Memory foam may sound like a new-age phenomenon, but it's actually been around for quite a few decades.
NASA first designed it as a pressure-absorbing material to cushion astronauts' seats and absorb impact during space travel 🚀
And how did this space-age material end up in mattresses?
Well, you have Tempur to thank for that, who started playing around with memory foam in mattresses back in 1991.
Tempur memory foam mattresses are still some of the best in the world, though a bit on the expensive side.
We can recommend much more affordable ones!
Today, memory foam mattresses are very popular - especially in the form of bed-in-a-box mattresses.
We'll tell you why a little further down 😉
What is memory foam?
In a nutshell, memory foam (also often called viscoelastic polyurethane foam or low-resilience polyurethane foam) is a foam made predominantly of polyurethane and a few additional chemicals to increase viscosity and density.
Memory foam is characterised by its so-called memory effect or memory imprint.
When you apply pressure to the foam, it leaves an imprint that will remain visible for a few seconds.
Look at the images below that demonstrate this memory effect 👇
This memory effect allows the memory foam to adapt remarkably well to the body, resulting in body-hugging comfort and support.
Are memory foam mattresses 100% memory foam?
Most memory foam mattresses actually don't consist of 100% memory foam.
They're usually constructed of multiple layers of different types of foam to offer both comfort and support.
Memory foam on its own can be a little soft.
You'll often find memory foam mattresses constructed of an upper layer of viscoelastic foam and a lower layer of cold foam.
Cold foam provides additional support and stability 💎
Of course, most premium memory foam mattresses also contain other foam layers or even springs, as is the case with hybrid pocket memory mattresses like the Emma Hybrid.
Many spring mattresses also have a memory foam pillow top for extra comfort.
Bed-in-a-box memory foam mattresses
Many of the mattresses we recommend are bed-in-a-box mattresses.
They are predominantly made of memory foam.
Memory foam can be compressed quite significantly, so a memory foam mattress can be squashed together, rolled up, and sent to you via post in a compact box 📦
That's a pretty unique feature.
Once you unpack the mattress and remove the vacuum seal, it'll slowly return to its full size.
All the mattresses we recommend in this article are of the bed-in-a-box variety.
Who are memory foam mattresses suitable for?
There are many different mattress types to choose from, but memory foam mattresses are generally a great choice for a wide variety of sleepers.
That said, they may not necessarily be the best choice for you.
Let's dive into this in a bit more detail 👇
But, first, here a quick overview:
Memory foam mattresses are suitable for:
Memory foam mattresses are less suitable for:
All body types and sleeping positions.
People who easily feel cold at night.
People with orthopaedic concerns.
People who easily feel hot or heavy sweaters.
Very restless sleepers.
Memory foam is a good choice for calmer sleepers
Memory foam is enormously comfortable 😴
But, since the foam really adapts to the contours of your body, moving around on the mattress can be a bit challenging.
Sleepers frequently describe it as sleeping in the mattress rather than on the mattress.
Think of it this way:
You're sleeping in one position, and the memory foam adapts to your body shape.
Then, you change your sleeping position.
But, because of the memory effect, the foam parts you lay on previously will still retain the indent for a little while.
The foams need some time to bounce back to neutral.
This is alright if you move occasionally.
But if you frequently toss and turn at night, it may become a little uncomfortable - if not downright challenging 💃
This makes memory foam mattresses unsuitable for very restless sleepers.
Memory foam is a great choice for people who easily feel cold at night
Memory foam retains more heat than other types of foam 🥵
This results in overall warmer sleep.
That's great news if you easily feel cold at night and like your bed to be snug and warm 🥰
But, if you feel hot quite easily or if you're a very heavy sweater, then this becomes a little uncomfortable.
Most modern-day memory foam mattresses counteract this heat retention by introducing more breathable foams or making use of cooling covers that allow for increased airflow.
This helps regulate body temperature more effectively and prevents overheating.
The Eve Premium, for example, is a luxurious memory foam mattress that's 30x more breathable than traditional memory foam.
If you're a very heavy sweater, we'd recommend opting for a pocket sprung mattress instead. The space between the springs allow for enhanced breathability, and these are generally the coolest of all mattresses.
Memory foam is a great choice for orthopaedic concerns
Memory foam is the material of choice for anyone struggling with orthopaedic concerns.
Since the foam adapts so well to the contours of your body, it reduces pressure points and allows for good pressure relief.
This body-hugging sensation gives your muscles the chance to relax fully 🤗
Orthopaedic memory foam mattresses help prevent and relieve back and neck pains.
Don't forget to always pair your mattress with a great pillow to prevent neck, shoulder, and upper back pains. We recommend some of our favourites in our article on the best pillows.
Memory foam is great for couples
Memory foam displays very low motion transfer.
Motion transfer refers to the ability of movements to travel through a mattress.
If the motion transfer is low, then movements are effectively absorbed and won't be carried across the mattress.
This means that you won't feel your partner move on the opposite side of the bed while sleeping.
A mattress with low motion transfer is a great choice for couples 👩❤️👨
Memory foam is also completely noiseless, unlike some spring mattresses, so you're unlikely to be kept awake by any squeaking.
Memory foam is a hypoallergenic choice
Memory foam mattresses are usually hypoallergenic with anti-dust-mite properties.
This is great news for people prone to allergies 🤧
Most of the mattresses we recommend also feature a removable and machine-washable cover to keep your mattress clean and hygienic.
For extra protection, we'd always recommend a waterproof mattress protector.
These safeguard your mattress against spills, dirt, stains, and bacteria.
Recommended mattress protectors:
Supersoft Waterproof Mattress Protector
Price from £ 16
The Silentnight Supersoft Waterproof Mattress Protector is crafted with 4 layers to provide both comfort and protection for your mattress.
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