Memory Foam Densities
Memory foam has been around since 1966 when NASA developed it. It is an open-celled foam that is sensitive to temperature; it has the unique aspect of being able to match pressure placed against it, then slowly regains its original shape once that pressure has been removed. Its use extends beyond sleeping surfaces: memory foam is used in medical equipment, football helmets, motorcycle saddles, and bulletproof vests. The material's unique characteristics make it ideal when making household mattresses. But what are the manufacturers talking about when they mention memory foam density? The following density guide explains this.
Memory Foam Density
Memory foam density has its measurements in mass per unit for volume. To put it more simply, the denser that the foam is, the more foam material is used within a given area. The foam is heavier as it gets denser as well. Because of its construction, memory foam has the characteristic of being denser than standard polyurethane foam. This means that memory foam is more durable and supportive than the other, standard foam.
Memory foam that is found in mattresses generally is manufactured in densities that range from as low as under 1.5/cubic feet to 8 lb/cubic feet. A cubic foot is 12 inches tall by 12 inches wide by 12 inches deep. This cubic foot is then weighed. Foams that are very high density tend to be six pounds or up while lower density foams tend to be categorized at a density of three pounds or fewer.
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Low Density Foam
The lower this number, the less foam that is used when producing it. This means the bed will be less expensive, but it also does not promise as long a life, as discussed later. These beds are ideal for rooms that do not see regular, consistent use, such as guest rooms, RVs, and camper mattresses.
Medium Density Foam
Measurements of between 4-5/cubic feet are considered to be medium in density. This range is thought of as the Goldilocks range; not too soft, nor too hard, but rather, just right. If you weigh less than 250 pounds you will likely be happy with a medium-rated density foam product, whether you are a stomach sleeper or a side sleeper.
High Density Foam
When you note a rating that is 6/cubic feet or higher, you are looking at high-density mattresses. These are long in endurance and high in price. They are also ideal for back pain sufferers or those who have injuries.
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Density and Firmness
Just because a mattress was manufactured with a high density does not necessarily mean that mattress will have a firm feel. Hand in hand with that principle, a low density mattress won't always have a soft feel. Mattresses have comfort levels that are measured by the IFD rating of the foam, this stands for indentation force deflection. It is sometimes referred to as an ILD rating or indentation load deflection. This factor calculates the amount of force that is required to cause a one-inch dent in a section of memory foam that is 50 inches square. The more force that is required, the higher its IFD rating.
What Does Density Affect?
Low density foam, as a rule, is less durable than high density foam. A lower concentration of the foam material will break down more quickly from nightly use. When it is properly cared for, high density foam can last for decades. As it happens, a mattress with a high density can outlast some of the lower density mattresses available by 50%. Regardless of your preferred firmness, you can find a high density memory foam mattress that will last you for long years.
It just makes sense that the price increases along with the amount of material that is used in manufacturing. Because of this, lower density mattresses have a tendency to be less expensive as a lower amount of foam density is incorporated into the mattress. While a cheaper price may entice, density and durability are important to remember. In this case, if you want a mattress that will not need replacing as soon, go for a memory foam mattress with higher density or try a hybrid mattress.
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Quality of Sleep
Many people awaken with such aches and pains that affect their entire days, but they do not realize their mattresses may be the culprits responsible. High-density mattresses are the favorites of people with bodily pains and aches because they can help to ease stress upon pressure points by permitting an even distribution of the bodyweight of a person. Memory foam with high densities has thus revolutionized hospital beds and beds in extended-care facilities. These beds help reduce the odds of bedsores and other skin and tissue problems associated with extended periods lying abed. Memory foam excels for pain relief and quality sleep, making it the best mattress for both stomach sleepers and side sleepers.
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Foam Response Time
This refers to the amount of time necessary for the foam to return to the original shape it held upon being released after compression. Lower density foams typically respond with greater speeds because they contain larger air pockets to help the foam spring back more quickly. High foam density mattresses have a slower response time. It is easier to move around on faster responding foam, as it is to rise up from it, but lower or medium density foam might not provide as great a degree of contouring support as would a higher mattress density foam.
It should not surprise you that density also impacts the weight. A denser object will be heavier. Because a dense mattress should provide a night's sleep that is solid and supportive, make sure to seek a total mattress with weight to it. Of course, a mattress's weight will vary; this depends on the size and type of mattress. No twin mattress is going to rival a king mattress for its weight. But as a general rule of thumb, an 11" in height, high-density memory foam queen size mattress should be around 90 pounds in weight.
Memory foam comes with an aspect of temperature sensitivity. While this can be an odd sensation to new owners of memory foam mattresses, you will most likely enjoy this sensation. The reaction is, quite simply, a gradual response coming from your own particular body temperature. The contact with your body heat makes the memory foam respond, beginning to contour about you while the surrounding foam stays firm. This hugging aspect is one of memory foam's most appealing traits. The result in the end is an even sleep that supports the entire body.
Memory foam was once criticized for its hot night's sleep because the contouring meant air could not circulate about the body. New technologies, however, have sent those days to the past. Now the material, also known as viscoelastic, circulates air and permits you to stay cool while indulging in its comforting embrace.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Which level of density memory foam is best for side sleepers?
If you sleep on your side, you tend to require a softer mattress. This will contour well to the curves of your body. The reason for this requirement is that the shoulders and hips press quite deeply into the mattress's surface. There is a wide range that will be found acceptable by many, but try 4/cubic feet and range out from there.
What density and thickness are ideal for mattress toppers?
First, conclude why you need a mattress topper. For a bed that is too firm, a 3-inch topper with a density that is low to medium will increase your comfort. If your bed lacks support or you seek to extend your mattress's lifetime, try a thicker topper. Seek 4 inches in thickness and with a higher density.
Courtney is the reason The Sleep Shop exists. She’s a Seattle native with a passion for healthy sleep. She graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a major in marketing. She started The Sleep Shop to help friends and family choose a good mattress, and helped grow the site to what it is today. She does most of the product testing and reviews.