Consumers deserve the best materials in their beds. As foam-based mattresses catch more and more of the market’s attention, two of these best materials stand out from the crowd. These are latex foam and memory foam. Both are praised for their ability to adapt to the body’s shape. With the right processing and design, they can be supportive, safe, and healthy for many sleepers.
However, the reasons for choosing one over another can be as numerous as the versions of these materials. What do we mean? For one, the latex vs memory foam question isn’t easy to answer without looking at what makes the two similar. For another, our inquiry won’t be complete without identifying the ways they aren’t alike. This leads us to ultimately ask: which is better?
This won’t be a simple task. But we’ll try our best in this guide to give you clear points which you can use when deciding which type of foam to go for.
Table of Contents
Latex vs Memory Foam Review
There are two main types of latex foam found in most latex beds today: Dunlop and Talalay. This primarily refers to the process by which the raw material–rubber–is turned into latex. Having been around since 1929, Dunlop is the “traditional” way of molding liquid latex using sealing and hardening techniques. Talalay is a more contemporary approach that seals liquid latex into a vacuum and freezes it into the foam.
The thing is, the average consumers may hardly feel the difference. Although the resulting breathable structure of Talalay can boost the bed’s cooling capabilities. More on this later in the Cooling Section.
Another important aspect of latex foam is what it’s made of. Not all latex foams are 100% natural. Some are synthetic or blended. Natural latex uses only raw latex harvested from rubber trees, which is then processed naturally. Synthetic, on the other hand, is usually built using materials like SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber). This may be cheaper than natural latex but the durability may be reduced.
Blended latex refers to the combination of natural latex and synthetic latex.
Support & Feel
Mattresses with comfort layers made of latex foam can feel light. You will feel deep compression, but it’s more generalized. It’s not highly targeted toward every nook and cranny of your body. Still, the support is present when you sink into the mattress, allowing you to experience comfort as you hit the hay.
Latex has great bounce. But synthetic latex is known for having less bounce than its all-natural counterpart. In a blended version, the latter compensates for the lack of the former. No matter, couples may find these degrees of bounce a source of delight during passionate nights.
Latex naturally sleeps cool. It sports an open-cell structure that is created during its processing. Look closer to notice the pinholes through which air flows in and out. It’s this dynamic that enables you to snooze comfortably throughout the night. With Talalay, this experience is said to be enhanced because of the technique used during processing.
Whether it’s Dunlop or Talalay, the foam’s firmness and the bed cover’s fabric can affect breathability. For instance, plush versions may feel warmer as you lay longer on them. And synthetic fibers can sleep warm, unlike natural fibers. So take note of such details.
Edge Support & Sinkage
Most latex mattresses do not have the same type of edge support found in innerspring ones. So if you lie close to the edge, you may feel like you’re falling over. Sitting at the perimeter can also cause premature sinkage. It depends on how good the construction and materials of your bed is. But you may see indentation and/or deformation after just a few years.
Of course, latex layers on top of pocketed coils are a different matter. You can go for this kind of bed instead if you are really not used to sleeping near the center.
While responsive, latex foam can isolate motion rather well. This effect is partly to the dense nature of the material. Its ability to conform to general impressions made by your body also adds to the insulation of movements in one area. You may find this very helpful if you’re constantly disrupted by the shifts and wakefulness of your bed partner while you’re drifting off.
Additionally, natural latex tends to provide the optimal version of motion isolation for this material. It’s not only effective; it is eco-friendly, too. Take advantage of this factor if you’re a light sleeper.
Buying a latex bed requires a certain kind of budget. The average price point for this type is $1,970.51 (Queen). Organic and/or natural latex mattresses command the highest cost–nearly $2,000. That’s because they’re harder to produce than their synthetic and blended counterparts. They also provide the best value in terms of benefits and capabilities.
In recent years, low-cost latex has been introduced and able to compete with the average memory foam. There are good, bad, and ugly sides to any industry, so make sure you’re getting your sleep product from a trusted brand.
To get you started, read our Best Latex Mattress Reviews in 2020.
While polyurethane mainly constitutes memory foam, there are many other elements added to it which are responsible for the feel that we associate with this mattress material. Memory foam can be of any firmness and density under the sky. It can be infused with many different cooling components like gels, copper, and graphite.
The regular memory foam mattress will give you a slow response and hug your body parts, causing a tight impression. In most beds, the top layer consists of the actual memory foam while the others comprise firmer forms of foam that give the object structure and support.
Support & Feel
Typically, a memory foam mattress with a soft or medium feel offers a sink-in sensation that signifies support for your pressure points. You’ll notice that the conforming effect right away as your shoulders, hips, and spine come in contact with the bed surface. This gives lightweight to average weight sleepers some or lots of relief. Those on the heavier side, as well as side sleepers, may not find this ideal.
This consistent contouring support remains the strength of memory foam. This material was first developed by NASA researchers in the 1960s. It became the cushioning component of choice for beds when the traditional polyfoam appeared to cause or aggravate soreness among sleepers.
