Differences Between Regular Foam and Memory Foam


The first foam mattresses were simply foam rubber. In the 1950’s the foam rubber mattress appeared as an option from the spring coil or traditional spring mattress. The foam offered a new softer, more economical choice for consumers. The foam rubber was useful for wheel chairs, institutional care use and other cases where the softness was the preferred choice.

The foam was versatile and used for other purposes including safety applications, helmet linings, padding and other buffer style applications. It was foam, it was easily flattened, moisture destroyed it and it had a very short shelf life. But it was the only available option other than the standard spring mattress.

Space, Technology and Options
In the 1960s the need for greater impact safety drove the innovation of what would develop as visco elastic foam. This was a totally different product than the foam of the 1950’s. The process created open cells, the air pockets and the corresponding density worked to create foam with a purpose. The foam was high density and had the capacity to absorb impact and to manage the weight and heat of the body, the energy of pressure and impact and still support the user. It would take another 30 years before it would become a household name and a household brand, but it still managed to break its way into the NASA Hall of Fame, as a product that bridged space based technological innovation with commercial applications.

The difference in the foam was recognized in the medical and care communities as a solution for chronic pain, institutional care patients and additional safety applications. The memory foam was originally used not as mattresses but as medical padding or support in a variety of applications.

In the 1990s Tempur-pedic was the consumer’s introduction to the space foam, as visco elastic became the technological innovation for a soft, supported night’s sleep. The process used polyurethane to create this new product that left an imprint on the household shopper. Over time more and more competitors entered the market, with the highest quality memory foam mattresses being produced in North America (US and Canada) and Sweden. Some other countries add filler to increase the perception of density without adding benefit to the mattress.

Moving Forward
In recent years the innovation has continued in the memory foam industry. New manufacturing techniques that have introduced soy based foams instead of polyurethane which has its base in petroleum products. More advances in construction and overall design aesthetics have improved the memory foam mattress and has compensated for earlier issues, the new mattress smell that bothered some sleepers has been eliminated with the soy based process. Allergens, dust mites and microbial problems have been eliminated with process improvements, cover design changes and process changes. Support for larger sleepers has improved with the addition of new styles and construction design in the foundation layers. “Hot Sleep” concerns have been sorted out with design changes that have evolved to “Cool Sleep” technology. Thicker mattresses, layers of construction, variety in materials used in support and foundation layers and new covers and designs have skyrocketed the modern memory foam light years ahead of the foam rubber mattress.

In comparing modern “regular” foam and memory foam the difference is clear. As memory foam continues to evolve and resolve many of the earlier issues, it offers a competitive, supportive, and comfortable sleep without the issues of spring mattresses, with more innovation than regular foam and with significant health benefits from its long history in the medical field.