The science behind memory foam mattresses

Choosing a new mattress can be a bit of a chore: removing and disposing of your old one is hassle enough – without the added pressure of going out to select a model that delivers the comfort you’re used to. The importance of a mattress shouldn’t be underestimated. If you’ve been sleeping on an unsuitable mattress, it might just be the culprit behind any aches, pains, exhaustion or irritability you’ve been suffering in the daytime.

A quick browse of mattresses available on the market reveals a wealth of technological advances and comfort options – not least in the form of the well-known memory foam mattress. But what are the advantages of memory foam, compared to other types of mattress, how does it work – and what kind of benefits to your sleep does it bring?

The limits of traditional coiled mattresses

Traditional coil sprung mattresses are cheap, cover a range of budgets and are relatively easy to obtain. They’re not without problems however, and tend to suffer wear and tear very easily. Coils are fragile and distribute weight unevenly – this can cause springs to wear out or even push through the fabric of the mattress. Coil mattresses that outlive their suitability can become bent out of shape, uncomfortable – or even painful.

How does memory foam work?

Memory foam mattresses are a way to avoid some of the traditional problems of sprung mattresses. Originally intended for use in NASA flight seats in the mid-1960s, memory foam is light, versatile and soft. It was designed to protect against impacts – by being sensitive to points of heat and pressure and distributing weight across its entire mass. The viscoelastic properties of the foam allow it to retain and return to its original shape once the pressure is removed.

The advantages of memory foam quickly became apparent and its use was expanded into helmets and shoes – it even proved useful in increasing the comfort of prosthetic limbs!

Memory foam and sleep

Memory foam’s cell structure, reacting and responding to heat and weight, means it molds to the unique contours of the body, optimizing the support it provides during sleep. Memory foam aids rest  by reducing the need  to find comfort by moving around during the night and, by eliminating points of pressure, is particularly suited to people with back and neck pain. It is particularly suited to helping with, amongst other things, arthritis, fibrositis, poor circulation and respiratory problems.

The materials memory foam is made from can sometimes present issues for people with allergies. It’s a well-documented problem and a result of the chemicals used in the foam’s production. Memory foam is available in hypoallergenic varieties which should go some way to alleviating the irritation caused by allergies. It’s worth bearing in mind that, on the  other hand, memory foam avoids some of the allergy complaints associated with coil mattresses – like bed bugs and mites.

Memory foam isn’t a magic-bullet solution to the perfect night’s rest, but it could be the piece that’s missing if your experiencing troublesome nights. If you’re set on memory foam, make sure to try out the mattress in the shop – it’s a big purchase, so it’s worth your while jumping on and making sure it’s right for you!

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