First developed in the 1970s by NASA scientists, memory foam mattresses and mattress toppers were later used in the healthcare industry before landing a solid position in the bed market in the early 1990s. Today, we can’t enter a mattress store without being bombarded by the vast array of memory foam options available to anyone looking for a great night’s sleep!
Whether your current mattress is on its last legs, or you’re looking for the best mattress to ease your aching back, a memory foam mattress or topper could be the answer to your search. With the wide variety of memory foam choices on the market today, we’ve compiled a list of things you can consider when purchasing your next memory foam product.
First, a bit about what this mysterious substance actually is. Memory foam is normally a petroleum-based product with open-cell construction, meaning each individual cell has holes in it, which allows air to seep into the surrounding cells when pressure is applied. This distributes the air so you don’t feel as much compression on that body part, as the cells are not trying to spring back to their original positions right away. Traditional memory foam is also visco-elastic, which means that it is firmer (more viscous) at lower temperatures, and then gives you a sort of melting sensation as it warms.
Many people don’t care for the hotter temperatures of petroleum-based memory foam and instead opt for an eco-foam, which is made of a higher percentage of plant products, or a gel or latex foam, all of which don’t trap body heat as much and result in a cooler feel.
Regardless of the type of memory foam mattress you eventually find that suits your needs, you’ll be in good company- memory foam outdoes typical spring mattresses in many categories, including posture support, pressure relief, and fully optimized sleep. Remember the commercial from years ago for a certain mattress, in which one person set a full glass of red wine on top while another plopped himself down just next to it? The glass of wine didn’t spill, which shows the ability of the mattress to quell “motion transfer.” Memory foam is king at reducing motion transfer, so being disturbed by the movement of a partner in bed becomes a distant dream. Memory foam is also hypoallergenic, as dust mites can’t live within the confines of the foam itself. Tests show that a well-made memory foam mattress can reduce tossing and turn in bed by up to a whopping 80%! Customer satisfaction is high with memory foam consumers!
Thickness, Density, and Support:
As you hunt for the mattress of your dreams, you’ll hear a lot about memory foam mattress thickness and density. Since the foam is secured directly to a core on a memory foam mattress, you’ll probably be most comfortable on one that boasts 3 inches or more of thickness above that core (although you’ll find several options for thickness, even 10” and up). For a topper, you’ll only need 2-3 inches or more. When it comes to density, higher pounds per cubic foot don’t necessarily mean more comfort for you- everyone is different and has unique preferences. A good rule of thumb is that side-sleepers should look for lower density mattresses, perhaps 3-4 lbs., while back or stomach sleepers might be more comfortable on a 5 lb. mattress. Density usually equates to durability as well, so the higher the density, the longer your mattress will last. This holds true for toppers as well, although they are certainly not meant to last quite as long as the mattress anyway.
Comfort, Pressure, and Temperature:
If you can lie on the memory foam mattress yourself for even a few minutes, whether in the store or taking advantage of a kind friend who owns one, you’ll get an idea of how comfortable that particular brand and model will be for you. As mentioned above, if you know you don’t like sleeping on a bed that keeps your heat in exceptionally well, you’ll want to look at the gel, latex, or natural foam options. Either way, memory foam pressure is measured in mmHg, and you’re more likely to be comfortable at 32mmHg or lower for pressure relief on your body. Some brands have perfected the technology to get their memory foam mattresses down to 15 mmHg. In addition, the ILD, or Indentation Load Deflection, should fall in the range of 10 to 16 for your memory foam mattress. ILD measures the softness or firmness of the mattress; in other words, it’s the number of pounds of pressure required to indent 4 inches of foam by 25% using a 50 square inch indentation. This rating helps you understand the overall quality of the mattress as well.
Quality, Chemicals, and Health:
The general consensus in the memory foam mattress world is that companies producing higher quality mattresses are usually based in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Other products from other countries often contain cheaper materials and even toxins or fragrances, and will sometimes be advertised at higher densities than they really are, just for the quick sale. Quality mattresses are tested for many characteristics and might carry a certification from a company such as CertiPUR-US, a nonprofit organization which ensures that the mattress was made without ozone depleters, PBDEs or other flame retardants, mercury or other heavy metals, or formaldehyde, among other things. If you have allergies to certain things, you’ll have specific questions just for your unique situation. Your safety and health are of the utmost importance, so research and ask as many questions as you can before buying!
Price, price, price:
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and that’s no different with a memory foam mattress. The denser the foam, and the less readily available the materials, the higher the price. Costs generally range from $175 to more than $1000 per mattress, depending on the size and brand. Of course, toppers will be a bit less, as they are thinner and don’t last as long as the full mattress. Keep in mind that there is no need for a box spring underneath your memory foam mattress, so you’ll save a bit on the whole kit there. Overall, the value of a memory foam mattress makes it a solid choice for your bedroom at home.
You Deserve a Rest:
We know it’s difficult to keep up with the myriad of memory foam selections out there on the market these days. But if you’re ready to take the plunge into soft, cozy sleep, waking up with fewer aches and pains, and the satisfaction of a purchase that will serve you for years to come, just follow our tips above and you’re on your way. Good luck, and good night!