Plant-Based and Traditional Memory Foam Go Head to Head.
Just how well do plant-based memory foam compare traditional memory foam mattresses? Many shoppers are surprised to learn there are differences and may not realize what characteristics distinguish one from the other.
In order for consumers to learn more about the similarities and differences we take an in-depth look at not only the two types, but also comparisons of popular manufacturers that were chosen to represent both plant-based memory foam and traditional.
Traditional vs Plant-Based Memory Foam
No stranger to the game, traditional forms of viscoelastic material have been used in bedding for over 20 years now. Memory foam continues gaining popularity among consumers, and in the past ten years this has inevitably meant more options coming to the market. Though this type of bed consistently rates higher than spring beds in terms of comfort and overall satisfaction, there are few issues that newcomers like plant-based foams have sought to address.
Traditional Memory Foam
Traditional memory foam mattresses are made from petroleum-based polyurethane. The process was originally developed by NASA, later purchased and introduced into the mass market. This type of foam is temperature-sensitive, meaning it reacts by hardening in cold spaces and softening in warm. The buoyant sensation and pressure-reliving properties come from the memory foam’s ability to contour to the sleeper and evenly distribute weight.
Plant-based Memory Foam
Though traditional memory foam has many positive aspects, there are few complaints which variations have sought to address such as heat retention, odors and chemicals, excessive viscosity, and firmness unpredictability. Plant-based memory foam replaces a portion of the petroleum products with plant-derived oils.
In addition to being considered more eco-friendly, some types of plant-based memory foam have actually been shown to improve breathability and eliminate other concerns without heat-retention issues. Certi-PUR® certified plant-based foams are also free of chemicals like CFCs, formaldehyde, phthalates, PBDEs, and are low in VOCs, all of which have been cause for concern in traditional memory foams.
We have dived deeper into explanations of each of these differences with information gleaned from mattress reviews in the following sections. Take a look to see how plant-based memory foam compares to traditional.
Health / Offgassing
For this purpose, health refers to potentially harmful chemicals used in the composition of the mattresses, which is closely tied to the potential for off-gassing and the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This is a group of more than 60 chemicals that are considered to present health hazards when people suffer prolonged exposure. With the average person spending 8 hours, or one-third of their day in close contact with their mattress, chemicals can pose serious concern.
*Plant-based memory foam mattresses manufactured by Leizi have been certified by Certi-PUR®. This certification means they don’t contain toxic chemicals, heavy metals, or dangerous additives. There is an initial “new” odor as with most new products; however it dissipates within a few days and is mentioned by fewer than 5% of reviewers .
*Traditional memory foam brands usually remains tight-lipped about their formula, usually saying the beds are free of harmful VOCs, formaldehyde and CFCs. But, traditional memory foam made from petroleum has been associated with the release of VOCs, which can continue for the life of the product. A lot of companies have no third party certifications, and about 18-20% of reviewers mention odor, some so bad they were forced to return their bed.
Sleeping Hot/Trapped Heat
Most people prefer to feel cooler when sleeping, and it is thought that cooler temperatures improve sleep quality. Thus, heat and memory foam has become a hot topic in recent years and is a top concern for some.
*Use an open-celled foam with greater breathability than traditional foams. This claim appears to bear out in reviews, with less 2-5% of reviewers complaining of sleeping hot. Even about 5% of innerspring owners complain of heat, so this percentage is well below average for foam mattresses.
*Sleeping hot has been a complaint from owners of traditional memory foam beds since they were first introduced. The closed-cell nature of the foam structure may contribute to trapped heat, especially on denser and thicker models. In reviews, approximately 10-15% of owners complain of sleeping hot, some to the point of excess sweating affecting the mattress.
The response time of a foam refers to how quickly it returns to its original shape or recontours to the movements of the sleeper. This affects how easily a person can move and change position, as well as intimate moments.
*Plant-based memory foam mattresses feature a 6-8 second response time. They also are stable in firmness since the material is not affected by ambient temperatures. Fewer than 2% of reviews mentioned anything about difficulty moving or other issues related to response time.
*About 15-18% of traditional memory foam mattress owners complain of issues with response time or ease of movement, likely due to the 45-60 second response time of this type of mattresses and temperature sensitive properties. Some mention the bed being too hard, then too soft to move after it warms up. others mention a “quicksand” effect where the material near their body is soft while the rest is hard creating a sensation of being stuck in a hole.
As we've mentioned before, when researching different types of beds, it can be helpful to compare performance factors using actual owner opinions rather than relying on cost, commercials, or branding to make shopping decisions. The above information was tabulated from analysis of the total available reviews from each brand’s website and from independent review sites.
Individual mattresses vary, however this comparison is designed to show averages to help readers identify differences between memory foam types for product research purposes. Plant-based memory foam mattresses are relatively new, but they perform as well or better than their synthetic competitors.