Are Memory Foam Mattresses Unsafe?

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Memory foam is a type of low-resistance polyurethane foam. It’s different than conventional foam mattresses because of the way the material molds to a person’s body. It also softens in reaction to body heat and distributes weight evenly. The foam is also denser, more flexible.

Memory foam products come in various forms — as pillows or as mattresses. They are marketed to alleviate neck pain while memory foam mattresses were targeting those with back pain. Many users swear by it. Unsurprisingly, memory foam products caused quite a stir. But are these products really as beneficial as manufacturers say they are?

Advantages of Memory Foam

Helps Enhance Sleep

Some health experts believe that memory foam may help achieve a good night’s sleep. The softness of the material—coupled with an even distribution of weight—triggers deep sleep among users.

Alleviates Neck and Back Pain

The main selling point of memory foam is it helps prevent back and neck pain. Because the material spreads weight evenly, it releases pressure on areas of the body that are strained when sleeping. Users are enclosed in a “stable cradle” when using memory foam mattresses. Your body heat will activate parts of the mattress to become softer too.

However, while many users swear by memory foam pillows and mattresses, others say they aggravated their condition. The material is less firm than traditional foam mattresses and this might’ve caused strain on the neck and lower back muscles for some. Because memory foam is a new technology, more research is needed to understand its benefits. When using a memory foam pillow or mattress, always pay attention to how your back and neck is positioned.

Disadvantages of Memory Foam

Unpleasant Odor

One of the most common consumer complaints about memory foam is its distinct chemical smell. Customers describe the smell of paint or noxious compound. Although the odor is non-toxic, it might disrupt a person’s sleep. The smell will disappear on its own over time.

There are cases wherein customers are getting allergic reactions from the smell alone. Note that there are mattresses made with adhesive containing formaldehyde. This chemical may aggravate asthma and trigger allergies. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde may result in lung, nose, and throat cancer. That said, there is no proof that this type of foam product causes grave health problems. When you are chemically sensitive, it’s best not to use this type of foam product at all.

Slow Response to Changing Positions

Memory foam will literally respond to your body’s unique shape. Unfortunately, an average person will shift sleeping position several times in the night. Memory foam does not respond well when shifting positions too quirckly. It will leave a depression in certain areas, making sleeping uncomfortable.

Traps Heat

Because memory foam responds to body heat, it could get uncomfortable to use during the spring and summer season. The material traps heat — and this heat will build up as the night progresses. The foam then increases a person’s body heat, making sleeping difficult during hotter seasons. As such, memory foam is best used in colder places or during colder months.


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