The Difference Between Memory and Normal Foam

Structurally, foam and memory foam are different, and this means that some types are more comfortable and durable than others.

Memory foam is made of viscoelastic material, is high-density, and best for support layers and edges while normal foam mattresses are made of low density and soft polyurethane and are best for top layers in a mattress rather than the entire mattress.

Characteristics of a Polyurethane (Normal) Foam

Polyurethane is widely used in the mattress industry. Low-density polyurethane creates a soft upper layer on a mattress while high-density polyurethane is used to form a resilient support core that provides the reinforcement that pressure points need.

TIP: Pressure points for side sleepers include the hip and shoulder while stomach sleepers need pressure relief on the upper torso and shoulders. The hips and lower back are pressure points for back sleepers.

Low-density polyurethane is less durable, and it may start to show signs of wear within two years. High-density foam will last longer, frequently for many years.

Advantages of Polyurethane (Normal)

  • Cooler than other some others
  • Requires little maintenance
  • Provides both support and relief of pressure points
  • Several firmness options
  • Generally more affordable

Disadvantages of Polyurethane (Normal)

  • Motion transfer still may be noticeable
  • Lacks conforming support
  • Less durable when compared to memory foam

Factors to Consider with Polyurethane

Support from polyurethane is springy, and the overall sleep experience is pretty comfortable. They are resilient, which means that they bounce back after you turn or move. The firmness degree determines how much it reacts to your body weight.

In general, This is cooler than memory foam. This is because of the open-cell structure, which helps to draw heat away from the body.

The denser the more durable it is. This is why it’s unwise to purchase a bed that’s entirely constructed from low-density foam.

TIP: Upper layers of mattresses frequently are made from low-density foam. While they offer a soft and luxurious feel, they don’t last for long, so don’t let a great upper layer distract you from the overall construction and quality of the support layers in the middle and the bottom.

Of course, most are composed of layers, and some of these features only high-density foam. These models offer excellent durability, comfort, and support.

While high-density options do offer superior durability when compared with low-density, they are not as durable.

Motion transfer is pretty limited with polyurethane. If motion transfer is a big concern for you, then you’ve got to make sure that you buy a high-density mattress.

Please consider learning more in my articles when to replace a foam mattress and the best bed frames for memory foam mattresses.

Scott Boyd

Characteristics of a Memory Foam

Because they are made from a viscoelastic material, they excel at absorbing and redistributing pressure. This quality allows you to sink and sag into the bed more.

Depending upon your viewpoint, that’s either a dream come true or a nightmare made a reality. People who enjoy sinking into their bed have never felt cozier, more supported, or more relaxed.

People who don’t appreciate disappearing in a bed feel as though they are trapped like an insect in a spider’s web, unable to move as easily as they’d like.

If you like sleeping on memory foam you’ll probably love the way that it takes away the pressure on points like the hips and shoulders. This means that you’re able to attain and maintain a more neutral spine position, which can go a long way toward relieving back pain.

Virtually all these mattresses are constructed in layers. This is because memory foam isn’t really able to offer all of the support that your body needs throughout the night.

While this layer provides essential pressure relief, layers of high-density polyurethane bring the support that’s missing from memory foam.

Memory Foam Advantages

  • Provides cradling, conforming support
  • Superior at inhibiting motion transfer
  • Pressure relief is highly personalized
  • Perfectly conforms to the sleeper’s body

Memory Foam Disadvantages

  • May initially give off a chemical odor
  • Can be affected by temperature extremes
  • Not good at drawing heat away from the sleeper
  • Potentially expensive

Factors to Consider with Memory Foam

Memory foam offers excellent comfort and pressure relief. It conforms to your body and cradles you with exacting precision. Any parts of your body that stick out while lying on it will get the support they need, relieving pressure, and reducing the number of aches and pains that you experience.

TIP: Some people feel more like they are sleeping “in” a memory foam mattress as opposed to sleeping “on” one. Because they feel trapped, they would rather sleep on anything else. Make sure that you try before you buy.

Basic viscoelastic foam has a closed-cell structure, and this means that it’s really good at trapping heat. That’s why scientists have developed a viscoelastic foam that has an open-cell structure. It’s better at wicking away heat, but further improvements were needed.

More sophisticated memory foam mattresses feature gel layers that promise big cooling. Some of these succeed at their intended purpose better than others, so it’s once again wise to try before you buy.

Memory foam tends to be very soft, which is why it’s able to produce a cradling effect. Nonetheless, various firmness levels are available, ranging from very soft to very firm.

Most memory foam mattresses are rated at between 10 (which is super-soft) and 14 (which is semi-rigid) on the Indentation Load-Deflection scale.

Viscoelastic mattresses are quite durable, especially the ones that are made from denser material. Moreover, they are really good at isolating motion, so you won’t be disturbed by a restless sleep partner.

Of course, it is important to remember that the superior qualities mean that they tend to cost quite a bit more than polyurethane.

Foam vs. Memory Foam

Is one of these mattress types superior to the other? Not necessarily. It really all depends on your sleep style and whether or not you appreciate the “cradling” feeling that you get with memory foam.

This means that I may not be as sensitive to the challenges that can be inherent in switching positions when you’re sleeping on these.

Also, because many people sleep hot, they need to have some kind of cooling layer. Probably the biggest drawback to these types is that they are capable of getting really hot.

In fact, they aren’t recommended for use in tropical or other hot areas where air conditioning isn’t available.

Of course, if you sleep cold, you just might welcome the extra warmth that they can radiate.

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