Latex vs Memory Foam

In this guide we discuss the topic of latex vs memory foam mattress options.

If you're looking for a new mattress, chances are you're wondering what the difference is with latex foam and memory foam. In this guide, we will go over what the materials are like, and how they compare/contrast with each other. Neither is better 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 has been written 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, but 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.

Memory Foam Mattress

By far, the most popular type of mattress is the memory foam mattress. And why is that? Well, because memory foam offers a few distinct advantages, and typically the material is really 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, and then best way to do that is to show you a video of memory foam:

As you can see, memory foam typically has a deep, contouring quality and it usually remembers the shape of pressure that has been applied. 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 back to its original shape.

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

Gel Memory Foam

Another common form of memory foam is gel memory foam, which is simply ads little gel beads to help with temperature regulation. It’s sort of like an upgraded version of standard memory foam.

In general, gel memory foam will feel the exact same as 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 the 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.

Latex Mattress

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 end 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 to it. You’ll also notice that it has holes at the top. This does help with airflow, but it actually exists for two other reasons: (1) it’s necessary in the manufacturing process and (2) it can help to 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.

Different Types Of Latex Foam

If you’re doing mattress research and you’re specifically interested in latex mattresses, you will come across two different types of latex foam: (1) Dunlop Latex and (2) Talalay Latex. To the average consumer, they are exactly the same.

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

To the average consumer, the difference isn’t important, but we thought it might be fun to go over the two types of latex foam. 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.

Latex vs Memory Foam

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.

Which type of mattress should you choose when you’re debating latex vs memory foam? To be honest, it just comes down to personal preference and budget. If you like more of a sink-in sensation then you’ll probably gravitate toward memory foam. If you want a more responsive mattress, latex is certainly that—plus it’s naturally-derived and generally really good for hot sleepers.