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Memory Foam Buyer's Guide

The popularity of the memory foam mattress has surged over recent years, with several big brands offering their own range of memory and natural latex foam mattresses. The difference between many makes and models can be vast, so our memory foam mattress buying guide is here to help you know the facts and buy the best available for your money.

What is memory foam?

Memory foam is a material originally developed by NASA for space flights, due to the ability to relieve pressure on the body. Although the visco-elastic foam used back then was designed to provide comfort and support against extreme g-force, it isn't the same memory foam that's found in today's mattresses, despite what many manufacturers or dealers will have you believe.

The original memory foam material developed by NASA in the 1970's was not comfortable and also broke down over time. The Swedish Tempur Pedic mattress company took on the task of evolving the material and their improvements.

Despite being around for over 40 years, products using the memory foam material, such as memory foam mattress toppers pads, cushions and pillows have only recently hit the bedding market by storm. This is because despite the evident benefits of memory foam, the manufacturing outlay used to be very costly, hence their primary use for hospital beds rather than domestic use. Over the last few years however, the manufacturing process has advanced a lot, owning to the increase in companies selling memory foam products and their surge in popularity over traditional sprung mattresses.

What puts the 'memory' in memory foam?

Visco elastic memory mattresses are constructed of billions of open cells, designed to respond to the body's pressure points and temperature. The manufacturing process starts with a synthetic polyurethane foam material, which when combined with chemicals, creates non toxic viscoelastic foam. Not all memory foam is created equal. In fact there are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration, which contribute to a memory foam mattress grading system. Let's take a look at each of them.

1. Indentation Load Deflection (ILD Rating)
The ILD rating of a memory foam mattress provides a good indication of the firmness and quality of the product. The ILD or IFD (Indentation Force Deflection as it is also known) will basically tell you how hard or soft the memory foam will be.

The calculation is made by measuring the amount of pressure needed to achieve 25% deep compression of a 4 inch thick foam. As a result, memory foam with a higher ILD will typically be firmer. A memory foam topper or mattress with lower ILD top layer would be great at reducing pressure points, but consider that this can sometimes be problematic for those who regularly visit the chiropractor and suffer from lower back pain, especially without adequate supporting layers underneath. This is why you will find many of the best memory foam mattresses using a multi-layer system that overall provide a supportive and comfortable sleep. The base layer will usually be foam that is firm to offer resilient support. The layers above will then differ depending on mattress brand and model to suit your firmness and density preference.

The ILD rating of the mattresses you search for in stores will often not have a single number to represent the firmness of the foam. Instead a range is often given (e.g. 13lbs - 15lbs representing a medium to firm mattress). This is because the mattress measurement can differ slightly depending on factors such as moisture and humidity.

2. Weight
As mentioned earlier, chemicals are what give the foam its visco-elasticity. The more chemicals that are used during the manufacturing process the more visco-elastic the mattress will become and the higher the density.

3. Foam Resilience
The resilience of the foam will tell you how durable the mattress will be. A higher resilience means more spring in the mattress, so it's more durable to compression. On this basis, a lower resilience reading will have less force against the weight of the body, allowing more of sinking feeling into the mattress. When comparing memory foam mattresses you will find that many of the top brands will have a very different top layer to the supportive base layer, in order to provide both support and pressure point reduction.

The problems with memory foam mattresses

It seems that a lot of people have heard of problems with memory foam mattresses, the most common problem can easily be resolved by buying wisely. Here are a few of the most common complaints and our advice.

Heat Build-up
We personally know a few people that have complained about how hot their mattress gets during the night. Sleeping on a hot mattress isn't to everyone's liking, and it seems that many mattress models have this problem.

One way that some of the better memory foam beds prevent this is by using a coolmax fabric, which helps to regulate body temperature. This fabric is penetrable by air and has a high heat regulating capacity. The result is a mattress that can get rid of body moisture faster than natural fiber, keeping you cool during sleep.

Most memory foam mattresses smell when you first buy them. This is very common, but is a common complaint. The odor doesn't usually last very long (a few days to a few weeks) but if it concerns you, we do have a few tips. Try airing the room and washing the bed sheets every few days so that you don't notice the smell too much. If you haven't yet gotten rid of your old mattress, you could even use that for an extra week whilst your new memory foam mattresses airs out in a spare room.

