What is Latex?

Latex is the substance from which rubber is made. It's a highly effective component in the production of most natural beds, either alone or in conjunction with other soft yet supportive substances. Natural latex has an elasticity and resilience that no other man-made bedding has been able to mimic.

What is Memory Foam?

First designed by NASA in the 1980s, memory foam was introduced to the private market sector in 1991. The most useful and recognizable feature of memory foam is its ability to "spring back" to its original shape after being compressed. This feature makes it useful in everything from stadium cushions to laptop cases to premium bedding.

Latex vs. Memory Foam

Latex FAQ: Which is better, latex or memory foam? Nick Robinson, creator and publisher at SleepLikeTheDead.com , compiled data from over 1800 sleepers on a mix of memory foam and latex beds in a presentation on YouTube. Memory foam sales currently outpace sales of latex mattresses by a significant percentage, so there were more memory foam owners polled. Nevertheless, when percentages of satisfied owners were compared, Latex tended to come out ahead.

A higher percentage of latex mattress owners than memory foam owners reported that they were satisfied with the comfort level of their beds. On the flip side, a higher percentage of memory foam owners reported that their mattresses "slept hot," acting as a heat trap. In addition, memory foam mattresses had a tendency to "off-gas," creating an unpleasant odor when new.

In the area of pain relief, however, memory foam outpaced latex. About 15% of memory foam owners said that their bed improved their pain symptoms at night and during the day, while about 8% of latex owners reported the same results.

It should be noted that this study doesn't account for the many variations in both memory foam and latex each is available in a variety of thicknesses and densities, as well as in combination with other materials, and each can be manufactured using different processes to a variety of distinct specifications.

The Best of Both Worlds

bed in a beautiful bedroomSome mattresses are built by mixing layers of latex and memory foam, often wrapped around a polyurethane core. This type of mattress tends to be labeled a "latex memory foam mattress." These hybrid models can offer the best of both worlds, though many mix memory foam with the less sought-after synthetic latex rather than the "real deal." Again, it's important to make sure you know what's in your bed before you buy.

Pros of Latex

  • Naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial.
  • Sleeps cooler than memory foam.
  • "All natural" latex has a natural springiness and pressure-relieving properties that neither synthetic latex nor memory foam can match.

Cons of Latex

  • "All natural" latex is expensive, so many mattresses are "hybrid" or "blended" to produce a mattress at a more palatable consumer price point. It can be hard to know exactly what you're buying and exactly how comfortable and effective it will be.
  • Though fairly durable, some latex, especially the softer latex produced by the Talalay process, may not be as long-lasting as memory foam alternatives.

Pros of Memory Foam

  • Some memory foam options may be more affordable than "100% natural latex" mattresses.
  • Memory foam may be slightly better at helping customers manage their pain than latex (especially blended or hybrid latex) options.

Cons of Memory Foam

  • Memory foam tends to "sleep hotter" than latex.
  • Memory foam doesn't have the natural properties that result in a superior soft-yet-supportive sleeping environment.
  • Not all memory foam is created equal. A variety of "recipes" and manufacturing processes have built a range of products that all carry the "memory foam" label. Today, it can be hard to know what you're getting with the "memory foam" name.
leaves Whether you choose latex or memory foam, it's important to pay attention to the fine distinctions among types. Both latex and memory foam mattresses are expensive enough that they constitute a major, long-term investment. Take the time to know exactly what you're buying before you sign on the dotted line, and you'll be more satisfied with your sleep for years to come.