What Is a Memory Foam Mattress?

January 29, 2021

Memory Foam Mattress Lifestyle

A memory foam mattress is one where there are no springs, the mattress is made with all foam. Mattress manufacturers have created varying types of memory foam (also known as Visco Elastic Foam) for their beds, including open-cell memory foam and gel memory foam. The memory foam mattresses available today are far superior to the ones first offered nearly 30 years ago. The best memory foam mattresses have solved many of the initial issues, such as overheating.

History of Memory Foam

The creation of memory foam goes all the way back to the 1960s. Before they could land on the moon, NASA needed to solve countless issues with space travel. One of which was the comfort level of their astronauts. NASA set out to create a material that would mold to an astronaut's body to provide relief from intense G-forces. In 1966, memory foam was developed as a result of those concerns and would remain a NASA property until the 1980s.

It wasn't until 1991 that the first memory foam mattress was unveiled to the world by Tempur-Pedic. As the first company to use memory foam in mattresses, they've been a leader in the industry since. They continue to advance and improve memory foam, as do many other mattress brands. 

Some of the top memory foam beds are now created by direct-to-consumer brands like Casper and Saatva. These companies ship the mattress right to you very quickly, rolled up in a small box.

Benefits of Memory Foam Mattresses

There are many advantages to sleeping on memory foam, whether on an all-foam bed or an innerspring with memory foam comfort layers added to the top. Those who do not have a memory foam can get some of the benefits by adding a memory foam mattress topper to their bed. It's also a good way to make any bed softer.


For one, it's more hypoallergenic than traditional mattress materials. The denseness of the material prevents dust-mites and other allergens from building up inside, making memory foam a great option for those who suffer from allergies. 

Related: Best Hypoallergenic Mattress

Temperature Control

Also, while there were originally problems with memory foam retaining too much heat, that story has flipped. Advancements in cooling technology have allowed mattress companies to create memory foams that do more than just prevent overheating. They can actually help keep you cooler, one of the best examples being Tempur-Pedic's Luxe Breeze line. According to Tempur-Pedic, these beds can keep you up to 8 degrees cooler throughout the night.

Related: Best Cooling Mattresses

Pressure Relief

Memory foam is extremely conforming and uses your body heat to mold to the shape of your body. This makes memory foam excellent for pressure relief, reducing pain and restlessness. Side sleepers will especially find this beneficial, as they usually deal with some serious pressure on their shoulder and hip. Memory foam will cradle the joints gently.


Memory foam also does a surprisingly good job of supporting. Since it shapes to your body, it fills in the dips and holds you in a natural position. This helps keep your spine aligned, which is essential for avoiding back pain.

Motion Transfer Reduction

Memory foam reacts to heat rather than movement and will do a great job at reducing motion transfer between sleep partners. This is very helpful for those who sleep with someone that moves around a lot. Being disturbed throughout the night greatly impacts the quality of your sleep, so minimizing the transfer of motion is a big perk.

There are several different types of memory foam, which work differently. We have more information on that in our article, Memory Foam Mattress Types.

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Disadvantages of Memory Foam

While there are many advantages, there are a few downsides to memory foam. The main one is the lack of responsiveness. Some people don't mind it at all, but those used to a traditional feel may find the feeling a bit restrictive. Some types of foam are more responsive than others, like gel memory foam, but it can be a bit difficult to move around.

If you're someone who likes to change positions frequently and easily, a bed with a coil system may serve you better. That doesn't mean you have to give up the benefits of memory foam though, hybrid mattresses combine layers of memory foam with an innerspring system to achieve the benefits of both types of beds.

To learn more about hybrid mattresses, check out What is a Hybrid Mattress?

One other problem, which was previously mentioned, is the tendency to overheat. While this was a much bigger issue 30 years ago, some types of memory foam do retain heat. The best memory foam mattresses have solved this issue with better materials. More premium foams will have better breathability and cooling technology incorporated, so it really depends on the level of quality. You'll find heat issues come up in cheaper memory foam mattresses more frequently.

Memory foam beds can also lose their comfort life sooner than an innerspring. This comes down to the fact that coil systems are made of steel and are extremely durable. It's once again determined by the quality of the memory foam. While some memory foam beds will last as long as any innerspring, some will start showing body imprints or sag around the edges. It's important to check how long the warranty lasts and the reputation of the brand you're buying from. A 10-year warranty or more is a good indicator that a mattress is of solid quality.

The differences between foam and innerspring mattresses are explored more in this article: Are Foam Mattresses Better Than Innerspring Mattresses?

How is a Memory Foam Mattress Built?

Memory Foam Mattress Layer Cut Away

All memory foam mattresses have a foam core at the bottom upon which all other layers rest. This foam layer is usually firmer than the rest of the foam to provide a stable structure for the comfort materials. On top of the foam core, different combinations of foams provide the support and body-contouring memory foam beds are known for.

There are usually at least two layers of memory foam on top of the foam core, with sometimes as many as five to seven more comfort foam layers. Where the foams are placed determine their purpose. For example, the foam at the very top is usually the softest. It's meant to provide plush comfort and to give the mattress a softer initial feel when you lay on top of it. Other layers provide cooling properties, body contouring, back support, and pressure relief.

Need More Help?

For more information, or to ask more questions, you can call our mattress experts at 1-800-455-1052. They'd be happy to assist you in any way you need them to! If you'd prefer, you could speak to an expert in a live chat by clicking the link at the bottom right of this page as well.

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