Memory foam’s name is justified by its functionality to imprint any pressure you apply on it for a considerable amount of time. The main feature of any memory foam is not only its softness and buttery surface, but also the way it tends to sink or show the pressure. Memory foams in general tend to hold on to the imprint of any pressure exerted for several seconds, depending on the type. NASA invented memory foam in the year 1966 as an objective to help increase the pressure absorption in cushions for space rockets.
Since then, its use and practical benefits have made memory foam one of the widest used materials in sleep grade mattresses and pillows. Moreover, memory foam has also been used in sports helmets, cushions and even in pillows these days. Memory foam is a polyurethane that works to give a great degree of comfort as it tends to cushion pressure. Without causing an unnatural amount of relaxation, memory foam mattresses are great for people who sleep light as they tend to toss and turn while asleep.
First, let’s discuss the advantages of memory foam and how beneficial it can be for you when used in mattresses.
Advantages of memory foam in mattresses:
1. Movement restriction: The main advantage of memory foam mattresses is their ability to restrict movement unconsciously. When sleeping, people tend to wake up because of movement like tossing and turning while asleep. Memory foams tend to sink and take the shape of your body, and help restrict movement as a result.
2. Weight distribution: One of the best things about a softer mattress like memory foam is its weight distribution ability. As it tends to sink and contour your body parts under pressure, it tends to assume the same form and this leads to distributing pressure applied evenly. This is especially useful for slightly overweight people with joint or back issues as it tends to help relieve the pressure by assuming the natural form of your body.
3. Spinal alignment: Our spines tend to form a natural S-shape and the memory foam is incredibly useful when it comes to providing relief in this position. This is because if you sleep on your back or even your side, the various points tend to pressure the memory foam downwards and assume their shape in a comfortable way. The memory foam distributes any uneven weight, and tends to react to apply the reverse pressure evenly. This helps in aligning your spine and preventing any unnatural shapes or leaving anything unsupported which can lead to chronic pains.
4. Hypoallergenic: As the gaps and structure of memory foam mattresses tend to be too small, there is very less chance for allergens like mites, dust, or other factors to enter and accumulate. Moreover, this property is especially true for gel memory foams.
5. Silent and comfortable: The structure of memory foam mattresses is purely cushion like and tends to cause bare minimum noise like squeaking or anything else. As they also tend to distribute pressure evenly, they also minimize the sounds coming from your bed (if any).
Factors to consider when buying a memory foam mattress:
1. Density: The density of memory foam is measured in Pounds per Cubic Foot or PCF, and it determines the way your mattress is built. In high-quality mattresses and pillows made out of memory foam, there is bound to be more density. That is, they would still maintain their softness and other qualities of memory foam, but would have more PCF than lower quality memory foam. Moreover, this also guarantees that your memory foam mattress lasts longer than the ones with a low PCF measurement. Higher PCF also means that it retains its heat for longer periods of time.
2. Thickness: The thickness of memory foams is their measurement from either side to determine their height. Your memory foam mattress’s thickness is a crucial factor because it determines how well you’d be able to adjust with its movement. If you are looking at a standalone mattress, the greater the thickness the more unstable it will be because of the additional height without much support. However, with the right thickness and combined layers of different memory foams padded together you can have a much more stable experience sleeping on a memory foam mattress.
The thickness also determines how well your mattress responds to pressure and weight in general. You want a thickness between 6 and 14 inches depending on the requirement. While thicker mattresses can support more weight, they might move more. Mattresses that aren’t as thick can also be a good experience if you are not too overweight.
3. Type: The construction material and design of your memory foam mattress are just as important as its thickness and density. While traditional memory foam can be cheap, it has its own pros and cons. Traditional memory foam mattresses might cost you less but at the same time but endure for lesser duration (depending upon density). On the other hand, if you have trouble sleeping as a result of hot body temperature, plant-based or gel-based memory foam mattresses can help in regulating more air and temperature. Based on the type of memory foam mattress that you choose, you might also experience different levels of firmness, thickness, and even responsiveness.
Different types of memory foam:
Not only are memory foams available in different kinds, but they are also used for different purposes as per their type. That is, while all of them may be used in a variety of items, sleep-grade memory foam is exquisitely used in pillows and mattresses. Each type has its own look, feel, density and purpose, and even method of making. Here are the types of memory foams used in mattresses and pillows:
1. Traditional memory foam: The “traditional” memory foam is the one we see most widely in use and was the first kind invented. Made up of the traditional petroleum-based polymer, it is soft and tends to be denser than other kinds. As a result, traditional memory foam is the best option for people looking for affordability over comfort. This is because of its high density and it tends to retain the heat that comes out from your body.
