Not all that long ago, the world of mattresses was a small one. Pretty much every last mattress was a simple construction of springs and stuffing, making choosing your nightly sleep surface simple. Oh, how times have changed! With a wide range of mattress types now on offer, there’s so much more to consider than ever before.
The big disrupter? Memory foam. A firm favourite of many sleep experts, memory foam mattresses have totally changed the world of beds, giving sleepy shoppers a wide variety of new and ever more comfy options to choose from.
So what is memory foam and why is it so popular? What makes memory foam mattresses different? And, most importantly, is a memory foam mattress right for you and your bedroom?
What is memory foam?
Did you know that memory foam was first designed for use by NASA astronauts [i]? That’s right, way back in the 1960s the stuff we now call memory foam was developed to absorb the shocks and shakes experienced by the men and women bouncing around in space. It was first used in seating and seatbelts, to make that bumpy journey through the atmosphere a bit less of a jolt.
Want some more science? Step this way Neil Armstrong…
Memory foam is, for the most part, made of polyurethane (or PU), a commonly used plastic polymer. This means it has large molecules – aka macromolecules – that are made up of smaller chemical units, or monomers [ii].
These days, you’ll find polyurethane used in much more earthly places, from car parts to home insulation, surf boards to skate boards. The polyurethane used in mattress foam is a viscoelastic, or low resistance polyurethane foam (LRPu), made by adding a whole bunch of other bits and bobs to the PU. This recipe changes from mattress to mattress, giving us plenty of memory foam options to choose from.
How can memory foam help me sleep?
Memory foam mattresses have become enormously popular in recent years and it’s easy to see why. Moulding to your body, whatever your body type, these long-lasting mattresses provide good support and help to isolate movement, making them ideal for co-sleepers.
Soft and pliable, these mattresses do away with a lot of the issues of sprung mattresses. So there’s no more creaky springs waking you up every time your partner turns over or makes a midnight trip to the loo. And with no internal springs, your mattress is likely to age more evenly, without lumps and bumps digging into your back and making drifting off a battle.
Those same properties that made blast off a little better for astronauts may also help to give you just the right support for more comfortable sleep. Designed to return to shape slowly, meaning it absorbs impact as you move, memory foam cushions the body, taking pressure off of your spine and joints. This clever material also becomes more pliable as it warms up, meaning it uses your body heat to become softer, helping it to shape to you perfectly for a better night’s sleep.
Memory foam mattresses for comfortable sleeping with your partner
We’re sure we’re not the only ones to have developed sharp elbows to help us deal with fidgety sleeping partners. Providing so-called ‘motion isolation’, memory foam mattresses may help to make sleeping with your other half just a smidgen less stressful.
What do we mean by motion isolation? It’s exactly what it sounds like! Unlike springs, which can transfer motion throughout the bed, making you boing every time your partner bumps, memory foam mattresses absorb the ‘shock’ of your partner’s movements. Which means that you don’t get the old bouncy castle treatment if your beloved tosses and turns the night away. With this in mind we don’t think that it’s the hugest over statement to say a memory foam mattress could just help to save a marriage or two.
Does memory foam make you hot at night?
Earlier in this very article we mentioned how memory foam makes good use of your body heat, using it to soften up that mattress for better pliability. We’ve no doubt that for many of you, that set some alarm bells a-ringing.
Yes, memory foam has a bit of a reputation for being hot stuff. And if you’re going through the menopause or you just tend to get a little over-warm at night, you might’ve turned your nose up at the idea of a mattress that’s only going to exacerbate your sticky situation.
Before you decide memory foam isn’t for you just hear us out. Memory foam’s come a long, long way since those first sweaty mattresses. While a cheap and cheerful memory foam might have you reaching for the moisture wicking pyjamas and dreaming of industrial air conditioning, a well-made modern memory foam can give you the snooze-inducing cool you so desperately need.
