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Memory Foam Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

Remember how you slept when you were a child? You could fall into a deep sleep anywhere. Many adults find that same deep, restful sleep on memory foam bedding. Memory foam is helping people of all ages, sizes, and shapes sleep comfortably. If you're interested in improving your sleeping situation, you'll want to read this memory foam buying guide.

About Memory Foam:

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  • Origins:

    Developed by NASA to reduce the G-forces astronauts feel during liftoff, viscoelastic memory foam softens when it comes in contact with heat. It conforms to your shape, giving even support to your whole body. Memory foam is often used in medical applications, and for that reason, the first memory foam available to consumers was quite pricey. The cost of memory foam has come down in recent years, however, giving everyone the opportunity to have a good night's rest.

  • Density:

    The first thing to know about memory foam products is they vary in density. This is measured in pounds, with higher numbers meaning greater density. A 4-pound density means that each cubic foot of that memory foam weighs 4 pounds. While this measurement varies among manufacturers, you'll probably be safe with any memory foam product ranging from 3 to 6 pounds. If you want something a little firmer, go with a 5- or 6-pound density mattress. If you like your bed a little softer, go with the 3-pound memory foam. Just be aware that a lower density mattress probably won't hold up as well under years of use. Remember, the measurement of density does not describe the total weight of the memory foam. Because of its density, a memory foam mattress will typically weigh more than a spring mattress of the same size.

  • Different types of foam:

    As memory foam bedding has gained in popularity, more foam options have become available. No matter which bedding piece you're shopping for, you'll want to pay attention to the type of foam it is made of.

Types of Memory Foam

Traditional: The science behind the viscoelastic material developed by NASA is in traditional memory foam. It's a popular choice, and most of the memory most products you'll see sold will be made of this type of foam.

Gel: Because traditional memory foam reacts to body heat, some sleepers find that they actually get too warm. To combat this, gel memory foam was developed. Gel beads are infused into the foam, which allows for better air flow without losing any of the support that make memory foam so comfortable.

Latex: Most memory foam is a man-made material, but if you'd like something more natural, you may want to shop for latex foam bedding. While some people are allergic to the material, others appreciate that latex is a natural, eco-friendly option.

Memory Foam Bedding Options:

  • Mattresses:

    Memory foam mattresses are available for all bed sizes. If you have a bed partner, a memory foam mattress is great because one person's movements usually don't affect the other person. Instead of bouncing or rocking like spring mattresses, memory foam mattresses absorb movement. Most memory foam mattresses contain multiple layers of foam, each with a different density, so the mattress can appropriately respond to movement and body shape. Generally, a 2- or 3-layer mattress is ideal. For those who sleep on their side, a softer, 3- or 4-pound memory foam mattress is perfect. This less dense memory foam will conform better to your natural shape by allowing your hips and shoulders to sink deeper. Back sleepers will probably want firmer memory foam, a 4.5- to 6-pound density. You'll get the firmness that allows you to lie flat with even support for all areas.

  • Pillows:

    When most people think of memory foam pillows, they think of contour pillows. Contour pillows are so-called because the memory foam is molded in a particular shape, thicker on the top and bottom edges. This special shape is designed to keep your head in a more natural position, so your spine stays properly aligned. You can also purchase other memory foam pillows that are shaped like traditional pillows. It won't be "fluffy," but a memory foam pillow won't require any fluffing or rearranging during the night like a down pillow. Your head and neck will get the support they need all night long.

  • Mattress toppers:

    If your current mattress is still in relatively good condition, you might want to add a memory foam mattress topper. You can choose from a variety of thicknesses and densities. Just remember, if your mattress sags, the memory foam mattress pad probably won't be very effective. Any support you do get from the memory foam will probably be offset by the sagging mattress.