It isn’t hard to figure out the difference between, for example, a memory foam mattress and an innerspring one. The difference is clear from the get-go, being present in the names alone. One is made of polyurethane foam, and the other has a coiled metal spring core. Things get a bit more confusing; however, when we get to the differences between memory foam and latex. The sole reason for this apparent confusion is the number of similarities that exist between these two materials, and the subtlety in their differences.
Memory foam and latex are both types of foam, and even though they may seem interchangeable to the inexperienced eye, they certainly have some differences worth noting. These differences can range from the way the materials feel to what they cost and how long they last. In this comparison, we’re going to deal with the significant advantages and disadvantages of both materials, as well as give tips on who should buy each type.
What Is Latex?
Simply put – latex is rubber. It is typically composed of about equal parts water and rubber material. Natural latex is found underneath the bark of mature rubber trees, and it has the form of a soft white substance. Given the human-made feel and the strength of the compound, many people are initially surprised upon hearing that latex is a natural material.
The misconception of it being an artificial substance stem also from its most widely-known applications such as tennis shoes, rubber gloves, and car tires. The truth is, however, that natural rubber latex is harvested from trees using an ancient method passed down through the ages.
Most natural latex used in the manufacture of various products comes from a single rubber tree species. There are different variations of the rubber tree, but the most commonly used one is native to South America and thrives in South Asian plantations as well.
As we mentioned above, latex starts its life beneath the bark of a tree and is harvested by peeling back the bark and revealing the milky substance. From there, the latex is harvested into large cups that the tappers tend to, collecting the latex when the containers are full and replacing them to continue harvesting until the tree is tapped.
What Is Memory Foam?
Memory foam consists of polyurethane mixed with a variety of chemicals that allow it to change its shape and contour to the curves of your body. It is also referred to as viscoelastic foam due to its combination of the properties of elasticity and viscosity.
Viscosity refers to the property of the material to move reluctantly and slowly when pressure is applied to it. Glue, tree sap, and honey are all great examples of viscous materials. Elasticity, on the other hand, is the ability of a material to change its form and stretch while still being able to return to its original shape.
The combination of these properties gives memory foam its ability to shape to the contours of your body, hugging your curves and making you feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud. It also allows it to return to its standard shape once you get out of bed.
Originally developed by scientists at NASA in 1966, the viscoelastic foam was used in harnesses and seatbelts to make space travel safer and at least a little bit more comfortable for the astronauts. It didn’t take long for other industries to realize the potential of the material, eventually leading to a revolution in the way we sleep today. If you want to learn more about memory foam check out our other article.
So, what are the main features of latex, and why should you go out and get a mattress made from this material? If you find yourself asking this question, you are not alone, and we’re here to highlights some of the reasons why latex foam mattresses are a good idea.
The first and most prominent reason you might consider getting a latex mattress is the fact that these beds deliver an unrivaled level of comfort. The floating and supportive sensation, coupled with a soft contouring feeling, leaves many amazed when they lie on a latex mattress for the first time. This sensation comes from the natural springiness of the material, making it supremely comfortable.
If you have joint pain or back pain, a latex mattress may be just the ticket. A plethora of health professionals such as chiropractors, physical therapists, and osteopaths recommend sleeping on a latex mattress as a way to get rid of back, hip, and neck pain.
Due to the cushioning and comfort properties of the latex, these mattresses help promote a natural curvature of the spine. If you have problems with sleeping due to pain or wake up insufficiently rested, it might be a great idea to switch to a latex mattress.
The ability of a latex mattress to promote natural spinal alignment is one of its most significant advantages. Depending on the firmness of the bed as well as your weight and body shape, you could find the perfect amount of sink and support to keep your spine healthy and pain-free. Heavier parts of your body such as the hips and shoulders should ideally sink into the latex, while the lighter areas remain supported, keeping your spine in a natural position.
When it comes to wellness and health, not many things come close to keeping your spine healthy and properly positioned. This will keep pain at bay for a long time, and keep your cardiovascular system functioning correctly as blood circulation is improved through proper pressure distribution while sleeping.
