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Memory Foam: Not All Foams Are Created Equal

Jan 9, 2008
We've all seen the ads, and the hype, about memory foam and other types of foam bedding products. But, how much of this is simply Brand Name positioning and attempts to capture the bedding market? And, when you throw in proprietary and patented formulations, well, that is what makes brand names and creates a lot of options.

Most synthetic bedding foams are basically polyurethane-based foams of either an open or closed cell structure, produced from and with the aid of, other chemicals. Proprietary brand name foams favorably adjust the qualities of the foam by adding specific agents, and both the formulation and the specifically created features become identified with the brand name. Of course, the owners of these patents jealously protect both their name and what it represents in terms of products and quality.

Although durable closed-cell polyurethane foam was apparently a German creation during wartime, open-cell or 'memory' foam was originally developed by NASA scientists in the United States. That original formulation was further improved upon, initially, by a Swedish company now known as Tempur-Pedic, which also patented their formulation. First used commercially as a medical aid for certain difficult cases, this company later spearheaded the retail sale of memory foam bedding to households around the world.

Nowadays, high quality memory foam is also manufactured by numerous reputable companies in the United States and around the world. And, with its broad appeal in the marketplace, it's no wonder the Chinese have been working to take on the market by improving their products and offering them at prices American companies can't match.

Taken as a class, all memory foams have certain common and very desirable features. Specifically, the ability to recover gradually from body impressions, and more 'cradling' and 'cushioning' of body contours. And, if you ever doubted that little bit of 'sinking into the foam', be aware that the additional contact of the foam with more square inches of body surface results in greater distribution of body weight, and reduction of troublesome 'pressure points'.

In terms of the 'feel' of one specific brand of foam, combined with its perceived support and hardness, this is the domain of specific brands and models of foam. US foam manufacturers such as Foamex and Carpenter actually manufacture a variety of foam types (models) in a range of densities, while for many years the Swedish brand held fast to their flagship formulation.

And, what about all the claims and testimonials to the benefits of sleeping on memory foam? While memory foam is a great thing and does help many people find better and more comfortable sleep, it is very important to understand that you really shouldn't be expecting these products to solve all of your health and sleep issues. There are times when you should see a doctor, a chiropractor, or seek to address the actual cause of your particular issue from another angle. And, perhaps to do both at the same time!

If you happen to be one of those chemically sensitive individuals or an environmentalist, you might be more interested in natural (non-synthetic) foams such as Green Latex and Reflex Natural. Among other things, Natural or Green Latex is naturally hypoallergenic, anti-microbial, and dust and mite resistant. On the other hand, the term 'Talalay Latex', while it actually refers to the process for creating spongy latex foam, is frequently also used to refer to a hybrid blend of both natural and synthetic foams. We'll talk more in another article.
About the Author
C. Simmons is marketing director for Ultimate Sleep who specializes in 100% natural latex and other comfort products to help customers find relief from fatigue, back and joint pain, and sleep disorders.
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