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What is Memory Foam: A Comprehensive Guide

You have probably seen a wide range of memory foam products in the mattress and bedding industry. What is memory foam, and what is its transformative impact on sleep quality and comfort? Read to find out its diverse types, advantages, and drawbacks, and learn why it's a popular choice for many sleep enthusiasts – and keep reading for a surprise, a sustainable alternative for eco-friendly and restorative slumber!

What is Memory Foam


Memory foam is a remarkable material designed to respond to body heat and pressure, offering personalized support and comfort for a restful sleep experience.

There are various types as well as pros and cons of memory foam, from traditional to gel-infused and plant-based varieties, each catering to specific needs.

Natural latex, an environment-friendly option derived from rubber trees, is a sustainable alternative to memory foam. 

Did you know?
Memory foam was first developed by NASA in the 1960s to improve the safety of aircraft cushions!

Have you ever wondered about the science behind that plush memory foam mattress or pillow you sink into every night? The secret lies in its composition and the way it responds to your body, providing support for pressure joints.

Keep reading to unravel the mysteries of memory foam, understand what memory foam is made of and its unique properties, as well as dive into its various types. We will also venture into the world of natural latex, a sustainable alternative that aligns with eco-conscious choices.

What is Memory Foam?

Have you pressed down on the unique, spongy texture of a memory foam product before? Memory foam is made from a substance called polyurethane, which is treated with additional chemicals to increase its viscosity and density. The high-density open-cell structure of memory foam allows it to contour and mold to the shape of an individual's body in response to heat and pressure. Once the pressure is removed, memory foam slowly returns to its original shape.

How Does Memory Foam Work

How Does Memory Foam Work

Memory foam is designed to respond to heat and pressure, and its unique properties are what make it distinct and popular in various bedding and furniture products. Here’s how memory foam works:

Temperature Sensitivity: Memory foam softens in response to body heat. When you lie down on a memory foam mattress or rest your head on a memory foam pillow, your body heat softens the foam in the areas where you’re applying pressure.

Pressure Responsiveness: As the foam softens, it begins to contour to the shape of your body, cradling you in a way that distributes your body weight evenly. This responsiveness to pressure allows the foam to adapt and provide personalized support where needed.

Slow Recovery: One of the key characteristics of memory foam is its slow recovery time. When you remove the pressure (by changing your sleeping position, for example), the foam gradually returns to its original shape. This slow recovery is why it’s called “memory” foam; it remembers your body shape and returns to that shape slowly.

Body Contouring: The ability to contour to your body’s unique shape helps memory foam mattresses and pillows provide support to your neck, spine, and joints. By contouring to your body, it helps in aligning your spine properly, which can alleviate pressure points and reduce pain.

Motion Isolation: Memory foam can help to isolate motion. If you share a bed with someone and they move during the night, the memory foam absorbs and minimizes these movements. This means you're less likely to be disturbed by your partner's tossing and turning.

Hypoallergenic Properties: Memory foam is inherently resistant to dust mites and mold. The dense structure of the foam creates an environment that is less hospitable to these common allergens, making it a good choice for people with allergies.

Types of Memory Foam

Memory foam comes in various types, each with its unique characteristics and benefits. Here are the most common types of memory foam:

Traditional Memory Foam: The original form of the memory foam, this is known for its slow response to pressure and contouring properties. Traditional memory foam can be found in mattresses, mattress toppers, and pillows. While it provides great support, it can retain heat, which may lead to a warmer sleeping experience.

Gel Memory Foam: Gel memory foam is infused with gel beads or particles. This addition of gel is designed to enhance the foam's cooling properties, making it more breathable and comfortable for those who tend to sleep hot. Gel memory foam is often used in mattresses and mattress toppers.

Plant-Based Memory Foam: Plant-based memory foam replaces some of the petroleum-based ingredients found in traditional memory foam with plant-based materials like soy or castor oil. This type of foam is considered more eco-friendly, and is known for its breathability and responsiveness.

Copper-Infused Memory Foam: Copper-infused memory foam includes tiny copper particles or fibers in the foam. Copper is known for its antimicrobial properties and can potentially offer added benefits like improved hygiene and odor control. This type of foam is often used in pillows and mattress toppers.

Open-Cell Memory Foam: Open-cell memory foam is engineered to have a more open-cell structure, which allows for better air circulation and heat dissipation. This design helps address the heat retention issue associated with traditional memory foam, making it cooler to sleep on.

Graphite-Infused Memory Foam: Graphite-infused memory foam contains tiny particles of graphite that help dissipate heat, similar to the way gel-infused foam works. Graphite is a highly effective heat conductor, making it a good choice for those who want a cooler sleep surface.

When choosing a memory foam product, consider your specific needs and preferences, such as firmness, cooling properties, and environmental concerns. The type of memory foam you select can significantly impact your sleep quality and comfort.

Pros and Cons of Memory Foam

Pros and Cons of Memory Foam

Memory foam is a versatile substance that is popular for the customized comforts it can provide in many furniture and sleep hygiene products. When considering a memory foam product, it’s essential to make an informed decision – so let’s dive into the question of what are the pros and cons of memory foam.

Pros of Memory Foam

Pressure Relief: Memory foam contours to your body, providing excellent support by evenly distributing your body weight. This can provide relief in areas of the body we put the most pressure on during sleep, such as the hips, shoulders, and neck, alleviating pain upon waking as well as trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. This can especially help those with joint pain or arthritis.

