Memory foam mattresses are popular for their characteristic “hug.” Lay down on one of these mattresses, and the memory foam responds to your body pressure, contouring to support your curves and spine while providing the ultimate pressure point relief. Thanks to their ability to isolate motion, memory foam beds are also extremely quiet, making them a great fit for couples and light sleepers.
While memory foam mattresses are a favorite among sleepers with chronic pain, couples, and anyone who likes the feel of sinking into their mattress, they’re not perfect for everyone.
That’s why we wrote this guide. We cover everything you need to know about memory foam mattresses, and how to choose a quality bed that will feel great to sleep on for a long time. Plus, read our reviews of the top memory foam mattresses of 2020.
Our Top Picks: Summary
- Best Overall: Nectar
- Best Luxury: Loom & Leaf
- Best Flippable: Layla
- Best for Hot Sleepers: Bear Mattress
The Best Memory Foam Mattresses
Best Overall: Nectar
Gentle contouring with breathable materials make the Nectar our number one pick.
Why We Picked It
The 11-ich Nectar mattress delivers everything you love about a memory foam bed—and then some.
The top comfort layer features 1 inch of quilted gel memory foam, atop another 3-inch layer of regular gel memory foam. Then comes the transition layer, with 1.75 inches of memory foam, above a 5.25-inch support polyfoam base. All of this is encased within a Tencel fabric cover woven with cotton for additional breathability and cooling. This is a bed designed to deliver contouring comfort that encourages airflow, with quality foams that will support you for years.
The Nectar mattress delivers on affordability as well, with a price that’s more than $100 cheaper than comparable options. Plus, it comes with a 365-night free trial and a “forever” lifetime warranty.
Keep in Mind
The density of the second comfort layer in this mattress is only 3.5 PCF, which is just slightly lower than our ideal of 4 or higher.
In a Nutshell
- 365-night free trial
- Gel-infused foam comfort layers and Tencel fabric cover provide a cool sleep surface
Best Luxury: Loom & Leaf
Loom & Leaf
This luxury mattress cradles you with the highest-quality foams.
Why We Picked It
On the opposite end of the price spectrum is our luxury pick. The Loom & Leaf mattress does come with a high-end price tag, but you won’t be wasting your money. Backed by a 15-year warranty, this mattress uses some of the best quality foams out there, with a solid construction that bodes well for the bed’s longevity.
The Loom & Leaf Mattress offers a luxurious 12 inches of plush, contouring comfort, available in either a true medium firmness, or firm. The two firmness options allow this memory foam bed to cater to sleepers of all shapes and sizes.
The bed features a 2.5-inch comfort layer of gel-infused memory foam, a second comfort layer of memory foam above a 2-inch transition foam layer, and finally, 5.5 inches of support polyfoam. In addition to the gel-infused memory foam, the breathable organic cotton cover also improves the overall temperature neutrality of the mattress. All of the foams in the comfort layers are 4 or 5 PCF, indicating the quality of construction.
Keep in Mind
Unlike most memory foam beds, the Loom & Leaf does not arrive in a box at your doorstep. The parent company, Saatva, will arrange a free white glove delivery and removal of your old mattress.
In a Nutshell
- Medium or firm
- 120-night free trial
- High-density foams and excellent construction predict a long lifespan for this mattress
Best Flippable: Layla
Medium-soft on one side and firm on the other, this mattress suits any sleeper’s preference
Why We Picked It
Sometimes you don’t know how “firm” you want a bed to be until you try it. That’s why many mattress manufacturers offer generous sleep trials. Layla goes one step further with a flippable mattress, offering a medium-soft firmness on one side and a true firm on the other.
The firm side includes a 1-inch comfort layer of copper-infused memory foam above a 4.5-inch support core of polyfoam. On the medium-soft side, you’ll sleep above 3 inches of copper-infused memory foam, which sit above of a 2-inch layer of convoluted polyfoam.
The inclusion of copper in the comfort layers ensures the Layla mattress sleeps cool, while delivering the conforming and pressure relief sleepers expect. The mattress cover itself is also infused with gel for additional cooling. The bed comes with a generous 120-night sleep trial and lifetime warranty.
