If you think Memory Foam mattresses are all the rage these days, you’re not wrong: while traditional innersprings and newer hybrid models are still the top sellers, memory foam is a close bronze-medal placer. Over ten percent of mattress sales are by memory foam experts Tempurpedic; of all the customers who purchase memory foam beds, 81% are satisfied with the quality of sleep they get from it—higher than any other mattress type on the market.
Our buyer’s guide will answer common questions about memory foam mattresses, compare its advantages and disadvantages to that of latex foam (which is also very popular), and look at a few of the best models out there to help shoppers start an informed search for their next mattress.
Casper Sleep Mattress
LinenSpa 5” Gel
Synwell Sleep 10”
What is memory foam? When did it become popular in the mattress industry?
Memory foam is a substance composed of, among other elements, polyurethane (note: specifically polyurethane foams are less dense and elastic, and are often used as support bases in memory foam mattresses), and also known as viscoelastic foam. It softens with body heat and contours to weight, so it provides a specialized support with just the right amount of give.
The material was invented in 1966 for NASA, who wanted to utilize it in their spacecraft seats and cushions. Originally called “slow spring back foam” and “temper foam,” it was later commercialized and used, almost exclusively, by Tempur World, who created the Tempur-Pedic Swedish Mattress—the predecessor of today’s most popular memory foam mattresses.
At first, these beds were only used in hospitals and other medical arenas, where bedbound patients would develop bedsores and other ailments from traditional mattresses.
The memory foam models, however, relieved pressure on these spots, and reduced pain overall.
As memory foam became less expensive, it slowly entered the mainstream market. Initially, it was unpopular because it retained so much body heat. By the early 2000s, gel-infused memory foam and ventilated designs were introduced to combat this problem, and the trend really gained traction.
In short, memory foam mattresses have been in the works for a long time, even if they seem like a fairly new invention. Today, they’re infused with everything from gel to charcoal, green tea, plant oils—and even, in the case of Beautyrest Black’s luxury line, micro-diamonds to conduct body heat away from the user.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of memory foam?
Some of the pros and cons with memory foam are based on opinion: for example, its high heat retention might be a negative for a hot sleeper, but a definite plus for a cold one.
Buyers should consider all points listed below and determine what, if any, are must-haves or dealbreakers for their particular needs.