There are mainly five mattress types in the current market. They are:

  1. Memory Foam Mattresses
  2. Latex Mattresses
  3. Inner-spring Mattresses
  4. Water Mattresses
  5. Air Mattresses

Which type of mattress is the best?

It is not possible to give a clear-cut answer saying that one mattress type is better than another. This website may be on memory foam, but we will not say that memory foam is the best type of mattress. While memory foam is superior to other types of mattresses with regard to certain characteristics, it is inferior in relation to another characteristic. For example, the slow spring back nature of memory foam is considered a superior feature while its sleeping hot characteristic is considered inferior.

10 major pros of memory foam mattresses compared to other mattress types

  1. Correct spinal alignment – this is the major characteristic of memory foam mattresses that make it superior to others. Memory foam melts in response to your body heat and allows the ‘jotting out’ parts of your body to sink in to the mattress. For example, the hips, buttocks, shoulders, heals etc. ‘sink’ into the mattress causing your spinal cord to stay straight, without any bends or twists. This facilitates proper spinal cord alignment. This is why memory foam mattresses are recommended for people with neck and back aches.
  2. Hypoallergenic – some people develop allergies to certain ingredients of mattresses. Memory foam, generally does not have such allergy-inducing chemicals and therefore is considered hypoallergenic
  3. Anti-microbial – in addition to being hypoallergenic, memory foam has strong anti-microbial properties. What this means is that bacterial and fungal/mold growth on memory foam mattresses is minimal.
  4. Motion transfer – one of the common complaints on mattresses is that one partner gets disturbed when the other one tosses and turns. This is due to a characteristic known as ‘motion transfer’. One of the popular features of memory foam is its near non-existent motion transfer. You might have seen various TV commercials showing people jumping up and down without spilling a wine glass placed on top of the mattress. These ads are trying to show that their mattresses have no motion transfer.
  5. Quiet – some mattresses, especially inner-spring mattresses make a ton of noise when the people sit on it, turn to a side or get out of bed. But, not memory foam mattresses; they are as quiet as mattresses get. You can’t make them make a sound even if you tried to, PERIOD.
  6. Can be compressed and easily transported – a spring mattress can’t be compressed or rolled up. In contrast, an air mattress can be completely deflated, folder and packed inside a small carrier bag. A memory foam mattress can’t be compressed as much as an air mattress, but can be considerably rolled and shrink wrapped to reduce its volume significantly, so that it can be shipped to your doorstep, inside a small box, with ease.
  7. No need to rotate – especially spring mattresses need to be turned/rotated every once in awhile. Some mattresses every month, others, once every three months. On some, they recommend that you flip the mattresses; on others, the manufacturer recommends switching the head and foot ends. If you don’t rotate the mattress, you will leave a huge body impression on the mattress! This sagging as well as turning the mattress can be an annoying pain in the neck, especially, if the mattress is heavy. You can rest assured that memory foam mattresses do not typically need to be turned/rotated periodically. Even if you don’t turn them for years
  8. Adjustable bed friendly – some mattresses, like spring or water mattresses are not suitable for adjustable beds. They won’t flex with the bed nicely. In contrast, memory foam complies very well with adjustable beds. The mattress will obey the bed… to the dot!
  9. Minimal to no sagging – unfortunately, most mattresses ‘sag’ or depress in the middle of the mattress, right on your favorite spot of the mattress. This is mostly irreversible and this is why the manufacturer recommends that you rotate the mattress so that you don’t put your weight on the same spot everyday! However, with memory foam, thanks to its slow but high resilience, you will see little to no sagging. The mattress will make a temporary impression in response to your body heat. However, it returns to normal upon you getting out of bed. If you get mattress sagging during the first few years of a mattress, all we can say is that you’re probably not using a memory foam mattress. Hope you can appreciate the large dip on the right side of the bed shown below.
  10. Relatively light-weight – memory foam may not be as lightweight as an air mattress gets; nevertheless it is very much lighter than latex or spring mattresses.

