Which Is Better: Latex or Memory Foam Mattress?

Latex and memory foam both have their uses and uniqueness as foam-based materials. We know memory foam is known for its pressure relief and comfort… But it has scary chemicals and that chemical smell. We know latex is bouncy and supportive… But it doesn’t mold and also has that chemical smell. Which one is better? For that matter, which one is better for you?

Overview of Latex and Memory Foam

How does latex and memory foam look from a high level? Let’s take a look at the two from an overview perspective:

Latex

Known to be buoyant and bouncy. Latex popularity is how it can be all-natural, organic mattress. Also comes synthetic for longer-lasting use and durability. It is supportive and is designed in a variety of ways. Latex also has two well-known constructions: Dunlop and Tatalay, both with their good and bad. The material is also hypoallergenic and often chosen because it doesn’t catch dust and allergens causing allergies. As a foam, latex does conduct and capture some heat. Latex as natural rubber can be uncomfortably firm for sleep.

Memory foam

Growing in popularity, well-known for its pressure relief property. The material does an excellent job molding to your body as heat and pressure is applied to it, giving sleepers a full contact with the mattress for support. Since it conforms well to the body, memory foam can be supportive, can absorb bodyweight and reduce pressure on body parts, transfer little to no motion, and make no noise. Memory foam is also known for the infusion of other materials that add other properties to the mattress. However, memory foam is also well-known for its construction from harsh chemicals and its off-gassing chemical smell that can be irritating to the nose and itchy for the skin.

Comparison Chart

Latex Memory Foam
Can be natural: X
Clean air (low VOC): X X
Sleeps cool: X X*
Posture/spinal support: X X
Pressure relief: X
Bounciness and responsiveness: X
Good for sex: X
No noise: X X
Easy to move on: X

*The ability to partially or fully infuse other materials can make memory foam sleeping surface regulate its temperature well

Diving Deeper

Let’s take a closer look at each of the characteristics and see how the two materials differ from each other.

Construction

Construction tells us the many ways both materials can be changed and how they affect the overall performance of the mattress.

  • Latex: Can be all natural, synthetic, or a blend of the two to provide a more organic sleeping surface or added durability. The two constructions with latex are: Dunlop and Tatalay. Both provide different feel and performance, differing in its manufacturing process. Dunlop is the older design, with a firmer feel and can be cheaper. Dunlop is not as bouncy and springy as Tatalay, and can be warmer as it is a more solid piece of foam. Tatalay is the newer design, with a softer feel and often higher price tag. Tatalay also tends to be more bouncy and springy. Tatalay’s construction also allows for more airways and can lead to a cooler sleeping surface than Dunlop.
  • Memory foam: Virtually any firmness levels available as memory foam can made to be as dense as desired. Partial or full infusion of materials such as cooling gel, gel beads, copper, graphite, aloe vera, green tea extract, charcoal, or other materials can add new properties to the mattress. The material can be aerated with holes at the top, convoluted with airways underneath for added breathability and cooling. Its typical construction makes for a slower response time (returning to its shape), but great for “hugging” the curves of your body and providing contoured support. The addition of other materials can change its response time to be much faster (for example, infusing synthetic latex with memory foam).

RELATED: The Top 5 Best Gel Memory Foam Mattresses for 2018

Feel and comfort

When we look at feel and comfort, as two highly subjective terms, we want to understand how each material behave under the pressure of our body and physical sensation.

  • Latex: Someone looking for a lighter feel with more bounce, faster response time, less hug, and more compression would enjoy latex. Latex foam does a better job at giving to pressure and provide more sink. As it maintain its shape well, the sleeping surface of latex tends to be more bouncy and responsive. However, the bounciness can be disruptive when you are tossing and turning during sleep (innerspring mattress owners know too well).
  • Memory foam: Someone looking for a more conforming sleeping surface and deeper contouring support aka “more hug” would find memory foam pleasant. Memory foam does a great job at slowly shaping itself and forming around the curves of your body, providing its “hugging” comfort and full-contact support of your body. At the same time, it can be very slow in responsiveness and leave body impressions that can be disruptive during sleep.

Responsiveness and bounce

Responsiveness refers to how quickly a mattress material can return to its original shape after being compressed. Bounciness deals with how much springiness push-back a mattress has that can cause sleepers to bounce.

  • Latex: If you find yourself sleeping better with a responsive and bouncy sleeping surface, latex is the suitable choice. Latex foam made natural, synthetic, Dunlop, or Tatalay do not have as much sinkage as memory foam and does a better job at keeping its sleeping surface in shape. With its rubberiness, latex prevent sleepers from sinking into the foam an provide a bounce to keep your body on its surface.
  • Memory foam: If you are fan of mattresses that conform and molds to the shape of your body, memory foam can be a good choice. As memory foam can be compressed in an isolated manner (without affecting the other areas of the mattress), there is minimal bounce expected and a deeper supportive available for sleepers. Its ability to “hug” sleepers mean a significantly slower responsiveness and a more potentially comfortable sleep.

Heat build-up

Heat is the temperature of the sleeping surface when sleeping on the mattress. Some materials are more conductive than others, therefore catch and retain more heat. This can cause nighttime sweating and make sleep difficult.

