This article has been written by the site owner Dan Cartwright – a mattress testing expert who has been testing products and writing online reviews since 2015 to help buyers make the best purchasing decisions for their needs
If you’re looking to buy a memory foam mattress, then you might be wondering what the hidden drawbacks to this much hyped-up material are.
I’ve personally tested dozens of memory foam mattresses and non-memory foam mattresses over the years, so I’ve got a good idea of what you need to look out for:
The most common problems associated with memory foam mattresses include hidden fiberglass content, back pain, feeling too hot and sweaty, having trouble moving around, sinking in too far, and potentially causing Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) in babies.
However, many of these problems can be solved.
That’s why I’ve put together this article that shows you how to solve the most common memory foam mattress complaints.
Hate memory foam? Click here to see the best non-memory foam mattresses I’ve reviewed.
13 Common Memory Foam Mattress Problems Solved
Below are the solutions to 13 of the most common memory foam mattress complaints:
1: Hidden Fiberglass Content
One of the least known drawbacks to buying a memory foam mattress is that many of them contain fiberglass hidden in the fire barrier.
Granted, this risk can apply to any mattress – but cheap memory foam mattresses tend to be the most common culprits when it comes to fiberglass problems.
Because as I said in the video above, some mattress manufacturers use fiberglass as a cost-effective way to meet flammability standards without using more expensive materials.
Fiberglass can be an issue when included in a mattress because if it’s not woven deeply into the materials and is instead left loose inside the mattress, then these shards can escape if the cover is removed or perforated.
Loose fiberglass shards can cause skin irritation, breathing issues, and can be very difficult to remove from your home – so it’s best avoided.
Solution: Buy a Fiberglass Free Mattress
You can get away with mattresses that contain fiberglass as long as it’s woven deeply into the fire barrier and doesn’t contain fiberglass as loose shards.
I’ve slept on quite a few mattresses like this and I’ve never experienced any allergic reactions, breathing difficulties, or shards escaping – even when I’ve removed the cover.
However, if you don’t want to risk it then you should choose a mattress that doesn’t contain fiberglass.
If you want to stick with memory foam then I recommend the DreamCloud (see my review here).
Alternatively, if you want to avoid memory foam completely, then the Nolah Natural is the best option because the latex foam is non-synthetic and still provides great pressure relief (see my hands-on review here).
2: Back Pain
Back pain is a common complaint when switching to a memory foam mattress – especially if you are used to sleeping on a traditional spring mattress.
This is because memory foam tends to sink in more – even with the firmer options – when compared to the materials used in regular mattresses such as springs, batting, and even polyfoam.
In fact, this is exactly what happened to me the first time I slept on a memory foam mattress – I ended up with lower back pain because I tried to sleep on my front and my hips sank in too far.
Solution #1: Choose the Right Firmness
If you don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions, then you can potentially avoid back pain by choosing a memory foam mattress in the correct firmness.
Choosing the right firmness isn’t an exact science because it depends on your body weight and dominant sleeping position.
But the table below can be used as a guideline:
|Extra-soft||Side sleepers under 130 lbs|
|Soft||Side sleepers + sleepers under 150 lbs|
|Medium||All sleepers 130 – 200 lbs|
|Medium-firm||All sleepers 150 – 230 lbs|
|Firm||Front and back sleepers + sleepers >230 lbs|
|Extra-firm||Front sleepers over 250 lbs|
Solution #2: Allow 30 Nights for the Break-In Period to Pass
It can take up to 30 nights of continuous use before your new memory foam mattress adjusts to your body weight, body shape, and dominant sleeping position.
However, I’ve tested many mattresses, and I’ve personally found that after about a week, that’s pretty much how the mattress will feel unless there’s a defect with the mattress and it starts sagging.
That’s why it’s a good idea to get a mattress with a ‘sleep trial’ with a minimum 30-night term so that you can return it if it’s uncomfortable.
But don’t confuse this with a warranty – a warranty will only protect you from defects and flaws with the product, rather than comfort issues.
However, you should still look for a mattress with a warranty that lasts at least 10 years.
Solution #3: Get a Mattress and Adjustable Bed to Help With Your Back Pain
If you already have back pain, then you should talk to your doctor about the most suitable type of mattress for your condition – they may also recommend an adjustable bed because altering the angle of the bed can help to take the pressure away from your back.
But the adaptive nature of memory foam means that it can also help with back pain too.
More specifically, pressure-aggravated conditions like sciatica and lower back pain can potentially be alleviated by sleeping on memory foam because less pressure is placed on your sciatic nerve.
The trick is to choose the right mattress firmness and design.
3: Sinks in Too Far
If you’ve never slept on a memory foam mattress before then you might be surprised at how far it allows you to sink into the materials.
For many – especially lightweight sleepers under 150 lbs – this can be a good thing because it stops you from feeling like you are sleeping on a surface that’s too hard, whilst simultaneously dissipating pressure away from your joints.
However, if you weigh more than 200 lbs then you might not like this feeling because it can make the mattress harder to move around in and may even put you in bad posture.
