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Shopping for a mattress can quickly feel overwhelming with all the different types available. It’s getting harder not to fall for marketing hype, especially if you don’t know what each type means.
Memory foam vs latex mattress comparison like this is needed to help one put things in proper perspective. In addition, this guide will help you know which mattress type is best for your sleep hygiene.
What Is Memory Foam?
Memory foam is a variety of polyurethane foam made to be more responsive by improving its viscoelasticity. Manufacturers use viscous petrochemicals and plant oils in making memory foam attain its properties.
The most prominent feature of memory foam is the ability to stretch and conform to heat and pressure. And when the pressure is removed, the foam bounces back to its original shape. The ability of memory foam to absorb body heat causes users to sleep hot.
To make a memory foam mattress, different layers of memory foam with varying thicknesses are stacked. To suppress the heating effect of the memory foam, some mattress makers also add cooling effects within the stack, like gel-infused memory foam or perforated memory foam.
What Is a Latex Mattress?
A latex mattress is a relatively uncommon mattress type. Originally organic latex mattresses are made from latex sap collected from rubber trees (1). Now, latex can also be synthesized in the laboratory from petrochemicals used in making plastic. In some other cases, mattress makers use natural and synthetic rubber to make latex mattresses.
Natural and synthetic latex mattresses feel almost the same way when you sleep on them. The only very noticeable difference is in their durability, as natural latex outlasts the synthetic ones.
Apart from the latex type, the production process for making the latex mattress also differentiates the feel. For example, Dunlop latex has a softer feel at the top and denser at the bottom, while Talalay latex (pumped with air) feels consistent all through.
Memory Foam vs Latex Mattresses
Pitching memory foam vs latex mattress is a tricky score to settle because they are both excellent mattress types. However, each has its strengths and weaknesses; each most suitable for a specific set of sleepers different from the other.
Therefore, the best approach to this comparison is to check out the upsides and downsides of using each of the mattress types.
Here we go:
Memory Foam Upsides and Downsides
Memory foam mattresses have advantages and disadvantages that are pretty pronounced. If it’s not the type for you, it would be hard to use one. Here are some of the features;
Upsides of Memory Foam Mattresses
- Pressure relief
Memory foam contours to the body shape, which eases pressure on the joints and other pressure points on the body. The mattress allows one to sleep in, thereby relaxing the body; particularly great for side-sleepers.
- Motion isolation
If you sleep with a bedmate that rolls around a lot and it disturbs your sleep, a memory foam mattress would be most suitable for you. This is because the foam only reacts in the part of the bed where the movement occurs. This is great for couples that move a lot when together.
- Sound absorption
Just as memory foam traps heat, it also absorbs ambient noise from the room to give a quiet night’s rest. Memory foam mattresses also remain silent when bearing weight. This may be helpful when sharing the bed with a partner who tends to toss a lot during the night. The mattress will stay noiseless when they move, allowing the other sleeper to enjoy uninterrupted slumber.
- Hypoallergenic design
People with allergies have to be extra specific with their mattress choice. You want a mattress that won’t harbor dust mites or other common bedroom allergies. The density of memory foam makes it perfect in this case. And to better stay off toxic chemicals, it’s recommended to go for a memory foam mattress without fiberglass. We have a list here.
- Lower cost
Generally, memory foam mattresses cost less than other mattress types of comparable quality.
Downside of Memory foam mattress
- Heat retention
Because memory foam has visco-elastic properties, it absorbs body heat and tends to retain it. As a result, memory foam mattresses often sleep hot. This material isn’t very breathable either, which contributes to overheating.
That being said, some manufacturers modify the foam to prevent these issues. Many modern mattresses use gel-infused foams that draw the excess heat away and lock it in the gel particles, allowing sleepers to retain a neutral temperature. Some memory foam models also have an open-cell structure. It allows the air to travel freely through the material, contributing to thermoregulation.
- Lack of edge support
Foam is an adaptive, somewhat squishy material. And while this characteristic is great for pressure alleviation, it gives memory foam mattresses weak edges. Therefore, sleeping near one could potentially lead to rolling off the bed.
- Slow response to applied pressure
Memory foam is a slow-moving material, which allows it to absorb shock from motion that well. However, it can be a drawback in some cases, and foam mattresses often feel restricting. Their deep hug makes it more challenging for sleepers to change positions. This might be an issue for combination sleepers or someone who can’t move that easily (due to back pain, for example).
- Chemical off-gassing
As memory foam is made using petrochemicals that often include VOCs, such mattresses typically have a noticeable chemical off-gassing upon arrival. Some take a few hours to air out, and others may smell for days, which can be an issue for sleepers sensitive to sharp scents.
- Not eco-friendly
Again, the chemicals used in making memory foam mattresses make them less eco-friendly than mattresses produced from natural substances.
Latex mattress Upside & Downsides
Here are some factors that might help you choose between latex mattresses vs memory foam mattresses.
Upside of Latex mattress
- Responsive support
Latex mattresses spring back fast after the pressure is applied. That’s why they typically have a bouncy feel and make it easier for sleepers to turn and roll in bed.
Natural latex is the most durable material used in making mattresses. A latex mattress can last up to 20 years when properly maintained.
The molecules of latex aren’t as tightly packed as memory foam which allows aeration. In addition, latex also wicks away body heat to leave you cool all through the night.
- Usually eco-friendly
Latex mattresses produced from natural rubber tree sap are biodegradable and eco-friendly. However, synthetic mattresses aren’t (as they are made using petroleum-based compounds).
Downside of Latex mattress
- Too much bounce
Latex is a very elastic material and can be too bouncy for some, especially seniors and disabled persons.
- Higher price point
Latex mattresses are considered the most durable ones, which explains the price. Additionally, natural latex is an expensive raw material. The extraction process is costly and time-consuming, contributing to latex mattresses' final price tag.
- Initial rubbery odor
Unlike the off-gassing in synthetic mattresses, natural latex mattresses smell like new rubber for the first few days, which can be off-putting.
A synthetic latex mattress is made from different synthetic materials from a memory foam mattress. Hence they feel very different.
Memory Foam vs Latex Mattresses: Which One Should You Choose?
If you’re still unsure which mattress type will make you the happiest, you might want to consider the situations in which each type performs the best.
Now, memory foam mattresses work the best for people who:
- want fast pressure relief;
- have sharp or painful pressure points;
- require good motion isolation;
- want a hugging, “sleep-in-bed” feel instead of lying on top of the mattress;
- are looking for the best value for money.
And latex mattresses will suit sleepers who:
- want an eco-friendly model;
- can’t stand the chemical off-gassing;
- move a lot during sleep and don’t want to feel stuck;
- want to lie on top of the mattress rather than in it;
- are looking for an exceptionally durable mattress;
- tend to overheat during the night.
Is latex or memory foam better for back pain?
Memory foam mattresses are best for back pain because they contour to the body shape. However, latex mattresses also provide excellent support for the spine to relieve back pain.
Which latex mattress is best?
Natural latex mattresses have the best qualities, although they are much more expensive and hard to get.
In all, the latex mattress vs memory foam debate can only be settled by individual needs and preferences. Regardless of the mattress type you opt for, it’s the quality of your purchase that would primarily determine how you’ll feel sleeping on it.
That said, which of the mattress types do you find most appealing and why? Have you tried any of them before? We’ll love to see your experiences or questions in the comments. Do share.
- Amir, M. Y., Hui, M., Evelyn L., Singh, M., Ramli, R. (July 2011). Advances in natural rubber latex foam technology. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309857799_Advances_in_natural_rubber_latex_foam_technology