October 26, 2014

Guide to Different Memory Foam Mattress Types

Guide to Different Memory Foam Mattress Types

With the multitude of options in the memory foam mattress market, it can be hard to compare the differences and find the best fit. And, it is not necessarily which bed is portrayed to be the best quality or value, but which one will be best for you. The differences between the brands, prices and the type of memory foam mattress can vary greatly. Each has their pros and cons, and we will take a look at the basics in this article.

Top Three Memory Foam Mattress Types

 
Standard
Gel
Plant-Based
Known BrandTempurpedicSerta iComfortAmerisleep
Price Range (Queen)$1099-7499$1074-2774$849-1899
Pressure ReliefAAA
ContouringAAA
Recovery TimeCBA
Motion TransferAAA
HeatCBA
VOCsCCA
Foam Density Range2.5-5.33.0-5.04.5-5.3
Trial Period90 days/Retailer's120 days/Retailer's90 days

Standard/Traditional Memory Foam

Traditional memory foam is what many people think of as the “NASA-inspired” and/or Swedish foam. Tempur-Pedic is probably the best-known name for this type in the specialty mattress industry. This type of material uses a petroleum-based polyurethane foam designed to react and soften when exposed to warmth, enabling it to contour to an individual’s unique body. Memory foam also has the property of distributing weight across the surface of the bed, creating a pressure-less sensation (as opposed to innersprings, which resist pressure points and push against heavier areas like hips and shoulders). All types included, this category receives the highest overall ratings for comfort and satisfaction.

Pros:

  • Pressure Point Relief
  • Individualized Contouring
  • Prohibits Motion Transfer

Although memory foam has many desirable qualities when it comes to comfort, there are a couple complaints that can be seen with some frequency in reviews. Memory foam mattress can be hot to sleep on because you are sleeping more in the mattress than on it. The foams tend to retain body heat near the sleeper rather than releasing it. Other concerns include slow-response time and chemical concerns.

Cons:

  • Prone to Heat Retention
  • Petroleum Based
  • Often Contains VOC’s and Chemical Fire Retardants
  • Complaints of Off-gassing
  • Complaints of “stuck feeling” or “crater”
  • Wide Quality Range
  • For Tempurpedic, Price

In recent years Tempurpedic has tried to differentiate themselves from “memory foam”, but that is what the Tempur material represents, and what many other manufacturers have emulated. Recent lines have attempted to address some of the “cons”, but they still remain an issue with traditional foam. While certainly not all other types meet or surpass the name brand, there are several competitors gaining popularity.

Gel-Infused Memory Foam

This is one of the newer types of memory foam, and one generating a lot of buzz. The idea behind it is that gel will help cool the sleeper and transfer heat away from the surface. Typically, the gel is added to standard memory foam via tiny beads, or as a liquid before or after manufacturing. Other types use layers or pockets of gel on the surface. The most popular brand in this field is likely Serta’s iComfort lines, which aims to rival Tempurpedic. This line uses the bead-infusion method.

Pros:

  • Pressure Point Relief
  • Individualized Contouring
  • Prohibits Motion Transfer
  • Initially Cool

There a few potential drawbacks or concerns with gel, in addition to those of the traditional memory foam it is based on. We discuss this in our memory foam mattress complaints article, but essentially newer studies are showing that gel may not be cooler than other types. This may have something to do with gel’s tendency to take on surrounding temperatures. Another issue arises with the newness of the product, and limited data on longevity.

Cons:

  • Prone to Heat Retention
  • Petroleum Based
  • Often Contains VOC’s and Chemical Fire Retardants
  • Complaints of Off-gassing
  • Complaints of “stuck feeling” or “crater”
  • Wide Quality Range

Plant-Based Memory Foam

Plant-based memory foam mattresses, more commonly known as “green” memory foam mattresses are more environmentally friendly as well as more friendly to the human body. Though properties can very by manufacturer, the plant-based BioPur memory foam in Amerisleep.com mattresses is manufactured with zero emissions and contains zero toxic VOCs. Their plant-based memory foam also does not rely on body heat to conform, which yields quicker response time and recovery. The extreme open-cell design improves breathability as well, with Cargill reporting plant-based materials to sleep 25% cooler than gel and Amerisleep reporting  10x faster heat dissipation than traditional memory foam.

Pros:

  • Pressure Point Relief
  • Individualized Contouring
  • Prohibits Motion Transfer
  • Cooler Sleep
  • No VOCs/Toxic Offgassing
  • Quick Response Time

Cons:

  • Plant-based memory foam improves on heat, offgassing, and slow response time which make up a majority of memory foam complaints.
  • This type is often difficult to find locally, though online retailers like Amerisleep ship nationally and offer risk-free trial periods.

A Word On Quality

Getting a great bargain on a memory foam mattress does not necessarily mean that you will be getting a high quality mattress. However, price is not the sole determining factor on the quality of a mattress. Some brands have high markups that don’t reflect quality, and others have genuinely low prices and quality that beats or exceeds the averages.

So what does determine quality? This is complex, but one good indicators is the memory foam density. A good range that will offer both comfort and durability is 4.0-5.3lbs. Foams in the 2.5-3.5lb range tend to have less resilience and thus are prone to showing wear and softening sooner than the average 5-7 year minimum people expect from beds. Foams with densities too high can be uncomfortable in thick layers as they might feel too firm or unresponsive.

Other good indicators of quality include guarantees and manufacturing origin. The retailer’s warranty should extend for 20 years or more, with at least 10 of those years being full coverage. A trial period is also important, as this will allow to test the bed in your home and exchange or return it if the fit isn’t right. For someone who has never slept on foam mattresses before, it may take up to 30 days for your body to fully adjust. American made products (both the foam and final product) are also more likely to offer better quality do to more stringent manufacturing and labor guidelines.

Finally, you can also check owner reviews to see what other people have to say about quality. Look for third party verified reviews when possible, as these use an identifier, such as email address, to confirm that the person reviewing is an actual buyer of the product.

Which Type of Memory Foam Mattress is Best?

So which memory foam mattress is the best type for you? It all depends on your preferences and your price range. This is why it is important to shop around and become informed when buying a new mattress, as there are many options and types to choose from. Make a list of factors you believe to be most important and create a budget. Are you most concerned with sleeping cool, eliminating VOCs, getting a name brand, or getting a great deal? Organizing your priorities will help you effectively compare the differences and select the best option for your needs. The more you know about the different memory foam mattress brands and types, the more informed your decision will be.

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