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Are you in the market for a new mattress or mattress topper? The foam it contains may be the most important factor in your decision. There is a bewildering variety of foam options and terms in today’s market. I am going to look at two main types: latex vs. memory foam.

Quick Overview of Latex

Latex mattresses are made from either synthetic or natural rubber. They are known for supplying firm, bouncy support that is the same throughout the mattress.

What Is Synthetic Latex?

Synthetic latex is made of chemical additives and petroleum-based oils. There may be trace amounts of rubber in some blends.

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Flame retardants and formaldehyde are among the chemicals that are usually added. Both have been proven to be dangerous to your health. They increase the chance of obesity, infertility, cancer, and developmental brain disorders, like ADHD and autism.

Going by names such as eco, bio, soy, or hybrid foam, some synthetic foams may also contain small amounts of plant oils.

What Is Natural Latex?

Rubber tree sap is used to make natural latex. In a centrifuge, the sap is whipped into a liquid, poured continuously onto a belt tray or into molds, and steam baked. There is at least 95 percent pure rubber in the highest-quality natural latex foam.

The top natural latex producers have qualified for organic certification according to the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). Look for this when buying a latex mattress.

In the production of natural latex foam, small percentages of additives and antioxidants are added. However, chemical flame retardants are not.

What Are the Benefits to Latex?

Latex is considered by many to be one of the best materials for mattresses. It offers comfort similar to that of memory foam, yet it is supportive and firm. Latex pushes back to give more support, whereas memory foam does not.

Latex mattresses also tend to last longer than memory foam. The typical latex mattress will last you between five and twelve years, and the average is eight years. Memory foam mattresses last for about seven years on average.

A problem you may experience with memory foam is “off-gassing.” This is the release of gasses used in the making of these mattresses that can cause your room to stink. This is also common in synthetic latex mattresses but uncommon with natural latex.

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What Are the Cons to Latex?

Latex probably is not the right alternative for you if you do not like the feel of a firm mattress. It may be too firm for some who are seeking pressure point relief.

Since they are made of natural materials, latex mattresses also tend to be more expensive on average. The motion isolation, or bowling ball test, is not always as good with latex as well.

Experts say that latex mattress toppers and mattresses are great for back pain relief because they provide the best balance of support and comfort.

Review of Memory Foam

Memory foam is made of polyurethane foam and some additional chemicals. Trapped body heat triggers a chemical reaction which then changes the shape of memory foam. This action is usually the same across products though proprietary formulas vary.

Though some companies may claim to provide “natural memory foam,” there essentially is no such thing despite the addition of scents, hydrolyzed corn protein, and latex to a formula.

How Does Memory Foam Feel?

Initial pressure relief is the main feature that draws sleepers to memory foam mattresses and mattress toppers. When you first feel memory foam contour closely to your body, it is a novel sensation.

However, since trapped heat is required to cause the reaction, the memory foam must be reheated to fully contour again whenever a sleeper changes position. You may experience restless sleep with repeated re-contouring time lags.

The biggest complaint with memory foam is that the heat build-up can hamper sleep. Yet, new formulas incorporating cooling chemicals have been developed recently. This includes gel-infused foams.

What Are the Benefits of Memory Foam?

Memory foam relieves pain and reduces pressure points by molding to the shape of your body as your weight shifts throughout the night. Also, you are not likely to be disturbed by your partner’s tossing and turning since memory foam absorbs movement.

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When comparing latex vs. memory foam, back pain relief is a strong point for both types of mattresses, but memory foam is somewhat better. Also, memory foam tends to cost less. For a queen-sized mattress, you can expect to spend a couple hundred dollars less than for latex.

Memory foam is a lot easier to move around in and to get in and out of. This is especially true if you choose memory foam with a density of five pounds or more. Latex can develop peaks and valleys that restrict movement.

What Are the Cons to Memory Foam?

After a few years, most memory foam tends to stop responding fully. This leads to uneven support. It may appear on the surface that the foam is springing back, but interior foam cells lose their capacity to support as they collapse.

Memory foam has an acrid smell to it. Odor-masking chemicals are sometimes used to disguise this. As mentioned above, this is known as “off-gassing.” It can threaten your health in the long term. We recommend leaving your memory foam product in a well-ventilated area until the odor has dissipated.

There is one other sensitive topic to discuss regarding choosing a mattress: how is it for making love? Memory foam tends to be less suitable. Latex has the decided advantage in this department.

Memory foam mattresses and mattress toppers are ideal for those of you who have chronic fatigue, muscle pain, or have a hard time getting comfortable.


As you can see, there are plenty of pros and cons when comparing latex vs. memory foam. Both are great for relieving back pain. However, if you are concerned about overheating at night, you might consider latex. On the other hand, memory foam is better for overall comfort. Sweet dreams!