  • Latex: Thanks to the responsiveness and bounciness of latex, there is more empty space between the body and sleeping surface. This means there is more airway for heat to escape and not become trapped. Latex as a foam material does conduct heat and can still provide a warm sleeping surface. However, it is much cooler than memory foam.
  • Memory foam: With its ability to “hug” and mold to the curves of your body, heat tends to get trapped underneath. Memory foam is notorious for being hot for sleepers. However, there have been many improvements to the material for making it less conductive in retaining heat, and better at absorbing and dissipating it either through different designs with airways (aerated or convoluted) or with the infusion of new material (cooling gel, copper, graphite, and so on).

Concerned about the temperature of your mattress? Check out our buyer’s guide for recommended mattresses that sleep cool.

Off-gassing (smell)

Off-gassing is the temporary smell of chemicals from a mattress that have been recently produced or sealed in plastic for a long time. The annoying chemical odor we smell when we first receive our mattress eventually goes away after a few days. However, it may be enough to prevent owners from sleeping on their beds initially.

  • Latex: Synthetic latex can give off a strong initial odor or gas when it is first unpackaged. All-natural latex may have a minor scent, but will not be chemical related. Latex off-gassing will vary, but tends to be less than memory foam.
  • Memory foam: The nature of memory foam with its main ingredient being polyurethane will have one of the strongest off-gassing smell when the mattress is first unpackaged. Since memory foam is primarily made with chemicals, it will take a longer time for the odor to dissipate compared to latex.

Sex and noise

When discussing whether a mattress is good for sex, we look at how the mattress will perform when you perform, and the volume of noise generated for any movement.

  • Latex: Latex foams are a great choice for sex because of their significantly bouncier property. This bounce means you’re less likely to get “stuck” or “sink” into your mattress, making it uncomfortable to maneuver during sex. The bounce also provides a nice buoyant rhythm which translate to less effort to reach climax. As a foam-based material, latex does not generate any noise as there is no real moving parts. This means more discretion for sexual activities.
  • Memory foam: Memory foam may not be the best for sexual activities as the foam tends to “hug” and cause sinking. This “stuck” feeling can make it difficult for maneuvering and changing positions. Memory foam also lack any bouncing properties as it absorbs pressure and weight extremely well. The material does provide discretion as it generates zero noise as a foam-based material.

Similarities Between Latex And Memory Foam

As foam-based materials, latex and memory foam does a good job at conforming in some way to the shape of your body. This contouring and moldability property provides pressure relief to all parts of the body, aiding in relieving pain and pressure on the back, shoulders, neck, hips, and arms.

We also find that latex and memory foam generate no noise. If you find yourself using innerspring mattresses and waking up because of the sounds of the steel coils, then latex or memory foam can be an excellent choice. They can also be candidates as discrete mattresses for sex.

Differences Between Latex And Memory Foam

Responsiveness of the sleeping surfaces:

Latex react faster after you get up from it. This means its sleeping surface return to its shape much quicker than memory foam. Latex tends to maintain its sleeping surface well despite being a foam-based material.

Memory foam, on the other hand, rebounds much slower and return to its shape after some time. This can be good or bad depending on the preference of the sleeper. The slow responsive nature means memory foam can provide its pressure relief and “hugging” support.

The way each mattress supports your body:

Latex provides good support for your body as a foam-based material. However, it has more empty space between you and the mattress as the material does not “give” as much to the shapes of your body. Latex is also more bouncy which translate to more buoyant pressure, preventing you from sinking into your mattress uncomfortably.

Memory foam provide a “hugging” effect, allowing bodies to sink into the mattress. This contouring support provide full-contact touch for pressure relief.

Ease of mobility and motion transfer:

Latex is easier to move around, which can be great if you have difficulty getting around on your bed. As the material does a better job at retaining its shape, it does transfer more motion and vibration through the mattress compared to memory foam. This can be important for light sleeper couples who find themselves disturbed at night by their partner’s tossing and turning.

Memory foam can make movement difficult as the sleeping surface absorbs bodyweight and sink when pressure is applied. However, this property does minimize the amount of motion and vibration transferred within the mattress. This can be great for couples in need of a mattress and sleeping surface less prone to shaking from movement.

Should You Buy A Latex or Memory Foam Mattress?

So which is the right choice for you? Are latex mattress better for you or are memory foam mattresses the better choice?

Latex mattresses can be a great choice if you…

  • … Want more bounce without the “stuck” and “hugging” feeling. The material offers more buoyancy and springiness, which can also mean latex can be great for sex.
  • … Want a faster responsive surface for sleepers who toss and turn frequently, and in need of a mattress that can “keep up” without leaving body impressions.
  • Want a more natural mattress as latex can be all-natural or a blend of synthetic and natural latex. Natural latex is hypoallergenic and unlikely to cause allergens.

Memory foam mattresses can be a great choice if you…

  • … Want more deep compression support as memory foam offer more contouring and hugging as it allows the body to sink into the mattress well.
  • … Want a slower response for the sleepers who toss and turn less frequently at night, you can get more sink and pressure relief using this material.
  • … Enjoy the infusion of other materials. With memory foam we find the infusion of other materials provide more exciting and new properties. Some examples aside from cooling gel include: copper, graphite, aloe vera, and green tea extract.

FURTHER READING: How To Pick The Right Mattress

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