How does a memory foam mattress work?

The technology behind memory foam began at NASA. Scientists needed to develop a material for space shuttles that could mould to the body of an astronaut and relieve the pressures of take-off and re-entry. Today it’s widely used as a mattress material and is widely touted as providing the most comfortable night’s sleep – but just how does it work?

Traditional sprung mattresses have dozens of springs coiled into small pockets which are certainly comfortable, but don’t respond to your body shape. The heavier parts of your body, such as your bottom, will dip lower than others, and some people believe this causes them backache.

By comparison, memory foam gives way as your body presses into it, an ability known as viscoelasticity. Thanks to this unique capability, a memory foam mattress moves when you, or your bottom, applies force to it and then returns to shape when you get up. It’s also sensitive to temperature, so as it warms up the fit will become more snug.

If you change position or turn over while you’re sleeping, a memory foam mattress will gradually mould to the new shape of your body. This allows for much better support for a bad back, as your weight is spread more evenly and pressure is relieved on your shoulders and hips.

It’s also worth noting that painful areas of the body have a slightly higher temperature than the rest of your body. Memory foam detects this heat and its moulding response will reduce pressure on the affected areas. As such, sufferers of arthritis may find a memory foam product particularly appealing.

Another key difference between a memory foam and regular mattress is that its unusual composition make it difficult for dust-mites to take up residence. That’s a great help to allergy-sufferers. Finally it solves the age-old problem of keeping couples comfortable. As the memory foam absorbs much of the disturbance when one partner moves, the other gets a better night’s sleep!

The technology behind a memory foam mattress may have started out of this world but today this everyday material can be just the thing you need to support an injured back, avoid marital friction or just get a really good night’s sleep!