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sticky Memory foam toppers, do any good ones exist?

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18 Oct 2012 10:24 #1 by Jezo

So I was in Walmart yesterday like any good American consumer (this is a joke) and I had in my hand their $150 "4 inch" memory foam mattress topper. As I started to look at it I noticed that it was actually only a 2.5 inch memory foam and 1.5 inch other type of foam.

So then I started looking at other cheaper toppers that I had thought were good deals, they are all the same, none of them actually live up to their claims of being memory foam and are just a layer on top of a cheaper layer.

Now what do I do?

I start looking online and now I find out there is huge debate on all of this.

Here is what I want:

Some kind of memory foam topper to put on my 6 year old regular king size bed. I am close to but less than the 200 lbs limit I have seen bounced around as a line between different kinds of toppers. I want something that is actual foam that will work with my body and not some cheap filler.

How thick do I even need? 2.5 or 4? What are the advantages?

Now I see there are memory foam and then also gel toppers.

Is anything affordable? I dont need top of the line, I just want something of a decent quality that will last a little while.

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18 Oct 2012 14:22 - 18 Oct 2012 14:25 #2 by Phoenix

Hi Jezo,

Memory foam is not a single product and there are hundreds of different types and quality levels available (and as you discovered combinations with other materials) ... each with pros and cons attached to them. You can get a sense of the different properties of different types of memory foam from post #9 here along with post #8 here .

With all of this ... you are really dependent on either knowing the exact type of memory foam topper that you want (because you've tried it on your mattress or a similar mattress), on a money back guarantee, or on the knowledge and experience of the retailer or manufacturer that is selling it to you who can explain how their topper feels and performs relative to other types of memory foam toppers and can provide you with accurate information about its quality/density as well.

The type of memory foam topper that may work best for each person depends on their body type, their sleeping positions, their preferences, and perhaps most of all on the layering and materials of the mattress they are using it on. Thinner layers will allow you to feel more of the layers that are below them and thicker layers will provide more of the feel of the topper itself. Thinner layers are "safer" because they don't separate you from the support layers of your mattress as much and have less chance of providing the extra pressure relief you want at the risk of worse alignment.

With toppers ... I generally recommend the thinnest possible layer that will "do the job" you are looking for because this is also less risky ... especially if your mattress already has thick/soft layers on top.

So the key is to make your best choice in terms of the memory foam properties you are looking for (I would identify the qualities that are most important to you) and to choose the thickness that would solve the specific reasons you are looking for a memory foam topper in the first place ... be most suitable for your body type, sleeping positions, preferences, and the layering of the mattress it is going on, ... and has the best combination of and tradeoff between cost and quality that you are comfortable with. A good starting point is 2" (even less in some cases depending on what you are trying to achieve) and then add thickness if you have specific reasons to do so and if your mattress/topper combination has enough "room" to add extra thickness without compromising support and alignment.

Some of the better sources for memory foam toppers are listed in post #4 here .

Phoenix


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Last edit: 18 Oct 2012 14:25 by Phoenix.

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24 Oct 2012 08:59 #3 by Jezo

Wow, so now I am even more lost than when I started.

I read your link on the different types and I am completely overwhelmed.

How do I even start this? I have never used a topper of any sort and initially was interested in a way to perhaps make my sleep a little more comfortable. My back sometimes hurts when I get up in the morning, I have been to a couple doctors and its just general muscle fatigue from lifting and bending, nothing medical needs to be done so it's not super serious, just stretching and loosening up. Sleep position is starting off on my side but every night I end up rolling and staying on my back until I wake up.

The current mattress is a general purpose Sealy or something like that bought at a department store with no thought other than price 6 years ago when I had to buy a bed and had never really done so before. I'll get another one in a couple years but until that point I was looking to keep this one going.

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24 Oct 2012 16:51 - 10 Oct 2014 16:55 #4 by Phoenix

Hi Jezo,

A topper is most effective for softening the surface of a mattress that is too firm and from the sounds of it your mattress has become too soft and lost it's support ... at least under your pelvis/hips (which is usually the case when you are waking up with back issues). This is much more difficult to "fix" with a topper because the topper will still sink down into the soft spots below it. At best ... it may be a partial or temporary fix.

If the soft spot is not too bad ... then a topper may even it out a bit and help to some degree although it's still not ideal and in some cases it could become worse (depending on the condition of your mattress and on your body type and sleeping style and the type and thickness of topper). A thicker tipper will even out the soft spot more but can create it's own problems by still allowing your heavier parts to sink in too far. A thinner topper will even out the soft spot less but then the soft spot can still allow your heavier parts to sink down too far. Either way is "risky" with a mattress that has become too soft. You can read more about some of the difficulties involved with "fixing" a mattress that is too soft in post #4 here .