Keep in Mind
While it’s infused with gel, the Layla mattress cover is a polyester blend, which may impact the ultimate breathability of the sleep surface.
In a Nutshell
- Medium-soft or firm
- 120-night sleep trial
- Copper-infused comfort layers enhance cooling and blood circulation
Best for Hot Sleepers: Bear
Graphite-gel memory foam makes the Bear sleep much cooler than other memory foam mattresses.
Why We Picked It
Hot sleepers tend to remove memory foam from their list of mattress options by default. With the Bear Mattress, that doesn’t have to be the case.
This foam mattress includes three layers: a comfort layer of graphite-gel memory foam (for eco-friendly cooling) atop a responsive transition foam layer and high-density foam base (for durability and support). However, the standout feature of this mattress is its Celliant infrared yarn cover. Celliant fabric was designed to promote muscle recovery, which makes this bed popular among athletes (who tend to sleep hot anyway).
With the combination of unique cooling materials, the Bear Mattress provides the memory foam experience at a much lower temperature. It also offers excellent motion isolation and pressure point relief.
Keep in Mind
At ten years, Bear offers the shortest warranty of all the mattresses on our list. However, that should more than cover the lifetime of your mattress.
In a Nutshell
- Medium Firm
- 100-night sleep trial
- Graphite-gel memory foam and Celliant fabric cover cool down hot sleepers
How We Chose the Best Memory Foam Mattresses
Wondering how we chose our top picks? We ranked them according to qualities that matter when purchasing any new mattress, memory foam or not. Here’s how they stacked up.
In many ways, the quality of a bed’s construction predicts its lifespan. Memory foam beds usually feature one or more comfort layers of memory foam, with a support core of high-density polyfoam.
We prefer to see memory foam with medium to high density ratings (4 pounds per cubic foot or more—learn more in our “Memory Foam Mattresses Construction” section below). These foams provide the best support, motion isolation, and contour. Our luxury pick, the Loom & Leaf, stands out above the rest here, with memory foams of 4 and 5 PCF.
The typical memory foam mattress should last around 7 years, which is an average lifespan among all mattress types. Due to their better-quality construction, the picks on our list meet this benchmark and then some. Higher-density foams beget longer-lasting beds, as do lower ratios of polyfoams found in the comfort and support layers.
Conforming describes how well a mattress cradles your body. When it comes to conforming, it doesn’t get better than memory foam. The foam reacts to your body heat, allowing your body to sink into the mattress while filling in the gaps between your pressure points, providing relief and maintaining ideal spinal alignment.
The Loom & Leaf provides the best conforming of all our mattress picks, due to its top-quality foams. However, the responsive foams used in the Bear mattress give the Loom & Leaf a run for its money when it comes to conforming and contour.
Edge support is often something you’ll have to live without when you choose a memory foam mattress. Because they’re apt to react and conform to body pressure, when you sit down on the edge, you’ll find that you start to sink down on the edge, too. If edge support is important to you, you’ll be better off with a hybrid or innerspring mattress.
Temperature neutrality can be a problem with memory foam mattresses. The main selling point of these mattresses is their ability to envelop your body, but that same selling point becomes a downfall when it comes to temperature regulation. That pressure-relieving hug often translates to a warmer sleep experience. Memory foam beds with higher-quality materials will mitigate this to some extent, as will memory foams infused with gel, copper, or plant materials (which enhance breathability and reduce heat).
All of our mattress picks feature some kind of cooling material. The Bear mattress uses a graphite-gel memory foam in its top layer, while the Nectar and Loom & Leaf both use gel-infused memory foam, and the Layla features copper-infused foam. Both the Bear and Nectar mattress further enhance breathability through their use of Celliant and Tencel fabrics, respectively, in the covers.
The potential for off-gassing is high with memory foam beds, simply due to their use of viscoelastic foam. Off-gassing is not toxic or dangerous, but it is unpleasant while you wait for it to dissipate. Unfortunately, that can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Many manufacturers will do what they can to limit off-gassing by using higher-quality foams or alternatives to traditional memory foam. You can also hasten the pace by leaving the mattress in a well-ventilated area of your house.
