Sleep is a major public health issue in the modern world. More than a third of American adults report sleep disorder symptoms or worrying signs of sleep deprivation, such as unintentionally falling asleep during the day. Almost 5 percent of Americans have reported falling asleep while driving, making drowsy driving a large contributor to traffic fatalities and injuries.
In light of this, it’s fair to say the quality of your sleep can be life-changing and it’s no surprise that finding a mattress that offers genuine comfort is a high priority for many consumers. Two of the most popular alternatives to traditional mattress on the market today are memory foam and latex mattresses. Here’s how they compare.
WHAT IS MEMORY FOAM?
Also known as visco-elastic foam, memory foam is a type of polyurethane originally invented by NASA in the 1970s in the search for improved cushioning and crash protection on commercial air flights. It was designed to be dense enough to provide comprehensive support that conformed to the body’s shape, and elastic enough to bounce back from use and resume its original shape. Eventually finding a commercial application in the sleep industry, the memory foam mattress has been a mainstay among the most comfortable mattress on the market.
THE BENEFITS OF MEMORY FOAM MATTRESSES
Memory foam mattresses offer a number of distinct advantages:
- Superb comfort & therapeutic support. Because memory foam adjusts to the shape of your body, it offers a sleeping-on-a-cloud quality of comfort that few other mattresses can match. It’s a boon for those with back problems or general aches and pains, alleviating pressure to provide restful sleep.
- The lifespan of a mattress varies depending on how often it’s used and how well it’s maintained. However, memory foam mattresses tend to rank among the most durable mattress types, with good-quality models lasting up to 10 years.
- Hypoallergenic qualities. The solidity of memory foam makes it difficult for dust and dirt to make a home for themselves inside your mattress. This helps to ensure its long-term freshness and prevents your mattress from becoming a potential source of allergens that interfere with high-quality sleep.
- Temperature regulation. Early memory foam mattresses were sometimes known to trap heat in their dense structures and cause sweaty nights spent tossing and turning. Most modern memory foam mattresses now use open-cell foam design that better channels heat away from the body, making your bed a cool and comfortable place to sleep.
DRAWBACKS OF MEMORY FOAM MATTRESSES
Memory foam does come with a few trade-offs:
- Their dense structure means memory foam mattresses are heavier you’re your average mattress. Something as simple as flipping your memory foam mattress can be difficult for one person to manage on their own.
- A few days of out-gassing or off-gassing. Early in its life, a memory foam mattress can be prone to releasing a chemical odor: it’s natural for new polyurethane products to release chemical compounds called volatile organic compounds that carry this distinct smell. Contrary to some popular myths, this doesn’t make them hazardous to your health, but it does mean a short adjustment period for the first few days. We recommend leaving the windows open in your bedroom to allow your new mattress to air out.
- Given their benefits, it’s probably no surprise that memory foam mattresses tend to be more expensive than traditional mattresses. Though you might find great deals with the right buyer’s guide, you can generally expect to pay a little extra for memory foam.
WHAT IS A LATEX MATTRESS?
The answer to this one seems pretty simple: Latex mattresses are made from latex, a natural product harvested from rubber trees. However, not all latex mattresses are necessarily natural. Synthetic latex, typically made from styrene-butadiene rubber, replicates many of the same qualities, but has a reputation for being less resilient. The information covered here assumes the use of a natural latex mattress.
THE BENEFITS OF LATEX MATTRESSES
Latex mattresses have some strong arguments in their favor.
- Latex is one of the few materials that can compete with memory foam for a combination of elasticity and support. They’re known for contouring to support your body and springing back to their prior shape even more quickly than memory foam. This makes them ideal for the sleeper who moves around a lot.
- Eco-friendliness. A natural latex mattress is generally environmentally friendly. They’re made from organic sources with minimal chemicals, and they’re biodegradable when it’s time for disposal.
- Latex is one of the most breathable materials used in mattresses. As a result, latex mattresses don’t have the overheating issue that used to be associated with memory foam. They provide consistently cool and soothing rest.
- Exceptional durability. Latex mattresses tend to have a longer lifespan than most. A well-maintained model can last from 12 – 20 years.
THE DRAWBACKS OF LATEX MATTRESSES
Despite their benefits, latex mattresses have certain cons of their own:
- Possible allergies. Sleepers who are allergic to latex should avoid the use of a latex mattress. Although the latex is encased inside another material, it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of safety, especially if you have a severe allergy.
- Weight. Much like a memory foam mattress, latex mattresses are dense and unwieldy to move around.
- Latex mattresses are some of the most expensive around, with their cost potentially ranging into the thousands of dollars. It’s up to the individual consumer to decide whether the mattress offers enough value to make this expense worthwhile.
Both mattress types offer plenty of enticing benefits and relatively few drawbacks. However, memory foam does have the advantage of offering considerably more bang for your buck while remaining competitive with comfort and durability. Finding the right memory foam mattress can be an excellent start on the road to healthy, restful sleep.