IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not a medical site. You should always discuss medical matters with your doctor.
Memory Foam InformationFrom being an expensive luxury just a few years ago, memory foam has snow become an affordable item for most of us. Although still primarily associated with the bedroom, it also has many other uses. So exactly what is it and what makes it so good? Why buy memory foam?
What is Memory Foam?Memory Foam is a visco-elastic foam originally developed with a Swedish company for NASA and is sometimes known as space foam. It was used by NASA because of its ability to distribute pressure across the entire surface, thus easing extreme G-forces. It's also sometimes called slow release foam.
Memory foam was subsequently used in medical applications, for example where a patient suffered with pressure sores. However it was too expensive for general use and there were few if any suppliers in the home market.
In recent years viscoelastic memory foam has become cheaper to produce and is now widely available to buy for the home bedroom. You know something has reached the mainstream market when it's described as "As Seen On TV"! Memory foam mattresses or toppers are sometimes recommended by physicians for patients suffering from back pain. However you don't need to have a health problem to benefit from these - many buyers like me them simply because they are more comfortable to sleep on. Personally I'm a total covert to the advantages of sleeping on memory foam.
The most common applications are in bedding items such as mattresses, pillows and mattress pads/toppers. Outside the bedroom, you can also buy memory foam for many other purposes including cushions and footwear.
A memory foam mattress is usually denser than ordinary mattresses. This makes it more supportive - but also heavier. An alternative is to add a topper or pad to an existing mattress. A so-called memory foam bed is usually a premium quality bed complete with a matching foam mattress.
When new, the foam does tend to emit an unpleasant smell.
Why Is It Called "Memory" Foam?Memory foam is a temperature sensitive visco-elastic material. At room temperature it will mould itself to the shape of the body within a few minutes. Contrast this with a normal mattress that is simply flat. However well sprung, it will never precisely mould to the curves of a human body.
Memory foam will also hold its shape temporarily - a hand pressed into it will leave a clear impression when removed. This is probably the source of the word "memory" in the name.
What Does It Do?As a result of the foam's "memory" moulding, a mattress, mattress topper etc will automatically adjust itself to your personal shape. In addition your weight will be distributed evenly across the whole mattress, thus avoiding painful pressure in one particular spot. (If you're suffering from a medical condition, always consult your doctor.)
In effect, memory foam does away with the need to compromise between a soft, comfortable mattress and a hard, supportive one.
Which Brand To Buy?That's a difficult question and the answer will probably be different for various sleepers their individual situations. There's no single "best" memory foam. You can buy products in a variety of densities and various grades, the more expensive products often being referred to as premium grade.
Originally there were only a few specialist manufacturers with some of the best known brands of memory foam including Isotonic, Serta and Tempur-Pedic. Today "generic" memory foam is available and found in a large number of relatively cheap products. These unbranded foams tend to be cheaper and can certainly be effective, however many people still prefer the certainty of buying a known brand name. Generic foams are also less likely to meet quality standards such as CertiPur-US.
Sometimes you get what you pay for.