Latex mattresses have long been perceived as luxury items, and too expensive for the average person to afford. However, thanks to updates in manufacturing techniques, many mattress brands have started making and selling latex mattresses of their own. Now, it’s easy to find the best latex mattress for a variety of different sleep needs.
Many people prefer latex mattresses not only because they are a comfortable foam mattress, but because latex is currently the only natural material that can be used to make mattresses. Other types of foam and gel are artificial materials that may have toxic byproducts and are sometimes criticized for smelling like chemicals. Innerspring mattresses are also made of artificial materials, for the most part, starting with the metal coils in the center of the mattress. Because of this, latex mattresses are very popular for customers who want an eco-friendly or sustainable mattress.
The Health Benefits of Sleeping on a Latex Mattress
Natural, organic latex mattresses confer all sorts of health benefits to you, the sleeper. While synthetic latex, which is made from petrochemicals similar to plastics, can offer many of the same benefits, natural latex has tensile strength, durability, and fewer harmful chemicals than synthetic fibers.
The most important health benefit conferred by latex mattresses is deeper, better quality sleep. Because natural latex has some give and bounce without rippling movement across the entire mattress, your body can sink into the surface with resistance from the thicker interior latex layers, much like an innerspring mattress.
The best mattress for couples and restless sleepers isolates motion well, and latex does just that. On latex beds, you should be able to toss and turn throughout the night without shaking yourself or your partner awake.
If you tend to wake up with kinks or aches in your muscles, joints, back, and neck, natural latex mattresses can help alleviate a lot of these pains. Latex offers consistent levels of resistance, so your body remains in proper alignment; and unlike coils, layers of latex do not hit your pressure points, leading to poor circulation and physical pain. The natural distribution of forces in a latex mattress allows for consistent support like a firm mattress without sacrificing the comfort of a soft mattress. Latex mattresses can even provide better spinal support for people with lower lumbar spine pain.
People who are concerned about chemical exposure, for any reason, can greatly benefit from a latex mattress. Latex comes from the sap of the rubber tree and the manufacturing process limits the use of chemicals. There is a greatly reduced chance of experiencing off-gassing from natural latex compared to synthetic foam mattresses, especially the lower quality varieties. Additionally, some synthetic foam mattresses are treated with fire-retardant chemicals, which provides a level of safety; however, natural latex is naturally fire resistant without additional chemical treatments.
Latex also naturally inhibits bacterial and fungal growth because the material withstands heat and moisture. Mold and dust mites are repelled by this natural material while they may be able to hide in innerspring mattresses and the tiny holes in foam mattresses. Repelling dirt, dust, and spores reduce allergy reactions and asthma attacks.
While some people do have latex allergies, this type of mattress is more hypoallergenic than most other materials, and your body rarely directly touches the mattress because you will have sheets and blankets on top. If you have a latex allergy and are concerned about any contact with the material, but still think you will benefit from this natural material, you may benefit from finding a latex blend mattress in which the latex core is encased in other foam or upholstery.
Disadvantages of Latex Mattresses
Though the quality of latex mattresses is improving as the price goes down, this type of natural foam mattress still has a few negative rumors associated with it. Below, we’ll discuss the cons of buying a latex mattress.
- Firmness: Almost everyone who starts shopping for a mattress worries about how firm the item will be, especially over time. Even people who want a more plush or soft mattress do not want uncomfortable sagging after just a few years of use. Many people worry that a latex mattress will sag faster, picking up the imprint of the people who sleep on the bed.One way to determine if a natural latex mattress fits your firmness versus softness needs is to research the brand’s Impression Load Deflection (ILD), a measurement created by the Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA) to measure foam support, durability, and springiness. Higher ILD numbers mean greater firmness in the foam regardless of material; lower numbers mean greater softness, squishiness, and potential for sagging or permanent body imprint over time. All foam mattresses and most innerspring coil mattresses will soften up and sag over time, but determining the firmness you need to start with, using the ILD, can help you pick the right latex mattress.
- Compression problems: Permanent indentations from bodies have long been a complaint against foam mattresses, but people who have natural latex mattresses are 10 percent less likely than synthetic foam mattress owners to report this problem. In contrast, 25 percent of innerspring mattress owners report indentations and sagging while 15 percent of memory foam mattress owners report this problem.
- Heat generation and distribution: Latex is rumored to “sleep hot,” meaning the mattress keeps body heat around you while you sleep— which can be uncomfortable for some people. However, latex mattresses do not actually suffer from this problem. Latex beds should allow for plenty of airflow due to their enhanced open-cell structure. If you are still concerned about latex foam’s ability to redistribute heat because you get hot during the night, consider finding a latex mattress with a natural fiber upholstered top, like cotton or wool.
- Weight: It is true that latex mattresses are heavier than synthetic options, and it may require two people to move a relatively small mattress. However, because latex mattresses are very durable, even reversible ones do not need to be flipped very often, so you can get years of high-quality sleep from one side of your latex mattress.
