Orthopaedic mattress vs Memory Foam Mattress: The buying guide

Orthopaedic mattress vs Memory Foam Mattress: The buying guide


About 1/3rd of our lives is spent sleeping. That's approximately 229,961 hours! Damn! 

And this shows how much of an important role a bed and a mattress plays in any person’s life.

But, hunting for the best mattress that checks all the boxes for a health-conscious person is often a tedious and mundane task.

With numerous guides out there trying to grab your attention, influence your buying decision, and asking you to choose one mattress over the other, it is natural to get confused, feel overwhelmed, and stuck.

If you are in a similar situation, we understand!

And hence we have curated this article with utmost care to provide you with all the required information regarding memory foam mattresses and orthopaedic mattresses. 

This guide is packed with all the essential knowledge, so make sure to not miss any part because every single piece of information will influence your buying decision.

Now, without further ado, let’s tickle our brain with some new details.

What is a memory foam mattress?


Created by NASA in the 1960s, memory foam was made to provide cushioning and a safe atmosphere for pilots against air accidents.

Yes, memory foam had a very different purpose for its origin!

But later mattress companies saw the benefits of memory foam, technically known as visco-elastic foam, and adopted it as one of the principal materials inside mattresses.

The memory foam mattress is manufactured using visco-elastic materials. And the main material used is polyurethane which is a low resistance polymer found in liquid paint and elastic fibres. 

Polyurethane is a synthetic product, and hence each memory foam manufacturing company has its memory foam formula. Polyurethane is mixed with various other chemicals to give the memory foam its low-resilience character.

Here 'visco' means the material’s ability to shapeshift when the pressure is applied, and elastic refers to the material’s ability to return to its original shape once the pressure is lifted. 

The nature of the memory foam mattress makes it comfortable for the sleeper, as it contours to the sleeping body. 

Qualities of a memory foam mattress

    • Easily adjustable: Because of the visco-elastic property of the memory foam mattress, it adjusts to the shape of the sleeper and provides extensive support to the spine. It also aids in relieving the pressure points. 
    • Density and comfortability: Several film cells are used in the best quality mattress and hence promotes density and comfortability. Therefore, when buying a memory foam mattress, one needs to consider investing in a good company.
    • Stress and pain relief: Once again, the contouring ability of the memory foam mattress makes it the best mattress for people with back pains.
    • Motion transfer: If you are a couple disturbed by the other person's movement (tossing and turning) in sleep, a memory foam mattress can give you a better night sleep with its motion isolation ability.
    • Longevity: The denser the mattress, the more lifespan it has. But to gauge the average lifespan of a memory foam mattress, experts say that an average memory foam mattress can live up to 7 years.

Types of memory foam mattresses


Traditional memory foam

As the name says it all, traditional memory foam is the most basic type of memory foam which provides classic performance. It has not changed much since its origin and is manufactured from petroleum-based products which environmentalists have complaints about.

The characteristics of a traditional memory foam mattress are its ability to contour the body deeply and provide a 'warm hug' feeling to the sleeper. It also comes with the property of motion isolation which benefits couples and people who share their beds with people who make movements all through the night.

The disadvantage of traditional memory foam mattress is that it retains body heat and causes a 'sleep hot' scenario which many people have their distaste about. In addition, these types of mattresses are firm and have minimal bounce features which can be a major turn off for many memory foam mattress lovers.

Plant-based memory foam

Plant-based memory foams are manufactured from a handful of chemicals which include petroleum-derived chemicals.

Plant-based memory foam also known as 'bio' foam also involves products derived from plant matter such as soybean oils which replace some but not all of the petrochemicals in the mattress.

The performance of the plant-based memory foam mattress is considered similar to other memory foam mattresses since its manufacturing process doesn't differ much. 

But still, these mattresses fall under the 'slightly high-priced' tags.

Gel-infused memory foam

Gel-infused memory foam mattresses are infused with the gel within the foam of the mattress. The gel is added in a swirl pattern or enclosed in small beads distributed throughout the foam.

What is the goal of the gel-infused mattress?

Gel-infused mattresses came into existence with the sole purpose of reducing the best retention property of the memory foam. The gels have the property that they are mainly designed to absorb the heat from the foam providing a cooling effect to the sleeper.

There are a variety of gels and depending on the type of gel used, there will be a modest decrease in heat retention. But still, we can contemplate and conclude that the issue might not be solved completely.

What is an orthopaedic mattress?


It is said by many people that the inspiration to manufacture an orthopaedic mattress originated from the belief that sleeping on 'warm wood floors' helped treat back pain. So, whenever people faced a similar situation, the remedy was to sleep on warm wood floors.

Viewing from this perspective, orthopaedic mattresses are made to mimic the role of the warm wood floors by exuberating the same firmness. But, the mattress doesn't come with the same level of toughness that the warm woods produce.

Many people find hardwood floors to be uncomfortable but worry not because the firmness of the orthopaedic mattress is not as rough as wood floors. On the contrary, it is cosy, plush and comfortable, unlike a warm wood floor.

Orthopaedic mattresses are made using a variety of materials including but not limited to standard springs, pocket springs, memory foam, reflex foam, latex foam. They can be manufactured from both natural mattress fillings or hybrid mattress fillings.

Orthopaedic mattresses are mainly designed to promote comfortable and painless sleep cycles. Though one might think that the mattress's firmness can cause discomfort, it's deemed to be a myth.

To speak more about these mattresses, they are made with a very firm core and a pillow-like top. This kind of build is the reason why these mattresses provide support for the body without having to compromise on the surface level cushiony nature.

