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Memory Foam Mattress Buying Guide

The ultimate guide to purchasing a memory foam mattress, with helpful tips from our product experts.

Memory foam mattresses are a popular choice and are suitable for all types of sleepers, whether you lay on your side, back, or front. If you place value in cushioned comfort with a velvety smooth feel, memory foam mattresses could be for you.

What is a memory foam mattress?

A memory foam mattress has a layer of memory foam with either springs or support foam beneath, depending on type. 

Originally designed for NASA, memory foam, as its name suggests, has a 'memory'. This means that you can apply pressure to the foam, and your body heat will soften the material so it can to the shape of your body that is forming the pressure. 

How does it work?

Once the pressure is removed, the foam remembers its original shape and bounces back slowly. Eventually, the foam also ‘remembers’ your body shape too, giving you the optimum sleeping position as soon as you lay down.

This ability to mould and remould without losing that essential level of support makes memory foam ideal for mattresses. The feeling of being cradled rather than laying on top of a rigid surface means that you can find a comfortable position more quickly, ensuring a more restful night's sleep.

A hand pressing down onto a memory foam mattress, leaving an imprint.

Benefits of memory foam mattresses

Here are seven key benefits of a memory foam mattress:

1. Spinal alignment

A defining characteristic of this soft material is that it contours to your body and reduces pressure on your spine. This is ideal for those who sleep in many different sleeping positions as it provides excellent pressure point relief for your joints and limbs. It properly aligns the neck, spine, and hips.

2. Pain relief

Ever slept on a surface that is too firm? Having your full body weight on pressure points all night as you sleep can make you feel sore in the morning. This mattress reduces pressure spots across your body by evenly distributing body weight, helping to correct a poor sleeping posture. Encouraging a healthy sleeping position also helps to reduce chronic back and neck pain.

3. Eases breathing

Memory foam supports the curve of your neck, easing your breathing by keeping your airways clear and open. This contributes to better sleep quality and is appealing to people with sleep apnea.

4. Hypoallergenic

Memory foam mattresses are made from materials that make them hypoallergenic and dust mite-resistant. This is ideal for people who have allergies, asthma, or respiratory problems.

5. No squeaks or creaks

Memory foam is silent – coils in a traditional mattress can start to squeak and creak over time. This issue doesn’t happen with memory foam, which can help you get great sleep.

6. Motion isolation

The body contouring mattress stops movement from being transferred, which means you’ll be undisturbed when the person you’re sharing a bed with moves or rolls over. This is perfect if you’re a light sleeper or your partner is restless.

7. Little maintenance

Memory foam mattresses are one-sided, with the foam layer only on the top side. This means you shouldn’t flip them but rotate them instead.

Types of memory foam mattresses

Memory foam isn’t a one size fits all sleeping solution. There are actually many different types of foam mattresses available, each with its own characteristics and benefits.

Latex foam mattresses

Latex mattresses are renowned for their luxurious natural filling and superior posture support. They have less cushion and sinking than a traditional memory foam, while offering trademark plush comfort for a softer finish.

Latex is also super breathable and doesn't retain as much heat as traditional memory foam.

Close up of layers of perforated latex foam.

Gel memory foam mattresses

Woman's hands putting a cover on a cooling gel memory foam pillow.

A form of cooling memory foam, these gel mattresses are perfect for those who tend to overheat at night, regulating temperature and airflow while retaining that classic memory foam feel. Choose a gel memory foam mattress for a cooler night’s sleep.

Cooling gel is also great for memory foam pillows, especially if you love the 'cool side of the pillow' feeling.

Read our Gel Foam Mattress Buying Guide for more information.

Pocket-sprung memory foam mattresses

This pioneering sleeping solution blends all the benefits of pocket-sprung mattresses with the supple comfort of memory foam.

This is a hybrid mattress that is breathable and supportive without sacrificing any softness. Pocket foam mattresses have sprung foundations topped with a generous layer of memory foam – the best of both worlds.

What to look for when buying a memory foam mattress

There are several different features of memory foam mattresses to consider when choosing the perfect sleep surface for you.

