Last Updated On April 12th, 2019
When it comes to latex vs memory foam mattresses, some of the differences can be hard to notice. They have a lot in common, but not everything. Each material has some key traits that make it stand out, for both positive and negative reasons. This article reviews the main characteristics of memory foam and latex mattresses so you can gain a comprehensive understanding of your options before you decide to purchase one or the other.
Keep reading to learn about latex and memory foam mattresses so you can discover which one would be the best choice for you and your specific sleep needs.
Let’s start with the basics. You may be asking, what is a memory foam mattress? What is a latex mattress? First things first, let’s get a basic understanding of what memory foam and latex are so we can truly comprehend what makes them different, and what makes them similar.
What Is Memory Foam?
Memory foam was invented by NASA in the 1960s. It was designed to help absorb shock and pressure upon reentry in pilot seat cushions. The material is made from polyurethane and a mixture of other chemicals to produce the final foam product.
Memory foam is dense but when pressure and heat are applied to the surface it absorbs the energy and actively conforms to support the weight. When pressure is applied the material provides an instant hugging sensation. However, when the pressure is removed, it takes a few seconds to decompress and regain its original shape.
Memory foam is available in a variety of firmness levels. When shopping for a memory foam mattress remember that not all polyurethane foams are memory foam, even though all memory foam is polyurethane foam.
Memory foam was relatively expensive to produce in its early years but has become more affordable over time allowing it to enter the market in a variety of products. You can now find memory foam in shoes, bike seats, floor mats, stress relieving gadgets, furniture, pillows, and of course, mattresses.
What Is Latex?
As I am sure you already suspect, latex foam is made from latex. One of the main ways it differs from memory foam is its bounciness. Instead of completely sinking in, as you do with memory foam, latex foam responds with a small bounce. It is not as bouncy as an innerspring mattress can be but the bounce is noticeable.
Latex foam is dense but breathable. When pressure is applied to the surface it conforms and provides excellent pressure point relief. When pressure is removed latex quickly bounces back to its original shape. It has virtually no decompression time.
Latex foam mattress material is made out of three different combinations:
1. Natural Latex
It is harvested from rubber trees. It is then naturally processed in order to create the foam needed for the layers of a mattress. It is natural, organic and pure making it the ideal choice if you prefer an all-natural bed. Natural organic latex is extremely durable. It does have that initial smell of chemicals or what is called off-gassing period but it is very short.
2. Synthetic latex
It is made from a large variety of synthetic materials that are processed to create rubber. The most common material used to create the synthetic material is styrene-butadiene rubber or SBR. Synthetic latex is less bouncy than natural organic latex. It is also more affordable. Compared to natural organic latex, it is slightly less durable resulting in a shorter lifespan for your mattress. The initial smell of chemicals or off-gassing period is a bit longer with synthetic latex but is still very minimal.
3. Blended Latex
It is a combination of synthetic and natural organic latex. Blending both types allows you to experience the benefits of each without having to choose one over the other. A blended latex mattress also brings the price down in comparison to a 100% natural organic latex mattress.
Latex Manufacturing Process
Aside from the origin of the latex, synthetic or natural, you may also want to consider the manufacturing process used to create the finished product when it comes to a latex mattress. While many different types of manufacturing processes are used, the two most common produce Dunlop latex and Talalay latex.
Talalay Latex Manufacturing Process
It uses a mold to create the latex foam. The latex is poured into a mold, intentionally filling it part way. Next, air is added to the latex through a vacuum. This expands the latex creating a less dense final product. Talalay latex provides a more uniformly consistent feel throughout the entire mattress when compared to Dunlop latex.
Talalay latex is the most popular due to its reduced weight and increased breathability. The low weight of Talalay latex makes it easier to move and transport when necessary. The air used in construction allows the mattress to stay cooler than it would if it was denser. This is ideal if you tend to sleep hot or overheat at night.
Dunlop Latex Manufacturing Process
It also uses a mold to create the latex foam, however, a single pour is done that fills the mold to the top. A period of time is allotted for the settling of the material before it is complete. The Dunlop latex process produces a latex foam that is denser on the bottom and softer on the top. Dunlop latex weighs more than Talalay because no air is injected into the material.
Dunlop vs Talalay
You may prefer Dunlop latex if you prioritize durability and longevity in your mattress. The higher density of Dunlop latex enables it to retain its shape longer. Over time, you will notice less sagging than in a Talalay latex mattress.
Latex has a strong smell when it is first unboxed which has led people to ask, are latex mattresses safe? The answer is yes. The smell quickly dissipates and is able to use without any hint of the previous smell.
Memory Foam And Latex Mattress Performance
When it comes to a latex vs memory foam mattress, they have a lot in common but they also have small differences that will help you decide which best suits your specific needs. These reviews will evaluate the difference between a foam and a latex mattress by examining key benefits that are valued in a mattress overall.
