why are foam memory pillows so hard?

Why Are Memory Foam Pillows So Hard? – How To Soften Them!

If you’ve ever slept on a memory foam pillow or you just bought one, you are very likely to notice that one thing that makes it different from all the other pillows: Memory foam pillows are actually quite hard. Especially after lying on them for some time, you’ll feel the difference. But why are memory foam pillows so hard? Do they have to be like that or is it just you? We’ll cover all of that right now, so you can stop worrying about your pillow!

My promise:

After reading this, you will no longer have uncomfortable nights on a hard memory foam pillow.

The quick answer: Memory foam pillows are designed to adapt to the shape of your skull and neck in order to stabilize your posture and relief stress on your muscles. That’s why the foam has to be stiff. If it wasn’t stiff, the pillow would not be able to support your neck as well. On top of that, memory foam pillows appear to be harder than they actually are, because after they have adapted to your sleeping position the foam needs some time to reshape itself when you change your position. Also, memory foam pillows are temperature-dependent, which means that they are stiff when they are cold and soft when they warm up.

But that was just the short answer, so let’s take a look at everything in more detail. In this article we’ll cover:

  • Why Are Memory Foam Pillows So Hard?
  • Is Your Memory Foam Pillow Too Hard? – How To Decide!
  • My Favorite Soft Memory Foam Pillow
  • How to Soften a Memory Foam Pillow – 4 Ideas

So let’s jump right in!

Why are memory foam pillows so hard?

Memory foam is a slow material

Memory foam pillows aren’t actually that hard. It is a material that adapts to the shape it is squeezed into. Memory foam can, therefore, adapt to anyone’s posture and position. When you squeeze memory foam, you’ll notice a resistance. But after some time, the foam releases because it has adapted to your squeezing. It basically works like that: Memory foam resists every attempt to change its shape. After a few seconds it gives up and adapts.

You are used to regular pillows

In fact, the memory foam itself is not hard, it is just taking more time to react to your position changes than a regular pillow.

Because other materials are used in memory foam pillows, they often appear to be hard and uncomfortable at first. When you are used to sleeping on a regular feather or cotton stuffed pillows, you might feel the need to get back to them. Often, though, it makes sense to spend at least a week on your new memory foam pillow to adapt to it.

Memory foam pillows are often a good choice if you suffer neck pain and muscle strain in the morning. The issue is not that the memory foam pillows are too hard, but your previous pillows were too soft. Because of that, your muscles and posture were not supported well enough during sleep. Now that you sleep on a posture-supporting pillow, you have a first impression of the foam pillow being too stiff. Even if the first nights are uncomfortable you’ve already done yourself a huge favor with getting a new pillow that will make you sleep better.

A wise man says:

Don’t worry, you will get used to it.

Memory Foam becomes softer when it warms up

Memory foam also appears to be hard because it is temperature-dependent. The warmer it gets, the softer it becomes. When you are lying down on a memory foam pillow and want to sleep, the memory foam pillow will feel hard, because it is still cool. You need to give it some time to warm up a little and to adapt to the shape of your head. The temperature-dependent stiffness of a memory foam pillow is a wanted effect though. Because of your body temperature, a memory foam pillow will only adapt to your body’s contours. It does not deform as a whole.

Memory Foam Hardness is a sign of quality

To some degree, memory foam needs to be hard and stiff in order to properly support your neck and spine while you sleep. It takes some time until it adapts to the shape of your body. But when it adapted, it is a great feeling because it relieves all the pressure from your bones.

The harder a memory foam pillow is, the longer it will last. The reason is simple: Stiff materials don’t wear down that fast. Cheap and low-quality memory foam products are often significantly softer. But that also means, that they deform quickly and they practically become useless soon.

When you have a cheap memory foam pillow, you will notice that after a few months the pillow will be deformed permanently. Good quality memory foam pillows don’t deform at all. But therefore, they also must be a little harder. A hard pillow is able to adapt to your sleeping position, but also it completely resets its own shape when you stop using it. It’s simply a sign of quality.

Is Your Memory Foam Pillow Too Hard? – How To Decide!

As you have just found out, memory foam pillow hardness is a sign of quality and a wanted effect. Still, there might be situations where you would prefer getting another (softer) memory foam pillow. Or you might even go back to the usual cotton or feather stuffed pillows.

Whether your memory foam pillow is too hard is quite easy to decide. All you have to do is: Use it!

Use it for a few weeks. Don’t make any excuses and try to build the habit of sleeping on memory foam pillows. Because memory foam pillows are intended to relieve stress on your neck and muscles, you can judge on your own whether your neck strains have relieved or not. If you’ve slept on a memory foam pillow for let’s say a month and you don’t suffer from neck pain anymore, you’ll have to decide. What’s more important to you? A softer pillow that will cause neck pain, or a hard memory foam pillow which relieves your muscle tension?

Decide based on how you feel

The decision of whether your memory foam pillow is too hard is entirely up to you. Only you can tell how you feel with your pillow. How do you sleep? Does it relieve your pain? Do you think everything would be better with a regular pillow? Make it a gut decision. Only you have to sleep on that pillow and it doesn’t harm anyone but you if you keep sleeping on it although you don’t feel comfortable. There are so many pillows available for different types of sleeping positions that there are always alternatives for you. Here’s an article I wrote which contains a big list of different pillows for specific sleep types that you can check out if you are thinking about switching from your memory foam pillow.

