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September 1, 2022

Comparing Memory Foam Mattresses

Personal Comfort Bed H10 staged with remotes

A Look Inside the Memory Foam Mattress

Memory foam is a viscoelastic polyurethane foam found in many bedding-related products. Invented in 1966 by NASA to improve aircraft cushions, then adapted for public use in 1991, memory foam is now used in mattresses, pillows, and bed toppers. Memory foam mattresses are commonly known for their cradling, body-hugging feeling, and are now one of the most popular mattresses sold today.

Memory foam actively molds to your body in response to heat and pressure, allowing your body weight to be evenly distributed and then return to its original shape once pressure from your body is removed. This feature helps provide health benefits like uniform body support, alignment with the curvature of your spine, alleviation of joint and back pain, pressure point relief, and motion isolation. It is denser and more supportive than the average polyurethane foam used in mattresses. It cradles and remembers your body and slowly goes back to its original form, hence its name is memory foam. It is also hypoallergenic and prevents allergy-causing dust mites and other allergens from collecting within the bed. These are the basic features of memory foam mattresses. There are many other available variations though, allowing you to choose the right product for your needs.

Different Types of Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory foam actively responds to heat and is temperature sensitive. In its early days, its heat-retaining property was a complaint from warmer sleepers but loved by cold and medium sleepers. In the 2000s, open-cell memory foam, gel memory foam and other mineral-infused memory foam like copper, graphite or carbon were introduced. Each option combats heat retention and helps regulate body temperature. This is an important feature to search for when purchasing a quality memory foam mattress.

Traditional Memory Foam

The original, traditional memory foam was the first memory foam to enter the market for consumer use. Traditional memory foam has a tendency to retain heat, which keeps sleepers warm through the night.

Open-Cell Memory Foam

Open-cell memory foam is similar to traditional memory foam but has a different internal structure. The mattresses have internal pockets known as open cells, hence the name. These cells allow for ventilation and airflow throughout the mattress, helping disperse heat and retaining a more cooling effect than traditional memory foam.

Gel Memory Foam

Another way manufacturers have combated the heat retaining properties of memory foam is by incorporating gel in its construction. Gel is added to the mattress by pumping gel-based microbeads into the foam. The gel creates pockets similar to those that exist in open-cell mattresses. Instead of simply letting air through the mattress, these gels create a phase-changing material that actively absorbs and releases heat from your body.

Mineral-Infused Memory Foam

Other memory foam mattress makers have chosen to add natural minerals to their mattresses for the purpose of cooling, like copper or graphite. Copper is the second most conductive element in the world, and helps with both heat-dispersal and moisture-wicking when used in memory foam mattresses. Heat sticks to copper like a magnet and pulls it away from your body, helping neutralize your body temperature as you sleep. Graphite is a form of crystalline carbon that is very soft, as well as resistant to heat. The secret to graphite’s cooling success is its small spherical pores, which allow it to absorb heat better than other elements. To make graphite memory foam mattresses, graphite is either mixed into the foam itself or applied as a thin, separate layer on the top of the mattress. The weight of the sleeper sinking into the foam forces the graphite particles closer together, allowing them to conduct heat through the foam and dissipate it quickly.

Other Factors That Differentiate High and Low-Quality Memory Foam


Like any material, the quality of memory foam can differ. An important feature to pay attention to is the density of the memory foam used to make your mattress. The density of memory foam used for mattresses can vary from 1-pound density to 5-pound density. A mattress made with 3- to 4-pound density or higher should last you over a decade. 1-pound density mattresses could develop body impressions and need to be replaced as early as a year or two after purchasing. The lower density foam mattresses may sell for a low price but that quality varies as well when comparing the long-term cost. You may want to spend a little more now to save money in the future.

Layers of Comfort

The highest quality mattresses have multiple layers, generally at least five or more. This includes memory foam mattresses. Each layer’s thickness, density and construction add up and figure into the quality of the mattress. A high-quality memory foam mattress will be constructed with multiple layers of comfort material, at least a layer of transitional material and a support core.