Cheap Imitations
Like any hot selling product, memory foam mattresses do have their cheap imitations. Although they might look attractive from a price viewpoint, you often get what you pay for. One of the main reasons you might be looking at buying a memory foam mattress is so that there is less pressure placed on areas of the body that often suffer from aches and pains. As a consequence, buying a cheap memory foam mattress will likely hinder the quality that you'd expect from your mattress.

To be able to offer the cheapest memory foam mattress, the company selling them will need to source the materials used in the mattress at very low costs. This of course is the memory foam. As a result, the mattress may not last long, have poor compression, and be unable to offer the support that you would expect from a memory foam mattress. Furthermore, the density of the memory foam used in the mattress will not be as good as in some of the best rated mattresses.

Memory foam mattresses are among the most expensive types on the market. Some of the high-end models can easily cost in the thousands, but this isn't to say they're the only mattresses you should be looking at. Some of our memory foam mattress reviews has suggested many brands and models that come recommended from consumers, many costing hundreds rather than thousands. If you have a limited budget, it can pay off to spend a bit of time comparing the many mattresses available to you. We can't all afford the best mattress, but there are plenty of alternatives.

What else you should consider before you buy a memory foam mattress
There are a number of things to consider before you buy your next mattress. The mattress can be (and arguably should be) one of the biggest investments you'll make in your home. We spend a considerable amount of time in bed, so the mattress is a very important purchase. Let's take a look at a few more factors you'll want to consider.

Mattress Size
This is a pretty obvious one, but considering we spend a large part of our day in bed, and aim to buy a mattress to last many years, it's important to get this right. The mattress size that you choose will often come down to either budget, room size, or existing bed base size, but where possible buy a mattress that will allow for a restful sleep without rolling off the side or your feet sticking out the end!

Bed Base
Most bed bases and bedsteads are suitable for a memory foam mattress. These mattresses do not need any extra support or suspension from the base, so anything that is a stable foundation should do the trick. If the bed frame that you already have, or are considering buying is a wooden slatted style, try to space the slats no wider than a couple of inches apart. Memory foam mattresses can also be used on adjustable bed frames. Combine the flexibility of adjustable beds, and the support and comfort of a memory mattress and you will have a sleep system to really enjoy.

Depth and Density
The depth of the memory foam mattress is important but don't confuse the depth of the memory foam with the depth of the mattress overall. The memory foam layer is the part that provides the comfort and pressure relieving qualities, so this is the only thing you should take note of. A dealer selling cheap memory foam mattresses may advertise the depth of the mattress as similar to the top brands, but the actual thickness of the memory foam material inside the mattress will not be nearly as good or deep.

The density of the mattress often refers to the top layer of visco elastic memory foam. This layer is also the most important as it's this that ultimately provides the pressure relieving benefits, and is the layer most costly to manufacturer. The base layer isn't visco elastic foam, so should not be confused with the top layer.

The density rating indicates how much visco-elastic memory foam is actually inside the top layer. The higher the density, the heavier the memory foam mattress will be. This means that there are small air cavities in the memory foam compared to mattresses with less density, making the higher density mattresses harder to break down and ultimately able to provide better cushion to the contours of your body.

You will find that the high-density memory foam mattress models will naturally feel more superior to cheap mattresses using less memory foam. However, the density of the memory foam doesn't equate to the firmness of the mattress. Some of the best memory foam mattress companies are able to adjust firmness no matter what density of memory foam is used. This is where a lot of manufacturers of low-density models falter, as attempts to make the mattress firmer only results in the cells breaking down faster and easier. As a result it may not take long until these mattresses begin to sag.

Being covered by a warranty will give you peace of mind when buying a mattress. In general, only those companies like Amazing Emporium that sell high-quality memory foam mattresses will offer an extensive warranty or guarantee period that covers you against defects. Some will only offer short term warranties.

Where to buy a memory foam mattress
Here at Amazing Emporium we have a selection of mattresses that meet most customer’s needs. We also have the expertise that can advise on your requirements

Comparing memory foam mattresses to alternatives
There are several alternatives to memory foam mattresses. Let's take a look at the comparison between memory foam and latex, air, and spring mattresses, and we'll also discuss an alternative to buying a new mattress; the memory foam mattress pad.

