a general setup that is followed.

  • Comfort Layer: This is the top section, designed to be contouring or cushioning (depending on the firmness) and breathable for cool sleep
  •  Transition Layer: One or more layers serve to work between the comfort layer and the core. They are a bit firmer than the comfort layer while being softer than the core.
  •  Core: This is the basis of a memory foam mattress and is also the largest layer. It provides stability and support. In a hybrid mattress the core will not be memory foam but that of an innerspring mattress, providing the benefits of both. Read here about Innerspring mattresses 

Also: while looking for the perfect memory foam mattress, always check it’s density. The higher the density, the firmer the mattress. If the mattress is too soft or firm for you, you will miss out on the benefits a memory foam mattress has as your spine won’t be in proper alignment.

Summary: What are the advantages and disadvantages of memory foam?

Advantages

Contouring

Not only will it prevent back pain, you might also love the feeling of sinking into your mattress at the end of a long day.

Memory

Over time, the mattress will remember how you sleep which will be a benefit when it comes to comfort


No Springs

The padding of an innerspring mattress can wear down, causing pressure points. A memory foam mattress has no springs, creating a pressure-point-free environment.

No springs also means no squeaking at night when you move, no more worrying about waking your partner!

Hypoallergenic

The optimal solution for people suffering from allergies.
It's dense structure does not allow dust, mold, mites or other allergens to settle. Simply wiping the mattress down regularly should be enough to prevent discomfort

Motion-Isolation

You won't feel your partner's movements during the night, even if they are restless. You also won't have to worry about waking each other up if one of you works night shifts!

Cool Nights

Yes, memory foam is known to retain heat. However, nowadays there are many memory foam mattresses specifically engineered to keep you cool

Disadvantages

Weight

The denseness makes the mattress heavy, thereby difficult to move. If you plan on not moving your mattress much though, then that will hardly bother you

Hot Nights

It can retain your body heat. Especially in warm climates where the weather is already humid this can become very uncomfortable. So check what kind of mattress you are getting!

Moisture Sensitive

Liquids can damage the mattress (or mattress topper) and thereby reduce the lifespan of your mattress, so you might want to get a mattress protector to combat this



Slow Response

It takes time to adjust from one position to the next, or make you feel trapped once you are in one position


Off-Gassing

When it is new it might smell, a thing called “off-gassing”. This can be solved though by letting the mattress air out.

Price

Good quality memory foam can be pricy, even though there are affordable options out there.

working on laptop in bed

Picking the right type of mattress can seem difficult, but it does not have to be. Just sit down and think thoroughly about the decision. It also does not have to be a final decision, very often companies let you try out a mattress for a certain amount of time and let you send it back to them, free of charge, should it not work out for you in that period.

Check out our collection of memory foam mattresses right here!

Instead of a mattress, why not just a mattress topper? It can enhance the life of your current mattress at the fraction of the cost of a completely new one.

You can use the discount code SweetSleep15 on your next order to get a 15% discount. Don't miss out!

What Is Memory Foam?

memory foam mattress


Memory foam mattresses have grown in popularity over the last years, but what are they? And is the hype around them worth it?

Viscoelastic foam, or commonly known as memory foam was first developed in 1966 by NASA scientists. Because of its energy-absorbing properties, it was first used in airplane seats and seatbelts to cushion the landing of astronauts. The idea behind this was that astronauts would be able to tolerate take-off, travel, and landing better if the equipment could absorb impact for them.

Being a success, it quickly found further use as cushioning in helmets and shoes, and even in medicine as prosthetics and seating pads of wheelchairs to prevent pressure ulcers for disabled and older people.

Seeing how soft and body-conforming the material is, mattress manufacturers became interested bringing memory foam to the market. In 1992 memory foam was first sold commercially by a company named Tempir-Pedic, and the first-ever products were a 3-inch mattress topper and a neck pillow. Though they only sold 70 mattress toppers in their first year, memory foam proved became a success in the grand scheme of things, as companies are constantly working on improving memory foam further.

What does “Viscoelastic” mean and what is memory foam made of?

Memory foam combines the characteristics “viscosity” and “elasticity”.

“Viscosity” means that the material reacts slowly and reluctantly when pressure is applied, like honey or peanut butter.
A material that is “elastic” can stretch and change shape while always returning to its former shape.

The main component of memory foam is a substance with large molecules all bonded together, also known as a polymer. However, the added chemicals are the ones that affect the feel of the mattress.

Different manufacturers add different chemicals to the memory foam to distinguish themselves, which gives you, the customer a large variety to choose from when it comes to memory foam. Each “formula” with which a mattress is creates changes the feel and sensation of a memory foam mattress, so you might have to try out different ones to find the one that suits you.

How do Memory Foam Mattresses work?

Depending on how you apply pressure to a memory foam mattress, it will react differently to you. If you add pressure quickly, say, you jump on your mattress, it will change shape more slowly or “reluctantly”. However, once you get up again, or remove the pressure it will slowly return to its original shape.

