While memory foam is easily one of the most popular mattress materials on the market with many benefits that include superior support for key pressure points and cushioning comfort that rapidly conforms to your contours, latex foam can offer all of this and more.
The biggest difference between the two materials is the “feel” and texture. Latex has a lighter feel with a faster response time when it comes to adapting to your body’s shape as you naturally move around in the night. However, because its compression is more generalized it doesn’t hug your curves quite as tightly as memory foam does and as a result, it can offer you a little more bounce. This last feature can make a big difference when you need to turn over in the night, during those intimate moments or just when getting in and out of bed easily.
One great example of how effective a latex-topped bed can be when it comes to melding comfort with support would be Nature’s Sleep whose Ghostbed features a 1.5-inch top layer of aerated latex foam that provides ideal spine alignment and pressure point relief as well as a cooler sleep.
So, how is latex foam able to go head-to-head with memory foam when it comes to capturing a larger share of the foam mattress market? Well, let’s start by looking at what exactly is latex foam.
What is Latex Foam?
Unlike memory foam which is made from polyurethane, latex can be all-natural, it can be made from synthetic materials or it can be a hybrid blend that incorporates both natural and synthetic components. With the natural latex, only raw latex that has been harvested directly from rubber trees and then naturally processed is used in the construction of the mattress and for the consumer, this means minimal off-gassing and a sleep surface that is ideal for those suffering from allergies or skin/scent sensitivities. With synthetic latex, it is typically constructed using SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) which while similar to the natural version in terms of feel and texture, doesn’t have the same lifespan or the bounce associated with a natural latex mattress.
What Should I Look For When Buying a Latex Foam Mattress?
Whether it is made from natural or synthetic materials, there are a number of processes that can be used in the manufacture of a latex foam mattress and the two most popular of these are the Dunlop and the Talalay process. By understanding these processes, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about which is the best purchase for you.
With the Dunlop process, a foamy, liquid latex is dispensed into the entire mattress mold in one single pour. Think, pouring cake batter into a baking pan. It is them steam-baked to set the latex into a solid surface. Now, this process can result in some of the latex starting to settle at the bottom of the mold before the steam-bake process and this can cause a discrepancy in the overall texture. Naturally, the bottom half will be denser and firmer while the upper portion of the latex foam mattress will be softer and more pliable.
With the more expensive Talalay process (which is often referenced when up-marketing a latex foam mattress), the same foamy liquid latex is used however it is only partially dispensed into the mattress mold. Air is then pumped into aerate the material which ultimately causes it to expand and ultimately fill up the rest of the mold. Prior to the same steam-bake process that is used with the Dunlop latex mattress, the Talalay process requires the foam to be quick-frozen to preserve the “bubbles”. The end result is a lighter, more aerated mattress with a more consistent level of density throughout the entire product. Of course, extra steps result in a pricier foam mattress, and you’ll have to be the judge as to whether it makes sufficient difference in your sleep comfort, to splurge.
One great example of a mattress that utilizes the Dunlop process to deliver exceptional quality, continual comfort and contouring support is the Helix mattress where a full 2-inches of high-grade Dunlop latex works atop 5-inches of pocketed spring micro coils for a superior grade sleep surface that brings together both the springiness of the coil spring with the softness of latex.
Now that you understand how the foam is produced, you should be looking at how the actual mattress is constructed. There are in fact 3 different styles of latex foam mattresses and they include:
- All-Latex – where every layer of the mattress is made from latex foam
- Latex-Over-Foam – with this, only the top layer of the mattress is made from latex foam
- Foam-Over-Latex –in this mattress, the top layer is a polyurethane foam with a latex foam base
Additionally, when shopping for a latex foam mattress you should keep in mind that the standard measure of firmness for both memory foam and latex foam is called an “ILD” rating (Indentation Load Deflection) and it refers to how much weight it will take to create a pre-determined depth of indentation and then return to its original form. Typically, the higher the ILD the firmer the mattress with a sample range for say, Talalay being around a 12 (soft) to around a 50 (firm). So, whether your preference is soft and cushy or firm and supportive, you can “rest assured” there will be a latex foam mattress that perfectly suits your needs.
Advantages of Latex Foam
- Similar to memory foam, latex delivers that great cushioning comfort you need for a restful night along with superior support and excellent weight distribution that spells not only relief for your key pressure points but an uninterrupted sleep experience and more pain-free mornings.
- Latex delivers what is considered a more “general” compression each time you lay down on its surface, which means it cradles your contours but doesn’t hug your body as closely as a memory foam mattress does. This type of feature appeals to many consumers who find memory foam difficult to move around on.
- A latex foam mattress is a great option for those who want a look at a more eco-friendly product when it comes time to shop for their next mattress. Natural latex is made from rubber that is actually harvested from rubber trees and uses zero synthetic additives. Further, if you take it one more step and opt for certified organic latex, you’ll be purchasing a mattress that has not only been made from all-natural materials but also features environmentally sound production methods.
- For those who want to switch to a foam mattress but just can’t give up the “bounce” that comes from a coil-spring mattress, latex is the way to go. Latex offers a more resilient, springy feel that memory foam just cannot replicate. Additionally, the benefits to having a foam mattress that still delivers a bit of a bounce are numerous – from being able to turn over in the night, to engaging in intimate activities and even to simply getting up and out of bed in the morning. You never feel that you are fighting with the mattress, as can happen with memory foam.
- Many of us prefer a cooler sleep and the benefit to latex is that it is a highly breathable material. While many memory foam mattresses have now started using gel-infusion that can help aid in the dispersion of body heat, the extensive aeration due to thousands of tiny air “tunnels” in a latex foam mattress means continual air movement throughout the night and a naturally cooler, more comfortable sleep.
- Latex is a highly durable material that will easily out-last a coil-spring mattress and even many of the high-density memory foam mattresses on the market including showing any of those tell-tale signs of early wear and tear. With proper care, an all-latex foam mattress will last between 8 and 12 years versus the 7 to 8 years you can expect from typical coil-spring construction or the 8 to 10 years you would have with a memory foam mattress.
- Because latex has minimal off-gassing (with the natural latex mattress having zero off-gassing) this material is a great option for those who suffer from allergies, asthma or are sensitive to smells. And even if allergies aren’t an issue with you, a low- or non-off-gassing mattress means you don’t have to let it air out for a few days after set-up, just to allow the odors to dissipate sufficiently before you sleep on it.
So, for those looking for a foam mattress that delivers all the contouring comfort and support of memory foam but with a cooler sleep and environmentally sounder production method, latex foam may be the ideal choice for you. While it is typically pricier than either coil-spring or memory foam, the unique advantages to latex including texture, springiness and durability may make it the sound choice for you and your lifestyle.
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