Categories: Mattress

What Is A Latex Mattress?

Latex mattresses are designed to offer luxurious comfort, superior support and soothing pressure point relief. The thickness and firmness of latex mattresses can be completely customized and they are beneficial for all types of sleepers: back, side, and stomach.

How Is A Latex Mattress Made?

A latex mattress is made with pure natural latex sap from a rubber tree plant. It is sustainably harvested over the course of the tree’s natural lifespan, often upwards of 50 years.

First the latex sap is whipped into a froth. Then it is poured into molds. Lastly it is baked to create the latex used in your mattress. Latex is adaptable and manufactured in a wide range of firmnesses and varieties, from sustainably-harvested botanical latex to synthetic latex varieties.

A latex mattress is a superior quality mattress, outcompeting most traditional mattresses.  The material’s adaptability, long life, and comfort have achieved a high level of customer satisfaction on the open market.

Latex Mattress vs Traditional Mattress

If you want to improve your quality of sleep and thus your overall quality of life, a latex mattress can help. Latex mattresses cushion your body, align your spine, regulate body temperature, and have the staying power to last 20 years or more.

Traditional mattresses tend to have a range of shortcomings. They can:

  • Broadcast motion so that one sleeping partner disturbs the other;
  • Be uncomfortable, so that quality of sleep suffers;
  • Discourage proper spinal alignment, resulting in general discomfort and exacerbation of medical conditions;
  • Wear out quickly, so that customers find themselves replacing a mattress more often;
  • Carry allergens – trapping mites, mold, mildew, and dust particles in fibers and fabrics deep within the mattress; and
  • “Sleep hot,” causing the sleeper to wake overheated, sweaty, and uncomfortable – increasing the chance of mold accumulation and negatively impacting quality of sleep.

These shortcomings, among others, led manufacturers to continue the search for a quality, luxurious, medically beneficial mattress material. The result? Latex foam mattress materials.

Sleep Better, Feel Better

We all know that when we don’t sleep well, we don’t feel well. Medical research backs up our own experience – high quality sleep lasting seven hours or more is integral to keeping a healthy body and a healthy quality of life.

Your mattress can significantly impact your sleep. A natural latex mattress can make the difference between unrefreshing sleep and the deep, restorative sleep that promotes health.

Latex mattresses are designed to offer luxurious comfort, superior support and soothing pressure point relief. They are beneficial for all types of sleepers.

The Importance of Sleep

A German study published in the journal Quality of Life Research found a significant correlation between poor sleep, poor health, and lowered quality of life.

And another study in the German journal Schmerz found a significant correlation between mattress quality and sleep. Research has found that shortened sleep duration correlates with increased hypertension. Studies also show that sleep quality is even more important than sleep quantity in protecting good physical, mental, and emotional health in both young, healthy adults and in the elderly.

No matter what your age or state of health, it’s likely that the right latex mattress can benefit your current sleep situation.

Latex Mattress Advantages

Latex Mattresses offer a range of improvements over traditional mattresses:

Body-contouring. The same resilience and shape-sustaining properties that give latex its resilience give it an unmatchable ability to contour to your body. The foam will compress under your hips and shoulders while extending to support waist and legs. The bouncy spring-back of latex creates a surface with quicker reaction time than memory foam, so the mattress contours to your shape with every move you make.

Superior Support. The supportive structure of a botanical latex mattress can help align the spine and cradle painful body parts while minimizing pressure points, so the body has the best possible chance of pain relief for comfortable sleep.

Beneficial for a wide range of medical complaints. Whether you suffer from back problems, chronic pain such as RLS or fibromyalgia, or the life-changing pain of a spinal cord injury, a latex mattress may significantly improve your quality of life.

Eco-friendly. Natural botanical latex can be sustainably harvested without killing the rubber tree plant that produces the serum. An “all-natural” latex mattress may be produced without the use of petrochemicals or synthetic materials. Some latex mattresses are manufactured at the site of the rubber tree estate, minimizing the expense and carbon footprint of shipping. When properly manufactured, latex mattresses can even be organic, though it’s important to be discerning when choosing an organic mattress. The “organic” tag may mean that:

  1. The latex in the mattress was organically farmed before harvesting;
  2. The foam itself was produced in line with organic standards; or that
  3. The entire mattress, including the outer fire-resistant layer, is constructed using sustainable methods and materials.

