I remember the first time I came across the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress - in 1993. When I lay down on it, it felt like nothing I had ever experienced before, and it still does. Since then I've had over 10 years in the memory foam business, and I've collected enough samples of memory foam to have a small memory foam museum in my closet. But the sample of the TEMPUR (R) foam still has the most unique, sexy feel of all the memory foams I've come across. With all Tempur-Pedic (R)'s success, many have tried to imitate their product. But so far, no foam manufacturer has yet been able to successfully duplicate the melting and conforming feel of this Swedish product.
An Introduction to Memory Foam
These days there seem to be dozens of different flavors of memory foam, but they all descend from a project by NASA back in the 70's. The idea was to come up with a material that could dampen the forces encountered by astronauts upon takeoff. While the first memory foam developed never actually made it into any space vehicle, it did end up getting picked up by the medical industry to help relieve bed sores since it was so effective at reducing pressure points.
The first generation of memory foam was effective but brittle, and just didn't stand up well over time. Tempur-Pedic (R) was the first company to really make a breakthrough with memory foam on this issue - they came up with a version that had the luxurious feel and density of that used in the medical industry, but also wore well and had real longevity. They first produced the material for the medical industry, and then were the first company to bring out the product to regular consumers in the early '90's.
Since then, memory foam has become the latest, coolest trend in the bedding industry - and for good reason, it really works. There is just no other material that works to reduce pressure points and conform to your body like memory foam. Tempur-Pedic (R) has really driven the industry with its advertising and retail store placements, and is certainly the leading player in the memory foam business.
In recent years it seems every foamer in America as well as overseas, even in China, is churning out their versions of memory foam. Most are of a lower density than Tempur-Pedic (R) . Tempur-Pedic (R)'s memory foam, TEMPUR (R), is a 5.3 lb/cubic foot density, and most other memory foams are in the 2.5 - 4.0 lb/cubic foot density range, although there are a few that have come out with a 5 lb/cubic foot density recently. (Note: density is measured in lb/cubic foot. Here's how to understand this - the question being answered is how much a cube measuring one foot in each dimension of this specific material will weigh. So, for example, in TEMPUR (R)'s case, a cube of TEMPUR (R) foam a foot in each dimension would weigh 5.3 lbs).
The density of a memory foam has a few consequences: the higher the density of a memory foam, the more costly the material. This is because more raw materials (rather than air) were used to make the product. And a higher density also contributes to how cushioning the product is - a higher density product has more actual material to provide cushioning. So part of TEMPUR (R)'s appeal is its high density which gives this additional cushion and support to its product.
But there is more to a memory foam than just density - each memory foam is made from a unique recipe, and each recipe gives a somewhat different feel and structure to the foams cells. I'm not a foam chemist, and foam chemistry can get very complex, but I can tell you that the unique recipe of Tempur-Pedic (R) gives its foam a supportive, yet melting quality plus durability that just hasn't been duplicated by any other foam company.
The melting type of quality of memory foam is one of the things that sets memory foam apart from other foams. Memory foam is unique in that it feels and acts differently at different temperatures. It becomes harder and more rigid at colder temperatures, and softer or more elastic at warmer temperatures. This is why memory foam is also called visco-elastic foam - it is viscous at lower temps, and more elastic at warmer temperatures. TEMPUR (R) foam has a very apparent reaction to your temperature, softening readily as you touch it. It is one of the reasons that people find TEMPUR (R) foam so wonderful to squeeze.
As a bedding surface, the visco-elastic nature of TEMPUR (R) foam means that it will soften with your body's temperature and "mold" to your body. Other memory foams have a bit of this molding feeling, but none that I've tried has as much of this feeling as Tempur-Pedic (R) .
In addition to this molding quality, memory foam is also an open celled foam, which means that air can pass from cell to cell. This ability to pass air from cell to cell, along with the unique way that memory foam cells deform when compressed, gives memory foam the ability to reduce pressure by spreading pressure among connected cells. No other foam or other bedding material combines these qualities of molding and pressure reduction, which is why memory foam has become such a hot commodity in the mattress industry.
