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Memory foam and latex are commonly used materials in mattresses that have important similarities and differences. The ratings below show how the two materials compare and contrast. The findings are true for the materials in only general.
|(Back) pain relief||B+||b|
|Easy to move on||c-||B|
|No off gassing||d||c+|
|No sleeping hot||c-||c-|
|Good for sex||c-||b|
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 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 cooler temperatures and softer in warmer temperatures or when in contact with a person's body.
The temperature sensitivity of memory foam can provide effective contouring support. But it can also result in a person sinking substantially into the foam, making movement on the mattress somewhat difficult and restricting air circulation.
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.
Mattresses that contain at least 1.5 inches of either material tend to perform similar in owner satisfaction. It should be noted that of the 41 people in our research who say they have owned both latex and memory foam (mattress or topper), the majority prefer latex.
The main durability / longevity complaint for memory foam is that it can become excessively soft over time or sag, resulting in poor comfort and support. The main durability / longevity complaint for latex is that it can develop body impressions or indentations where people sleep. Latex can also become excessively soft with use.
Latex appears to provide somewhat better support.
Pressure relief is a strength of both materials, 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.
Memory foam as well as synthetic latex (usually not all-natural latex) can give off an initial gas or odor when they are new. About 12% of memory foam mattress owners and about 6% 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 has far fewer complaints than memory foam (especially high-density memory foam) 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 latex develops significant body impressions or indentations, then the bed may become difficult to move on due to "peaks and valleys."
"Responsive" 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 response 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 response (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 overall performs somewhat worse. Dunlop-processed latex tends to provide mostly good motion isolation, while talalay-processed latex tends to provide no better than fair isolation.
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 10% of memory foam bed owners and about 7% of latex bed owners report a sleeping hot problem. Learn more.
Memory foam, especially higher-density foam, has a significant number of complaints by owners regarding its suitability on this issue. Complaints for latex are fewer due mainly to it having more bounce potential. See the mattress sex comparison for details.
Both memory foam and latex are silent under all conditions.
The comparison findings are based on a sample size of 8,400+ actual owners (7,137 memory foam bed owners and 1,348 latex bed owners).
The mattress ownership data was collected using an accurate, unbiased research methodology.
– 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.
– In terms of responsiveness, latex often quickly returns to its original shape, while memory foam can take several seconds or even minutes to do so.
– 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.
– Memory foam has a significantly greater likelihood of having an initial off gassing odor.
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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