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Memory Foam Mattress Density: Low vs Medium vs High

Unbiased Comparison Based on 7,142 Consumer Experiences

January 2, 2016

What You Need To Know

The density of memory foam often determines many mattress characteristics. In other words, you can often learn much about a memory foam mattress simply by knowing its density. (To learn the density of many foam mattresses, see memory foam mattress ratings.)

High density memory foam often has potential for both strong positives and strong negatives. Low density memory foam, by contrast, often performs evenly without strong positives or strong negatives. And medium density often performs in between.

What is memory foam density?

Density indicates how much the foam weighs. For example, a cubic foot of four lbs/ft density foam weighs four pounds.

Memory Foam Density Comparison: Summary

The findings below are based on 7,100+ memory foam bed owner experiences. The findings are true for memory foam mattresses as a group; individual brands / models and owner experiences may go against these findings somewhat. Refer to the comparisons below this table for detailed analysis.

  Low Density
(2.5 - 3.9 lbs/ft)
Medium Density
(4.0-5.4 lbs/ft)
High Density
(5.5 lbs/ft+)
Owner satisfaction B b b
Price b c d+
Durability / longevity c+ b- b
Conforming C+ B A
Less (Back) pain b- b A-
No initial odor c- d+ d+
Motion isolation B+ a a+
No sleeping hot c c- d+
Fast Responding B C D
Not firm when cold C- D+ D
Easy to move on C c- d
Floating, Cloud feel B B+ A-
Avg-Size Person Friendly B+ A- A-
Heavy Person Friendly B+ A- B
Light Person Friendly B C+ D+
Short break in B- C- d
Lightweight c+ c- d
Good for sex c+ c D+
Warranty c C+ B-

Owner Satisfaction

Memory foam mattresses, regardless of their density (low, medium or high), have about the same owner satisfaction rate – around 80%. Nevertheless, mattresses of different density often have fairly different strengths, weaknesses and characteristics.

memory foam density owner satisfaction comparison chart


Price

The price of a memory foam mattress often depends to an extent on its density. All other things being equal, the more dense the memory foam is the more expensive the mattress usually is.

Higher-priced brands will tend to use higher-density memory foam (5 lbs/ft or greater in significant quantity); medium-priced brands will tend to use mostly medium density (4.0 lbs./ft); and lower-priced brands will tend to use mostly lower density (2.5 - 3.0 lbs./ft).

memory foam density price comparison chart


Durability / Longevity

On average, the higher the memory foam density is, the better the durability / longevity of the mattress. Mattresses with high-density foam can generally be expected on average to remain supportive and comfortable for around 8.5 years. This is only an average, however; the longevity of a particular mattress can vary considerably.

Memory foam mattresses with low and medium density tend to have a shorter lifespan, often in the 4-8 year range. Again, this is only an average, and the longevity of a particular mattress can vary significantly.

memory foam mattress density durability comparison chart


Back Pain Relief

All memory foam mattresses, regardless of density, rate well in regard to pain relief, including relief of back, shoulder and hip pain.

However, higher-density foam often provides better pain relief in most cases, especially back pain relief. This is because higher-density foam tends to strongly conform to the contours of a person's body which can result in excellent support, including optimal spinal alignment.

back pain relief comparison chart


Initial Odor / Off Gassing

Owner experience data suggests that, generally speaking, the more dense a memory foam mattress is the longer and / or more strongly it will give off an initial chemical-like odor or gas. More information: memory foam mattress off gassing.

memory foam density off gassing odor comparison chart


Motion Isolation

A mattress with good motion isolation absorbs the movement of one person so that it does not transfer across the bed to disturb the other person.

In other words, a mattress with good motion isolation tends to be friendly for couples. All memory foam densities perform well on this issue, but higher density foam isolates movement almost entirely.

memory foam isolation comparison


Sleeping Hot

"Sleeping hot" is a somewhat common complaint for memory foam mattresses. Most heat trap complaints, however, are for mattresses with medium- and especially high-density foam.

Only about 5% of low-density bed owners report a heat trap problem, while about 8% of medium-density bed owners report a problem. And about 12% of high-density bed owners (especially owners of Tempur-Pedic Contour models Rhapsody, Allura, Grand) report a problem.

