Memory foam mattress pads can be used to make your traditional inner spring mattress more comfortable without the hassle of replacing the mattress. You won’t get satisfaction from using the mattress pad to fill in “holes” formed in your mattress. But you will be content with the cushioning it gives your mattress, if you like the feel of viscoelastic foam.
Viscoelastic foam mattress pads are made of polyurethane foam that has been treated with special chemicals to make it denser, or more viscous, than normal. This viscosity causes the viscoelastic mattress pads to take a bit longer than usual to conform themselves to the shape of a body.
Conversely, it takes longer for impressions left in viscoelastic mattress pads to rebound. It is this property of delayed reaction to pressure that is called viscoelasticity.
Viscoelastic foam is also called memory foam because it “remembers” the shape of the body that pressed into it for considerably longer than other types of foam. Indeed, “memory foam” is a much more common name for viscoelastic foam.
Viscoelastic mattress pads help to relieve pressure points on the body caused by uneven penetration of some body parts into the mattress. Shoulders, hips, and heels sink especially deep into mattresses, which push back with greater force on these parts than they do on other body parts. The heavier pressure on some points can lead to poor blood circulation.
Viscoelastic foam was developed by NASA to relieve the tremendous pressures of g-force that astronauts endure during lift-off and re-entry. Eventually, viscoelastic foam found its way into medical settings, and now into the high-end consumer bedding market, including bed pads.
When people toss and turn in their sleep, it is for the purpose of relieving pressure on these body parts. Tossing and turning interrupts sleep. Viscoelastic mattress pads reduce tossing and turning, allowing one to get a better night’s sleep.
Hospitals and nursing homes also use viscoelastic mattress pads to relieve pressure on wounds or burns, and to prevent the formation of bedsores. Viscoelastic mattress pads are made in the narrow 35 inch width of hospital and home-care beds.
Viscoelastic foam mattress pads come in normal bed mattress sizes and range from one to four inches in thickness. Most people find the one-inch thickness inadequate; they tend to “bottom out” against the underlying mattress. Three inches is a popular thickness, while four inches are for the very heavyset or those who demand the ultimate in restful luxury.
Tempur-Pedic International, Inc., of Lexington, Kentucky, was the first company to popularize viscoelastic mattress pads and mattresses for consumers. Through television infomercials, Tempur-Pedic singlehandedly raised consumer awareness of viscoelastic foam and its pressure-relieving and sleep-enhancing properties. Many consumers still consider Tempur-Pedic to be the gold standard of viscoelastic mattress pads and mattresses.
A great deal of competition has grown up in the viscoelastic foam mattress pads market. Many firms have their own formulations of viscoelastic foam, leading to a wide variety of choices for consumers to make.
Generally speaking, firmer viscoelastic mattress pads will provide more support for people suffering lower back pain. Those who simply want to toss and turn less will find softer viscoelastic mattress pads more to their liking. A very firm viscoelastic mattress pad, like the Tempur-Pedic, has been likened to “sinking into quicksand” because it takes so long to conform to the shape of one’s body.
Memory foam mattress pads range in price from $70 to nearly a thousand dollars. It takes a good bit of shopping to find one that’s right for you.