We’ve all at least heard of the magical memory foam mattresses. Some of us even remember when the space age material first hit the market. Endless waves of commercials and demonstrations of the practicality and revolutionary characteristics of this new foam left many sleepers excited and in awe. And they were right to be too because the material has evolved. The process and technology has also come a long way since the decade it was created. Nowadays, many people are proud owners of memory foam mattresses or the varying types of mattress toppers, and it has transformed into a household staple in many homes. So, maybe it’s time to get yours. That is why you are here, right? If so, then enjoy our roundup of memory foam mattresses, and this one-stop-shop on everything you need to know about how to achieve a good night’s deep sleep.
Memory Foam Mattress Buying Guide
What Is A Memory Foam Mattress?
The memory foam that we know today was brought to us by the Swedish company Tempur-Pedic in 1991, but they did not invent it. The technology itself was invented by NASA, but the company brought the visco-elastic material to the public market in the form of a mattress.
The classic foam itself is a concoction of modified polyurethane foam that has been chemically altered to have a lower melting point. This recipe creates a material full of tiny holes that allow for better compression and distribution of pressure. This synthetic polyurethane foam also allows for an active mold to shape and conform when compressed, hence the term memory foam. On a less scientific note, the foam is highly energy absorbent, as opposed to the less absorbent springs in a traditional type. This is easily demonstrated in those popular commercials where a glass of wine is placed on the surface while a person jumps up and down on the bed. The glass doesn’t tip over because it is absorbing enough energy from the jumping that almost none of it reaches the glass.
What makes the memory foam mattress so popular is the comfort they offer in comparison to the likes of a spring or latex mattress. This is mainly due to the way the surface responds to heat and pressure. When you lay down, your weight is distributed more evenly from the main pressure points placed on the surface, such as the waist, back, and head. This differs significantly from a spring mattress that carries all the pressure on a few springs, causing more strain and resistance, which leads to the worryingly common back pains. More details about the effects and benefits will be covered later on, but first let’s look at the different types, because there are many options to be considered when buying one.
Memory Foam Mattress Pros & Cons
As you can imagine, there are benefits and downsides which exist when it comes to owning/buying a memory foam mattress. Below we discuss further:
Types Of Memory Foam Mattress
There are a few main types of memory foam, ranging from the traditional viscoelastic to the organic, and each of them offers different benefits and results.
First, let’s look at conventional memory foam, also known as viscoelastic foam. This material, the one created by NASA and brought to life by Tempur-Pedic, is the classic polyurethane material that is designed to react and mold into shape based on body heat. This, like most variations of memory foam mattresses, is far more sanitary and hypoallergenic than innerspring. This is because the former can only host organisms on the surface, unlike the internal environment in the latter spring type that welcomes different microbial life within the hollow coil systems.
Gel memory foam is similar to the traditional viscoelastic, but additionally is infused with millions of tiny gel beads (which is often blue) and resembles the conforming gel in shoe soles and other sports material. This gel is more durable than the viscoelastic as a whole, and is very effective in terms of motion isolation, which is great for sharing couples. The gel is also a little more fitting for those with body aches or joint problems and is often the more medically therapeutic choice.
One problem with the traditional visco foam type is heat retention, and the gel memory foam mattress tackles this quite well. The gel types are cooler for longer, and distribute the heat from the surface more effectively, which is ideal for hotter climates or those who share a bed. There are some variations of this option too, for example, a typical lower budget gel mattress may not consist wholly of gel infused foam, but instead may have a thick traditional viscoelastic base (known as the platform or support base) and then finished off with a 2-6″ layer of gel foam for the top (known as the comfort layer). This is the most common combination and a highly satisfactory option for a vast majority of people.
For those who aren’t quite ready to make your own mattress, these are for the alternate proudly green homeowners. There are some minor complaints from the traditional viscoelastic materials being somewhat chemically intensive, which is why a healthier, natural, eco-friendly option was introduced. The most recent in this market is what’s widely known as the plant based foam mattress; an environmentally friendly alternative, because, usually, a large percentage of the gel or viscoelastic foam is replaced by natural products such as soy, tea, and most commonly bamboo.
There are many health benefits to a plant based memory foam mattress. They are more breathable, which means they are cooler and dissipate heat faster than their peers. Soy based foam reacts to pressure faster, making them responsive and good for motion isolation, and above all, they don’t produce any off-gas when first used. Although prices are slowly coming down, these are typically still the most expensive mattress types of the ones we have discussed already. Considering the highly organic and hypoallergenic nature of plant foam, the natural mattress is fast becoming a popular choice for new buyers.
