Updated March 13, 2020

What Happens if You Sleep on a Memory Foam Mattress Before 24 Hours

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What happens if you don't wait 24 hours to sleep on a memory foam mattress? Find out below plus how to speed up the process.

If you ask a bed in a box manufacturer, they will tell you to wait at least 24 hours before sleeping on your new memory foam mattress. That can be pretty inconvenient.

You've already hauled away your old bed and box spring. The only other place to sleep is the floor—right beside your inviting new memory foam mattress.

Technically, you can sleep on memory foam right away. Most mattresses in a box reach about 90% of full expansion within 4—6 hours after opening. Manufacturers still say no and they have their reasons. We aren't saying they are wrong. Knowing the precautions to take and the reasons you may want to wait can help you decide.

Why do you Have to Wait 24 Hours to Sleep on a Memory Foam Mattress?

Manufacturers ship memory foam mattresses compressed in a box. You'll find a skinny box on your doorstep that you'll swear there's no way it can contain a mattress. But upon opening it, you'll see that it does.

Once you unroll the mattress, it slowly expands. You can guess how much time it takes - 24 hours. That doesn't mean you'll be sleeping on a flat pancake if you use the mattress beforehand. Each mattress takes a different amount of time, but typically, after a few hours, it resembles a standard mattress.

By advising a 24-48 hour window, manufacturers try to prevent:

  • Customer dissatisfaction with the mattress
  • Damage to the foam while it expands
  • The unpleasant odor from off-gassing

Let's face it. If you sleep on a brand new mattress, you want to feel like you're sleeping on a cloud. If the mattress isn't fully expanded, you won't get that feeling. You may be upset and want to return it right away. That's why many companies require you to sleep on the bed for 2 weeks or longer before deciding.

Off-gassing is another big issue. Many memory foam mattresses are made with CertiPUR-US materials which limits the off-gassing (odor), but not all of it. Again, this could make you frustrated with your purchase, prompting you to return it prematurely.

Do memory foam mattresses sag?
All mattresses have the potential to sag eventually. Your best bet is to buy medium to high-density memory foam mattresses that can support your weight and sleeping position. Rotating your memory foam mattress every few months also eliminates excessive wear and tear in one place, which reduces the risk of premature sagging.

Risks of Not Waiting to Sleep on a Memory Foam Mattress

The manufacturer will tell you there are risks in not waiting. Most notable of the issues are the smell and discomfort. Are they true risks? You can decide.

In reality, sleeping on the mattress or at least using it may help speed up the expansion process. The memory foam needs activation. This occurs with regular movement and body heat, both of which you provide when sleeping on the mattress.

How do you clean a memory foam mattress?
Avoid using harsh chemicals and even liquids when cleaning memory foam. Vacuuming the mattress often and sprinkling baking soda over the top to deodorize it works best. If you have a spill or urine stain, blot it immediately.

You can then lightly spray the area with either laundry detergent and water or water and vinegar (for urine). Let it sit for only a few minutes and then blot it up, taking the stain with you.

Can you Speed up the Expansion Process?

Aside from sleeping on the mattress before the manufacturer recommends it, there are a few other ways to speed up the expansion process:

  • Turn Up the Heat
    If your bedroom is notoriously cold at night, it may cause the memory foam to stiffen. This may delay the expansion time. For at least the first few days that you have the mattress, consider cranking the heat slightly. The mattress may expand faster in the higher temperature.

  • Roll Around on the Mattress
    If you don't want to sleep on it quite yet, at least give the mattress a little body weight. Move around the bed or let the kids romp around on it for a little bit. This will help activate the memory foam, encouraging faster expansion to full capacity.

  • Give It Plenty of Room
    Don't put your memory foam mattress right on the foundation and expect it to expand. If you have a spare room or any other area with plenty of space, use that. Not only will the mattress have more room to expand, but you'll get the off-gassing over with in a room other than your bedroom.

How can you stay cool on memory foam?
Memory foam can often retain heat. Fortunately, today, many memory foam mattresses are infused with gel particles, which draws the heat away from you. Look for open-cell structure foam as well as gel-infused foam for the coolest night's sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to break in a memory foam mattress?
Just like shoes take a few "wears" before feeling comfortable, mattresses need a little time. Brand new foam is stiff and if left in cold temperatures, it can become brittle. Nurture the mattress by giving it heat, movement, and time to truly settle into its full form.

How long does it take for a memory foam mattress to stop smelling?
Each mattress takes a different amount of time to stop smelling. Some don't smell much at all because of the low or non-existent use of VOCs. Others take a few days or even weeks.

If you're concerned about the toxic smell of your bed in a box, look for a memory foam mattress with CertiPUR-US certification. You can also buy a mattress with little to no use of formaldehyde, heavy metals, and PBDEs.

Does a memory foam mattresses lose its memory?
Just like any mattress, memory foam can stop working with excessive use. Proper care including rotating it often and properly cleaning the mattress helps it last longer. On average, expect 8 - 10 years out of your memory foam mattress.

Can you make memory foam firmer?
Memory foam is naturally cushioning and comforting. If you find it too soft, try one of the following:

  • Place plywood between the mattress and the foundation
  • Turn down the temperature in the room
  • Add a firm mattress topper
  • Switch out your box spring for a foundation with even and flat slats

Bottom Line

Whether you should sleep on your memory foam mattress before the 24-hour mark is up to you. If you want the full effect of a fully expanded mattress, wait at least a day.

You may find that you have to break the mattress in, which could take a matter of a few weeks. Overall, your memory foam mattress will look and perform its best once you start using it.

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