What is Memory Foam?
Memory foam was actually developed by NASA to help improve safety on the space shuttle. It is an open cell viscoelastic polyurethane. It responds and rebounds to pressure much slower than traditional foam, and thus looks like it “remembers” the shape of what has been impressed upon it.
Like every product, memory foam has strengths and weaknesses. It is important to keep in mind that this product was not developed specifically for the bedding industry, but rather it was adopted by the bedding industry.
First, let’s discuss the good. Memory foam has been shown to be helpful in alleviating pressure points and bed sores in a medical setting with patients who are bedridden. With the individual being unable to move very much, the foam's ability to adapt to the sleeper has been shown to be helpful in this specific situation. Sleepers who have a lot of pain and thus don’t move around much may also see therapeutic benefits from the support memory foam offers.
So to summarize the good points, so far we have to keep you safe on a space shuttle and helping bedridden medical patients. Please note that these are obviously two very small and specific segments of our population that benefit. But like so many things in life, we assume that if it helps support sick people or keep the most extreme of us safe, well then it must be amazing for the rest of us.
What the rest of us tend to experience when we sleep on memory foam is a very frustrating feeling of being stuck. The foam literally creates a pocket for your body, which can be hard to get out of. This limits the amount of natural movement that a sleeper can experience. Now all things being equal, a restful sleep generally doesn’t involve a lot of tossing and turning, but this is because you are sleeping peacefully, not because you are trapped in foam quicksand. Also, keep in mind that body systems like the lymphatic system rely on muscular contraction to move lymph through the body, and being stuck without the ability to move for 7 to 9 hours is not ideal for the lymphatic system.
Memory foam also tends to sleep hot. Why? Because it reflects body heat rather than absorb it. Your body wants to sleep at a slightly cooler temperature, which is why we generally don’t have great sleep in the summer heat. Without the ability to transfer heat and moisture, your body is forced to go to its own internal cooling system, which is sweat. Nobody likes to sweat when they sleep. Warm sweaty foam also tends to be a breeding ground for tiny little living things that you would rather not share your mattress with.
Due to the design and engineering of memory foam, it tends to feel quite hard by the morning. That is because it had been compressed in the same position all night. Like everything that is compressed, it becomes denser and thus firmer. Also to no great surprise foam that gets’s compressed in the same place over and over again for extended periods of time will get permanent impressions and indentations quickly and not last as long.
We haven’t even talked about the chemicals, but in case you haven’t guessed the way that they get the foam to have such a great “memory” is through the use of more chemicals. Chemicals will inevitably break down and release into the atmosphere and that you lay your head down and breath in, for 7 to 9 hours a night.
We don’t use memory foam. Not because we think it is good or bad, but because we don’t think it’s the best application is as a nightly sleeper for the general population. We think that your sleep should be comfortable, supportive, allow for natural movement and help you to sleep cooler and dry. We find that natural materials accomplish this much better than a viscoelastic polyurethane.