How Long Do Memory Foam Mattresses Last?
Adequate sleep affects everything from your blood pressure to appetite control. Sleep provides a foundation on which to build your well-being, and a high-quality mattress physically supports the seven to nine hours of rest you need. A mattress is an investment in the future of your sleep health. But, how long should it last? What’s average? And how can you identify a mattress that will last longer than a few years?
The durability and longevity of a memory foam mattress depends on the density, firmness, and thickness of its foam layers. Armed with the right information, you can determine roughly how long a specific model will last, so you can ensure you’re making a worthwhile investment.
What is Memory Foam?
Memory foam is polyurethane foam made with chemical additives to give it viscoelastic properties. Most memory foam is made with petrochemicals to give it it’s signature contouring feel, but some brands replace portions of the petrochemicals used to normally make memory foam with plant-based oils, resulting in a more eco-friendly foam.
Memory foam stretches and compresses under heat and pressure to mold around the object pressing into its surface. If you think about a human body, the foam stretches under the pressure and heat, which causes it to conform and mold itself to the body’s curves.
The name “memory foam” stems from the foam’s ability to temporarily hold the shape of the object pressing into the foam. For example, if you were to press your hand into memory foam, the shape of your hand would remain for a few seconds after you’ve removed it. It’s almost as though it holds the “memory” of your hand’s shape.
The longer the heat and pressure continue, the more the foam adapts itself to the object. Consequently, sleepers experience greater contouring the longer they stay in one position on the memory foam. Once the sleeper moves, the foam returns to its original shape.
Memory foam mattresses cradle the body and relieve pressure at high-pressure points like the hips and shoulders. It reduces pressure almost anywhere on the body, including sore or painful areas. Its ability to mold to the body makes it incredibly useful for keeping the spine aligned, no matter the position of the sleeper. It’s found in typical memory foam mattresses, mixed-foam models, hybrids, and quilted to the covers of innerspring mattresses.
Memory foam is popular among side sleepers due to its ability to keep the spine aligned as the sleeper shifts throughout the night. However, in the right firmness and layer arrangements, it’s comfortable for back and stomach sleepers, too.
How to Determine Mattress Durability and Lifespan
Memory foam mattresses are among the most durable models on the market. Models with low-quality memory foam may begin to lose their ability to bounce back or return to their original shape within a few years, while high-quality memory foams may last 10, 15, or even 20 years.
Several factors go into determining the memory foam’s durability. The first and most important is density, but we’ll also cover foam indentation load deflection and layer thickness. We’ll also discuss how the mattresses warranty can help you make sure your new bed will last.
Density presents one of the easiest ways to determine the durability and lifespan of memory foam. Density, in reference to memory foam, is measured in pounds per cubic foot (PCF).
- Low-density = <3.5 PCF
- Medium-density = 3.5 to 5 PCF
- High-density = >5 PCF
The low PCF memory foams breakdown the fastest, while high PCF foams have the best durability. However, you can’t determine a mattress’s overall density by a single layer alone. A low-density memory foam layer anywhere in the mattress will reduce the density and durability of the mattress as a whole. You can follow the general rule of the more high-density foams used in the mattress, the greater its overall durability. High-density memory foams cost more to produce, but they make up the extra cost in longevity.
A couple of things to remember when talking about density: 1) density does not equal firmness. A dense foam can be quite soft while a less dense foam may be firm, though the opposite can also be true; 2) memory foam naturally softens with age and use. However, high-density foams will continue to return to their original shape for a longer period of time than a low-density foam despite any softening.
Indentation Load Deflection (ILD)
Indentation Load Deflection may sometimes be called the Indentation Force Deflection (IFD) based on who is using the term. Whichever term is used, the ILD indicates the foam’s firmness. It involves a standardized test, wherein a 50-square inch machine compresses a 15 x 15 x 4-inch piece of foam to 25 percent of its original height.
A high ILD indicates a firmer foam, whereas a low ILD indicates a softer foam. A high ILD foam can have a high or low foam density. The same holds true for low ILD foams. However, the ILD can tell you what to expect from the feel and performance of the foam. Thicker layers will have a higher ILD because it takes more pressure to compress the foam to 25 percent of its original height.
What does ILD have to do with how long the mattress will last? Firmness doesn’t play as big a role in the longevity of the mattress as density. However, it’s smart to note both the density and ILD of each layer to not only determine the feel of the mattress but give you an idea of how it may take wear and tear over time.
