Latex vs Memory Foam: Which Type Of Mattress Is Right For You?

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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.

The Basics

Let’s start with the basics. You may be asking, what is a memory foam mattress? What are latex foams? First things first, let’s get a basic understanding of what memory foam and latex are so we can truly comprehend what makes the two most common mattress types different from each other, 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, thus, improving the safety and protection provided by pilots’ seat cushions. The material is made from polyurethane and a mixture of other chemicals to produce the final foam product.

hand stamp on memory foam mattress

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, although memory foam is a type of poly foam.

Memory foams were relatively expensive to produce in their early years but have become more affordable over time, allowing them to enter the market through 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 and other types of polyurethane foam is its bounciness. Instead of completely sinking in, as you do with memory foam, latex responds with a small bounce. A latex bed won’t be as bouncy as an innerspring mattress can be but the bounce is noticeable.

hand holding latex foam

Latex foam is dense but breathable. When pressure is applied to the surface it conforms and helps with pressure points. When pressure is removed latex quickly bounces back to its original shape. It has virtually no decompression time. It is also resistant to dust mites.

Different Types of Latex

Latex foam mattress material is made out of three different combinations. Below are the different types of latex:

1. Natural Latex

Natural latex is harvested from rubber trees. It is then naturally processed in order to create the type of foam needed for the high-density layers of a mattress. It is a different substance from the rubber tree sap.  Latex protects rubber trees from insects while the tree sap plays an entirely different role. Latex is natural, organic, and pure making it the ideal choice if you prefer an all-natural bed that offers eco-friendliness. Natural latex foam is extremely durable. However, natural latex mattresses do have that initial smell of chemicals or what is called an off-gassing period, but it is very short.

2. Synthetic Latex

Unlike natural latex, this type of latex is made from a large variety of synthetic materials that are processed to create rubber. The most common material used in making synthetic latex 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, latex foam made from synthetic materials 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 synthetic and natural latex foam allows you to experience the benefits of each without having to choose one over the other. A blended mattress also brings the price down in comparison to a 100% natural organic latex mattress.

latex foam

Latex Manufacturing Process

Aside from the origin of the latex, synthetic or natural, you may also want to consider the 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 and Talalay latex.

Talalay Latex Manufacturing Process

The Talalay process uses a mattress mold to create latex foam. The latex is poured into a mold, intentionally filling it partway. Next, air is added to the latex through a vacuum. This expands the latex creating a less dense final product. This type of latex provides a more uniformly consistent feel throughout the entire mattress when compared to a Dunlop foam.

This type of latex is the most popular due to its reduced weight and increased breathability. The low weight 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 throughout the night.

Dunlop Latex Manufacturing Process

It also uses a mattress 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 process produces a latex foam that is denser on the bottom and softer on the top. This type of 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 enables it to retain its shape longer. Over time, you will notice less sagging than in a Talalay organic mattress.

Latex has a strong smell when it is first unboxed which has led people to ask, are Dunlop and Talalay mattresses safe? The answer is yes. The smell quickly dissipates and you will be able to use this type of foam 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 memory foam and a latex bed 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 foams. 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.

happy girl lying in bed

Latex mattresses do not have body contouring properties. They do not hug your body when you lie down; they sink and compress. The foam layers in a latex mattress have a fast response time, particularly concerning decompression time. Natural latex and synthetic latex mattresses give you a bouncier feel than memory foam beds. Many people prefer less bounce, but it just depends on individual taste. While some may find the bouncy feel quite likable, it may be too much for light sleepers. Some people also prefer the bounciness of latex beds for sex. 

If you prefer a bed that provides a hugging sensation that cradles your body, memory foam mattresses are an excellent option. The memory foam contours to your exact shape as you lie down, making it a good option if you are a stomach sleeper. It has a slight decompression time and does not react as fast as latex. Memory foam beds do not provide any amount of bounce. It is dust mite-resistant. 

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 beds. Just like memory foam, latex is also dust mite-resistant. However, if you prefer your mattress to have body contouring and provide a hugging sensation, a memory foam bed is for you. And if you like a lot of bounce, compare foam vs spring mattress and spring will be the mattress option 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.

Natural and synthetic latex mattresses are known to sleep cooler than mattresses made of memory foam. As we mentioned above, Talalay latex is more breathable than Dunlop and as a result, sleeps cooler for longer. Many natural latex mattresses available today have been aerated to add extra breathability that flows throughout the entire bed as you sleep throughout the night. 

The main complaint with memory foam mattresses and other mattresses made from polyurethane foam is that they retain heat and 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. The memory foam absorbs body heat and prevents airflow underneath which is the reason why memory foam sleeps too hot.

In recent years, many manufacturers have made some changes to help prevent this by using gel memory foam to produce a cooling mattress. They also use cooling fabrics to help mitigate heat retention in mattresses. Gel memory foam is made by injecting cooling gel into the material. The cooling gel and fabrics prevent overheating by drawing heat away from the body throughout the night.

When comparing memory foam vs latex, the latter is clearly the better option in terms of breathability and temperature regulation. Thanks to its open cell structure, latex is more breathable than memory foam. You can enhance this trait by purchasing a mattress that uses aerated Talalay latex. Many mattress designers prefer using Talalay because the air channels increase breathability. However, if you decide to get a memory foam mattress, check to make sure if the mattress construction incorporates gel memory foam. If the manufacturer has taken active steps to minimize heat retention 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.

family having fun together

Latex mattresses are better at absorbing movement 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. Hence, some sleepers go for hybrid mattresses because they still have a latex foam layer but less of the bouncy feel latex mattresses are known for.

Memory foam mattresses have superior motion transfer isolation. As you will remember, NASA designed memory foam specifically to absorb shock and force and they did an excellent job.

Comparing memory foam vs latex beds, memory foam is the clear winner in this category. Its superior conforming ability and slow response time make it the clear choice if you prefer a mattress that can prevent movements from transferring across the bed surface. 

4. Durability

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 memory foam and latex mattresses provide a high level of pressure 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, particularly for back and side sleepers. Without proper posture support and pressure relief, you will wake feeling sore, still tired, and possibly with back pain. 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. The two material types rank evenly in the pressure point and pain relief category.

senior couple sleeping

6. Weight

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.

7. Affordability

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 of the memory foam bed 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

Choosing between a memory foam vs a latex mattress may seem a daunting task but no one but yourself knows which type best suits your needs. When choosing a new mattress, you should also consider the types of latex or memory foam used, the number of high-density foam layers it has, and the pressure relief and compression support it provides. You should also consider if the mattress has heat retention issues or can cause fabric allergies.

Let’s quickly review what we have learned, highlighting the reasons one material is superior to the other.

woman thinking deeply

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 absorption of movement throughout the bed and a softer feel. Side sleepers, users looking for beds that are lightweight and less expensive, or those who do not like a bouncy mattress will appreciate a memory foam mattress.  Memory foam beds are also ideal for those who are allergic to latex.

Choose a Latex Mattress

Choose a latex option if you prefer more bounce, a faster response time, or a natural organic more eco-friendly bed. A blended, synthetic, or natural latex mattress will also make a good bed when you tend to sleep hot, sleep on your stomach, or prefer a firmer mattress.

In Conclusion

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.

Additional Resources

Emily Alexander
Emily Alexander

Emily Melynn Alexander was born on the east coast of the USA but has called Colorado home since 2000. She has a degree in English and Political Science from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She enjoys sleeping in locations all around the world.

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