Hypo-allergenic and anti-microbial. The surface of latex foam is impermeable to dust mites and discouraging to mold and mildew. If you have allergies, even mild latex allergies, a latex mattress can give you peace of mind and the medical relief you need to get a good night’s sleep. The same properties make latex foam anti-microbial and a poor living surface for bacteria, helping latex foam remain hygienic over the entirety of its long lifespan.

Temperature regulating. The same open cell structure that gives latex its hypo-allergenic properties helps it to regulate body temperature while you sleep, allowing air flow. In addition, during foam latex manufacturing (especially in the Talalay processing method) the mold contains metal rods inserted through the latex liquid leaving “pinholes” that allow the mattress to breathe, keeping you cooler when it’s warm and warmer when it’s cool outside. This natural ventilation helps you sleep well; clinical trials have found that well-regulated skin temperature leads to increased comfort and deeper sleep.

Resilient. All-natural latex foam, at a cellular level, has a characteristic that no other material –not even synthetic latex—can match. The natural structure of latex compresses and then immediately springs back into its original shape, creating a mattress surface that is as soft yet supportive in its twentieth year as in its first.

Long-lasting. A high-quality, all-natural botanical latex mattress can have warranties lasting 20 years or more. Natural latex is so durable because of its bouncy resiliency – since your mattress doesn’t get indentions from the weight of your body, it can last decades when cared for and placed on a proper latex mattress foundation. The right foundation prevents sagging, so there’s no need to flip a latex mattress. Some of the most venerable latex mattress companies have now seen their mattresses last 40 years or more.

A natural latex mattress can give you peace of mind on many levels. The “luxury” of an all-natural botanical latex mattress is actually good for your health, good for the environment, and good for your wallet. When you choose top-of-the-line latex, you’ll get a mattress that no imitation can match.

Comparing Mattress Types

Here are a few comparison points between latex mattresses and other mattress varieties.

Memory Foam Mattresses: Memory foam is a space-age synthetic material that slowly molds to your body. Memory foam can be temperature sensitive, so that it actually becomes less supportive when exposed to body heat overnight. It can also “sleep hot,” acting as a heat sink to hold in body heat, further exacerbating these effects. However, next generation memory foam mattresses are able to ameliorate these concerns, especially if they are integrated with a transitional latex foam layer.

Innerspring Mattresses: Traditional innerspring mattresses can be quite comfortable, especially when covered with a mattress pad or “comfort layer” (often of latex). However, the coils in innerspring mattresses tend to compress over time, leaving body impressions. The classic solution to sagging or impressions in innerspring configurations is to flip the mattress, but the most comfortable innersprings tend to have a comfort layer on one side, making flipping impossible.

Air Mattresses: High-quality air mattresses can also be quite luxurious. Some air mattress options allow you to adjust the firmness of the mattress by adding or removing air, and add cradling support by using a pillow-top or other comfort layer (again, often latex). One drawback here is that you need to be doubly sure of the quality of the brand you are buying – with compression over time certain air mattresses have been known to develop air leaks in the casing. They also sometimes “sleep hot,” since the inner air-containing compartment is by nature impermeable to air flow.

Gel Mattresses: Gel is also beneficial for pressure-relieving support and temperature-regulating comfort. Designed specifically to work in medical settings where patients may be sensitive to pressure applied to the body, gel gives optimally at pressure points while supporting other parts of the body. Still, most gel mattresses rely on layers to mix support and comfort and may include materials like memory foam or latex. They can also be quite expensive.

Latex Mattresses are superior and unique mattresses that are designed to offer luxurious comfort, superior support and soothing pressure point relief. They are beneficial for all types of sleepers: back, side, and stomach.

Customize Your Sleep Experience

Latex can be manufactured using a range of components and techniques. It’s available in a range of thicknesses and firmnesses. Layered comfort configurations maximize your comfort and that of your sleeping partner.

The range of options can seem confusing at first, but it’s this versatility that makes latex such a luxurious and sought-after mattress material.

