There are three common complaints leveled against memory foam mattresses:
- They are hot.
- They are expensive.
- They are toxic.
- They make it feel like you’re sinking into the mattress.
Mattresses that are hot or don’t offer enough support (leading to that sinking feeling) can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, to throw off the covers, to toss and turn, to adjust the fan. In short, if your bed is hot or unsupportive, you’re likely not getting a good night’s sleep.
If your bed is toxic, then that means there are health concerns to consider as you’re sleeping directly on your bed anywhere from 6 to 9 hours a night.
And, of course, as much as most of us want a new bed, no one wants to spend more than they have to.
This leads plenty of customers looking up the best memory foam alternatives.
To us, there are three viable alternatives to memory foam mattresses:
- Innerspring or coil mattresses.
- Latex mattresses
- Poly-foam mattresses.
In this post, we’re going to cover each one of these in detail and make some general recommendations.
1. Innerspring / Coil Mattresses
Innerspring mattresses are still the most popular mattresses in America.
This is because they are affordable and bouncy. They feel like a mattress, whereas memory foam mattresses can often feel either like a hard block or a super soft sponge.
Innerspring mattresses have two major components: the support coil system and the top comfort layer.
The support coil system is usually between 5 inches to 8 inches tall. It’s full of individual coils that can be tied together by wire or pocketed. Always look for an innerspring mattress with pocketed coils because pocketed coils makes it easier to share the bed. This way if someone moves throughout the night – to roll over or get out of bed and get a drink of water – you’re less likely to be disturbed.
The more money you spend on an innerspring mattress, the more advanced the coil will likely be. There are steel coils and titanium coils. There are also duet coils or two-in-one coils. This is where you have a smaller coil within a larger coil. The benefit of that is the larger coil is thinner and more bendy while the smaller coil is firmer. This way your body feels the pliable comfort of the larger coil before feeling the firmness of the smaller coil.
The top comfort layer in most innerspring mattresses varies greatly. You can have cotton or polyester filling. You can have cashmere padding or poly-foam. But in a traditional innerspring mattress, you’re mainly paying for the coils and the padding is just a soft layer or two to keep you from feeling like you’re sleeping on, well, coils.
Innerspring vs. Memory Foam
Unlike memory foam mattresses, innerspring beds are naturally very breathable, which means you won’t sleep hot. They are generally much more affordable.
But innerspring mattresses do come with their own concerns. If you’re experiencing pressure in your joints or shoulders, a coil mattress can agitate any problems areas.
2. Latex Mattresses
Latex foam is more durable, slightly firmer (on average), more eco-friendly, and more expensive than memory foam.
There are two ways to make latex mattresses – the Dunlop method and the Talalay method. Both ways require a good amount of investment on the mattress company because latex is time-consuming to make.
Sometimes bed companies will make latex blend mattresses or synthetic latex. These are not true latex mattresses.
When we say true latex mattresses, we mean like Zenhaven or Brooklyn Bedding’s Bloom mattress.
Latex vs Memory Foam
Latex mattresses don’t sleep hot.
Because they are eco-friendly, there are minimal toxicity concerns.
They are (generally) more expensive than memory foam mattresses.
And – if you’re a side sleeper or someone who needs a lot of contouring support – a latex mattress may run too firm for you.
For a complete comparison, check out our post on latex vs memory foam.
3. Poly-Foam Mattresses
All memory foam is poly-foam, but not all poly-foam is memory foam.
Poly-foam is simply polyurethane foam. Almost every major bed in a box mattress brand uses a few layers of poly-foam in their beds.
This because poly-foam is inexpensive and breathable.
However, it’s not usually very comfortable.
But that hasn’t stopped leading mattress brands from experimenting with poly-foam to make a more comfortable, softer version.
The most famous is probably Tuft and Needle. Tuft and Needle doesn’t have a memory foam layer. That is why their beds are so affordable. Instead, Tuft and Needle uses special poly-foam (called Adaptive foam) that they made. It’s their own secret recipe and it’s meant to be comfortable and pressure relieving (like memory foam) without any of the negative side effects associated with memory foam.
Final Thoughts: Is Memory Foam Really that Bad?
Is memory foam really toxic?
When mattress companies make memory foam – full name viscoelastic polyurethane foam – they’re using a petroleum-based product to make their poly-foam contouring, soft, and pliable. But toxciity has more to do with the amount of a toxic element, then the element itself. Third-party certifications exists to monitor the safety of memory foam products, such as Certi-PUR®-US.
Most major mattress companies who make their products in the US are CertiPUR-US certified, meaning they don’t contain more than the allowed amounts of pollutants.
There are very few reports in the United States of a mattress being toxic, but there are concerns with beds made cheaply overseas.
Is memory foam really hot?
Memory foam has the potential to be much more of a heat trap than any other type of mattress.
This is because memory foam is dense. The dense a layer of foam, the harder it is for air to escape. This leads to the mattress turning into a “heat trap.”
However, most complaints of memory foam sleeping hot come from the 80s and 90s. It’s less of an issue now because memory foam mattress companies have figured out how to use features like gel-infused memory foam and PCMs to keep their customers cool.
Is memory foam really expensive?
Relatively speaking, memory foam mattresses are going to cost you more than a coil mattress but less than a latex mattress.
If you’re looking for a memory foam mattress in a queen size or bigger, then you can expect to spend around $1,000 (if you want a firmer bed) or around $1,300 (if you want a softer bed).