Memory foam was developed by NASA in 1966 to improve the overall quality of aircraft seat cushions. This viscoelastic material was quickly adopted by manufacturers and mass-produced for consumer purchase. Known for their comfort and ability to relieve joint pressure and back pain, memory foam mattresses quickly grew in popularity. But sleepers soon learned that the chemical properties that trigger the foam to counter and cradle their body came with a pitfall – these mattresses sleep hot. The question of how to keep cool on a memory foam mattress quickly became a problem manufacturer needed to solve in order to continue to sell these mattresses on the market.
NASA engineers invented a petroleum-based material that gives memory foam mattresses their pliability. Over time, the chemicals used in the production of these mattresses have evolved, but all memory foam mattresses contain some type of petroleum base and other synthetic materials. It is these materials, starting with the petroleum base that is a staple in all memory foam mattresses, are what gives these mattresses their ability to conform to an individual sleeper’s body – the chemicals react to the body heat of the sleeper, and the foam molds to that specific person’s share and size. Because this chemical reaction is triggered by a person’s body heat, these mattresses sleep hot because heat traps in the top layer of the mattress, right under where the sleeper lays. This issue is further compounded by the denseness of memory foam. Memory foam mattresses are filled with air bubbles, which, when compressed, are displaced, and airflow is further limited, thus trapping the heat within its fibers. This is one of the biggest complaints memory foam mattress users share when reviewing these types of mattresses – they can be uncomfortable to sleep on because they retain so much heat, causing night sweats for many of their users. Because body temperature is regulated by body-to-air contact, sleeping on top of a mattress that retains so much heat and has limited airflow within its contents prevents natural cooling for sleepers.
Luckily, technology has evolved since the early days of NASA’s memory foam invention, and the methods used in the production of memory foam mattresses have updated with the times. There are ways for memory foam mattress users to keep themselves cool while also enjoying the benefits of these comfortable, durable beds. Changes in the foundation of the mattress itself are one way that manufacturers have responded to consumer complaints regarding heat retention in memory foam mattresses. Additionally, the use of new mattress toppers, natural fabric bedding and blankets, and updates to climate control settings are all ways that sleepers can keep themselves cool while sleeping on their memory foam mattress.
One thing to consider as a memory foam mattress owner is the actual foundation of your bed. What type of frame does your memory foam mattress sit on? Any solid frame – such as a platform or the floor itself – will restrict airflow coming off of the mattress, further trapping heat within the bed. In addition to preventing air circulation for cooling and comfort, trapping moisture within the bed frame and mattress can lead to mold growth, which makes the overall bedroom environment unhealthy and unsafe for memory foam mattress owners.
One of the most effective ways to cool down the top of your memory foam mattress is by using a mattress pad or a cooling mattress topper. Toppers made of wool and cotton naturally regulate body temperature and wick away moisture, which results in a more comfortable sleeping environment for users. Adding this additional layer between the mattress and the person sleeping on top of it also improves air circulation and flow since sleepers will no longer be sleeping directly in contact with the layer of the mattress that retains their body heat.
Another consideration for those who find themselves too warm when they sleep is the choice of bedding. Are you using polyester or synthetic material for your pillowcases and bedsheets?
As comfortable as a down comforter can be to snuggle under in the dead of winter, you might be further trapping in heat year-round by using a heavy comforter, especially since comforters cover the entirety of the bed. Using a down comforter can insulate your mattress, which means the heat is trapped and airflow into and out of the comforter is blocked. This prevents your body from being able to cool itself by coming in contact with the natural air in the space above your mattress, creating a heat bubble essentially. Using natural sheets and blankets can cool your sleep experience by improving this airflow and wicking away moisture. Breathability and sweat reduction are benefits of using sheets with higher thread counts, such as Egyptian cotton. Linen sheets also provide consumers with a cool and airy bedding option.
Additionally, consideration should be given to your pillows. Depending on the materials in your pillow and pillowcase, you could be unwittingly causing the temperature in your head to increase, which in turn would impact your overall body temperature. Switch out your heat-retaining pillow with any of the following cooling-material options: bamboo, buckwheat, feather, or cotton.
If you’ve addressed all of the potential heat-retention causes listed above and are still experiencing night sweats, consider taking a look at the overall climate of your bedroom. What is the temperature set to when you sleep? Setting the temperature to 68 degrees Fahrenheit while you sleep can help decrease your body’s temperature, which will help you sleep more deeply and comfortably. When the air in your sleeping environment is too warm, your sleep cycle is disrupted, causing you to wake up more frequently during the night.
Consider, too, using a floor or ceiling fan to help circulate the air in your bedroom. Again, your body temperature will naturally cool itself when it comes in contact with cooler air, so do whatever you can to provide yourself with that opportunity to increase your comfort level while sleeping on your memory foam mattress.
One final consideration, if you have tried everything else and are still finding yourself too warm while you sleep, is to look at purchasing a new mattress. Perhaps your memory foam mattress is outdated, as technology has continued to evolve since these first became available on the market in the late ‘60s. Latex mattresses are a relatively new addition to the mattress market and provide an alternative to those frustrated with the heat-retaining properties of the latter. Latex mattresses provide sleepers with a cooler surface, as they have a natural ability to wick away moisture. They are similarly contouring to users’ bodies and have a soft, bouncy surface.
There are several options when it comes to how to keep cool on a memory foam mattress. Because memory foam is a great option for those with chronic back pain and anyone in need of pressure relief, investing in any of these tips and tricks to improve your overall experience using these mattresses is worthwhile.