If you do decide to experiment with toppers ... the first thing to do is to lie on fast and slow response layers in a store to get a clear sense of which you prefer. Memory foam is a slow response material and polyfoam and latex are fast response materials. The choice between these is a matter of personal preference and you can see some of the pros and cons of memory foam here and the pros and cons of latex here. Polyfoam is also a fast response material and has the benefit of being much less costly than either good quality memory foam or latex so that a topper that doesn't work is less costly.

Beyond this ... there are so many variables (your body type, sleeping style, the layering and condition of your mattress, and the type of topper) that only experimentation will really answer if a topper will help and if so which type and how much effect it will have. This means that I would buy from a big box store or other source that allows you to get a refund if an experiment with a particular topper doesn't work out for you.

I would suggest something in the range of 2" - 3" and since you are only looking for it to last for a couple of years then durability (and the cost of more durable materials) is not as big an issue. Bear in mind that more than other types of materials ... memory foam tends to be a material that is very different from fast response materials and tends to be a "love it or hate it" material.

A few examples ...

Something like this at Costco or like this at Sams club may be worth considering for a slow response memory foam option (they're both 5 lb which is good quality and you won't "go through" it as much into the soft spot underneath).

This one at WalMart may be worth considering for a latex "fast response" experiment.

Make sure you check the refund policy for each on before you buy it so that your experimentation doesn't become too costly.

Phoenix


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Last edit: 10 Oct 2014 16:55 by Phoenix.

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01 Nov 2012 16:33 #5 by Jezo

So here is an update..

Sandy had us leave our place and stay with family. I am sleeping now on a bed that is pretty firm and has some kind of top layer built in. Not sure what kind but I can go find that out if it would help.

My back issues in the morning are completely gone. I wake up without having to stretch the pain away and I feel good no matter which way I lay when going to sleep.

If I get the name/type of mattress would you be able to tell what kind it is? As in what sleeping style it is. It's a standard spring mattress, nothing fancy.

This makes me now go back to my original thought (before the whole topper thing came up) that I may want to replace my bed. When we go home in a day or 7, depending on power coming back on, and my back pain starts back up again I will know for sure it has to bed the bed.

A mattress can really make that much of a difference, eh?

I am in northern New Jersey, I saw the post about mattress stores in the area and may need to go look at them.

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01 Nov 2012 17:18 - 01 Nov 2012 17:20 #6 by Phoenix

Hi Jezo,

My thoughts are with you and the many others that were disrupted by Sandy. I hope that things are back to normal soon.

I guess the good news is that it seems that sleeping on a different bed has had an unexpected benefit.

If I get the name/type of mattress would you be able to tell what kind it is? As in what sleeping style it is. It's a standard spring mattress, nothing fancy.


I'm not sure ... it would depend on what mattress it was and on the information about its layers and materials that are available. Knowing the components and as much as possible about what was in it could certainly act as a helpful guideline for the type of mattress you do well with.

This makes me now go back to my original thought (before the whole topper thing came up) that I may want to replace my bed. When we go home in a day or 7, depending on power coming back on, and my back pain starts back up again I will know for sure it has to bed the bed.


I also think that you were sleeping on the other mattress for long enough that this would almost certainly point to your mattress as the "culprit" if your symptoms returned :)

A mattress can really make that much of a difference, eh?


Yes. I think a mattress has a bigger effect on our overall well being than almost any other purchase we can make. The quality of our sleep affects almost everything else we do and a suitable mattress plays a significant role in this. Sometimes the "symptoms" of how we feel (sleeping and waking) that are "mattress connected" creep up slowly and it's difficult to make direct connections between a mattress and how we feel ... until something changes that makes it more obvious.

I am in northern New Jersey, I saw the post about mattress stores in the area and may need to go look at them.


You have some very good options there and it would certainly help to know a bit more about the mattress that worked so well for you.

I hope you're able to return home soon!

Phoenix


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Last edit: 01 Nov 2012 17:20 by Phoenix.

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01 Nov 2012 19:13 #7 by Minok

I'm in a very similar position, and thought it best to add my post to this thread than start a redundant thread.

In my case, I think I'm just having pressure point issues.
I'm about 310lbs and have had my current innerspring mattress for about 14 years. I'll have to verify, but I don't think it has any sagging issues. My sleep issues are related to me gaining 40 lbs over those years and aging 14 years (I'm now in my mid 40's, where before I was in my early 30's).

Typically, I wake with aches under my shoulder blades or upper back, and sore upper arms and numbness down my arms to my small fingers. Likely all from compression related to my body design in general and I suspect to pressure sensitivity to a mattress that was fine for an early 30's guy and now isn't so great for a mid-40's guy.

