A cozy night’s rest will always be an integral part of our lives. A large factor in whether we get a good night’s sleep, however, is the quality of our mattress. Stiff neck or discomfort in your back? Bad mood from lack of sleep? In the end, the resolution to these circumstances may be determined by the mattress you chose to sleep on. Now, what is the better material to decide for a mattress? We will review the qualities and attributes of latex vs. foam mattress. This way, you can decide for yourself which traits will best contour your body and sleep.  

Neither option is better than the other per se, but chances are you will have a strong opinion about them once you feel for yourself.

Since this is a guide in which we go in-depth into memory foam and latex foam, here are jump-to links so you can quickly navigate around.

This article aims to help you decide whether a latex foam or memory foam bed is best for you. Sure, we’ve posted over a hundred mattress reviews; still, we get that sometimes choosing a bed can be a confusing and intimidating process, especially if you aren’t completely familiar with the main materials used in a bed.

What is Memory Foam?

By far, the most popular type of mattress is the memory foam mattress. And why is that? Because memory foam offers a few distinct advantages, the material is typically cost-effective to manufacture. Also, just so you have it, here’s our list of the best memory foam mattresses. Let’s go over what memory foam is like. Below is a video for you to better visualize this mattress type.

As you can see, memory foam typically has a deep, contouring quality, and it usually remembers the shape of pressure applied to it. For instance, if you press down with your hand, you’ll notice that the memory foam gives way and forms to the shape of your hand. When you release the pressure, the foam slowly reverts to its original condition.

Because of this slow response time, memory foam can often have a viscous or syrup-like feel, though not always. From what we’ve seen, there are three “types” of memory foam:

Dense — The most common form of memory foam you’ll see on Nectar, TempurPedic and other mattresses. Often has a slow, sink-in feeling that offers pressure relief after a few seconds.

Fluffy/Airy — This is often a very pressure-relieving, soft form of memory foam that you can see on several new mattresses, including Puffy Lux and Layla.

Responsive — The rarest form of memory foam that offers pressure relief and responds quickly. The most popular bed with this type of memory foam is Amerisleep.

Pros of memory foam

  • It offers pressure relief as it contours and forms around your body
  • It makes little to no noise
  • Isolates motion

Cons of memory foam

  • Can cause you to sleep hot
  • Heavy and not easy to move
  • Can sag considerably over time
  • Leaves much to be desired for bounce-back or form retention

What Is Gel Memory Foam?

Another common form of memory foam is gel memory foam, which adds a layer of tiny gel beads to help with temperature regulation. Consider this trait as an upgrade to standard memory foam.

In general, gel memory foam will feel identical to regular memory foam, though it will look slightly different. Here’s a picture of gel memory foam:

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The top layer is a gel memory foam

Gel memory foam is just as ubiquitous as regular foam, given that it’s been available for over a decade. You will find gel memory foam on all sorts of beds, including Bear mattress, Nectar and plenty of others. To be clear, having the little gel beads does not ensure that you have a cool-sleeping mattress. All it does is ensure that the bed sleeps cooler than it otherwise would, as memory foam is known to retain heat.

What is Latex Foam?

While memory foam mattresses tend to be dramatically more affordable, we are huge fans of latex mattresses. Generally speaking, latex mattresses tend to be more premium and cool-sleeping. We will explain all of that in more detail, but just so you have it, here’s the link to our best latex mattress guide.

Latex foam is a breathable, responsive and durable material—oh, and by the way, it’s also naturally derived. That’s right. Latex foam is derived from rubber trees. The short story is that they extract the sap, mix it with other materials, and bake it. The result is a fluffy/airy/spongy foam known as latex foam.

As you can see in the video above, the latex foam has a bouncy and fluffy quality. You’ll also notice that it has holes at the top. This does help with airflow, but it exists for two other reasons: it’s necessary for the manufacturing process and can help make certain parts of the foam firmer or softer.

For the most part, latex foam feels firm when you lay on it because it’s so responsive. That said, you can find it in various firmness levels.

Given how breathable latex foam is, there are a lot of hot sleepers that love latex mattresses. The firmness, responsiveness and breathability of latex beds make them attractive to people that warm up at night. They aren’t what we call “active-cooling” mattresses, but they naturally do a good job of dissipating heat and keeping you at a comfortable temperature throughout the night.

Pros of latex mattresses

  • Versatile enough to be used as either comfort or support layer
  • Durable material
  • Responsive
  • Breathable and cool
  • Eco-friendly

Cons of latex mattresses

  • Usually weighs more
  • Offers less pressure relief
  • Expensive
  • Less quiet and does not isolate motion

Types of Latex Foam

If you’re doing mattress research and specifically interested in latex mattresses, you will come across two different types of latex foam: Dunlop Latex and Talalay Latex. To the average consumer, they are the same.

Dunlop involves an older method of creating latex foam and therefore tends to be more affordable than Talalay. It still has a fluffy/spongy/responsive feel, but it’s a little less predictable from the manufacturing perspective in terms of the result.

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A side view of Dunlop latex (Talalay look the same)

Talalay is a new method for creating latex foam, but it’s more expensive and involves a longer laminar flow during production. The advantage is that the foam is more predictable for the manufacturer, and it tends to be airier and more responsive.

The difference isn’t essential to the average consumer, but we thought it might be fun to go over the two latex foam types. Dunlop is the more common type, but it’s not infrequent that you’ll see a bed with Talalay latex. For instance, Zenhaven is made with 100% Talalay latex foam.

Memory Foam Vs. Latex

These foams are the polar opposites of each other in almost every way. Here’s a quick overview of what memory foam and latex foam are like:

  • Memory Foam — More affordable and typically has a viscous feel with slow response times.
  • Latex Foam — Naturally-derived material that’s more responsive and breathable with a spongy/airy feel.

Memory Foam 

  • More affordable
  • Great pressure relief with slow response and bounce-back
  • Can sag during the latter portion of its lifespan
  • Retains heat 

Latex Foam

  • Naturally-derived material 
  • More responsive
  • Breathable and cooler
  • Lasts longer
  • Pricier
  • Poor pressure relief

Which Mattress Is Best For You

When it comes down to it, choosing between a latex bed vs. memory foam is entirely based on preference and how much you’re willing to spend. 

If you’re someone with lots of aches and pain, memory foam mattresses provide superior pressure relief, so it benefits side sleepers and people seeking compression support.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a mattress with a little more give, latex is the better material.  Apart from its superior response, latex foam is naturally-derived from rubber plants. For hot sleepers or those who sleep in hotter climates, latex foam mattresses offer far better cooling. If you move a lot during the night, a responsive mattress will make it easier to switch positions.

Either way, a new mattress will be a great step in the effort to rejuvenate your sleep quality.