Response Time

The response time of your memory foam mattress is measured by how quickly it bounces back to its original state. It is rated by a number of factors, such as the composition of the foam, changeable viscosity, the rate of elasticity, and resilience. The faster your mattress lets go of your body weight, the more pressure relief you will receive. Lower quality memory foam may have a slower response time causing issues for older people or those with mobility issues.

Benefits of Quality Memory Foam

High-quality memory foam mattresses provide firm support, alleviate pressure on key points of the body as you sleep and have excellent motion isolation. The foam’s density, the number of layers and the ingredients all contribute to its quality.

Health Benefits of Quality Memory Foam

A premium quality memory foam mattress will provide proper spinal alignment and support while maintaining optimal comfort.

When proper body alignment is achieved, it allows your body to recover from stress endured throughout the day.

Proper alignment ensures proper blood circulation which is critical for hydrating the spinal cord and repairing body and mind while you sleep. It will also save you from joint pain and back problems. Memory foam mattresses also tend to be hypoallergenic. Due to their dense structure, memory foam mattresses are less likely to attract and accumulate allergens, such as dust mites, mold, and other common irritants. When choosing your high-quality memory foam mattress, you should look for a Certipur-US certification. This is a seal of approval that ensures that the memory foam in the mattress is made without certain chemicals that can be harmful to the mattress and possibly to your health.

A mattress with Certipur-US certification is not made with any mercury, lead, heavy metals, or formaldehyde.

Longer Lifespan of Quality Memory Foam

A high-quality memory foam mattress is an investment that will be with you for many years. A quality memory foam mattress should be comfortable, supportive and durable. A 10-year warranty is average but you may choose one with as long as 20 years.

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Excellent Support with Quality Memory Foam

The contouring qualities of high-quality memory foam promote good spinal alignment and provide lumbar support. When a surface responds to the natural curves of the body, it can be easier to find sleeping positions that keep your spine in neutral alignment. This can prevent tossing and turning at night, as well as back pain and soreness in the morning. Our Mattress Express favorites include the IFS Chill Series, the Wellsville Air Gel line and our new Posh and Lavish Hybrids: the Flow, the Flux and the Fusion. Stop by our Mattress Express location nearest you and our sleep specialist on duty will help you uncover the best memory foam mattress for you.

Downsides of Cheaper Memory Foam

The difference between a low-quality and high-quality memory foam mattress can contribute to how well you sleep at night, based on how well the mattress conforms to and supports your body.

couple in pain after sleeping on bad mattress

Health Risks of Cheaper Memory Foam

Low-quality memory foam mattresses may result in improper support, negatively affecting your spine, joints and muscles. It is also tough to guarantee that they have been made without harmful or potentially toxic materials. When they were first produced, memory foam mattresses had a distinct, chemical-like smell, referred to as off-gassing. Memory foam mattresses using cheaper materials have stronger and longer-lasting off-gassing. Generally, the smell goes away around 24 hours after unboxing. In some lower-quality memory foam mattresses though, the smell can linger for weeks.

Short Lifespan of Cheaper Memory Foam

The price tag of a low-quality memory foam mattress may be appealing at first, but their lack of support and durability will have you spending even more on another new mattress much sooner. Memory foam mattresses constructed with low-quality, less dense foam are not likely to hold up well to everyday wear and tear. An average, low-quality memory foam mattress will last roughly a year to five years. Lower-quality memory foam mattresses can also have additives that degrade the material and lower the lifespan of the mattress.

Poor Support with Cheaper Memory Foam

You want a mattress to contour to your body’s curves and not sag, which inexpensive memory foam mattresses will inevitably end up doing in a short period of time. Cheap memory foam mattresses are often less comfortable, less supportive and significantly less durable.

Picking The Right Memory Foam Mattress for You

Memory foam is one of the most incredible innovations in the mattress industry, but not every memory foam mattress is right for every person. Sleep needs and preferences vary. If memory foam sounds like the right choice, stop by the Mattress Express location nearest you and our sleep specialist on duty will help you uncover the best memory foam mattress for you.