If you’ve been shopping around for a new mattress recently, you’ll no doubt have noticed that there are two main contenders for the best type of mattress: memory foam and latex. However, when you compare memory foam vs latex, you might wonder – which one is actually right for you?
Everyone has different sleeping preferences and so picking one type of mattress as the “best” is impossible. That being said, in this guide, we’ve broken down the key differences between latex and memory foam to help you decide which mattress type is best for your needs and sleep style.
Latex vs Memory Foam: Which is Best?
Latex and memory foam mattresses both have different features, suited to different kinds of sleepers. Below, we’ve listed some of the key features of each type and who they may be best suited to:
Latex may be the best mattress type for you if:
- You prefer a mattress with a buoyant, bouncy feel
- You tend to move around a lot at night
- You want a mattress that is going to quickly respond to your movement, throughout the night
- You want a firmer mattress
- You often overheat while sleeping
- A natural, eco-friendly mattress is an important factor for you
Memory foam may be the best mattress type for you if:
- You need deep compression support around pressure points while sleeping
- You enjoy the feeling of sinking/body contouring when you lay on your mattress
- You are not an active sleeper
- You prefer to sleep on your side
- You tend to sleep cool
- You are a light sleeper or are often disturbed by your partner’s movements at night
- An eco-friendly mattress is not your top priority
Now that you know what type of mattress may be more suited to your sleeping preferences, let’s break down each one to compare some key features of both mattress types.
What is Latex?
Latex mattresses have a fast recovery time and more bounce than memory foam. They do not offer the slow, sinking feeling of memory foam, which can make them more suited to active sleepers who frequently change sleeping positions. Latex foam comes in several different types, including natural, synthetic, and blended varieties.
Popular latex mattresses include:
What is Memory Foam?
Memory foam, in contrast, has a slow response time as it reacts to weight, creating a sinking feeling as the mattress contours the body and provides deep compression support to pressure points in the hips, shoulders, and neck.
Memory foam is a man-made product made from polyurethane and other added materials, so it can take on many levels of firmness and feels. The biggest distinguishing factor between memory foam and latex is its unique hugging sensation as it adapts to the weight of your body.
Popular memory foam mattresses include:
The two most common methods of manufacturing latex are the Dunlop and Talalay processes.
Dunlop latex is made by pouring latex into a mold in one complete pour, resulting in a denser foam in the bottom of the mattress and slightly softer on the top.
Talalay latex is made by pouring the latex to only partially fill a mold. Next, the mold is sealed closed and a vacuum is then applied in order to remove the air within the mold and allow the latex to fully expand.
At this point, the mold is flash frozen and then immediately flash heated to 220ºF, to permanently solidify the latex. Once cooled, the foam is thoroughly washed and dried and is then ready for use.
Of these two methods, the Dunlop method is the more traditional process and is also less expensive. The Talalay process has several additional steps, making it more expensive to produce.
Latex mattresses have less hug and deep compression than memory foam mattresses, making them more suited to active sleepers who want a mattress with more bounce and a faster response time when sleeping.
While memory foam slowly hugs your body and contours around it, latex offers a more generalised compression and won’t provide the same type of contouring. Latex mattresses are therefore more suited to those who do not enjoy the sinking, enveloped feeling that memory foam mattresses are known for.
What’s more, latex mattresses often sleep cooler and the aerated latex made in the Talalay process is even more efficient at cooling than traditional latex.
If you are a light sleeper and share your bed with a partner, you may find that you feel more movement with a latex-based mattress. As latex mattresses offer a faster response and more bounce, this can result in more motion transfer, which may be a deal breaker to more sensitive sleepers.
Latex mattresses can be made with natural latex, synthetic latex, or a blend of both. Natural latex mattresses are the best for the environment, as the material comes straight from rubber trees and is naturally processed with minimal chemicals involved.
Synthetic latex, on the other hand, is typically constructed from styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) and will often involve chemicals in the manufacturing process. This can often result in a different feel compared to natural latex (less bounce), and it can reduce the lifespan and durability of the mattress.
If an eco-friendly mattress is a big concern for you, a latex mattress is the best option – just make sure you know what your latex mattress is made of and where it comes from.
When compared to average spring mattresses, latex mattresses are relatively expensive. However, with this higher price tag you are investing in an extremely durable mattress with a long lifespan – so the trade-off is often worth it if you are willing to spend more upfront.
Memory Foam Breakdown:
Memory foam is constructed using polyurethane, with other materials added to create a viscoelastic feel when you lay down. Rather than being a single material, memory foam is a classification for a wide range of similar foams that have different properties.
As a man-made material, memory foam can be designed to be:
- Any firmness
- A range of densities
- A variety of response times (although typically slow)
- Aerated, convoluted, dense, or molded into other shapes for more effective support or cooling
- Infused with gel, copper, graphite, and other materials
Many memory foam mattresses feature multiple layers, designed to add different elements to its overall feel and properties. Some mattresses, for example, will have a cooling layer infused with gel or graphite which helps to wick excess heat away from the body and provide a cooler sleeping experience.
Other mattresses will have an open-cell, aerated layer designed to keep the body cool while providing additional support and sinkage for pressure-relief. This is what creates that ‘hugging’ feeling that is unique to memory foam mattresses.
Memory foam mattresses can vary from firm to soft in feel and can be designed to suit back, front, or side sleepers (or be versatile enough to suit multiple sleep positions).
What makes memory foam so distinctive, however, is the way it contours the body to provide deep pressure relief around the hips, shoulder, and neck. This feature can be especially useful to people who suffer from joint pain and are in need of additional support when sleeping.
