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What Are the Benefits of a Latex Mattress?

Tyler Joseph (TJ) Thomas

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Latex mattresses have one of the highest consumer satisfaction ratings today. Latex beds first grew popular in the 50s for their eco-friendliness and health benefits. Today’s technology has advanced them to be exceptionally durable, pain-relieving, and even customizable, making them a good choice for many.

However, like any product, there are multiple factors to consider before purchasing a latex mattress. This article will focus on highlighting the unique benefits of latex mattresses to determine if one of these beds is right for you.

What is a Latex Mattress?

Latex mattresses are crafted from two to four layers of latex foam. The depth and order of the foam layers can be adjusted to match firmness preference, ranging all the way from soft to firm.

The term “latex mattress” typically refers to a mattress composed of natural latex foam that is refined from the sap of a Hevea Brasiliensis, commonly known as a rubber tree. This supports the healthy growth of rubber trees, allowing for a sustainable manufacturing process.

The refined rubber results in a strong material that easily rejects dust and mold—things we tirelessly attempt to keep out of our mattresses. Although latex is best known for its eco-friendly nature, durability, and cleanliness, it also excels at meeting comfort and overall health needs.

Latex bed’s customizable construction can simultaneously improve your and your partner’s sleep experience because sleepers can modify the levels of comfort and support on either side of the mattress. Latex’s natural ingredients and pain-relieving abilities also overcome specific health issues like frequent allergies or back and joint pain. When searching for the best mattress for back pain, you’ll find most options are either latex or memory foam since they’re both contouring and pain-relieving.

While natural latex is the preferred choice, these beds can also be created from synthetic or blended materials. If you have a latex allergy, you can still get comfy sleep on a synthetic latex mattress because it does not contain any actual latex. Plus, these synthetic and blended latex mattresses also come with a more affordable price tag, so they’re better for shoppers on a tighter budget.

Although non-natural latex beds are less expensive, they may not be as durable, breathable, odorless, eco-friendly, or hypoallergenic. For a higher-quality bed, we suggest natural latex.

Benefits of a Natural Latex Mattress

Latex beds are quickly becoming a popular choice in today’s market because they carry several benefits surrounding sleep health, eco-friendliness, and durability.

Good For Back and Joint Pain

Latex mattresses are often recommended for people with back and joint pain. Many consumers report their latex mattresses effectively alleviate major areas of pain. Pain relief can be credited to the elastic nature of latex.

Latex’s elasticity creates a springy and supportive foundation. This allows the mattress to maintain healthy spinal alignment and promote better sleeping postures. Heavy parts of the body such as the hips and shoulders dip lightly into the mattress while lighter parts of the body rest elevated. Latex’s ability to support the natural arch of the spine not only eases pain but prevents it.

Eco-friendly

Natural latex mattresses are known to be one of the most environmentally-friendly mattresses on today’s market. Manufacturers of natural latex do much more than minimize their impact on the environment—they support our ecosystem’s health. Rubber trees are never cut down or killed to retract sap. Rather the same tree can be healthily tapped for up to 30 years, encouraging the continual growth of rubber trees.

The production of latex beds also avoids causing the environmental damage some petroleum-based products do. For instance, natural latex mattresses do not yield the potential harm drilling for oil may cause. It is also biodegradable, meaning it will not end up in a landfill.

Odorless

Mattresses composed of synthetic or blended latex contain chemicals that off-gas and release disrupting odors when first unboxed. Because natural latex mattresses are composed of natural materials, they do not give off any unsettling scents.

Latex is also less flammable, requiring fewer fire retardants. Fire retardants are sometimes composed of toxic chemicals that off-gas into your home.

If you prefer to know your bed will be non-toxic and odor-free, we recommend an organic brand that uses GOTS-certified wool as an all-natural fire barrier.

Hypoallergenic

Latex is naturally antimicrobial, meaning it is resistant to mold-causing bacteria and dust mites, both of which cause bedroom allergies. Latex mattresses are the perfect fit for people who suffer from allergies year-round. The material’s resistance to dust and bacteria also makes for a clean and easy-to-maintain mattress.

It is important to note that a small portion of the population suffers from latex allergies. If you experience hives, a runny nose, difficulty breathing, or itchy skin when you come in contact with latex, it is best to avoid this type of mattress.