Because they’re all memory foam mattresses, all of our picks will present some sort of initial off-gassing odor. However, these should only last a few days at most, thanks to their use of alternative types of memory foam. With the Loom & Leaf, it’s possible you may not experience it at all, since this mattress arrives via white glove delivery rather than being shipped in a box.
One area where memory foam mattresses shine is motion isolation. Their unmatched motion isolation makes them a great option for light sleepers who share their bed with a loved one (be they two-legged or four-) who tends to shift a lot during the night and make noise.
With the highest-density foams of the bunch, the Loom & Leaf makes motion transfer virtually nonexistent. The other mattresses on our list, most notably the Nectar and Bear mattresses, are also known for providing a quiet sleep experience.
What Is Memory Foam?
Memory foam got its start in a surprising place: NASA. Memory foam (or viscoelastic polyurethane foam, as it’s technically called) was developed to absorb the shock during an airline crash, enabling a safer experience for pilots and their passengers. Besides its shock absorbency, it also made for significantly more comfortable seats. It wasn’t long before people realized it would be perfect for use in mattresses.
The viscoelasticity of memory foam is what defines its contourability. This type of foam changes its shape and softens when it encounters pressure, enabling it to envelop your body while you sleep. When you get out of bed (and remove the pressure), the foam cools down, firms back up, and returns to its original shape.
Due to its high conforming abilities, memory foam is often included as a component in the comfort layer of many mattresses, whether they fall in the memory foam bed category or not. You’ll also find memory foam in many other sleep products, like memory foam pillows, mattress toppers, and more.
Feel of Memory Foam
Many sleepers love the feel of memory foam because it feels like it was made for their bodies. When you lie down on a memory foam mattress, it responds to your body pressure. The foam adapts to contour around you, letting pressure points like your hips and shoulders sink more deeply into the mattress, while filling in the gaps to provide support for the areas in between (like your lower back).
That’s why this type of mattress is especially well-suited to those living with chronic pain. Memory foam beds are responsive enough to let your body sink just deeply enough to maintain spinal alignment, while relieving pressure and pain. They can also provide a softer sleep experience for lighter weight individuals, who often find other beds to be “too hard” to sleep on. (On the flipside, some heavier-weight individuals can sink too deeply into the mattress. These folks will need to find a memory foam mattress with a higher firmness rating.)
Their high level of conforming also lends memory foam mattresses their first-rate motion isolation. The same shock absorbency that NASA researchers appreciated enables these beds to absorb a person’s movements during sleep, reducing disruptions for anyone sharing the bed with them.
Memory Foam Mattress Construction
Here’s something you may find surprising: memory foam mattresses aren’t 100% memory foam. Because memory foam is so reactive and soft, it’s typically only included in the comfort layers of the mattress. If it were in the entire bed, it would be very difficult for the mattress to maintain its shape and not envelop you completely.
Memory foam mattresses may include one or multiple layers of memory foam in the comfort layer, which represents 25% to 40% of the total height of the mattress. Beneath this sits the support core, which consists of a high-density polyfoam for support and stability.
All of these layers will be encased within a cover. The materials of the cover can affect the breathability of the bed, while the thickness of the cover can impact how well the memory foam beneath it can respond and contour to your body.
Besides reviewing the thickness and materials in the cover, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the types of foams used in the comfort layers and support core. The two quality indicators to note here include density and indentation load-deflection, or ILD.
- The density of a memory foam mattress, measured in pounds per cubic foot, is a good proxy for how well the mattress will be able to support you. The higher the density, the slower the mattress will recover its shape—and the better contouring and motion isolation you’ll experience. We recommend looking for comfort layers with density ratings above 4 pounds.
- The ILD rating of a memory foam mattress, indicated by a number ranging from 8 to 20, essentially measures the bed’s firmness. Softer ILD ratings are better for lightweight sleepers who could benefit from more sinkage, while heavier weight sleepers will need higher ILD ratings to avoid sinking too deeply. Most sleepers of average weight find an ILD between 11 to 15 to be ideal, allowing them just the right amount of comforting contour without being too soft.
