How to choose a memory foam mattress topper?
Memory foam brands are plentiful, but what criteria should be used to choose the brand of memory foam mattress topper that will best suite your sleep and comfort needs?
The main considerations in memory foam mattress topper reviews are:
Mattress Topper Profile Height—toppers come in profile heights ranging from 2 inch to as much as 5-6 inches.
Mattress Topper Density—foam density is determined by the weight of the memory foam material per cubic foot, for example a "3 lb memory foam" density means a cubic foot of the foam material is equal to 3 lbs.
Mattress Topper Prices—the price of the memory foam is determined by weight and size of the product. The more dense the memory foam and the higher the profile, the more expensive the mattress topper will be. Some products have added features such as quilted cloth covering more porous and breathable memory foam that “sleeps cooler". These added features will also add to the price of the product. All the various memory foam treatments are considered in this review.
Mattress Topper Quality--What about memory foam quality? Within the USA there are only a few major manufacturing or "foaming" facilities. These same factories manufacture all the USA-made memory foam, though the brand names and the specifications of the products may vary. So most all USA made memory foams are coming from the same factories.
That being said, polyurethane and memory foam chemistry is a specialized and highly proprietary field of industrial chemistry. So, while there is a general “recipe” for how to arrive at any given variety of such foams, each major manufacturer develops their specific version of these recipes according to their operating principles and practices. For example, Foamex International has developed a means of arriving at a more perfectly structured memory foam that also requires less chemicals during processing, called “Variable Pressure Foaming (VPF)”.
In addition, a large amount of memory foam sold in department stores is manufactured in China. The majority of this foam has been considered inferior to the US made memory foam, though the Chinese foams have improved considerably over the last few years. But what makes memory foam inferior? Using an analogy, we could say that if you change the quality or quantity of any of the ingredients in a recipe for cake, or alter the preparation and cooking particulars, you’re not going to pull the “recipe cake” out of the oven at the end.
For more information please see A Memory Foam Review Guide or The Experience of a Memory Foam Mattress Topper Review.
So the answer to "what about memory foam quality?" The quality, or the feel of the memory foam, is basically determined by two criteria: foam height and density. Here begins our review of the two main criteria for choosing a memory foam topper: 1.) memory foam height (depth) and 2.) memory foam density.
1 inch height: 1 inch or 1 1/2 inch high toppers do exist. They often are sold in department stores and come in what is known as an egg-crate or "zoned" memory foam configurations. This sort of zoning helps to give the thin memory foam profile some bulk. The thinner memory foam profile will give some comfort, but will not give the full "memory foam experience".
2 inch height: A 2 inch high memory foam mattress pad will give a widely accepted level of support and comfort. And when combined with a 2 inch latex topper as a base support it will provide an almost perfect combination of the soothing memory foam comfort on top and the orthopedic support of latex underneath, especially if a higher density memory foam is used in the 2 inch layer.
3 inch height: A 3 inch profile topper will provide more softness than a thinner layer of memory foam. The 3 inch height in the 3 lb, 4lb or 5lb density memory foam is considered by most people to be "just right". A mattress topper needs to be put on top of a new or firm mattress. No topper of any quality, height or density will improve a sagging mattress.
4 inch height: Yes, it is possible to add a topper of this height to a mattress. But it would be better not to use a very soft memory foam with the 4 inch profile. A 2 lb or 3lb density memory foam has a little firmer feel to it. Often those who are heavier feel they will need a thicker mattress topper. Please note: Memory Foam is not designed for those who weigh over 250 lbs. A person who is heavier than about 250 lbs will cause the memory foam to flatten. For more information on alternatives please see: Non memory foam that does not flatten over time.
5-6 inch height: The very thick memory foam mattress toppers are difficult to handle due to the weight and bulk of the foam. Adding more height (beyond the 4 inch range) will not improve the feel of the mattress topper.
It is interesting to note that the memory foam contained within most memory foam mattresses is just a layer of memory foam on top of a higher and firmer base foam layer. The height of the memory foam layer within so called "memory foam mattresses" is usually about 3 or 4 inches thick. See a Complete Review of Memory Foam Mattresses.
1 lb density: Memory foam in the 1lb range will not have a memory foam feel. In fact it will most likely feel and perform like ordinary polyurethane foam. This is the type of memory foam sold in most department stores.
2 lb density: A 2 lb density memory foam will give the full memory foam experience. Memory foam is famous for the slow action response when you press your hand into the foam, then the foam slowly recovers. In the case of 2 lb density the foam will recover much more quickly. If you move around a lot at night, you might find the slow response time of denser memory foams to be too long. So a 2 lb density memory foam topper may be right for you. Also the price is very reasonable.
3 lb density: The quicker response time of a 2 lb or 3 lb memory foam will fill the hole/impression your body weight has made when you move from position to position much more quickly and smoothly. For this reason (as well as the lower price) many people prefer the lower density memory foam over the heavier density.
4 lb density: The 4 lb density memory foam is considered by most people to be "just right". Here you have the luxury feel of a dense memory foam but with a quicker recovery time: As you move, the foam moves with you.
5 lb density: This is the most popular density of memory foam and is sold by the popular Tempur Pedic ® and Sensus ® brand names. It has a luxurious feel and a slower response time that leaves you feeling like the memory foam is holding or cradling you as you sleep. 5 lb memory foam is also best suited for those who suffer from pressure points.
