Memory foam mattresses offer a combination of support and softness that’s meant they’re the choice of large a growing number of Americans.
The best memory foam mattress will contour to your body creating a soft and comfortable surface on which to sleep, and its longevity depends on its ability to keep on doing so, so it won’t surprise you to know that the qualities of the foam in the mattress count, and we’ve got the details you need to understand these qualities.
But if you’re contemplating investing in one of these, you’ll want to know how long a memory foam mattress lasts. A good memory foam mattress will last between six to eight years.
However, there are steps you can take that will prolong the life of a memory foam mattress, so you can get even more bang for your buck.
What is a memory foam mattress?
Memory foam has been around since the 1960s, when it was developed by NASA to make airplane seats safer for test pilots. These its qualities mean that today it is found in a wide range of products, from football helmets to couches and chairs – and in some of the best mattresses as well. But what is a memory foam?
It’s made from polyurethane, a synthetic material that is made denser in the manufacturing process, and its qualities are what makes it an ideal mattress material. Responding to the heat and pressure of the body, the mattress adapts to body shape – hence the ‘memory’ tag as it retains the impression – and thus provides both excellent support as well as comfort. Once it’s no longer under pressure it regains its original shape. Because of this contouring, a memory foam mattress has a surface that you to some extent sleep in rather than just on.
It’s important to note, however, that memory foam isn’t a single material. Memory foam varies by manufacturer, so there are lots of offer versions of different densities and response times (in other words, the speed with which the memory foam returns to its original shape). There are also lots of as different ways of cooling the mattress, with some mattress types opting for airflow and others using materials with cooling properties. As with other types of mattress, you can pick a mattress firmness that suits your preferences and body weight to create the best personal sleep setup.
How long will a memory foam mattress last?
If you choose a memory foam mattress for your bed, what sort of lifespan should you expect? ‘The typical memory foam mattress can last you between six and eight years, though cheaper memory foam beds probably will only get you about six years,’ says Tom Ryan, product expert at the Sleep Foundation. ‘After that, you can likely expect to see sagging, body impressions, or just compromised support.’
‘You may need to replace your mattress sooner if you bought an inexpensive model for just a few hundred dollars,’ Tom explains. ‘These beds are usually made with inexpensive, low density foams, and this results in a mattress that just isn’t very durable. If you invest a little more money in a foam bed that features a higher foam density foam layer, you can likely get a solid six to seven years out of your mattress.’
Density matters because lower density foams degrade more quickly than higher density memory foams. The density is measured in pounds per cubic feet, so what numbers should you look out for? For high density memory foam think 5lb per cubic foot and over, while for low density foams think 3lb per cubic foot and under. Medium density is 3 to 5lb per cubic foot and suits many sleepers well. As you’ve probably guessed, a higher density memory foam mattress comes at a higher price, but the initial investment should see the mattress lasting longer. There’s a benefit additional to making it more durable, too. A higher density foam is also more supportive.
Note that a memory foam mattress has layers with a base layer that provides support and a comfort layer above. There may be a transitional layer in between in some mattress. The base layer counts when it comes to durability and should be made from high density polyurethane foam. Look for a mattress where the base layer is at least half of the total mattress depth.
Bear in mind that the warranty offered with a mattress – with 10 years typical but some brands offering lifetime warranties – is there to protect you in the event the mattress is defective not to cover normal wear and tear. In other words, it’s coverage you’ll want to check out before buying but it’s not about longevity.
Tom Ryan is the Director of Product Testing for The Sleep Foundation. He rigorously researches sleep products, gathering both subjective and objective opinions in order to offer the best advice on mattresses, bedding and more.
How can you make a memory foam mattress last longer?
Caring for a memory foam mattress correctly is important to make it last. These are the guidelines you need to follow to get the maximum years from the mattress.
Combine it with the right bed
Almost every mattress needs a foundation, and that includes memory foam mattresses. The foundation prevents sagging and makes the mattress last. A memory foam mattress is best teamed with a slatted or solid foundation, and it can typically be used with an adjustable bed base also. However, you should always check the memory foam mattress manufacturer’s recommendation since not putting the mattress on the right base can mean sagging as well as voiding the warranty.