Memory foam is not exactly lauded for its bounce. This is the compromise needed to make a deep contouring effect. It will slowly revert from the impression your body has made on the surface. Couples who want more flexibility while doing amorous activities may find this performance less appealing.
The original intent for memory foam is to cradle your curves. To do this, it uses your body heat for compression. It absorbs heat naturally this way. Over time, you’ll feel the bed getting warmer as your body’s energy gets trapped to activate the foam’s response. It may relieve pressure points but may feel super uncomfortable.
Many manufacturers have developed mechanisms to dissipate the heat and let you snooze coolly. While there are still cases of memory foam mattresses sleeping warm, the best ones are infused with cooling gel, copper, and graphite to wick away heat and moisture. Others neutralize temperature through phase changing technology or an open grid structure.
Make sure to check for the cooling component of the model you’re eyeing.
Edge Support & Sinkage
Like latex, memory foam has fair edge support. This means there will be pronounced sinking if you sleep on the edge. In some cases, you will feel like falling over to the floor. The perimeter is unstable, and you’d probably be safer rolling toward the center.
It can be a problem, of course, if you’re sharing the bed with someone. You may fight for the middle zone all the time, which lessens the bed surface area the two of you are able to use. Early sagging can also occur especially if you sit on the edges frequently.
Related to its close conforming feature, memory foam can isolate motion significantly. At some point, you will feel zero motion transfer at all. The slow response and deep hug of the material enable the bed to effectively contain movements. Couples with different sleeping patterns and habits can take advantage of this functionality.
As a result, you can enjoy uninterrupted slumber even as your partner wakes up or moves a lot at night. Little to no motion transfer can actually improve your sleep quality. Continuous sleep can refresh and rejuvenate you for the next day.
Memory foam is relatively cheaper to make than other materials, such as latex. This affords mattress manufacturers to sell memory foam mattresses for less. On average, this bed type can cost you $1,044.16 (Queen). There are options that retail below $500 and below $1,000 as well. But it all depends on the specifics of these designs.
Those infused with an advanced component or converted into a proprietary layer can be more expensive. Prices can go higher if memory foam is bundled with other materials, like latex foam or pocketed coils. In general, memory foam has a lower-than-average lifespan.
To learn more, read our Best Memory Foam Mattress Reviews in 2020.
As both latex and memory foam options have a basic foam constitution, it is easy to get confused between the two. Do remember that they have the ability to adapt to your body’s natural shape. This makes them a likely choice as a comfort layer. They offer pressure relief in areas like the neck, shoulders, spine, and hips. However, they are mostly limited to providing support to your posture.
You may test this conforming feature by pressing your hand on either foam. If you do so, you will find that your hand will leave an impression on the material’s surface. Response and recovery times can differ, though, for these two.
In terms of firmness, you may also find the feel of latex and memory foam very close to each other. They have this fluffy effect about them, which is why they also end up being chosen to top spring systems.
One last similarity we want to raise is their lack of or minimal edge support. Pointing out the latex vs memory foam distinction doesn’t make sense in this department. You’re better off buying an innerspring or a hybrid mattress for that matter. Some of these types have comfort layers composed of memory foam or latex anyway.
As mentioned before, there are many ways in which latex foam mattresses differ from memory foam mattresses and vice versa. Below are the ones we deem important for your decision-making process:
- Conformity — While both latex foam mattresses and memory foam mattresses can conform to your body, there is a great deal of difference in how they do so. Memory foam will mold your body shape exactly, without leaving any space for generality. On the other hand, latex only conforms to the general shape of the human body without much specificity. This is why we say memory foam is close to conforming.
- Response Time — As we mentioned earlier, a latex mattress has a much quicker response time and comes back to its original shape soon after you move away from it. This also means that this mattress type may last you longer. Memory foam has a slower response time, as it has conformed to your body shape more closely.
- Cooling – Traditional memory foam has earned the distinction of being a heat trap. This is because the material relies on body heat to contour your curves. Infusing cooling gel and like components has definitely improved temperature regulation in memory foam beds. Still, many models tend to sleep warm.
In contrast, latex naturally keeps your body cool. The open-cell structure of latex is even adapted in memory foam mattresses to promote airflow. Natural latex is the most breathable, while synthetic or blended latex falls a bit behind.
- Motion Transfer — If you are sharing your bed with a partner, isolating motion is an important factor that comes to mind. With a memory foam mattress, you are less likely to feel your partner moving around at night as the mattress absorbs such shocks. With a latex mattress, you will be feeling some movement each time the other person moves.
Pros & Cons
Armed with that kind of knowledge, you can choose one that is more in line with your needs and requirements instead of blindly following the crowd. Most models can be bought online, so it’s great if you complete your research before clicking the Buy button. You don’t want to go through buyer’s remorse, right?
We suggest you also read our reviews of the best latex mattress and best memory foam mattress options in 2020. It is awesome how manufacturers continue to innovate or improve on their product performances, so staying updated is essential. And lastly, think about how your final choice will affect your sleep quality. After all, this is the point why we’re so fussy about the materials found in our mattress.
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