Why Memory Foam is Not Such Hot Stuff in Bed

hand print memory foam

There’s a lot of hype over memory foam mattresses, but with any hype, you’ve got to dig a little…

Because while some may rave over how comfortable memory foam is, it may not be the best mattress for you.

It would seem obvious, but it’s not: your needs vary from the next person’s and the mattress you decide on should reflect this.

So let’s take a look at the facts around memory foam, so you can make up your own mind:

What is memory foam?

Memory foam mattresses are made from a substance called viscoelastic; it’s a synthetic petroleum-based product; some people call it a soup of chemicals.

The big hoo-ha is that they mould to the body in response to heat and pressure, evenly distributing body weight, returning to its original shape when pressure is removed.

When you lay on it, it immediately contours to your body, making you feel as if you’re lying in thick mud or quicksand; it envelopes you.

The South African says, “The broad argument for memory foam mattresses is that they mould to your body shape. In theory, this means that support is applied in areas that are unique to you and your posture. This is known as full body support. It keeps your spinal cord in alignment which results in a positive posture with reduced back pain.”

But…the method of manufacturing viscoelastic foam is different for each mattress manufacturer.

What’s important for you to know about this, is that it is the formula which changes the quality and qualities of the foam.

More specifically, what varies considerably, and which impacts your sleep, is density.

If you’re going to go the memory foam mattress route, then make sure the density of the foam is high.

Because as with most things, not all memory foam mattresses are made equal.

Lower densities are a usually poorer quality which negatively affects sleep, especially if you suffer from a medical condition, like back pain.

When choosing a mattress, keep a watch for memory foam which boasts a density of anything over 2.7 kg per one square foot.

When is memory foam a good option?

Alleviating pain

Some people swear by memory foam; many of those people have experienced pain and muscular aches while sleeping on other mattresses and feel great relief from it.

Ironically, for other people, it has been the cause of back pain.

Since arthritis mattress reviewers have indicated that hybrid beds like the Genie mattress work better than memory foam, it would seem the combination of pocket springs and latex is best for people who suffer from aches and pains. It’s recommended you try out different mattresses first (Genie offers a 100 day trial period, so there’s no risk there).

The elderly

Older people – over the age of 65 – may experience relief of chronic pain on a memory foam mattress because of how it fits snugly around the body, giving excellent support and relief on pressure points.

Memory foam, if placed on the right bed base, is silent and that is also helpful to avoid sleep disturbance.

It also helps reduce sleep disturbance from a partner’s movements.

At the same time, there are other considerations for the elderly, such as:

  • Sleep disturbance from the mattress getting too hot – this can be remedied if the mattress includes cooling technology.
  • It is difficult for older people to get out of bed on a memory foam mattress because of how it contours around the body.
unhappy couple on memory foam bed

Why memory foam does not fulfil the hype

Sex on memory foam is hard

OK, first things first. It’s awkward to have sex on a memory foam mattress.

And it’s not just us saying that…comments on 600 reviews showed that 40% of people who had sex on memory foam mattresses were left, um, dissatisfied. Another study showed that many couples who own these types of mattresses were intimate less often and prefer to have sex away from their mattress.

This is because the foam responds to body heat which makes it more “encompassing”, so it feels like the one on the mattress is being sucked in. And not in a good way.

The chemicals may have negative health effects

Now that sex has been dealt with, what about health? Are memory foam mattresses good for our health?

Well, frankly, because it’s still fairly new to the market as a mattress, there is not enough research around it. So we don’t know if it’s healthy in the long-term. With the mix of chemicals that give it its texture, it may as well point to a “no”.

We just don’t know yet because it’s too soon to tell what the long-term effects are, which could be is a synthetic compilation. 

Speeds up body heat

Memory foam works because of body temperature; the heat of your body softens it to mould to your body. The problem is that unless it’s combined with cooling technology to regulate body heat, it’s going to make a hot person hotter. And not in a good way.

Sweating in your sleep does not make for a comfortable night’s rest.

Not recommended for babies

Memory foam can increase the risk of Infant Death Syndrome so it’s strongly recommended not to be used in baby cots.

Hard to move

Memory foam contours beautifully to your body with heat.

But in cold temperatures, the foam resists resilience, so it can be sluggish in bouncing back to shape, and this creates sleep disturbances due to discomfort while waiting for the mattress to revert to its natural shape so that you can continue sleeping in a different position.

People also find it hard to get out of bed, and movement on the mattress can be difficult.


Memory foam is the product of polyurethane; it is petroleum-based which makes it highly flammable.

Research indicates that hybrid mattresses – like the Genie mattress – a combination of inner springs and latex foam, are a superior solution to memory foam because not only do they provide good support, they also provide more benefits than memory foam, without any of the negatives.

choosing memory foam bed

Should you consider memory foam mattress?

Yes, if:

  • You are older than 65 and suffer from chronic pain.
  • You tend to sleep in the same position the whole night.
  • You are often cold.
  • Other good quality mattresses have resulted in daily pain.

Maybe if:

  • You or your partner are mismatched in terms of movement: one of you moves a lot while sleeping and the other doesn’t. However, depending on your other personal needs, a hybrid mattress may be the better solution.

No if:

  • You want to continue having an active sex life that involves a mattress.
  • You enjoy sex and you’re overweight (the sinking in from the mattress makes sex hard as it is, but with more weight, it will be even harder to move around).
  • You get hot easily.
  • You live in a consistently cold climate.

The wrap-up

While memory foam mattresses may be the answer for some, they won’t be for all. A hybrid mattress, with its combination of individually pocketed springs and natural latex, offers the same benefits without any of the cons.

See how the hybrid mattress compares.

Download our free guide to purchasing the better bed