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Could a memory foam mattress help you get a better night’s sleep? Could it help relieve your aching back? If you’re not getting enough sleep every night or you’re waking up every morning with a backache, you might be willing to pay almost anything to stop the suffering. But should you?

It’s important to start with one important idea: Everyone’s body is different. Some people swear by memory foam mattresses, and some people hate them. But first, let’s examine what a memory foam mattress actually is.

As the name suggests, these mattresses are made of a foam-like material that cushions the body. Designed for NASA in the mid-1960s, this material was perfect for cushioning astronauts from the heavy forces of acceleration during liftoff. The qualities of the memory foam mattress allow it to custom fit any person. The specially-made foam molds around the body, giving way to pressure and temperature to mold to each person’s unique shape. The foam is designed to spring back to its original shape once the person gets up.

There have not been many sleep studies on the various kinds of mattresses. During one such study, many of the subjects actually stopped participating early because the lack of sleep became unbearable for them. And even once the study was completed, it was impossible for researchers to clearly identify any “best mattress” based on the experiences of those subjects who remained. This sort of thing means that any specific mattress recommendations need to be regarded with caution. According to the National Sleep Foundation, however, memory foam mattresses may provide the right amount of “give” to promote better sleep in those with back pain. But before you spend a small fortune on a memory foam mattress, consider the following pros and cons.


  • The foam molds to your individual body, reducing pressure points and pain.
  • The mattress bounces back to its original shape, so it is never lumpy.
  • The material is durable and long-lasting.
  • This kind of foam absorbs movement, so you will be less likely to feel it when your partner moves or “tosses and turns”.


  • The foam tends to smell when new, giving off a distinct chemical odor. This can be reduced by airing out the mattress for a day or so before putting it to use.
  • The foam material is dense, making the mattress heavy and hard to turn over or reposition.
  • Heat can build up, making the mattress uncomfortable for some who are heat sensitive. This effect can be particularly pronounced on a hot night or if the air-conditioning fails.

Alternatives to memory foam mattresses

  • Box spring mattresses, especially the kind with individually wrapped springs, which most reputable brands carry.
  • Air mattresses. Here, we’re not talking about the simple, blow-up air pad for overnight guests. These more sophisticated models have multiple chambers for separate levels of comfort for each sleeping partner.
  • Waterbeds. There are many different kinds. Some will slosh a lot, some a little and some not at all. Some water beds allow you to have separate mattresses for each partner allowing less disturbance during the night when the other partner moves or gets up.

One of the most effective ways to deal with back pain or difficulty sleeping is to see a chiropractor. Your spinal health has a major impact on your overall wellness, and a visit to your chiropractor may help you sleep better with less back pain.

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