Mattresses made from memory foam have an almost sterling reputation. In the 90s, they were the go-to mattress for those looking for luxury. They come with a hefty price tag, promising to provide unrivalled comfort, as well as assistance with back pain. But are memory foam mattresses everything they’re cracked up to be? New research suggests that they may not be as good for you as clever marketing might have you believe.
What is memory foam?
Memory foam was first created by NASA. It’s a type of polyurethane foam and was originally used as padding for things like helmets. Because of its ability to mold, it was then used by the medical industry as seat padding for those with severe disabilities. Now, if you say the word memory foam, most people think you’re talking about a mattress.
Why is it so popular?
Clever marketing. Mattress manufacturers using memory foam were extremely successful at offering their products as a cure for back pain, and as the best way to get a comfortable night of sleep. They’re traditionally regarded as luxurious and expensive. Often, people believe memory foam to be the answer to sleepless nights and joint pain problems.
Cancer causing chemicals
There are several cons to memory foam, some potentially life-threatening. Some memory foam mattresses are made using materials proven to cause cancer. If you’re thinking of buying a memory foam mattress, it is extremely important that you make sure you buy from a reputable seller. If you don’t, your mattress could contain benzene, which is a proven carcinogen.
Other chemical substances
Naphthalene, which is used as a moth repellent, is also found in some memory foam mattresses. Lots of customers report a strong chemical smell when sleeping on their mattresses, which disappears over time. Inhaling chemicals is generally seen as a bad thing, especially when you’re sleeping and breathing deeply. For children and older people, this can be particularly troublesome. It is really important that you are incredibly careful to make sure that you’re buying from a reputable seller when buying memory foam mattresses. Even then, though, you might still notice a not-so-sweet smell at first.
There’s no scientific proof that they actually work
Memory foam is often recommended to people who have back pain, but there is no scientific data to support the theory that memory foam relieves pain. The National Sleep Foundation have stated that they believe that memory foam’s moulding properties support the body across its natural curves, which could help with pain, but there is no real science to back this up.
They increase the risk of death in infants
Studies support data that suggests that memory foam and other extremely soft bedding can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Soft bedding like memory foam can trap carbon dioxide, which can be fatal to your infant. It is important that you do not let your children sleep on memory foam mattresses.
They provide very little support
Memory foam mattresses are designed to mold to fit your body at pressure points. It might sound as though that’s added support, but the opposite is true. They’re no good for people who naturally toss and turn whilst they sleep because deep rivets form in the mattress at key pressure points and can make it difficult to roll over. For this reason, elderly people tend to struggle with memory foam.
They’re no good if you sweat a lot
Because memory foam mattresses are sensitive to heat, people who sweat a lot might find themselves unable to sleep on memory foam because the material traps heat and can increase the environmental temperature.
They can smell funny
Most sellers recommend that you air your mattress for 24 hours before you try to sleep on it. This is because memory foam is made using strong smelling chemicals, which have a tendency to release themselves over time. In the beginning, this can be quite unpleasant and overwhelming.
Sometimes they are impractical
Memory foam mattresses tend to be one sided, which means they are not flippable. They often come without handles, and this makes navigating this extremely heavy foam structure quite difficult, especially if you’re not able bodied, or if you are struggling with joint or back pain and that is why you bought the mattress in the first place. You’re going to need help if you try to move it anywhere.
They only have half the filling
Memory foam mattresses are usually rather expensive, but because of their nature, they only have one soft, spongy side. It’s virtually impossible to have a two-sided memory foam mattress because, since it won’t have a chance to come back to its original form, the foam on the underside would suffer heavily. That means that they are stuffed with half the filling and, potentially, a shorter time period of usability. You might end up feeling short changed.
What should I do?
If you’re looking for a mattress to transform your sleeping, look for traditional mattress making methods that use naturally sourced materials. This is the best way to make sure you’re sleeping on material that is comfortable, safe, odourless, and easy to move.
Ely mattresses are made from natural, non-toxic substances and they’re healthy, trustworthy and environmentally friendly. They contain no chemicals and are fully recyclable. No more harmful ingredients, vapours, toxic substances or chemically enhanced materials.
We have 40 years of experience. You can read our story here.