Solution: Go For a Hybrid Mattress With a Firmer Feel
If you weigh more than 200 lbs (especially if you sleep on your front) then you should avoid all-foam memory foam mattresses and instead opt for a hybrid memory foam mattress that’s at least medium-firm.
This is because the coil core and firmer surface tension will provide more push-back to guard against excessive material compression.
If you want to stick with memory foam, then I recommend the DreamCloud mattress (as seen in my video review above) because it has excellent central and edge support whilst also retaining the pressure-relieving qualities of the memory foam without sinking in too far.
4: Causes Sweating and Overheating
Memory foam is ‘notorious’ for trapping heat and making you feel warmer when compared to sleeping in a more traditional mattress that doesn’t have thick layers of dense memory foam.
Personally, I’m a very warm sleeper and I can easily tell when a mattress is trapping heat because I’ll feel hot and start sweating.
On the whole, I have noticed that memory foam mattresses do tend to sleep warmer but this isn’t always the case for every single memory foam mattress.
This is because many modern memory foam mattresses come with aerated foams, cooling gel infusions, and tend to be more breathable than the older style memory foam mattresses.
Solution: Choose a Hybrid Memory Foam Mattress
To stop yourself from overheating in your new memory foam mattress, I suggest that you go for a hybrid design with memory foam that has cooling gel or graphite infusions.
This combination means that the mattress will be more breathable when compared to an all-foam mattress, and will also be cool to the touch.
The best mattress that I’ve personally tested that has these qualities is the Nolah Evolution – although technically it does NOT contain memory foam, but instead a cooling blend of polyfoam that still offers excellent pressure relief but without the gloopy feel of memory foam.
It’s also 15″ thick and available in multiple firmness options – making it ideal for all sleeper types; especially sleepers over 230 lbs.
You can find out more about this mattress in my video review above.
5: Harder to Move Around In
Because memory foam mattresses tend to sink in more deeply, this can make it harder to move around in them and switch positions.
This can be problematic if you’re a combination sleeper that shifts between different sleeping positions during the night because you might wake yourself up trying to get comfortable.
I tend to be a bit of a restless sleeper so I like to be able to move around easily.
Solution #1: Opt for a Hybrid Memory Foam Mattress
If you’re a combination sleeper but you still want to benefit from the pressure-relieving qualities of the memory foam to potentially help reduce the friction points that may be contributing to your restlessness, then go for a hybrid design.
This is because the springs will help to give the mattress some pushback – you can also opt for a firmer feel if you are a front or back sleeper to leverage the better surface tension to aid with mobility.
Solution #2: Switch to a Hybrid Latex Foam Mattress
Latex foam is more springy than memory foam but it still has very similar pressure relieving qualities – making it ideal if you’re a restless combination sleeper.
The best latex foam mattress that I’ve tested that has these qualities is the Nolah Natural mattress (although the Nolah Evolution is also a good choice, even though it doesn’t contain latex foam) – you can see me testing it in the video above.
6: Feels Firmer in Cold Temperatures
Memory foam typically feels dense but somewhat pliable at room temperature and then becomes much softer and more adaptive once your body temperature starts to warm the material up.
However, whilst a memory foam mattress won’t typically freeze unless moisture is present in the foam, memory foam can feel harder if the temperature drops to Freezing: 32°F (0°C).
This isn’t typically an issue if you’re using your memory foam mattress in an adequately heated home.
But if you’re planning to use your memory foam mattress or topper in an RV or in a very cold climate, then you may find that the memory foam becomes hard and uncomfortable to sleep on.
Solution: Maintain an Ambient Temperature of at Least 68°F
If the room temperature is kept at a minimum of 68°F, then the memory foam should feel comfortable once your body heat is transferred to the materials.
If you’re sleeping in an RV or the room is very cold, then you can use rolled-up blankets to cover up the discomfort of sleeping on a cold memory foam mattress or topper.
7: Strong Chemical Smell After Unboxing
Many memory foam mattresses that come in a compressed box tend to release a strong chemical smell as soon as you take them out of their packaging and they begin to expand to their full size.
This happens because particles get trapped in the packaging when the mattress is being compressed and sealed in the factory.
Whilst memory foam mattresses tend to smell the worst due to their chemical make-up, other types of bed-in-a-box mattresses that include latex foam, polyfoam, or other materials can also produce this ‘off-gassing’ effect.
Solution: Open the Windows and Wait
Thankfully, this ‘off-gassing’ effect only lasts a few hours and you can get rid of the smell by opening the windows.
I have personally found that after 24-48 hours, the smell goes away nearly entirely for high-quality memory foam mattresses.
The only time there’s been a lingering smell is when I’ve bought a very cheap, low-quality mattress (the worst smelling one actually contained just polyfoam and springs).
8: Allergic Reactions for Sensitive Sleepers
Some low-quality memory foam mattresses may include chemicals that may cause allergic reactions in some sleepers with sensitive skin, breathing problems, or allergies.
I am very sensitive to allergens because I have hay fever and a dust mite allergy.
