I have a confession to make: One year, eleven months and twenty-three days ago (as of writing), I spent more money than I have sense on a “high-quality” Memory Foam 750 Mattress – Medium Support (medium support? More like maximum pain…) that in reality, felt like I was lying on bare bricks.
Convincing myself we would learn to get along, my mattress and I fought a nightly battle where I inevitably came out worse off. I thought, “maybe it just needs a little time and it will give a little bit,” but five months and twelve days in (I checked on my order receipts and I can’t believe I lasted that long), my lower back and shoulders ached so much that I raised the white flag and ordered a 4-inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper.
If I had to pinpoint the time when I started to obsessively research everything before I bought it, I would say that it was my mattress disaster. That was the point at which I saw the error of my former ways.
It wasn’t just the price I paid – mattresses are huge bulky things and not so easy to dispense with. I thought of selling it, but didn’t like the idea of inflicting it on anyone else.
So if you have a mattress that you consider to be your nemesis, I am here to help. My extensive hunt for a mattress topper, one that could vanquish even the most stubborn unyielding beast, paid off when I found a high-quality Memory Foam Mattress Topper.
But first, let’s check – is a memory foam mattress topper the right choice for you?
If your mattress is old, very lumpy and out of shape then investing in a new mattress will be worth it, making you more comfortable in the long run – providing you pick a mattress that isn’t out to get you!
If you have an old but decent mattress or a newish one that you are constantly battling with, but you can’t justify the expense of replacing it, then a memory foam mattress topper is for you.
You are probably already aware that all memory foams have viscoelastic properties (much like molasses or honey). They work by molding to your shape when they come into contact with your body’s heat. If you move away, they cool and return to their original shape. Unlike standard polyurethane foams, which will eventually wear down with use and leave a permanent dent in the surface of your mattress, memory foam will always retain its smooth flat surface. Memory foam also lasts up to three times longer than standard foams. These factors make it ideal to use in mattresses and for mattress toppers, as it provides a soft cushioning effect that will make you feel almost like you are sleeping on a cloud. However, it can also be warm to sleep on and due to its slower spring back time, it may feel like more of an effort to move about.
Clearly, there are a few things to consider before you dive right in and buy one.
So to help you understand more about how any individual topper might perform for you, we need to take a look at the different attributes that a memory foam topper might have.
Firstly, you should know that depending on the brand you choose, you usually have a choice of thicknesses, 1″- 4″ being the standard. The thickness you go for will depend on your need for pressure-relieving ability (cushioning required), and/or the “problem,” i.e. mattress, you wish to cover.
It’s something you should consider carefully before you make a purchase, as the difference in thickness may have a strong impact on your comfort and satisfaction.
My choice of the full 4″ topper is a direct indication of how badly my mattress and I were getting along. My requirements were to feel the maximum effect of the memory foam. If you are light (less than 180lbs) and a back sleeper, and you have a mattress that is too firm but not rock hard, then 2″ might be enough for you. The amount you sink in will increase with the topper’s thickness, therefore increasing its pressure-relieving benefits. Whichever brand you go for, you should always choose a topper with a good density. Simply put, the air holes will be smaller and closer together, which will support you better and extend the topper’s lifespan.
One point to consider when choosing your thickness, is that if you already have a deep mattress, adding an extra 4″ to it might make raise your bed height more than you would like. My advice is measure first, then add the number of inches you are thinking of going for to get an idea of how the final height will look.
To help you decide which thickness you should go for, below are the thicknesses of memory foam mattress toppers, along with their advantages and disadvantages for quick reference.
You should be aware, however, that the density of the foam you choose may change the effects you feel, but generally speaking, a lower density of, say, 2.5 pounds per cubic foot, gives a softer, or plush effect, while a higher density of 5 pounds per cubic foot or more will actually feel more dense, making it firmer and giving you more support. However, the downside to this is that it will spring back more slowly, making movement more difficult.
So, assuming you go for an average 4-pound per cubic foot density topper, you might expect the following:
|1″||Back sleepers.||Adds a minimal layer of comfort. You won’t sink in.||Minimal difference to the underlying mattress. Not very durable and more likely to tear.|
|2″||Back sleepers or lighter individuals weighing less than 180lbs.||Suitable if your underlying mattress just needs a little softening up. You won’t sink in much so will be able to turn over more easily.||Due to the concentrated area of weight distribution at pressure points, the topper will squash at 2″ reducing its comfort, support, and pressure relieving abilities.|
|3″||Back sleepers, front or side sleepers.||Will soften up a hard uncomfortable mattress well. You won’t sink in as much as a 4″ topper making mobility slightly easier. It will support and relieve pressure points well. Cooler than 4″ topper. Generally the most suitable choice, with more people reporting customer satisfaction with this thickness.||Doesn’t provide the maximum pressure relieving qualities for those who, for example, have pre-existing medical conditions which might require it. You will sink in, which may make turning over more of an effort. However, once you are used to sleeping on memory foam this is likely to be less noticeable.|
|4″||Back sleepers, front or side sleepers.||Will provide maximum pressure relieving properties. Those with medical conditions requiring maximum pressure point relief may benefit. Will soften up the hardest, uncomfortable, unyielding mattress very well. Suitable for heavier individuals. Feels like sleeping on a cloud.||May make your bed height too high. Harder to turn over as you will sink into it. May be too warm for some. It is generally more foam than is required to be effective.|
Next, we are going to look at IFD ratings, and what they mean.