With success has come imitators, and all sorts of mattresses these days offer their version of memory foam to compete with Tempur-Pedic (R) . I've tried many of these other memory foam beds at the specialty mattress and bedding industry trade shows. But while I do like some other memory foams, and they do offer consumers a good product at a lower price point, I still haven't come across anything that has the unique quality and feel of the TEMPUR (R) foam. For those looking for the absolute best in memory foam, Tempur-Pedic (R) remains that gold standard.
Expensive, but worth it?
But is it worth the premium you pay for it? This is the $64 question, and one I've never really had a good answer for. It is an expensive product, no doubt. Although as the years have gone by, other mattress manufacturers, using what I feel are inferior products, have come out with memory foam beds as expensive or even more expensive (as an example, the top of the line Select Comfort mattress with memory foam, positively makes the Tempur-Pedic (R) look inexpensive as it starts at $3,000 or so). But for the price, Tempur-Pedic (R) offers something that is difficult to find in the mattress world - a very high quality product that actually performs as it is hyped. In the 5 years I sold the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress to hundreds of customers, I found that 9 out of 10 really loved the mattress with a fervor bordering on the evangelical. Would I like it if the Tempur-Pedic (R) was a bit lower priced? - Yes. But you can't understate the value of a product that performs as described, and Tempur-Pedic (R) does deliver in spades. It's unique feel and conforming nature work to relieve pressure points and support your back in a way that just hasn't been duplicated.
Don't Let the Soft Layer Fool You - It's a Firm Mattress
Over the years, I found that some customers were surprised by the firmness of the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress. They had thought that the mattress would be kind of soft because of the top, giving layers of memory foam. But the reality of the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress is that while the initial feel is soft because of the top memory foam layers, it really is a firm mattress at its core due to the 5 - 6" bottom layer of firm, high resiliency foam. This bottom, mattress core is pretty firm when the mattress is new, and does take a few weeks or so to break in and give a bit. But even then the mattress retains a pretty firm feel. I didn't find that the mattress was overly firm for most customers, but I made sure that I only sold it to people who enjoyed a firm mattress.
One caveat - I never sold The DeluxeBed by Tempur-Pedic(TM) or The new CelebrityBed by Tempur-Pedic(TM), and I understand that these have softer feels. The The new DeluxeBed by Tempur-Pedic(TM) has a thicker base (6" of foam vs. 4.5 in the The ClassicBed by Tempur-Pedic(TM) (which is what they are calling the basic Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress I was familiar with)) and a bit more memory foam as well, and The CelebrityBed by Tempur-Pedic(TM) has this thicker base and an even thicker layer of memory foam on top. I think this was a good move by Tempur-Pedic (R), to offer these different options that provide a range of firmness. FYI - I've heard through the grapevine that The CelebrityBed by Tempur-Pedic(TM) has been a big success, and that The DeluxeBed by Tempur-Pedic(TM) is now the leading seller in the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress line. I guess there is a real market for these kind of top of the line approaches.
The Trial is Key
All my years of selling mattresses have taught me one thing - you just don't know if you are going to like a mattress till you have had a chance to sleep on it. Lying down on the mattress at a store may give you an inkling that the mattress may work, but the litmus test is trying it for yourself in your own home. That is one of the best parts of the Tempur-Pedic (R) offer - they have a very good home trial period, and the return fee, if you don't like it, is reasonable. This stands in marked contrast to most mattress retailers that either don't let you return a mattress, or only allow you store credit toward another mattress from their store. To Tempur-Pedic (R)'s credit, they put their money where their mouth is, and I never had a problem with them accepting a return and refunding the purchase.
What did I hear from customers during the trial period? Mainly, I heard from customers that they were sleeping better and experiencing fewer aches and pains after using the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress. My experience with the trial was that 90% of the people who tried the Tempur-Pedic (R) ended up liking and keeping their mattresses. This is a pretty small return ratio for a mattress product - in comparison, some air beds have over a 30% return rate. Overall, I found that while it often took customers a few days to get used to the feel of the memory foam layer, most people found that after a few days this feel became second nature and they really liked the way the mattress conformed and supported them.
