Foam is one of those things that is virtually ubiquitous in our lives: it is used in house insulation, automobile and airplane seats, underneath carpets, and, of course, in mattresses. As Reviewed’s sleep writer, I spend a lot of time evaluating and evaluating various foam mattresses. However, it got me thinking: What is foam? How is it made, and where does it originate from? Here’s all you wanted to know about foam and how it could assist you in falling asleep.
What Exactly Is Foam, And How Is It Made?
Foam production is similar to baking in that you combine a few ingredients, mix them, and transform them into a batter-like mixture. Mattress foams are made of three components:
Polyols, the fundamental building blocks that are often sourced from oils such as petroleum.
- Isocyanates, which function as reactants when combined with the polyols.
- Blowing agents, which generate gas bubbles in the foam.
Mix them in the proper proportions, and you’ve created foam. Latex, which is less prevalent in mattresses and has various components, may also be made into foam. To oversimplify, foam is similar to “bricks of bubbles.” Manufacturers can modify the texture and feel of foam by adjusting the proportions of certain ingredients. The ratio of isocyanates to polyols, in particular, determines firmness. “Essentially, the more isocyanate in foam, the firmer it will be; the less isocyanate in foam, the softer it will be.
Which Foam Kinds Are Used In Mattresses?
Polyurethane foam and memory foams are the two primary forms of foam found in and queen adjustable beds. They are both composed of the same essential ingredients, and both have some contouring ability and a forgiving, pliable surface. Still, the sensations they bring on the sleep are very different. The word “memory foam,” which you’ve undoubtedly heard before, can alternatively be referred to as viscoelastic foam or temper foam. This type of foam has the sink-in feel associated with the Tempur-Pedic mattress, the first memory foam mattress.
Are There Any More Distinctions Amongst Foams?
Another more technical aspect is the foam’s “cell structure.” Within memory foam and polyurethane foam, there are two distinct subtypes of foam structure, known as open- or closed-cell, that you cannot see but that may still make your sleep experience in terms of temperature regulation. Different cell architectures come from how the foam reacts to blowing agents and the form taken by the bubbles after the material is fully formed. For example, in an open-cell lather, the droplets that develop during manufacturing effectively rupture, leaving a webbing that makes the foam’s interior more linked and less thick rather than wholly enclosed and dense. “The more air that can flow through the mattress, whether you shift and move and [push] more air through it, or the air in the room slowly travels through… the faster the heat can be removed from your body,” Marino explains. While polyurethane and memory foams are available in the open- or closed-cell configurations, latex is an open-cell material (and may even have more giant bubbles than other foams, amplifying its cooling ability).