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What Is A Memory Foam Mattress?

By Heather Colman

Memory Foam is made with a polyurethane material. In order to increase its density, other chemicals are added which increases its viscosity level. The combination of the chemicals used determines the visco-elastic nature of the polyurethane foam and depending on such combination, the foam has the characteristic of being firmer in cooler temperature and softer in warmer environments. Higher density Memory Foam reacts with body heat. It reacts so that within a few minutes the product forms around the shape of the body. The property of the polyurethane foam could be demonstrated by pressing one's hand on the foam and then on removing it. The foam retains a clear impression of the hand.

In 1970s, NASA developed Memory Foam for use in their space program. With the hope that with the ability of uniform distribution of pressure of such foam, the extreme G-force phenomenon would be taken care of. Ironically, the material was never used in any space program. In the 1990s, the product came onto the commercial market in the form of topper pads and then as foam mattresses.

A medical company, Tempur-Pedic, first realized the potential commercial application of the foam. They researched the various versions of the foam and came out with a product that they called "Tempur". This Tempur was durable and had the property of pressure reduction.

When Memory foam first came out in the market, it was known as T-foam. It released chemical gasses making it unhealthy to be used in a closed environment. Over the years, this odor was reduced but could not be gotten rid of. The initial T-foam promised a great product as a bed topper or wheel chair cushion material. But it was noticed that it had issues with wear over a relatively short time. This early version of the foam was not found to be durable and would often crack and remain compressed after a while.

Memory Foam has shown excellent characteristics in responding to changes in temperature and its ability to reduce pressure by spreading the weight evenly over a larger surface area. Consequently, the foam also found an application in medical treatments of patients by preventing so called "bed sores" that a patient can develop when bed-ridden. In other medical applications, the foam is used in wheelchair seat cushions, pillows or padding for people suffering long- term pain from postural problems. For the heat retaining properties of the foam, it makes pain more bearable for a patient suffering from back injuries.

Memory foam is generally denser, making it heavier than other foams. Because it is heavier, the foam remains more supportive and comfortable. A new Memory Foam mattress has a chemical odor that is unpleasant to some people. Although airing does take most of this odor away, certain people remain sensitive to the smell.

Presently Memory Foam is used in many commercial products such as mattress toppers, mattresses and pillows, positional sleep aids, office furniture, automobile seat padding, footwear, infant cribs, car seats, wheel chair cushions, computer carrying cases, tennis racquet handles and more.


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