Breathable

There is a common misconception that latex beds run hot, but they are actually one of the most breathable mattresses you can purchase. Latex’s natural open-cell structure permits constant airflow. Some latex manufacturers even add pinholes to make their mattresses especially airy.

Additionally, chemicals tend to retain heat. Because natural latex mattresses contain little to no chemicals, they feel much cooler than synthetic or blended latex mattresses.

Motion-isolating

Latex mattresses are also a good option for light sleepers because they isolate motion. Its elasticity creates a steady foundation that confines movement to the side it comes from. When your sleep partner tosses and turns, the mattress will not transfer their movement across the bed, making it easier to get an undisturbed sleep.

Extremely Durable

Natural latex is often glorified for its strength and durability. With an average life of 12 to 20 years, this material lasts longer than most mattress materials.

Some brands even choose to keep the layers of the mattress unglued to prolong their bed’s lifespan. As your mattress fades, you can rotate through the different layers.

Customizable

Some companies create customizable latex mattresses for their customers. Depending on you and your sleep partner’s preference, you can make the left side firm and the right side soft, or the top half medium and the bottom half firm, and so on.

Cons of Latex Mattresses

Heavy 

Latex’s durability and resilience make it extremely dense. A queen size mattress composed of natural latex can weigh up to 130 pounds. This weight makes flipping or rotating the mattress difficult to do alone.

Cost

Because latex mattresses are composed of expensive materials and have a longer lifespan than others, they tend to carry a hefty price tag. The cost will differ depending on the type of latex mattresses and its size. A natural latex queen size bed costs anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000. A synthetic or blended latex mattress will be slightly less expensive.

Ordering online may yield a lower price than shopping in-store.

Firmness

The elasticity and resiliency of latex is meant to offer a soft yet firm sleeping surface. With that, some consumers find their mattress too firm. If you are worried about your latex mattress feeling too firm, search for a mattress that offers a sleep trial. Also, keep in mind that it will soften over time.

Different Types of Latex

The durability, price, and health benefits of your mattress will depend on its composition and production method.

Natural Latex

As we already mentioned, natural latex comes from the sap of a rubber tree. The mattresses are one of two ways: Dunlop or Talalay.

Both methods include slitting the bark of a rubber tree to release its milk-like sap. The trees are never cut down, but simply “tapped.” A bucket is placed beneath the slit to catch the sap. The sap is later whipped into foam and prepared to undergo either the Dunlop or Talalay process.

The Dunlop Method

The Dunlop method is the oldest and more natural choice of the two latex manufacturing processes. After the sap has been collected from the rubber tree and whipped into a foam, it is poured into a mold, filling it completely, unlike the Talalay method where it is only filled halfway.

The mold is then vulcanized, or heated in an oven to harden. Once the foam has hardened it is removed from the mold and washed free from any excess residue. Washing the rubber also delays aging without hindering its elasticity.

Lastly, the foam is dried. The finished Dunlop latex makes for a material that is dense at the bottom and light up top.

The Talalay Method

Foams produced using the Talalay method have a higher price point because they take more time and energy to create. This process has three more steps than Dunlop—vacuuming, freezing, and injecting carbon dioxide.

Talalay latex is made by pouring the rubber sap into a mold. As mentioned earlier, it is only filled partially. The mold is then sealed and a vacuum is used to expand the latex until it fills the entirety of the mold.

Once the mold is completely filled, it is frozen. During the freezing process, carbon dioxide is forced throughout the rubber, creating a gel-like texture. Finally, it is vulcanized, removed from the mold, washed, and dried. The finished product results in a soft and springy latex layer.

To achieve a softer feel, manufacturers often add fillers like synthetic latex or polyurethane foam to the Talalay foam. Therefore, it is impossible for Talalay latex to be 100 percent organic.

Synthetic Latex

Synthetic latex beds are typically composed of styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) and other additives. SBR is a plastic that mimics rubber and is often found in artificial playground turfs, conveyor belts, tires, and more. Since SBR does not come from the sap of the rubber tree, it does not cause latex allergies.

SBR is known to be a high-quality material at an affordable price, but it is not as long-lasting as natural latex. More pressing than the life expectancy of your mattress is its safety. SBR is not harmful to humans. Still, off-gassing chemicals like flame retardants and mold preventers are prominent ingredients in synthetic latex.

