Reacting to your body temperature, memory foam changes its shape to provide greater support and more comfort than any other mattress. It's man-made and is technically described as (are you ready for this?!) visco-elastic, temperature sensitive, slow recovery urethane foam. You'll understand why we prefer to call it memory foam!
Just calling memory foam 'a visco-elastic foam' might not leave you any the wiser, so think of memory foam like this: memory foam is both viscous AND elastic, it has both properties. You are probably familiar with the quality of elastic, you’ll know viscous too. Honey, for instance, is a viscous material. It’s the viscous property of memory foam, that honey-like property that resists your weight and it’s the elastic property that sees to it that your Dormeo Memory Foam Mattress returns to its original shape.
The visco-elastic (or it can be all one word: viscoelastic) quality is temperature sensitive, which helps the mattress material respond to your body. This is one of the reasons an early adopter of memory foam mattresses was the medical profession, with memory foam being a particularly common choice in European hospitals.
Memory foam is a well-recognised mattress material now, but it hasn't always been the case. The material originated back in 1966 as a development by NASA. Not necessarily part of the Space Program it was developed to help improve the safety of cushions on aircraft. The foam, which was temperature sensitive, was initially referred to as ‘slow spring back foam’ and was created by pumping gas into a polymer matrix. It all sounds tremendously scientific, but essentially means that the pressure in the cells in the foam made it spring slowly back to its original shape!
Like many NASA developments, the potential for the commercialisation of memory foam wasn’t missed. The material was initially considered far too expensive for general public use and was used in hospitals – for both people and animals! Supporting precious injured race horses was an often unknown early use. NASA launched memory foam to the world in the 1980’s, but there were few companies willing to work with the material initially. Memory foam continued to be used in the medical world, particularly with immobile bed-ridden patients who were at risk of developing pressure sores. Memory foam was extremely effective in preventing this problem.
As the cost of memory foam dropped, its popularity and use increased and it found its way into wheelchair seats, pillows, and mattress toppers, even as a memory foam pillow for people with chronic neck problems. A relatively simple concept, the benefits of memory foam make it one of the most welcome additions to our world, courtesy of the scientific development at NASA.