Medical Benefits of a Latex Mattress
Are There Medical Benefits of a Latex Mattress?
It's common knowledge that latex is a premium, comfortable, and high-priced luxury bedding. But is it actually medically beneficial?
Orthopedic Mattresses: Background
All-natural latex foam mattresses were first constructed in the tradition of "orthopedic mattresses" first created in the 1950s. Orthopedic mattresses were designed as a medical aid with the goal of properly aligning the spine during sleep, minimizing stress, and improving a range of medical conditions. The thought was that just as orthopedic shoes could help your stride, an orthopedic mattress could help your sleep.
Unfortunately, most early latex mattresses actually increased pain rather than decreasing pain. A firm mattress created painful pressure points where the body met the mattress, and could create a bend in the spine between the hips and the shoulders. A softer mattress that allowed the hips and shoulders to sink in could potentially create better alignment, but often increased pain since without the proper support, the spine could bend or torque during sleep.
Enter latex foam. Though the first foam latex was produced in the 1920s, it wasn't until after World War II that the popularity of latex took off and the process of creating latex foam from liquid botanical latex was perfected.
The Latex Mattress Today
Latex foam mattresses are the "next generation" in orthopedic mattress technology. Latex is the one bedding material that combines softness and support in a unique bedding material that relieves pressure points at the hip and shoulder while providing the necessary support to align the spine.
Two advancements set today's latex apart from historical orthopedic mattresses and other bedding options on the market:
- Advances in foam production: today's foam products are consistent from end to end, top to bottom. They're available in a wide range of firmness preferences, from super-soft to extremely firm. Talalay latex uses space-age freezing, aeration, and vulcanization technologies to create bedding with unparalleled cushiony comfort.
- Layering: The true success story of latex lies in the creation of layered latex beds that can combine firmness options for a customized sleep experience. Layering allows a latex comfort layer to be superimposed on either a firmer latex layer for luxurious comfort or on a polyurethane layer for a more budget-friendly latex experience.
The multitude of modern latex options, combined with the ability to layer various firmnesses, makes latex an ideal sleep surface for a range of medical problems. With a little experimentation to find the right mix of softness and support, a latex bed can take the pressure off an arthritic hip, align a spine to alleviate the pain of bulging discs, or provide a soft refuge for the stiff muscles and over-stimulated nerves of fibromyalgia sufferers.
The Medical Benefits of a Quality Mattress
A 2006 study in Applied Ergonomics used poor pressure distribution and spinal distortion as indicators of poor mattress performance leading to increased pain and decreased sleep. These are the very factors that latex foam mattresses are designed to manage: pressure point creation and inconsistencies in spinal support.
The same year, a study in the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics found a significant correlation between "uncomfortable" mattresses and poor sleep quality, "comfortable" mattresses and high quality of sleep. Better sleep has been proven to improve the symptoms of a range of conditions, from fibromyalgia to arthritis and a comfortable mattress may be the key to achieving restorative sleep.
A 2008 study in Applied Ergonomics found significant differences in satisfactory sleep and pain relief when test subjects switched from their own older mattresses to new "sleep systems" and that deeper and more pain-free sleep was achieved over time on a newer, more comfortable mattress. If you're sleeping on an older mattress (8 to 10 years for a traditional inner spring), switch to a newer, body-contouring mattress. The change may help improve your sleep and your ability to manage a variety of medical problems.
Medically Helpful Characteristics of Latex
Latex is more than just a comfortable and supportive mattress choice. A latex mattress is:
- Hypoallergenic and antibacterial: The basic rubber chemical structure of a natural latex mattress discourages infection by bacteria or invasion by molds or mites.
- Absorbent: An organic cotton or wool topper over a breathable latex mattress can actually wick sweat and moisture away from the body. The air flow in latex is unsurpassed, quickly drying moisture before molds or odors can form.
- All-natural: 100% natural latex beds with organic fire barriers and without glues are completely natural and chemical-free, as well as constructed from sustainable, renewable materials. For people concerned with chemical-free living or an organic lifestyle, latex is unbeatable.
The Medical Benefits of Latex: The Bottom LineThere are no studies to date that specifically examine latex mattresses, but there is a wealth of information on the ability of a good mattress to improve your sleep, and on the importance of quality sleep to a healthy life. The right latex mattress can maximize your comfort and create healthy spinal alignment, improving your sleep at night and your overall health during the day.