In recent years visco-elastic foam, more popularly referred to as “memory” foam, has taken the mattress market by storm. This fairly new technology has become widely known and popular among consumers and can offer many benefits when compared to traditional mattress compositions.
Memory foam was first created by the National Air and Space Administration, or NASA. NASA needed a durable material that could protect astronauts from the severe pressures exerted on the body during space shuttle take off and landing. Memory foam has been used in spaceflight for its ability to contour to the body evenly, thereby greatly reducing the pressures put on singular points, and spreading the force of pressure out evenly over a greater surface area. The reason it is called memory foam is because, after pressure is applied, it takes a few seconds for the foam to return to its original shape.
How it Works
Memory foam mattresses are composed of polyurethane, a material that is somewhat spongy and filled with billions of small pockets of air. These tiny air cells slowly exhale when pressure is applied, offering the user a slow sinking or melting feeling when laying back into the memory foam mattress. This polyurethane composition allows the material to conform to the user’s body evenly and completely, enveloping the portion of the user’s body in contact with the mattress in comfort.
Composition of Memory Foam
When constructing a memory foam mattress, two factors are considered by manufacturers to determine the grade, quality, and durability of the mattress being offered: foam depth and, more so, density. The density of the polyurethane foam being used often dictates the mattresses firmness. Density for memory foam is measured in pounds per cubic foot. Most memory foam mattresses range from 2 to 6 lbs/ft3 with denser mattresses often costing more than their less dense counterparts. High-end memory foam mattresses typically start at 4lbs/ft3.
Common memory foam constructions include two parts, a base layer of regular polyurethane foam, and a top layer of memory foam. The top layer of memory foam is what gives the mattress its signature contouring feel. Memory foam top layers tend to range between 2 and 6 inches thick. Mattresses with a thick memory foam top layer allow deeper sinkage for the user, however the amount of sinking when pressure is applied will still also depend on the foam’s density. Most manufactures will take both foam depth and density into consideration when constructing their mattresses, looking to find the perfect balance of support and comfort. There are a wide range of depth and density options on the market today, and choosing the right combination ultimately becomes a matter of user personal preference.
Other than choosing from the basic mattress sizes when buying your memory foam bed (Twin, Double, Queen, etc.), overall mattress thickness is another factor to consider which can determine the mattress’ comfort and overall price. Overall memory foam mattress thickness ranges from 7 to 16+ inches. Often, there is a correlation between a mattress’ thickness and its cost, however, this may be misleading. The type of material used for each layer, the foam density, and other features are better indicators of mattress quality. Higher-end models may offer an extra layer to improve mattress comfort or ventilation. However, the best indicator of mattress quality is looking at the materials used to construct each layer.
Although all considered “memory foam” options, a variety of materials can be used to construct the actual memory foam layer of a mattress. Here listed below are several composition options and their associated benefits.
The original memory foam created by NASA in 1992 was composed of viscoelastic memory foam, a petroleum-based polyurethane material. Viscoelastic memory foam is the most common product on the market, and is offered at a wide variety of qualities and price points. Mattresses constructed with this material can range from hundreds of dollars for a basic model, to well into the thousands for more luxurious models. These mattresses offer average durability and can last anywhere from 6 to 10 years depending on use and wear. This material allows the mattress to control motion transfer very well, and is reactive to temperatures, in that it will respond to the body heat of the user.
The latest revelation in memory foam mattress technology has been the gel-infused memory foam mattress. These mattresses are also constructed using viscoelastic foam, however the foam is combined with thousands of tiny gel beads. These gel beads allow body heat to dissipate from the mattress quicker, allowing the user to sleep cooler and the material to respond quicker than traditional viscoelastic materials. The major benefit of this mattress material is this added heat dissipation and responsiveness, which can be achieved without sacrificing the comfort and low motion transfer aspects associated with memory foam.
A natural memory foam mattress is made with a portion of the petroleum-based components replaced by plant-based materials, most often aloe vera, bamboo, or soya depending on the manufacturer. In terms of durability, look, and feel, natural memory foam mattresses are strikingly similar to their polyurethane predecessors. The main benefit of a natural memory foam mattress is the lack of odor often associated with petroleum-based products, improved heat dissipation due to open cell technology, and an eco-friendly manufacturing process. Also, for those with allergies or heightened skin sensitivity, natural memory foam mattresses offer relief due to a lack of heavy chemicals used in traditional petroleum-based memory foams.
Each composition type of memory foam offers multiple options when it comes to mattress firmness and density. As mentioned earlier, densities range from 2 to 6 pounds per cubic foot, and the appropriate density and firmness for a consumer depends largely on sleeping habits and personal preference. Softer, less dense materials will offer the user a cloud-like plushness and immediate appeal, however may be found lacking in terms of support and restfulness after a night’s sleep. A firm mattress is best in some cases for those with chronic back pain, or those who sleep on one side.
With so many emerging options to consider when it comes to selecting the right memory foam mattress for your life, you may run into questions and concerns before making your investment. Don’t know what memory foam composition, density, or thickness is right for your body? Talk to the professionals at Tier 4 Mattresses online to find out what type of mattress best suits your needs. Don’t spend another sleepless night on the wrong mattress, contact Tier 4 Mattresses today.