In terms of comfort, one of the biggest let-downs of memory foam is that this contouring effect can result in overheating while sleeping. If you tend to run hot when sleeping, a memory foam mattress may not be the ideal choice for you.
That being said, many brands do include a cooling layer in their designs, featuring memory foam infused with gel, graphite, or copper and shaped in a way to encourage airflow and wick heat away from the body. We recommend doing some research into cooling memory foam mattresses if this is a particular concern for you.
Memory foam is excellent at reducing motion transfer, as the slow response time means that you’ll stay comfortable and hugged into the mattress, no matter how much your partner moves around next to you.
This feature is particularly beneficial to light sleepers or people who find their sleep frequently disturbed by their partner’s movement.
Memory foam cannot compete with latex when it comes to eco-friendliness, as while latex comes directly from rubber trees, memory foam is a man-made material that involves more chemicals and materials during the manufacturing process that can be harmful to the environment.
What’s more, memory foam mattresses can sometimes be known for having a strange smell when first taken out of the box – this is known as off-gassing. For this reason, it’s recommended that you let your mattress air out for a few days before sleeping on it, but this in itself can be enough of a reason for some people not to buy a memory foam mattress in the first place.
Memory foam mattresses, like latex mattresses, come with a higher price tag than traditional spring mattresses. The trade-off is that you get unparalleled pressure point support, motion transfer reduction, and a unique feel that you won’t find in another mattress.
Why Buy a Latex Mattress?
Latex mattresses are popular for good reason and there are many benefits to investing in one for yourself. Here’s a quick summary of some of the best features of a latex mattress:
They Can Be Environmentally Friendly
We’re in a time where being environmentally conscious is important, and if buying an eco-friendly mattress is a high priority for you, a natural latex mattress is the clear winner. Made with nothing but natural latex that comes straight from rubber trees, this type of mattress contains minimal chemicals and has the least negative impact on the environment.
They’re Comfortable and Bouncy
Latex mattresses are widely agreed to be one of the most comfortable types of mattress you can invest in, providing a great amount of bounce while still supporting your body as you sleep.
What’s more, the cooling properties of latex mattresses make them extra comfortable if you’re in a warmer climate or tend to sleep hot: compared with a memory foam mattress, you’ll find you have a cooler sleep with more air circulation.
Why Not Buy a Latex Mattress?
Despite their many positives, latex mattresses simply aren’t for everyone. Here are a few reasons a latex mattress might not be the best option for you:
Less Pressure Relief
If you find that a supportive mattress that relieves pressure on pain points is a real necessity for you, a latex mattress will do a good job – but it may not be as good as a memory foam.
Some people are allergic to latex, so for obvious reasons, this kind of mattress is not suitable for them!
Latex mattresses are more expensive than traditional box-spring or innerspring mattresses. Although they come with some great features, including durability and longevity, if you are on a budget and shopping for the best deal this is something worth bearing in mind.
While latex mattresses are made from more natural materials, they can still have a strong odour after first unboxing them. This smell does fade over a few weeks, but it’s worth knowing before you commit to buying one!
Why Buy a Memory Foam Mattress?
Deep Compression Pressure Relief
Memory foam reacts as you lay on it, contouring your body and providing deep pressure relief to pain points, including your hips, back, shoulders, and neck.
What’s more, memory foam mattresses can be made in a wide range of firmness levels. Medium-firm or firm mattresses provide a supportive surface for back and side sleepers, as well as anyone who suffers from joint or muscle aches that wants a mattress that aids spinal alignment. Lightweight sleepers might prefer a soft memory foam mattress that cushions pressure points and allows for a bit more sinkage.
Ideal for Sharing with a Partner
Most of us are familiar with the annoyance of being awoken from a deep slumber by your partner tossing and turning next to you. Memory foam’s minimal motion transfer solves that problem by contouring to your separate bodies, letting you and your partner sleep soundly, without any movement that can disturb each other.
As memory foam mattresses are typically very dense, and therefore highly effective at preventing dust mites, mould and bacteria, they are one of the most hypoallergenic types of mattresses available. If you typically suffer from fabric-related allergies, memory foam is a good option to ensure you stay comfortable and allergy-free.
Why Not Buy a Memory Foam Mattress?
While many people find they have a very comfortable night’s sleep on memory foam, there will always be those who dislike the sensation of this type of mattress. Here are a few key reasons you may not like a memory foam mattress:
Some people love the deep contouring and sinking feeling a memory foam mattress provides, as it adapts to your weight, but others will feel somewhat claustrophobic and too restricted on this kind of mattress.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the more a memory foam mattress hugs you, the more likely you are to overheat in the night – a factor that people who sleep hot should remember when shopping.
Like latex mattresses, memory foam can emit a strong and unpleasant odour when it is first unboxed. While the odour does dissipate after a few days, the gasses could potentially be harmful and may be a turn-off for some shoppers.
Final Thoughts: Latex vs Memory Foam
Although both mattresses have their cons, there is no disputing the fact that latex and memory foam are the top materials to look for in mattresses for 2018 and provide comfortable, quality mattresses, each with their own unique features to suit a wide range of sleepers.
With so much of our lives spent in bed, it’s worth doing your research and consider investing in a mattress that has all the features you need to get a great night’s sleep, every night.
Many companies offer sleep trials, so you can test your mattress for a certain amount of time before committing to buying it. – And, if you’re still not 100 percent sure whether latex or memory foam is best for you, we recommend hitting the shops and testing out the feel of a few different mattresses yourself and go from there!