In the 1970’s NASA developed memory foam to help astronauts combat the pressure of G-force when leaving the earth’s atmosphere. NASA never did use their own invention, but turned the technology over to hospitals.
Hospitals used the foam to help alleviate the pain of bed-ridden patients. The foam-topped mattresses helped to reduce pressure points that are associated with bony regions of the body as well as increasing blood flow. This helped reduce bedsores, and even gangrene in some patients, as well as improving their comfort and sleep, thus, quickening their healing process.
Many patients would discuss how well they slept on memory foam. They would wake up with less pain and feel much more refreshed and alert. During this time period of the 1980’s, memory foam was too expensive to produce for purchase by the mass public. After hearing so many stories of happy and cured patients, companies found ways to manufacture the memory foam products, and they became available to consumers.
When memory foam was first developed its durability was questioned. It had the reputation of falling apart rather easily. In fact, this is the main reason why NASA decided not to use it for their space shuttles. Since memory foam became mainstream, its formula has greatly improved. The new formulas have created foam with excellent durability. Most memory foam mattress toppers can last over 4 years without losing their density or their “memory”.
Memory foam works by deforming when weight is applied. Small holes in the cells of the foam allow air to pass through. This also passes the weight load to other cells, and then to surrounding cells, thus spreading weight evenly and reducing pressure points. This is what makes the foam easily shape to your body, which is unique to memory foam. It is also temperature sensitive. At lower temps, the foam is more viscous or firm. At higher temps the foam is more elastic or soft. That is why memory foam is sometimes referred to as Visco-elastic foam and why you get a “sinking” or “floating” feeling when you lay on memory foam. It really does surround your entire body by using your weight and natural body temperature.
Most of the time a mattress topper is enough to give your bed the added comfort it needs. If you lay in your mattress now, and it “hammocks”, meaning the center sinks down quite considerably, it may be time for a new mattress. A topper may help, but it might not satisfy the problem.
If your mattress is in relatively good shape, a topper may be the answer. They are soft to the touch but give firm support. A typical mattress topper should be 2 inches in thickness, which should provide plenty of comfort and support. It will reduce pressure points, which in turn can alleviate back pain and improve circulation and can help increase air circulation, which will help sleep apnea and snoring.