All You Need to Know About Memory Foam MattressesWhen you’re shopping for a new mattress, there are a range of varieties out there that all promise to give you better sleep. Memory foam mattresses are one type that generate a lot of enthusiasm for their ability to bring about a good night’s rest. Here’s a quick guide to all you need to know about them.

The history of memory foam

Memory foam (often referred to as “viscoelastic”) was first developed in the mid-1960s by NASA’s Ames Research Centre to improve the safety of aircraft cushions. Memory foam moulds to the body in response to heat and pressure. The idea was that, in the event of impact, the properties of the memory foam would protect a person by evenly distributing body weight.


In 1991, Fagerdala World Foams used the technology to release its “Tempur-Pedic Swedish Mattress”, a mattress most commonly used for patients that were immobilised for long periods of time in bed. The foam technology was a big success and the number of pressure sores and gangrene cases in patients dramatically decreased. People became interested in the new type of mattress, but for most, the technology was still considered too expensive. Over time, costs have come down and memory foam mattresses are now more of a reality for the average person.


How does memory foam work?

Memory foam contains cells which respond to body heat and weight by compressing and moulding themselves to your body. As you sleep, there are parts of your body such as your hips that are heavier. In a normal mattress, this could result in you waking up with sore hips or stiff joints, but with memory foam, your hips sink deeper into the mattress, relieving the pressure on them and distributing the weight evenly over the mattress. Once you get up in the morning, the memory foam spring backs into its original shape.


What are the benefits of memory foam?

If you speak to most mattress retailers, they will tell you that the greatest benefit to memory foam is the relief on the lower back. The notion is that by supporting your body’s natural curves and lines, your body can be supported at its best while you sleep. According to research, around 80-83% of memory foam mattress users report satisfaction with the product.


Because it doesn’t involve coils and springs, memory foam makes for a quiet mattress. For restless sleepers, memory foam can work wonders as it reduces movement during the night. The partners of restless sleepers tend to love it too, because the mattress technology minimises motion transfer so that they are less likely to be woken by their partner tossing and turning. Memory foam mattresses also require little maintenance and can last for up to 10 years.


What are the disadvantages of memory foam?

Memory foam mattresses are often criticised for the amount of chemicals and toxic components used in making them. However, varieties made with plant based materials are changing this. The foam can also trap carbon dioxide, which is why memory foam mattresses are not recommended for babies and can result in an increased risk of sudden infant death (SIDS). Some consumers also find the mattress retains too much heat, causing sweaty sleep during warm weather.