Types of Memory Foam
The modern mattress market has evolved to offer several types of memory foam. The most common options you’ll see include:
- Viscoelastic memory foam is the traditional, popular option. It’s created from polyurethane materials, which makes it a cheaper and less durable foam that’s more prone to offgassing. It’s also the type of foam most likely to trap body heat.
- Plant-based memory foam mixes in botanical materials with petrochemicals. These foams often have an open-cell structure to lend the mattress enhanced breathability and a cooler sleep surface.
- Gel-infused memory foam incorporates gel to reduce the surface temperature of the mattress. You’ll often find gel-infused memory foam in the very top layers of a memory foam mattress, as well as in cooling pillows.
- Copper-infused memory foam is also designed to cool down the mattress surface, by way of beads lined with copper wire, which are distributed throughout the comfort layers. Copper-infused memory foams offer an additional advantage to their other foam counterparts, since the copper helps improve blood circulation in the joints of sleepers with arthritis and similar conditions.
The average memory foam bed will last around 7 years, which is right in the middle of the bell curve when it comes to mattress lifespans. Memory foam mattresses last longer than innerspring and hybrid beds, but they’re bested by the longer lifespans of airbeds and latex mattresses.
Putting your own mattress care habits aside, the ultimate lifespan of a particular mattress comes down to the materials used in the construction of the bed, and whether it was built for durability. Lower-density memory foams provide less motion isolation and contour (making for a subpar sleep experience), and it turns out they’re bad for durability, too.
Look for higher-density memory foams in the comfort layers (manufacturers often list these specs on their website). Also take a look at the overall ratio of memory foam to polyfoam in the mattress. Polyfoam is cheaper and less durable, so you’ll want less of it in your mattress (although you can still expect to see polyfoams in the support core).
Finally, review the warranty of any mattress you’re considering buying before you buy it. A ten-year warranty is fairly standard. A decent warranty should specifically cover the common complaints of memory foam, such as sagging. You’ll also want to know what voids the warranty, and how you would go about filing a claim.
Pros and Cons
Memory foam mattresses offer a one-of-a-kind sleep experience that comes with its own unique pros and cons:
|Pros of Memory Foam Mattresses||Cons of Memory Foam Mattresses|
|Superior conforming ability provides above-average pressure point and pain relief||The characteristic “hug” of a memory foam bed is notorious for trapping body heat, posing an issue for hot sleepers|
|The conforming “hug” of a memory foam mattress maintains proper spinal alignment during sleep||Heavier-weight individuals may find these beds provide inadequate support|
|Above-average motion isolation absorbs motion and noise, making for a quieter, smoother sleep experience||The lack of bounce can make memory foam difficult to have sex on|
|Mattresses can be compressed and shipped direct to consumer, so they’re widely available online and in retail locations||An unpleasant off-gassing odor is common with these beds and can last for weeks|
Who Is Well-Suited for a Memory Foam Mattress?
The idea of memory foam appeals to a wide variety of sleepers, but it’s a particularly great fit for these types of sleepers:
- Light sleepers who share their bed with a human or pet, and are prone to wake up due to noise or movement from their bed partners. The motion isolation of memory foam absorbs movement and noise, enabling these sleepers to enjoy a full night’s sleep on a quiet bed.
- Sleepers with chronic pain will appreciate the pressure point relief provided by memory foam beds.
- Similar to those with chronic pain, side sleepers also benefit from the conforming abilities of memory foam, which allow them to sink deeply enough into the mattress to keep their spine aligned.
- Lightweight sleepers can prefer the softer sleep surface a memory foam bed provides, giving them more comfort than a standard innerspring bed.
People who may be better off avoiding memory foam mattress include:
- Those who tend to sleep hot, as memory foam mattresses are notorious for trapping body heat, even with cooling elements present.
- Heavier individuals, as memory foam beds can be too soft to adequately support their body weight. They may sink too deeply into the mattress, causing spinal misalignment and uncomfortable aches and pains come morning time.
- Stomach sleepers, who may find the memory foam allows their stomach and hips to sink deeper into the mattress than their head and feet, moving their spine out of alignment.
Now that you have the information you need to buy the best memory foam bed, remember: the mattress is just one element of a relaxing sleep experience. Don’t forget the pillows. And if memory foam isn’t for you, check out some of our other mattress guides.