Memory foam of any density that is infused with tiny gel beads tends to have fewer heat-related complaints than non-infused memory foam (of similar density) assuming that at least two inches of the material is present.

memory foam density heat hot chart

Sleep Like The Dead Editor Talks Memory Foam
Heat Problems and how density Can contribute


Response Time

Upon being compressed and then released, lower-density memory foam tends to respond – return to its original shape – faster than higher-density foam. A faster responding foam is easier to move on and get up off, but it may not mold and contour as strongly to one's body.

memory foam response time


Conforming / Temperature Sensitivity

A conforming mattress is one that strongly molds and contours to a person's body. Higher-density memory foam is often the most conforming because it is the most temperature sensitive. "Temperature sensitive" means that the mattress is firmer in lower temperatures and softer in higher temperatures or when in contact with a person's body heat.

A person tends to sink into or "melt" into a higher density mattress because the foam under the person's body becomes softer but the surrounding foam stays firmer. This can result in good support and a highly conforming or contouring-to-the-body feeling.

Most owners of higher-density mattresses appreciate the temperature sensitivity or at least learn to. About 15% of owners, however, do not like it and say that the sinking-in effect causes them to feel like they are sleeping in "mud" or "quicksand."

Less-dense foam mattresses, by contrast, are less temperature sensitive and conforming and consequently feel more conventional.

memory foam temperature sensitivity


Ease of Movement

Owners of high-density memory foam mattresses usually report that they sink into the foam significantly and that it contours strongly to their body. (See the temperature sensitivity comparison above for why this is so.)

While this can provide good support and pain relief, it also can result in the mattress being at least somewhat difficult to move on and get up off. Consequently, people who are physically weak, such as the elderly or the sick and disabled, may want to avoid higher-density foam.

Less dense memory foam, by contrast, tends to have more conventional characteristics and is easier to move on and get up off.

density ease of movement comparison


Floating, Cloud-like Feel

The higher the density of foam, the more of a floating and cloud-like sensation a person tends to experience when lying on the mattress. This is due to the fact that the foam tends to envelop and contour strongly to a person's body resulting in equal weight distribution.

floating sensation comparison


Suitability by Person Size

Average-Sized Person

All memory foam densities tend to be suitable for the average-sized person (130-230 pounds).

average person foam density comparison

Large / Heavy Person

All densities tend to be suitable for a person of above average size (240+ pounds). However, large people may find that higher density foam allows them to sink too far into the foam. And this combined with the foam's ability to contour strongly to the body can undermining ease of movement.

heavy person foam density comparison

Small / Light Person

People under 120 pounds tend to not sink far into memory foam, especially higher density foam. This means that they may not benefit significantly from the contouring and molding properties of the foam, and they may experience excessive pressure points as a result.

light person foam density comparison


Break-In Time

High-density memory foam beds tend to require the most break-in time. In other words, they often require the most use before they reach the level of firmness and support that they will provide for the long term.

break in time comparison


Lightweight – Ease of Lifting, Handling, Moving

The more dense the memory foam is, the more it will weigh. Virtually all memory foam mattresses, however, regardless of density, are heavy enough to make moving them, transporting them, and changing their linens at least fairly difficult, especially for one person. High-density foam beds are especially difficult in this way.

density weight comparison


Sex Friendly

The properties of memory foam, regardless of density, can provide certain pros and cons in regard to love making. Owner experience data suggests that lower density memory foam tends to be more suitable overall for love making than higher density foam, namely because lower density foam is easier to move on and has less of a "sinking in" feeling. See the sex and mattresses comparison for more information.

memory foam density love making


Warranties

High- and medium-density memory foam beds tend to have 10-20 year warranties with 10 years (or more) being non-prorated. Low-density beds have a wide variety of warranty lengths, but most are 5-10 years in length, with half or all of the length being non-prorated.

memory foam density warranty


Top of page

About our Memory foam density comparison

The comparison findings are based on the experiences of 7,100+ actual memory foam mattress owners. The mattress owner experience data was collected from diverse and credible sources.

Remember

– Memory foam mattresses, regardless of density, typically have similar owner satisfaction rates, about 80 percent. Nevertheless, memory foam mattresses of different density often have different strengths, weaknesses and characteristics.

– Most heat trap or sleeping hot complaints are for memory foam beds with medium- to high-density foam.

– High-density memory foam is often at least somewhat difficult to move on and get up off, while lower-density foam tends to not have a significant problem in this area.

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