Memory Foam Mattress Guide

Memory foam is a popular component in today’s mattress industry, as it provides both comfort and pressure-point relief. However, with the many types of memory foam available in mattress construction today, determining which type to choose can be challenging. This guide will tell you all you need to know about memory foam mattresses, as well as show you how to compare memory foam mattress brands to ensure you’re selecting the right mattress for your sleeping style.

Memory foam mattress types

Traditional memory foam

Memory foam, also known as temper foam, has an impressive history. Memory foam was originally developed by NASA in the 1970s to improve crash protection and seat cushioning. Comprised of polyurethane foam, this high-density foam conforms to your specific body shape. Memory foam is often described as “sleeping on a cloud,” because of the ample relief of painful pressure points, the elimination of joint, hip and back pain and contouring support.

In addition to pressure-point relief, traditional memory foam is known for minimizing and isolating motion transfer. Those sharing a bed should be less disturbed by a partner’s movement throughout the night. Because of this, memory foam is an ideal option for light sleepers and those with partners who actively change sleep positions. A drawback of 100% memory foam is heat retention, as the foam responds and contours based on body heat. Hot sleepers should gravitate towards a memory foam mattress that includes latex or cooling gel.

Latex foam 

Originally used for seating on trains, trolleys and aircraft, latex foam was introduced to the mattress market in 1931. The durability and swift “bounce back” of latex foam offer a supportive mattress with pressure-relieving comfort. Latex foam mattresses can be crafted from one or multiple latex types: natural, synthetic or a blend of these two options. While natural latex foam is derived from the rubber tree plant, synthetic latex is created with polymers, such as polyurethane.

All latex is naturally resistant to dust mites and antimicrobial, so it is an excellent option for allergy sufferers who may be looking for a hypoallergenic memory foam mattress. Memory foam mattresses with a layer of latex can also provide added coolness for hot sleepers, as latex tends to absorb and retain less body heat. However, 100% latex mattresses tend to be firmer than their memory foam/latex counterparts, so be sure the features match your sleep needs.

Gel memory foam

Gel memory foam aids in a cooler night’s sleep, eliminating the unwanted struggle with sleeping too hot. Providing greater airflow and circulation by incorporating gel beads throughout, gel memory foam pulls away excess body heat to promote a cooler, sweat-free night’s sleep.

As traditional memory foam mattresses can sleep hot, multiple brands are now offering a gel memory foam layer that delivers back and joint pressure relief, and contouring comfort, along with a cooling gel. If you are a hot sleeper, look for mattresses with this innovative cooling gel technology. Gel memory foam mattresses vary by brand, as some contain one layer of gel memory foam while others provide multiple layers for optimal heat relief.

The right memory foam for your sleeping style

Once you have decided what memory foam mattress type best fits your sleep needs, it is time to choose the best memory foam mattress for your sleeping style. Pairing these two factors will ensure a supportive and restful night’s sleep.

Back sleepers

As opposed to curling up on your side, sleeping on your back helps maintain correct spinal and musculoskeletal alignment. A medium-firm memory foam mattress will provide whole-body support to avoid waking with lower back pain. According to the International Chiropractors Association, our bodies need a sleep surface that keeps our spine in a neutral position and supports the spinal column.

Side sleepers

The Sleep Foundation notes that snoring affects an estimated 90 million American adults of all genders and ages. For sleepers struggling with snoring, sleeping on your side can alleviate snoring. An excellent memory foam mattress choice for side sleepers is one with support zones — to deliver extra support to your core area while providing a softer foundation around pressure points. West Virginia University’s Exercise Physiology Department conducted a study finding stiffness and back pain was reduced when using spinal zone beds. Ergonomic-focused zoned support aids in a restful night’s sleep with firm memory foam under the lower back and hip area, along with softer memory foam around the neck and shoulders. 

Stomach sleepers

A memory foam mattress that supports your head and neck area is essential for stomach sleepers. According to the Cleveland Clinic, sleeping on your stomach extends your neck backward and compresses your spine. As most of your body weight is in the center, many stomach sleepers opt for a medium-firm memory foam mattress. While plush memory foam feels luxurious, stomach sleepers may feel as though they are sinking into the mattress. This can cause unpleasant back and neck pain upon waking.

Light sleepers

Numerous factors account for affecting those that sleep lightly. While excessive caffeine and light exposure play a role, a major factor is being jostled awake by a partner’s movement. A partner simply getting into bed or turning over can awaken a light sleeper, interrupting essential deep slumber. Traditional memory foam mattresses that focus on movement isolation are ideal for light sleepers. True memory foam mattresses without hybrid coil springs will aid in sleeping soundly.

How to compare memory foam mattress brands

Deciding how best to compare memory foam mattress brands can be overwhelming as every brand and model have varying features. When researching memory foam mattresses, consider important factors like mattress features, brand, price, mattress size, sleep trial, warranty, perks and discounts. If you struggle with allergies or are searching for an eco-friendly, organic mattress, be sure to check the brand certifications. While every person’s sleep style differs, it is helpful to read through verified customer reviews.

The top memory foam mattress brands include Purple, Layla and GhostBed. Purple was selected as J.D. Power’s #1 bed-in-a-box mattress of 2019 and achieved the highest score in durability, support, warranty, comfort and value given the price paid. Purple’s innovative hyper-elastic polymer and polyurethane memory foam grid design ranks high in isolating motion transfer.

Layla’s memory foam mattress provides the ultimate memory foam mattress firmness. Known as the “flippable mattress,” Layla’s copper gel-infused mattress delivers a soft mattress on one side and firm mattress on the other. The copper gel memory foam provides deep compression areas that are perfect for side or stomach sleepers.

Hot sleepers can rest coolly with GhostBed’s gel-infused and latex memory foams. GhostBed promotes the ability to “sleep sweat-free on the coolest bed in the world” with their two-stage cooling technology. Comprised of gel memory foam, latex and high-density memory foam, the GhostBed’s memory foam layers work in tandem to keep you sleeping comfortably all night long.

Should I choose a memory foam mattress? 

Choosing the right memory foam mattress takes time and research. Important factors to consider include your sleep style, pain or pressure points, preferred firmness level and overall mattress budget. In today’s mattress market, numerous brands offer generous sleep trials to test the comfort of the memory foam mattress you choose at home. These sleep trials, often with free returns, are an excellent way to decide if a memory foam mattress will meet your sleep needs.