You’ve probably heard the golden rule that applies to any memory foam mattress in a box: you need to allow at least 24 hours for it to decompress before you can actually use it.
But is this really that necessary? What will happen to a mattress if you set to sleep on it just a few hours after unpacking?
Well, shortly speaking, nothing critical.
But there still are some things you need to keep in mind to avoid possible issues. So, let’s see what they are.
Why Do Manufacturers Insist You Leave the Mattress for 24 Hours to Expand?
Before answering the question, we need to look into the layers of an average memory foam mattress:
- high-density foam base;
- transition layers made of open-cell foam, memory foam, or polyfoam;
- a pack of comfort layers made of less dense memory foam, which can be infused with gel, charcoal, or copper particles.
Even though these materials have a slightly different structure, they do have one thing in common:
They need aeration in order to expand and gain their supportive properties.
Thus, mattress brands literally ask you to allow the mattress to become supportive so that you could sleep on it comfortably.
But do you really have to wait that long?
Well, not exactly.
Most mattress materials gain their complete volume in 6-8 hours, so if your mattress has arrived today, chances are it will be ready to support your sleep as your bedtime approaches.
However, breaking the 24-hour rule might get you in trouble with the warranty, because most brands expect that you will carefully follow the exploitation rules for your mattress. Simply put, if you decide to sleep on your mattress a bit earlier, you might void your warranty.
Issues You May Encounter
Now, let’s see what can happen if you fall asleep on your new memory foam bed before 24 hours. Note that these problems may not apply to all mattresses, but they could be more pronounced in cheaper foams, as manufacturers of budget beds use materials with lower quality.
So, the most common issue you might encounter with any memory foam mattress is an unpleasant smell. The thing is, the chemicals involved in the production of memory foam, often have sharp odors that can transfer to the final product. Although fresh foam odor isn’t harmful, it might be really disruptive and even provoke headaches in sleepers with a sensitive nose.
How to combat this issue?
The answer depends on your sensitivity level. Some people can just put a mattress encasement on their brand new memory foam mattress and thus lock the odors inside.
Also, you may try placing essential oil sachets around your head. They can mask odors until they dissipate completely.
Incomplete Inflation and Altered Feel
Another obvious problem is incomplete inflation. Although modern and top-rated memory foam mattresses are made of more advanced materials, compared to what was on the market just a decade ago, some of them may gain their volume slowly.
This typically applies to denser base foams or softer gel-infused materials that initially have a less resilient structure.
How to combat this issue?
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about this issue except wait.
If you see that your bed isn’t completely expanded by the time you need to sleep on it, it’s better to give it more time. A too soft and unsupportive surface will make you toss and turn, which can lead to poor sleep quality and lack of energy the next day, not mentioning the consequences of sleep deprivation on your health.
Uneven Surface and Weak Edges
According to Kansas-sleep, memory foam mattresses typically have weaker edges compared to other types of beds, and if you won’t allow your bed to expand properly, this drawback might become even more pronounced.
The unevenness of the surface isn’t always noticeable, but your body will surely feel it. And you will face the same consequences as with the previous issue: aches and pains, poor sleep, and low energy and productivity.
Plus, if you share your bed with a partner or tend to sleep closer to the edge, it may be hard for you to find a comfortable position to fall asleep.
How to combat this issue?
As with incomplete inflation, you need to give your bed more time to expand. Dense foams or infused upper layers might need a day or two to fully decompress.
Does This Apply to All Mattresses?
No, it doesn’t. But certain categories of mattresses are more prone to developing the aforementioned problems:
- Cheap beds. Again, budget mattresses use cheaper materials, such as layers of polyfoam or low-density memory foam. They are less resilient and hence, may decompress unevenly or even never expand to the full extent. Moreover, they can be dangerous for your health because of volatile organic compounds, such as phthalates or formaldehyde.
- Mattresses with many layers. The more layers your bed has, the more time it may take for all of them to gain the needed volume. Note that upper layers of memory foam beds are often made of infused foams, which are less resilient and therefore inflate more slowly.
- Imported beds. Mattresses that travel overseas to get to the US stores may have been produced under different manufacturing standards, which can impact the quality of the final product.
How to Speed Up the Decompression Process?
If you don’t really feel like waiting, you can try to speed up the process a bit by following these simple tips:
- Open your windows. Weather permitting, promote air circulation around your mattress to promote faster inflation. Or, turn on the fan and place it near your bed: this can have a similar effect.
- Add some heat. If it’s winter outside and opening all the windows doesn’t seem like a great idea, the heat may also help. Be sure not to place the heater too close to the mattress, or it will ruin the foam instead of aiding in its expansion.
- Squash it. Finally, you can just squash the mattress with your hands or legs. Sometimes it can help the foam expand faster, as it promotes the airflow too.
To discover if there are underlying causes to your lack of sleep, contact the Alaska Sleep Education Center for a free 10 minute phone consultation. And if you live in the state of Alaska, our board-certified sleep specialists can even make a Home Sleep Test work for you by calling 1-855-AKSLEEP.