What Is a Memory Foam Mattress?

A memory foam mattress is a mattress that is either entirely made of memory foam, or a mattress that combines memory foam with springs or another type of comfort filling - also known as a hybrid mattress.

The foam used in these mattresses is made from polyurethane and was developed by NASA in the mid-1960s to counteract the extreme pressure astronauts faced when exiting and entering our atmosphere.

Memory foam mattresses can help to provide excellent pressure relief and unique support exactly where you need it, night after night.

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Below we explain everything you should consider before buying a mattress made from memory foam.

A hand pressing into a memory foam mattress
Memory foam uses your body heat to mould to your shape for higher levels of support and comfort

How are memory foam mattresses made?

Memory foam mattresses are made of polyurethane foam. This material may either make up the entire mattress or just one layer of the comfort or support materials.

There are three different ways in which a memory foam mattress can be made:

1. Pure memory foam mattresses

These mattresses are essentially one entire section of memory foam and contain no other comfort or support layers.

A woman sat on the TEMPUR ONE Medium Mattress in a bedroom with lots of plants in it.
All of our TEMPUR mattresses are made entirely from memory foam, such as the TEMPUR ONE Medium

2. Memory foam support layer mattresses

These mattresses use a large section of memory foam as the main support layer for the mattress.

A comfort layer is then added on top of the support layer. This can be a second, softer layer of memory foam, or a different type of comfort filling, such as:

  • Any natural filling
  • Latex
  • Gel foam

3. Memory foam comfort layer

The memory foam in these types of mattress is often thinner and softer than the memory foam you will find in a memory foam support layer or a pure memory foam mattress.

This softer and thinner memory foam is placed on top of a pocket sprung or standard sprung support layer for additional comfort.

The Silentnight Just Snug Memory Hybrid Mattress on a fabric bed frame in a purple bedroom.
The Silentight Just Snug is a great example of a memory foam comfort layer on a pocket sprung support base

Once the interior of the mattress has been crafted - either pure memory foam, support layer or comfort layer - an adhesive is used to keep all the fillings in place. A cover is then placed over the entire mattress to create a cosy sleep surface.

After the mattress has been fully constructed, some models can be compressed and rolled by a specialised machine before being placed in a vacuum-packed bag. This is how rolled memory foam mattresses are made and delivered to your door!

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How long do mattresses made from memory foam last?

All mattresses made from memory foam should be replaced every 7 years.

Most mattress manufacturers provide a guarantee or warranty that exceeds this period. However, after 7 years, your mattress may have experienced too much wear and tear to give you a fully supportive and comfortable night’s sleep.

It is also important that you replace your memory foam mattress after 7 years for hygiene reasons. Over time, dirt, hair, and dust become pressed into your mattress, even if you stay on top of regular mattress cleaning. To keep your sleeping environment as healthy as possible, it is important that you stick to this 7-year time frame.

For more information on when you should replace your mattress and how to tell if your mattress needs to be replaced, check out the following advice guide ‘How Often Should I Change My Mattress?

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What bed base can you use with a mattress made from memory foam?

The recommended bed base for memory foam mattresses differs between different models and manufacturers.

Some of these mattresses are designed to only be used on flat, platform top divan bases, while some can be used on slatted bases.

When it comes to bed bases, especially slatted bases, you should always follow the memory foam mattress manufacturer’s advice. If you don’t, you risk damaging your mattress permanently and invalidating your guarantee or warranty.

Can a memory foam mattress go on a slatted base?

As we have explained above, this varies between different manufacturers and specific mattresses. 

You should check that the width of the bed slats and the gap width between the bed slats are within the manufacturer’s guidelines.

For a more in-depth explanation of bed slats and which mattresses are suitable for each bed base, our ‘What are Bed Frame Slats?’ page has loads of information.

Can you put a memory foam mattress on the floor?

Yes, you can put your memory foam mattress on the floor, but we would not recommend it.

This is because mattresses are created to be placed on a surface that is specifically designed to support the weight of you and your mattress. Using your mattress on a bed base or frame is always recommended for a more comfortable and supportive night's sleep.

By sleeping on your mattress on the floor, you also risk potentially invalidating your mattress warranty or guarantee as you are not using a suitable support surface.

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Are memory foam mattresses safe?

Yes, all of the memory foam mattresses stocked by Mattress Online are completely safe.

We only stock memory foam mattresses that have been thoroughly tested by leading manufacturers. So, you can sleep soundly knowing that all of the mattresses we offer have been made to the highest quality standards.

Can you be allergic to memory foam?

As with any material, it is possible to be allergic to memory foam. 

If you are concerned about potentially being allergic to your memory foam mattress, we strongly recommend that you speak to a doctor for further advice.

Can you use an electric blanket on a memory foam mattress?

This varies between both memory foam mattresses and manufacturers.

We recommend thoroughly checking the care guide that arrived with your mattress for further information, or to get in touch with your mattress manufacturer.

If you are still unsure about whether you can use an electric blanket on your memory foam mattress, our Customer Service team is always happy to help!

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Are memory foam mattresses hot?

Older memory foam mattress models can become increasingly warm as you sleep on them. This is because memory foam absorbs your body heat to soften the foam and mould to your body to provide greater support. These older models tend to retain your body heat, meaning that they feel warmer the longer that you lay on them.

As memory foam mattresses have developed over the years, they don’t get as warm as they used to. However, it is important to remember that they still do absorb your body heat to some extent to contour to your body. This is true for all types of foam and latex mattresses.

As memory foam has developed over the years, they don't retain as much heat as they used to. This is because memory foam mattresses have become a lot more breathable. However, it is important to remember that they do still use some of your body heat to contour to your body, which can make them feel slightly warm.

If you are concerned about your memory foam mattress getting too hot, why not check out our cooling mattress range? We offer a range of memory foam mattresses with cooling properties.

Or, you could invest in a cooling protector to help keep you cool and fresh while you sleep.

The Protect A Bed Tencel Cool Mattress Protector packaging
The Protect A Bed Tencel Cool Mattress Protector is cool to the touch and may be the perfect addition to your memory foam mattress

Want to know more about keeping your bedroom and your mattress cool? We’ve got you covered with our ‘11 Tips to Cool You and Your Mattress’ which includes tips from our sleep expert - The Sleep Geek!

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Can memory foam mattresses be recycled?

Yes, all memory foam mattresses can be recycled!

If you buy a replacement mattress with us, we can take your old mattress with us on the collection day and recycle it for only £35!

Or, if you’d prefer to recycle your mattress yourself, you can contact your local council to find out where and how to safely dispose of your mattress.

Can I cut a memory foam mattress?

If you want to cut your memory foam mattress for recycling purposes, we do not recommend this. You should recycle your mattress whole.

If you do not intend to recycle your mattress and are instead taking it to a council-approved disposal facility, you may want to safely dismantle your mattress.

Do not cut your mattress to make it fit your bed size under any circumstances.

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We hope we’ve helped you in your journey to find the best memory foam mattress for you!

 If you’d like to learn more about memory foam mattresses before making a decision, check out our other memory foam guides below: