Your mattress is arguably one of the most important purchases you will ever make. If your decision has narrowed down to a latex vs memory foam mattress, there are a few key factors you should consider when making your final choice. There are pros and cons to each.
When deciding between a latex or memory foam mattress, it’s important to research the type of latex or memory foam that is used to make your mattress. Different types of latex and memory foam will give you very different sleeping experiences!
What Is a Memory Foam Mattress?
NASA scientists first designed memory foam back in the 60s, but its existence in the mattress world is firmly cemented.
Memory foam gets its name because it contours to a sleeper’s shape and body position. To simplify a complex material, memory foam “remembers” where your body has been, even after you have moved.
What Is a Memory Foam Mattress Made of?
Memory foam is by no means a natural or organic material.
Memory foam mattresses are best known for their soft, body-hugging sensation, but they are also known to be made with harsh chemicals.
Memory foam is a man-made foam constructed with polyurethane and other chemicals to create viscoelasticity. This means when pressure is applied to the surface of memory foam, the mattress “hugs” to that pressure.
Polyurethane is the most prevalent component in memory foam mattresses. It is a plastic polymer used in all kinds of common household and commercial products.
Unlike other more solid items made of polymer, memory foam offers very little resistance, which allows sleepers to comfortably sink into a memory foam mattress so easily.
Did you know that you spend almost one-third of your life sleeping on your mattress? It is important to do your due diligence when it comes to choosing a mattress material. If you are prone to respiratory issues brought on by chemical irritants, do the proper research to ensure your memory foam mattress will not do you harm.
Memory Foam Mattress Types
If you are looking for a memory foam mattress to buy, you’ll likely notice that there are several different types to choose from.
Manufacturers have come a long way from the original memory foam mattress construction, and have since begun creating all kinds of memory foam mattresses, including gel memory foam and open cell structure memory foam.
Gel memory foam mattresses are infused with millions of tiny microbeads that help regulate the mattress’s temperature. Memory foam mattresses have been known to be hot, and cause sleepers to sweat at night. This gel helps to cool mattresses down.
Open cell memory foam mattresses use the same concept as gel. They are designed to allow airflow to pass through the mattress instead of trapping heat against a sleeper’s body.
Why Choose a Memory Foam Mattress?
As mentioned above, memory foam was designed for use on NASA spaceships to absorb shock impacts and relieve pressure. Today, memory foam is used to do exactly those same things under much lower stakes.
- A memory foam bed can provide pressure relief: Most people experience aches and pains due to stress on their pressure points. Memory foam mattresses can provide some pressure relief as well as pain relief.
- Memory foam features motion isolation: When partners sleep together on a conventional mattress, they can typically feel when the other moves. However, with motion isolation, one partner’s movement does not transfer to the other.
- Memory foam mattresses are hypoallergenic: Because of memory foam’s high density, it is difficult for allergens, debris, and dust mites to gather on its surface.
Below is more information about these memory foam benefits. Keep in mind, however, that each type of mattress has its own list of pros and cons.
Memory Foam Pressure Relief
Conventional mattresses and box springs can make aches and pain worse. Memory foam mattresses do not exacerbate pain from pressure on the joints.
A memory foam mattress conforms to a person’s shape without pushing on it, offering a comfortable surface rather than an opposing one.
Memory Foam Motion Isolation
Memory foam mattresses’ motion isolation capabilities are immensely popular. It is quite common in partnerships that one person will sleep heavily while the other sleeps lightly. So, when one partner moves vigorously in their sleep, the other might wake up, or be kept up all night.
With memory foam motion isolation, the mattress will not undergo motion transfer, meaning no one will be kept up all night due to someone else’s tossing and turning.
Memory Foam and Allergies
Dust, mites, mold, mildew, and debris are everywhere. It is unfortunate, and it is no fun to think about, but it is the truth. With memory foam, it is much less of a worry. Memory foam mattresses are naturally hypoallergenic because they lack the fibers these irritants need to bond to.
Why Not Choose a Memory Foam Mattress?