Moreover, traditional memory foam is more sensitive to heat and pressure as a result of its closely packed structure. When using traditional memory foam in a mattress or pillow, it may definitely be soft and able to contour your body better. This helps relieve the pain and pressure from major points in your body. However, as mentioned previously it is not a good idea to get a traditional memory foam mattress if you know you sleep hot or in a generally hotter climate.
2. Gel memory foam: Gel memory foam is the main constituent behind some of the best memory foam mattresses and pillows. Not only is it used in pillows, and mattresses in a variety of ways, but is an excellent option when compared to other types. When we talk about gel memory foam mattresses, they can be both sandwiched between a layer of liquid gel, and infused with small beads of the cooling gel. This is because although memory foams maintain their softness and other good qualities from traditional memory foams, they leave more room for ventilation.
Moreover, gel memory foam mattresses and pillows may even have well placed gaps or holes drilled into them for further air ventilation. This helps the material breathe through the gel and air mechanism depending upon use and construction. Additionally, the infusion of gel beads in between the memory foam material gives this type a more quick-to-respond reaction time. That is, unlike traditional memory foam, it tends to retain its shape more easily without holding on to pressure for long durations. So if you are looking for memory foam’s comfort but want something to support your body without the sinking feeling, this is the best option.
3. Plant-based memory foam: If you are looking for a memory foam mattress that is more eco-friendly and makes use of plant materials like soy, coconut, or other materials, this is the better choice. However, its plant-sourced construction is not its only attractive point. Plant-based memory foams tend to use minimum chemicals or artificial polymers to hold the mattress together. However, it still makes use of petroleum compounds to construct the mattress material for its softness and other memory foam qualities.
Plant-based memory foam is made keeping in mind the material and temperature regulation. Since the materials used are mostly coconut derivatives or other plant materials, it avoids the density of artificial polymers. This helps plant-based memory foam to breathe more easily as a result of less density and more airflow. Additionally, this property helps it to regulate temperature more easily and offer better air regulation as well. However, this means that it needs more cleaning and maintenance because of the open-cell structure which might accumulate allergens over time.
Memory foam as an orthopedic mattress:
If you are eyeing memory foam to use for orthopedic purposes, it depends on your body type and the kind of mattress that you choose. Most people tend to use high-density memory foam mattresses for orthopedic reasons because it tends to contour your body and pain points better than others. As it is high quality, it can be expensive and the same case applies to gel memory foam mattress.
Gel memory foam mattresses are one of the more premium memory foam kinds that not only regulate temperature but can support your body better. This is because the gel layers outside or gel beads inside give it more resiliency, and prevent it from sinking in as much as a traditional memory foam mattress. As a result, if you are overweight and have chronic pains in the lower back or shoulder, the best choice for you would be to go for a gel memory foam mattress. This is even better for old people with body ailments as it helps in getting out of bed relatively easier than traditional memory foam.
However, using traditional memory foam as an orthopedic mattress is only a good idea as long as you make use of high-density, high-quality material. This is much better suited for people without excessive pains and issues as it can sink more but tends to hold and contour your body better. It might be a challenge to get out of traditional memory foam mattress if the thickness is too much without proper padding in the comfort layer.
Cons of memory foam mattresses:
1. No waterproofing or resistance: Memory foam is not water-friendly, and washing your mattress or pillow is not a good idea. Not only can it wash away and open the gel beads (if present), but also open it for further damage and bring down its quality and density severely. This renders your memory foam mattress or pillow useless, as it may not come back to its original shape.
2. Cost and maintenance: As memory foams tend to have a close-knit structure, not only are they heavier, maintaining, or moving them around can be challenging. This also means they are costlier than other kinds of mattresses, especially gel memory foam. Washing or brushing the memory foam mattress won’t be a good idea and cleaning it with a vacuum cleaner might not be the best option because of less efficiency and chance of damage to the material.
Orthopedic Memory foam mattresses are good for old people or people with ailments which makes them a better choice in orthopedic bedding. If you are looking for relief for your joints and other issues, memory foam can be a good idea. It contours your body, helps prevent tossing and turning, and helps relieve pressure to an extent that other mattresses cannot. Additionally, their cost, maintenance, and other factors make them the costlier and high maintenance option for high maintenance bodies. As long as you do not mind the excessive contouring and sinking, a memory foam mattress might just be what can fix your physical ailments!