What Is A Memory Foam Mattress?

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What Is A Memory Foam Mattress? Your Questions Answered

What Is A Memory Foam Mattress - Cover Image

What Is A Memory Foam Mattress?  A memory foam mattress is a mattress that has at least one layer of memory foam inside it. The memory foam is used in the comfort layer of the mattress, which will have a base of another foam type, or pocket coils (a mattress with coils and foams is known as a hybrid). Memory foam is a popular mattress material for its pressure relieving and motion isolating properties.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this memory foam mattress explainer:

  • What Is Memory Foam Mattress? A Look Inside
  • How Is Memory Foam Made?
  • What Does Memory Foam Feel Like?
  • Memory Foam Mattress Pros And Cons
  • Top 3 Memory Foam Mattress Recommendations

What Is A Memory Foam Mattress? A Look Inside

What Is A Memory Foam Mattress - Look Inside

A memory foam mattress will be made of several layers.

  • Cover: usually a stretch knit, this may or may not be removable for washing. It depends on the brand you buy. Some higher end mattresses will use organic plant based fibers in their knits such as cotton or tencel. Others will use special cool touch treatments on their cover to help the mattress sleep cool from the moment you hit the bed.
  • Comfort layers: the comfort layers of a memory foam mattress will be made up of one or more foam layer, at least one of which is memory foam. A popular memory foam to use is gel memory foam, as this is infused with cooling beads to help keep the mattress cool. You may find several layers of memory foam within one mattress. You may also find memory foam layered with latex foams or polyfoams. Memory foam is such a popular material it’s in a lot of mattresses!
  • Support layer: the support layer of an all foam mattress will be a high density polyfoam layer, usually 7-8 inches high. You can also buy hybrid memory foam mattresses, which have memory foam in the comfort layer and pocket coil spring systems as the support base.

How Is Memory Foam Made?

Memory foam was invented by NASA in the 1960’s by NASA, who originally used it to provide extra safety cushioning for astronauts during mission launches. NASA released the information into the public domain in the 1990’s, when Tempur (the best known memory foam mattress brand in the world) took it up to create the first memory foam mattress. Tempur still dominates the market today.

Making memory foam is a chemical process involving mainly polyurethane, but also other chemicals (if you’re looking for organic or natural mattresses, you won’t want memory foam) which are turned into an open cell foam. These are rigorously tested and must meet strict safety certifications, so you can rest assured a memory foam mattress you’re thinking about buying is completely non-toxic.

What Does Memory Foam Feel Like?

What Is A Memory Foam Mattress - How It Works

Memory foam is also known as visco-elastic foam, because it changes its form in response to pressure or temperature. It should contour to your body, and give pressure relief as you lie on it. It’s extremely popular for people with bad backs, as it can provide excellent spine support.

There are a few different types of memory foam available, and they each feel totally different.

  • High density memory foam: high density foam is the most expensive and the most durable. High density foam is slow to respond to body pressure, softening in response to body heat. It gives a real contouring and pressure relieving feel, and has that true memory foam “hug” that people who love this foam crave. People who don’t like this slow response foam can complain they feel like they’re “stuck”.
  • Open cell memory foam: this is lower density, due to the fact it has more air in it. It’s an extremely popular material in many memory foam mattresses, as it is more breathable and springs back more quickly, while still offering contouring and pressure support.
  • Gel memory foam: gel memory foam is infused with gel particles, which draw heat away from your body and out of the mattress. This is an important innovation for cooling, as some memory foams can trap heat.

As you research different foam mattresses, you’ll notice that many companies are moving away from using the term memory foam and are instead creating their own foam blends which are designed to have all the good things about memory foam (contouring, pressure relief, durability) without any of the negative things associated with older memory foams (heat retention, feeling stuck, sagging). You’ll see companies labeling these foams “proprietary foams”.

If you buy an all foam mattress with memory foam in it, it won’t feel bouncy to lie on. It will be very good at stopping motion isolation, but it will have weaker edges.

If you buy a hybrid mattress with memory foam in it, you’ll get some bounce from the pocket coils. It will do a reasonable job of motion isolation (better than a traditional innerspring mattress, not as good as all foam) but have stronger edges and better air circulation.

Memory Foam Mattress Pros And Cons


  • Superior motion isolation
  • Excellent pressure relieving
  • Best at conforming to your body for individualized support
  • Great for bad backs


  • All foam models have weaker edges than pocket coil models
  • Memory foam needs the help of special technologies to help regulate heat
  • Memory foam needs the help of special technologies to help regulate heat

My Top 3 Favorite Memory Foam Mattresses

These are some of my favorite memory foam mattresses. They are each quite different than the others, and cover a range of prices. I wanted to give you a good range of options. These mattresses are available in the USA, scroll right to the bottom for options in other countries. Click on any of the pictures to find out more.

Puffy Royal Mattress Review Button
Tempur Pedic Review Button
Snuggle Pedic Review Button

Australia: My pick for you is Hugo. Click here to read about Hugo Mattress.

New Zealand: My pick for you is Napp or Winkl. Click here to read about both


Emily Johnstone

Emily is the creator and owner of bestmattressforyou.com. Emily's scientific background gives her an analytical, critical, and discerning eye to bring unbiased, thorough, and helpful content to the site. Your good sleep is her top priority. Find out more about Emily and bestmattressforyou.com here.