How to choose the right memory foam mattress?

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How to choose the right memory foam mattress for healthy sleep? For those who are looking for a good night's sleep with maximum comfort, choosing the right mattress can be a challenge.

There are hundreds of brands out there with different features, different quality, and a varied range of prices to consider. Even though there is no such thing called as the best or worst memory mattress, we will try to explain and summarize all you need to know to find your ideal mattress.

So if you are still uncertain about the overall thickness, the height of each layer, or the IFD rating, let’s go through this article to understand better.

Of course, we will also give reviews and suggestions on some high-quality memory foam mattresses for your convenience.

How to choose the right memory foam mattress?


First, let’s take a look at an overview of 10 best memory foam mattress

So, what exactly is the memory foam mattress? 

Memory foam mattresses have always been the top choice for anyone who is suffering from back pain, body ache, or wanting to attain a pleasant sleeping time. This type of mattress consists of three layers using viscoelastic foam. 

The first tier, which is also known as the “Comfort layer”, functions is to perfectly mold your sleeping position by your body’s temperature. This helps eliminate the pressure of body weight and gravity on your spine and joints. After losing sight of the body’s heat, the mattress will cool down and return to its original form. 

Next, we have the “Support Layer”, it is here to make sure that the mattress is still in its solid shape throughout the usage period. Also, this tier was also participating in the process of reducing the thickness and hardness of the comfort layer, making the mattress more soft and comfortable. 

Lastly, we have a supporting layer for the upper two called the “Baselayer.” It lies at the bottom of the mattress and usually is the thickest one out of those three. Some of us might see that there are memory foam mattresses that consist of 4 layers or more, this depends on the manufacturer’s wish to design and renovate their products, so they will add sub-layers to support the basic ones.

But in general, all of the memory foam mattresses out there on the market are made up in this way.

A typical 4 tier design

Factors you should consider when buying a mattress: 

1/ Thickness

When deciding to buy a new mattress, we would usually consider two main elements: the size and the thickness of the mattress. Sizes from the US are generally named as Twin, Twin XL, Full, Full XL, Queen, King, and California King, and the name may vary from countries to country. Similar to this, there are also many levels of a thickness suitable for all types of owners with different functions and features. The mattresses are usually advertised from 7 inches to 16 inches thick or sometimes even more. And of course, the more layers added in addition to the three primary ones, the more expensive the mattress will get. However, we should keep in mind that the overall thickness of a mattress does not determine its quality. For instance, the manufacturer created an extra comfort layer to serve the purpose of providing more softness to the mattress. So in fact, it is the thickness of that particular layer (and some other factors like the foam type and combination of the design) that decides whether the mattress fits your needs or not. 

Depending on the type of bed you are using, finding the right thickness of the memory foam mattress is also very important. You may want to find a relatively thin mattress for a bunk-bed or an adjustable bed if you want to have the good flexibility or simply not hitting your head on the upper bed!

2/ Viscoelastic foam

The viscoelastic was first created and developed by NASA to help the astronauts protecting their health during sleep without the damage from the gravity-less environment. Later on, this type of material eventually become famous and are being used widely in human’s daily life. Viscoelastic is usually referred to as Standard, Traditional Polyurethane, or Petroleum Based. If you heard someone mention something called “Tempur-Pedic”, please noted that this is just a brand, not the technology itself. Even though there are different types of memory foam mattresses that available on the market like the gel-infused or plant-infused, viscoelastic is still considered as the most common one at affordable prices. It is also crucial to know that memory foam mattress made of viscoelastic, for the most part, is opposed to any particular one that ever existed. 

Let’s analyze the pros and cons to understand this better:

Pros: You can easily find this type of mattress almost everywhere, from local storeroom to online retailer, from big brands manufacturers to household companies. Besides its wide availability, this technology also offers many prices to meets all the customers’ segmentation and budgets. There are hundreds of high-end mattresses that cost thousands of dollars, but there are also very low or cheap ones that fit everyone’s pocket. Longevity is also a plus point for this technology, whether you own an affordable or luxurious brand, the minimum time of usage expected should be at least seven years. Another reason why viscoelastic is loved by so many people is that of its temperature reactive technology: this creates motion isolation from different parts of the bed; which means that despite your bed partner is always tossing and turning, your side of the bed won’t be disturbed. 

