What Is Memory Foam & How Does It Work?

With the passage of time, memory foam usage has grown exponentially as several benefits of using memory foam were discovered over the years.

Memory foam is one of the most popular material for mattresses and pillows and is especially useful for people with body pain of various types such as back pain, joint pain etc.

Indeed, memory foam is one of the most recommended materials by orthopedics across the globe. However, while many people have heard about memory foam, few are aware of what it is exactly and how it works.

In this article, we will explain briefly about the history, uses of memory foam (& how it works).

When Was Memory Foam Invented?

Memory Foam is a special foam developed by Charles Yost for NASA in 1965 in a bid to improve the comfort and safety of their aircraft cushions.

NASA eventually sold the technology in a bid to commercialize it, but it was only after Swedish company Tempurpedic was able to come up with a more commercial “for home” uses that it finally arrived to the masses.

What Is Memory Foam?

Memory foam is a specially created foam which is used extensively for

  • mattresses,
  • insides of helmets,
  • prosthetics,
  • seating pads,
  • orthopedic shoes etc.

As mentioned above, memory foam was primarily designed by NASA for use in space shuttle cockpits as a material to reduce the pressure faced by astronauts due to extreme gravity forces acting during a blast off.

Memory foam is also known as viscoelastic where viscos (from viscous) means it moves, although a bit reluctantly when you apply force or pressure on it and elastic means the foam will return to its original shape once the pressure or forces is removed.

Viscoelasticity allows a memory foam to adjust to the contours of human body when one is lying or sleeping on it and as expected the foam returns to its original shape once a person has awoken and got up from the bed.

Memory foam is temperature sensitive which results in the foam quickly sinking to your body contours once your body temperature rises. This allows your body pressure to be distributed across the mattress evenly and results in peaceful sleep.

Spring mattresses on the other hand don’t offer the ability to distribute body pressure per the body contour during various phases of sleep and this results in back pain and other orthopedic issues.

Due to the springs used in spring mattresses, sometimes sleeping on a spring mattress can result in serious long term back and joint ailments and as such doctors worldwide are recommending memory foam mattresses to patients with back and joint pains.

Even if you are healthy and face no orthopedic issue, you can ensure your future health by switching to a memory foam mattress.

NB: You can learn more about the history of MemoryFoam on Wikipedia.

What Is Memory Foam Made Of?

Memory foam is made up of polyurethane and other chemicals which are used for low-resilience polyurethane foam (LRPu).

These added chemicals provide extra viscosity and elasticity and have been responsible for making memory foam the preferred choice for several items such as mattresses, pillows, high resilience foam seating etc.

As it’s clear from the above discussion, memory foam can absorb pressure and equally distribute it across the contours of human body and as such memory foam is primarily found in several cushioning materials.

Viscoelastic property of memory foam results from the internal structure which is also responsible for other properties associated with memory foam such as motion resistance, hypo- allergenic, durability etc.

Memory foam has an internal cell like structure as normally an item made of memory foam doesn’t contains anything other than low-resilience polyurethane foam or LRPu as its popularly known.

Best Uses Of Memory Foam At Home

This allows motion to be isolated and is ideal for use by couples who may be disturbed or awake due to the sleeping motion of a partner.

As memory foam mattresses contains foam only, so there is no issue of dust mites residing internally on a memory foam mattress and the dust mites are limited to the outer surface of memory foam.

Pressure distributing property of memory foam has made it the preferred material for orthopedic mattresses and the people with back or joint pains across the world are advised by physicians and surgeons to switch to memory foam if they want relief from back pain.

Due to a lack of springs or any other movable part inside, memory foam mattresses also tend to last much longer as various studies suggest that up to 16% of springs in a spring mattress may stop working just after 1 year of use.

Memory foam mattresses on the other hand are free from these issues and with a little bit of care memory foam can easily last up to 10 years.


In Closing

In the earlier days, there was an issue with the chemicals used as some companies used carcinogens for making memory foam.

This is no longer the case as rising consumer awareness and strict regulations have forced companies to use eco-friendly chemical substitutes and most modern memory foam products as such are free of any harmful chemical agent.

See more information about what memory foam is on our memory foam information page.

What Is Memory Foam and How Does It Work?

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