Mattress boffins have put their thinking caps on and come up with some pretty impressive solutions to mattresses that are too hot to handle, from cooling gel layers to cleverly placed air channels for an improved flow of air.
Take the Sleep Science Solaris mattress . With unbeatable breathability, this mattress makes use of clever 3Dair fabric, with its breathable spacer fabric technology offering a cooler night’s sleep. The Slumberland Clima Airstream Memory mattress meanwhile, blends all the advantages of a sprung mattress with a thick layer of Sensaform memory foam. This mattress includes airhole zones and a Temperature+ treatment to regulate heat and moisture for optimised comfort even on the warmest nights.
Can a memory foam mattress help with my bad back?
A bad back can strike at any time. Caused by poor posture, stress, injury, or by problems such as arthritis or osteoporosis, spinal pain can be exacerbated (or even caused) by sleeping in a bed which doesn’t give you all the support you need.
A new mattress really could help you to find relief from back pain but, because life’s never easy, picking the right mattress just isn’t as simple as blindly selecting the first one that fits your bed and your budget.
For some people, a memory foam mattress could help to ease the nuisance of back pain. Moulding to your frame, memory foam works in a similar way to orthopaedic and medical foam mattresses, relieving pressure while helping to keep your delicate spine well-aligned. While a wide variety of memory foam mattresses are available, including ultra-soft versions for sumptuous sinkability, a firmer foam is recommended for those already suffering from back pain. It’s also important, especially if buying a hybrid mattress combining a top layer of memory foam with springs or foam beneath, that the layer underneath the memory foam is adequately supportive.
Memory foam mattresses for joint pain
We know, we know. It’s not all about the bad back. Some of you have neck pain, a sore shoulder or a dodgy hip to consider. Whatever ails you, there’s a chance that a memory foam mattress might just help to provide the support you need to get you drifting off to dreamland without discomfort and waking up with less pain.
The spinal alignment that a memory foam mattress can help with is also great news for sore necks irritated by too long in front of a computer or tweaked while double taking at Bensons for Beds’ impressive sale prices. The same goes for sore hips and shoulders – a potential issue for side sleepers in particular. Providing gentle support, a memory foam bed softly cradles delicate joints, absorbing and dissipating the pressure that can otherwise be taken by your poor, overworked bod. Which means the potential for – altogether now – a better night’s sleep!
Memory foam and your sleep style
Whether you sleep foetal style or splayed out like a bed-hogging starfish, chances are you encounter some sort of issue caused by your preferred sleeping position. While side sleepers are prone to hip pain, back sleepers can cause all sorts of havoc with their snoring , and as for front sleepers, they might just give themselves a right pain in the neck.
Whichever you choose (and consequently find problems with), memory foam may help to give you the comfort and support you need.
Side sleepers (that’s most of us) may find that a memory foam bed helps them to sleep sounder and feel less pain in their hips and shoulders. This is due to the additional support that memory foam offers, relieving pressure on the joints that sit directly under you while you sleep.
Back sleepers, meanwhile, require good support for optimum spinal alignment. A firmer memory foam can help you to achieve that all important neatly stacked spinal column without compromising on the hug that you’d normally get from a softer mattress. Therefore if you’re a back sleeper with a penchant for a mattress on the softer side, memory foam may just help you to bridge that gap.
If you’re one of those few mavericks who sleep on their belly (snooze on you crazy diamonds!), finding the perfect bed set up can be even more challenging. Requiring more support to ensure your spine isn’t dragged out of alignment by your body weight beneath it, you stomach sleepers may find the average memory foam a little too soft. A firm memory foam option such as the Tempur Sensation Elite mattress may provide enough support, however a hybrid mattress, combining a memory foam top with a firmly supportive base layer, may offer a better balance of comfortable cradling and stable support.
Memory foam v latex: what’s the difference?
Far be it from us to throw a cat amongst the pigeons but, well, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
If you’re thinking about investing in a memory foam mattress you may also have come across its distant cousin, latex. While they’re similar in some ways, memory foam and latex are actually very different beasts. Not least in the way each one feels when you climb on board and start getting comfy.
