What is a Memory Foam Mattress?

December 20, 2023 · Silverback Strategies

What is a Memory Foam Mattress?

Memory foam mattresses came onto the market several decades ago and have seen many advances in their technology and construction since then. Unlike traditional mattresses, memory foam mattresses are built to conform to your body's unique shape and weight distribution. Let’s explore what makes a memory foam mattress so special, from the materials used to create it to the benefits of sleeping on one.

What is a Memory Foam Mattress

NASA first invented memory foam in the 1960s for use in rocket seats. The shock-absorbing, pressure-relieving memory foam then went on to be used as cushioning for other products, like helmets, shoes, and wheelchair seats.

Tempur-Pedic was the first to begin using memory foam to make mattresses, and several other manufacturers have since followed suit. Memory foam mattresses have many fans due to the material’s softness and motion absorbency.

There’s more than one type of memory foam. Memory foam can be made in different ways and from different materials, such as gel, open-cell, polyfoam, and latex foam.

Memory foam mattresses are well-loved by many for their ability to “hug” your body and provide relief for pressure points, returning to their original shape as you move around.

Different Types of Memory Foam Mattresses

There are three main types of memory foam used for mattresses. Some mattresses combine all three types in layers, while other mattresses are made from just one or another.

Traditional Memory Foam

The first memory foam mattresses that came onto the market were made of traditional memory foam, which is based in polyurethane. While it contoured to your body as you moved around in your sleep, it also had a tendency of retaining body heat. These days, memory foam mattresses are more often constructed to encourage airflow or include a layer of cooling gel.

Open-Cell Memory Foam

This material is similar to traditional memory foam but structured for airflow so the sleeper stays cooler. The structure of open-cell memory foam contains pockets that circulate the air so as not to trap the sleeper’s body heat. 

However, due to the structure of this type of memory foam, it may not be as firm as the other options. Advanced technology allows some manufacturers to create firmer open-cell memory foam that circulates air while providing ample support.

Gel Pod Memory Foam

Newer memory foam mattresses are now designed with gel pods either inside the mattress or as a layer on top. This gel is specially made to pull body heat away from the sleeper so they can sleep cooler.

The Advantages of a Memory Foam Mattress

People who love memory foam mattresses really love them. This is because memory foam offers many benefits.

Pressure Point Relief

For those with joint pain, the plush quality of memory foam can offer relief. As it conforms to your body shape and allows you to melt into the mattress, it softens the pressure on your joints.


Memory foam mattresses are naturally antimicrobial, which means they resist bacteria and dust mites. Anyone with allergies will find these mattresses to be naturally hypoallergenic.

Motion-Transfer Resistant

The very nature of memory foam makes it an excellent shock absorber. If you sleep with a partner, you both can toss and turn and move around, and the other person won’t be disturbed.


In addition to absorbing movement, memory foam naturally absorbs noise. No squeaky springs! 

The Disadvantages of a Memory Foam Mattress

Memory foam is not for everyone, however. As you consider your mattress purchase, you may find that the feel of a memory foam mattress isn’t for you, or that a different type of mattress simply meets more of your needs and preferences.

Less Support for Stomach Sleepers

If you sleep on your stomach, it’s important that you have the right amount of support to keep you comfortable from head to toe. A firmer mattress is the best choice to help stomach sleepers keep their spines in alignment while they sleep. In some cases, memory foam mattresses can be too conforming to provide the right level of support.


Because of the different methods for making a memory foam mattress, sometimes it may let off a slight odor for the first 24-48 hours after unpacking. 

How Long Do Memory Foam Mattresses Last?

Most mattresses are built to last 7-10 years, and high-quality memory foam is no different. With the right care, a high-quality memory foam mattress may even last longer than the 7-10 year average.

Do Memory Foam Mattresses Need a Box Spring?

The short answer is: it depends. All mattresses need foundations to avoid sagging and prolong their life spans, but the right foundation for you and your mattress may depend on a number of different factors.

Regular Bed Frames

A regular bed frame – one made of metal that only supports the perimeter of a mattress with a single bar down the middle – will not support a memory foam mattress. This is because the memory foam is too flexible to maintain its shape on its own. It can be possible to incorporate a bunkie board to support a memory foam mattress with a traditional bed frame. 

If you want a memory foam mattress and have a regular bed frame, then you will need additional support to hold it up. Keep in mind that a traditional box spring — one that is actually made with springs — may not provide the support that a heavy memory foam mattress needs, which may cause your mattress to sag. Some manufacturers will void a warranty if you put your memory foam mattress on a box spring.

Optimal support options for a memory foam mattress include a flat foundation or a platform bed with added support.

Slatted Bases and Platform Beds

Box springs are great for innerspring mattresses, but memory foam requires more support. Two popular options are slatted bases and platform beds. 

For slatted beds, however, you’ll also need to add a bunkie board. Without a bunkie board, the memory foam will conform around the slats. A bunkie board will help ensure every inch of your memory foam mattress stays supported.

Platform beds are generally one solid, flat piece that holds your mattress. They may also have slats, but these are usually firmer – more solid – than regular slatted foundations. 

Shop Memory Foam Mattresses with Mattress Warehouse

Visit your local Mattress Warehouse to try out our incredible selection of high-quality memory foam mattresses. Whether you’re new to memory foam or already know you love it, we’ll have one just for you thanks to our unique bedMATCH® system. Answer a few scientifically-developed questions to be matched with your perfect mattress today!