Memory Foam Mattress Guide

What is 'memory foam' and why should I consider using a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam is a technologically advanced type of PU foam. called visco-elastic foam

True visco-elastic memory foam mattresses are temperature and pressure sensitive and are designed with billions of spherical shaped open cells. These cells are designed to respond to body temperature and pressure points. They shift their form under the weight of your body, shaping to the contours and giving support where it's needed most. Working very different to standard foam, as well as its temperature-sensitive qualities, a memory foam mattress has an open cell structure which allows air to circulate freely through the material.

Visco elastic 'memory foam' mattresses are very popular in mainland Europe, have been used in hospitals and by health authorities for many years due to their ability to greatly reduce pressure points and enhance the comfort of those spending long, inert periods in hospital beds.

The consumer market for memory foam mattresses has grown considerably in recent years due to their obvious benefits over traditional sprung mattresses. However the increasing choice has resulted in a wide variation in the quality of memory foam mattresses available, so customers must consider a number of important factors before making an informed decision. A sprung mattress feels very different to a memory foam one and many people still want the resillience given from a sprung base and yet also want the comfort provided by a memory foam top layer. this has lead to a hybrid mattress where both a traditional spring is used encapsulated in foam with a memory foam top layer.



What should I look for in a memory foam mattress?


There are many considerations and factors that should be taken into account when shopping for a new, high quality memory foam mattress. Quite simply, when it comes to buying a mattress and understanding memory foam specification, the three most important measurements and ratings are the 'Density', 'ILD rating', and 'Firmness rating' of the memory foam. These are three major indicators that will influence how the mattress will perform and the feeling you will experience.

We have done our best to explain these factors in detail in the guide below. Let's take a look at the basics



1) Mattress size:

It's well documented that we spend nearly one third of our life in bed. Yet recent research found the majority of consumers would commonly spend more money on a sofa than on their bed or mattress. In contrast, the majority of Europeans consider a mattress to be their most important furniture investment. We all spend a great deal of time on our mattress, so it's essential to get this right, as we all appreciate that a comfortable, restful, good nights sleep has a considerable bearing on our general health, mood, and well-being.

Practicalities considered, we feel it's important to try to buy as big a mattress as your existing bed base, budget, or room size will allow. Your memory foam mattress should be as large and comfortable as possible.



2) Is a memory foam mattress suitable to use on my existing bed base?

A memory foam mattress will be suitable for most bed bases and bedsteads, although some will make it feel and perform better than others. If you are using a wooden 'slatted' style bed or bedstead then we recommend the gaps between the slats are no wider than 2" - 3".

A good quality memory foam mattress is also compatible for use on a sprung divan style or 'box' style bed base. However it's worth noting that the mattress does not require additional support or suspension from the bed base, so a solid, stable bed platform or base is the ideal foundation for this type of mattress.



3) Why is it so confusing to compare different models and manufacturers of memory foam mattresses?

It could be perceived that it suits many retailers to make it almost impossible to make a basic consumer comparison between different memory foam mattresses, their specification, and what you are actually getting for your money. At The Mattress Factory we have tried to be as transparent and informative as possible. and truly believe our mattresses offer great performance, quality, and value for money currently available in the UK keeping our costs as low as possible and shipping direct from our factory in Oldham. Please feel free to visit high street stores and try the differing mattresses and then try ours in our showroom in Oldham you could well be lying on the exact same type of mattress but buy buying direct from the factory dont be surprised if ours costs considerably less..


4) Is the overall depth of the memory foam mattress important?


Yes. Although it's important not to confuse the overall depth of the memory foam mattress with the depth of the memory foam layer itself - as it's this, and only this, which will make it feel comfortable, supportive, and overall, deliver the pressure relieving qualities you would expect and deserve from a high quality memory foam mattress. the deeper the memory foam layer the more you will feel the unique qualities of visco-elastic memory foam, now this is subjective some people may prefer this layer thick 2 to 3 inches some prefer a thin layer 1 to 1.5 inches, at 4 inches you are at about the maximum depth you should use as memory foam in itseld has little resillience and needs a supportive base layer of either foam or a sprung base layer.



5) What does the 'density' of a memory foam mattress really mean, and why does it matter?

