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Memory foam information HEADING_TITLE

The history of memory foam

Memory foam was originally developed in 1966 under a contract by NASA's Ames Research Center as a way to improve the safety of aircraft cushions. Ames scientist Chiharu Kubokawa and Charles A. Yost of the Stencel Aero Engineering Corporation were major contributors to this project. Yost named the temperature-sensitive memory foam 'temper foam'.

Yost later founded Dynamic Systems Inc. in collaboration with NASA to commercialize the foam, including it in both medical equipment such as X-ray table pads and sports equipment such as football helmet liners. After Dynamic Systems sold its line of memory foam products to the Edmont-Wilson division of Becton, Dickinson & Co. in 1974, this company expanded to an even wider range of products.


When NASA released memory foam to the public domain in the early 1980s, Fagerdala World Foams was one of the few companies willing to work with the foam, as the manufacturing process remained difficult and unreliable. Their 1991 product, the "Tempur-Pedic Swedish Mattress" eventually led to the international mattress and cushion company, Tempur World.

Memory foam was never used in the space program but was subsequently used medically, for example by patients who used to lie in bed on hard or very firm mattresses for long periods of time without regularly moving such as being bed-bound after a paralyzing stroke. The pressure over some of their bony regions decreased or stopped the blood flow to the region causing pressure sores. Memory foam mattresses helped remarkably to decrease such events.

Memory foam was initially too expensive for general use, but in recent years it has become cheaper to produce and is now widely available. It's most common domestic uses are mattresses, pillows and mattress toppers. It still has medical uses, such as wheelchair seat cushions, hospital bed pillows and padding for persons suffering long-term pain or postural problems; for example, a memory foam cervical pillow may alleviate chronic neck pain. Its heat-retaining properties may help some pain sufferers who find the added warmth helps to decrease the pain. There are also a variety of cover options that create the opposite cooling effect.


Contours to your bodyshape

To achieve the correct level of support it is important that your mattress contours to your individual bodyshape retaining the bodies correct posture. Your mattress needs to absorb the heavier or pronounced parts of the body such as hips and shoulders and support areas such as your lower back. 

Whilst lying on your side your backbone should remain straight and whilst on your back you should retain the spines natural curve. A good quality Memory Foam Mattress will contour to your unique individual bodyshape, ensuring that you remain in the correct posture, thus avoiding unnecessary pressure on the vertebrae and soft tissue of the lower back. 

Memory foam density

A memory foam mattress is usually denser than an ordinary foam mattress. This makes it more supportive but also heavier. It is often seen as a good compromise between the comfort of a soft mattress and the supportiveness of a firm one. Memory foam mattresses often sell for more money than traditional mattresses but they may last longer due to their resistance to parasites such as dust mites.

The property of firmness (hard to soft) of memory foam is used in determining comfort. Firmness is measured by foam's IFD (Indentation Force Deflection) rating. 


IFD measures the force (in kg) required to make a dent 1 inch into a foam sample 15" x 15" x 4" by a 8 inch diameter (50 sq in) disc - known as IFD @ 25% compression. IFD ratings for memory foams range between super soft (IFD 10) and semi-rigid (IFD 12). Most memory foam mattresses are firm (IFD 12 to IFD 16).

Some report that IFD is a poor way to measure softness of memory foam, and that foam density as a measure of quality is more important. Foam density of 70 kg/m3 or greater is considered exceptionally high. Most high quality mattress manufacturers use memory foam that is 55 kg/m3

Memory foam has an open cell structure that reacts to body heat and weight by 'molding' to your body, helping relieve pressure points, preventing pressure sores, etc.

Most memory foam has the same basic chemical composition, however the density and layer thickness of the foam means different mattresses feel very different. A high density mattress will mean it returns to position more slowly and will be firmer; a lower density will feel more like a normal foam mattress.

Very high levels such as 75-80 kg/m3 are used infrequently in mattresses, however some manufacturers have been known to use very high density memory foam with varying levels of success.

The amount of memory foam also has an effect on the capabilities of the mattress or topper. Anything less than 1½ inches will not have much of an effect, whereas a 6 inch block would be too firm to sleep on comfortably.

Each mattress, therefore, is a combination of its height, density, and type, each of which will have different properties.