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Memory Foam: Pros, Cons, Alternative

Did you know that memory foam was originally designed in the 1960s for NASA?

That’s right, the same material that’s found in bedrooms across the globe, was once literally space-age technology that was intended to cushion and deflect the gravitational pull experienced by astronauts during take-off and re-entry into earth’s atmosphere.

What makes memory foam special is how it responds to heat and pressure. When used in mattresses and pillows, the material conforms to the body distributes weight evenly. Once pressure is removed (i.e. you wake up and get off the bed), the foam reverts to its original shape.


Beyond the Hype: Natural or Manufactured?

While memory foam is widely accepted as a useful material for mattresses and pillows, it’s important to separate fact from hype. One such instance is a claim that some people make about memory foam being “natural”, because some brands of memory foam are made with (not from) plant-based ingredients.

Memory foam is a manufactured material that includes polyurethane and other synthetic materials – and most memory foam is made from a combination of chemicals, which classifies it a chemical product. (In fact, memory foam is 95% chemical, including those that use plant-based ingredients to substitute some components.)

So, the next time you hear someone say that memory form is a “natural” and therefore “healthier” choice, you’ll know the facts behind the hype.


Advantages of Memory Foam

Pressure Point Relief

Here’s another fun fact about memory foam – it was first used to cushion bedridden patients, and for wheelchair seat cushions. It’s pressure-relieving properties helps to prevent pressure sores and minimise pain in tender areas.

For people with painful conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia, memory foam mattresses offer much-needed relief. For everyone else, these mattresses are simply a joy to sleep on.

Good Back Support

With most bedding materials, a sleeper’s weight is concentrated on areas that contact the mattress – usually the shoulders, hips and heels. As a result, the sleeper’s lumbar area is not well supported, which can lead to back pain and neck aches.

Memory foam allows for even weight distribution across the bed’s surface. It doesn’t matter whether you are a back, side or stomach sleeper – memory foam mattresses allow your spine to remain in a neutral position, offering superior back support.

Motion Absorbent

For light sleepers who get easily awoken by their partner rolling in bed, memory foam mattresses are a godsend. Memory foam absorbs and isolates motion, instead of transferring it – so your partner can lay down, get up or roll over without disturbing your rest.

Disadvantages of Memory Foam

Heat Retention

Memory foam traps air inside the mattress, inhibiting the natural airflow needed to keep you cool throughout the night. As a result, the mattress retains body heat more easily, making it less comfortable especially in Singapore’s hot climate. To counter this, many couples turn on the air-conditioner or a fan to keep their cool.

A Feint “Chemical Smell”

New memory foam mattresses can produce a mildly uncomfortable “chemical smell” when the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) in them break down. This phenomenon is known as off-gassing. However, this can be easily counteracted by airing out the mattress for at least 24 hours before putting sheets on it. Further, there are certain types of plant-based foams which are low in VOCs and have little to no off-gassing.

Not Recommended for Infants

All types of soft mattresses, including those made from memory foam, are not recommended for infant use. Indentations are easily formed in soft mattresses and these increase the chance of suffocation if the infant is in a prone position. Also, soft bedding traps carbon dioxide and heat – both of which may heighten the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Lengthier Adjustment Period

Memory foam lacks the “springiness” of other materials, which is apparent by simply pressing on a memory foam pillow or mattress – the material takes a longer time to “rebound” back to its normal shape. As we change sleeping positions dozens of times each night, this can be an issue for light sleepers due to a lack of support, which happens because the material is still “slowly rebounding” from our previous sleeping position.

A Superior Alternative: Natural Latex

Keen on a memory foam mattress, but don’t like its disadvantages? Natural latex mattresses offer all the benefits of memory foam mattresses (and more), without many of the downsides. What’s more, many users rate the level of comfort offered by natural latex mattresses even more highly than their memory foam cousins.

There are several similarities between natural latex and memory foam. Both materials provide good posture support by conforming to the shape of the sleeper’s body and offering pressure relief to the spine, neck and joints. However, while memory foam moulds to the exact shape of the sleeper’s body, natural latex only conforms to the general impressions made. Many sleepers prefer this as it is a good balance of soft comfort, combined with firm support for the spine.

Natural latex is also resistant to dust mites and mould. This is a natural property of latex achieved without the use of added chemicals. When it comes to the lifespan of your mattress, natural latex mattresses are incredible durable – with expected lifespans of over 10 years.

It gets even better, as natural latex mattresses resume their original shape much faster than memory foam and feel a lot more “bouncy” – making it fun, comfortable and uniquely different from any other sleeping experience out there.

These mattresses are also cooler to sleep on as they don’t retain as much heat. Further, natural latex has been certified to be safe and non-toxic, with no off-gassing of noxious fumes. It can be harvested without destroying the tree or emitting pollution, making it a more eco-friendly option than most other mattress types.

But of course, the best way to know if a mattress is ideal for you, is to try it out. Visit a Sofzsleep showroom near you and experience the magic of a natural latex mattress for yourself!

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