The one major drawback of memory foam mattresses is that they can be constrictive. Their body-hugging nature leads to heat retention, which leads to overheated sleep. For natural hot sleepers, this is often a deal-breaker.
Memory foam companies have attempted to work around this issue by creating open cell and gel mattresses to combat heat retention. The truth is that memory foam is a hotter way to sleep than other mattresses on the market, like latex.
Additionally, memory foam mattresses are not great for stomach sleepers. Memory foam mattresses can work beautifully for side sleepers, but those who sleep on their stomach may experience issues with spinal alignment due to their abdomen and torso sinking too far into the mattress.
What Are Latex Mattresses?
Latex is more than just gloves. Latex mattresses are very popular sleep surfaces because they are soft and durable, providing firmness and bounce.
What many might not know is that latex is an organic material. However, this does not mean that all latex mattresses are natural and organic. There are actually two types of latex: natural and synthetic.
Natural Latex and Synthetic Latex
Natural latex is an organic substance. It seems strange that a mattress might be harvested from natural, organic substances, but this is a perfect option if you’re someone who wants to avoid sleeping on harsh chemicals every night.
Synthetic latex, on the other hand, is produced in the lab using chemicals. It is designed to mimic natural latex, but it does not contain the same natural, organic compounds.
Harvesting Natural Latex
Natural latex is foam rubber made of pure rubber tree sap or Hevea milk.
- Tree sap is harvested from rubber trees.
- The sap is whipped until foamy and frothy.
- The whipped foam is then baked into natural latex.
When latex is created in this way, it is known as Dunlop latex. It is poured into the mold to be baked all at once in a single pour.
There is another method, called the Talalay method, that involves pouring latex into the mold in separate steps. This method includes the addition of synthetic foam for added softness, so it is not technically 100 percent natural.
Dunlop latex is firmer on the bottom, and softer on top. It is the most popular of the two. Talalay latex is softer due to the added synthetic foam, making it more expensive.
Natural latex mattresses are more expensive than synthetic latex mattresses. So, consumers often turn to synthetic in search of a similar sleep experience.
Synthetic latex is created from petrochemicals, which are chemicals derived from petroleum. When you purchase a synthetic latex mattress, manufacturers often warn that you let your mattress air out for a while before sleeping on it to let the harmful and odorous chemicals dissipate.
These added chemicals include formaldehyde and flame retardants. These chemicals are known to be harmful to your health. As your mattress starts to break down, the chemicals are released into the air (known as off-gassing), and microscopic particles are released when the foam is compressed.
Synthetic latex also has less bounce, and is less durable than natural latex.
If you are going to go latex, your best bet is to stick with a natural, organic latex mattress, or a latex blend.
Blended latex mixes natural latex with synthetic fillers. It is a cheaper way for manufacturers to create mattresses that contain natural latex, but are not entirely natural. Because it is more expensive to produce natural latex, most affordable latex mattresses will only partly be made of natural latex.
When researching natural latex mattresses, be sure to look at the composition of the mattress, and see how and in what way the mattress is comprised of “natural latex.”
The real concern is that some parts might be made from synthetic latex. Look for certifications assuring you that all of the latex used is 100 percent natural, and the mattress contains no synthetic latex.
Why Choose a Latex Mattress?
At this point, you likely won’t be surprised that latex mattresses have their own pros and cons, as well, but many people feel the pros outweigh the cons significantly.
Natural latex mattresses are similar to memory foam mattresses in that they offer pressure and pain relief, and hypoallergenic properties. They also keep movements from rippling through the mattress.
In addition to the advantages that organic latex mattresses share with memory foam mattresses, there are a few more that are unique to the natural option.
- Latex mattresses are cool and airy: Latex foam naturally promotes airflow. Latex mattresses are highly breathable.
- Latex mattresses last a long time:Organic latex mattresses can last around 15 years. That is a very long time, especially considering they have no springs inside to wear out and sag.
- Latex is environmentally friendly:Obviously, this only applies to organic latex from rubber trees.
