With so many different sizes, shapes, materials, comfort and robustness levels, choosing a mattress can be a testing task these days. One material that has seen recent popularity as a choice of filling is memory foam and here we take a look at what it is, some of the reasons for its rise to prominence and the type of information you should be looking for when reading the memory foam mattress reviews out there, before you decide to buy.
Memory foam is a material that was originally developed for astronauts to use in space, because of its unique cushioning qualities. Even 40 years ago, NASA used it to provide protection for the body against ultra g-force. Whilst the foam used in mattresses does not need to be of the same robustness as this, it is still related, and it’s surprising actually how many of our every day materials trace back to NASA.
Its explosion into the bedding market is far more recent, mainly due to a Swedish bedding company that refined the memory foam into a usable material and because the manufacturing process has become far more efficient and economical. This has produced a material that is designed to mold to the contours of our bodies and not to heat up when we lie on it.
Nowadays memory foam mattresses sit side by side with the traditional inner-coil spring ones, in the same ranges from all the major manufacturers, no longer priced through the roof.
Know the Qualities of Memory Foam before you Buy
It’s important to recognize exactly what the material is and how its various quality levels will differ, so that when you read the reviews and come to test a memory foam mattress in the store you will know more about what to look (and feel) for.
It is formed from polyurethane which, when mixed with other chemicals, produces the non-toxic visco-elastic foam we know as memory foam. However there are different grades and these will affect the qualities of the mattress it produces.
The rating system used is the ILD, or Indentation Load Deflection (sometimes called the IFD or Indentation Force Deflection), which will tell you how firm or soft your mattress is going to be – basically, the higher the ILD, the firmer the mattress. Mostly you will see a range quoted, rather than a set figure, and this can be used as a guideline.
Your personal preference on the firmness of your mattress will probably only be decided when you test it out in-store, but recognizing this rating system helps you to narrow your selection to one that will suit you. Many of the best memory foam mattresses have a memory foam topper with a lower rating and a base layer of foam with a higher ILD to provide a balance between the comfort and the support elements most people are looking for.
Questions to Ask
Before buying, customers need to know exactly what they are looking for from their mattress. Some common questions that need to be asked are: What will you use the mattress for? How often will you use the mattress? What are your expectations in terms of comfort? Do you have a condition that you are trying to help or do you have poor posture? Where will the mattress be put – in the main bedroom, the guest room or in a child’s room? Do you have allergies to certain materials? How much do you want to spend? How long do you want it to last?
Some Common Complaints with Memory Foam Mattresses
However, there are some complaints that do seem to occur from time to time, especially with cheap memory foam mattresses.
These usually center on odors coming from the mattress, sagging, heating-up with prolonged use, or the price people have to pay.
When you first buy your mattress, it is quite likely that it will have an odor that can fill the room. This usually lasts just a few days or, at most, a few weeks, but this complaint can be mitigated by ensuring that the room is well-aired. If it is summertime, you may want to sleep with the windows open. Most people can work around this minor issue.
Sagging can occur with all mattresses over time. A good memory foam one should last the distance well but one made from a lower quality material may experience this common phenomenon. Read the reviews and educate yourself about the chances of sag, before buying.
The better mattresses limit the heat build up that can be experienced with memory foam by using a “coolmax” fabric which allows “breathing” to occur. Thereby body moisture is dissipated more easily than by using cheaper fabrics and this helps to keep temperatures down.
The cheapest memory foam mattresses are always susceptible to promising more than they deliver. Read reviews and these will usually highlight the potential problems. Usually if you are buying a memory foam item you are already expecting to pay a little more than you would for a spring mattress, but being aware there are different qualities of memory foam will prepare you well when you decide on a budget. Perhaps you will want to add a few dollars to ensure that you get the comfort and longevity that you expect from it. Yes, bargains can be had, especially online or via seasonal sales in bedding centers, but make sure that you know what you are getting.
Other Variables of Memory Foam Mattresses
Of course, like all types, memory foam mattresses are now made in all the relevant sizes. Most of the manufacturers will have a guide to sizes on their web sites, defining all the terms they use and providing exact specifications of each item in their ranges. Make sure you have measured your room carefully, especially if you are thinking of upgrading size, so that you know what you’re after.
A King Size Memory Foam Mattress will usually measure around 80 x 76 inches and a Queen memory foam mattress will be around 80 x 60 inches, but be careful of variations to this.
Another thing to watch out for is the design of your mattress. If it is one with a topper, as is the current trend, then this will be the single biggest factor deciding the comfort level of your sleeping experience. This is where the memory foam rating really comes in, so check for the thickness and qualities of this layer, rather than the overall thickness of the mattress. It’s where the true “intelligence” of the mattress will be judges.
Underneath this top layer will be the support layers in the bulk of the mattress “body”. The “density” rating you will see mentioned is not referring to this, but to the upper layer where the expensive memory foam is placed.
Knowing this can help you differentiate between the claims of the superior ones and the cheaper mattresses that may promise similar things.
Another thing to watch out for is the exact material composition of your mattress. Some models will be advertised as memory foam but, in reality, they only contain a small percentage of relatively poor-quality memory foam. Others at the top end of the price range may be mixed with latex, for extra springiness, for which you may pay a premium.
Some people get the benefits of memory foam without investing in a whole mattress, by buying just a topper for their existing mattress. This can work well, and certainly saves costs, but the same rules apply to choosing the right one carefully. Also, they are not miracle-workers and can’t turn an old, worn out mattress into a sleeping paradise. Be realistic about your expectations, as ever.
Recommended Approach to Buying
With so many things to think about when buying a new mattress some people find it useful to have an action plan. We suggest a few steps to the process.
You may already have a favorite brand; if this is the case then be sure to visit their web site to see the full range of options. There should be lots of good information there, relating to their specific mattresses, as well as general information.
If you don’t have a brand in mind then a good place to start might be with some mattress review sites so that you can get an idea of the options available. Don’t necessarily take these reviews, or the customer comments there, literally, as they may not even be real customers, but at least this process will get you asking the right questions to yourself about what you are expecting and what some of the potential pitfalls are. The best reviews sites will combine some analytical review with anecdotal additions from existing customers.
Next you can check prices of the mattresses on your shortlist (maybe 4 or 5 would be good at this stage). Check at a reputable online dealer so you know that these items will fit within your budget.
Then you are ready to go to the bedding store. You have a shortlist of mattresses you want to try out and you know enough information to have a meaningful exchange with the salespeople there. You may have a list of questions to ask, which is great. Then you can try out the ones you are interested in, making a note of any other ones you like the feel of – exact names and specifications.
You should not feel guilty about walking out of the store without buying. Some people like the extra “security” of buying from a “brick and mortar” store, rather than online, but they will probably end up paying more.
Once back in the comfort of your own home you can source the best price for the exact King memory foam mattress from Sealy or Englander that you tried and liked, for example. You may have your heart set on one, or yet to decide between a few that you liked. Online discounts can be quite a saving from prices you will be quoted by other retailers, but always check warranties and secure payment procedures. Buy from only the best online bedding sites that have been recommended to you.
Two of the main benefits of using memory foam mattresses are the comfort and support levels they can provide, making them the natural replacement to the traditional coil mattresses and the more basic foam ones. A mattress is an investment that should be in our home for many years ahead, so there are definitely a few steps we should go through to make sure we buy the right one. Rushing it may result in a cheap, buckled mattress sitting on the lawn outside our home in a couple of years.