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Memory foam saved my sleep

Considering the amount of time we spend in bed, it’s so important to find the most comfortable mattress you can. Personally, I’d always been wary of memory foam mattresses, until the day that I actually tried one…

When I organised the first Which? test of memory foam mattresses back in 2006, I spent a long time talking to our highly experienced lab experts about the advantages and disadvantages of memory foam.

Their big concern was a suspicion that sleeping on memory foam significantly cuts down on the amount of rolling around people do at night. This could, they believed, have an impact on the nightly process of plumping up the discs between the vertebrae in our spine, a natural part of a good night’s sleep.

I wanted firm, not foam

I couldn’t find much medical evidence to support or disprove this view, but as part of my research I also learned that memory foam is hard and cold when you first get into bed. But once it softens you sink into it much more than a sprung mattress, reducing airflow around your body, which can make you feel much hotter.

Being a perpetually over-hot individual who already woke myself up several times a night turning over in bed, I also didn’t like the idea that it’s even harder to turn over in a memory-foam bed – the foam surrounding you is harder than the foam you’re sleeping on, so it creates some resistance to moving out of the ‘me-shaped’ mould your body heat creates.

So when I chose a mattress for my own bed I went for a good-quality, firm, sprung mattress with a high number of springs that offered good support. It started off OK, but I’ve always suffered from back and neck pain and over time I found it becoming more noticeable every day.

Back pain is just a memory

This all changed when I moved into a rented apartment in Shanghai where memory foam mattresses were all that were provided. The first time I sat on the bed my husband said ‘I know, I know, we can change apartments, but I have to tell you, I think this is the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in’.

And so it was; night after night of undisturbed sleep followed, with day after day of waking up refreshed instead of sore and sleepy. I did find it harder to turn over, but soon got used to it, so the only major problem was getting into bed in the freezing cold nights – when it did feel more like a marble slab for the first 10 minutes. Snuggling up close soon solved that though!

When we returned to the UK, a memory foam mattress was top of our list of things to buy. Choosing a new one was not easy; they all seemed to be considerably softer than the one we were used to in Shanghai. But in the end we found one that we like – it’s firm, has a padded cover so you don’t feel the initial cold, and I’ve never noticed feeling too hot on memory foam.

We both think that our bed is fantastically comfortable, and ‘Aaaah, I love my bed’ is as much a part of our bedtime ritual as ‘I love you’. It cost a lot of money but, as soon as I spend a few days away from home and my old backache returns, I know it was some of the best money we’ve ever spent.

So what do you think about sleeping on memory foam mattresses? Too hot, too cold or just right? Has it transformed your sleep or proved an expensive mistake?


Though I prefer to sleep on one side, I do turn periodically. I also move about the bed. I rarely have problems sleeping and I don’t have back problems. I do have a decent quality firm mattress.

The idea of being constrained by a memory foam mattress that adapts to my shape appals me.

Richard says:
29 September 2012

I was converted to memory foam about ten years ago and have not looked back since.

The real problem I had was with the heat. I am a very hot person (body and looks LOL) and when it cam round to summer temperatures I didn’t have a great time on a pure foam memory foam.

A few years ago I was turned on to sprung memory foam mattresses. Basically a sprung mattress with a memory foam layer instead of the usual padding. This has turned out great, as I am getting my good nights sleep without so much heat.

A word of warning, the sprung memory foam mattress isn’t a very good option for people over about 16 stone. I was 18 stone when I got my first one and I buggered the springs in less than a year. With this one I got six months ago it has seen me go down in weight to just under 16 stone and the difference it very noticeable.

Memory foam is definitely much better than a mattress, and once you have had one for a month try sleeping on a normal mattress and you will soon feel the difference.


I would advise people to think twice before buying a memory foam mattress or topper.

On buying a memory foam topper, initially my girlfriend and I thought it was great – very comfortable. However my girlfriend had a pretty bad allergic reaction that we eventually traced back to a new memory foam topper. We got rid of it and we’ve not looked back since.

A bit of internet research shows that this is not an isolated case. The things are covered in fire retardant (read carcinogenic chemicals) which means they continue to smell long after being aired for the requisite time period and which is far more likely to be detrimental to your health than the reduced risk of fire!

Don’t take the risk, spend a little bit more on an equally comfortable natural alternative such as Ikea’s SULTAN TORÖD Mattress topper.


Does all memory foam include carcinogenic chemicals as fire retardants? You have made a generalisation that could worry people unnecessarily.

What are the carcinogenic chemicals you are referring to?


Essentially yes they all contain it. Most people are oblivious to this potential risk factor.
Not aiming to advertise this company’s products, but their site has some good information on it including a list of many of the sort of chemicals found in these products:
I would welcome a which? investigation into this issue.


Thanks, Jon. I agree that some independent investigation would be useful because information provided by a company selling competing products might not be very balanced.

If the alternative is natural or synthetic latex we should remember that latex is a potent allergen for some people. I appreciate that they are unlikely to be in direct contact with the latex, but I would be more than a little worried if I was affected.

I’ll definitely stick with my mattress and hope that no-one reports any problems with that. 🙂



I have had a look at the list of chemicals on the website you mention and see that some of them are highly volatile and would quickly disappear after manufacture.

I suspect that the company is trying to sell its own products by criticising other products on the market. Proper independent analysis is needed to find the truth.

Godtfred Böen says:
15 August 2016

Ikea has changed their range of mattresses in 2016. I have an Ikea Sultan Tafjord which is made of viscoelastic polyeter. This is not being sold by Ikea anymore. The other mattresses they sold before 2016 were made of synthetic latex (not viscoelastic polyeter) . Only one of the mattresses in the former range was made of natural latex: the Sultan Toröd. That’s the one you recommended.
Can you confirm that both the mattresses made by synthetic latex and viscoelastic polyeter could imply health hazards?


“When I organised the first Which? test of memory foam mattresses back in 2006, I spent a long time talking to our highly experienced lab experts…”

Which? didn’t have a lab in 2006 so how did you do that?