Are Memory Foam Mattresses Good for You?
Know their benefits, problems and solutions
Have you been curious about the hype around memory foam mattresses and found yourself wondering whether it’s worth the transition? Memory foam can be good, but it all comes down to the quality of the manufacturing. Here’s what goes into making a good memory foam mattress.
The Biggest Factor: Foam Density
Foam density is the main factor in determining quality. As the Polyurethane Foam Association explains, foam density is measured in pounds per cubic foot (PCF). Denser foam is stiffer and holds its shape better, while a lighter foam is more comfortable but can’t quite support too much weight.
While exact standards vary by company, lightweight memory foam is anything that’s less than 3 PCF. Heavy foam is 5 PCF or more, and medium foam is anywhere between those numbers.
Few memory foam beds have just one layer, though. Instead, it’s much more common to see about 2/3rds of the bed be particularly dense foam. This provides stiffness and support while you’re sleeping. The top 4-6 inches can be one or more layers of lighter, body-contouring foam.
The exact combination of these layers affects things like airflow, heat transmission, and overall comfort at night. Many people need at least four inches of softer foam for true comfort while the rest of the bed supports their weight.
I can speak from experience on this matter. I changed to a stiff memory foam mattress the last time I changed beds, and frankly, it was uncomfortable that way. I added a two-inch layer of memory foam on top to modify it, which helped, but I still woke up sore in the mornings.
After some thought, I added a second two-inch layer of memory foam at a similar density. That was instantly better and alleviated my soreness in the morning.
People have different preferences, so what worked for me won’t necessarily work for you. There are also a few other points to consider when deciding if a memory foam mattress is suitable.
Other Effects of Foam Density
I touched on this earlier, but foam density affects more than just the stiffness of the mattress. Here are some other things the thickness of the various layers will affect.
Denser foam is better able to contour than lighter foam. This is notable because a better contour helps relieve pressure better. Foam that’s too dense will feel more like a hard surface, though, which can be uncomfortable in its own way. This is why many mattresses have a medium-density top layer.
Denser foam is, unsurprisingly, more durable than lighter foam. Every type of memory foam will eventually squish down into a flatter layer, but most will last at least eight years. Bases will probably last longer if you have memory foam toppers above them.
Beds with several layers of particularly light foam will probably wear out faster than those with layers of at least medium-density foam. Most good mattresses have at least one light or medium layer, so keep that in mind when you go shopping.
Lighter foam transfers heat better than denser foam because there’s more airflow through it. Whether you want light or dense layers depends on your environment.’
Broadly, people living in hot areas usually prefer a light top layer to stay cool, while people in chilly regions prefer something denser.
Taking this into account, you may have to start deciding between temperature control and durability.
Memory foam mattresses can be deceptively heavy. The weight mostly matters when installing or removing them, though, because you usually don’t need to rotate or flip them.
Mattresses with thicker layers of lighter foam usually weigh 60 to 70 pounds, while mattresses that consist exclusively of dense foam could be as much as 90 pounds. This applies mainly to King and Queen size beds; Twin and Full mattresses will naturally be lighter.
Without going into too much detail, lighter and medium densities of foam are better if you plan to move around a lot on top of your bed. They’ll cushion your movements and offer a comfortable level of springiness.
The Effect of Your Sleeping Position
Your sleeping position significantly impacts how comfortable a memory foam mattress will be. The main reason for this is that sleeping on your side pushes you deeper into the mattress than sleeping on your back or stomach.
The reason for this is simple: When you sleep on your side, you’re concentrating all of your weight in a narrower area. That means you’ll go down further. If you tend to spread out over more of the mattress surface, you won’t have this worry.
If the softer part of your mattress isn’t deep enough, you could end up feeling the firm base beneath the comfortable foam. That’s uncomfortable for many people. Issues with sleeping positions are one of the main reasons some people like a mattress while others don’t.
I recommend a minimum of three inches of softer foam for back and stomach sleepers and five inches for side sleepers.
Consider Your Weight When Choosing a Memory Foam Mattress
Weight can also affect whether a particular memory foam mattress is good for you. Lighter individuals may need less memory foam to feel comfortable, while heavier people might need several extra inches of foam to get the same feeling of comfort.
Finding the right balance is tricky and could require ordering one or two extra layers to modify your mattress. I’m speaking from experience here. I’m not particularly overweight, but I was still too heavy for my extra-firm base mattress. That’s why I needed to soften it with other layers.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy equation for calculating exactly how many inches of memory foam you need. Factors like foam density and the number of layers in the bed impact its overall comfort, so you may need to order the mattress and try what sounds best.
So, Are Memory Foam Mattresses Good For You?
Overall, yes. Memory foam mattresses have become an increasingly popular choice among households, and current forecasts suggest they’ll continue growing their market share for the foreseeable future. They’re durable, comfortable, easy to adjust, and surprisingly affordable.
However, in the end, only you can say if a particular mattress is comfortable. If you’re not sure about changing to memory foam, try one out for a few weeks and see how you like it.
He is an Engineer, designer and jogging enthusiast. His team of product testers and reviewers are as passionate as he is about sleep improvement and are on a collective mission to reveal to you only the best sleep solutions and products.