1. Type

There are three main types of memory foam mattresses:

  • Traditional: the traditional viscoelastic foam is closed-cell. It is denser and offers an incredibly comfortable sleep. The closed-cell design retains body heat which can make your sleep warmer, however, they are available with a cooling gel.
  • Gel memory foam: this gel foam layer pulls heat away from your body, preventing heat retention.
  • Open cell: this less dense, open design allows warmth to escape, keeping you cool at night.
Graphic depicting the three types of memory foam - traditional, gel, and open cell.

It is also possible to get hybrid mattresses that offer memory foam comfort layers along with more traditional structures, such as pocket springs. These are a great choice if you’re looking for the best of both worlds and additional support.

2. Density

The density of memory foam is how heavy it is compared to how big it is. How dense the memory foam is impacts mattress longevity, durability, and the amount of support it gives you. The denser a mattress is, the more longevity it has.

Memory foam densities range between 3 to 7 pounds, with the higher end being more premium and usually lasting longer. Knowing which density not only suits your sleep style but also your budget will help narrow down your options. Find out more information with our guide on memory foam mattress density.

3. Thickness

Memory foam mattresses have several layers and vary between brands. There are two layers that are most important.

  • Comfort layer: this is the top layer which moulds to your body and relieves pressure and pain. 
  • Base layer: the layer that supports everything, stopping the material from sagging.

Memory mattresses are typically in the range of 8 to 14 inches. A standard mattress thickness is around 10-12 inches which is enough support for the average adult sleeper, however, you can get thicker if you’d like even more support.

Our guide on memory foam mattress thickness and density will help you decide what thickness is right for you.

4. Firmness

How firm you want your mattress totally depends on personal preference – there is no right or wrong answer. We offer memory foam in a range of firmnesses:

  • Softer: good for side sleepers, offers a soft level of support
  • Medium: good for side, front, and back sleepers
  • Medium firm: good for those who alternate sleeping positions
  • Firm: good support for those who sleep on their back
  • Extra firm: offers the most support, often referred to as orthopaedic

Take a look at our guide on preparing and caring for your memory foam mattress for information on how to make it firmer or softer as your needs change.

5. Budget

Due to the popularity of memory foam, there is an incredibly wide range available at different price points. We stock memory foam mattresses to suit every budget, from as little as £140.

However, the level of comfort and support you get from your memory foam mattress is going to increase the more you spend on it - higher quality materials are more expensive to produce, but we always ensure you get the very best price possible.

6. Size

Choosing the right memory foam mattress size will guarantee you have enough space to truly relax, especially if you’re sharing the bed with your partner and don’t want to be squished next to each other.

Our memory foam mattresses are available in the following sizes:

SizeDimensions (metric)Dimensions (imperial)Suitable for
Small single75 x 190 cm 2’6” x 6’3”Rooms with limited space. Best suited to children.
Standard single90 x 190 cm3’0” x 6’3”Rooms with limited space or if you prefer a cosier feel while sleeping alone. 
Small double120 x 190 cm4’0” x 6’3”Teenagers, guest bedrooms, or couples who like to sleep close together.
Standard double135 x 190 cm4’6” x 6’3”Couples who want a little more space.
King size150 x 200 cm5’0” x 6’6”Couples who love space, taller people, or people with a bigger build.
Super king size180 x 200 cm6’0” x 6’6”The biggest size available, offering the most space.

For help on which bed size is right for you, check out our Ultimate UK Bed & Mattress Size Guide.

7. Bed frame

The right bed frame is incredibly important for a proper night's rest. Make sure you pair the correct frame with your mattress otherwise this can void the brand’s warranty. 

The best type of bed frame for a memory mattress is a platform bed or a standard bed frame. This choice will provide proper support and will enhance the features of the viscoelastic foam, letting air circulate properly.

We've also created a guide to the best bed frames for a memory foam mattress, so take a look at that for more help in choosing your sleep set-up.

More tips on how to choose a memory foam mattress

  • Sleep trial: we offer a 50-day trial on selected models, allowing you to truly test them out.
  • ​​Some manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty, so if something goes wrong, you can get a brand-new one free of charge.

