Are you planning to choose a new mattress for your bed? If so, you need to know that foam is the most important ingredient contained in this product. In the modern scenario, most mattress stores have a bewildering array of foam varieties and terms associated with them. Two of the most popular contenders are latex and memory foam. Here is a look at how the two products stack up against one another.
Latex can be broadly classified into two categories – natural or not.
Natural latex: Natural latex is made from the sap of rubber trees. This gets whipped in a centrifuge to give a liquid form which is either poured into molds or on a running belt tray before being steam baked. Highest quality of natural latex foam has a content of at least 95% pure rubber. Tiny amounts of additives and antioxidants are added for producing natural latex foam. It does not use chemical flame retardants, unlike popular belief.
Synthetic latex: Synthetic latex is made using chemical-based additives and petroleum-based oils. A small amount of rubber is included in some of these blends. Flame retardants and formaldehyde are some of the chemicals typically added to synthetic latex but they have been proven to be dangerous to health. Small percentages of plant oils are also contained in some of these synthetic foams.
Memory foam is a form of polyurethane foam that contains added chemicals. Memory foam undergoes a change in shape owing to chemical reactions triggered by heat trapped in the body. Proprietary formulate for memory foams tend to vary but there is generally no change in the action involved. Heat trapped underneath the sleeper causes the foam to conform to the shape of your body.
Sensation of lying on the mattress
Data obtained from consumer experience suggests that latex and memory foam tend to feel similar in a number of general ways. Both are considered to be soft and supportive, and conform to the contours of the body to a considerable extent. This results in above-average relief against back pain and minimizes the number of pressure points on the body.
There are a number of important differences in terms of feel of the two foam mattresses. Memory foam has a pudding-like or spongy feel which results in a floating sensation as if you are on a cloud. By contrast, latex has a more solid, springy feel that is often characterized as typically rubbery.
Memory foam, unlike latex, has a certain degree of temperature sensitiveness to it. This means memory foam tends to be firmer in cool temperatures and softer in warmer conditions or when it is in contact with the body.
Though pressure relief is a strength possessed by both types, memory foam tends to edge out latex in terms of popularity. Around 30% of those who own memory foam mattresses have reported significant relief against pressure, that is, relief from pressure points especially around the shoulders and hips. For owners of the latex mattress, this benefit has been reported by only 20%.
Memory foam, especially those with a higher density, is a little ahead as far as pressure-point relief is concerned. This is most likely because it contours more strongly to the body than latex, which results in a more equal distribution of an individual’s weight around the mattress.
Durability / Longevity
The main complaint for memory foam mattresses in this aspect is that they tend to become extremely soft and sag over time. This results in poor support and comfort. Data from owner experience suggests that a best memory foam mattress ranges anywhere between 4 to 12 years with 7 years being the average.
For latex mattresses, this complaint is about the development of indentations and body impressions in the spots where people sleep. These developments can start fairly early on in the usage. The problem has been reported by around 10% of owners and is more common in blended latex foam than natural latex. Latex also tends to become excessively soft over time and with usage, says reports from around 5% owners. Latex mattress has a lifespan of around 5 to 12 years with the average being 8 years.
Ease of Movement
Latex mattresses do not have as many complaints as memory foam mattresses with regards to difficulty of moving up on bed or getting down off it. This is mainly because latex does not contour to an individual’s body strongly enough as much as memory foam while the instantaneous recovery is also absent. This mattress also develops a large number of significant body indentations or impressions which gives rise to “peaks and valleys” and makes it difficult to move around on the bed.
“Resilience” is a measure of how quickly latex and memory foam mattresses can return to their original shape after they have been compressed. Latex returns to its original shape very quickly but memory foam can take as long as several minutes before returning to the original form. Moreover, this duration increases considerably in memory foam mattresses that have a higher density of the memory foam material.
Consumers often give preference to high resilience since it makes it easier to move around and creates less resistance to changing positions or getting in and out from bed. However, for those who are keener on a mattress that molds with the shape of the body will find a slow resilience mattress to be more preferable.
This refers to how well a mattress maintains localization of motion on the bed. The biggest benefit of motion isolation is that the movement of one person on the bed will be absorbed and not travel over to another person, preventing disturbances to him or her. A mattress that has good motion isolation is often regarded as couple friendly.
Universally speaking, memory foam performs admirably on this issue while the performance of latex foam mattresses cannot be considered to be up to the mark.
Latex mattresses are among the heaviest mattresses in the market. High-density memory foam is also considerably heavy while low-density memory foam is as heavy as an average bed. Owners of both types of mattress consider this factor to be a big drawback as it makes changing linens, tucking sheets, and changing or moving beds a tedious process. Also, the mattresses don’t come with handles that could otherwise ease the process.
While both latex and memory foam mattresses have some advantages and some disadvantages over the other, the ultimate decision of which one to have on the bed lies in the hands of the owners.
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Watch the latex and memory foam comparison video by John Ryan by Design Ltd: