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Unbiased Comparison Based on Over 8,000 Consumer Experiences
Memory foam mattresses and latex mattresses are similar in many ways, but they also have important differences. The comparison below is based on 8,000+ actual consumer experiences. The findings are true for memory foam and latex beds as a group; individual categories, brands and consumer experiences may go against these findings somewhat.
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Memory foam mattress: A mattress consisting of a memory foam comfort layer over a regular foam base. Learn more.
Latex mattress: A mattress consisting of 1) all-latex from top to bottom, or 2) a latex comfort layer over a regular foam base, or 3) a foam comfort layer over a latex base. Learn more.
Consumer experience data suggests that memory foam and latex can be similar in their "feel" in general ways. Both tend to be considered soft but supportive, and both at least somewhat conform to the contours of the body resulting in above-average (back) pain relief and minimization of pressure points.
There are important differences in feel, however. Memory foam tends to have a sponge- or pudding-like feel which can result in a floating, cloud-like sensation. Latex, by contrast, tends to feel more solid with a "springy" or even somewhat rubbery characteristic.
In addition, memory foam, unlike latex, can be at least somewhat temperature sensitive. This means that memory foam can be firmer in cool temperatures and softer in warmer temperatures, including when it is in contact with one's body.
Temperature sensitivity is especially present on higher-density memory foam, such as certain Tempur-Pedic models. Temperature sensitivity can provide excellent contouring support but can also result in a person sinking substantially into the foam, making movement on the mattress somewhat difficult.
The sensation of lying on memory foam can vary significantly based on several factors including the density of the foam: See memory foam density: higher vs lower. The sensation of lying on latex can also vary based on several factors. See latex mattresses for details.
The below charts show words/phrases that owners often use to describe the sensation of sleeping on latex and memory foam mattresses in general.
Latex Sensation / Feel as Reported by Owners
Memory Foam Sensation / Feel as Reported by Owners
Both types perform well and virtually the same in owner satisfaction: memory foam 81%; latex 80%. It should be noted, however, that of the 34 people in our research who say they have owned both latex and memory foam (mattress or topper), the majority say they prefer latex.
Pressure relief is a strength of both types, but memory foam edges out latex. At least 30% of memory foam mattress owners report significant pressure relief, that is, relief from pressure points to the hips and shoulders especially. About 20% of latex mattress owners report the benefit.
Memory foam (especially higher density) does somewhat better in regard to pressure-point relief likely because it tends to contour more strongly to the body than does latex resulting in more equal distribution of a person's weight on the mattress.
Pain relief is a strength of both types, but memory foam somewhat edges out latex. About 20% of memory foam mattress owners report significant relief from pain, including back pain. About 15% of latex mattress owners report the benefit.
The more expensive brands/models (those mattresses that use a substantial amount of latex or higher-density memory foam) tend to relieve pain somewhat better than less expensive, lower-density brands/models.
The main durability / longevity complaint for memory foam mattresses is that they can become excessively soft over time or sag, resulting in poor comfort and support. Their lifespan, owner experience data suggests, can range from 4 to 12 years. Higher-density / more expensive memory foam mattresses usually have at least a somewhat longer lifespan than cheaper, less dense memory foam beds.
The main durability / longevity complaint for latex mattresses is that they can develop body impressions or indentations where people sleep, and these impressions can develop fairly early in the ownership experience. About 10% of owners report this occurrence, and it is most common with dunlop / blended latex as opposed to talalay / natural latex. Latex can also become excessively soft with use, report about 5% of owners. The lifespan of latex mattresses, owner experience data suggests, commonly ranges from 5 to 12 years.
Prices for both types of mattresses can vary substantially (from under $1,000 to over $5,000) depending mainly on how much memory foam or latex is used. Memory foam mattresses overall tend to be at least 10% less expensive than latex mattresses overall.
Memory foam beds as well as latex beds that contain foam and or synthetic latex (not all-natural latex) can give off an initial gas or odor when they are new. About 20% of memory foam mattress owners and about 8% of latex mattress owners report significant initial off gassing.
Off gassing is usually just a temporary annoying odor to those owners who notice it. In some cases, however, the odor is strong enough to prevent the owner from sleeping on the bed initially. And some memory foam mattress owners report feeling ill as a result of the off gassing. Learn more: memory foam off gassing.
Latex mattresses have far fewer complaints than memory foam mattresses (especially high-density memory foam mattresses) in regard to difficulty of moving on the bed or getting up off of it. This is mainly because latex tends to not contour as strongly to one's body and recovers instantaneously. However, if a latex mattress develops significant body impressions or indentations, then the bed may become difficult to move on due to "peaks and valleys."
"Resilient" refers to how quickly memory foam and latex return to their original shape after being compressed. Latex quickly returns to its original shape, while memory foam can take several seconds or even minutes to do so. (In other words, memory foam has greater "memory".) Also, the higher the density of memory foam, the longer it tends to take for the foam to return to its original shape.
Fast resiliency is often preferred by consumers as it allows for easier movement and less resistance to changing positions and getting up off the bed. However, consumers who seek a mattress that strongly molds and contours to their body tend to be more satisfied with slow resilience (such as that found in high-density memory foam).
Motion isolation refers to how well a mattress keeps motion on the bed localized. The benefit of motion isolation is that one person's movement on the bed will be absorbed and not travel to another person on the bed to possibly disturb him or her. A mattress with good motion isolation, in other words, is often considered couple friendly.
Memory foam universally does well on this issue, while latex tends to do fairly well to well on this issue.
Latex mattresses (especially those that are all-latex) are one of the heaviest mattress types. High-density memory foam beds are also heavy, while low-density memory foam beds are typically no heavier than the average bed.
Weight is considered a significant disadvantage by owners of both latex and memory foam mattresses because it can make moving / transporting the beds, changing linens, and even tucking in sheets/blankets difficult, especially for one person. Handles are not often present.
A bed sleeps hot if it acts as a heat trap for the sleeper's body heat, resulting in an uncomfortably warm sleep surface. About 9% of both memory foam bed and latex bed owners included in our research report a sleeping hot problem. Learn more.
Memory foam, especially higher-density foam, has a significant number of complaints by owners regarding its suitability for love making. Complaints for latex mattresses on this issue are fewer. See the mattress sex comparison for details.
Both memory foam mattresses and latex mattresses are silent under all conditions – unlike air, water, and some innerspring mattresses. A poorly assembled foundation, however, can make noise.
Memory foam mattresses are much more available than latex mattresses, especially in mattress showrooms. This is an advantage for memory foam mattresses as it allows prospective buyers to conveniently try / lie on the mattresses before buying.
The majority of both memory foam and latex beds have a 10-20-year warranty with 10 years non-prorated. However, some popular and low-priced memory foam mattresses may have shorter warranties.
The comparison findings are based on a sample size of 8,000+ actual owners (6,922+ memory foam bed owners and 1,121+ latex bed owners).
The mattress ownership data was collected using an accurate, unbiased research methodology.
– While memory foam and latex mattresses have similar owner satisfaction, there are significant differences between them.
– Memory foam tends to offer more of a floating, cloud-like sensation than latex. Latex tends to have a "springy" or somewhat rubbery characteristic, while memory foam can have a pudding-like feel. Latex also tends to feel more solid overall.
– Memory foam mattresses have a significantly greater likelihood of having an initial off gassing odor.
– Memory foam mattresses are more widely available in retailer showrooms than latex mattresses.
IN THE NEWS: Sleep Like The Dead's research findings have appeared in such news publications as Barron's • Toronto Star • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Edmonton Journal • Woman's World • The Consumerist • The Gazette • Ottawa Citizen
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