Visco elastic foam is a material developed for bodily support during sleep. Its effectiveness is due to its unique ability to reduce pressure, provide comfortable support, and ease pain caused by prolonged stiffness. Most foam today can be found at furniture retailers, since it is used in mattress overlays, mattress pads, and pillows. Also known as NASA memory foam, visco elastic foam was first invented for space programs in the 1970s, in order to reduce pressure points experienced by astronauts. The G-forces generated during lift off caused uncomfortable sensations for astronauts in their flight chairs, and the foam was able to furnish this needed orthopedic support.
Years later, visco elastic foam was adapted by the medical field for hospital beds, resulting in better physical comfort for patients. It was then that the material was sold to the general public for use in homes, and became popular to the point that products made from it are utilized worldwide in households. One of the most recognized brands of these products is Tempur-Pedic. It has marketed its orthopedic bedding and accessories by claiming that it helps ease troubled sleep, numbness caused by poor circulation, and aligns the vertebrae, leading to better long-term posture and overall health.
The foam works by conforming to the natural heat and weight of the body. It adjusts itself to accommodate the various pressure points, such as the shoulder and hips, which are body areas that press hardest into the bed. Depending on which position someone sleeps in, pressure points differ. However, without proper support, any sleep position can result in pain or discomfort. Visco elastic foam is made up of open cells, which pass air to adjacent cells when pressed down on. In this way, even when the mattress or pillow feels firm at first, it is able to mold to the shape of your body or head.
Besides its widely venerated ability to help people achieve a better night's sleep, visco elastic foam products are less likely to harbor dust mites, which tend to breed, reproduce, and proliferate in traditional box spring mattresses. Dust mites are often found in an environment of high humidity and dead skin cells, which they feed on for nourishment. The end products generated by dust mites create allergic reactions and other respiratory problems for humans, making them undesirable pests. This foam is less likely to provide that kind of environment given its structure and high density.
The number one complaint made by users of visco elastic foam products is the excessive heat generated by use. Because the material is heat sensitive, it traps heat within its open cells. Manufacturers claim, however, that environment as well as one's own body heat contribute to this rise in temperature. Research has been conducted to find solutions to this problem, one of them being Surface Modified Technology (SMT). SMT is a patented series of grooves that can be cut into the surface of the foam to reduce the amount of heat buildup by allowing air to enter and circulate beneath the sheets. This method is also known by some as a Heat Reduction Channels (HRC) system.
When looking for a high quality visco elastic foam furniture piece for your home, beware of imitation manufacturers. Some factories mix formaldehyde and other fixers into their foam and try to sell it as this product. These chemicals can create severe allergic reactions and a heavily unpleasant smell. A good quality product will not visibly flake or break.
It is important to check for inconsistencies in the density of your foam too, since manufacturing procedures differ. One way of creating a mattress is by pouring liquid foam into trays and peeling them out like cookie sheets. The problem with this occurs when gravity causes the foam to become increasingly dense toward the bottom. More advanced technology has leapfrogged this first method by creating it in a vacuum chamber. Called vacuum injection, this process of manufacturing creates a foam product of uniform density and ultimately, a high quality mattress topper, pad, or pillow.