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Here I shall be carrying out a memory foam vs. spring mattress comparison. I will first explain precisely what memory foam is, and why many people prefer it, and then do the same with spring mattresses. I will follow that by discussing the differences between the two.
Please note that I shall be discussing memory foam and spring mattresses with respect to their use by adults or older children. Softer memory foam mattresses are not recommended for babies or very young children. Here is a summary of what I shall be including in this comparison between a memory foam mattress vs. spring.
Table of Contents
- What is Memory Foam in the Context of a Mattress?
- Pros and Cons of Memory Foam Mattresses
- What is a Gel Memory Foam?
- What is a Spring Mattress?
- Spring Mattress Pros and Cons
- Spring Mattress Vs. Memory Foam Mattress Comparison Table
- Memory Foam and Spring Mattress FAQs
- Memory Foam Vs. Spring Mattress Summary
What is Memory Foam?
Memory foam was originally developed by NASA to absorb the pressure experienced by astronauts under extreme acceleration and deceleration forces. It does the same thing when used in mattresses: it absorbs the pressure placed on your back and your joints when you lie in bed and sleep.
Memory foam is a polyurethane foam of a type known as ‘viscoelastic’ foam, which compresses when warmed by your body heat and through the pressure of your body. This means that the memory foam conforms to the shape of your body when sleeping, and so supports your pressure points and joints where they should be supported. Once the heat has dissipated and pressure of your body weight removed, the viscoelastic foam slowly reverts to its original shape.
Such foams are available for mattresses in a range of densities and hardness levels. Some people who prefer a harder sleeping surface find that memory foam increases in comfort as it softens in reaction to their body heat, and then molds to the contours of their body and its pressure points. This type of support is ideal for people suffering aching joints and back pain.
Memory foam mattresses can also be used to ensure that children over one-year old will grow with a natural curvature to their spine and without aches and pains in their shoulder, knees and hips. Such children should be of an age where they can easily roll or move out of a depression in mattress that is.Young children, particularly babies, can get stuck in the depression the body makes in a memory foam mattress. They can be lying in a hole of carbon dioxide and are too weak or young to roll out of it – this is one reason for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). That’s why very young children should not use a memory foam mattress.Other foams spring back almost immediately, but not memory foams.
Pros and Cons of Memory Foam Mattresses
- Provides support for your body’s main pressure points: your shoulders, hips and knees.
- Ensures that your back maintains its proper curvature and is not forced to be straight, leading to back pain.
- Enables children (not recommended for babies) to sleep with their skeleton properly supported so they avoid problems later in life.
- Because memory foam reacts to the pressure and heat from each person in the bed, your partner’s movements are isolated from yours. Partners do not interfere with each other’s sleep. This is not the case with spring beds where the springs are connected with each other.
- A memory foam mattress wears less than a spring mattress because the memory foam is more resilient than springs.
- The viscoelastic foam used in a memory foam mattress is far more resistant to bacteria than the padding and open spaces within a spring mattress. It is less likely to suffer from molds and mildew, and is highly unlikely to store dust mites and other common allergens.
- Memory foam can be hotter to sleep in than a spring mattress. That is because it is your body heat that softens your memory foam mattress to activate the memory effect.
- Some, particularly older people, feel too restricted when the memory foam layer folds around them. Even though it is supporting their correct body shape, some people feel too hot and experience disturbed sleep due to the excess heat.
- There is body of thought that believes that memory foam is dangerous for young children. It is not recommended for infants who could face the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). They may turn on their belly, face down into a hole of carbon dioxide they cannot move out of.Though very rare, this could happen.That is why very young children, who may not be able to move their heads when distressed, should not sleep on a memory foam mattress in their crib or cot.
- Memory foam mattress has little or no bounce – important to many people during sex.
Gel Memory Foam Mattresses
Because of the heat-retention issues associated with regular polyurethane memory foam mattresses, a modified form of memory foam, known as a gel foam mattress was developed. This is a memory foam that has been infused with tiny beads containing a gel made from a phase-change material. This term means that the gel can absorb heat to switch from a solid to a liquid then release that heat to change from a liquid to a solid. This is just like a hailstone absorbs heat to change from solid ice to liquid water.
When your mattress becomes too hot, the gel absorbs that heat and turns liquid. You feel cooler in bed without altering the memory foam effect, because the gel beads are uniformly dispersed within the viscoelastic foam. The chemistry works, and a gel memory foam is generally cooler than regular memory foam to sleep in – if you prefer that! Otherwise, the two types of memory foam are much the same to sleep on.
What is a Spring Mattress?
Most people know what spring mattress is. It is often referred to as an innerspring mattress or coil mattress. However, they may not be aware of the various types of spring mattresses available. In the memory foam vs. spring mattress discussion, it is important to comment on the various designs of coil or spring mattresses available. Then most common are:
Continuous coils:The spring is formed by one single length of wire that is coiled continuously throughout the Mattress.There are no individual springs – only one network of coils created from a single length of wire. This tends to be a softer type of mattress, and each person in the bed significantly affects the other.
Individual Bonnell Coils:Individual hourglass shapes springs are connected together with cross-wires at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock or in any other format that forms a strong cage of springs that can hold relatively heavyweights.This is the most common form of spring mattress.
Pocket Springs:Otherwise known as Marshall coils, this form of spring mattress is formed by individual coils held in their own individual fabric pockets.This is the closest that a spring mattress can get to a memory foam mattress. As you lie on the mattress, you compress only those coils in contact with you. Not only are you are isolated from your sleeping partner, but each part of your body is supported by its own individual springs.
