All-Foam vs. Memory Foam Mattresses: Everything You Need To Know

Written by: Andjela Kastratovic
Updated: 02/01/2023

Buying a new mattress means running into several mattress materials, and one of them is foam. 

There are different types of foam: memory foam, polyfoam, gel foam, you name it. So, what’s the difference?

Welcome to our all-foam vs. memory foam mattresses guide, where we’ll cover everything you need to know about these foam types.

Memory Foam Mattress vs. All-foam Mattress

Here’s something important: an all-foam mattress is made from polyfoams other than memory foam, but a memory foam bed isn’t made from just memory foam. 

Memory foam isn’t supportive enough on its own, so a memory foam mattress needs a support layer of high-density polyurethane foam. 

Here’s what you should know about these mattresses. 

What Is an All-foam Mattress?

Polyurethane foam, or polyfoam for short, is one of the most common synthetic mattress materials. It’s often used in both support and comfort layers for all-foam mattresses. 

Mattresses made of polyfoam can have various firmness levels due to their density. More often than not, they have a faster response, offer good contouring, and provide solid pressure relief.

Polyfoam mattresses are generally cheaper, but that’s a two-edged sword. What you gain in price, you’ll likely lose in quality and durability. This is why it’s important to look for high-resilience foams when shopping. They’ll cost a bit more, but it’s worth it in the long run. 


  • High-resilience foam is good for support 
  • Wide firmness range 
  • Budget -friendly 
  • Easy to transport


  • Usually lower quality
  • Not as comfortable
  • Durability issues

What Is a Memory Foam Mattress?

Memory foam is a type of viscoelastic foam first created and used by NASA, but today it’s one of the most popular and well-liked mattress materials. It is used in the comfort layer, but high-density polyfoam must be used for support in this mattress. 

People love memory foam mattresses because of the comfort they provide. Just like polyfoam mattresses, memory foam mattresses come in a wide firmness range. They mold to your body very well, relieve pressure better than anything else, respond slowly, and don’t transfer motion.

Memory foam is also generally inexpensive but can still have durability issues.  

The biggest problem traditional memory foam has is temperature regulation. This closed-cell material traps heat, so hot sleepers should avoid it.

Mattress manufacturers have come up with new foams, like memory foam with infused liquid gel, that can help with cooling problems like this. There are even options with an open-cell structure.


  • Extreme contouring and pressure relief 
  • Better quality and more durable
  • Superb motion isolation


  • Traps heat 
  • More expensive than polyfoam
  • Not supportive enough on its own

Foam vs. Memory Foam – Key Differences

All-foam and memory-foam mattresses have slight differences, but they’re still there. 

Keep in mind that a memory foam mattress usually uses high-density polyfoam in the support layer. So no matter which one you prefer, you’re going to end up with some sort of polyfoam. 

Let’s get into it! 


Viscoelastic foam is an excellent contouring material; even high-density memory foam is excessively contouring. pressure relief, and overall comfort. In the foam vs. memory foam battle, this material definitely takes the cake. 

Keep in mind, however, that not everyone enjoys the slow response and hugging sensation that memory foam provides. It might not be your cup of tea! 


Memory foam is created for comfort, not support.  

That’s why support is best left to high-density foam. The good news is that this material can be found in both all-foam and memory foam mattresses. 

But foam in itself isn’t a very supportive material. If it’s not durable enough, it will sag over time and affect spinal alignment. Heavier sleepers should be careful and make sure they’re choosing high-quality foam. 

Most of the time, latex foam is more supportive than memory foam, but heavy sleepers should still be careful when choosing a mattress. 

One thing neither memory foam nor polyfoam do well, regardless of their densities, is provide edge support. Edge support is important for older people, heavier sleepers, and anyone who likes to sleep or sit near the edge of the bed. 

In foam mattresses, edge support is usually provided by firmer foam on the perimeter, but this isn’t enough to be sturdy. 


Both all-foam and memory foam beds are generally affordable. However, memory foam is a higher-quality material that takes more time to produce, so it costs a bit more. 

If you’re on a tight budget, polyfoam is the way to go. This material has less processing than memory foam, making it cheaper. Unfortunately, this also means that the quality is worse. 

This is especially clear in low-density polyfoam, which is less expensive and softer but not at all durable. The initial feeling of comfort will last for a while, and then the wear and tear will do their work. This mattress can show severe signs of usage even after just a couple of months! 


As we’ve already talked about, the overall density of foam can vary a lot, but memory foam tends to be more dense than polyfoam.

The advantage of this dense viscoelastic material is its durability; the denser the material is, the longer it will last. Combined with its elasticity, memory foam wins the durability debate. 

Low-density foams seem comfortable and nice at first, but as mentioned before, they’re not really worth it. They fall apart too fast. 

High-density polyurethane foams are denser than memory foam, but they’re not there for comfort. This material is usually used for support layers, and it’s still not as durable as some other materials out there. 


Density is also closely related to mattress firmness. The denser the material is, the firmer it will feel.  

Mattress firmness is a highly subjective feeling, but the scale of 1 to 10 is used to make things easier. Although most people prefer to sleep on a medium-firm mattress. But who knows? Maybe you’ll love something else. That’s why it’s important to test out a mattress. 

When it comes to all-foam or memory foam, there’s no winner. Both of these materials can have varying degrees of firmness, so you’ll definitely find what you need. 

The perfect firmness for you depends on your personal preferences and sleeping habits. For example, your preferred sleeping position is a very important factor. 

If you sleep on your side, you’ll want to get a softer mattress that will let your hips and shoulders sink without pushing against the pressure points too much. And if you sleep on your back or stomach, you’ll need a firmer mattress that can support your back. 

