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February 27, 2023

Pros and Cons of a Memory Foam Mattress

Personal Comfort Bed H10 staged with remotes

Understanding Memory Foam

Memory foam is a viscoelastic polyurethane foam found in many bedding-related products. It cradles and remembers your body and slowly goes back to its original form, hence its name. It is denser and more supportive than the average polyurethane foam used in mattresses.

High-quality memory foam mattresses are constructed with multiple layers of comfort material, at least a layer of transitional material, and a support core. The thickness of each layer, the density, and the construction add up and figure into the quality of the mattress.

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

Like any material, the quality of memory foam can differ. Pay attention to important features of your mattress, like the density of the memory foam used, and the materials your mattress is made of, like traditional, open cell, gel-infused or mineral-infused. Both features will determine how long your mattress will last and the quality of sleep you will receive each night.

History of Memory Foam

Charles Yost, an aeronautical engineer with Systems Dynamics Group at North American Aviation Inc through the Stencel Aero Engineering Corporation, and Chiharu Kubokawa, a scientist from the Ames Research Center at NASA, created an open-cell material in 1966. It had unusually high energy absorption but still remained soft and pliable. Their research came through a NASA contract.

Yost first referred to this open-cell material as slow spring back foam because it would shape to whatever was pressing against it, then slowly spring back to its original shape once the pressure was removed. It was later named temper foam. This foam had unusual viscoelastic properties that were capable of absorbing a high amount of energy while still remaining soft. NASA requested these properties in the material to provide comfort for aircraft seats and serve as a buffer against pressure. This ideally increased the likelihood of surviving during a crash

Through years of development, this open-cell, polymeric foam material with unusual viscoelastic properties became what we know as memory foam.

Memory foam mattresses are commonly known for their cradling, body-hugging feeling and are one of the most popular mattresses sold today.

Memory Foam Pros

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 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. A memory foam mattress is good for your body and your state of mind.

Spine and Joint Support

A premium quality memory foam mattress will provide proper spinal alignment and support and maintain optimal comfort. This can prevent tossing and turning at night which leads to back pain and soreness in the morning. When proper body alignment is achieved, it allows your body to recover from stress endured throughout the day and prevent joint or back problems. Alignment also ensures proper blood circulation, which is critical for hydrating the spinal cord. It also repairs your body and mind while you sleep.

Pressure-Point Relief

Memory foam typically excels at pressure relief by using your weight and heat to mold to your body. It actively cradles your body, allowing your body weight to be evenly distributed and relieves unwanted pressure on your back and joints.

Motion Transfer

Memory foam absorbs surface movement, isolating motion transfer and reducing disturbances when you or your partner move around in bed. Using a standard coil mattress with a partner that tosses and turns throughout will keep you from a good night of sleep. Sleeping on memory foam may be the answer.

Durability and Material

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.

Memory foam is made of hypoallergenic materials, stopping dust mites and other allergens from collecting within this springless mattress.

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Memory Foam Cons

Memory foam is one of the most incredible innovations in the mattress industry, but a memory foam mattress is not ideal for every type of sleeper. Sleep needs, sleep preferences, and the quality of memory foam material all determine if it is the right mattress for you. The difference between a low-quality and high-quality memory foam mattress can determine how the mattress conforms to and supports your body, ultimately affecting how well you sleep at night.

Here are a few things to look out for when deciding what memory foam mattress to purchase or if a memory foam mattress is the right choice for you.

Mattress Odor

Memory foam mattress makers use various petroleum-based chemicals in the manufacturing process. When memory foam mattresses are first produced, they have a distinct, chemical-like smell, referred to as off-gassing. These chemicals can release fumes that linger on mattresses but typically go away around 24 hours after unboxing.

It is tough to guarantee that low-quality memory foam mattresses have been made without harmful or potentially toxic materials. The cheaper the material that is used, the stronger and longer-lasting off-gassing they tend to have. Some lower-quality memory foam mattresses have smells that linger for weeks.

To speed up mattress off-gassing, you should unwrap your mattress and place it in a well-ventilated room. Direct sunlight helps as well. Some less conventional methods include placing the mattress directly on the floor in a well-vented room and having several people jump on the bed to release the chemicals faster. You can also sprinkle the mattress lightly with baking soda to absorb the odor and then vacuum the residue that is left over.

The best way to ensure limited off-gassing is by buying a high-quality memory foam mattress from the start.


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 colder sleepers.

In the 2000s, open-cell memory foam, gel memory foam and other mineral-infused memory foam like copper, graphite or carbon were introduced to control the heat retention issue. Lower-quality or lower-cost memory mattresses may not take advantage of this new technology or may use a less effective method to keep the cost down.

Temperature greatly impacts how well you sleep. If you are generally a warm sleeper, the higher-priced mattress is worthwhile.

Response Time

The response time of your memory foam mattress is measured by how quickly it bounces back to its original state. This 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.

Quality Differences

A low-density or memory foam mattress with only one or two layers may form body impressions within a few years or cause the sleeper to feel like they are sinking to the button of the mattress. Investing in a higher-priced mattress now will help you save money in the future.

Memory Foam Purchase Considerations

Sleep needs and preferences vary from person to person, but overall, a memory foam mattress offers a smart alternative to a standard mattress. Be sure to research your options before making a mattress purchase.

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 will help you decide if a memory foam mattress is best for you and which one to choose.