I’ve also noticed that sleeping on a mattress that’s packed full of nasty chemicals can make me sneeze more.
Solution: Look for Certified Foams
To ensure that you are buying a memory foam mattress that’s not going to harm your health, look for foams that are CertiPUR-US®, OEKO-TEX®, and/or GreenGuard certified.
These certifications ensure that the foams don’t contain any harmful chemicals.
Alternatively, choose a mattress that’s free from memory foam and instead favors natural – or even organic – materials.
9: Mattress Can’t Be Flipped Over
Most memory foam mattresses can’t be flipped over because they have a one-sided design where turning the mattress over would mean sleeping on the harder support core – this would be uncomfortable and the mattress would be damaged.
However, this one-sided design isn’t unique to memory foam mattresses – most mattresses that you can order online that come rolled up in a box are layered in this way.
Solution: Choose a Flippable or Adjustable Firmness Mattress
There are some double-sided mattresses available that allow you to flip the mattress over.
Alternatively, you can try the Mend Adapt mattress that allows you to flip the upper comfort layer over so that you can avail of different firmnesses – I show you how to do this in the video above.
10: Heavy and Difficult to Move
Mattresses that come in a compressed box can be heavy, but their smaller size does make it relatively easier to move the mattress to your sleeping space before unpacking when compared to moving a traditional mattress that arrives in its fully expanded state.
However, from personal experience, I can tell you that once the mattress has expanded, it’s going to be just as difficult to move as any regular mattress.
This may be an issue if you are moving house or have to move your mattress to a guest room.
Solution: Choose a Thinner All-Foam Mattress
If your sleeping style allows for it, going for a thinner memory foam mattress that’s made entirely of foam will be lighter and easier to move when compared to a thicker mattress that has springs in it.
But I must stress that thinner, all-foam mattresses are better suited to lighter and average weighted sleepers – sleepers over 200 lbs may find that such mattresses compress too readily.
The best all-foam memory foam containing mattress that I’ve reviewed is the Puffy Original mattress – you can see it in the video above.
11: Easily Stained
Because memory foam tends to be highly absorbent, it’s quite easy to end up staining the material.
Solution: Use a Mattress Protector
The simple solution is to use a mattress protector to stop anything from soaking through into the material below.
12: Dangerous for Babies
The American Family Physician states that memory foam ‘can increase the risk of rebreathing or suffocation’ – potentially leading to Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) (source).
This is because memory foam contours very closely to anything that’s put on top of it – which can make it difficult for the child to breathe if their face comes into contact with the memory foam.
Solution: Avoid Memory Foam Mattresses for Babies Completely
This is one situation where memory foam should be avoided completely.
Do NOT allow your baby to sleep on a memory foam mattress.
Instead, only allow your infant to sleep on a suitable crib mattress.
13: Prone to Sagging and Indents
Low-quality memory foam mattresses can be prone to sagging and indents because if the foam isn’t of good quality, then it may not return to its original shape.
This can happen to any mattress, but memory foam is particularly susceptible to damage because of its highly adaptive nature.
Solution: Buy a High Quality Hybrid Memory Foam Mattress
The solution is to buy a high-quality memory foam mattress that uses high-density foam and has springs in the base for more support.
The best memory foam mattress that I have tested in this regard is the Puffy Lux Hybrid – I’ve been sleeping on it for nearly a year now and it hasn’t dipped or sagged at all.
Check out the video above to see me testing this mattress.
Conclusion: Memory Foam Problems Can Be Fixed
Whilst memory foam does come with some potential drawbacks, many of them can either be fixed or avoided completely.
For example, buying a fiberglass-free memory foam mattress, choosing the correct firmness, getting a mattress with a minimum 30-night sleep trial, getting a hybrid design, looking for cooling foams, and using a mattress protector can help you avoid many of the common problems.
The only situation where memory foam should be completely avoided is in the case of babies and infants – never let them sleep on a memory foam mattress as this could be fatal.
Another reason where you might want to avoid memory foam in favor of a latex foam mattress is if you are a restless combination sleeper that also sleeps very hot.
Dan is the founder and head content creator at Bedroom Style Reviews.
He has been working as a professional online product reviewer since 2015 and was inspired to start this website when he ended up sleeping on a memory foam mattress that was too soft and gave him backache.
Through in-depth research and analysis, Dan’s goal with this website is to help others avoid such pitfalls by creating the best online resource for helping you find your ideal mattress, bedding, and bedroom furniture.
Dan is a qualified NVQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor with 6 years’ experience helping clients improve their health through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene.
He also holds several college and university-level qualifications in health sciences, psychology, mathematics, art, and digital media creation – which helps him to publish well researched and informative product reviews as well as articles on sleep, health, wellbeing, and home decor.
Dan also has direct personal experience with insomnia, anxiety, misophonia (hypersensitivity to sounds), and pain from both acute and long-standing sporting injuries – he enjoys writing insightful articles around these subjects to help fellow sufferers of such conditions.
Learn more about Dan here.