Also due to the slow response time this density of foam is perhaps not best suited to those who toss and turn. Though some say that 5 lb memory foam stops you from tossing and turning as you sleep. That is true to some extent, because the slower response foam makes it more difficult to move from position to position. As you move from one position the indentation remains as you move to the next position, so you may find you fall back into your former position.
Memory Foam Treatments
Cool Max ®, Aerus®, CoolComfort and other foam cooling treatments: Memory foam responds to the temperature of the human body. It is known to generate extra heat. For this reason memory foam is not recommended for those who "sleep hot". But the memory foam brands above have been engineered to generate less heat build up.
If you have trouble sleeping due to heat build up then even these specially engineered cooler memory foam products may or may not be ideal for you. Even though they do help to reduce the heat build up, there will still be a certain level of heat build up in these products. If you would like to read more about the special open cell cooling properties of Aerus and CoolComfort please read this: Review of Aerus Natural Memory Foam Mattress Toppers.
Another “cool” development within the sleep industry is a combination of natural memory foam with Ortho Gel™. Because Ortho Gel is temperature neutral and very porous, its combination with a plant-based natural memory foam provides an ideal sleep surface for those who have issues with painful pressure points or sleep temperature.
"Natural" Memory Foam: You may come across terms such as “natural memory foam". Natural memory foams are normally a bit of a mis-nomer inasmuch as they are not 100% natural, but rather arrived at by using 5% – 15% of plant-based polyols instead of 100% petroleum-based polyols in the recipe. Their performance characteristics are generally equivalent, while some of them may have less of a “new product” chemical smell.
Memory Foam Covers: Memory foam requires a cover to preserve your investment and protect it against moisture damage. Memory foam can not be washed or exposed to any kind of moisture. Most manufacturer warranties also become void if the product has not been used with a cover and due this has been stained, soiled or damaged in any way.
Some memory foams can cause a stain on your sheets, and a washable cover will help keep those residues away from your bedding.
Memory Foam Support: The ideal mattress to put your memory foam topper on is a new firmer mattress. A memory foam topper should not be used on an older mattress, or a sagging mattress.
Customers' Comments and Questions:
I have tired several memory foam toppers of various configurations and I would agree that 4lb density memory foam is probably the best density, at least for me.
Why is it that most brand do not mention that memory foam is "not designed for those who weigh over 250lbs"?
We can not answer for all the brands out there. It is often mentioned in the small print and will most likely be mentioned by the sales person. Memory Foam has not been engineered to withstand the weight of someone over 250lbs. It will tend to flatten out over time when this much weight is applied.
If you are looking for an alternative you could try a latex foam topper. Latex has more density and support. Also these days the new gel mattresses and mattress pads will cushion pressure points yet maintain their shape and durability, even for those who weigh over 250 lbs. A gel topper would be a good recommendation for those who are heavier and wish to find a sleeping surface that cushions pressure points.
Bill K 11/30/2010
I bought one of your 2" 4lb. MemorRest Visco Elastic Memory Foam Mattress Pad Topper Overlay (Twin Size)... Very satisfied... a good value... it works beautifully as a pillow top on our Select Comfort sleep system.
What brand of memory foam is best for an older mattress?
Memory foam mattress toppers are best used with a firmer mattress or mattresses with good support. There is no brand of memory foam that will repair an older mattress with compression marks or body impressions. In fact a memory foam topper might even accentuate the flaws in the older mattress.
If you are looking to save money then buy a new firm less expensive mattress and add a 3 inch thick memory foam mattress topper on top of it.
After reading your review I decided to select a latex topper instead of a memory foam topper. I am really glad I did this….it does not generate as much heat as the memory foam does and it is firmer.
Regrding the TWIN - 2" Aerus Memory Foam Topper I just purchased: Just wanted to let you know I love this topper even better than the other three I've purchased from you. Thanks again.
Received the Cool Max Topper yesterday. We bought it to add top our Tempur-pedic Deluxe King Bed which we decided was a bit to FIRM for both my wife and myself. The topper was just right last night and it dramatically improved our Deluxe bed's comfort. Still get the support from the bed but much more comfortable on the hips and shoulders with the Cool Max on top. Thought you would want to know! Thanks again for shipping Friday as promised.
SK RN 05/21/2011
Regarding the 3 inch 2 lb Sleep Zone topper
Just a short note of thanks and praise for the service I received when ordering a SleepZone mattress pad. The gentleman who took my order was competent and kind. The order was processed quickly and the pad arrived in a most timely manner.
We, as customers, are often quick to complain and I wanted to let you know that I have absolutely no complaints about any part of the process and am quite contented with the product. Please let your people know their work is appreciated by your customer! Thanks again!
UNCLASSIFIED - SPC G W - Baghdad, Iraq 06/30/2011
RE: 2 inch 3 lb memory foam mattress topper
Wanted to let you know that I got my order yesterday. No buyer's remorse here!!! Certainly a wise investment for any service member fortunate enough to have an actual bed. Even stateside, if in the barracks. Thank you for the Military discount and for getting the order out so quickly. I woke and realized that I had been dreaming. The funny this was that in the dream I was telling someone close to me what a great nights sleep I had just had, that should be a commercial:) Thanks again.