The internet is filled with so many MYTHS about Memory Foam mattresses, and as with most myths, they usually evolve from a bit of truth that gets inflated or taken out of context. We will take a look at the most popular memory foam mattress myths, their backgrounds, and the facts to cut through the confusion. This will give you a great Memory Foam mattress review.
Memory foam owners rate their mattresses as well as other mattress types. Memory Foam / Gel Memory Foams great conforming ability and motion isolation are often well above average. A lot of the highly rated brands cost under $700. Compared to other mattress types, Memory Foam mattresses overall are more likely to off gas, retain heat, restrict body movement, lack bounce, and have extended break-in periods.
A memory foam mattress usually consists of at least two inches of memory foam over at least with 6 to 8 inches of transition / support foam. Some really cheap brands that we are not going to talk about in this article sometimes have as little as ½ inch of Memory Foam in them.
The top Memory Foam myths vs. fact
As most things are on the internet, the opinions are based on past experience. So when researching Memory Foam mattresses, there’s a good chance you’ve read a few things; such as “memory foam is hot” or “memory foam is unhealthy”. Usually, these claims are made without much poof, but should be enough to cause concern. In the myths below, we’ll do our best to present an accurate portrait of memory foam, so you can make an informed decision when it comes to your mattress purchase.
Memory Foam sleeps hot & makes you sweat
The original, less breathable types of memory foams did limit air flow. Also, with dense, temperature sensitive foams contouring closely to sleepers’ bodies, this can leave people feeling warm, especially, those of us who naturally sleep hot.
When the Memory Foam craze began, 10% of the people who owned any brand of memory foam mattress complained about the heat sleeping hot. This is higher than innerspring mattresses, which average heat complaint rates of 5%. However, there have been significant changes in memory foam. Traditional foam mattresses tend to sleep hot for 10-15% of people, gel memory foam 5-10%, and plant-based memory foams 2-8%.
So, while some memory foam can sleep hot, there have been many changes to prevent them for sleeping hot. They made the changes for 2 reasons, one for the consumer and two for the warranty issue (perspiration brakes down mattresses). Most of the of them breathe better, and heat retention affects only a small minority of owners overall.
Memory foam stinks
Ok, just like your new furniture, new cars, new paint and other manufactured items that contain polyurethane foams that traditionally contain various petrochemicals and additives than can have residual odors.
Mattresses are sealed in plastic right after it is manufactured, and memory foam can have off gassing (or out gassing) refers to a chemical-like or musty that a mattress may give off when it is new due to its composition and packaging. However, the odor should dissipate within a few days to a few weeks. Denser memory foams are more likely to smell, however they last longer. Less dense foams or ones that use less petroleum products or VOC-producing chemicals are less likely to have strong smells.
In general, about 15% of all memory foam mattress owners complain of odor, with only 2% reporting odor severe enough to return their bed. However, these rates vary considerably by brands and types of memory foam. Memory foams made with medium density, plant-based memory foam, have very low complaints of strong odors, while Tempurpedic mattresses, which use medium to higher density traditional foams, have higher than average complaints of odor. Overall, however, memory foam off gassing is a problem that is becoming less common.
Off gassing is more annoying than anything else. Some people, however, report feeling ill from it. Symptoms are usually headaches, nausea, eye and throat irritation, sweating, sleeplessness and asthma resulting from off gassing occur in about 1.5% of owner experiences. As you might expect the illness diminishes when the off gassing diminishes or when the person avoids being in the same room with the mattress during the off gassing period. As far as long term health risks there are no studies that support this theory.
memory foam is toxic
Polyurethanes and memory foam produced before the 1980s and 1990s sometimes contained harsh chemicals like formaldehyde, chlorofluorocarbons, PBDEs and other volatile organic compounds (chemicals that break down overtime and outgas into the air). Other chemicals used in the process also have some shocking warning labels in their raw form.
American brands have phased most of the worst offenders like CFCs, formaldehyde and carcinogenic PBDEs out of their production processes due to public concern, environmental restrictions, and government regulations. However, trade secrets limit the amount of information available publicly, especially for imported foams (so always make sure they are Certi-PUR® also. Compounds that people find most concerning in today’s foams are methylene chloride, methylene dianiline, methyl benzene and vinylidene chloride, which are suspected carcinogens and/or mucous membrane/nervous system irritants in the raw formats.
Some companies also use chemical flame retardants that can further contribute to off-gassing (versus fabric barriers). The biggest concerns are inhalation and absorption through the skin, however most of the risks are presented during manufacturing. People who complain of side effects, like difficulty breathing or eye/throat irritation, usually mention co-occurring strong chemical odors, associated with high VOC content and the aforementioned chemicals. MSDS for memory foam shows the primary concern of coarse dust causing mechanical lung or eye irritation (however unless you are chopping up your mattress you aren’t likely to be exposed to coarse dust).
Additionally, not all memory foam is riddled with toxic substances. For people seeking to reduce household chemicals or eco-friendly options, the independent Certi-PUR® organization tests polyurethane foams for VOC-levels, banned phthalates, formaldehyde, CFCs and overall durability. Foams with Certi-PUR® certification were found to have low-VOC levels and to meet the established chemical standards. All of our brands are Certi-PUR®
Memory foam feels like quicksand
Dense, temperature sensitive memory foam relies on body heat to soften and contour. These results in a gradual softening that can feel like sinking. In thicker, dense memory foam, the contouring can leave some people feeling stuck, and make it harder to move around or get out of bed.
This myth is true, but only for dense foams (over 5.0 lbs) with temperature-sensitive properties. Foams that are temperature-neutral contour instantly with pressure, and respond quicker to sleepers’ movements. This eliminates the sinking sensation, and because the memory foam is temperature-stable, the firmness is consistent across the mattress surface.
Facts at we like to hear
Your weight is distributed about equally on the mattress this results in minimized pressure points. A cradling, cloud-like sensation is more likely to be experienced on a conforming mattress. A person's lower back tends to receive relatively high support and this minimizes or prevents back pain.
You will sleep in memory foam because its conforming ability allows the sleeper to sink in to some extent. This can result in less airflow which for some people contributes to an uncomfortable amount of heat retention. Memory foam is an inactive sleep system and it will not help you roll over like other mattresses (changing positions, getting up).
Not all memory foam mattresses have the same conforming ability. Higher-density models tend to conform more strongly than lower-density models especially in cold room temperature – see the density comparison. Also, know that using a mattress protector may significantly reduce conforming ability.
This is a very important feature to a lot of people. Memory foam are the best when it comes to motion separation or motion isolation. A mattress with good motion isolation absorbs movement as opposed to transferring it across the bed.
This do not disturb feature comes in very handy when it comes to two beings in a bed. Good motion isolation tends to limit if not eliminate bounce / repeated rebounding. For some people, this negatively affects a bed's sex suitability.
The reasons why memory foam is so popular is
Several models affordable
The only concerns
Initial odor / off gassing possible
Heat retention possible
Little or no bounce
Below-average ease of body movement
Most of the original issues with memory have drifted off to bed. However, memory foam is a different feel then our traditional type of mattress. It in my opinion, you either love it or hate it, there is not a lot of in between.