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Tanya Hodgson

Tanya is a professional writer and editor with a B.A. in English from the University of Chicago. Tanya has been fighting insomnia for most of her adult life, and she knows firsthand how vital a good night’s rest can be for people with sleep problems.

Memory Foam and Latex Mattress Comparison

Here, we will be covering the differences and similarities between latex and memory foam, which should help you make an informed, calculated purchase and improve your sleep quality for years to come. We will cover both materials individually before making a clear-cut comparison towards the end of the article.

How do you go about getting proper rest every night? It’s a difficult question to answer since it all depends on the person and their situation. The sheer number of factors that can affect how much quality sleep you get is mind-boggling when you wrap your head around it. Still, some factors are more relevant than others, and in this article, we will cover a very important topic for people looking to improve their sleeping conditions – mattress composition.

There are many manufacturers to choose from, and it can be a daunting task to separate the good products from the mediocre ones. While it can be beneficial to hear what a sales clerk has to say, their job obviously comes with a bias that can steer you towards choices that don’t exactly fit what you want, but are “close enough.” The smartest approach is to learn about mattresses yourself – that way, you can ensure that what you’re buying fits your specific needs and limitations.

While any model worth considering tends to have solid-quality materials used for its production, it’s a good idea to understand some of them and make your choice based on what they offer compared to each other. Today, we will be covering the differences and similarities between latex and memory foam, which should help you make an informed, calculated purchase and improve your sleep quality for years to come. We will cover both materials individually before making a clear-cut comparison towards the end of the article. Let’s get into it.

What Is Latex in the Context of Mattresses?

If you’ve been looking into options for any sensible amount of time, you’ve seen latex advertised as a smart choice of material. If your career isn’t in a related field, you may not realize what makes latex usable in mattress production. Latex is derived from the sap of rubber trees and can go through one of several processes to reach a state where it functions as part of a mattress. Depending on how high the percentage is of organic latex in a given blend, the model is declared organic (95% natural latex or more), blended (30% or more) or synthetic (less than 30% organic latex).

In terms of processing method, you’re looking at two main types of latex – Dunlop and Talalay. Dunlop came first, and its processing is simpler overall – the liquid latex is injected into a mold and baked twice, with a cycle of washing in between those two periods of baking. The result of this processing method is often a very dense form of latex that is primarily used for support cores in various models. Dunlop latex ends up being significantly firmer on average than Talalay latex.

Talalay is made using a slightly more complicated processing method, one that involves freezing the mold to push carbon-dioxide through the material, which makes the resulting latex much more breathable in most scenarios, and better-suited for softer comfort layers. Keep in mind that both of these latex types can be fine-tuned to offer each other’s main benefits – Talalay latex can be made denser, and Dunlop latex can be made more fluffy and breathable.

It’s somewhat important to note that there aren’t many options out there where the entire thing is made out of one type of latex. Dunlop is typically used for the support core, as this part of the bed needs to be very firm. As for the comfort layers, both latex types are viable, but Talalay is the one we recommend. These models can also include other materials such as polyfoam, often within the more supportive layers. Extra breathability can be achieved by poking tiny holes in most mattress layers, which drastically improves air circulation. If you prefer sleeping cool, this is a huge benefit.

What Is Memory Foam in the Context of Mattresses?

Memory foam is sometimes referred to by its other name – viscoelastic polyurethane foam. It came about as a result of NASA’s efforts during the 1960s, and thanks to its composition, it’s classified as a synthetic material. Before the introduction of memory foam, polyfoam was used in most models, but this material had considerable downsides that went so far as to invite shoulder pain, joint pressure, etc. This happened because polyfoam wouldn’t conform to the sleeper’s body enough, meaning that their entire body weight would press down on select joints and other pressure points. Polyfoam also had less-than-desirable levels of durability and would degrade rather quickly (at least while being used for comfort layers), which has an impact on the sleeper’s budget.

One of the main advantages of memory foam is how well it conforms to the body. It has the ability to become softer when coming into contact with the person – or rather, the heat emanating from the sleeper’s body. As a result, it creates something resembling a mold that almost perfectly clings to the person’s body, which goes a long way towards alleviating neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, or pressure in various pressure points on the body. Side sleepers get especially healthy treatment, as memory foam beds often help their spine achieve natural alignment, preventing the occurrence of back pain and any other issue related to poor posture. Once the person leaves the bed and allows the memory foam to cool off, it becomes slightly firmer and goes back to its normal shape.

Memory foam models are very rarely composed entirely of this material. While it offers many benefits, the risk of sagging is high, which means manufacturers will often supplement memory foam with support cores made of something different, such as high-density polyfoam or even Dunlop latex. One notable downside to memory foam is its sub-par breathability. Memory foam tends to hold onto all the body heat from the sleeper, and high-quality beds often have extra chemicals added into the mix to alleviate this issue and help the sleeper sleep cool.

Comparing Latex and Memory Foam

So which material should you be more interested in? As you may have concluded while reading the descriptions above, it’s not exactly cut-and-dry. A lot of bed come with a mix of materials used for different layers to provide what seems like “the best of both worlds.” Still, there are areas where we can compare the two materials and see which one comes out on top. We will present a somewhat extensive list of criteria that any mattress should be measured by (starting with how these models feel), and see how memory foam and latex perform, at least on average. When trying to make a purchasing decision, you should be looking at:

Note: Organic latex comes with a potential allergy risk. As a rule, the more synthetic you go, the smaller the risk becomes of you getting an allergic reaction. Consider this when deciding on a mattress to purchase.


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