Qualities of an orthopaedic mattress

    • Maximum support: What is an orthopaedic mattress known for? Its ability to provide firmness (because of the mixture of many materials used during the manufacturing process) means you can get optimum push back. The benefit of this feature is that it helps reduce movements like tossing and turning during sleeping, which means you have fewer interruptions and a good night's sleep, helping you to wake up feeling fresher for the next day.
    • Weight distribution: Orthopaedic mattress evenly distributes the weight of the entire body. This prevents the build-up of the pressure points, mainly in the back, neck and hips. It also aligns the spine and reduces the pressure on the joints and the back.
    • Promotes spinal alignment: As said above, an orthopaedic mattress, due to its even weight distribution quality, provides comfort to the sleeper by promoting spinal alignment and reducing the stress and strain on the back which helps to reduce back pain.
    • Promotes blood circulation: As orthopaedic mattresses promote a comfortable sleep by providing the firmness required to align to the perfect posture of the sleeper, it is this feature that is known to aid healthier blood circulation throughout the night.

Types of orthopaedic mattresses


There are no specific types of orthopaedic mattresses. but the difference in each orthopaedic mattress depends on the different comfort and support layers it is prepared with. The types of fillings will greatly determine the sleep quality and thus can offer something for every kind of sleeper.

Here are the type of fillings to consider:

    • Standard springs (open coil).
    • Pocket springs
    • Memory foam.
    • Reflex foam.
    • Gel foam.
    • Latex.
    • Natural fillings.

Key points to consider when buying a mattress

    1. Budget: Budget plays a crucial role when making a buying decision. Memory foam mattresses are considered more expensive than orthopaedic mattresses. But the cost of the mattress mainly depends on the type of the brand that has manufactured the mattress and the materials used during the manufacturing process.
    2. Softness or firmness of the mattress: A memory foam mattress is softer than an orthopaedic mattress. Orthopaedic mattresses are manufactured in a way to mimic the firmness of the wood floors. So, if you prefer to sleep on a mattress that gives you a cloud-hug feeling and sinks deep, a memory foam mattress might be the best option for you, but if you hate the sinking feeling of the memory foam mattress, an orthopaedic mattress and its firmness is a good choice.
    3. Have trouble sleeping?: Can mattresses help with insomnia? Yes! What you sleep on is an affecting factor for your sleep. Experts agree that different sleeping surfaces have provided different sleeping experiences and hence deciding on this factor is best when choosing a mattress. According to healthline.com, a medium-firm mattress promotes a night of quality sleep.
    4. Have neck, back, or joint pain?: Both memory foam mattresses and orthopaedic mattresses promote healthy sleep. If body aches are a major concern to you, research suggests that the surface you choose to sleep on will affect the comfort of your sleep. According to a 2015 study, people who slept on a memory foam mattress that was of medium firmness experienced decreased pain.
    5. Are you going to share your bed?: Our recommendation: A memory foam mattress. Because memory foam mattresses come with motion isolation, you will not be disturbed by your partner's movements throughout the night.
    6. Are you a light sleeper?: For a light sleeper, once again our recommendation stands by a memory foam mattress.
    7. Do you get hot during the night?: The recurring complaint that the memory foam mattress has been constantly reported with is its heat retention characteristic. The heat retention will trap the body heat of the sleeper and cause a hit atmosphere which most people do not like about memory foam mattresses. If that's the case with you, you can choose a gel-memory foam mattress or go for an orthopaedic mattress.
    8. Do you suffer from allergies?: The different materials used in the orthopaedic mattress can cause allergies to you if you have sensitive skin. So, in this case, you can once again go for a memory foam mattress.

Memory foam mattress vs Orthopaedic mattress: The ultimate comparison


Both memory foam mattresses and orthopaedic mattresses come with advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right one can improve your health and promote quality sleep while choosing the wrong mattress can lead to sleepless nights and discomfort, not to mention the money wasted! 

And that is why you need to do a detailed analysis of both the mattresses and then make a decision that will aid an improved life. 

Reasons to consider memory foam mattresses

    1. If you want to relieve pain from the pressure points.
    2. If you suffer from hip/back/neck pain.
    3. If you share the bed with your partner. 
    4. If you want to regularly rotate or flip the mattress. 
    5. If you prefer a soft to medium-firm level mattress. 
    6. If you prefer a plush mattress. 
    7. If you want a mattress to mould perfectly according to your mattress shape.
    8. If you have sensitive skin.
    9. If comfortability is your number one priority.
    10. If you have no time to research the variety of materials used in the orthopaedic mattress.

Reasons to buy an orthopaedic mattress

    1. Once again an orthopaedic mattress is a good option for people who want relief from pain in the pressure points.
    2. It's a great mattress to consider if you are suffering from body aches.
    3. If you are diagnosed with arthritis or any kind of similar joint condition.
    4. If you suffer from breathing problems during sleep.
    5. If you like to toss and turn a lot during your sleep.
    6. If you do not like to sleep in hot temperatures.
    7. If you want to improve your posture.
    8. If you are sensitive to fumes.
    9. If you are an active environmentalist.
    10. If you are looking for a durable and firm mattress.
    11. If body support is your number one priority.
    12. If you do not like the 'sinking' feeling.

Final thought


We have provided all the important and basic factors to consider while choosing between memory foam or an orthopaedic mattress.

But we recommend that you do actual testing before you come for a single type of mattress. Search for reviews if you are purchasing the mattress online or opt for companies that provide free trials.

A free trial will ensure that you can adjust to the mattress and if not, you can return the mattress for a full refund. This will help you review a mattress on your own and decide which might be the best one for you.

With that being said, we are ending the guide here. We hope that this guide will land you with a perfect decision. If you are still confused about mattresses, here is our unbiased recommendation!


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