When it comes to bedding materials, latex and latex alternative mattresses have quickly become a favorite among discerning sleepers. The reasons are simple: latex and latex alternative foams deliver exceptional pressure point relief while providing proper spinal alignment. Moreover, both types of foams are available in varying firmness levels.
If you're currently in the market for a latex or latex alternative mattress, you may be asking two of the more common questions: what are the differences between natural latex, blended latex, synthetic latex and latex alternative foams—and which is better?
The answer comes down to three main factors: comfort preference, budget and desire for eco-friendly materials. How you rank the importance of each will help you make a solid decision. Keep in mind that, whatever their differences, all types of latex and latex alternatives are very safe—even if you have a latex allergy! Let's review each category:
Latex mattresses offer exceptional pressure point relief—in a natural way. Extracted from the rubber tree and processed using natural biodegradable ingredients, the unique buoyant quality of latex relaxes your muscles and relieves tension, lifting away the pressures of the day while you sleep. Latex is often preferred by sleepers who want superior contouring but don’t love the more sinkable quality of memory foam. Production methods result in a chemical-free product with no synthetic counterparts (that is, no SBR, or Styrene Butadiene Rubber). All of these features combined make it one of the more expensive mattress options.
Under the natural latex umbrella are two types of highly durable, natural latex: Talalay and Dunlop.
Dunlop has a more simplified production process, which limits comfort options but reduces the overall price. Dunlop latex generally feels firmer and bouncier.
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.
Blended latex is the most commonly sold latex in North America. It contains a combination of natural and synthetic materials. It is slightly more durable than natural latex, features fewer chemicals than its synthetic counterparts, and comes in several firmness options. Blended latex is typically less expensive than most natural latex options.
While blended latex features both natural and synthetic materials, the ratios are proprietary to each mattress manufacturer. A majority of companies will offer mattresses with a 60/40 to 70/30 ratio of synthetic to natural latex. A good indicator of the ratio is this: the more natural latex a mattress contains, the higher priced it will be.
Synthetic latex, made with SBR (Styrene Butadiene Rubber,) is primarily used to complement the benefits and features of natural latex: SBR used in synthetic latex has some superior properties, such as the ability to resist heat aging, abrasion and softening. The end result of a blend is a more durable product that lasts longer and is less expensive. Synthetic latex also allows for a wide array of firmness options. Synthetic latex is the least eco-friendly choice.
While latex is a highly sought-after bedding material, modern advancements in foam technology have resulted in plenty of options that feel a whole lot like latex without the costly price tag. Energex™ foam, for instance, is a popular latex alternative foam used in many all-foam mattresses. It is designed to contour the human body, much like memory foam, but bounces back more quickly from pressure. Energex™ is highly breathable and allows for greater airflow than other types of foams, making it as good at temperature moderation as latex.
TitanFlex™ foam by Brooklyn Bedding, used in both the Brooklyn Signature and the Brooklyn Aurora, is an upgraded version of Energex™ foam, infused with cooling TitaniumGel™ to moderate your body temperature throughout the sleep experience.
A recent but important trend among mattress manufacturers is to combine latex or latex alternative foams 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 but effectively lowers the cost of an all latex version.