Natural latex mattresses and memory foam are not created equal. Though both are considered “foam”, the two types of beds utilize different materials and yield different effects. In this article we will discuss what differentiates latex from memory foam so you can see which might be the better option for your needs. Keep in mind that this article is comparing only 100% natural latex – blended and synthetic latex do not offer the same benefits.
Memory Foam Versus Natural Latex Mattresses
One of the biggest differences between these types of beds is what they are made out of. Natural latex mattresses should contain pure latex rubber and little else. This comes from liquid latex produced by the hevea brasiliensis trees. Memory foam mattresses, on the other hand, can contain a host of chemicals. They are produced from polyurethane which is derived from petroleum and other additives. Some newer brands of memory foam use plant oils and eliminate toxic chemicals.
Memory foam and natural latex mattresses are also constructed differently. Memory foam mattresses usually have at least two layers, with the base being a denser polyurethane core, with memory foam serving as the top layers. A quality natural latex mattress will only contain latex. They may utilize different layers of latex to achieve different firmness and support levels, though there should not be any supporting foams. For memory foam, since it is only used in the upper layers, some people may experience the sensation of “bottoming out” especially if the foam is not dense enough or thick enough to support the sleeper’s body weight.
Latex offers a temperature neutral design with a highly breathable cell structure. It is extremely rare to find a complaint of sleeping too hot on a 100% natural latex mattress. As you may know, traditional memory foam has somewhat of a reputation for sleeping hot. This is due to the “heat activated” properties, the denseness of the material, and its limited ability to circulate air and disperse heat.
Another key difference between these two materials is how quickly they spring back or respond to user movements. Memory foam is known as a slow-response foam, meaning it can take up to one minute for it to return to its original shape. This can create the effect of feeling stuck in a hole and make changing position difficult. Latex is a fast-response material, meaning it instantly returns to its original shape after being depressed. This tends to yield a more “springy” and uplifting effect.
Odors & Offgassing
One complaint many people have with traditional memory foam is the chemical odor. This is due to materials used in manufacturing and affects about 15% of owners. It can contain potentially harmful substances like VOCs that many people prefer to avoid. All natural latex mattresses should not have any harsh chemicals and thus should not smell or offgas chemical odors.
Similarities of Natural Latex Mattresses and Memory Foam
Despite these difference, the two mattresses do offer some similarities, especially when compared with traditional innerspring beds. First, both are resistant to allergens, molds, and dust mites. Second, both materials are excellent at reducing pressure points and supporting the body’s natural alignment. And third, both materials are highly durable when manufactured with high standards. Both outlast spring mattresses by years, though natural latex mattresses are known to be more durable overall.
Memory Foam vs Natural Latex Mattresses In Real Life
Now, let’s get out of the general hypotheticals and look at how a leading brand from each category competes in reality. We will use two beds in a similar price/comfort range: the 8” SerenityBed from Astrabeds organic natural latex mattress line and the 10” Contour Select Bed from Tempurpedic’s memory foam mattress line.
|Composition||Organic 100% Natural Latex Foam||Polyurethane Memory Foam|
|Construction||7" Natural Latex||6" Support Core + 4" Memory Foam|
|Breathability||No Complaints||Some Complaints|
|Response Time||Instant||45-60 secs|
|Chemicals||No Harsh/Toxic Chemicals||Unknown, Complaints of Odor|
|Fire Barrier||Natural Wool||Unknown|
|Warranty||25 Years||25 Years|
In the comparison above, both receive similar mentions of comfort in reviews, though some people complain of odor and heat with memory foam which brought the overall rating 0.8 points lower than the latex model.
In summary, we can see that memory foam offers a slow-response, denser material that may contain toxic chemicals and may sleep warm. Natural latex mattresses have a faster response, should not contain toxic chemicals, and are breathable. While each brand may vary, now you know the key differences between the two types. It is important to keep in mind that memory foam and latex represent the two highest rated mattress categories overall, and both have loyal followers. No one mattress will be right for everyone, and you have to consider your own preferences when making a buying a decision between memory foam and natural latex mattresses.