Latex vs. memory foam mattresses
The elasticity of latex foam is greater than that of memory foam, which makes latex feel more springy. What this means to the sleeper is that mattresses that primarily use memory foam will not provide pressure up against the body, and those that use latex will feel less solid. You'll find that many companies now use a combination of the two foams to get the best of both worlds. In rare circumstances, reactions to latex can be triggered, but allergies are even more rare in the mattresses using talalay latex; a synthetic and natural latex mix.

Memory foam vs. air mattresses
Most people think of air mattresses as mainly being useful for camping trips and such. However, they now make for an interesting alternative to memory foam in the home, mainly due to their ability to change firmness settings with ease. Recent models also have controls to alter the firmness of two different sides of the bed for partners. However, airbeds aren't as durable as other types and you won't find a warranty as extensive as you would with a memory foam mattress.

Another negative when comparing these two mattress types is that air mattresses can’t provide the contouring and relief for pressure wounds that memory foam beds can. Air displaces to the side of the body in these mattresses leave little support where you need it.

Memory foam mattress vs. inner spring mattress
Spring mattresses used to be the mattress that everyone used to sleep on. Despite still being popular, it's not possible for spring mattresses to offer the benefits that a memory foam mattress can. They can't adapt to the contours of the body anywhere near as well, meaning that support for the spine, neck, back and joints is far less than with memory foam. Furthermore, springs in these mattresses can lose their shape over time, which is why an old spring mattress is so uncomfortable to sleep on.

Memory foam mattress vs. memory foam mattress pad
An alternative to buying a full mattress is to invest in a visco memory foam mattress topper pad. This will largely be down to the state of your current mattress. If your mattress sags or dips in the middle then a new mattress will be the better option, else the mattress pad will also dip and sag, limiting the amount of support for your spine, neck, back and joints.

If however you do decide that a memory foam topper will suffice, then you can make significant savings. The buying process is very similar to that of a memory foam mattress. The primary considerations are the density, thickness and firmness.

Memory foam toppers are available in a range of thicknesses. Which thickness you choose will depend on your mattress. A 1-inch pad may not provide the results you're expecting from memory foam, so look more towards the 2, 3, or 4-inch thick pads. Memory foam mattress pads on the thinner end of the scale may be sufficient, if the ILD rating is high enough, but it's more difficult to get the 'sinking' effect and proper body contouring without investing in the thicker pads.

Cleaning and caring for your memory foam mattress
To ensure that your memory foam mattress lasts as long as possible, and continues to function to its best ability, you'll want to take proper care of it. Most memory foam mattresses are made to be laid right side up, so rather than flip the mattress (like you would to delay sagging in a sprung mattress), you can rotate it 180 degrees every 3-6 months or so. By rotating the mattress you are spreading the body load over the lifespan of the mattress, prolonging its life expectancy.

A problem with all mattresses is the breeding of dust mites or bed bugs in the mattress interior. Whereas sprung mattresses have a hollow core ideal for bed bugs, memory foam mattresses have a solid core with several layers making them far less attractive as a breeding ground for bugs. The better memory foam mattress models will more than likely have some sort of hypo-allergenic and anti-microbial treatment to make them free of dust mites. This all helps people that suffer from asthma.

Cleaning a memory foam mattress can be done with something like baking powder. After applying the baking powder and leaving it do its job for 30 minutes, vacuum the mattress. This will not only remove the baking powder, but also pick up dead skin from your mattress. Use spot cleaner on any stains with a small amount of warm water. Don't douse the mattress with water else it will be difficult to dry. After the mattress is clean of dirt and spills, blot the dampened area with a towel. If the mattress is in a warm room it shouldn't take too long to dry.

Closing comments
When you consider all of the points made in this guide, it's hard to argue that memory foam isn't the best bed type available right now. Their chiropedic ability to relieve pressure points and support the natural contours of the body means they have a unique selling point that other mattress types don't have. How they do this can’t be mirrored by spring or air mattresses.

We at Amazing Emporium offer an array of memory foam mattresses making it the place to buy either online or visiting our store. Whether you're looking for a new memory foam mattress for yourself or your child, there will be something that meets your criteria at Amazing Emporium. In fact, even your dog can now enjoy the benefits of a memory foam bed!