Published on February 22nd, 2013 | by Mattress Journal0
How do Memory Foam Mattress Technologies Stack Up?
With the plethora of available mattresses we wanted to compare how traditional, gel and plant-based memory foam mattress technologies stack up. Comparison shopping in the bed market is not without difficulties, as companies advertise and make claims that can be difficult to compare across the board. Because of this we developed a list of the 5 important elements shoppers should compare before buying a traditional, gel or plant-based memory foam mattress, and a chart to comparing top brands to make the process a little easier.
About Our Comparison
We used comparative data to address issues such as sleeping hot, off-gassing, response time and price to help consumers choose between traditional, gel and plant-based memory foam mattresses. In general these mattresses are created using the following methods:
- Plant-based memory foam, as used by Amerisleep, is produced with a large open cell structure from sustainable plant-sourced materials which can be replanted year after year, and does not contain any VOCs.
- Traditional memory foam is created from petroleum based polyurethane and while it varies according to brand and the manufacturer has been tested to contain nearly 61 dangerous compounds. It does release VOCs.
- Gel infused (beads or poured) and layered memory foam are recent newcomers that DO NOT include VOC-free advertising. It has proven difficult to learn whether it does emit VOCs, however since mixed with traditional memory foam, they would likely be released.
Memory Foam Mattress Technologies Compared
Above, we have a chart comparing popular brands of each three types across key dimension. This is based on information from a recent memory foam mattress comparison article from BestMattress-Brand.org. The following is a more detailed breakdown of how each of these types of memory foam mattresses performs under home use:
- Plant based memory foam mattresses feature 10X larger cell structure which allows a much higher rate of breathability. The open cell structure and nature of the material transfers heat away from the sleeper. According to Cargill, based foams sleep 25% cooler than gel-infused, and according to Amerisleep.com, they dissipate heat 9 times faster than traditional.
- Traditional memory foam created the issue in the first place as the small or closed cells tend to trap heat next to the body. Because some people naturally emit a excess warmth at night, this can be very uncomfortable. Brands like Tempurpedic “take a lot of heat” for this complaint and have tried developing remedies, though the issue persists in reviews.
- Gel-based memory foam advertises the use of transference to move the heat, however this may prove ineffective. Brands like iComfort claim their products sleep cooler, but recent complaints from the NAD about misleading advertising have led Serta to drop comparison claims against Tempurpedic.
Off gassing can be a serious issue when VOCs are present as they can continue to emit fumes for years. Differentiating between the “new” smell of plant-based foams and latex, and noxious fumes from toxic chemicals is important. Researching the composition of a new mattress is imperative for avoiding VOCs. The State of California has identified 18 compounds out of 61 that are present in traditional memory foam that require special labeling.
- Plant-based memory foam from brands like Amerisleep.com does not contain any toxic VOCs. However, any new product may have a slight material odor no matter what is used, but with this type of foam it does not appear to cause complaints of major discomfort or persistence.
- Traditional memory foam has been associated with a high concentration of VOCs as mentioned above. These release a mix of odors, and often lead to complaints in reviews. People with respiratory sensitivities like asthma prove especially sensitive to off-gassing odors which can persist for weeks after unpacking.
- Gel based memory foam does not make any VOC-free claims. Though reviews are limited, people are reporting odors similar to traditional memory foams, if slight less pronounced.
Response time refers to the length of time it takes for a mattress to bounce back into its original shape. It is determined by the composition, viscosity, elasticity and resiliency. Slow rates of response time have led to consumers complaints of feeling trapped, sinking, and a decrease in their sexual enjoyment. A mattress that adjusts to slowly makes changing position and getting of bed difficult for some people.
- Plant-based Amerisleep has a 5-8 second response time.
- Tempurpedic has a 45-60 second response time.
- Gel-based memory foams were 30-45 second response.
Memory Foam Density
The density of memory foam used in beds determines its durability. Density measures the weight of one cubic foot of foot and varies from 2.0 to 8.0 pounds. The highest combination of comfort, support and durability exists between 4.0 and 5.3 lbs. Anything over this is too dense and firm for comfort, and anything less is considered a “throwaway” mattress that will bottom out and last just a few months.
- Amerisleep features density ratings between 4.5-5.3 lbs., making it the best choice for comfort, support and durability.
- Tempurpedic was ranked well, until introducing their Simplicity line at 2.5 lbs., which we feel is much too low for the price. Their traditional collection uses 5.3lb density which is good.
- Gel-based memory foam mattresses from Serta tend to be around 3.0-5.0, however a recent Good Housekeeping magazine article raises concern with flammability issues related to gel and so we have ranked it lower until this is resolved. Also, since this is a fairly new type of foam, and one in which the gel is often added after the fact, it might have the potential to deteriorate faster.
Price and value comparisons between the three are based on mid-range, queen-size beds with similar features (mid-level density, 10″ profile).
- Amerisleep received an A on value for their affordable prices compared with good marks on comfort, durability and health factors.
- Tempurpedic received a D due to prices considerably higher than competitors and under-performing marks on heat and odor.
- Gel based Serta iComfort received a B, as their prices are less than luxury brands, but still lack some of the quality features that plant-based foams provide.
The Best Memory Foam Mattress Options
Overall memory foam mattresses have ranked well with owners, receiving the highest overall satisfaction ratings from all other mattress types. However when broken down, individual companies and technologies receive higher rankings than others. It is always a good idea to research the particular brand and features, and look for verified owner reviews before buying a new bed online. Based on our comparative research between traditional, plant-based and gel based memory foam mattress types, we feel plant-based memory foam, like that from Amerisleep, offers the best overall value and potential for satisfaction.