Latex and memory foam are two commonly used materials in the mattress industry, but they have very different properties and benefits. Do you know the difference between them, or which is a better material for a mattress?
Here is a brief explainer to help you understand the differences between the two:
What is Latex?
Latex foam can be natural, synthetic, or blended, and can be processed in several different ways, but the most popular are the Talalay and Dunlop processes. It has more elasticity and provides more of a hug than memory foam. It also has a springy and bouncy feel to it, which makes it very responsive to your body.
What is Memory Foam?
Memory foam is a soft material made from polyurethane and additives that increase its density and viscosity. Memory foam can have varying densities, firmness levels, and response times, and can be infused with gel, gel beads, or other materials.
The Difference in Feel
Latex produces a mattress with a bouncy and springy feel that quickly responds to your body. The more you push down on latex, the more it will push back to support your body.
On the other hand, memory foam is heat-sensitive, firm at room temperature, and slowly softens and molds to your body. It also returns to its original shape once pressure is no longer applied.
One of the major differences between latex and memory foam is the way they contour to your body. Latex provides an uplifting contour, while memory foam causes your body to sink into it as it contours to your body.
Which Offers More Support?
Both of these materials offer great pressure relief and support. Memory foam provides a contouring hug, which makes it a good choice for side sleepers or people who suffer from pain from pressure-points. Latex, on the other hand, doesn't sink, and will provide firm and constant support to your body.
Breathability and Heat Retention
Since memory foam mattresses utilize heat to contour to your body, they often absorb and retain it, too. This excess heat can affect your sleep as it builds up between your body and the memory foam. Although some memory foam can be made to help you sleep cooler, latex is more breathable and cooler due to its cell structure, and doesn't retain heat, which enables you to sleep without overheating.
How Long Does Each Material Last?
Most memory foam will stop fully responding after a few years, and over time can become uneven, because interior foam cells may collapse and lose their ability to support your body. Latex, on the other hand, is known for its durability, and will last longer than memory foam mattresses.
Which is Healthier?
Most memory foam is made with chemicals that off-gas, which can be negative to long-term health. Memory foam constructed with petroleum-based materials has been linked to causing itchy eyes, respiratory issues, headaches, and other ailments. Odorless off-gassing can continue throughout the life of the product and also affect your health.
Since natural latex consists of natural rubber, it typically doesn't include any harmful chemicals. This means there's no off-gassing, which is better for your health. Latex is also naturally hypoallergenic and dust mite-resistant.
Which is Better in a Mattress?
Which material makes a better mattress depends on your sleeping habits and preferences.
Latex foam is best for people who:
- Want an uplifting and buoyant feel
- Want a faster response time
- Prefer a mattress that's a little more firm
- Want to sleep cool
- Want a mattress that has no off-gassing
- Prefer natural and eco-friendly materials
A memory foam mattress is best for people who:
- Want a hugging feel
- Prefer to choose their level of firmness
- Don't typically move in their sleep
- Want a slower response time
- Sleep with a partner (there's no motion transfer)