Take note of where the low or high ILD foams are placed in relation to the layer densities. A low density, low ILD foam layer could mean the mattress breaks down and loses its desired firmness level faster. However, if it’s a thin comfort layer that’s followed by several thick, high-density layers, it may not affect durability as much.
The thickest, densest, and firmest layer in a mattress is the support core. This layer gives the mattress its shape and a good portion of the durability. However, a thicker mattress isn’t necessarily more durable than a thinner model.
Each layer’s density and firmness will come into play both in comfort and durability. Two mattresses of the same height and layer thicknesses may each have a different lifespan based on the density of each layer, for example. However, a single thin, low-density top layer may not play as much of a role in durability if it’s supported by thick high-density transition and support layers. Again, it’s about looking at the mattress as a whole and how it will support body weight over time.
It makes sense for mattress manufacturers to warranty their products based on how long they think the product with last. The average mattress warranty lasts ten years. Companies that offer 15, 20, 25, and lifetime warranties make mattresses they expect to last well beyond that 10-year average.
The warranty will include information about the kind of foundation and maintenance needed to properly maintain the bed.
Typical Memory Foam Mattress Lifespan
The average lifespan of a foam mattress is six to eight years. Models made with high-quality, high-density memory foams last substantially longer. There are memory foam models with 15 to 20-year lifespans and warranties. The combination of foams and material quality takes these models well beyond average.
The type of mattress makes a big difference in the lifespan too. In comparison to memory foam, the only mattress type that consistently lasts longer than high-quality, high-density memory foam are natural latex mattresses, which average eight to ten years. A hybrid mattress lasts about eight years, while innerspring mattresses last between six and eight years.
These are all rough estimates. Your personal circumstances will affect longevity, too. Heavier weight sleepers, for example, will experience a shorter mattress life due to the added wear and tear of more body weight.
Extending the Life of a Memory Foam Mattress
Foundation and Support
Mattresses need a proper foundation for them to last as long as promised by the manufacturer and for them to be comfortable. Each manufacturer has their own guidelines, but you should check whether the mattress can be used on a solid, slatted, or adjustable foundation. Most modern mattresses do not require a box spring, but if you like having one, they’re still available.
The manufacturer may also specify the distance needed between slats and whether there’s a need for center support post. Most of the time, the warranty only remains valid as long as the mattress is appropriately supported and with good reason—improper support may cause premature sagging, indentations, or loss of shape.
Memory foam softens over time. To standardize the wear and tear, some manufacturers specifically recommend rotating the mattress from head to foot once a month for the first six to twelve months and every few months thereafter. Others may recommend rotating more or less or not at all.
There are a few double-sided or flippable foam mattresses as well. These models have different firmnesses on each side. You may only need to flip it if you want to change the firmness.
One of memory foam’s benefits is its natural ability to resist dust mites and other allergens. However, mattresses should still be regularly cleaned. Removable, machine washable covers should be periodically laundered. However, you can save yourself on cleaning by always using a mattress protector or pad. It’s much easier to launder and replace a mattress protector than it is a mattress cover.
Liquids should be soaked up and cleaned immediately. Vacuuming the surface of the mattress to remove dust and debris every few months can also extend the mattress’s life.
Memory Foam Mattress Price
Memory foam mattresses start for as low as $200 and go up to over $2,000. At the entry-level, between $200 and $700, you’re looking at models with less dense foams because less dense foams are inexpensive to produce. Some of these models will be as comfortable as higher-end mattresses, but they won’t last nearly as long. And, others may not make it to the average six-year mark before indentations or sagging begin to show.
In the mid-range, from $700 to $1,200, there’s a wide selection of mattresses that balance the quality of materials with the price. You’ll see higher density foams throughout these models, which gives them better durability. These models may also have extra cooling features like gel, copper, or graphite to enhance breathability.
At the high end of the memory foam market are $1,200 to $2,000 mattresses and some that are close to $3,000. These models may have more layers with varied firmnesses and densities that extend the life of the mattress.
Memory Foam Durability: The Bottom Line
- With the right foams, memory foam mattresses can be incredibly durable, lasting well over the six to eight-year average.
- Density provides a quick way to gauge the foam’s overall durability. However, you have to take into account all of the mattress’s layers and materials to get a better idea of its overall longevity.
- The warranty tells you how long the manufacturer expects the mattress to last.
Memory foam mattresses can be an excellent investment in your sleep health. When you know what you’re looking for, you could have a new mattress that relieves pressure and cushions you into a better night’s rest for years to come.