Spring Mattress Pros and Cons
- A spring mattress is better ventilated than a memory foam mattress, so is cooler and does not get too warm when you sleep.
- Pocket springs can isolate you and your partner, so when you move he or she is not affected.
- Many younger people prefer a spring mattress vs. a memory foam mattress because of the superior bounce of springs during sex.
- No out-gassing, so fewer VOC emissions when first used.
- A spring mattress is safer for very young children because there is less chance of a baby or young toddler being unable to roll out of the depression created while sleeping.
- Their inner cavities provide a home for dust mites, mildew, skin cells and so on – all the things that can trigger common allergies. It’s better to choose something with a solid core: memory foam or latex with no coils or springs mean fewer places for allergens to hide!
- Other than with a pocket spring construction, spring mattresses are not the best for couples. When one person moves in the mattress, the movement is felt by your partner.
- Innerspring mattresses tend to sag more over time.
- Innerspring mattresses fail correctly to support the back evenly. They are unable to maintain a correct spinal alignment and are also less comfortable for those with painful hips and other joints. If you need proper back support and have pain in your hips, then go for a memory foam mattress.
Spring Mattress Vs. Memory Foam Mattress Comparison Table
|Property||Spring Mattress||Pocket Spring||Memory Foam|
|Joint Comfort – Pressure Relief||3||2||1|
|Ventilation - Coolness||1||1||2|
|VOC – Chemical Odor *||1||1||2|
* A pungent chemical odor tends to be noticeable on some types of memory foam mattresses only. This is only when the mattress is new, and it rapidly dissipates over a day or two.
** The total score divided by the number of properties.
No doubt, by changing the number of properties the relative scores would change. However, these are the factors we consider most important in a mattress for couples.
1 – 3 Grading:Each mattress type is graded according to its preference for the stated property. For example, when comparing a memory foam mattress vs. spring (normal coils and pocketed coils) the memory foam is the best of the three for isolating the movement of each partner from the other, pocket springs comes second and a normal innerspring mattress is the least preferred.
Memory Foam and Spring Mattress FAQs
1. Why does memory foam conform to my body shape?
This is because the polyurethane foam used to make memory foam has had chemicals added to it. These chemicals modify the viscosity and density of the foam making it viscoelastic. That term means that the foam is designed to be sensitive to heat and weight. If a heavyweight, such as your body, lies on the foam, it softens and conforms to your body shape. The same happens if it is heated – such as the heat from your body when sleeping.
2. Why do I sometimes wake up feeling very hot on my memory foam mattress?
This is because memory foam traps heat. That heat is what makes it soften round your body and provide good support for all your pressure points. During the night, it is possible for that heat to build up when you can begin to feel particularly hot.
3. Is there any way for a memory foam mattress not to heat me up in the night?
Not really – unless you have a gel memory foam in your mattress. This is a gel contained within a bead that is dispersed throughout the structure of your memory foam. The gel can switch between being a solid and a liquid. When you are sleeping and your mattress heats up, the solid gel absorbs the heat and turns into a liquid. This cools you down. The liquid gel then turns back into the solid state when it is cooled and the cycle can continue.
4. What is best: a normal spring mattress, or a pocket spring mattress?
That depends upon who is using it. Pocket springs cost more, because each spring is separate, and held within its own fabric pocket. If you are sleeping with a partner, then neither of you is disturbed if the other partner if he or she moves in the bed. You get the separation associated with memory foam mattresses – but it comes at an extra cost for that type of innerspring mattress. If you sleep alone you have no need for this separation – unless you have plans …
5. Why is memory foam good for couples sleeping together and a spring mattress is not?
The foam only softens where you sleep.If you and your partner sleep slightly apart – even a few inches is enough – then memory foam conforms to the shape of each person individually. If your partner moves, this does not affect you because you are each sleeping in your special area that has shaped itself to your body shape. This does not happen with a spring mattress so when they move, the springs all around the move, and so can disturb the sleep of both.
Memory Foam Vs. Spring Mattress: Summary
So – does this memory foam vs. spring mattress comparison make your decision any easier? It should because it explains the fundamental differences between the two. Here is a summary of the benefits of each, although:
- If you have a bad back, arthritis in your hips or knees, or any other joint pain that becomes painful when subject to too much pressure when sleeping then a memory foam mattress is best for you.
- If you have no such pains and enjoy sleeping and having regular sex with your partner, then a regular innerspring mattress is best for you.
- If you sleep with a partner, but like peace when sleeping and get disturbed when he or she moves about the bed, then a pocket spring or memory foam mattress would be best for you.
- If you tend to be allergic to such contaminants as dust mites and the debris they create, dead skin cells or any other allergens that tend to congregate in hollow spring mattresses, then a memory foam mattress may be best for you, but perhaps choose a gel memory foam if you:
- Tend to get hot at night when sleeping and memory foam makes you feel even hotter. A gel foam or spring mattress would likely be your best choice.
The above suggestions are based upon evidence and are offered for you is you are still unsure about the best type of mattress for you. Ultimately, most people choose a regular innerspring mattress, a pocket coil mattress or a memory foam according to their own specific needs and the research they have carried out before making their decision.
Memory foam vs. spring mattress – or even something else: very difficult decisions, but I am here to help you make the right one! Contact me if you still cannot make it yourself.
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Article by: Richard Morse
Richard has been working in the mattress and bedding sales sector for many years, and he believes that he knows just about all there is to know to help you choose the best possible mattress for your needs. He has been featured on sites like Realtor, Mom.com, etc.
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