Memory Foam Vs Latex Mattress
Are you confused by all the mattress types out there? There are so many, and it can be hard to figure out what type is best for you without comparing the materials directly with each other, which is why I’ve written this memory foam vs latex mattress guide.
Latex mattresses are less common than memory foam, which seem to be exploding absolutely everywhere. Does this automatically mean memory foam is a better mattress? Well, that really is up to you because there are some key differences between the two. I’ll help you to gain confidence in understanding which of these two materials, memory foam or latex, is the right choice for YOU.
What Is Memory Foam?
Memory foam mattresses are constructed using polyurethane based materials. The foam is viscoelastic, which means it responds to changes in pressure and heat (this is why it molds to your shape as you lie on it).
Memory foam is a material that was pioneered by NASA, though they never actually ended up using it.
It’s a really popular material right now: in my local mall the other day, I saw memory foam sneakers and even a memory foam bath mat! It’s everywhere.
Memory foam mattresses have two key layers:
- The comfort layer. This will be one or several layers of memory foam, and will come in different levels of firmness and thickness. It is within the comfort layer that you will find a lot of memory foam innovations which mattress companies are pioneering at a frantic pace to beat the competition. Innovations you may find inside the comfort layer of memory foam mattresses are
- Gel for cooling
- Charcoal or green tea for odor control
- Aloe vera for “an improved sleep experience”
- Foams manufactured to feel more like latex
- Foams that are not actually memory foam at all, but a patented foam belonging to that company
- The support layer. This is most often a high density foam. This will probably be the thickest section of the mattress and is designed to support the comfort layers in doing their job.
What Is Latex?
Natural latex is a milky white sap that comes from rubber tree. You should be aware, however, that not all latex is natural, it can also be synthetically produced. When latex is synthetically produced, it is made from petrochemical substances, just like memory foam is. Natural latex mattresses are considered superior to synthetic latex mattresses.
To make latex mattresses, the liquid latex is converted into a foam using one of two processes: Dunlop or Talalay. Dunlop latex tends to be denser, which means it is heavier, but also more durable. Note that latex mattresses made using either foaming process can be different levels of firmness. Just because Dunlop latex is denser does not necessarily mean a mattress made using the Dunlop process is necessarily firmer.
Latex mattresses are usually one layer only.
You can read more about how latex mattresses are made (and everything you need to know about latex mattresses) by following the link below.
What Do They Feel Like To Lie On?
Memory Foam Mattress
Memory foam responds to pressure and heat. It has a slow response and it will almost like you sink into it. Different foams have different response times. For example, Nectar (link) has a slower response time of 5-7 seconds and Ecosa (link) has a faster response time, almost springing back when you release the pressure on it.
This response time is the signature of memory foam mattresses, that gives you the feeling of sinking into the mattress and then being cradled by it. You should not feel overly stuck or that it is too difficult to change positions as you sleep. This feeling can also be described as sleeping “in” the mattress rather than “on” it.
Memory foam has virtually no bounce, though there are some memory foam mattresses that have foams constructed to feel more like latex such as Ecosa.
Memory foam conforms around your body, for a highly individualized feeling of support when you lie on it.
Some people find that memory foam mattresses feel hot to sleep on. This is because the foams tend to trap heat and because the support is also a high density foam there is nowhere for it to go. Innovations mentioned above such as gel have helped cool down the feel of sleeping on memory foam, but it is probably the poorest performing mattress type in this regard.
Latex also provides excellent pressure relief. Rather than moulding and cradling your body, it compresses and bounces instead.
Latex responds instantly to pressure, and as I mentioned above, it is quite bouncy. You will see in the short video below just how bouncy it is compared to memory foam. Some couples prefer latex for this reason, as they find it helps with certain bed time activities!
Latex is a more naturally breathable material than memory foam, and it naturally does not trap heat. This makes it feel better to lie on for people that tend to sleep hot.
This video, although it is made by Spindle who manufacture latex mattresses, gives a reasnoably balanced visual explanation of how the two different materials perform. You will see how much more bouncy latex is and how much more hugging memory foam is. You will see the differences in edge support, and how latex performs in motion transfer (note they don’t show how the memory foam does, I think this is because it performs better, as I mentioned above).
Who are they best suited to?
Choose Memory Foam:
- Memory foam is better at isolating motion transfer, so it could be a better option for couples if one person tends to toss and turn a lot, or get up in the night.
- If you are on a restricted budget, you will more likely find a memory foam mattress that suits your needs at your price point because latex mattresses are more expensive.
- If you have a latex allergy, memory foam will probably be a safer choice for you, but discuss this with your health professional first.
- If you suffer from back pain, memory foam is an excellent choice because of the individualized support your pressure points will get as you sleep.
- If you tend to sleep hot, a latex mattress would be a better option over memory foam even though memory foam mattresses are often stuffed full of cooling technologies, latex is just naturally cooler.
- Latex is a more environmentally friendly mattress.
- Latex mattresses are less likely to have a strong off gassing odor which comes with some memory foam mattresses (if you choose memory foam, please do not panic about this though: if the foam is CertiPUR-US Certified, the odor is harmless and should dissipate within a couple of days). If you are highly sensitive to odors then latex could be a better choice for you.
- Latex usually provides better edge support. If you end up on the edge of your mattress because a child or pet busts in and takes up your space, or if you like to sit on the edge of your bed a lot, latex will work better for you than memory foam.
- A stomach sleeper would be better on latex than memory foam, unless it is a very firm memory foam. This is because stomach sleepers need quite rigid support aorund their hips to keep their spines aligned as they sleep. That is not to say that latex mattresses are excessively rigid, but you do not sink into them for the support.
A good quality memory foam mattress should last for around 7-8 years. The foam will naturally soften with time, but as long as the mattress is on a properly supportive platform you should not have any noticeable sag of the mattress until it reaches the end of its life.
Latex is considered the most durable material you can use in a mattress. The materials will also degrade with time, but they will outlast any other mattress type.
Can I Get A Mattress With BOTH?
Yes, you can! If you are unsure if you would prefer one or the other, there are some mattresses out there that actually contain both latex AND memory foam!
These mattresses are usually hybrid mattresses which have a coil support system and then include memory foam and latex in the comfort layers of the mattress.
If you like the sound of this, I highly recommend you read my review of the DreamCloud mattress. You will also enjoy reading this article about hybrid mattresses, one of which contains memory foam and latex.
So in summary:
- The mattresses are made from totally different materials and provide excellent pressure relief in different ways.
- Both are great choices for side and back sleepers.
- Both are great choices for couples, but memory foam is better at motion isolation and latex is better if you’re looking for bounce.