Over time, after using your mattress for a long time it will at some point “remember you” and not go back as far, having adjusted to your ideal sleep position. What you will also notice is that after sleeping on your mattress for some time it will feel softer.

Ideal spine alignment sleeping

By letting you sink into it and reverting to its original shape, memory foam can be ideal for all sleep types. Even if you sleep on your side, the foam beneath your shoulders and hips sinks in more, keeping your body perfectly aligned with itself. This will greatly reduce back pains or neck pains should you have been experiencing these after waking up on your old mattress (if the back pain results from the wrong mattress. Always consult your doctor or general practitioner for questions regarding your health).

Different types of Memory Foam

We mentioned further up that each manufacturer creates its recipe for memory foam, and while that is true, memory foam can still be divided into some general categories: Traditional, open-cell, and gel-infused.

Each is unique and has its advantages and disadvantages.

Traditional Memory Foam

Traditional memory foam is the one that NASA created. It is fantastic at conforming to your body, however, the main disadvantage is that is known to retain body heat, causing you to possibly wake up in the middle of the night as it is too hot.

Manufacturers realized that this was a major discomfort and that is how the following types of memory foam were created.

Open Cell Memory Foam

Open-cell memory foam is similar to traditional memory foam, only with a different structure. As the name suggests, the interior has pockets to allow for airflow. These pockets provide a cooler sleeping experience. Originally these mattresses were far less dense, but manufacturers have been improved so that they become denser and give better support while still retaining the cooling effect.

Gel-Infused Memory Foam

This last type of memory foam is regular memory foam filled with gel or gel microbeads. There are two types of gel available:

  • Heat absorbing gel: Creating a cool surface to prevent overheating.
  • Phase-Changing Material: Allowing your body temperature to remain constant by releasing or absorbing heat

Some mattresses only fit one of these categories, but many modern mattresses incorporate several, if not all three types. Sometimes even such things as copper, lavender, or bamboo are added to improve the feel of the mattress or make it even cooler.

How is a Memory Foam Mattress constructed?

Now, even though each memory foam mattress is also always built differently, there is a general setup that is followed.

Different layers of a memory foam mattress
  • Comfort Layer: This is the top section, designed to be contouring or cushioning (depending on the firmness) and breathable for cool sleep
  •  Transition Layer: One or more layers serve to work between the comfort layer and the core. They are a bit firmer than the comfort layer while being softer than the core.
  •  Core: This is the basis of a memory foam mattress and is also the largest layer. It provides stability and support. In a hybrid mattress the core will not be memory foam but that of an innerspring mattress, providing the benefits of both. Read here about Innerspring mattresses 

Also: while looking for the perfect memory foam mattress, always check it’s density. The higher the density, the firmer the mattress. If the mattress is too soft or firm for you, you will miss out on the benefits a memory foam mattress has as your spine won’t be in proper alignment.

Summary: What are the advantages and disadvantages of memory foam?

Advantages

Contouring

Not only will it prevent back pain, you might also love the feeling of sinking into your mattress at the end of a long day.

Memory

Over time, the mattress will remember how you sleep which will be a benefit when it comes to comfort

No Springs

The padding of an innerspring mattress can wear down, causing pressure points. A memory foam mattress has no springs, creating a pressure-point-free environment.

No springs also means no squeaking at night when you move, no more worrying about waking your partner!

Hypoallergenic

The optimal solution for people suffering from allergies.
It's dense structure does not allow dust, mold, mites or other allergens to settle. Simply wiping the mattress down regularly should be enough to prevent discomfort

Motion-Isolation

You won't feel your partner's movements during the night, even if they are restless. You also won't have to worry about waking each other up if one of you works night shifts!

Cool Nights

Yes, memory foam is known to retain heat. However, nowadays there are many memory foam mattresses specifically engineered to keep you cool

Disadvantages

Weight

The denseness makes the mattress heavy, thereby difficult to move. If you plan on not moving your mattress much though, then that will hardly bother you

Hot Nights

It can retain your body heat. Especially in warm climates where the weather is already humid this can become very uncomfortable. So check what kind of mattress you are getting!

Moisture Sensitive

Liquids can damage the mattress (or mattress topper) and thereby reduce the lifespan of your mattress, so you might want to get a mattress protector to combat this

Slow Response

It takes time to adjust from one position to the next, or make you feel trapped once you are in one position

Off-Gassing

When it is new it might smell, a thing called “off-gassing”. This can be solved though by letting the mattress air out.

Price

Good quality memory foam can be pricy, even though there are affordable options out there.

working on laptop in bed

Picking the right type of mattress can seem difficult, but it does not have to be. Just sit down and think thoroughly about the decision. It also does not have to be a final decision, very often companies let you try out a mattress for a certain amount of time and let you send it back to them, free of charge, should it not work out for you in that period.

Check out our collection of memory foam mattresses right here!

Instead of a mattress, why not just a mattress topper? It can enhance the life of your current mattress at the fraction of the cost of a completely new one.

You can use the discount code SweetSleep15 on your next order to get a 15% discount. Don't miss out!