Did you know that the memory foam mattress you’re considering buying was derived from space age technology? Yes, it is but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right mattress for you! You have to carefully consider the facts about memory foam before making your choice, especially as it represents a larger investment in comparison with latex and innerspring mattresses.
NASA Technology Adopted for Consumer Market
Memory foam was originally designed for NASA airplane seats in the mid-1960s but it was adapted for use in the consumer market. Due to its viscoelastic material, it is soft to the touch and with high energy absorbency.
Basically, it molds to the contours of the body in response to the heat and pressure coming from it. This results in superior comfort and support for the individual sleeping on a memory foam mattress, partly due to the more even weight distribution. Once the heat and pressure are removed – the user gets up – it returns to its original shape.
Aside from mattresses and mattress toppers, memory foam can also be found in many consumer products. These include in shoes and helmets as a cushioning material as well as in seating pads and prosthetics in medicine.
Today, memory foam comes in a wide range of depths and densities. Many manufacturers, such as Tempur-Pedic, are also incorporating memory foam into their products from mattresses to pillows. Be careful when choosing from among several types as it will have a significant impact on the level of comfort, cushioning, and support experienced from its use.
Possible Benefits for Individual Consumer
Keep in mind that each individual’s experiences with different types of mattresses, from innerspring and natural latex to memory foam, will differ because of their personal preferences. Your friend who likes to sleep on her side, for example, may praise her memory foam mattress but another friend with body heat issues may not. You have to decide based on the pros and cons of memory foam whether it’s for you or not.
When you lie on a memory foam mattress, your body’s heat and pressure with slowly but surely soften it in the right places. Your spine can then maintain its neutral alignment while your body maintains its natural curves. You’re neither too straight as in on a wooden bed nor too wavy, so to speak, as on a feather bed.
The result: Optimum comfort, cushioning and support that many other types of mattress materials may be unable to provide during eight hours of sleep.
Mattress manufacturers assert that memory foam mattresses and mattress toppers are excellent choices for people who have:
- Back pain problems due to the non-supportive surface of their current mattresses;
- Concerns with pressure points in their bodies, such as in the shoulders, hips and knees;
- Issues regarding the current comfort and support provided by their current mattresses but don’t want to change them yet (i.e., financial constraints);
- Needs in keeping nighttime movements to a minimum, especially with a restless sleeper in the same bed (i.e., without coiled springs, a memory foam mattress may absorb movements better)
If you’re a relatively healthy individual with sleep-related issues, then you may want to consider a memory foam mattress. You may find that it’s more expensive than other types but it may well work for you and your bed partner.
But there are downsides to memory foam that may preclude its use for certain individuals. There are three strikes against it, namely:
- Due to its heat retention properties, it may be unsuitable for people who like sleeping in a cool environment. Many people actually complain about memory foam being too warm after a few hours of use. But if you still like to use memory foam as your sleeping surface, you can either change your thermostat setting or use a thinner memory foam topper.
- Offgassing, which refers to the odd chemical smell emitted by memory foam, will likely be an issue for people who have sensitivity to smells. If you have allergies or asthma, then it may not be your best choice. But if you don’t have respiratory issues, then there’s a simple method of preventing inhalation of the chemical smell – air the mattress or topper for at least 24 hours before using it.
- Due to its very soft surface, it isn’t recommended for infants’ beds since it may increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This is because soft bedding material has a high likelihood of trapping carbon dioxide. The recommendation also applies to people with spine issues that preclude the use of very soft sleeping surfaces.
Just as with physical exercise, you are well-advised to ask your doctor first about your suitability for using a memory foam mattress if you have an underlying medical condition. While it has its benefits, it can lead to health issues that could have been avoided with proper caution.