1. Feel And Comfort
Overall, the feel and comfort are the main differences between latex and memory foam. The level of comfort you experience will be different with each kind of mattress, let’s find which is best for you when it comes to latex vs memory foam.
Latex mattresses do not hug your body when you lie down, they sink and compress. They have a fast response time, particularly concerning decompression time. Natural and synthetic latex both gives you a bouncier feel than memory foam. Many people prefer a slight bounce, but it just depends on individual taste. Some people prefer the bounciness of latex for sex.
Memory foam mattresses offer a hugging sensation that cradles your body and conforms to your exact shape as you lie down. It has a slight decompression time and does not react as fast as latex. Memory foam does not provide any amount of bounce.
There is no clear winner in this category. Instead, it depends on your individual preference. If you like your mattress to be bouncy and less conforming to your shape, choose latex. If you prefer your mattress be more conforming and provide a hugging sensation, memory foam is for you. And if you like a lot of bounce, compare foam vs spring mattress and spring will be the winner for you.
2. Temperature regulation and breathability:
It is important for your mattress to enable proper airflow throughout to ensure you sleep cool, or at least without overheating. A material that is breathable will best help you sleep, and for longer. This category is particularly important for people who naturally sleep hot.
Latex mattresses tend to sleep cooler than memory foam mattresses. As we mentioned above, Talalay latex is more breathable than Dunlop latex and as result, sleeps cooler for longer. Many latex mattresses available today have been aerated to add extra breathability that flows throughout the entire bed as you sleep.
The main complaint with memory foam mattresses is that they tend to sleep too hot for many people. One reason for this is because as you sink in, more of your body’s surface area is making contact with the material. Your body absorbs more heat and prevents airflow underneath which is the reason why memory foam sleeps too hot. In recent years, companies have made some changes to help prevent this like injecting cooling gel and using cooling fabrics that have helped to mitigate overheating in mattresses.
Latex wins in this category. Latex is naturally more breathable than memory foam and you can enhance this trait by purchasing a mattress that uses aerated Talalay latex. However, if you decide to get a memory foam mattress, check to make sure they have taken active steps to prevent overheating and you should be happy with your purchase.
3. Motion Isolation
Motion isolation is particularly important for light sleepers and people who share their bed, either with another person or a pet. Instead of being awoken every time your partner or pet moves or gets out of the bed, choose a mattress with superior motion transfer isolation.
Latex mattresses are better at isolating motion transfer compared to a traditional innerspring mattress. However, their quick response time and bouncy feel mean you will feel some shock from movement in the bed.
Memory foam mattresses have superior motion transfer isolation. As you will remember, NASA designed it specifically to absorb shock and force and they did an excellent job.
Memory foam is the clear winner in this category. Its superior conforming ability and slow response time make it the clear choice if you prioritize motion transfer isolation.
When it comes to durability, latex generally wins when compared to memory foam. Dunlop latex is the most durable. Memory foam comes in a variety of densities which can lead to a high level of durability but as a general rule of thumb, latex is more durable.
5. Pressure Point Relief
Both latex and memory foam mattresses provide a high level of pressure point relief to the neck, spine, and joints. This is an important trait that best helps to promote healthy natural spinal alignment and healthy posture throughout the day. Without proper support, you will wake feeling sore and possibly still tired. Often, when this happens it is a sure sign that is time to replace your old bed and replace it with something that offers more support. This is a category where the two materials rank evenly when used for making a mattress.
The weight of your mattress is particularly important if you anticipate moving it frequently. Memory foam is the clear winner in this category as it is significantly lighter than latex. This is due to its chemical composition and lower density overall.
Both memory foam and latex mattresses can be purchased in a wide range of varying prices. Quality mattresses will cost more, regardless of whether it is made from latex or memory foam. However, natural organic latex mattresses are generally the most expensive between the two options here.
Memory foam wins in this category. Make sure you look at the quality and not just price though to ensure you get a mattress that lasts for a long time before it starts to break down which would require you to make another purchase unnecessarily soon.
How To Decide
Now it’s time to decide, which material will be the best mattress for you? Let’s quickly review what we have learned, highlighting the reasons one material is superior to the other.
Choose A Memory Foam Mattress
Based on our reviews, choose this if you prioritize conformity and a hugging sensation in your beds. These will also make good beds if you want slower response time resulting in better motion isolation and a softer feel. If you sleep on your side, are looking for beds that are less expensive, want a lightweight mattress, or do not like a bouncy mattress then this is of you. These also make great beds for those that are allergic to latex.
Choose A Latex Mattress
Choose this if you prefer more bounce, a faster response time, or a natural organic more environmentally conscious beds. These will also make good beds when you tend to sleep hot, sleep on your stomach, or prefer a firmer mattress.
This analysis of latex vs memory foam does not have a clear winner, but instead, the winner depends on your own individual needs and sleep preferences. Both latex and memory foam are excellent materials that are used in making mattresses and you would most likely be happy with a mattress made from either. That being said, think about what you value most from your mattress. Make your decision based on what is right for you, and your partner when applicable.