Memory foam pillows are a great invention. They have helped hundreds of thousands of people to relieve pain that was induced by bad sleeping posture. Still, if you don’t feel comfortable with your memory foam pillow, make it a quick decision and get rid of it. Sell it, give it to your partner or someone else you like. Maybe they’ll like it and it might be a great surprise present!

My favorite soft memory foam pillow

If you think, your memory foam pillow is too hard, it might be because it is stuffed with a solid “brick” of memory foam, instead of shredded memory foam. Shredded memory foam pillows are usually a lot softer and more comfortable.

Here’s the soft memory foam pillow I recommend:

shredded soft memory foam pillow

How to Soften A Memory Foam Pillow – 4 Ideas

There are several ways to get rid of the stiffness and hardness of your memory foam pillow. If you want to benefit from all the advantages of a memory foam pillow, but think it’s too hard to sleep on, here’s what you can do. Please note, that because we’re dealing with memory foam pillows, which always reshape, these softening tips only work temporarily and you would have to repeat them every night before you go to bed.

Idea 1: Soften your Memory Foam Pillow by Warming it up

warm up memory foam pillow
Memory Foam Pillow with grain pillow to pre-warm it

We’ve learned that memory foam becomes softer with temperature because it’s nature is to adapt to the body and its temperature. You can use this little pillow hack to pre-soften your pillow: Boil water and pour it in a hot-water bottle. Put your hot-water bottle on your memory foam pillow about 15 minutes before you go to bed. After 15 minutes, it will be noticeably softer. Of course, you don’t have to use a hot-water bottle for warming your memory foam pillows. You can also use electric blankets or grain pillows for that.

Also, if you have a heating or heat radiators in your room, you can place your memory foam pillow nearby. But make sure not to touch any heating elements directly as memory foam pillows can easily catch flames.

Idea 2: Soften your Memory Foam Pillow By Squeezing it

If you squeeze a memory foam pillow, it will stay squeezed for a short time. What you can do is to squeeze your pillow (squeeze it flat) right before you put your head on it. Then quickly put your head down on the pillow. When it expands again, it will grow around the shape of your head and neck and you’ve successfully sped up the process of the memory foam pillow adapting to your posture.

squeeze your memory foam pillow

Idea 3: Put it in the Washing Machine

Once in a while, you can put your memory foam pillow in the washing machine. You don’t have to do this every night of course. The washing machine will break down some of the solid foam structures inside of your pillow. If you would take a very close microscopic look at memory foam material, you would see cave-like structures that bend when pressure is applied and reset to their original shape once the pressure is released. By washing them, these structures can break down.

However, pay attention. Your memory foam pillow might lose it’s memory effect if you wash it in a washing machine. So, this tip is only useful, if you don’t want the memory foam pillow to be so stiff and adaptive as it has been before. Use this tip with caution. I advise you to use only wash memory foam pillows that are declared as machine washable. Some not-washable pillows might even become harder when you wash them because their foam structures stiffen when they are washed.

Still, it comes in really handy if you absolutely don’t want to keep your memory foam pillow and you are looking for ways to soften it in order to keep using it. It might turn out that after washing, you will like it even more and because it is more comfortable now, you keep using it.

Idea 4: Put Your Pillow in the Dryer

The dryer will not break down the structures of the memory foam as aggressively as a washing machine, because it also warms up the foam. The dryer is definitely a wiser choice for softening your pillow effectively while still maintaining its memory effect in good condition. You can put it in your dryer for about 15 minutes and it will be warm and soft when you take it out.

put your memory foam pillow in the dryer

If you, however, like how your memory foam pillow is right now and you just need some slight softening, the first two tips are a good place to start: Warm your pillow before you go to bed and pre-squeeze it so it adapts better to the shape of your head.

The Outline – Why Are Memory Foam Pillows So Hard?

You’ve just learned so much about memory foam pillows! We’ve talked about why memory foam pillows appear to be hard. They simply resist to changes and slowly adapt to the shape of your head. Memory foam is made up of microstructures that evenly supports your neck (source)  and spine which makes it appear hard.

But when you think about it, you notice that its hardness and stiffness is a sign of good quality. Also, the memory foam reacts upon heat and becomes softer when it becomes warmer. That is also something we want because the memory foam will deform in places where your body is. The rest of the pillow stays in its original shape. That makes the memory foam pillow a long-lasting pillow you can benefit from long-term. Usually, normal pillows start to break down and deform after a few years because the stuffing will start to stick together. However, that can’t happen with memory foam pillows! Memory foam has to be that hard in order to work properly. But the hardness is not a problem anymore, once you are used to it! Make it a habit to sleep on your memory foam pillow and you’ll improve your sleep and health a lot.

If you want to read more about sleep improvement, just check out the other articles in this blog! You’ll be a true sleep expert afterward! Also, if you have some additional ideas to soften a memory foam pillow, write a comment and I’ll be glad to reply to it! 

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