Memory foam, also known as viscoelastic polyurethane foam, was first created for NASA for use in aircraft cushions.
Today, it is used in seat cushions, pillows, and mattresses.
If you are thinking about buying a memory foam mattress, it’s a great choice. It’s comfortable, it is good if you have back pain and good quality memory foam lasts long.
But there are some downsides you should also be aware of, and the main one is heat retention.
Here’s a quick explanation of the main pros and cons of memory foam mattresses.
Excellent Contouring and Pressure Relief
Because of how memory foam is made, it quickly molds around any warm object.
It consists of air cells that are sensitive to heat. When the foam comes into contact with a warm object, in this case your body, it softens. This allows it to contour around your body.
This does two things.
One, it creates a comfortable hug. That’s why memory foam mattresses feel plush and comfortable.
Two, it prevents pressure points.
Pressure points occur when a part of your body like your shoulder or hip digs presses uncomfortably into a mattress without enough give.
Because of memory foam’s molding ability, you don’t feel any pressure points. In other words, memory foam has excellent pressure relief, which adds to its plush comfort.
Good for Back and Joint Pain
The contouring + pressure relief combo makes memory foam mattresses the best for people with back and joint pain.
Other materials like latex and innerspring have good support but do not shield the injured areas from pressure.
On the other hand good quality memory foam balances between support and pressure relief. There’s no pressure on your back or hips to worsen the pain.
If you have chronic back problems or healing from back surgery or you were involved in an accident, a memory foam mattress is the best choice.
Adequate Support for Most People
Memory foam provides adequate support for most people, and it gives more support compared to latex foam.
You won’t sink in too much or feel like you are sleeping in a swamp.
But this applies only if you buy a high-quality memory foam mattress, made with high-density foam. Cheap memory foam can be too ‘swampy’, compromising back support.
No Motion Transfer
Memory foam is dense, which prevents motion transfer. You won’t feel your partner wake up or turn at night, making memory foam mattresses especially suitable for couples.
Good quality memory foam can easily last 8-10 years with proper care.
Newer memory foam is even more durable with some bed-in-a-box companies offering lifetime warranties on their memory foam mattresses.
When memory foam absorbs body heat, it doesn’t let go of it. After a few hours, the mattress can heat up to the point of discomfort.
You might wake up hot and drenched in sweat.
This can seriously affect sleep quality.
Newer memory foam mattresses have techniques to make the memory foam cooler. They include:
- Cooling gel infused into the foam to improve heat conductivity out of the mattress.
- Open-cell foam to improve ventilation.
- Phase-change materials (PCMs) infused into the foam or cover. These keep the mattress within a tight temperature range.
These do make a difference for most people.
However, if you are particularly heat-sensitive or you experience night sweats and hot flushes, I suggest staying away from memory foam.
Buy an innerspring, hybrid or latex foam mattress instead.
Read our Sleep Delivered Nectar Mattress Review if you’d love a spring and latex foam mattress.
Not Responsive – Bad for Movement and Sex
If you prefer sleeping on a bouncy mattress, memory foam is not for you.
Newer memory foam is slightly more responsive, but you still cannot compare it to a spring or latex mattress.
The lack of responsiveness makes it more difficult to turn at night and can make sex less fun.
One of the most common complaints regarding memory foam mattresses is a chemical smell when it is new.
This is called off-gassing.
As long as you buy a mattress with CertiPUR-US certified foam, you can be sure it is harmless. It should fade away within a couple of days.
Poor Support for Overweight and Obese Individuals
If you are overweight or obese, avoid memory foam mattresses completely. They’ll not provide adequate support. Instead, buy an 11”+ hybrid mattress consisting of foam and innerspring.
Memory foam is an excellent choice for most people looking for a new mattress. It’s comfortable, has excellent support and it’s durable.
However, if you are plus size, hate sleeping hot or want a bouncy mattress, memory foam won’t work for you.