Could the special properties of memory foam enhance your sleep? Sleep specialist Donna L. Arand, PhD, says that objective studies supporting the claimed benefits of memory foam — or the effects of any particular type of sleeping surface — are lacking.
This is true for a variety of reasons, she says. This type of sleep study can be expensive, if conducted independently. Or it is “chased” by a shadow of bias, if supported by industry.
Also, some sleep technology, such as memory foam, is relatively new, so it hasn’t been well studied. But perhaps one of the more difficult stumbling blocks to testing the health benefits of mattresses such as memory foam is the subjective nature of sleep. It is simply difficult to measure.
Sometimes the brain’s electrical activity, measured with an electroencephalogram (EEG), and other findings recorded during a sleep test don’t always match up perfectly with a person’s subjective experience, says Arand, who is the clinical director of the Kettering Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio. “They might say, ‘I had a great night’s sleep,’ but the EEG parameters might not really indicate that.”
Sleep is not only subjective, but preferences for sleep surfaces are individual, Arand says. “There’s quite a bit of variability between individuals in terms of what type of surface — whether it’s firm, hard, or soft — they prefer when they’re sleeping,” she says. “As far as we know, there is no rhyme or reason for that.”