Which Type of Memory Foam is Best?

Memory foam mattress manufacturers have been battling it out on the advertising scene for some time now. Each claims their bed is best, but how do they really compare? Today we take a look at the top three types including traditional petroleum-based memory foam, innovative plant-based memory foam, which has been developed using Eco-friendly methods, and gel-infused memory foam which claims cooler sleep.  Bragging rights go to the winner after a debating the pros and cons of each based on heat, off-gassing, response time and durability. Let the battle of the memory foam mattress technologies begin.

Read our rundown of the best mattresses of 2020

Top Memory Foam Mattress Technologies Face Off

Battle 1: Heat

Heat or the feeling of sleeping hot has been a major complaint of consumers since memory foam mattresses hit the market. Some people who tend to sleep hot found that their mattress seemed to trap their body heat, making them swelter through the night, particularly during warm weather. This is because traditional foams have insulating properties, that is they preserve rather than disperse heat. So how do the technologies compare in this regard?

  • A traditional memory foam mattress can feature either open or closed cell structures, but even the open cell variety has been known to sleep warmer for significant minority of people.
  • Plant-based technology, like that used by Amerisleep.com, has been proven to dissipate heat up to 9 times faster than traditional foam. Studies indicate it also sleeps 25 percent cooler than the gel type. This vast improvement is due to plant-based materials and a much larger cell structure than competitors which allows increased airflow to reduce heat. A look at reviews shows very little mention of heat.
  • Gel infused memory foam or the combination of a gel layer with a memory foam mattress became popular of the past year, through lines like Serta iComfort. This relies on the fact that gel is considered an ambient material, meaning it assumes the temperature of what surrounds it. Most people are familiar with the microwavable and freezer type gel packs which absorb either the heat or cold they are exposed to. Since our bodies are 98.6 degrees, the gel will feel cool initially, but will gradually heat up and will hold more heat than even traditional memory foam. Gel mattress companies advertise that their products will transfer body heat to the lower levels of memory foam and release it there rather than cradling the sleeper in a hot pocket, however serious questions remain.

Battle 2: Off Gassing

Off-gassing refers to the release of fumes from within a memory foam mattress which can range from simply a “new” odor to dangerous VOCs. Consumers have expressed concerns over the length of time these gasses will be released. Almost every newly manufactured product has an odor of some sort, though the composition and danger of off-gassing is determined by the materials it includes.

  • Traditional memory foam mattresses have been severely critiqued for chemicals, citing as many as 61 dangers associated with them. Both the International Agency of Research on Cancer and departments within the State of California have identified 18 of these 61 as having harmful effects on health. The smell associated with traditional memory foam is the release of these dangerous compounds.
  • Plant-based technology replaces a proportion of the petroleum additives with bio-materials, and often eliminates other nasties from production.
  • Gel memory foam has not been studied in depth regarding the release of VOCs or if so the information is not available at this time. Because most lines use traditional memory and simply inject or pour gel into it, one could assume it that if it were VOC-free the companies would promote this in their advertising. Initial reports from consumers indicate odors, but slightly less severe than standard foam depending on the brand.

Battle 3: Response Time

Despite hearing a great deal about response time, consumers may not understand the term, what it measures and how different types compare. In essence this term refers to the length of time it takes compressed foam to return to its original state. Memory foam is often referred to as “slow response” due to the length of times it takes to press it down and how long it takes to respond and come back. Composition of the memory foam mattress is a key factor as are the following: changeable viscosity; elasticity, measuring how long it takes to come back, referred to as “memory”; and resilience, which provides “bounciness” or the “pushback”.  While it may seem cool to see your handprint in a bed for several seconds, owners of slow response foams often have complaints of a feeling stuck, sleeping in quicksand and even have reported decreased sexual enjoyment. While memory foam shouldn’t be as springy as latex, greater responsiveness helps resolve these concerns. Response time of the three:

  • Amerisleep features a 5-8 second response time. This is one of the quickest response times for higher density memory foams, allowing people to move easily in bed and avoid feeling stuck as the mattress adjusts and re-contours quickly.
  • Gel-based memory foams show 30-45 second response time.

Battle 4: Durability

Does density equal quality? To some degree the answer is yes, as denser foams are far more durable than lesser weights. In fact, a memory foam mattress composed of low-density foams, those which are 3 pounds and less, often get referred to as “throw-aways” as they will not last more than a few months. Memory foam density is calculated by determining the weight of one cubic foot, and ranges from 2.0 to 8.0 pounds. We recommend purchasing mattresses with a 3.5 -5.0 pound density as they will remain supportive and comfortable for years on the average, as well as providing the right level of “give” and durability. Anything over a measure of 6.0 will be too hard and dense for most people. The top three choices battle it out below:

  • Amerisleep memory foam mattresses feature densities ranging from 4.0-5.3 lbs. were first introduced in 2007. They continue to rank as high in durability as their competitors for durability and lifespan.
  • Gel-based memory foam mattresses have only recently entered the market, most in 2012, with  Serta integrating gel with an average of 3.0-5.0 lb. foam. Though the beds have good warranties, our concern with this infusion is water and oil don’t tend to mix well – some examples on Youtube show the gel beads simply flaking out of the foam, or the poured gel simply settling to the bottom. Uneven mixing combined with a recent report on their higher rate of flammability raise some questions about this type of foam.

And the winning Memory Foam Mattress Technology is…

BrandTypeHeat DissapationOff GassingResponse TimeDurabilityPrice
AmerisleepPlant BasedAAAAA
Serta iComfortGelBBBBB

A mattress is a very personal purchase, so what’s right for one person may not be best for another. In our comparison and opinion, the plant-based memory foam offers the best combination of performance and value. It sleeps coolest, is responsive to sleepers movements, contains less or no harmful chemicals, and is as durable as the alternatives. We like the Amerisleep plant-based memory foam mattress collection for their online direct availability, selection of firmnesses, strong verified reviews, good guarantees and affordable prices.

Medical Disclaimer: The information contained on the site should not be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other health care provider. The information provided here is for informational purposes only.

3 thoughts on “Which Type of Memory Foam is Best?”

  1. Is there a brand you would recommend that has the most of if not all the benefits of the Amerisleep brand and would cost less than $400 for a twin mattress?

  2. Is there a solution to make my new $1000. Beautyrest Elite Plato sleep cooler? I thought I was buying a 900 count pocket coil mattress, which this has, but it also has a 3″ viscose foam on top which I did not know about. I am thinking about opening up the mattress, pulling out the foam, and replacing it with something else if I cannot find a solution to place on top of the mattress. Thank you.

    1. Hi there, certain types of visco foam can definitely lead to hotter sleeping which can be hard to resolve. In order to keep it as cool as possible, first make sure you are using breathable sheets and bedding (100% cotton versus polyester or blends). If this has no impact, you can try placing a latex or cotton/wool topper on the surface (gel pads will have the same issues as gel foams), but this could make the bed too soft depending on your preferences. The other solution would be to use a cooling pad (the ChiliPad is one popular brand) which can heat or cool the surface of the bed. Hope this helps!

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