Synthetic and Blended Latex vs. Natural Latex

In addition to the original all-natural latex foam, manufacturers have created synthetic latex that produces an imitation of natural foam latex. The result is a passable approximation of latex foam, but it is less buoyant, less durable, and less supportive than the natural variety.

Synthetic Latex

Synthetic latex is created entirely in a laboratory setting, often at the foam manufacturing site. This mitigates the need to have natural latex shipped in from rubber tree estates after intensive harvesting practices, so the cost of synthetic latex is often less than that of natural latex foam.

Synthetic latex is usually manufactured using the more high-tech Talalay production process, since Dunlop processing creates a truly inferior product when synthetic imitations are used. Synthetic Talalay latex makes a stronger, more comfortable product but is still no match for the real thing.

Blended Latex

The inexpensive pricing of synthetic latex comes at the cost of quality. Many mid-grade latex mattress manufacturers use blended latex, adding a small percentage of natural latex to a synthetic product before vulcanization in attempt to increase resilience and quality. These blended latex beds still don’t match the bouncy, body-contouring support of real latex, but they may be a decent approximation if you’re on a budget.

Natural Latex

Natural latex mattresses encompass a vast array of bedding options. In order to carry the “100% natural latex” tag, the foam used to construct the mattress must be entirely manufactured from botanical latex. Botanical latex mattresses can be manufactured in an array of firmnesses, thicknesses, internal constructions, and surface treatments.

The Different Types of Latex

Latex can be produced by one of two manufacturing methods: Talalay or Dunlop. Each processing type has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Dunlop Latex

In the Dunlop method, pioneered in the mid-20th century, liquid latex is poured into frames in layers, cooled, and vulcanized. The result is a strong, long-lasting, high quality latex.

Dunlop latex is the denser of the two types. It’s ideal for superior support. However, softer layers of Dunlop can offer cushioning for top and middle comfort layers.

Talalay Latex

In the  Talalay method, the liquid latex is first whipped and then poured into a frame. The material is subjected to vacuum molding and flash-freezing, congealing quickly into foam.

The result contains a mix of latex and air that’s uniformly distributed from side to side and top to bottom. Because of the increased amount of air, Talalay latex tends to be lighter and fluffier than Dunlop latex.

Both Dunlop and Talalay latex production can achieve a range of latex foam densities ranging from soft to firm. The softest Talalay is softer than the softest Dunlop – and the firmest Dunlop is firmer than the firmest Talalay. But most peoples’ sleeping preferences fall within a range that can be acquired by buying either Dunlop or Talalay latex.

Which is Better, Dunlop or Talalay Latex?

You’ll see hype all over the internet about which type of latex manufacturing process produces the best or most comfortable or most supportive latex. In truth, either Dunlop or Talalay can be comfortable, supportive, long-lasting, and cost effective. Which foam you choose depends on your personal preferences, needs, and budget.

Dunlop latex is:

Almost always 100% natural. Since synthetic and blended Dunlop latex tend to be poorer quality, most Dunlop latex mattresses on the market today are natural.

Longer-lasting. The simple Dunlop construction method imparts less air to the mattress than with Talalay processing. Less air and more latex mean your mattress is likely to stand up better over time, often out-lasting Talalay construction.

Superior Support. Both Dunlop and Talalay can be either soft or firm (or in between) but the Dunlop process can produce latex foam that’s more supportive than even the firmest Talalay.

Eco-friendly. Dunlop’s on-site processing means a smaller carbon footprint, and the more streamlined production method uses fewer chemical agents. All latex can be considered somewhat eco-friendly, but Dunlop foam produced on-site tops the charts.

Talalay latex is:

Available in blended varieties. Talalay is more likely to be found in blended or full synthetic market options. This means that you can find Talalay mattresses at a wide range of price points. Synthetic/blended mattresses will never achieve the luxury feel of all-natural latex.

Not as long-lasting. The added air in most Talalay mattresses makes it more likely that the mattress will sag over time, creating uneven pressure on each cell of the mattress. This is the main reason why so few latex mattresses are constructed strictly from Talalay. Eventually, that extra pressure can lead to a quicker breakdown of mattress materials. However, this can be mitigated by using a top layer of Talalay latex on a mattress, with the underlying core of the mattress being a more solid, denser Dunlop.