IFD – Intense Foam Delightfulness?
IFD actually stands for Indentation Force Deflection. It sounds quite technical when you try to describe it, but it’s actually very simple when you see it in diagram form. The IDF rating refers to the force in pounds required to make a 25% indent into the total depth of a sample of foam, typically a 1″ indent into a 15″ x 15″ x 4″ sample of foam using an 8″ diameter (50 square inch) ‘IFD’ disc. The more pressure that is needed to make the indent, the stiffer the foam. Due to the viscoelastic properties of memory foam, variations in atmospheric temperature and humidity make obtaining an accurate result difficult. But generally, memory foam can have an IFD rating between a super-soft 10 and a semi-rigid 120. Most memory foam mattress toppers fall within a 10-14 IFD rating. Standard polyurethane foams may have an IFD rating of between 24-31 and are generally considered to be medium-firm, while latex, for example, may have an IFD rating of anywhere between 16-40.
So an IFD rating of 14 means that it took 14lbs per 50 square inches of pressure to make a 1″ indent. Simple. As you can see, this should give you an indication of how the surface of the foam will feel. But wait – if standard foams have an IFD rating of 24-31 and are considered to be medium-firm, isn’t memory foam always going to be considered as soft? Well, no. Memory foam reacts differently from other types of foam. Viscoelastic polyurethane foam, to give it its posh name, was specifically designed to have a greater density than normal foams. You can read more about the history of memory foam and how it came to be invented, in this section here, but basically, it was designed to absorb great shock and force, creating a cushioning effect and thereby increasing the chances of survival, originally intended for astronauts, and a little later used for airline pilots and their passengers. So, unlike other types of foam, it won’t push back. If it truly was that soft, the weight of a person lying on it would just squash it flat. So while an IFD rating is a good thing to have in terms of industry standards and quality control, it doesn’t give you the full picture of how the memory foam topper will actually feel. In fact, the Polyurethane Foam Association states that “The Joint Industry Committee has purposely avoided using the word ‘comfort’ directly associated with IFD or IFD properties. Suffice to say, IFD is a part of the comfort equation, but IFD is not always related directly to comfort.”
Now you understand IFD ratings and what they mean, you hopefully won’t be swayed into buying a mattress just because the manufacturer or salesperson says that it has the perfect IDF rating and so will provide you with the maximum comfort.
In reality, the amount of cushioning the foam has may be a better indication of how it will feel, and this is dictated by its density.
Now we will look at density and how to calculate it to find out if you are getting what you are paying for.
Foam density is measured in pounds per cubic foot (lb/ft3). This means that for a 4-pound density topper, 1 cubic foot of foam will weigh 4lbs. Memory foam used in toppers and the top layer of mattresses, range from low-density 3lb/ft3 and below to high-density, 5lb/ft3 and above. Lower density memory foams are usually less durable. They have less viscoelastic properties, meaning they won’t respond to heat as much, limiting their ability to mold around you and resulting in a much less cushioned effect. However, although density doesn’t in itself tell you how soft or firm a mattress or topper will be – due to the different formulations used by different manufacturers – lower densities tend to be very soft and because you won’t sink in as easily, they make movement much easier. A high-density topper, on the other hand, will have a consistency more like dough. It may still feel subjectively soft-medium or medium-firm, but its viscoelastic properties will be much greater and so it will be slower to heat up and mold to your contours, and slower to cool down and return to its original shape. Although this means, it will provide you with a high level of support and pressure relief, you may find that moving around is more difficult since you will be rolling out of the crater you created. Higher density memory foams, of 4lb/ft3 and above, however, tend to be the ones that will give you, that luxurious, sleeping on a cloud sensation. These are also, usually, the most expensive to buy.
Although 3.5 – 4lb/ft3 are the most popular choices for memory foam toppers, there is no objectively perfect mattress or mattress topper. Any mattress or topper that fulfills all your requirements, is of good quality and feels wonderful, to sleep on – is the right one for you.
