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The Differences in
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam is a relatively new technology
in mattresses. Perfected in the space shuttle program, the
technology was introduced to help reduce the effects of
G-force or the force of gravity, on the astronauts, when
executing take-offs and re-entry. NASA discovered the joints
in the body suffered significantly during these events. Thus
they developed a cushion foam to mitigate these effects, and
fitted the astronauts seats with it.
Since then, it has spread to general use, much as Velcro did
before it. Mattress technology is where it is the most
widely beneficial. This is a technology driven product, so
the technology must be done correctly, for the end user to
gain the most benefit from the mattress. Producing these
mattresses correctly is time consuming and more costly than
producing it incorrectly. Because of this, you see a wide
spread in memory (visco-elastic) foam mattress pricing. A
little knowledge can save you a lot of money and
disappointment in this area.
(There are a lot of knock off
mattresses being sold that simply do not work)
There are a number of important technical features in a well
made mattress. These include:
The cell structure of the foam itself
The density of the memory foam (measured in foot pounds per
The thickness of the visco-elastic layer
What's underneath the memory foam layer
The surface covering of the mattress
The thermal sensitivity of the visco layer
In order to understand why all of these things are
important, it is best to understand how the technology is
designed to work. How it differs from more conventional
foams and latex foams, is important. Conceptually, when
exposed to body heat or pressure, the foam becomes
semi-viscous (called visco-elastic) and forms around the
high pressure/temperature points in contact with it. It
supports these points alleviating the gravitational effects.
Reducing gravitational effects substantially reduces the
strain on joints. This reduces the stress on the overall
body, and allows for greater, deeper, sleep. It also helps
with the rest/rejuvenation cycle, making you more refreshed
after sleep. When the temperatures/pressures return to
normal, the foam resumes its original form.
There are key factors that are required for this to work.
One of the most important is the thermal sensitivity of the
foam. Many low quality foam mattresses are comprised of
foams that require temperatures that are considerably higher
than that of the human body. This means that that mattress cannot perform as
designed. The foam never reaches the visco-elastic state
when you are sleeping on it. It simply doesn't work.
Along the same thermal lines, the heat built up by the body
needs to be dispersed. This is principally done by creating
elliptical cell structures within the foam that allow air
and thermal flow. This keeps the mattress cool to the touch
while you are sleeping on it. Poorly made foam mattresses
have a circular cell structure that does not do this.
Therefore, you get hot when sleeping on them. When you hear
people say they didn't like this style of mattress, it is
usually because they slept on one that was poorly
The visco foam itself does not provide enough structure to
support the overall weight of a human body. Therefor, this
is accomplished by putting a support layer underneath it.
This layer may be a high density base 6-10" of conventional
support foam, or a type of spring set with a smooth surface
in contact with the visco. (See Hybids)
Mattresses made with ONLY visco also do not work. What works
in this regard, is a top layer of visco that performs its
basic task. If the layer is too thin, it cannot completely
fulfill its job. Too thick, and the mattress fails to
provide enough overall support. Ideal thicknesses range
between 1 and 3".
This thickness layer can be determined by the density of the
visco foam. It needs to be dense enough to perform
correctly. Too dense and the mattress is too hard. the foam
never achieves visco-elasticity. Too low a density, and the
mattress does not have enough material to perform its task.
Ironically, it also becomes to hard to sleep on, as it does
not support the body and you end up sleeping on the
underlying support foam. Ideal densities range from 3 to 5
lbs. Getting the right mixture of density and thickness is
important to providing the best sleep conditions.
The last important issue to look for is the cover on the
mattress. It should allow thermal transfer of the body heat
to the foam and return airflow from within the mattress. It
should be comfortable to the touch. Ideally, it should by
hypo-allergenic and removable/washable. This will make the
sleep much more pleasurable and comfortable. If you get all
of these features in your mattress, you should have decades
of sleeping comfort.
We carry mattresses that encompass all of the requirements
for the technology to work correctly. Come sample the
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