Definition of Memory Foam

Meaning of the Term as it Pertains to Mattresses

What is Memory Foam?

Memory foam is a polyurethane-based material that reacts to pressure and heat. Scientifically known as visco-elastic polyurethane, memory foam slowly compresses when force is applied and forms a custom cradle that grips a subject to keep it in place. When force is removed, the elastic foam expands back into its original shape, which gives it the title "memory foam."

Because of its cushioning and custom-gripping qualities, memory foam is frequently used in mattresses for body support. The body-contouring material offers healthy rest by holding the spine in its proper alignment during sleep. It also redistributes weight and relieves discomforting pressure, which often occurs in the back and joints. Foam firmness is adjustable, and mattresses can include dense foam cores for deep, stable support and soft cushioning foam layers for comfort. Mattresses can be made entirely of memory foam, or the material can be used as comfort layers on top of spring systems.

Memory foam was originally created by NASA in the 1960s as seat cushioning that could relieve the pressures of g-forces. By the 1980s, NASA released visco-elastic foam into the public domain, and mattress manufactures quickly incorporated the material into sleep systems. Today, memory foam is a household name, and memory foam mattresses make up a sizable segment in the mattress industry.