While a memory foam will envelop you, a latex mattress provides less contouring and more of an overall sink beneath your body weight. This can be preferable for those who don’t like the feeling of being hugged into their bed. The extra bounce of a latex mattress means that you won’t get that sinking feeling that memory foam provides and it also means that your bed can respond more quickly to your movements, taking less time to mould to a new position as you move.
All that said, memory foam covers a far wider variety of mattress types than latex, giving you a plethora of great options to suit your needs and preferences.
Is a memory foam mattress topper good enough?
Fancy taking memory foam for a spin but not ready to invest in a whole new mattress? A memory foam topper could be the answer. Designed to sit on top of your existing mattress, a mattress topper may help to make an older mattress more comfortable, bringing it up to date with your current needs or a sleeping style that’s changed over the years.
A memory foam mattress topper could be a good choice for you if you’ve started to develop back or joint issues and feel that you require a little more support. It might also provide some extra comfort during pregnancy , when the additional weight of your burgeoning bump is putting pressure on every last joint and you’re forced into a new and unfamiliar sleeping position. It can also extend the life of a child’s mattress as they grow and change , requiring just a couple more years of improved support before investing in a new, more grown up bed.
Additionally, a mattress topper may make sleeping on an older mattress more palatable if you’re moving into a furnished rental property or student accommodation and really can’t afford to invest in a whole new mattress.
Unfortunately however, when it’s time for a new mattress, there’s no room for compromise. A mattress topper might seem like the ideal money-saving solution, but it won’t save an old, unhygienic or broken mattress. Take a look at our five tell tale signs that you need a new mattress before you try to eke another few years out of old faithful.
Is memory foam eco-friendly?
From choosing plant-based foods to waving goodbye to fast fashion and hopping on a bike instead of driving to the shops, making environmentally sound choices is becoming increasingly important to a great many of us. We’ve no doubt that goes for furnishing your bedroom too.
Mattresses have, understandably, come under a lot of scrutiny for their impact on the environment, not only when it comes to disposing of our old, out of date beds , but for the materials used in the construction and fire-proofing of mattresses too. And while memory foam may not top the list of the things that make Greta Thunberg most happy, they’re a vast improvement on older sprung mattresses, which can contain toxic chemicals and most of which are only good for (ugh!) landfill.
First the not so good – memory foam is chiefly petroleum based [iii], which isn’t any eco-warrior’s favourite headline news. Bulky and made of polyurethane, generally classed as an ‘other’ plastic, can memory foam mattresses can also be challenging to recycle. But here’s the good news – as we speak, experts are developing new ways to make good use of old memory foam, using chemical and mechanical processes to reclaim it for new purposes after its done its service as a faithful sleeping companion.
Lasting longer than your average sprung mattress – an average of ten to 15 years – memory foam mattresses can also be considered to be a more environmentally friendly option due to their impressive longevity.
Targeting net zero as part of the British Retail Consortium’s Climate Action Roadmap , Bensons for Beds is committed to reducing emissions and improving disposal of beds, with over 92,000 mattresses already recycled as part of the scheme. So whichever mattress you choose, when buying from Bensons for Beds you can rest assured you’re buying from a business committed to sustainability.
The best memory foam mattress for you
With so many memory foam mattresses to choose from and so much to consider when selecting your ideal night’s comfort we know that you’re in for a challenge. But whether it’s a king size memory foam mattress for your new dream master suite or a mattress topper to bring an old guest bed up to date, there’s almost certainly a memory foam option to suit you.
The mattress you choose will depend on a whole variety of things, from how you sleep to the size of your bed and even your specific health concerns.
Here at Bensons for Beds’ we know that you’re looking for your bed, your way and our very own sleep experts can help you choose the ideal sleep set up to suit you. Visit us in store, call us on 0808 144 6160 or book a free virtual video appointment .