April 24, 2017

What to Expect When Purchasing a Memory Foam Mattress

What to Expect When Purchasing a Memory Foam Mattress

While the memory foam mattress continues gaining popularity, spring mattresses remain the most common, and many people have reservations about switching to a new type of bed. It can seem a little intimidating to undertake the research of a new bed type, and a little scary when you aren’t sure what to expect. This article will explain the basics of buying a memory foam mattress, and what comes after you buy a new bed.

Buying a Memory Foam Mattress

Part of being a smart consumer is getting informed and not going into big purchases blind. The first step of buying a new bed should always be to learn about your options. Comparing brands, reading reviews and doing research can help you pick the best mattress for your needs. Knowing what to expect after you buy the bed and during the “adjustment period” also helps you enjoy a smoother experience and better rest.

Researching & Comparing

A good place to start is doing some research on different types of beds, on what memory foam is, and its pros and cons, and about the different brands out there. It is important to ensure that you will be receiving a quality product, so doing your research is perhaps the most important part of buying a new memory foam mattress. It is also helpful to look in stores as well as online for information. While the store experience allows you to grasp the feel of memory foam, you can often find more information, less biased information, a wider selection, and better pricing online.

Memory Foam Mattress Basics

Memory foam beds are constructed differently from innerspring beds, so when shopping there are different facets of the products to compare which you need to be aware of in order to choose a good bed and get a good value. Here is a brief overview (read more in-depth information in our How to Shop for a Memory Foam Mattress article).

Density – This is the measure of the weight of 1 cubic foot of material. Note that density is NOT related to firmness. Common densities you will see range from 2.5 lbs to 7.0 lbs. At the lower end of the spectrum, the memory foam is cheaper, less viscous and less likely to overheat however it tends to be less supportive also less durable. At the higher end of the spectrum, the memory foam excels at pressure relief and durability, but can feel too viscous, is expensive and is prone to overheating. The core or base layer will have a different foam density, usually around 1.6 lb (lower durability), or 2.0-2.5 lb (higher durability).

Temperature Sensitivity – This refers to how the memory foam material reacts to your body. Temperature or heat-sensitive memory foam softens and contours with your body heat. This is how you get the gradual sinking feeling and slow-response or slow recovery properties. Temperature neutral memory foam does not react with heat or remains stable within a normal temperature range. This type of material contours quickly as it responds to pressure or weight. It also recovers quicker, reducing the “sinking” or “stuck” sensations that some people dislike about regular memory foam.

Memory Foam Type – There are three primary memory foam mattress types you will encounter while shopping: traditional, gel and plant-based. Traditional memory foam is the original petroleum based polyurethane material. Gel foams have gel mixed in or infused via beads, with claims of cooler sleep. Plant-based foams replace a portion of petroleum with soy, castor or other bio oils, offering a more ecologically friendly option, and one shown to sleep cooler. Read more about memory foam mattress types here.

Check Consumer Reviews

Once you have learned about the different memory foam mattress options, researched beds, and identified a few potential options, consumer reviews can be a crucial step for refining your choices. Customer reviews on a website can help you determine the level of customer service that you can expect to receive, as well as the quality of the product that you will be receiving. Reviews can highlight pros and cons as well as the value potential. In the end it is your decision, but it can be very helpful to have feedback before making the purchase. Key sources for reviews include retailer websites, forums, third-party review websites, and social media.

Learn About Guarantees

Another key part of shopping for and comparing memory foam mattress options is understanding how a brand guarantees their product.

In-home trials or return periods give you a window in which to return or exchange the mattress if you end up not liking it. This is good to have, especially if you are new to memory foam. Because it takes time to adjust, the trial period should be at least 30 days. Many higher quality brands offer 90 days or longer. You want to check the terms: are there any fees, how do you return, is it exchange only, etc?

Warranties cover problems with durability and manufacturing. Usually mattress warranties have two components: a full coverage period and a pro-rated period. The full coverage period on a good mattress should be at least 10 years, during which the manufacturer will repair or replace foam that compresses or sags as defined in their warranty terms. The prorated period may last an additional 0-15 years, during which the manufacturer will cover a portion of the costs depending on the age of the bed. You want to check to see the depth of impressions covered by the warranty. Compression over 1” is linked to increased pain, so the warranty will ideally cover impressions 1 inch or less.

Delivery & Receiving

After ordering your bed, unless you bring it home yourself, the next step will be delivery. If you order from a local store, you’ll likely receive it within a few days. If you buy online, the delivery of a memory foam mattress will take 1-2 weeks via a common carrier (rolled/compressed beds) or 2-5 weeks via freight (fully-sized beds). As with other products, the company you are ordering from as well as the method of delivery can affect the time period in which the memory foam mattress is delivered.

Once you receive the new mattress, make sure it is fully supported by your bed. You need a solid-top foundation or slats that are close together, and a frame that can support the weight of the mattress and sleepers. If your bed arrives in it’s full size, then it just goes straight on the frame. If it arrives compressed, you would follow manufacturer directions to unroll and decompress the bed, which could take a few hours to a day or more. Some types of memory can have strong odors, which may be reduced by leaving the mattress in an open, ventilated space for a few days. Another good tip is to use breathable bedding like natural cotton, wool and bamboo to reduce the chances of heat becoming an issue.

Adjusting to a Memory Foam Mattress

Once you’ve got your new bed set up and ready to go, remember that memory foam mattresses are very different from traditional mattresses. Giving your body time to adjust to the feeling is part of owning a memory foam mattress. As your back and body are now fully supported and you experience less tossing and turning, you may feel a little back tension and stiffness in the first few weeks. However after, you should feel better than ever as there is less pressure on your body and the natural alignment helps decompress your back. This is why it is recommended to try a memory foam bed for at least 30 days, and why the long trial period proves important.

If after 1-2 months you aren’t comfortable or aren’t getting good sleep, than it may be time to consider exchanging your bed. Diverse brands can feel extremely different, and even beds within the same brand’s line can yield different results. About 80-82% of memory foam mattress owners overall report being satisfied with their mattresses (20% higher than spring beds), but there are still people that may ultimately prefer something else. You can also expect that the mattress will soften a bit in the first year. The amount that it softens will depend on the density of the mattress and the weight on top, as the softening will be more pronounced if the weight is heavier and it is a lower density. If you want your bed to soften up, try walking on the surface to open up the cells.


Caring for a memory foam mattress is fairly simple. You will never flip the mattress (as the memory foam is only on the top), but occasionally rotating the bed can help your mattress wear evenly. Every 6 months is a good rule of thumb, and you could also take this time to vacuum the surface with a hose attachment to reduce dust and allergens. You might also consider using a mattress protector with your new bed to prevent stains, spills and dust, as spills can be difficult to clean from foam, as excess liquid and soaps can cause damage (and void your warranty). If you do need to clean the mattress, spot clean with damp cloth and mild soap solution working from the outside of the stain in and using as little liquid as possible. Follow with dry towels to soak up moisture, and allow to thoroughly air dry (could take a couple days) before replacing sheets and bedding.

Over time there are many benefits to having a memory foam mattress. These include being able to get deeper and more restful sleep, experiencing less disturbances from your partner during the night, as well as a reduction in back and muscle soreness. You can expect that the changes will be gradual as your body will take time to adjust to a new mattress. Knowing what to look for when researching, how to compare and how to select a new memory foam mattress, as well as what to expect after you buy, can prove essential to getting the best bed and to your overall satisfaction.

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