Memory foam’s most unique characteristic is its temperature-sensitivity, which is what allows it to offer the custom-contouring the material is so famous for. Engineered with visco-elastic polymers that react to body heat by yielding and softening, memory foam is able to create a surface unique to the user every time they use it, no matter what position. This is true of memory foam mattresses, memory foam toppers, pillows, bolsters, or any other product.
While the material’s temperature sensitivity certainly creates a valuable, one-of-a-kind product, that unique performance characteristic also means people may not be used to how it will behave compared to more traditional materials. It is often inaccurately confused with latex foam as well. While it looks like regular foam, and texture-wise, it feels like any other foam, visco-elastic memory products do not behave in the way you can expect from traditional couch cushions or seat padding. And with its temperature-sensitivity being such a differentiating trait, it only makes sense that knowing how it can affect performance will give you a better understanding of the material. Here are a couple things you can expect out of your memory foam product’s performance in relation to temperature.
Firstly, ambient room temperature does have an impact on memory foam products. A product that will perform differently when subjected to body heat will also be affected by the temperature of the room where it is used. When memory foam beds or pillows are kept in a room with higher temperatures, the material’s physical structure will exhibit reduced viscosity. Viscosity refers to the degree of fluidity in a material; for example, water has lower viscosity than honey. Lower viscosity materials behave more fluidly. Certainly, memory foam will remain a solid regardless of the temperature, but its flexibility is increased with temperature.
Conversely, at cooler temperatures, memory foam exhibits more rigidity and inflexibility. At very cool temperatures, memory foam can actually feel hard initially, until the material is able to warm. The reason this is important to understand is that as seasons or environments change, the performance of the material may as well. As such, understanding that the material is performing in a way that is consistent with its environment, rather than exhibiting signs of failure or manufacturing flaws, is vital to enjoying a memory foam product – especially for first-time users of this material.
In some areas, where the changing of the seasons is barely noticeable, changes in performance will also be miniscule. But in climates where seasons are pronounced – such as Foam Factory’s home state of Michigan – performance and feel in February can certainly be different than during the dog days of summer. Much of this is impacted by the temperature a home is kept at, but generally speaking, homes tend to be warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. It should be expected that upon getting into a memory foam bed in the winter, it will initially feel firmer, and take longer for contours to form, as the material warms up. Reciprocally, a memory foam topper or mattress in the summer will soften more quickly, and take less time to form to your body. Either way, you will have a pressure-free, cloud-like surface that will help you get fantastic sleep!
There is another temperature factor to consider when dealing with memory foam as well. As the material softens with your body heat, it only makes sense that it would retain some of this warmth, and insulate as well. Due to this, memory foam does tend to sleep more warmly than other materials.
This is something that comes down to personal preference and sensitivity more than anything, and covering fabrics will also have an impact on how much warmth is conducted back to the sleeper. And though it’s not going to be like sleeping on a heating pad, memory foam will also be objectively warmer than something like an air mattress too.
There is a benefit to this, however, particularly in cooler months. As previously mentioned, it may take longer for the material to initially soften in cooler spaces, but when it does, few bedding materials can create a cozier space. As you sink into the softness of memory foam bedding, more of your body is in contact with the material as well, increasing the warmth it will help retain on the coldest nights.
Obviously, memory foam isn’t the right material for everyone. But for the millions of people who have found better sleep and comfort though this material, as well as the millions more considering it as a solution to their problems, having a clear basis for performance expectations is the best way to ensure you get the most from your purchase!