Spinal Alignment: The contouring nature of memory foam helps maintain the natural alignment of your spine and provides lumbar support, which can be especially beneficial for individuals with back problems. Because memory foam responds to the natural curves of your back, it can help prevent tossing and turning at night, as well as back pain and soreness in the morning.

Motion Isolation: Memory foam absorbs and isolates motion, making it an ideal choice for couples. If one person moves or gets out of bed, the other person is less likely to feel the motion, ensuring uninterrupted sleep.

Durability: High-quality memory foam mattresses and products are durable and can last for many years with proper care. They are resistant to sagging and can maintain their shape and support over time.

Hypoallergenic: Memory foam is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites and other allergens because of its dense structure, making it a good choice for people with allergies or asthma.

Cons of Memory Foam

Unsustainable: Memory foam is mostly petroleum based, which is not a sustainable resource. Even the more recently invented types of memory foam are made of a mix of synthetic fibers with some sustainable components and treated with chemicals. As a result, they are not only difficult to recycle, but also not biodegradable.

Heat Retention: Traditional memory foam has a reputation for retaining body heat, which can make some sleepers feel hot, especially in warmer climates. This is because memory foam is designed to respond to body heat. Although newer innovations like gel-infused or open-cell memory foam have been developed to address this issue, they still retain heat more than other types of mattresses.

Initial Odor: Memory foam mattresses often have a noticeable chemical smell when new, a phenomenon known as off-gassing. This odor typically dissipates within a few days to a few weeks, but it can be bothersome for some people.

Weight Sensitivity: Memory foam responds to heat and pressure, which means it may feel firmer or softer depending on your body temperature. Some individuals may find it too soft or too firm based on their body heat and weight. Memory foam products also require regular rotation to ensure even wear and prevent sagging, especially for heavier individuals.

Limited Responsiveness: Memory foam contours to your body slowly, which can make it difficult to move around or change sleeping positions quickly. This can be a drawback for people who prefer a more responsive mattress.

Not Waterproof: Memory foam products can be damaged by water, for moisture and liquids in general can degrade the foam and reduce the lifespan of the product. If you live in a high-humidity area, or if you are prone to spilling, spot-cleaning memory foam products can be difficult.

Does Memory Foam Wear Out?

Yes, memory foam wears out over time, like all substances that undergo gradual wear and tear. While a high-quality memory foam product can last between 7 to 10 years, the rate at which memory foam wears out depends on several factors, including:

Density of the Foam: Higher density memory foam typically lasts longer because it's more resilient and durable. Low-density foam tends to deteriorate more quickly.

Usage: Heavier individuals exert more pressure on the memory foam, which can lead to faster wear and tear. Also, the more frequently a product with memory foam is used, the quicker it will wear out; if you tend to sleep in the same position every night, the mattress might develop wear patterns in those specific areas.

Environmental Factors: Exposure to sunlight, moisture, and extreme temperatures can degrade the materials in a memory foam mattress over time.

If you start noticing sagging, loss of support, or discomfort, it might be a sign that your memory foam product has reached the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced.

How to Pick the Right Memory Foam Product

If you’ve decided that memory foam sounds like the right choice for you, there are still a lot of factors to consider when you look for the right mattress for you. Here are some general pointers:

Firmness: Mattress firmness is generally described on a scale between very soft and very firm, often broken down numerically between 1 (very soft) and 10 (very firm). Most mattresses will be described in-store or online as landing somewhere on the soft-firm scale; you can also reference the Indentation Load Deflection (ILD) rating. The higher the ILD rating, the firmer you can expect the mattress to be.

Density: The density of memory foam is the measure of how much actual foam is built into each layer of the mattress. Memory foam comes in a variety of different densities, which are measured in pounds per cubic foot (PCF). In general, the higher the density of the foam, the longer it will keep its shape, elasticity, and support structures; higher density foams also tend to sleep hotter.

Thickness: Thickness refers to how many inches the mattress measures from the side. The thickness of a memory foam mattress is different from density: for instance, three inches of foam could have an ILD score of 10 or 50. Memory foam mattresses range in thickness from around 6 inches to around 14 inches.

Latex: A Sustainable Alternative to Memory Foam

Natural latex, especially those certified as organic or eco-friendly, is a more sustainable alternative to memory foam. Contrary to traditional memory foam, which is made from petroleum-based chemicals, natural latex is derived from rubber trees. Natural latex is also biodegradable, which means it contributes to lower environmental impact.

So, if sustainability is a significant concern to you, natural latex, especially certified organic options, is a more environmentally friendly choice. Additionally, latex's responsiveness and breathability make it a preferred option for many sleepers

If you are interested in adding a body pillow or bolster pillow to your bedtime companions, we recommend our very own Cuddler or Cuddling. Made of plant-based, GOLS-certified Melofoam™, they mold to your body to provide soft, satisfyingly squashy support that doesn’t fall flat


Ergonomically designed

Made from natural Melofoam™

Additional cover styles available

Cuddle up

Melofoam™ is made from tapping sap directly from organic hevea trees in Sri Lanka, which is collected in coconuts and gently steamed to produce our spongy foam. The squashiness is unmatched, and the rubber trees live for decades in our entirely sustainable process!


In the realm of sleep technology, memory foam stands tall as a revolutionary material, but despite its notable pros such as pressure relief and spinal alignment, it’s essential to consider factors like heat retention and chemical composition. As natural latex emerges as a promising sustainable counterpart, make an informed choice that ensures your slumber is not only comfortable but also environmentally conscious.