Cons: Ever since its first introduction to the world, viscoelastic has always able to remain its reputation throughout many periods of time. However, compared to the gel-infused and plant-based type, viscoelastic still have some weakness that can’t be overlooked. One major issue that prevents people from choosing viscoelastic is the outgassing (also called toxic off-gassing). Because of the chemical components that exist inside, some new viscoelastic mattresses will release odor for a few days, or even a few weeks, which is something not pleasant. In fact, about 15% of the mattress user is dissatisfied and complain about this smell. Another concern is the slow heat response time. As we have known, the memory foam mattress uses our body’s heat to mold the curve of our sleeping position, which will provide comfort and relieve pain. However, because of the low response rate, the excessive heat will make the user feel uncomfortable at night; especially for those who are living in the hot climate areas. Also, due to the slow reaction to the temperature, moving around during sleep also takes quite long for the mattress to return to its original shape.

3/ Gel-Infused foam

The gel-infused mattress can be considered as a descendant of the viscoelastic that we have just discussed. This type of mattress is quite similar to the previous one, but instead of being injected with viscoelastic foam, millions of gel beads will be infused inside to reduce heat retention. Since the manufacturers understand that heat captured can cause discomfort during sleep, they came up with this type of technology to stop the concern. The gel-infused mattress has also been displayed and widely sold by some large brands such as LUCID and Brentwood, both online and in their showrooms. 

Here are some advantages and disadvantages that the gel mattress brought:

Pros: Even though the gel mattress is the latest model out of the three, it is currently widely sold by many manufacturers because they now see the benefits it can bring. So there is no need to worry about the availability of this mattress. This new technology also dissolves the heat faster compared to its predecessor; plus it also minimizes the motion on the bed so it is guaranteed that you can move freely at night without interrupting your partner’s sleep. 

Cons: After the innovation, the gel-infused foam mattress still tends to capture the heat and warm up the bed at night, especially when there are two people sharing the bed. The off-gassing situation in which release odor still occurs for quite a few days after purchasing, but only for a short period. 

Layers inside a memory foam mattress

4/ Plant-based / Natural foam

By replacing a significant amount of the petroleum-based or gel foam in memory foam mattress with plant extract such as soy, aloe vera, tea or bamboo, eco or natural memory foam mattress is currently the highest-rating mattress among the consumers. Each type of plant extracted into the mattress will have a clear description provided by the manufacturer to explain its functions. Let’s go through the pros and cons to understand why this plant-based foam is loved by many users:  

Pros: The plant-based foam maintained to fix all of the inconvenience that the previous two have (new odor, off-gassing, heat retention, motion isolation, …) while still keeping up with the health concern of the users. Not only it guarantees to provide maximum support for the spinal and the joints, but the new technology called open-cell applied in this mattress also promises to dissolve the heat 10 times faster than the viscoelastic and gel foam. Because the plant-based mattresses contain natural ingredients, people with sensitive skin usually prefer this rather than the previous two products, which contain chemical substances that may not beneficial for health and cause allergy.  It is also considered to be environmentally friendly with zero toxic VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and no dangerous emission to the air. Plus, there is no need to worry about the off-gassing process that causes bad odor like the viscoelastic foam mattress

Cons: Even though you can easily purchase plant-based foam mattress online, it can be quite a challenge to find this product in local showrooms. This innovative technology also quite expensive compared to the other two due to the features it brought.

Typical gel mattress structure

5/ Density – Firmness Level

This is a matter of preference when it comes to how much you would like the degree of firmness/softness of your mattress. Some people like the feeling of sinking into their bed with coziness while others would prefer having an optimal amount of sinking feeling with a significant degree of firmness. This density level determines the molding ability of a mattress; how the memory foam will mold your body curve, and sleeping position depends on whether the surface is firm or soft. 

Usually, a mattress with 2-5lbs of density foam is the most common, and 5lbs+ is of high quality. Higher density associated with more firmness and support on the spinal, reducing weight and gravity pressure, which is essential for a healthy sleep with no symptom of back pain in the morning. 

Besides measuring density by pounds, there is also another method known as IFD rating used to determine the mattress’s firmness/softness; though this approach is not widely used. The rating ranging from IFD 10 (super soft) to IFD 120 (semi-rigid), but you would usually see the mattress with IFD 12 to IFD 16 is the most common.

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