- Higher price: For decades, innerspring mattresses have been the standard in affordable and durable mattresses, while foam was inexpensive but not durable, and latex was durable but expensive. This is no longer true, especially thanks to online retailers who specialize in new approaches to layering foam mattresses, packing them for easy shipment, and offering direct-to-consumer prices.
Different Latex Manufacturing Processes
There are two basic approaches to manufacturing latex: the Talalay process and the Dunlop process. Both of these manufacturing processes make natural latex from the sap of the rubber tree, and both create latex foams; however, one process uses slightly more chemicals and produces a firmer product than the other, so there are price, quality, and material consistency considerations between the two types of latex.
- Dunlop latex: This process involves liquid rubber being poured into an open steel mold, allowing gravity to set the material. The natural sediments in rubber tree sap will settle to the bottom, so Dunlop latex has a firmer feel overall. After liquid rubber is poured in the mold, it’s placed on a conveyor belt and sent to the vulcanization oven. After it has been vulcanized, the latex is washed to help remove residual proteins or allergens. Then, it is dried on a high heat. This is the older process of the two.
- Talalay latex: The mold used in this process is very different from the Dunlop mold. Similar to the Dunlop process, liquid rubber is poured into a mold. Unlike the Dunlop process, the liquid rubber is only poured into the mold halfway. Then, they use a vacuum to expand the rubber until it fills the mold. It is then compressed and flash-frozen; carbon dioxide is added just before reheating and curing; and once the mattress is removed from the mold, it is washed a minimum of five times, rather than just once, ensuring that all allergens, excess proteins, and particles have been removed. The Talalay process is newer.
Talalay latex is considered the premium natural latex option. It has a consistent cell structure because of the manufacturing process, is softer to the touch, and may be slightly lighter than Dunlop latex. However, most latex mattresses are a combination of these two forms of latex, with Dunlop making up the interior and Talalay providing the softer exterior. If your latex mattress is not reversible, it’s most likely because the top layer is made from durable but comfortable Talalay latex.
Our Editors’ Choice of the Best Latex Mattress
Now that you’ve learned about natural latex mattresses, how they are made, and what to expect from the benefits versus the downsides, here are the best latex mattress options available now:
- Zenhaven: One of the few online mattresses advertised as flippable, it has two levels of firmness in one mattress, so almost anyone can find a side they love. The top layers, regardless of side, have specific “zones” to support areas of your body, like your hips or knees. This bed features four layers of latex and offers exceptional pressure relief. If you’re looking for the best mattress for side sleepers, latex is certainly a great choice. Zenhaven’s latex mattress comes with an impressive 20-year warranty and a 120-day trial period.
- Avocado: For those who need the most hypoallergenic mattress possible, look no further than the Avocado brand natural latex mattresses. It is 100 percent foam rubber, fitting your body’s natural curves while repelling dust and bacteria. Trademarked technology relieves pressure points in the body while steel coils deep inside this hybrid mattress provide enough edge support that the mattress should not sag over time. The Avocado Green mattress is certified by the eco-INSTITUT for its latex purity.
- Plushbeds: This company provides several options for their latex mattresses with different thicknesses, levels of firmness, and several different support layers. Their manufacturing process has allowed them to bring down the cost of the mattress significantly, so they are also one of the most affordable, eco-friendly mattresses available. Not only do Plushbeds use natural latex, but they also use organic cotton and wool for surrounding layers, keeping their promise to be environmentally friendly and sustainable.
- Spindle: Spindle used to allow you to build and customize your own mattress layer by layer. Now, they sell one mattress, the Spindle, which is available as Soft, Medium, Firm, and Extra Firm. On their website, they recommend choosing the medium model. This bed features four layers of all-natural Dunlop latex and a cotton and wool blended cover. Their materials are GOTS certified, Okeo-Tex certified and Rainforest Alliance certified, meaning their materials are free from harsh chemicals and safe to use.
- Helix: Helix is a unique brand because they allow you to customize your own bed. Their website also offers an online quiz, so Helix can help you create a mattress based on your individual characteristics, including age, weight, height, and gender. The company uses both coils and layers of foam to create comfortable beds to help their customers begin sleeping better.
Is A Latex Bed For You?
If you’re searching for a high-quality, long-lasting mattress, latex is the solution you want. Numerous online retailers offer these all-natural mattresses along with blends including synthetic fibers or innerspring coils, depending on the firmness, durability, cost, and cleaning needs.
We hope this article has helped you decide whether or not you should invest in a latex mattress. During your search for a new bed, we encourage you to read other mattress reviews including customer feedback to find the best mattress for your own individual sleep needs.
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- Talalay vs. Dunlop Latex Mattresses. (April 27, 2015). Sleeping Organic.
- Joint Industry Foam Standards And Guidelines. (July 1994). Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA).
- Latex vs. Spring Mattresses. (May 25, 2016). Zenhaven.
- Best Latex Mattress Reviews. Sleepopolis.
- Best Memory Foam Mattresses 2018. (February 25, 2018). Forbes.