Like the gel mattress, the air cool memory foam is designed to tackle the issue of heat retention, which its predecessors suffer from. Simply put, these are new on the market and gaining popularity because they have better airflow and can channel the heat more effectively, thus making the sleep surface cooler throughout the night. Not only does this cooling technology aid in the quality of sleep, by keeping it cooler overall makes it far more hygienic and hypoallergenic.
Asides from the improved heat management, the special air cool option is very similar to the material, support, and comfort of the traditional memory foam mattress. Air cool options tend to be more expensive, but for the money worth every cent, especially for those in hotter climates or for people who generally tend to sweat during sleep excessively.
Proprietary foam mattresses are becoming increasingly common in the marketplace, and are usually excellent choices of material. Manufacturers often infuse their foams with materials like copper or graphite, among other elements. This can be for different reasons, but mainly to help regulate body temperature. Each company will offer their own reasons for choosing their infusion, and more often than not, these foam mattresses provide remarkable experiences.
Tips For Choosing A Memory Foam Mattress
There are a few key things to look for when choosing the best memory foam mattress for your needs and within budget. Before you get started, know that there is a wide range and plenty of variety in this market compared to other types. You will see different materials, advertised densities and IFD measurements, softnesses, thicknesses, heat regulation, and much more. Most of these factors are dependent on personal taste, but either way, you should be clued up on some of these factors to make an ideal purchase.
Check The Density
The memory foam density is measured in pounds (lbs) but is also displayed as IFD. The most common measurement is in lbs, as IFD ratings become less popular. Simply put, the density refers to the amount of force to make a one-inch indent into the foam itself. The higher the figure (4-5lbs and above) means the firmness will be a harder surface to sleep on, more firm as opposed to soft and plush. Higher density means the more force it takes, the better the support, and often the more expensive. A low-density rating (usually 2-4lbs) will create a more conforming soft or medium surface for the body to rest on. This creates grooves around the body as you lay flat, thus relieving pressure points and alleviating joint pain.
The easiest way to remember is, for a soft and plush sinking sensation, choose a low-density rating. For a hard, less plush and more supporting surface, choose a high-density rating.
Choose Your Size
This may sound silly, but now is a good time to measure your existing bed frame, especially if you’re choosing to keep the existing foundation. Countless people have purchased a mattress on the assumption that they have a particular size, only to receive the new mattress to find it’s either too small or too big. This could turn out to be an expensive mistake because you won’t be within your rights for a free return. Although a vast majority of mattresses in the US are Queen size, it’s best to measure and get the right size and dimensions.
Choose Your Thickness
When reading memory foam mattress reviews or product specifications, you’ll often see talk of layers, thickness, or height. That’s because essentially these mattresses are made of layers of foam varying in thickness and density. Generally, the overall height can vary from anything between 8″ for a cheap option to 16″ for the high-end models. The top layer (comfort layer) is the softest layer, and it is often infused into the core (or support base), which is deeper down and is much thicker and dense. So now, you need to choose the depth of your surface layer. If you have too shallow of a layer, you won’t get the desired effect or support you need, especially if its relatively low density.
Many offer and recommend different depth levels, but in reality, anything above 2″ as a top layer is fine. As for the bottom support base, the thickness is usually dependent on what the manufacturer chooses to do to make theirs pick of the bunch. For example, a typical foam mattress may have 2+8, meaning the latter 8″ are layers of varying thickness and technologies which tackle issues such as heat retention and sagging. In short, the best memory foam mattress will be over 10″ thick and is likely to consist of multiple layers of various foam and thickness and density like in the picture above.
Delivery and Shipping Services
Some mattresses (not all) which you purchase nowadays will be supplied vacuum rolled and packed into a box. What this means is, your new mattress is no longer a burden for you or the delivery man, because the shipment can be carried straight to your bedroom very easily by you or the courier. Once the vacuum rolled mattress is in place on your bed, simply unpack and unroll. After a short wait, you’ll see what was an extremely thin rolled piece of foam soon form into your thickened full size version. Check the manufacturer’s instructions as to how long to wait before using it to sleep on, but generally, it should reach its full size within 24 hours.
White glove delivery is also an option to consider. Not everyone can handle up to 120 lbs weight (average Queen memory foam mattress). You may receive the delivery to your front door, but what about carrying it to your room, unboxing, lifting it onto the bedframe, and so on? Some mattress companies offer a white glove delivery service. Usually, for a fee, you can have the mattress taken to your room and setup, saving you the hassle.
Every memory foam mattress should be CertiPUR-US approved. If it is, then you know you are getting a safe, non-toxic material that is flame-retardant and ozone friendly. Even if it’s a hybrid mattress made of latex and memory foam, the latter should be CertiPUR-US foam. Other materials used in the composition of the mattress may also be certified, but they’re not as important. For example, the wool or cotton may be Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified. But, this is more for proving organic and eco-friendliness as opposed to ensuring safety as CertiPUR US would.
