Are memory foam mattresses worth it or a waste of money? I’m a sleep writer — here’s my take

A woman's hand feels a memory foam mattress to check if it needs replacing
(Image credit: Getty Images)

All-foam beds have become some of the most popular mattresses on the market, thanks to their cushioned pressure relief and variety of price points. But if you're thinking of buying one, you might be wondering if memory foam mattresses are worth buying?

There are many memory foam beds in our best mattress guide, and this common bed type is known for its contouring 'hug' feel. Memory foam is a pretty versatile material, and while often cheaper than hybrid beds, some premium memory foam mattresses are worth splashing out on for the sheer level of soothing contouring pressure relief they provide.  

I'm expecting to see plenty of discounts on memory foam mattresses in the upcoming 4th of July mattress sales. But before you make your purchase, I'll break down what a memory foam mattress is, how much they usually cost, and if they're even worth it.

What is a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam mattresses have become one of the most popular bed types in recent years. These all-foam beds feature layers of contouring memory foam, a material originally designed by NASA and later adopted for use in furniture.

Nectar mattress with man asleep on his side

(Image credit: Nectar)

As a general rule, memory foam mattresses are known for their dense cushioning that contours to the body to provide comfort and pressure relief. Often recommended for side sleepers, our guide to best memory foam mattresses features a range of all-foam beds for different sleep styles and budgets. Memory foam can be used as a cushioning layer in some of the best hybrid mattresses, but when we talk about memory foam mattresses we're referring to beds made entirely of foam.

Are memory foam mattresses any good?

Memory foam mattresses are one of the most popular types of beds thanks to their deep contouring and impressive pressure relief. Memory foam 'hugs' the body, slowly adapting to your shape until your joints are cushioned and cradled to reduce aches. The slow moving foam is also great for bed sharers, as it absorbs motion rather than allowing movement to travel from one side of the mattress to the other. 

However, this 'hug feel isn't for everyone, particularly sleepers who like to move position easily during the night. The close contouring of memory foam also has a tendency to hold onto heat, making all-foam beds a worse choice for hot sleepers. Cheap memory foams can also have a 'quicksand' effect, leaving some sleepers worried they're about to sink through the mattress.

How much do memory foam mattresses cost on average?

There's a memory foam mattress to suit almost every budget, from ultra-cheap mattresses to luxurious premium choices. Memory foam mattresses are, on average, cheaper than hybrid beds and latex mattresses. However, if you want a high quality and durable memory foam mattress it's best to look beyond budget options.

Memory foam dominates our best cheap mattress guide, with budget beds from brands such as Zinus and Siena costing around $350 to $500 for a queen. Upgrade to a mid-range memory foam mattress, such as those by Nectar and Sealy Chill, and you can expect to pay around $650 to $900 for a queen. But at this price point, you'll be rewarded with superior longevity and support.

The Tempur-Pedic Tempur Cloud mattress on. blue fabric frame in a blue bedroom

(Image credit: Tempur-Pedic)

Premium memory foam mattresses can cost several thousand dollars, such as those from luxury brands Tempur-Pedic and Saatva. These all-foam beds will provide an exceptional level of pressure relief, balancing the sink-in feel with a supportive core. While these beds are expensive, that high cost should be reflected in the performance of the mattress.

Memory foam is also used in many of the best mattress toppers. These are thin layers that sit on top of your bed to adjust the comfort level. A memory foam mattress topper will typically make the sleep surface softer for less than the cost of a brand new bed. Not sure which is right for you? Check out our guide to memory foam mattresses vs memory foam mattress toppers

Are memory foam mattresses worth it or a waste of money?

The benefits of a memory foam mattress

They have excellent pressure relief: As a general rule, memory foam mattresses are known for their body contouring pressure relief, which can ease aches and pains. This also makes memory foam beds some of the best mattresses for side sleepers.

They have a body-hugging feel: Memory foam mattresses contour to the body, creating a 'hug' effect that cradles you as you sleep. This isn't for everyone (which I'll delve into below) but if you like to sink into your bed, opt for a memory foam.

They're great for couples: Press and release a memory foam mattress and it will only slowly return to its original shape. This slow response makes memory foam fantastic for couples, as it absorbs motion so when one person moves, the other isn't disturbed. 

The drawbacks of a memory foam mattress

They can sleep hot: The dense build of memory foam can cause hot air to get trapped in the mattress, potentially causing the bed to overheat during the night. If you're a hot sleeper, you're better off looking at breathable hybrid beds, or the best cooling mattresses.

❌ They can be hard to move around on: The slow moving 'hug' of memory foam is excellent if you like to be cradled in place during the night, but not so appealing if you like freedom to move. 

They're prone to off-gassing: Mattress off-gassing is the chemical smell that can occur when unboxing a mattress. It's particularly prevalent in boxed memory foam mattresses, and can take a while to dissipate after you've unboxed your bed. 

Top 3 memory foam mattresses to buy today

1. Nectar Memory Foam Mattress: was from $699now $349 at Nectar Sleep

1. Nectar Memory Foam Mattress: was from $699 now $349 at Nectar Sleep
The Nectar Original is our favorite memory foam mattress. Impressing our testers with its blend of softness and support, we declared this affordable bed as "great value for money" in our Nectar Mattress review. There's always a sale on at Nectar, and with up to 40% off a queen is now only $649 (was $1,099). And you'll get a forever warranty and a 365-night trial.

2. Tempur-Pedic Tempur-ProBreeze mattress:was from $4,099now $3,599 at Tempur-Pedic

2. Tempur-Pedic Tempur-ProBreeze mattress: was from $4,099 now $3,599 at Tempur-Pedic
Tempur-Pedic pioneered the use of memory foam in mattresses, and the Tempur-Material foam offers that classic sink-in feel. The Tempur-ProBreeze promises pressure-relieving contouring with a cooler feel, and in the 4th of July sale there's $500 off all sizes. That reduces a queen to $4,099 (was $4,599), which is a surprisingly big Tempur-Pedic mattress sale, as the brand rarely offers large discounts. 

3. Siena Memory Foam Mattress:was from $499now $199 at Siena Sleep

3. Siena Memory Foam Mattress: was from $499 now $199 at Siena Sleep
An incredibly affordable memory foam bed, we rate the Siena as the best cheap mattress. It's firm for an all-foam bed, as we discovered during our Siena Memory Foam Mattress review, which makes it a good choice for back and stomach sleepers. The Siena is never sold at full price, and you can expect to pay $399 for a queen (was $799). With a 180-night trial and a 10-year warranty, this is a real bargain.

Ruth Jones
Sleep staff Writer

Ruth Jones has recently joined the Tom's Guide team as a sleep staff writer, covering all things mattresses and sleep. Ruth previously worked as a sleep and mattress writer for our sister website TechRadar, and has a deep interest in sleep and how it affects our day to day wellbeing. Ruth is a self-confessed stomach sleeper with a penchant for medium-firm mattresses, and also loves a good eye mask for helping her to fall asleep easier at night. 

  • cuvtixo
    Hmmm, I wish this had more of an "exposé" tone, because my take is that some foam mattresses are among the cheapest, but it's also a material in the most expensive. #1 is $350, #2 is $3,600. That's a pretty big discrepancy. Why? It's fine there's ordinary pros and cons which seem based on personal preference, but is #1 made by exploited Oompa loopa's? More seriously are they all of them Chinese manufactured? Time throw caution to the wind and offend some possible vendors/sponsors! Does the outgassing pose a health problem? There's at least controversy there!