5 Major Cons of Memory Foam Mattresses compared to other mattress types

  1. Sleeping hot – the major deficiency of memory foam mattresses is that they can absorb your body heat and become pretty warm. This extra-warmth can interfere with your sleep. LUCKILY, this was old-generation non-modified memory foam. Most modern memory foam mattresses come with a gel particle infusion which cools down memory foam. Manufacturers have also introduced a network of tiny tunnels/grooves inside the mattress. These can carry the warmed up air out of the mattress helping it cool down.
  2. Off-gassing odor – somethings like paint and cars have an odor when brand new. Some of those ‘smells’ are pleasant while others aren’t. In either case, these odors are due to breaking up of chemical compounds known as ‘Volatile Organic Compounds’, often abbreviated as VOCs. Once memory foam mattress packaging has been broken open, the VOCs it’s made up of, start to break up and ‘evaporate’. The odor coming from the breakdown of these VOCs is often referred to as off-gassing. Even humans, animals and plants emit VOCs like methane. The VOCs emitted from memory foam mattresses are not harmful, as long as they’ve been manufactured under the proper guidelines. This is where CertiPUR-US comes in. As long as the manufacturer has the CertiPUR-US certification, you can rest assured that the memory foam mattress contains no ozone depleters, formaldehyde, PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP (”Tris”) flame retardants, is free of heavy metals like mercury and lead, and has relatively low levels of VOC emissions (less than 0.5 parts per million). Note that CertiPUR-US certification doesn’t require the mattresses to be free of VOCs. That is because it is not possible to make memory foam mattresses completely free of VOC off-gassing. Therefore, your only option really is to be prepared for and to embrace (just kidding) the off-gassing. On a positive note, only ~15% of memory foam mattress buyers find off-gassing problematic. If you happen to fall in to this 15%, all you need to do is to let the mattress air-out. Place it against a wall with the windows open or aim a fan/blower at it to expedite ridding it of all unpleasant odors! Some mattresses will be ready the same night, others, in a couple of days. In the worst-case-scenario, a very few mattresses will continue off-gassing for a couple of weeks. If you’re not extremely unlucky, you will be able to enjoy the mattress within the first 48 hours of unpacking; we certainly hope you’ll be able to sleep on it the same day it is delivered to you. Just be prepared for the odor and you’ll not be too disappointed.
  3. Turning/rolling not easy – Some of us get in to bed and keep still until we wake up the next morning. But most of us, turn, toss, and roll this way and that way and even wake up multiple times every night. Remember we said that one of the awesome features of memory foam was its heat-responsiveness which makes it melt and hug your body. That is all fine and great; however, the down side of this characteristic of memory foam is that, it makes it difficult for you to turn/roll, because you’re already sunk deep into the mattress. Firm and medium-firm mattresses are OK; however, if you opt for a soft mattress turning and rolling can be particularly challenging.
  4. Shows seasonality – you know that most trees change color during fall and some animals hibernate during winter. But have you ever heard that memory foam mattresses also act differently during different times of the year? Remember we said that a feature of memory foam is its temperature sensitivity making it soften up and melt around your body in response to your body heat? What do you think happens during hot summer months? The whole mattress warms up and softens up. And during cold winter months? The memory foam mattress becomes a little firmer than it was in summer and fall. This is not a big issue; but you should be aware of this when you’re shopping for a mattress. You may visit your local mattress warehouse, which isn’t all that warm, and decide that a particular mattress is too firm for your liking. But, you actually need to factor in the existing cold climate and expect it to act a little softer in your well heated bedroom or during warmer months of the year.
  5. Lifespan – Memory foam mattresses aren’t the most durable mattresses. While a high-quality latex mattress can last as much as 20 years, a memory foam mattress may not survive more than a decade; some low-quality ones as little as seven years. Unfortunately, it is what it is… until a new technology comes and saves the world.

Hope these 15 pros and cons of memory foam mattresses helped you get a decent idea of the benefits and drawbacks of viscoelastic mattresses. You need to understand that all types of mattresses, whether they are memory foam, latex, water, air or innerspring, have their benefits and flaws, over other types. None of them are flawless, none of them are perfect. Generally, memory foam has more advantages than disadvantages and that’s why it is arguably the most popular type of mattress in the current market.