Where memory foam is difficult for microbes and allergens to attach, latex has natural antimicrobial properties. This means latex actively repels irritants that can increase a sleeper’s allergies.
In the battle of latex vs memory foam, latex comes out ahead as far as advantages go.
Why Not Choose a Latex Mattress?
There are some cons to take into account when considering a latex mattress.
- Latex mattresses are heavy. They are far heavier than conventional mattresses, weighing between 100 and 200 pounds, depending on the size. Thankfully, this should only be an issue until the mattress is firmly in place.
- Latex mattresses can have a higher cost. Another drawback of latex mattresses is their high price tags. As with most things, natural and organic are more expensive than synthetic. A fully organic latex mattress may cost nearly twice as much as its memory foam counterpart. One way to combat this is to sacrifice a percentage of natural latex, and go for a blended mattress instead. Another way is to purchase from a manufacturer ( like Latex for Less) that makes the mattresses in the U.S., doesn’t outsource to third parties, and doesn’t have “retailer markups”.
- Latex is an allergy for some people. This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to overlook. Some people have a latex allergy. Unfortunately, a latex mattress could very well provoke an allergy attack in someone who suffers from a latex allergy. In this case, it is better to avoid a latex mattress.
Latex vs. Memory Foam Mattress: How Do They Feel?
While they both have their pros and cons, latex mattresses and memory foam mattresses offer noticeably different sensory experiences.
Think about what you want in a mattress because these key indicators might help you decide if your next purchase will be a memory foam mattress or a latex mattress.
Sink and Bounce
The two types of materials differ in the way they contour and hug the body.
- Latex is bouncier than memory foam and more resilient. Sleepers will not sink into the mattress.
- Memory foam molds and contours to the body. Sleepers will sink into the mattress.
Spring back is how quickly the mattress snaps into shape after a sleeper gets out of bed.
- Latex has a faster response time, so the mattress will adjust quicker to a sleeper’s movements.
- Memory foam takes a while to spring back, sometimes up to 10 seconds. It can develop craters.
Compression is the feeling that the mattress is surrounding, or hugging, the body.
- Latex does not offer much compression. Due to the lack of compression, latex is less constricting, more breathable, and bouncy.
- Memory foam might perform best for those who want deep contouring and a body-hugging feeling. The sinking quality of a classic memory foam mattress will be significantly more than what you will get with a latex mattress. Expect a heavier, hugging feel with very little bounce.
Ability to Move
Do you stay in one spot throughout the night, or do you move around a lot?
- Latex has a quicker response time, so it will move with a sleeper as they move throughout the night. Because of this, sleepers who toss and turn are better supported.
- If a sleeper stays put during the night, the slower response time of a memory foam mattress might be more suitable to their taste. This crater would allow the sleeper to really sink into the mattress. But, there could be concerns with proper support and heat retention.
What to Remember About Latex
A latex mattress might provide active sleepers with a more responsive cushion, lighter feel, and the added benefit of being available in a natural form. A natural latex mattress is antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, and dust mite resistant when compared to memory foam and other popular mattresses.
The latex is durable, natural, and healthy, with a noticeably different feel from memory foam.
What to Remember About Memory Foam
Memory foam mattresses offer a slower, deeper contour with options for different cooling materials or technologies. A memory foam mattress may provide more options, but with this comes more concerns about materials, manufacturing, and cost.
Greater versatility might also come with a greater risk of exposure to unwanted chemicals, and memory foam has the reputation of breaking down more quickly than latex. It’s also prone to off-gassing, and might lose its firmness as the foam becomes less resistant to pressure.
Doing your due diligence research will help you to make the right choice, and find a mattress that truly meets all of your needs.
Latex vs. Memory Foam: The Verdict
Your perfect mattress comes down to your own priorities and personal preferences. No one can choose what will make you most comfortable except for you. However, latex mattresses offer something that other mattresses do not: fully organic materials that come from nature.
Not only are latex mattresses natural, but they are safe for the environment in their construction, assembly, or use. Plus, they offer a comfort level that is unparalleled in its bounciness and breathability.