Memory Foam Mattresses – Good or Bad?

By Scott Braddam

Hand Impression in Memory Foam

Hand Impression in Memory Foam

Since about 2004, when I bought my current memory foam bed, I’ve been sold on the benefits of memory foam. There is truly no other feeling in the world which is close to sleeping on memory foam. Memory foam is like sleeping on silk sheets, unless you’ve done it, you can’t possibly understand why people rave about it. My bed is a pure foam bed, meaning no springs or framework of any kind, just layers of foam bonded together to create the mattress. I believe this is the best format, but memory foam on top of a spring base or adjustable air chamber can be good too. The bottom line is that if you have the option to use memory foam, I recommend that you do it.

I have had a lot of questions about memory foam over the years, first from friends and family and now from our readers, and the most common has to be about the most popular name brand. Tempur-Pedic was the first to introduce a memory foam bed in the United States, and has spent millions of dollars in research and development to refine their beds into the models available today. This is why they are the standard for memory foam beds, the benchmark by which all other companies are judged.

When I look at a mattress, I see so much more than just a name brand. With Tempur-Pedic, I see premium grade foams which excellent craftsmanship and durability. What I also see is room for improvement. One area for improvement is the cover used on most, if not all, of their beds. The cover is designed to be water resistant, which also means that it will not transfer air as well as a more breathable material. Basically, the cover material is woven onto a plastic sheet. This can create an overwhelming hot feel as you sleep. Tempur-Pedic does employ an airflow system which is actually two different ventilation areas in the base foam layers of the bed. This can help air circulation in the mattress itself.

Other mattress makers combat this in many ways. One way that I have seen which seems really attractive to me is the TempFlow. The TempFlow uses a breathable, non-water-resistant cover over a dual airflow system. Basically the top layers have a series of tiny holes which are vertical, and then the base foam is eggcrate which promotes horizontal airflow. This should increase the overall airflow in the mattress greatly.

Now, I do want to take a moment and let you know that I am not here to plug any mattress. I simply used these two brands to illustrate some concerns with memory foam beds. There are dozens of mattress manufacturers which use memory foam in their products. Which is the best?

Here are some things to think about if you plan to look at if you plan to shop for a memory foam bed.

Consider the foam density – Density is usually measured in the weight of the foam per cubic foot (in pounds). Tempur-Pedic uses a 5.3-lb density foam. Memory foam used in mattresses can be found in almost any increment from about 3-lb to 8-lb. The manufacturing process of the foam generally dictates that the heavier the foam is, the more expensive the mattress will be. A budget memory foam bed will have an average density of 3.5-lbs to 4-lbs. High quality memory foam mattress manufacturers will use the 5-lb to 8-lb memory foams more often, and the 8-lb foam is usually found on their top-of-the-line mattress models.

Consider the foam source – Memory foam is primarily produced overseas. Very few mattress manufacturers produce their own memory foam, but the number is growing. Tempur-Pedic makes their own foam. Some imported foams are very poor quality and suffer from irregularities, such as lumpy hard spots. These poor quality memory foams can vary in density from one area of the mattress to another. These mattresses may even state that the memory foam density is an “average” density. Foams made in the U.S.A. and the foams used by Tempur-Pedic are the best quality I have personally seen.

Consider the cover – Covers vary wildly. Look for cover options which give you breathability and durability. Exotic materials, like bamboo and silk may be the best, but good ole cotton and wool is a great place to start. Don’t be fooled by waterproof covers, they may add to the heat of the foam.

Consider the price – There’s an old adage which says “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is”. A memory foam bed which boasts all of the features I have listed for $299 in a queen size is likely to be hiding something. The other side of the shopper adage above is, “You get what you pay for”. If you want to get a quality memory foam bed, make sure to plan on spending $700-$1,000 or more.

Consider the customer service – I preach on warranty and return period heavily. In my mind, if I am going to write a check with a comma, I need to know about what to do to get that money back if I am not satisfied. Sleep trial duration and qualifications, warranty coverage, terms, and requirements are all things that I will know well before I even consider the purchase. This ain’t no pack of gum here kids, you can’t just throw it away if you don’t like it.

Consider the usage – Ever seen a movie where the kid has an ultra tiny apartment and a huge TV or stereo? Well, I have seen it too many times in reference to a bed in a bedroom. Here’s a great rule of thumb for you – try to shop for the smallest size which will suit you, not the largest. Yes, a king bed will fit into a 10×10 room, but you will have less than 2 feet on either side and less than 4 feet at the end of the bed. This is not exactly what I would define as “practical”.


Originally posted in 2010 by Scott Braddam

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014 at 1:55 AM and is filed under bedrooms, beds, foam, furniture, mattresses . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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