Tempurpedic vs. Memory Foam
September 7, 2008 7:53 PM   Subscribe

The topic has been covered here before, but the answer to this specific question remains elusive: Is there a difference between expensive Tempurpedic mattresses and the generic memory foam ones?

We found a Leeds Mattresses brand mattress ($1299) and a Tempurpedic ($3499) that felt pretty similar as far as comfort in the store, but the salesman swore up and down that the house brand mattress wouldn't be as durable or comfortable in the long run. They both have 5 pound viscoelastic memory foam. Does anyone have experience with the Leeds brand of memory foam (the manufacturer is Leader) or with Tempurpedic versus generic? Sorry for the sort-of repeat question, except it's not really --though mattresses and memory get a lot of play on Ask MeFi, I didn't find anything current that could answer this question. Google turns up a bunch of conflicting information. Consumer Reports charges for their info (recurring billing -- argh!) I'm hoping for some up-to-date, cutting edge mattress insight! Thanks :)
posted by wetpaint to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
This won't completely answer your question, but it might answer part of it. I too looked on Metafilter when considering buying a Tempurpedic about a year ago, but couldn't find too much up-to-date information. So I took a leap of faith and bought the Tempurpedic. It was the best purchase I've ever made, I think. I've suffered from insomnia my entire life, due in some part to having a terrible back problem. The Tempurpedic mattress has given me the best sleep I've ever had. What I can't tell you is how it compares to a Leeds mattress because before this I had a box spring and before that I had a futon.

As a side note, my partner does like the bed, but like many people she finds that it raises her body temperature while she sleeps -- I don't seem to have this problem.
posted by lassie at 8:34 PM on September 7, 2008

This, too, won't completely answer your question, but it's another testimonial, if nothing else.

I bought a TempurPedic in early 2005, after also doing a fair bit of online research. The one thing I came away with from that was that it was very much a love/hate proposition, and that there weren't too many people who sided in the middle. Three and a half years in, I have to put myself in the small camp of people in the middle.

At first, I slept better and was far less sore in the morning when I woke up. But in retrospect, a lot of that may have been more the fault of the eight-year-old entry-level IKEA mattress that the TempurPedic was replacing. Also, they tell you NOT to use any kind of mattress pad or anything else on a TempurPedic -- sound advice, because anything you put on it takes away from the effect of the memory foam. Problem is, they really do mean ANYTHING. Just putting sheets on the TempurPedic changes the feel of it fairly noticeably, at least to me. Lying down on one of the mattresses in the store was quite a different experience than having one at home and putting a sheet on it. Just having a single sheet on the mattress takes away a significant-enough-to-be-noticeable amount of that "molding to fit you" feeling.

My work life takes puts me in hotels every single week, about 99% of which have conventional spring mattresses. In many cases, I'm shocked to find I sleep about as well in those beds as my own, but I often wake up with LESS soreness than on my TempurPedic. (I've come to accept a small degree of temporary soreness, which fades away after an hour or so of being awake, as normal in recent years. This started when I was about 26ish, which is kind of young for that sort of thing, so YMMV.)

I'm almost inclined to say the TempurPedic thing is hype to a degree, but I can't deny that it did improve my sleep experience initially, and I don't actually have any complaints about my TempurPedic on its own merits. It's just that I might not have been the best candidate for it -- I don't really seem to benefit so much from its purported innovations as others are. At 33, I'm still relatively young, and I don't wake up with any kind of really bothersome soreness, or anything that doesn't go away after breakfast anyway. And it's worth noting that some of TempurPedic's techniques, materials, etc. are patented, which means that competitors will never be able, legally, to exactly match "The TempurPedic Experience" (TM) fully. I have actually tried competitor's offerings, and I can notice the difference (to their detriment) in the store, immediately. Given a choice, I'll stick with the TempurPedic.

It's also nice to know that, as a nice side effect of it being such a departure from traditional mattresses, you won't get mites. They have no interest in the material used in TempurPedic mattresses, so they don't settle in them. And you don't have to rotate the mattress (actually, they strictly tell you NOT to). And they say it has a much, much longer lifespan -- no springs to wear out, etc. -- and anecdotally, even though I'm only 3.5 years into my TempurPedic, I can wholeheartedly vouch for that claim. It feels the same as it did when I first got it.

So I guess that while it's not the strongest endorsement, it's an endorsement. (I did touch upon your question a bit above -- i.e., when I noted that the competing memory foam products feel noticeably inferior to me, even if I'm just checking them out in the showroom after having had my own TempurPedic for a good while now.) So . . . hope this helps, in some way, shape, or form.
posted by CommonSense at 8:49 PM on September 7, 2008

Just checked Consumer Reports - doesn't really look like they've taken a solid look at the various memory foam products and manufacturers versus TempurPedic. All they say is that TempurPedic, like SleepNumber and Duxiana, illicit strong opinions one way or another.

