Latex vs. Memory Foam: Two Popular Mattress Types Honestly Reviewed

Latex and memory foam are two common materials used in leading mattress brands today.

But there’s significant misconception online about what makes these two materials different, and how they work to support you as you sleep.

We’re going to cover what differentiates latex and memory foam, how the two foams are often made, and the pros and cons of both materials

But, if you’re looking for mattress recommendations, we have a guide on the best latex mattresses and a guide on the best memory foam mattresses.

What is Latex?

Latex is a natural made from the sap of the rubber tree. Latex is biodegradable and naturally hypoallergenic. While latex mattresses are generally eco-friend, it’s important to know there is natural latex (like the latex found in Zenhaven mattresses) and synthetic latex.

There two ways to make latex mattresses: the Dunlop way and the Talalay way.

The Dunlop way

  1. The sap is removed from the rubber tree.
  2. The sap is whipped into a froth.
  3. The froth is poured into a mold and covered.
  4. The froth is baked (making it into foam).
  5. As the froth heats, the sediment in the mixture finds its way to the bottom of the mold.

The Talalay way

  1. The sap is removed from the rubber tree.
  2. The sap is whipped into a froth.
  3. The froth is poured into a mold and covered.
  4. The air is removed from the mold, creating a more even distribution of the frothy mixture.
  5. Then the latex particles are frozen, with temperatures getting as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Then the latex is heated up to 220 degress.

Latex mattresses are very popular and are highly regarded as a good investment that will last. However, it’s difficult to find a natural latex mattress that won’t break the bank.

What is Memory Foam?

Memory foam is visco-elastic polyurethane foam. It’s polyurethane foam with viscosity and elasticity. This makes memory foam adaptable. When you push into a block of memory foam, it bends and moves with your weight and shape.

Memory foam is popular in mattresses, shoes, car seats, and even in the cushions on the space shuttle.

This is because memory foam’s chemical makeup gives it “pressure-relieving” properties. This means memory foam is a perfect fit for items that support a lot of weight over a long period of time.

To clear up some confusion: Just because a mattress has foam layers does not mean they are memory foam layers. Memory foam is (generally) more expensive than other types of foam. Most mattress brands only put ½ inch to 3 inches of memory foam in their bed.  When buying a memory foam mattress, check to see exactly how much memory foam you’re getting and where in the bed the memory foam layer is.

Latex vs. Memory Foam: Key Differences Explained

Now that you have a general understanding of how latex and memory foam are made, let’s look at how this impacts the quality of a mattress.

Temperature

When it comes to temperature, latex mattresses are considered naturally cool and breathable.

Meanwhile, there is some concern that memory foam mattresses trap heat.

This makes sense when you think about how the foams work. Latex foam is bouncier, so it’s going to push back against your body and keep you sleeping “on the surface” or “on the bed.”

But memory foam conforms to your body, cradles it, and bends. So you’re sleeping “in the mattress.” If you’re “in the mattress,” there’s going to be a higher risk of sleeping hot.

Pressure-Relief

Memory foam is the most popular choice when it comes to providing pressure relief. This is why memory foam mattresses are so popular. This is what NASA was looking for when it sought out contracts to make a foam that would go in the seats of the space shuttle – technology that would take the pressure off of someone’s body.

Latex isn’t necessarily bad for pressure relief (we still prefer it over the more basic types of coil mattresses) but latex’s natural bounce means you may not get as much pressure relief as you would from a memory foam mattress.

Motion Transfer

Motion transfer is when motion travels through a mattress. Say, your partner gets out of bed in the middle of the night to use the restroom. Do you feel them moving? If you do, that means your bed has high motion transfer.

What you want from a mattress is called motion isolation. Basically, motion isolation is when a mattress isolates motion to its point of origin.

Out of the two mattress materials, memory foam is going to be better suited to promote motion isolation and reduce motion transfer.

Is latex cooler than memory foam?

Yes. While there are exceptions to the rule, it’s safe to say, all things being equal, a latex mattress will sleep cooler than a memory foam mattress.

Further Reading

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