Maybe you don't need a new mattress

Memory Foam Mattress Toppers

by Chris Stevenson

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How To: Mattress Buying

Choosing a Bed That's Right for You

Improve Your Sleep for Less

Americans dispose of over 4.5 million box springs and 4.5 million mattresses each year. They spend about 8 billion dollars on bedding per year. The low-end cost of an average box spring and mattress set is around $500. The most popular brand names go up from there. A typical bed will begin to lose its material integrity in five years, with most warranties lasting for 10 years.

Buying a new bed is a major purchase since we spend roughly a third of our lives sleeping or resting. But fitting a new bed into your budget could be a problem. A less expensive memory foam topper just might fit your budget better and give you a more comfortable night's sleep.

What is Memory Foam?

Memory foam is an elastic or "visco" foam, originally designed in a NASA space program project. It is able to conform or mold to any type of object placed on top of it, regardless of weight or length. It takes on the exact imprint of the body, encapsulating it like a bladder. After the body weight has been removed, the foam rebounds slowly to its original flat profile.

Topper Sizes and Styles

Memory foam mattress toppers come in a variety of thickness. Two-, three- and four-inch sizes are most common. The two-inch thick topper is a preferred choice for low to medium pressure relief and is best suited for lighter-weight occupants. The three-inch version is the most popular thickness since it appeals to most people of average build and comfort requirements. The three-inch thickness does well to support single or double bed occupants and provides a noticeable relief of the back, hip and joint areas. The four-inch thick topper provides extra support and depth for persons who are of heavier builds, ranging from 250 pounds and up. The four-inch thick memory foam topper also works well as a standalone bed pad for camping and other outdoor uses.

Foam blocks match the size of the bed. There are single, double, queen, king and other sizes available. All styles fit over the existing mattress. Four-pound foam is a common and standard density rating which allows just the right pressure.

Memory Foam Mattress Pros

Unlike conventional mattresses that may wear with age, lean or sag in certain areas, a memory foam topper will adjust for any sleep angle or position and provide support without any instability. The topper adjusts to each person without transmitting bouncing or waves when one person moves.

The savings compared to a new mattress can be substantial. An entry level, quality memory foam mattress topper can be had for as little as $75 to $150. Some premium brands cost a bit more. You should be able to get the best quality for no more than $300.

Memory Foam Mattress Cons

A memory foam mattress has a tendency to retain body heat. Since it conforms to the body, this can make it uncomfortable in warm weather.

When new, memory foam may give off a chemical smell, which is known as off-gassing. The odor itself is not harmful but may be unpleasant. The Sleep Products Safety Council recommends airing out the foam mattress for 24 hours or longer before use.

It also may be inappropriate for small children. Kathy Gomer, MD, suggests that the encapsulating effect can trap carbon dioxide, which could lead to respiratory distress in toddlers or infants.

The best way to decide if a memory foam mattress topper is for you is to test one out in a display setting and note how your body reacts to the pressure changes. It's not a miracle cure, but can be an affordable alternative to replacing the entire bed system that might have broken springs, sags, or lumps.

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