I've concluded the mattress is the culprit for the same reasons as Jezo.
For the past month, I was on travel out of country and slept on a wide range of hotel mattresses for the 4 weeks ranging from twin sized beach-hotel quality ones to Marriot hotel queen size beds. During all that time, my morning aches disappeared and I was able to sleep much better.

Get back home on Friday, go to sleep on my home bed again, and next morning my arms and shoulders ache again, and I'm just miserable. Over the past 2 weeks the aching has seemed to get less, but I suspect I'm must adjusting back to the 'normal' that is me sleeping on that bed and it just doesn't feel as bad as I get used to the bad feeling.

One thought was: get a new mattress. But that is spendy and I'm getting so much analysis paralysis that its getting frustrating.

In rethinking about my current mattress, as stated, it doesn't have a sag (just me sleeping in the king at this point), and I don't have lower back pains, so I don't think the inerrant support of the mattress has gone away. I'm suspecting the comfort/top layer of padding has just compressed over 14 years combined with my body getting 14 years older and less willing and able to tolerate pressure points.

So I'm thinking "add a comfort layer topper" as well.

My needs are to get the pressure point relief in my upper torso, shoulders and arms, and most of my weight is not in those areas. So what thickness and material might be a good choice for a topper given I'm 310lbs?

I've been visiting a local chain store (Sleep Country) to try out different mattresses to get a feel for the technology in today's mattresses. I've tested Tempurpedic, Serta iComfort, and Sterns & Foster toppered innerspring, and they all feel different, but nothing in their inherent material is a turn-off. So I'm ok with memory foam, latex foam, etc... so long as it provides the pressure point relief I think I need without having to spend $2k+ on a new mattress needlessly when the existing one is probably just fine in the support layer department.

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01 Nov 2012 21:40 - 01 Nov 2012 23:46 #8 by Phoenix

Hi Minok,

I think there may be several interacting issues here and it can be difficult to separate them from a distance by trying to "envision" what may be happening. This is made more difficult by not knowing the details of the construction of your mattress which can sometimes help to explain what may be happening and to also predict the potential effect of any changes or additions to the mattress. Part of this is because the top layers of your mattress (in whatever condition they may be) which are currently the "comfort" layer would become more of a transition layer with the addition of a topper and will be a big part of how well a topper may work for you and the type of topper that may be best.

Some of these interacting issues include ...

- Changes in your needs and preferences over time and with body changes.
- Changes in your mattress (at 14 years old and with your weight it's almost certainly at the end of its useful life and may have more issues than just the comfort layers degrading).
- Pressure issues
- Possible alignment issues.
- Pillow issues
- Sagging or weak spots in the foundation or box spring of your mattress.

The first thing I would check is the foundation/box spring issue because if that is part of the problem then it would be the easiest "fix".

Typically, I wake with aches under my shoulder blades or upper back, and sore upper arms and numbness down my arms to my small fingers.


The numbness is generally indicative of pressure issues but the aches under the shoulder blades and upper back could be more indicative of alignment issues. Alignment issues can be along the length of the spine where one part can be sinking in too far and the spine is outside of its neutral alignment but they can also be in certain areas or side to side where for example on your back the center of your body or midback is sinking in too far while the lighter shoulders may not be sinking in as far causing a kind of "hunched shoulder position" or "slouched" position with either the shoulders resting too far forward or the middle of the back sinking in too far (the thoracic curve being overextended). Both of these symptoms can come from foam softening and the muscles trying to compensate. Of course this could also be aggravated by changes in your body or by the loss of body flexibility over time (how many people can touch their toes as easily as when they were younger or can lie on their back and put their knees over their head and touch the floor with them without pain or discomfort) which means you may be less tolerant of any type of alignment issues.

If there are thicker layers of polyfoam in your mattress that have softened ... you may be "going through" them more and feeling the firmer layers underneath causing pressure issues. In the same way ... the same softened foam may not be supporting the heavier midline or certain areas of your body (imagine some hands pushing up on the middle of your back and bringing it back into alignment) while they may still be "holding up" the lighter shoulders. This "slouching" or "hunching" could also be the cause of the pain and discomfort in the upper back and shoulder blade area.

Of course the upper layers of your mattress could also contain fibers which have compressed and the firmness and pressure issues could be coming from this as well.

There could also be pillow issues involved (the pillow may not be supporting and maintaining the natural alignment of your head and neck as well as it did).