Doesn't TempurPedic offer an in home test?
posted by FlamingBore at 9:14 PM on September 7, 2008

Best answer: Yep, no mattress reviews on Consumer Reports, they say that its too personal a choice. I can't answer your question entirely either, but I will offer this - I did buy a memory foam mattress from Room and Board. They offer Firm and Soft versions of their memory foam mattresses. We opted for firm, mainly at my insistence (my partner previously hated firm mattresses). Now we both love the mattress, and miss it terribly when we travel. So, I have no idea how the Leeds brand one compares to mine, but I'm suggesting another option that is cheaper than the tempurpedic.
posted by Joh at 9:33 PM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I recently went through this... however, I'm on a slightly smaller budget than you (grad student).

Luckily, I found out about the 'cheaper pedic' concept (google it), courtesy of some of the deal sites online (fatwallet/slickdeals). Essentially, I built my own memory foam bed, saved a bunch, and got an insanely comfortable bed for around $500.

Wal mart Platform bed frame = $150
Super firm foam for the bottom layer @ Sears online = $90
5LB density Sensus 4" viscoelastic memory foam (new) from eBay for the top layer = $345 (- 35% MS Live cashback).

This is easily the most comfortable thing I've ever slept on, and I was able to do it on a grad student's budget. So much better than the $600 serta mattress I had last year.
posted by genome4hire at 10:23 PM on September 7, 2008 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Anecdotal evidence only, but I bought a King size memory foam mattress a few years ago off eBay, direct from the manufacturer. At the time, it was about $400 shipped. Seems like they've gone up a little, but it's still way below any retail prices. I've never regretted the purchase. Based on the time I've spent on an official Tempurpedic mattress and the 'off-brand', I would go for the cheaper option every time. Even if it doesn't last as long (10 years instead of 20, or whatever Tempur's warranty is now), I could buy 6 or 8 Mattresses for the same price.

I'm not surprised the mattress store guys talked up the (much) more expensive mattress. I'd be willing to bet he lives and dies on commission.

If interested, the folks I went through are Foam Factory, Inc. in Michigan (apologizes if you're not in the US, couldn't tell from your profile). they've been around almost 30 years, offer a pretty decent warranty on the mattresses, and were all around great to work with. The mattress will show up via UPS as one big heavy roll, shrink wrapped and vacuum-packed down to the size of a large child. You put it on the bed, remove the plastic, and over a couple hours it 're-inflates' into one of the best things I've ever slept on.
posted by pupdog at 10:51 PM on September 7, 2008 [5 favorites]

While I haven't spent any time on a Tempurpedic, I've had my costco-bought foam thing for 2+ years now and swear by it.

I actually bought the 12" base for $500 (IIRC) and the 3" version (by the same manufacturer) as a wear-protector for the expensive base.
posted by troy at 11:05 PM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just because CommonSense mentioned it as an issue, I thought I'd share my solution to the "sheets make tempurpedic not feel like tempurpedic anymore" issue.


After I threw those on, suddenly I could feel my bed hugging me again. I'm never using anything else.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 11:38 PM on September 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

I use a memory foam mattress topper and have been extremely satisfied. While I don't know the construction of the Tempupedic full-blown mattress, one thing I'd worry about is "sinking in" too much - I've heard that happens when one tries to "create" a mattress out of memory foam toppers. I like the fact that I have something firm (a great futon mattress) underneath the topper for extra support. IMO, Overstock is the way to go for mattress toppers and futon mattresses. YMMV.
posted by xiaolongbao at 12:13 AM on September 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't know anything about the mattresses, but I have evidence that the Target-brand Tempupedic-ripoff pillow is significantly worse than an authentic one. So they are clearly not all the same.
posted by bsdfish at 12:30 AM on September 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

When it comes to Memory foam, there are different densities, the lighter the material the cheaper - often the $15 pillow at BigLots and the like is maybe 3lb foam, an 'official' Select Comfort Foam pillow is in the 4-5lb foam range, with a firm foam core. This is the same with mattresses, you need something more 'solid' as a base, with a memory foam layer on top. Before I bought the one above, I did a lot of research, and couldn't find any reason NOT to buy the much cheaper one.
posted by pupdog at 3:30 AM on September 8, 2008

Seconding bsdfish. I bought a generic memory foam pillow from Target, for my wonky neck. Within a few months it had lost its memory and was just a normal foam pillow. I replaced it with a Tempurpedic pillow, and it's holding up perfectly over a year later.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:01 AM on September 8, 2008

I used to sell Temper-pedic mattresses at a mattress store (please don't flame guys - the prices are outrageous across the board and there's not a thing we could do about it). In selling a mattress, we encouraged our customers to give it a sleep test, to really get comfortable on the bed. After 5-10 minutes, it became clear with 95% of the customers that they loved it or hating it. 'Well I heard somewhere that you feel hotter when you sleep in one of these new-fangled beds' - that's supposed to be because your body circulation is better than it was (the bed doesn't create pressure points like an inner-spring mattress supposedly does), and your body naturally re-regulates itself. The 'sinking in' feeling is a little weird, and there are different models of Temper-pedic that allow for more or less 'sinking in' - the less you sink in the firmer the bed will feel.