You may now have enough information to decided which kind of topper would be most suited to you, however, you do need to make sure that you have all the correct information before you buy.
So how can you check that the density you want, is the density you are paying for?
Fortunately, we can calculate this, providing you know the weight and size of the topper.
Say you want to check the density of a 3” thick queen sized topper. All you need to do is, multiply the dimensions of the topper to get its total cubic inches. I have chosen for this instance, a very popular queen sized, 3″, 4-pound density topper, from Memory Foam Solutions – available here.
The dimensions for this topper are 78” x 58” x 3” thick = 13,572 cubic inches. Now we need to convert cubic inches into cubic feet, by dividing 13,572 by 1,728 (12″x12″x12″). This mattress topper is, therefore, 7.85 cubic feet of memory foam (13,572 divided by 1,728 = 7.85). Now, simply times the cubic feet by the number of pounds stated (7.85 x 4) and the weight of the product should be approximately 31.4lbs, (7.85 x 4 = 31.4lbs) allowing for an industry accepted variance of 10%. And voila, the weight of the queen sized 3″, 4 – pound density topper from Memory Foam Solutions, is 35.4lbs and is, therefore, a 4lb/ft3 density topper.
The Memory Foam Experience
If, after all this, you are still with me, you may already have an idea of the depth and density that would best suit your needs, but it should be said that memory foam toppers feel very different from sleeping on a regular spring, or foam mattress. If you have gone your whole life without trying one, of course, it may take a little time to adapt. I have talked about the fact that you may find it more of an effort to turn over in the night, and yes, you do tend to move less. When I first bought mine, I woke up in the same position I had fallen asleep in, hours before. I wasn’t sure why, exactly, but I think now it was possibly due more to the fact that I was so comfortable, and no longer had the pain that my old mattress had caused me, on a nightly basis, to wake me up. Another concern often mentioned about memory foam, is that it may make you too warm. I can only say from personal experience that I haven’t noticed this, so this is obviously a subjective experience. If you feel this might be a concern for you, you may be better off with one of the hybrid, gel infused toppers. My memory foam topper is almost 2 years old now, and still feels, and performs perfectly. When I turn over from one side to the other and don’t feel any difficulty in doing so, and because of the reduction in motion transfer that memory foam offers, my hubby and I don’t wake each other up when we turn over. Possibly, I have adapted to the way memory foam feels. I can’t say for sure, but I do know that I couldn’t be happier with my decision to buy one. I mean, imagine finding yourself being lifted and supported by a soft cloud as it carries you away into a land of comfort and relaxation.
That’s pretty much how it feels!
The 4-Pound Density Topper From Memory Foam Solutions
If you feel that a high-quality 4lb/ft3 density topper is for you, Memory Foam Solutions have an excellent choice of toppers in several sizes and thicknesses to suit all needs.
Made in the USA using an environmentally friendlyprocess, this topper exceeds PURGreen certification standards. PURGreen means that it has been independently tested in a laboratory to ensure that the topper has been manufactured without the use of any ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons, polybrominated biphenyl ether substances, harmful metals, formaldehyde, prohibited phthalates or any other unsafe materials. Memory Foam Solutions also offer a 3-year warranty on their memory foam toppers.
Click here to view.
The 5-Pound Density Topper From Memory Foam Solutions
If you feel that you need a very high 5lb/ft3 density topper for maximum pressure relief and mobility issues aren’t too much of a concern for you, or you move about restlessly in the night waking yourself and/or you partner up, Memory Foam Solutions has a choice of several sizes and thicknesses at this density to suit your needs. The PURGreen certification standards above, of course, apply to this topper too.
Click here to view.
The SafeRest Premium Hypoallergenic Waterproof Mattress Protector
For both the memory foam toppers mentioned above, you will need to buy a separate cover. You should make sure you choose one that doesn’t impair the effects of the topper, by being too thick or too much of a tight fit. The SafeRest Premium Hypoallergenic Waterproof Mattress Protector is an ideal choice.
Click here to view.
Hybrid Mattress Toppers
What if you want all the pressure relieving properties that memory foam has to offer, but mobility issues are a real concern for you and/or you need to ensure a cooler sleeping experience? You might want to look at some of the hybrid mattress toppers on the market. I will be looking at those next.
A Note About Gassing Off
As with all new foam products, there is going to be some degree of ‘gassing off’ (that chemical smell that dissipates over a period of hours to days) and so it is advisable to let your pillow air, preferably outside on a warm dry day or at least in a ventilated area or room for at least 24 hours. The amount of odor seems to vary between different brands and even between the same brand. Some people are more sensitive to this than others but it is sensible not to spend several straight hours in close proximity to any new foam product without first airing it out.