Pressure Relief

If you suffer from painful joints or are a side sleeper, you’ll need a mattress that offers great pressure relief. 

There’s a definite winner here, and it’s memory foam. This material is known for its superb pressure relief. 

It’s not that regular foam is completely bad at relieving pressure! Some models do a really good job; it’s just that they aren’t as good as memory foam. 

You definitely won’t sleep well when your mattress pushes against your pressure points too much! 


How long does it take for your mattress to get back into its original shape after you push your hand against it? All mattresses are responsive; some are just faster than others. 

Memory foam is an elastic material known for its slow response. If you push against the material with your hand, the imprint will stay for a couple of seconds before morphing back. 

Polyfoam is definitely faster at this, although it can also depend on density. High-density polyfoam goes back to its original shape faster than low-density foam. 

There’s no winner when it comes to responsiveness because it greatly depends on your personal preferences. Some people love responsive memory foam and the sinking feeling it gives, but it makes others feel like they’re stuck in the mattress. 

Motion Isolation

Do you sleep with a partner and find yourself waking up with every one of their tosses and turns? Then you need some good motion isolation. 

This is another area where memory foam mattresses definitely win. The viscoelastic material is amazing at handling and isolating motion.

Once again, an all-foam mattress can do a pretty good job at this as well, but it can never compare to memory foam. It’s just more responsive and bouncy. 

Temperature Regulation

Hot sleepers know how hellish beds with heat retention can get. And those would be traditional memory foam mattresses. 

If you want to sleep on memory foam, get ready for trapped body heat. This viscoelastic foam is a closed-cell material, which means it isn’t breathable at all. 

To make matters worse, the hotter it gets, the more it molds to your body. For a lot of people, this can get a bit smothering. 

Lucky for us, modern technology exists. A lot of companies create advanced memory foams infused with gel beads, copper, or other materials that can help with cooling. But keep in mind that not all of them work and are perfect. 

Gel memory foam costs more and tends to be less responsive than traditional foam. 

Polyfoam mattresses have slightly better cooling properties, but they can still trap heat. Still, it’s a better choice than memory foam if you want a cooling mattress.

Sleeping Position

The perfect bed for you can also depend on your sleep position. Your choice of foam can also depend on this. 

Let’s start with side sleepers. They need a good combination of support and comfort, and their mattress should be soft enough to let their hips and shoulders sink without too much pressure. 

In other words, a soft memory foam mattress with a strong support core is the perfect choice for them. 

The situation is a bit different for back sleepers and stomach sleepers. They need that firmness to keep their spines aligned. 

However, back sleepers should go for firmer viscoelastic foam because of its pressure relief, while stomach sleepers can sleep on a firmer polyfoam mattress. 

When it comes to combination sleepers, polyfoam might be a better choice because it will respond faster to different positions. But if they want a really fast response, they should definitely go for a latex mattress.

Body Weight

The more pressure you put on a mattress, the more durable it needs to be. 

Light and average-weight sleepers can sleep on most foam and memory foam beds, but heavier sleepers need to be careful with their choices. 

Memory foam and polyfoam, even when they’re high-density, aren’t all that durable. Heavy sleepers should either look for a really high-resilience foam if they want support or go for a completely different mattress type, like latex mattresses.


Both memory foam and polyfoam are synthetic materials, so expect off-gassing when you first unpack your mattress. 

Off-gassing is especially common when purchasing a bed-in-a-box. It’s not harmful to adults, but the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released into the air can be bad for children. 

No matter what type of foam your mattress is made from, make sure to air it out for a couple of days! 

Open-Cell vs. Closed-Cell Foam

The attributes of a material greatly depend on whether it’s open- or closed-cell, especially when it comes to foam. 

In an open-cell material, cell walls aren’t intact. This makes the substance less dense and durable but also more breathable.

On the other hand, closed-cell is the opposite. It means that the material is usually denser and more durable, but it also restricts airflow, which creates mattresses that trap heat. 

It’s important to keep these two things in mind when looking for the perfect material to sleep on. For example, open-cell memory foam exists, and it’s more breathable but also less durable. 

Memory Foam vs. Low-Density Foam

In comparison to low-density foam, memory foam is a firmer and denser material. Both of these materials are primarily used in the top layer of a mattress. 

The density of memory foam ranges from below 3 to over 6 pounds per cubic foot. That’s a pretty wide range for this viscoelastic foam. On the other hand, low-density polyfoam density doesn’t go over 3. 

Because low-density foam is softer than memory foam, it’s also less durable. This material will show signs of wear and tear after just a few months. 

Memory Foam vs. High-Density Foam

High-density foams are usually more dense than memory foam. The biggest difference is in the way they’re used. While memory foam is primarily used for comfort layers, high-density foams are made for the support layers. 

In this case, more density equals more durability. High-density memory foam can last a long time, but not as much as high-resilience dense foam.  

Final Thoughts

While polyfoam tends to be firmer and cheaper, memory foam is more comfortable and long-lasting. Which one would you choose? 

The differences aren’t that big. It all depends on your preferences, and those are crucial when choosing a bed to sleep on. 

Good luck with finding your new mattress!

Reviews written by:

Andjela Kastratovic - Co-editor

Anđela is a content writer by the day and an Illustrator by night. She loves anything creative, but sleep takes the cake – that’s why she enjoys writing for Anatomy of Sleep so much!

While in high school, she got accepted for her dream job – a ‘professional sleeper’. Her job was to test new mattresses from a local mattress brand and write reports on the quality of sleep. Ever since then, she’s been in love with reviewing mattresses and putting her compelling research into ultimate buyer’s guides. While not exploring the latest brands, she likes to illustrate and spend time with her dog and friends.