Warranty is essential for several reasons. Mattresses aren’t always made perfect out of the factory. Occasionally, no matter how reputable the company, you’ll find one which has a defect. A limited warranty will protect you against manufacturer defects, offering you a free replacement. However, more importantly, there is the issue of premature sag. There is no reason for a good mattress to sag more than a certain amount (usually 0.5 inches to 1 inch) within a given period of time after normal usage. These thresholds are set out in the warranty. Some firms will cover you against a 0.5-inch sag, while others won’t listen unless it’s deeper than an inch.
The length of the warranty is also an important factor. Some people choose to keep their mattresses for 15-20 years. While the average memory foam mattress lifespan is less 10-15 years, it’s important to buy a mattress that roughly has this length of cover. Generally, most budget and mid-range mattresses offer up to 10-years, while the best memory foam mattresses will come with a Lifetime/Forever warranty.
Not everyone will love the mattress they buy. It’s important to ensure your mattress is perfect, especially given that you’ll be using it for the next decade at least. Therefore, most online mattress companies offer you the option to use the mattress at home for many nights before deciding whether or not to keep or return. Buying a mattress from a showroom usually doesn’t come with this perk, which is why purchasing a mattress online is fast becoming the preferred choice with today’s consumers.
The sleep trial length can vary dramatically between brands. For example, the minimally acceptable threshold is approximately 100 nights. This rises, and you’ll often find 101, 120, 180, and 365-night trials. While you may not need 365 or even 100 nights to decide for sure, it’s a perk worth noting.
Mattress returns are processed differently, depending on the company. Usually, returns are free. However, occasionally you may have to pay a transport fee which covers the cost of collection. Most mattresses that are returned by customers are donated to charities or homeless shelters.
Some companies will not collect your mattress in person, but instead, liaise with a charity organization and arrange for them to collect it from your home. Other companies will ask you to choose a charity and donate it yourself. Once you provide the mattress company with proof of collection/donation to a charity, they’ll issue your refund.
Our Favorite Memory Foam Mattress
Finding The Best Memory Foam Mattress
To find the best memory foam mattress we first evaluated 29 different foam mattresses and then narrowed it down to just 10. We then checked 18 different sources for data which totalled 57 hours of research. Below you’ll find some of the criteria we evaluated when finalizing our top selections:
- How comfortable and supportive the mattress is
- The type of memory foam, i.e, if it has gel, copper, graphite or any other infusions
- The perks included such as sleep trial, warranty and returns policy
- The certifications and safety measures to ensure low toxicity of foams
- Other characteristics such as motion isolation and edge support
Here’s our top 10 picks at a glance
Memory Foam Mattress FAQ's
Why does my memory foam mattress smell?
This is because the material is made from certain chemicals and other materials, so when the product is first opened, it needs to breathe and expand, often giving off a slightly toxic smell. It goes away after a day or so, and it mostly happens in lower quality types.
Are memory foam mattresses good for heavy people?
Yes, they can be just fine for plus-sized individuals. Generally, most foam mattresses can support in the region of 300 lbs per side without issue. If you weigh more than this, consider the hybrid Titan mattress.
Will the delivery company take away my old mattress or bed?
Some companies offer this service at an additional cost. It is not standard procedure. You’ll usually see this option at the checkout screen, but if you don’t, you will have to use a third party company like LoadUp.
Is memory foam better than innerspring?
There is no better or worse. Spring mattresses are made of steel coils. It’s what a majority of people slept on up until about 15 years ago. Some people prefer the bouncy feel of an innerspring mattress, while others like the sinkage and hugging sensation of memory foam. It’s down to personal choice.
When we conduct research and compile these buying guides and roundups, our ultimate goal is to provide valuable information for sleepers to enjoy slumber and look forward to getting into their beds each night.
If we had to choose one, it would be the Puffy Lux. The premium feel and comfort are second-to-none. Back pain relief is on-point and targets the upper and lower areas with ease. The innovative design and materials used in its construction, in our opinion, combine to make a mattress that deserves a much higher price tag.
However, every mattress is made differently, and every sleeper has different needs, and therefore numerous factors will determine which you’ll buy in the end. For example, price, warranty, foam type, trial length, and of course, firmness is usually the most common features which dictate a buyer’s decision, and some of which are comparable in our article.
Hopefully, this article has been helpful and aids in your search to find the best memory foam mattress for your needs. If not, please check some of our other mattress reviews.
Helen is a passionate writer contributing her expertise in sleep science and wellness to our readers. With a background in psychology and a love for exploring the intricacies of a good night’s rest, she aims to help readers achieve improved sleep and overall well-being through her insightful articles.