When you buy a 100% natural latex mattress, you are contributing to the preservation of the planet in a multitude of ways. Firstly, you are directly contributing to the financial viability of latex farming, which means more rubber trees will be planted.
It is important to remember that tapping a rubber tree for its latex doesn’t kill the tree, and the more latex we use, the more rubber trees we’re going to have in the world. Sustainable growth is in the plantation-owners’ best interest, so they are carefully managed and protected from pests. More trees mean less carbon dioxide in the air, so purchasing a latex mattress directly influences the human carbon footprint as well.
When it comes to this particular characteristic, there is simply no other type of mattress out there that comes close to latex. Different types of beds require a multitude of environmentally-harmful synthetic ingredients, and if you want the ultimate green mattress go for an organic latex option.
Memory Foam Features
Now that we’ve explained the main reasons why someone might want to pick a latex mattress, we should offer memory foam the same treatment. There are many reasons to select a memory foam option, and we’ve outlined a few to give you a clear picture of the benefits associated with this material.
Pressure point relief
Even though we explained that latex mattresses are more than capable of providing an excellent level of pressure point relief, memory foam is the king of this category. We spend a large portion of our lives in bed, and having a material that can provide the best experience while lying in one can be crucial for avoiding severe problems down the line.
The lack of circulation, as well as friction caused by a low-quality mattress, could end up being massively detrimental to your physical health over the long term. Not to mention, it can be quite painful. Beds made of memory foam are the best at preventing these types of problems, fighting off painful sores and contouring perfectly to every part of your body.
Great for most sleeping positions
One of the main advantages of memory foam is that it suits pretty much any sleeping position, making it an ideal choice for combo sleepers. The only position memory foam could be considered less than ideal for is sleeping on the stomach.
That said, if you get a suitably firm mattress, you could sleep on your stomach on a memory foam bed without any issues whatsoever. The problem is that most people gauge their preferred mattress firmness while lying on their side or their back, and we need slightly softer mattresses in these positions than when we sleep on our stomach. It is essential to keep track of the way you like to sleep and adjust your mattress’s firmness accordingly.
If you are a back sleeper, choosing a bed that will provide you with an adequate level of neck and spine alignment is crucial. Memory foam has a beautiful ability to contour to your unique shape, making it ideal for attaining a healthy and comfortable alignment in the spine.
When it comes to side sleepers, things are not much different. The ultimate goal is to make sure your spine is aligned correctly to avoid any joint or neck discomfort upon waking up. Another thing side sleepers need to pay extra attention to is the comfort of their hips, as they tend to take on most of the pressure when you’re sleeping on your side.
If you’re an allergy sufferer, you’ll be pleased to know that memory foam has some of the best hypoallergenic properties when it comes to mattress materials.
Those who experience issues with wool, feathers, and other types of allergies can benefit much from selecting a hypoallergenic memory foam mattress. Due to the density of most memory foam beds, dust mites rarely inhabit them, and the material is also less susceptible to mold, bacteria, or dead skin cells.
Difference Between Latex and Memory Foam Mattress
Having outlined the features and advantages of each mattress type, it is time to move on to some of the most significant differences between them. In this section of the comparison, we’ll be dealing with a few different topics that we haven’t already covered in the text above. There are many things that these two materials differ in, but we decided to select a few that we consider the most important.
We’ll start with the crucial category of durability, and this is where latex mattresses tend to have an advantage. In terms of how long the product is generally expected to last, the average latex mattress will need to be replaced after about eight years of use, compared to the average memory foam mattress lifespan of seven years.
This difference in terms of durability comes down to a couple of factors. Still, mainly it has to do with the natural ability of latex to withstand indentations and sagging, with its elasticity allowing it to preserve its pressure-relieving and supportive qualities for a more extended period.
To be clear from the start, both of these types of mattresses will emit some odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when they are removed from the box and plastic used to ship them to your doorstep. The breakdown of these VOCs results in off-gassing odors, which is a fancier way of saying that they have a chemical smell. The scents themselves are generally not considered to be particularly dangerous, and they tend to dissipate in a matter of hours, but they are somewhat unpleasant.