Although the Temper-pedic brand was one of the first, they aren't the only one that produces a quality product. The weight is still the biggest and key factor. A cheap memory foam 'layer' will do little more beyond a placebo effect. In most cases, the warranty info may give you some indication as to how they back their product. Standard in the innerspring mattress (that we sold at least) was that if there was an indent of more than 1 1/2" the manufacturer would give you a new one. Temper-pedic's warranty at one time said that an indent of 1/2" or 3/4" was considered a warrantable defect - the memory foam stuff always came back up... I don't testify whether it was sales talk or a real statistic, but a Temper-pedic spokesperson giving us salespeople a tour informed us that they had yet to have a credible / legitimate warranty return from proper use.

To answer your question: yes there is a difference - whether it's a difference you'll notice isn't as easy to answer. I'm not a wine person, for example, so I couldn't tell the difference between the $20 bottle and the $200 bottle. Try both beds, compare the warranties... and spring the $25 for Consumer Reports to save yourself some hassle... :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 7:40 AM on September 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody! Like chrisinseoul says, I guess it just depends on whether we'll notice the difference between discount and Tempurpedic. I'm sure that Tempurpedic makes the better quality bed, but if they feel almost the same, then is it worth it? For the price, the Tempurpedic should actually be THREE TIMES as comfortable -- which it is definitely not, at least not after our 15-minute store snooze. We're going to check out the beds from Room and Board and Foam Factory. It seems like the sweet spot is somewhere in-between crappy Target memory foam and Tempurpedic's magical marketing machine. I'll try to follow up here when we get a bed (or does AskMeFi only give 7 days?) and we'll be sure to get some jersey sheets. Thanks to all!!
posted by wetpaint at 10:49 AM on September 8, 2008

Response by poster: For CommonSense -- We are both in our 30s and both have back issues also! You've sent my head spinning because come to think of it, we both sleep remarkably well on hotel mattresses also. And they're regular mattresses, not memory foam! If you've checked back in, could you be more specific about why you think the Tempurpedic may not be the best thing for a bad back? Does the sinking in eventually aggravate pain instead of helping it?
Tempurpedic does offer an in-home free trial, but only through their website where the beds are slightly pricier than in stores. Thanks!
posted by wetpaint at 10:54 AM on September 8, 2008

Wetpaint: Hi, it's me again . . .

It depends on the hotel. Several hotel chains have, in the last few years, started to really improve the quality of their mattresses, and have taken to marketing these fancy mattresses as a selling point. I stay in different hotels all the time, and there are times when a hotel's bed doesn't impress me. So I wouldn't say it's that I've come to prefer non-TP mattresses; rather, I'm sometimes staying at hotels that are using very high-quality "conventional" mattresses. The higher-end standard mattresses can be very comfortable, but it comes with the caveat that you still have to do the rotate-periodically game and accept that they'll gradually get less and less comfortable as they age, and far faster than memory foam mattresses do. I'm pretty sure that the higher-end hotels that use fancy spring mattresses have to replace them fairly often. Also, since this is a relatively recent trend, I'd venture to say that the hotels with higher-quality mattresses have all purchased them within the last couple of years, so they haven't had much time to age.

I have a terribly hard time getting the hell OUT of bed in the morning. Granted, a lot of this is just due to my laziness, but I think at least some of it is a testament to the TempurPedic, too. Plus, my fiancee says she feels exactly the same way. (Long-distance relationship, so she's only here every so often, at least until the wedding in November.)

Ultimately, it's a very individual thing -- like I said earlier, people seem to have a love-or-hate reaction to TempurPedic (and, I assume, other memory-foam mattresses). If you can do the in-home trial from the website, without being obligated to then buy from the site, I'd do that.

Also, don't be afraid to try and negotiate if you buy from a brick-and-mortar retailer. Hell, when I bought mine in 2006 from Rockaway Bedding (NY/PA/DC-area retailer), the saleswoman took the initiative of marking down the price for me. (I know, that probably means they overprice it from the start, then make "deals" with everyone . . . but I also negotiated it down a bit from there, too.) Throwing in a couple of TempurPedic pillows is usually a standard concession. For some dumb reason, they also gave me a free mattress pad . . . which is useless on memory foam mattresses anyway, but I put it on my guest bed instead.

I don't think that the TempurPedic "sinks in" NEARLY as soon as other memory foam products (and others higher up in the thread seem to confirm this also). I think that to some extent, your body adapts over time. Throwing it for a loop -- like sleeping at a hotel that touts its high-end mattresses -- will make it wonder if there's something better out there, but chances are that if you had that very mattress in your house, after a while you'd adapt to it, too. And if it's a spring mattress, it'll lose its charms a lot faster than a good memory-foam will, I bet.

I didn't mean to imply that things got "worse" over time since I've had it. I started having mild soreness in the morning at least two years before I bought the TempurPedic. It got better (but didn't totally go away) after I bought it, and has been roughly stable since then. Some of it is probably just me. Genetics.

BuddhaInABucket: Thanks for the tip. I'm definitely going to look into it!
posted by CommonSense at 7:11 PM on September 8, 2008

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