Team it with a bed topper
The best mattress topper can extend the life of a mattress as it diminishes wear and tear by providing an extra comfort layer. It can also give an old mattress some extra time when it begins to feel a bit less comfortable after years of use.
Rotate the mattress regularly
Rotating a memory foam mattress evens out wear since some parts of it support heavier parts of the body. Always check what the manufacturer of your particular model recommends but typically you’ll be doing this job once or twice a year.
‘Rotating a memory foam mattress is recommended to enhance its durability and to reduce excessive wear and tear in particular areas,’ advises Dr Matthew Cavanaugh of Cavanaugh Chiropractic. ‘By rotating your mattress regularly, it will prevent sagging and help maintain the proper support your body needs for the life of your mattress.’
Dr Matthew Cavanaugh, DC is the founder of Cavanaugh Chiropractic Clinic and specializes in treating conditions associated with the neuromusculoskeletal system.
Clean the mattress on schedule
Cleaning a memory foam mattress regularly will help it last, and you should always clean straightaway if there are any spills. Knowing how to clean a mattress will rid it of dust and allergens and ensure it smells fresh.
How can you tell it’s time to replace a memory foam mattress?
Look out for the indications that will let you know it’s time to replace a memory foam mattress. ‘There are two main signs, in terms of the level of comfort and support, that start to manifest when you need to replace a memory foam mattress,’ explains Dr Matthew Cavanaugh of Cavanaugh Chiropractic.
‘The first sign is that your mattress may begin to sag or develop indentations that do not bounce back to its normal position. This means that your mattress has lost its proper support. This may be described as an uneven surface or loss of firmness. Mattresses that have lost their proper support may even be described as being softer than when originally purchased. This will lead to the second sign, which is an increase in pain and stiffness first thing in the morning. This happens because your mattress cannot properly support your spine in a neutral position.’
Best memory foam mattress
Best memory foam mattress
If you are after a memory foam mattress that's affordable ªand always on sale) and is handily delivered in a box, the Emma mattress is a top option. It impressed our tester Chiana Dickson, who found that even just sitting on this memory foam mattress was comfortable. It's a medium-firm bed and gently cushions you without the sinking feeling of some memory foam mattresses, so ideal if you sleep hot or like a firmer sleeping surface.
We have a full Emma Original Mattress review for more details.
Best cool memory foam mattress
A downside of memory foam mattresses can be that the body-hugging feeling can make them a warm sleep, however as the name suggests the Zinus Cooling Gel Mattress does quite the opposite. Featuring a temperature-regulating gel inside plush memory foam, and a cool-to-the-touch cover, this mattress with soothe your body for a sweat-free sleep.
There's more detail in our Zinus Cooling Gel mattress review.
Best memory foam mattress for side sleepers
If you love the sink-in feeling in a mattress, this one is for you. It's super cushions and contours to your body instantly. However, that's not to say it's not supportive – our reviewer, a side sleeper, felt her ankles, knees, and hips stay aligned in the ultimate sleep position all night long. It also has a layer of breathable comfort foam too that provides extra airflow so is cooler than some memory foam mattresses.
Get the full lowdown in our Lessa Original Memory Foam Mattress review.
Memory foam mattress FAQs
How much does a memory foam mattress cost?
The cost of a memory foam mattress, like any mattress type, varies greatly depending on the quality. You can pick up a cheap memory foam mattress for under $2000 and can go over $1000.
Who would a memory foam mattress suit?
A memory foam mattress is a pretty versatile mattress type and you can find firmness levels to suit most sleeping positions. They can be good for those who suffer with back pain as they support the spine and relieve pressure. They can sleep hot, so if you struggle to stay cool at night be sure to look for an option that has a cooling layer.
So a memory foam mattress should last you around six to eight years depending on the quality. The key to expanding their lifespan is care – use a mattress protector from day one, flip your mattress regularly if it's recommended by the manufacturer to do so and be sure to use the right frame.
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Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.
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