I did find, though, that a few issues did sometimes come up for customers during the trial period. First, I found that it wasn't uncommon for it to take a few weeks to break in the mattress. Often the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress was firmer than customers expected when new. I think this is because the mattress they had tried out in a store had already been broken in over time from people trying it out. So I had some people calling me about the firmness of the bed, but I found that most of the time the bed softened up a bit after a few weeks, and then felt more as people expected. One tip, if you do find the mattress too firm when new, is to try unzipping the cover and peeling it back so that you are sleeping just on the foam itself. The cover seems to inhibit the breaking in period a bit, and sleeping straight on the foam can speed up the breaking in process in most cases.
I also heard from a few people that they felt too warm sleeping on the mattress. Memory foam does sleep somewhat warmer than a traditional cotton topped mattress, but not as warm as standard, closed cell foams. I found that most people were able to get comfortable with the temperature by adjusting the amount of covers they used. But if they were still too hot, peeling back the cover did help most since it is a bit cooler to sleep right on the foam than with the cover due to the fact that the cover contains a moisture barrier membrane.
Also, the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress may have an initial odor when new - this is an issue with all memory foams. I've found as long as people know this up front and then aren't surprised by it upon delivery, it really wasn't an issue. The odor dissipates pretty fast, and is completely gone within a few weeks. I can't remember that I had any returns due to this initial odor - but I did warn all my customers before they received the mattress.
One last issue that surprised some customers is that TEMPUR (R) foam is pretty temperature sensitive. While this is one of the key reasons that TEMPUR (R) foam has such a unique feel and benefits, it can be a bit of an issue if you have the mattress in a cold room - below 68 degrees or so. I can't say I remember any customer returning the mattress for this reason, but a few who liked cold rooms did solve the problem by warming up the mattress with an electric heating blanket to soften the memory foam before climbing into bed.
How to Find the Best Deal
Special Update - October 12, 2006
Now All Tempur-Pedic (R) Dealers Must Offer The Same Price and Incentives
Ok, I'm guessing many of you tuned in for this section - how to find a good deal on a Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress. I wish I had some great inside tip for you on finding a discount on the suggested retail price of the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress, but as you may have already found, the basic price of the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress is the same regardless of who you buy it from. So it is fruitless to search around for the best price - it is all the same.
The big recent news is that Tempur-Pedic (R) is working hard on "leveling the playing field" among its dealers. Tempur-Pedic (R) wants to assure customers that regardless of where you buy a Tempur-Pedic (R) , you will get the same basic deal and incentives. This amounts to some major changes in practice - no more "free shipping" and no more ways to avoid paying sales tax. All dealers must have the standard shipping charges and collect a tax on the purchase - no if, ands or buts. And lastly, the days of extra pillows on a purchase are over. One free pillow is it - and there just isn't any discretion to add in the extra. Once in awhile you might find a better deal if Tempur-Pedic (R) is having a special incentive offer, but for the most part this is the best deal you can expect to be quoted. You may find a better deal if you negotiate directly with a local retailer, but this is subject to individual negotiation and you will need to be in the store to get this sort of a deal (they won't be able to quote you over the phone - no dealer can publicly quote a better deal than the standard offer and expect to stay a dealer). So our advice is to go, in person, to a few local stores and try to negotiate the best possible deal.
An Option If You Want A Memory Foam Mattress, But Just Can't Afford Tempur-Pedic
As you can tell from this guide, we like the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattress line - and we really feel it is the gold standard in the memory foam mattress market.
But we do know that some people just aren't able to afford the Tempur-Pedic (R) mattresses, or just have a ceiling on what they are willing to spend on a mattress. So we are often asked if we have a lower priced memory foam mattress that we would also recommend. And for a long time we just didn't - we just didn't feel that any of the dozens of memory foam mattresses that have come on the market in the last few years had the quality and comfort we demand - even from a lower priced memory foam mattress.
Recently, though, we came across a memory foam mattress at one of the furniture stores that we liked - it was one of the most comfortable we had tried and a price point under $1,000 and it was vacuum packed for shipping so it could be easily shipped by UPS. Healthy Foundations has begun offering this mattress and they have a great money back guarantee - a 1 full year money back trial. And the early feedback they have been getting on the mattress has been great. Also, if you are confused about memory foam, check out their Memory Foam Mattress Buyer's Guide -- it is an in-depth guide that will arm you so you can find the right memory foam mattress for you at the right price.