So if the cause of your sleeping "symptoms" are from the softening of relatively thick layers of foam over time ... then turning these layers into transition layers by putting a topper on top may not solve the real issue because they will still compress and be less supportive underneath the topper. The topper in other words may solve the pressure issues but not the alignment issues ... and this is the reason it's more difficult to "fix" a mattress that has become too soft than it is to fix a mattress that is too firm.

The hotel mattresses you are sleeping on (or almost any mattress that is still in relatively new condition that has a relatively good comfort layer over a relatively firm support layer) would represent an improvement for you and likely lessen your symptoms. This is also why more than 3/4 of the people that buy a new mattress are initially happy with it because it is almost always an improvement over what they have ... even if the improvement doesn't last as long as they hoped or still isn't as "perfect" as it could be (which they tend to notice more over time as old symptoms which were improved start to incrementally "creep back").

So my guess is that depending on the type of mattress you have and what is happening with the layers and components (my thoughts were more speculation based on a "typical" mattress) that a topper would be a partial or temporary fix at best (unless your mattress has very little foam in the upper layers that have softened and the firmness is more from fibers compressing than foam softening)

I also don't know your sleeping positions (guessing side/back) but as a very general suggestion and considering your weight and your description that a 3" topper may work best for you to alleviate your symptoms with the risk that you may be solving one set of symptoms but creating another (lower back because your pelvis may sink in further than your upper body with the combination of topper and foam layers in your mattress). If you do decide to go in this direction, I would use a high quality material because of support and durability issues with your higher weight. In the case of memory foam I would go with 5+ lbs and in the case of latex I would go firmer than average because firmer layers will feel softer to you than for someone who was lighter and they are more supportive. I would guess at a minimum of 28 ILD and perhaps firmer depending on the "unknowns".

Overall though ... my guess (unless information about the type and layering of your current mattress indicates otherwise) is that it's time for a new mattress and that a topper may carry some risk and only partially or temporarily alleviate the issues you are experiencing although this may still be worthwhile as a "time extender" before a new mattress purchase.

Phoenix


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Last edit: 01 Nov 2012 23:46 by Phoenix.

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03 Nov 2012 10:56 #9 by Jezo

The type of mattress I slept on while we were away (the power is back on! we are back home) was a Simmons Beautyrest Classic.

For me, I fall asleep on my side and wake up on my back. Weight is 190lbs.

Coming back home the back pain came back. I gave up last night and moved to an Ikea foam mattress we have in the guest room, felt much better. It's their cheapest one but fairly unused so its still firm.

I saw your post here:
www.themattressunderground.com/mattress-...eded-in-nj.html#1918
For central NJ shops. I will start in Fanwood as that is right around here.

As I have never before bought a foam mattress, well, I bought the Ikea one but that was just because it was in their open box section and about $100, what am I to expect? Do I need to flip and turn them or do anything different that I wouldnt do with a spring?

I dont think I want memory foam, I'd rather stay with the latex than get into the whole chemical debate over the memory.

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03 Nov 2012 15:48 - 03 Nov 2012 15:50 #10 by Phoenix

Hi Jezo,

The Beautyrest classic model lineup includes many different mattresses that share two different innersprings (firmer and softer) and have many different types of foam layering on top. They can range from extra firm to a very soft plush pillowtop and everything in between. In other words ... your experience probably confirms that your mattress isn't "working" more than it provides specifics about what may work better.

Knowing the details of your current mattress would be more helpful yet but it would be a reasonable assumption that the softening of the mattress layers is the underlying problem.

As I have never before bought a foam mattress, well, I bought the Ikea one but that was just because it was in their open box section and about $100, what am I to expect? Do I need to flip and turn them or do anything different that I wouldnt do with a spring?


The maintenance of a mattress that uses a foam support core (either latex foam or polyfoam) would be the same as an innerspring support core. If it is one sided then it would be rotated end to end (or you can use 1/4 turns if it's a king size) and flipped and rotated if it's two sided (which outside of smaller manufacturers is much less common).

I dont think I want memory foam, I'd rather stay with the latex than get into the whole chemical debate over the memory.


I can certainly understand this and like with any very complex subject, more detailed research can lead to going down a rabbit hole of more and more detailed and complex information with few black and white answers. Overall though ... I also believe that latex as a foam category has fewer offgassing/odor issues than other types of foam and this is certainly confirmed with real world feedback even though both types of materials may be certified as "safe".

For central NJ shops. I will start in Fanwood as that is right around here.


You are heading in a good direction IMO and The Mattress Factory has a whole range of mattresses that use different combinations of innersprings, latex, and high quality polyfoam that you can test which have good quality and value. They also have the knowledge and experience to help educate you about the materials in their mattresses and help you make the most suitable choice for both your budget and what will work best for you.

Phoenix


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Last edit: 03 Nov 2012 15:50 by Phoenix.

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