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You might think memory foam is a recent technology, but it was first discovered in the 1970s by NASA. This space-age material, originally developed for airplane seats, became the go-to mattress of baby boomers seeking to relieve aching joints.
Viscoelastic is known as memory foam because the foam forms around your body and remembers it. It has slow moving properties, so after you press down on it and release the pressure, it will remain in that shape for a few seconds before springing back up.
As the memory foam pushes down and fits around your body, it can ease pressure points and aching joints.
Memory foam mattresses are popular for many reasons. People buy them because:
There have been some complaints about memory foam mattresses over the years. These have included:
There are three main types of memory foam mattresses: traditional, plant-based, and gel foam.
Traditional memory foam mattresses haven’t changed much since they first appeared in the 1970s. They’re still made from petroleum-based products, too, which environmentalists are less than enthused about.
Some memory foam mattresses are plant-based and use coconut foam, soy and other plant materials. These mattresses spring back more quickly than traditional memory foam mattresses and have a cleaner footprint.
Gel memory foam is a combination of traditional memory foam and gel, which can be in a layer of the mattress or combined with the memory foam throughout the mattress mold.
Many claim that gel memory foam is a cooler option than traditional foam. However, fewer studies have been done about gel memory foam, so durability and breathability have not been proven.
The best mattress option depends on the sleeping habits of the person looking for a mattress. Memory foam mattresses are often pitted against latex mattresses, spring and coil mattresses, and hybrid beds.
Latex mattresses are known for springing back more quickly than memory foam mattresses. Sleepers who move around a lot at night may find that latex mattresses are best, since they reform to the body more quickly.
Memory foam mattresses are considered more comfortable than spring or coil mattresses, as memory foam distributes weight evenly across the body, thus relieving pressure points and other aches and pains.
Hybrid mattresses might be a good fit for sleepers who find coil mattresses too firm and memory foam too contouring and hugging. The best fit for you depends entirely on what you find comfortable and your sleeping patterns.
Memory foam mattresses can be quite expensive, costing thousands of dollars depending on the brand and size of the mattress. Less expensive brands are available, however, some costing under $100, again depending on size.
Other options are available as well, including memory foam mattress toppers and mattress pads. These are cheaper options – usually below $200, depending on the size and brand—and still provide much of the comfort that full mattresses do.
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