Is a memory foam mattress good for your back?

What is memory foam made of?

A memory foam mattress is made of several supportive and comfortable layers of polyurethane, a material which contours around the shape of your body and relieves pressure points. This makes it one of the best materials for those with back pain, or people who are looking to correct their posture.

The body contouring characteristics of this viscoelastic foam help to support the natural curves in the spine, which help align it and reduce pressure spots on other parts of the body like shoulders, hips, and knees. If you’ve ever slept on an overly firm mattress, you’ll likely have felt sore the next day where these areas have dug into the material.

We also have a range of memory foam mattresses with specific orthopaedic support features.

Memory foam vs. other mattress types

Memory foam mattresses are suitable for a range of people from those who want pain relief, those who sleep on their side or regularly toss and turn, and those who simply love a soft, comfortable sleep. 

However, we’re dedicated to ensuring you get the very best mattress for you and your unique needs. We’ve compared memory foam to other types of mattresses so you can be sure to get the right one for you.

Memory foam vs. orthopaedic

Orthopaedic mattresses are more specialist than memory foam – they are more suitable for people who experience pain when they sleep, those in active recovery from injury, and older people. Doctors can recommend them if you have back pain or other similar medical conditions.

An orthopaedic memory foam mattress features a layer of memory foam for comfort as well as orthopaedic support. This means it is slightly firmer than a typical memory foam option, helping maintain a correct posture while in bed and aligning your spine.

Memory foam vs. pocket sprung

Rather than foam, a pocket sprung mattress is made of hundreds or even thousands of coils that are encased individually. Each individual pocket spring moves independently to adapt quickly to different weights and sleep positions.

A higher spring count generally provides better support and a firmer feel. Pocket-sprung mattresses are ideal if you wish to lay ‘on top’ of your bed, rather than ‘sink in’ like you would with memory foam.

Memory foam vs. hybrid

A hybrid mattress generally involves a layer of pocket springs with a pillow top made up of memory foam or a similarly comorting foam. These are arguably the best of both worlds - you get the intense support and firmness from the springs, with the sink-in feeling of the memory foam.

We offer unique combinations of hybrid mattresses, so you’ll be able to find one that perfectly suits your needs.

Memory foam vs. gel foam

A gel foam mattress is similar to memory foam, with cooling gel pods added to the foam layer. Gel foam also bouncier and moulds back to its original shape faster than regular memory foam.

The main difference between memory foam and gel memory foam is heat retention. This type of mattress draws warmth away from your body which keeps you cool while you sleep.

Need more advice on how to choose a memory foam mattress? Our guide to the best memory foam mattresses will help you pick.

FAQs

Still got some questions? Take a look at the answers to our most frequently asked questions surrounding memory foam, and remember to check out our other guides too!

Are all memory foam mattresses hypoallergenic?
Most memory foam mattresses are made with hypoallergenic materials, and the density of them generally tends to mean that bacteria doesn’t grow. However, it’s best to check the specifications of individual mattresses to be sure before purchasing.
Is memory foam safe?
Memory foam is man-made and does sometimes have a chemical smell when it first arrives, but there’s no reason for it to be unsafe or ‘toxic’. We only work with prestigious brands who put their mattresses through vigorous testing to ensure they’re safe and suitable for you.
Can you use an electric blanket on a memory foam mattress?
While the heat emitted from an electric blanket won’t be so hot that it ‘melts’ or seriously damages your memory foam mattress, it may begin to cause issues to the integrity of the mattress layers if used consistently. Plus, most electric blankets are quite thick, and will prevent your memory foam mattress from contouring properly to your body. If you do use an electric blanket on your memory foam mattress, be sure to remove it in the mornings to allow the mattress to breathe and circulate air, removing moisture.
How do I know when to replace my memory foam mattress?
If your memory foam mattress has begun to sag or has an indent of more than 2cm, we recommend looking for a replacement. Also, if your memory foam mattress has become too unhygienic to sleep on, such as has begun growing mould or is covered in stains, we’d suggest it’s time for an upgrade.