Blended Latex

Blended latex mattresses are the most common. They combine natural and synthetic latex and usually last longer than synthetic mattresses. However, blended latex mattresses still use a higher amount of synthetic material than natural.

Before purchasing a latex bed, we suggest conducting extensive research. Some brands market a single layer of natural latex over a distinct base as entirely natural. Others advertise a product as “100 percent latex,” but this does not necessarily mean it is 100 percent natural latex.

Let’s look at a few certifications you should keep an eye out for if you want to guarantee your new mattress is eco-friendly and made with organic materials.

Certifications

Many manufacturers market their latex mattresses as natural, organic, eco-friendly, non-toxic, and so on—and these certifications ensure those declarations are true.

GREENGUARD Gold

The GREENGUARD Gold certification is awarded to manufacturers who create products with low emission levels. The organization focuses heavily on off-gassing chemicals like formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a destructive preservative found in synthetic materials and has proven itself to be harmful to children. If a product has this certification, it is safe for in-home use.

Oeko-Tex® Standard 100

Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 certified products undergo 100 test parameters to ensure they are free from disturbing chemicals like azo dyes, formaldehyde, and nickel. Products are also tested for chemicals not harmful by law but known to have adverse effects on our health.

eco-INSTITUT

Similar to GREENGUARD Gold, the eco-INSTITUT certification ensures household goods are free from hazardous compounds known to off-gas. The organization tests products for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, heavy metals, pesticides, pollutants, and more.

Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)

The GOLS certification guarantees a product is made with over 95 percent organic raw materials. The standard tracks latex from the plantation all the way to the shelf. This ensures the rubber tree is free from pesticides and the final product is vacant of synthetic fillers.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

Similar to GOLS, the GOTS standard tracks a textile all the way from harvesting to packing and shipping, ensuring each step of the way utilizes organic materials.

There are two levels to the standard: “organic” and “made with organic.”

If a product has the “organic” label, it is composed of at least 95 percent organic materials. If a product has the “made with organic” label, it is composed of at least 70 percent organic materials.

Both labels curb the use of ingredients like chlorine bleach, GMOs, synthetic sizing substances, and more. This standard does not apply to the latex foam inside a mattress. Rather, it ensures that any textiles used like cotton covers, wool covers, or fireguards are also eco-friendly.

FAQs

Are latex mattresses better than memory foam mattresses?

Latex and memory foam mattresses are often compared to one another for their conforming abilities. Memory foam tends to heavily cradle your body, forming to its exact shape and causing you to sink deeper into the mattress. Latex gently surrounds the curves of your body, making it feel like you are on top of the mattress rather than within it.

Because memory foam mattresses prominently surround the heaviest parts of your body, they’re better at providing personalized pressure relief that alleviates pain.

Are latex mattresses safe?

Natural latex mattresses are known to be extremely safe for our health because they are mostly composed of natural materials.  Latex is also biodegradable, making it safe for the environment.

Are mattresses really toxic? 

There are multiple certifications to guarantee your mattress is non-toxic and free of harmful chemicals, including GREENGUARD Gold, Oeko-Tex®, and eco-INSTITUT.

These certifications also ensure your bed is low in VOCs. VOCs are chemicals that emit gasses and cause undesirable smells. While off-gassing is unpleasant to deal with, it doesn’t pose a health risk and eventually fades away. That said, if you are prone to migraines or have respiratory problems, off-gassing may be more bothersome.

Are latex mattresses good for back pain?

Latex mattresses are known to maintain spine alignment because the elastic material lightly cradles the body while providing sturdy support. Heavier parts of the body softly dip into the mattress while lighter parts of the body rest elevated. Latex’s ability to conform to the natural shape of the spine can prevent and relieve back pain.

Do latex mattresses sag?

All mattresses are prone to sagging after excessive use, but latex mattresses sag more slowly than other foam beds. Its spring-like feel and extreme durability allow it to return to its original shape quickly, making it less likely to sag than memory foam.

Conclusion

Latex mattresses are the perfect option for eco-conscious consumers looking to also enhance their health. Latex mattresses offer more than enhanced sleep health and eco-friendliness, they also provide customizable comfort, extreme support, and durability.

Although natural latex mattresses run at a higher price, they are well worth the investment and have proven themselves to maintain consumer satisfaction. Still, like any high-quality mattress, we suggest purchasing from a brand that offers a sleep trial.

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