In the end, only you can make the choice on which processing type meets your needs and your budget. Depending on the quality of manufacture, either Dunlop or Talalay can be a long-lasting and luxurious sleep surface.

Latex Mattress Customer Satisfaction

Today’s mattress customers are smart, savvy shoppers – and it’s a good thing! The array of latex mattress options can be bewildering, but with a little background it can be easy to choose the bed that’s right for you. Here are a few tools to help you choose your bed wisely:

1. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

It’s important to be sure you’re comparing truly similar mattresses when you compare price. Just because you’re looking at two Dunlop mattresses, for example, doesn’t mean they are remotely similar. One may be synthetic and one all natural. One may be denser and thus firmer – a firmer mattress literally contains more latex and less air, so it may be more expensive. Be sure you understand how each mattress is constructed so you know you’re really comparing similar products.

2. Define “Natural”.

Make sure your idea of a “natural” or “organic” latex mattress is the same as the manufacturer’s. Some mattresses claim to be “organic” because the rubber trees are farmed using organic methods, but then add chemicals during latex processing, glue foam layers together with industrial glues, and cover the mattress with a petrochemical fire barrier.

An “all-natural” label means the bed is made using botanical latex. Make sure you understand the processing and materials that went into the making of your mattress so you know you’re getting exactly what you’ve asked for.

Lastly, always look for the 3rd party certifications for each of the materials in your mattress. This will confirm which materials are natural and organic in your mattress. For example, organic latex is typically Dunlop latex and it has the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS certification).

3. Latex Mattress Brands – Choose Smaller, More Specialized

Many large mattress brands are resellers, which buy their inventory from third-party manufacturers. These resellers have high overhead costs associated with running brick-and-mortar stores in prime locations – rent, utilities, and payroll. Because of this overhead, most don’t invest in top-of-the-line latex mattresses.

Most mattresses you’ll find in these locations are synthetic or blended and not a true luxury product. In addition, you’ll often pay higher prices at a major chain on a product of lesser quality, since you’re sopping up some of the expense of the company’s overhead when you buy your bed.

Look for online manufacturers that sell direct to consumers, rather than using a reseller as a “middleman”. These companies tend to minimize overhead costs while keeping up top notch quality control, so you get the best mattress for your money.

4. Take your time and do your research.

You’re not just buying a mattress, you’re choosing a brand and lifestyle. It’s important that you know exactly what you’re buying and from whom.

When you start your search for a reputable mattress company, here are the questions to ask:

What’s the return policy? Look for a bed that comes with a substantial return policy – you don’t want to be stuck with a bed that doesn’t satisfy your needs. Many companies will allow you to return the bed within a specified amount of time. If you buy a bed with unglued layers (which is highly recommended), you may even be able to return individual layers until you adjust the comfort for your own personal preferences.

Are there positive online latex mattress reviews? Don’t stop with website testimonials. Look online for third-party reviews by actual customers so you know exactly how former and current customers have been treated, as well as their level of satisfaction with the product.

Does the bed come with a satisfactory warranty? High-quality latex is long-lasting, so look for a warranty that lasts 20 years or more to be sure you’re getting a high-quality bed and if you buy from a re-seller instead of a manufacturer, be sure that the reseller will honor that warranty.

Latex mattresses are available at a variety of price points. They’re durable, comfortable, customizable, and they sleep cool. The open cell structure combined with the natural properties of botanical latex also make it one of the most hypo-allergenic mattress options.

Sleep Better, Live Better

Medical science is increasingly emphasizing the importance of quality sleep for your health. And a comfortable mattress has been scientifically shown to have significant impacts on quality of sleep. A Latex Mattress is an excellent choice that can help you sleep better and live better and they come in many different varieties. It should be easy for you to find a latex mattress that fits your budget, lifestyle, and sleep preferences.

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Amber Merton

Amber Merton is an accomplished writer on the topics of green living and sleep. Her work has been covered in numerous online publications. Amber has been a regular author on the PlushBeds blog for the past 7 years.

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