The History of Memory Foam, Explained

There are many different types of mattresses out there, some of which include hybrid, latex and innerspring. Memory foam, however, is among the most popular mattresses on the market.

So, what is memory foam? A memory foam mattress combines a layer of memory foam with springs or support foam. Memory foam softens and conforms to your shape using the heat from your body. This offers outstanding comfort and support. When pressure is released, memory foam will slowly rebound and, over time, it will recall your body form and the best posture for sleeping, hence the name “memory.”

Read on to find out the history of memory foam, as well as the science behind how it works.

Where Does Memory Foam Come From?

Early Development

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is to be commended for this fantastic creation. In the 1960s, Stencel Aero Engineering Corporation and NASA worked together to produce memory foam. Technically speaking, NASA did not invent memory foam; rather, they hired someone to develop it. The executive branch of the US federal government oversees NASA independently. It was up to them to find a solution to two extremely challenging space travel issues as they were in charge of aeronautics research (as well as the civilian space programme and aerospace research).

However, memory foam didn’t actually begin there. In 1937, the initial investigation and development that resulted in the memory foam that we are familiar with started. Working on the polyurethane polymers used in memory foam was Otto Bayer and his team’s project. In the 1950s, it was created by first adding water and halocarbons, sometimes known as hydrocarbons, to a polyurethane mixture.

Memory Foam and NASA

In the same period, NASA was also focused on the creation of polymers that would enhance aeroplane cushioning. The seats on aeroplanes were not very comfortable. The significant issue of increasing crash protection also existed. For non-commercial pilots, such as astronauts and fighter pilots, G-force was a major issue. The body is put under a great deal of stress by the extreme gravitational force, or g-force, that is produced in conditions of extreme acceleration. It can seem like hundreds of pounds are being placed on top of you when you launch into space in a space shuttle. Additionally, compared to the ordinary commuter, astronauts travel far more. NASA required padding to keep personnel comfortable during their protracted space missions.

NASA hired Charles Yost, an aeronautical engineer at North American Aviation, Inc.’s Systems Dynamics Group, to assist with the task. The open-cell, polymeric memory foam that we use today was developed by Yost. Its remarkable viscoelastic qualities allowed this memory foam to absorb a lot of energy while still remaining soft. It provided excellent seat padding and was effective as a pressure buffer, improving the chances of surviving a collision.

Memory Foam Today

The foam required a catchier name when it started to be sold for consumer uses in 1991. Memory foam was intended to improve crash protection for pilots and passengers by cushioning seats more comfortably. Since then, this remarkable material has been used for a wide range of industrial and consumer products, including the incredibly well-liked memory foam mattress and pillows.

Memory foam has undergone numerous modifications and developments to become one of the best bed and pillow materials ever created. It is the only one that can entirely adapt while rapidly regaining its previous shape, making it significantly more comfortable and durable. Memory foam is still used by NASA in their space programme today for anything from floors to seats.

How Does Memory Foam Work?

Memory foam beds are made to gradually conform to the body in reaction to pressure, evenly distributing body weight. Additionally, they are made to be durable and to take their original form after being relieved of pressure and human weight.

Depending on the pressure or “force” you apply, memory foam reacts differently. Rapid pressure tends to cause the foam to change shape “reluctantly,” or more slowly. This indicates that memory foam is good at absorbing the force of an impact, which is why it was first utilised in fields like the construction of space shuttles. This property of memory foam, which is used to make mattresses, helps the mattress cushion the body equally and produces the gradual contouring effect as the mattress adjusts to your body’s impact.

Construction of Memory Foam Mattresses

Comfort Layer

Depending on the stiffness of the mattress, this top area is made up of one or more foam layers that are often intended to give contouring and cushioning. In order to keep heat away from the sleeping surface, many mattress designs include more breathable foams in this area.

Transition Layer

One or more foam layers make up this area of the mattress, which serves as a transition between the comfort layers and the core. They frequently aid in bringing heat away from the comfort layer and are typically slightly stiffer than the foam in the comfort layers.


This is the mattress foundation. It is typically the largest layer by a wide margin and is frequently made of much stiffer foam. Through the other foam layers, it gives the mattress sturdiness and support. Some mattresses, referred to as hybrid mattresses, include cores that are similar to those found in innerspring mattresses rather than cores made of foam. In general, this tends to offer more support, bounce, and ventilation.

Memory Foam Mattresses at Mattressman

At Mattressman, we offer a range of memory foam mattresses in a variety of sizes and styles, so you can find the mattress that’s perfect for you.