The density rating of any foam mattress generally refers to the density of the top layer of visco-elastic memory foam, not the entire mattress - as the supporting base foam layer of a true memory foam mattress uses a 'high resilience' or 'impact resistant' polyurethane foam. This should never be confused with visco elastic memory foam. It's important to understand that the top layer of visco-elastic memory foam is the most costly to manufacture, and ultimately the most important component in any memory foam mattress composition.

The density rating is a measurement of how much visco-elastic memory foam actually resides within the foam layer of the mattress. The lesser the density, the lesser the raw material content actually making up the memory foam layer, and ultimately the bigger the cells or 'air cavities' as a result. The higher the density of the memory foam layer, the heavier the memory foam will be. And most importantly, the cells or 'air cavities' in the memory foam will be smaller, more tightly packed, and present in greater numbers. This makes them both harder to break down and ultimately indicates the muscular / skeletal support and 'life expectancy' you can expect from the mattress. It is clinically recognised that the higher the density of the memory foam layer, the better support the memory foam will provide.


A high density foam is anything from 35 kilo upwards this sort of foam is used on the majority of medical mattresses which are used 24 hours a day 7 days a week, there are standard foam that go right up to 65 kilo and are used on bariatric mattresses for people over 40 stone.


A high-density UK manufactured memory foam mattress will feel more full-bodied and sumptuous in comparison with lower quality imported imitations. However it is a common misconception that this dictates the firmness of the memory foam. Advanced manufacturers of true high-density visco-elastic foam are able to manipulate firmness ratings regardless of density. The Standard memory foam density is 50kg/m3 which is used on domestic mattresses ( the reason it is so high is because the manufacturers cannot make this type of foam much lighter ) there are 40 and 45 kilo variants however the unique feel is watered down somewhat at thie density of the foam is not as responsive the 40 and 45 densities are therefore used more for pillows and mattress toppers, There are variants that go right up to 85 kilo however this ultra high density is mainly used on wheelchair seating applications and does not really make any difference to the standard 50 kilo density when used on a mattress.

Be careful where your mattress comes from, Some imported memory foam mattresses may well have extra added melamine "which is a standard fire retardant used in most foam production" and or other compounds in the foam to bulk up the weight to allow the mattress to be sold with the unique selling point stating things like 85 kilo memory foam. If you are sure your mattress is made in the UK from a UK foam manufacturer you need not worry. And again 50 - 60 kilo is ample.


6) How do I understand how firm the memory foam mattress will feel?

Again this is subjective to the person

However the difficulty with this is that no independent firmness tests or guides currently exist in the UK for manufacturers to adhere to and benchmark their mattress against others. This makes it difficult to understand comparisons between different memory foam manufacturers products. How soft or firm the foam feels to each of us is a very subjective matter. Each of us has different comfort preferences, which makes this interpretation or rating guide difficult to use in isolation. Firmness is measureed in Newtons foam can be made either soft or firm, Foam will also have another quality its Resillience "bounce" which because of its nature memory foam will have a very low resillience.

This is why we also recommend you understand the 'ILD' rating of the mattress to gauge its firmness. The ILD rating of a mattress is explained below.



7) What does the 'ILD' rating tell me about a memory foam mattress and why is it important?

The density and ILD rating of a memory foam mattress provides the best indication as to the quality and firmness level you should expect from the mattress.

'ILD' stands for 'indentation load deflection'.

Put simply, it indicates how hard or soft the memory foam will be.

This is calculated by measuring how many pounds of pressure are required to indent a 4" layer of memory foam by 25%. The test is performed by applying equal pressure over an area of 50 square inches to indent the memory foam by 25%. The amount of pressure required to indent the foam by 25% of its total depth is calculated in weight.

To make sense of this, and better understand the ILD rating of a memory foam mattress, please see our example below:

It may take 8lbs of pressure to indent a very soft memory foam by 25%, or 20lbs of pressure to indent a very firm sample of memory foam.

You will often see the ILD rating expressed in a range, i.e. 10 - 12, as opposed to a single number. This is because the ILD rating can vary slightly depending on how the memory foam has been conditioned or the environment it has been stored in prior to testing. Moisture and humidity are two factors that can influence the slight variation in measurement, which is why many retailers display the ILD rating in a range format.

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