Memory Foam 101: Finding the Right Mattress for You

Since its introduction in the 1990s, many people have come to love and swear by memory foam mattresses. If you think memory foam might be right for you, there are a couple things you should know.


A Little History Lesson

Scientists developed memory foam to improve the safety of aircraft cushions in 1966 under a NASA contract. The process entered the public domain in the 1980s and the first memory foam mattress hit the market in 1991.


Memory foam is made by combining polyurethane with chemicals to boost its viscosity and density.


Why People Love Memory Foam

Memory foam is a temperature-sensitive material that responds to the heat of your body and molds directly to your shape. As you move, the foam slowly springs back and reshapes to your new position. This custom support can be a good option for people with varied sleeping positions.


Because of its density and viscosity, memory foam doesn’t collapse under your weight. Instead, it matches the pressure and evenly disperses your weight, which can alleviate pressure on your hips, shoulders and joints.


A Look at the Market

Memory foam mattresses are now available in three primary varieties. Traditional memory foam crafted from petroleum-based products offers comfort and support but can retain heat because of the density of the foam and how closely it forms to your body.


Memory foam can also be made from plant-based oils. These mattresses may contain fewer or no chemicals and may not have emissions. You may also rest cooler on plant-based memory foam than the traditional one.


Finally, memory foam can have liquid gel or gel beads infused during manufacturing. The gel is added to help combat the problem of heat retention.


Not All Memory Foam is the Same

Memory foam is made in varying densities, measured by the pounds per cubic foot, and thicknesses. A single mattress may have two or more different weights because a higher density foam will be firmer and a lower one will be softer and more comfortable. Thus the core of a mattress may have layers of higher density foam with lower density layers on the exterior.


To get an idea of which combination may be right for you, visit a mattress store and lay on a variety of mattresses.

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