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Memory Foam Mattress Topper - What You Need to Know

Updated on September 16, 2009

If you're in the market for a memory foam mattress topper because you've heard so many good things about them but you're still not really sure what you're looking for, then this article will give you a good foundation. You get a little bit of history about memory foam, where it came from and what it's main properties and benefits are, as well as some of the benefits, issues, and costs involved with memory foam mattress toppers. By the time you finish this brief article you should be well prepared to make a decision as to whether or not the memory foam mattress topper will be the right solution for you.

A little bit of a trivial fun fact for you; do you know that traditional coil spring mattresses date back to the mid-1800s? As a matter of fact, was in 1865 when the concept was first documented via a patent. It's amazing to think that in over 140 years there really hasn't been a whole lot of changes to that initial design concept. That is until a couple of years ago.

The Memory Foam Mattress Topper Has Carved Out a Niche In the World of Bedding

flickr photo by craigmdennis
flickr photo by craigmdennis

Back in the 1970s NASA introduced memory foam into the space program. By the 1980s the medical industry and hospitals began using it to help bedridden patients who are suffering from bedsores and pressure points. At that time though, it was still cost prohibitive to bring it to the general public. However, by the 1990s, that changed and memory foam mattresses, also known as the Visco elastic foam mattress in technical terms, made it to the general population. Since that time it has slowly but surely etched out a significant part of the mattress market.

Visco elastic foam, or memory foam, is a kind of gel like polyurethane material that can be fabricated in different densities. For example, it can be made anywhere from 2.5 pounds per cubic foot up to 5 pounds per cubic foot or even more. Some of the Ultra premium material used to make memory foam mattress toppers and mattresses can even get as high as 5.3 pounds per square foot. The denser, heavier pads are more expensive as more material goes into them.

One of the main properties of this kind of memory foam mattress pad, and what makes it so popular, is its ability to soften with warmth and stiffen with coolness. This property contributes to the way that your body receives more support in certain areas and less in others. For example, it helps contour the mattress to the spine thereby delivering a more aligned spine which leads to a less painful, and more restful sleep. And as we all know, sleep is of critical importance to someone's overall well-being. After all, ultimately your day is only as good as the night's sleep you got.

flickr image by littledan77
flickr image by littledan77

It's this spinal alignment and contouring that makes memory foam mattress toppers so popular for people with back problems. You see, someone with back problems needs a lot of support when they lay down, so soft mattresses are out of the question for them. In fact, it often hear of people with severe back problems needing to lay down on the floor to sleep. This is no way to get a good nights sleep. However, the typical mattress is often too soft and will only aggravate a back problem. The ability of memory foam to be both soft and supportive as needed, is the ideal solution for many people.

One additional property that you should probably be aware of when it comes to memory foam mattress toppers, or a visco elastic foam mattress in general, is that they retain a lot of heat. In fact, many people feel like they overheat when they are first sleeping on a memory foam mattress topper. There are a couple of simple solutions you can try to avoid this. One is simply using a cotton bedsheet between your body and the memory foam mattress pad. This simple solution works for many people. On the other hand, the other obvious solution is to simply make the room cooler.

While the cost of a visco elastic foam mattress has come down considerably since its first introduction to the public market, they're still not cheap. For example, the minimum you can expect to spend is about $450 for a twin and up to $1200 or more (at a minimum) when you talk about the California King size. Recognize however that these prices are in reference to the complete viscoelastic foam mattress. This is one of the main reasons why the memory foam mattress topper has become so very popular. At just a couple of inches thick it takes much less material, and therefore much less cost, to produce. They can give you just the same benefits without the excessive cost. One thing to note however, is that by going this route you won't be able to jump up and down on the mattress without spilling a class of wine like you maybe have seen on TV. A small price to pay for the amount of money you'll save.

Now that you have a general understanding about the visco elastic foam mattress in general, and the fact that a memory foam mattress topper is an affordable alternative, you can feel confident about what it is you're looking to get for yourself. You clearly know that this is an advanced material (it was used by NASA after all) and it was good enough to be used in many hospitals, so can probably be beneficial to you as well. You also have a better understanding of how it helps support the spine and lead to better nights sleep, and how to avoid the potential problem of being too hot. Finally you have an idea of what to expect as far as prices go and how a memory foam mattress topper can be a much more economical alternative to the Visco elastic foam mattress.  Pretty much all that's left for you is to go out and find the right size and thickness that works for you, and enjoy a great night's sleep.


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    • MikeNV profile image

      MikeNV 8 years ago from Henderson, NV

      They get way to hot for me and the smell is just too strong. I bought a Latex Mattress after I tried a memory foam mattress.