So, what’s the difference? It has to do with the type of smell emitted by the mattresses. Latex beds tend to smell more rubbery when new; however, this is true mostly for beds containing synthetic latex components. Aerated organic or natural latex beds will produce a much lower amount of odor that dissipates quite quickly.
Memory foam beds, however, produce more excessive chemical smells: the denser the memory foam, the more persistent and more intense the odor. Although there are models that have been able to get around the problem, this is one of the most common complaints associated with memory foam beds.
The final factor we’re going to consider when it comes to the differences between latex vs memory foam mattress models is their average price. Latex beds tend to be the far more expensive option, sometimes costing double for the same bed size.
Depending on what you’re looking for in a mattress, and the additional features you’d like it to have, the price can differ significantly. Therefore you might be able to find memory foam beds that are more expensive than some latex models, but on average latex, beds are the costlier option. This is especially true when it comes to natural and organic latex models, which are usually the most expensive options since the materials used to produce them are more challenging to come by, making them more valuable than blended or synthetic latexes.
Should You Buy a Latex or Memory Foam Mattress?
We have finally arrived at the big question. Which type of mattress is the right one for you? Needless to say, the answer to this question is going to depend on several factors and your personal preferences, so we’re going to try and make it as comprehensive as possible.
Based on what we have gone through so far, we can highlight some of the advantages of each mattress type and suggest who they are for accordingly. Both materials can offer you a relaxed and comfortable night’s rest provided that you get the right model. Which type is right for you is going to depend mostly on what you are personally looking for in a mattress.
For example, a latex bed is excellent if you prefer to have a low carbon footprint, quick responsiveness and more bounce. It is also an excellent option for those looking for an organic mattress that is very eco-friendly and good for your skin. On the other hand, memory foam mattresses will be perfect for sleepers who prefer a hugging sensation while sleeping. If you don’t like a bouncy mattress and would like a more budget option on average, memory foam is for you.
If you still feel like the answer is not so simple and you would like to have a more detailed analysis of the reasons for purchasing one bed over the other, let’s look at some other factors as well.
Sink and bounce
One thing you should definitely take into account when hunting for a new bed is the level of sink it provides. There are many sleepers out there who like the sinking sensation offered by memory foam beds, and there are many others who find it restricting and uncomfortable.
If you’re someone who likes more bounce in their bed, it’s probably best to consider a latex mattress because they have more responsiveness and generally feel more sturdy.
As we mentioned above, there are slight differences in favor of latex mattresses when it comes to durability. That said, the advantage latex has over memory foam in this regard is not particularly strong, and it is fair to say the two types of beds are comparable when it comes to this category.
It will eventually depend on the manufacturing process of the mattress, as well as how well you take care of it. If you’re considering buying a latex mattress only because it should last a year or two longer on average, maybe it’s time to reconsider your priorities.
So far, we’ve mostly seen latex mattresses dominate the battle for supremacy in terms of features, with memory foam beds being praised for their lower price and contouring abilities. However, there is another major factor that makes it great for couples.
Those of you who don’t like being woken up in the middle of the night by your partner getting up to go to the bathroom or to grab a midnight snack should think about getting a memory foam mattress. The motion absorbing material is capable of isolating your movements to your side of the bed only, meaning that neither partner will disturb the other during the night.
In this comparison, we have shown many similarities between latex and memory foam beds, as well as some differences. These differences range from small to more significant, and each of you will find reasons to go for one over the other.
We can’t tell you which mattress to choose. Instead, we would recommend carefully reading through this article and going over the things that are most important to you. It is probably a good idea to also read lots of reviews for single mattresses before making your decision.
Finally, if you really can’t seem to decide, there’s always the option of ordering each type of mattress and giving them a go for the duration of their respective trial periods. Whatever model you choose to go with, in the end, we hope that you’ll get a massive amount of value and great sleep out of it.