You can't put a price on a good night's sleep... or can you? If you're shopping for a new mattress, chances are you've noticed that there's a huge price difference between your basic innerspring mattress (starting at around $70) and a high-end memory foam mattress (the top-of-the-line Tempur-Pedic GrandBed costs up to $8,599).
While the cost can certainly be steep, memory foam mattresses have high owner satisfaction ratings: 81% of memory foam owners are satisfied with their mattress, while only 64% of traditional innerspring mattress owners say the same.
But just because those owners are satisfied doesn't mean you will be, because what makes for a good night's sleep is very subjective. Let's look at general memory foam and Tempur-Pedic reviews, materials, and prices, to see what these mattresses offer. Then you can decide whether memory foam's cost makes sense for your budget.
What Is a Memory Foam Mattress?
While innerspring mattresses are made up of metal coils covered with layers of fabric and padding, memory foam mattresses are made of polyurethane foam. The foam reacts to pressure and heat, conforming to your body when you lie down. Memory foam makers say this provides support while keeping your spine in proper alignment. For anyone suffering from back or other joint pain, memory foam can ease pressure points and may improve sleep.
How Much Does a Memory Foam Mattress Cost?
Tempur-Pedic is generally recognized as the first company to make memory foam mattresses, and while there are lots of other choices for memory foam, its offerings are still considered the best on the market. But they're priced accordingly. Tempur-Pedic beds start at $1,199 for a twin-size Tempur-Cloud Prima and go up to $8,599 for a king-size GrandBed. On average, a queen-size Tempur-Pedic mattress will set you back $3,400, which is no small investment.
But if you think memory foam is a good choice, you don't have to spend that much. Big mattress brands like Serta and Sealy offer their own memory foam mattresses that average around $1,850 for a queen.
On the discount side, both Costco and IKEA offer lines of low-cost memory foam mattresses. Costco's mattresses are priced in line with Sealy and Serta, while IKEA has the bargain option, starting as low as $399 for a queen. But how do these stack up to a $3,400 Tempur-Pedic?
What Are the Differences Among Memory Foam Mattresses?
Looking at the price ranges for these mattresses, you might be tempted to head to IKEA and pick up a low-cost mattress. However, not all memory foam is made alike. Its density can be a key factor in the quality of the mattress; with higher-density memory foam, the mattress typically has a longer life span.
The density of the foam may be measured by weight (how much a cubic foot of memory foam weighs). Low density is typically 3 pounds and under; medium, from 4 to 5 pounds; and high, higher than 5 pounds. Indentation load deflection (ILD or IFD) is another measurement you may come across, and refers to firmness. The higher the number, the firmer the foam.
The trouble with comparing mattresses by their density is that different manufacturers will denote this differently or not at all. For example, Tempur-Pedic does not list any density ratings for its mattresses, though they typically run from 14 to 15 ILD, with densities estimated at 3 to 7 pounds. Alternately, IKEA specifically lists foam density on its website, even specifying the density of different layers of foam (typically from 1.7 to 3.1 pounds).
Furthermore, not all of them are made entirely of foam. Many mattresses, especially those at lower price points, only have a small layer of foam on top of a more traditional innerspring mattress. These may be advertised as foam mattresses, but a thin layer of foam, as little as an inch, won't give you the same benefits as an all-foam mattress. When shopping, pay attention to just how much foam a mattress contains.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Memory Foam?
In addition to offering a comfortable night's sleep for those suffering from back or other joint pain, memory foam mattresses have other pluses. Traditional innerspring mattresses can be noisy, and any movement may be felt across the entire bed. If your bedmate is a restless sleeper, both of these things can be a problem. Memory foam is quiet and isolates motion, which can help you rest no matter what.
But memory foam mattresses aren't perfect, either. Because they respond to body heat, they may warm up overnight; for some, they may be uncomfortably warm to sleep on. Many manufacturers offer layers of gel on their foam mattresses to cool them, while Tempur-Pedic has its own cooling technology called SmartClimate and Tempur-Breeze. If heat is a concern, look for these features when shopping.
Another complaint is that memory foam can be hard to move around on. Because you sink into the foam, shifting can be difficult. While that's an inconvenience for adults, it can be a serious problem for infants and small children. Manufacturers warn against leaving young children unattended on memory foam mattresses, since they may find it difficult to turn over, which can leave them in danger of suffocating.
Electric blankets are another no-no where memory foam is concerned. Some say they are a fire hazard; others say that they can affect the temperature of the foam. Regardless, foam mattress manufacturers discourage using electric blankets.
So What Should I Buy?
Because comfort is very much a matter of personal opinion, mattresses are a good product to check out in a showroom. While this won't provide a perfect representation of what the mattress will be like once you take it home, it will give you an idea of how it feels. If you're testing memory foam mattresses, remember that they seem firmer when you initially lie down, so spend some time to see what they really feel like.
Beyond that, look for mattresses with trial periods and good warranties. Tempur-Pedic offers one of the best you're likely to find, letting you try the mattress out at home for 90 days (if bought directly from the company), alongside a 10-year warranty. While you're still responsible for shipping costs if you decide Tempur-Pedic isn't for you, that's a lot better than being stuck with a $3,000 mattress that you don't like sleeping on.
Is Tempur-Pedic Worth the Cost?
The 81% owner satisfaction rating we mentioned earlier covers owners of all brands of memory foam mattresses, not just the high-end Tempur-Pedic. While Tempur-Pedic does make quality memory foam mattresses with solid, high-density foam, even people who have more modestly priced memory foam mattresses are happy with them — and you might be, too.
If you think memory foam is the right mattress choice for you, find a local mattress store where you can try out a Tempur-Pedic mattress in person, as well as competing memory foam models from Sealy and Serta. Not everyone likes Tempur-Pedic's dense foam, so you may find you prefer softer foams or thinner layers of foam on lower-cost mattresses.
And if the budget's tight but you really want that memory foam mattress, try IKEA, which offers mattresses made entirely of foam — rather than just thin layers of it — at more affordable prices.
But bear in mind that a good mattress will last for 10 years. Even if you buy a $3,400 Tempur-Pedic, that comes out to less than a dollar a day over the life of the mattress. And if a Tempur-Pedic mattress feels comfortable to you, that's not a bad price for a decade of good sleep.
Readers, what do you think about Tempur-Pedic and memory foam mattresses? If you have a Tempur-Pedic, do you find that it's worth the higher cost? Let us know in the comments below!