Memory Foam Buying Guide
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Memory Foam Buying Guide

June 9, 2016

by Andrew Schneider Bedding Specialist

Developed by NASA in the 1970s, memory foam is one of the most popular types of mattresses in the industry. With an array of types to choose from, it's quite easy to be confused or overwhelmed when choosing the best memory foam mattress for your bed. Compared to innerspring mattresses, memory foam reduces pressure points by conforming to your body's weight-bearing areas, and it is sensitive to your changing temperature, so it keeps you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Switching to a memory foam mattress often results in a more restful sleep and fewer aches and pains in the morning. This guide provides several things to consider when choosing the right mattress for your bed.


Memory foam mattress with cross-section showing layers

Foam Density

Memory foam density is expressed in pounds per cubic foot. The higher the density of the foam, the greater the support it provides. Density refers to the weight of 1 cubic foot of memory foam, so a memory foam mattress with a 4-pound density means each cubic foot of mattress weighs 4 pounds. For a firm mattress, choose 5 or 6-pound density memory foam, or if you prefer something a little softer, choose one with a density of 3 to 4 pounds.

White, memory foam mattress on bed

Quality Standards

Top memory foam mattresses meet specific standards for testing. Some of these standards refer to the testing for certain chemicals or toxins. This is important especially if you have allergies or are sensitive to certain products. A memory foam mattress that bears the CertiPUR-US standard contains no harmful chemicals that negatively affect indoor air quality.

White, memory foam mattress on bed

Look at Ratings

One of the best ways to choose a new mattress is to look at ratings from users. Aside from performing a quick test-drive in the store, there is no way to know how you will feel when you wake up in the morning after sleeping on the mattress until you've actually done it. Read ratings from others who have purchased the mattress and used it, and weigh the pros and cons of each review. For obvious reasons, mattresses with the highest user ratings usually perform better than lower-rated ones.

Memory foam topper on traditional mattress

Consider a Mattress Topper

A solid piece of memory foam is often too soft to provide adequate support on its own. As a result, memory foam mattresses are often topped with a gel layer or other latex foam for the greatest comfort. If your existing mattress is in good shape and you're looking to add loft, a topper can be purchased and installed directly on top. The good thing about toppers is that, like full mattresses, they come in a variety of thicknesses and sizes to suit your comfort level.

Simple bed with memory foam mattress

Do I Need a New Mattress?

You may be wondering if a memory foam mattress topper is enough to cure the ills of your existing mattress. The answer is simple. If your mattress has dips or indented areas, a topper cannot fix these problems. You are much better off purchasing a whole new mattress. If your mattress is generally supportive but is a little bit harder than you would like, a memory foam topper may be the solution.

Multi-layered memory foam mattress on bed

Durability and Design

In general, the less dense the memory foam is, the less durable it will be. A 2-inch topper will wear out rather quickly, while a 10-inch memory foam mattress can last up to 30 years with proper care. Hybrid memory foam mattresses are composed of several different layers and can often offer the best support and durability. Pure latex provides antimicrobial properties that synthetic latex can't, while gel cores deliver a cooling layer for added comfort.