What is latex?
There are two types of latex most commonly used in mattresses: natural and synthetic latex.
The natural latex process closely resembles the method used to tap maple trees for maple syrup. While it may take years for a rubber tree to grow enough to produce latex, each tree can yield liquid for up to 20 years. High quality, natural latex foam is highly breathable, resilient and durable. Natural latex is a preferred choice for those who want an eco-friendly option.
As its name suggests, synthetic latex is a synthetically produced compound. It is not harvested from rubber trees but is most commonly derived from styrene-butadiene rubber (SRB). SRB offers some of the same properties as natural latex. SRB manufacturing is less costly due to the simplification of production and the sourcing of some man-made materials. Synthetic additives are typically added to achieve stabilization.
To slope some of the cost and provide benefits of both synthetic and natural latex, blended latex has become a popular middle-ground in many mattresses. Blended latex's synthetic/natural ratio varies per company, but it is typically 60% synthetic and 40% natural, and accounts for 70% of the latex market today.
Why choose a latex mattress?
Latex mattresses are one of the most versatile types of sleep surfaces, simply because they deliver on some of the most critical sleep needs for most people: comfort and support. By contouring to the curves of your body while bouncing back to its original shape quickly after weight is released, latex supports the body while relieving pressure points. Latex is also naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial—two ideal attributes for those who suffer from allergies. A breathable design that allows for greater airflow also means latex is a cooler sleeping surface than other types of foam.
Pros of Latex
- Hypoallergenic and antimicrobial – great for allergy sufferers (and even safe for those with latex allergies
- Ideal blend of pressure point relief and responsive support
- Superior for reducing chronic lower back pain
- Breathable construction that allows you to sleep cooler
- Comes in a wide variety of firmness levels
- Highly durable—a well cared for latex mattress can last more than 10 years
Cons of Latex
- Tendency to be more expensive than other types of foam mattresses
- Level of responsiveness may seem "bouncy" to some
- Motion transfer is decreased due to the more contouring properties of latex, but sleep disturbances are more common in latex compared to a hybrid mattress with individually pockets springs
- Lower priced latex mattresses are more limited when it comes to your choice of firmness levels
Not sure what type of mattress you need? Check out our Guide to Mattress Types, with the pros and cons of each.
How is latex manufactured?
There are two different methods of latex production: the Talalay method and the Dunlop method.
Talalay Latex Manufacturing Process
Talalay comes in a variety of firmness levels and has a decidedly more contouring feel, an attribute that also helps decrease motion transfer between sleep partners. Talalay manufacturers ILD test every core in nine locations, accounting for its consistency. The process also involves a five-step washing cycle, making it one of the most hypoallergenic foams on the market and safe, even for those with latex allergies. This type of foam is most popular for comfort layers.
Talalay latex is certified as Oeko-Tex Class I, the highest rating possible. This certification verifies that each latex product is free from harmful substances and is safe.
Dunlop Latex Manufacturing Process
The Dunlop process is the first and original method of creating Latex. It is less consistent, but it create a dense, durable foam that is typically less expensive. In the Dunlop process, latex is poured onto a pattern then heated. Dunlop can be used for both comfort and support layers in a mattress, but is more popular as a support layer under a softer, more contouring Talalay variation.
For a bed that has all of the qualities of a latex foam mattress at an even better price, consider a latex alternative mattress.
These mattresses use a new type of foam that has the same reactivity, breathability and durability of latex foam, but costs much less than even synthetic latex. The Brooklyn Signature and Brooklyn Aurora both use a proprietary latex alternative foam called TitanFlex, which supports the body while still delivering superior contouring comfort.
How do I pick the right firmness level for my latex mattress?
Quality latex and latex alternative mattresses are available in a variety of firmnesses to fit your sleeping habits, whether you're a back, side, stomach sleeper...or a sleep in a combination of all three positions. The best way to determine the correct firmness is to identify these three factors:
Are you a side, back, or stomach sleeper? Or a combination?
How much do you weigh? Your weight is one of the most significants factors in determining the firmness of your mattress. If your sleep surface is too soft, it may result in improper spinal alignment.
Comfort is the number one factor to consider. Regardless of what studies show, or what other sleepers enjoy, you know yourself and your comfort preferences best.
What else should I know about Latex?
ILD means Indentation Load Deflection, a measure of the softness or firmness of a foam mattress. ILD is determined by pressing a 12-inch round disk into a 4-inch piece of foam until it compresses 25 percent, or one inch, into the mattress surface. The general rule of thumb is this: the higher the ILD, the more firm the latex will be.
Hybrid Latex Mattresses Are Available
A recent but important trend among mattress manufacturers is to combine latex with an innerspring, often using individually encased coils. Referred to as a hybrid mattress, this combination of materials adds deep compression support to any bed while decreasing motion transfer—and effectively lowers the cost of an all latex version. To get a side by side comparison of a latex hybrid mattress and an all latex mattress, click here.
If you're not sure which mattress is best for you, even after carefully considering all the options, you can always talk to a sleep expert for guidance.