This post was last updated on July 2nd, 2019
Making a bed has now become a science, with overwhelming options available to manufacture a mattress. There are basically four types of mattresses to choose from, foam mattresses, spring mattresses, latex and (gel) memory foam mattresses. Of course there are other options like the futon, air, and waterbed mattresses, however, we will stick to the aforementioned materials used for a typical mattress nowadays.
While choosing a mattress type comes down to personal taste, it is also a matter of weighing in the pros and cons of each material. If you are puzzled about what each type of material entails, the following article will provide a good reference point for you.
Here’s what we have installed for those potential buyers out there:
Different types of materials used for mattresses
The most common type of foam mattresses come in polyfoam, namely polyurethane or PU. You will see this type of material used for the top layer of innerspring mattresses. Nevertheless, it is not surprising to see this sort of material on its own for mattresses.
In case you are wondering if polyurethane foam is similar to memory foam, a more recent trend in filling mattresses, the answer is no in terms of their feelings, however, both consist of some sort of polyurethane foam. The difference is, memory foam includes other chemicals as well which will give more density and viscosity. PU feels much more bouncy compared to memory foam.
In terms of consistency, polyurethane is made completely of synthetics. Whereas you can find a 100% natural latex mattress, however, this is not the case for a polyurethane foam mattress.
Polyurethane comes in three types: regular grade, high-density foam, and high resiliency one. The latter is of a much higher quality and has a somewhat different manufacturing process, whereas it is quite a lot more supportive. You will be interested to know that a genuinely good high resilience polyurethane foam mattress can feel almost as comfortable as a latex mattress!
That said, the downside is that this kind of polyurethane grade is much more expensive and not as easy to find. You should, therefore, take for granted that any polyurethane foam mattress, unless it is clearly indicated, will have either a regular grade or high-density foam.
Perhaps this is the most common type of mattress people widely used since the industrial age, as it has been made affordable. You may have also heard it as coil mattress; innerspring is probably the one type of mattress you are more familiar with. These remain one of the cheapest options on the market for a mattress, although as their technology advances, their price has risen as well.
Spring mattresses come in different categories as a result of the way the springs are placed in the mattress. There are now open springs, continuous coils, and pocket springs. The capacity and gauge of the coils will determine the level of comfort and support you get, so you should make sure to know the details if you decide you want a spring mattress. Choosing a mattress with more coils can result in more support, yet a high give could mean some loss of spinal support.
It is quite common for mattress manufacturers to add a padding layer on top of coils, so as to offer extra cushioning and enhanced comfort. This comfort layer or fillings used vary between cotton, wool, foam, polyester, silk or cashmere, coir fiber, and will determine the price of the spring mattress you get.
An advantage of spring mattresses is how you can find just the right amount of comfort and support thanks to the vast options in terms of coil arrangement, gauge and the total number of coils.
Ultimately, a spring mattress can offer near to the comfort and support of a memory foam mattress, however, it lacks in molding and contouring, so it all depends on your own taste and sleeping needs.
The traditionally connected coils are called Bonnell spring. These coils are linked on top and bottom to one another with a spiral helical wire and can be quite firm, starting at 12.5 gauge. Prices for these type of mattresses vary from low to mid-range, so they make a great option if you are on a budget.
The most advanced and trending option nowadays in spring mattresses involves individually wrapped pocketed coils. The coils are connected in a way that it allows supporting each part of the body independently. The level of support is dependent on the number and thickness of the spring. These type of coils cost more compared to the traditional ones and even climb the upper price range, depending on their specifications.
A significant downside with mattresses is how they can get sagging and it is common to observe some dipping, following systematic use. This dipping is more likely to be found on a non-reversible mattress, especially if the mattress has memory foam or latex in it as the spring will be softer.
Latex is a material which has been widely used since the 1950s and has gained increasing popularity among consumers and the mattress industry favors its use, as it is extremely comfortable and supportive. It is a kind of foam rubber which can be made of either natural or synthetic compounds and was intended to replace regular spring mattresses. This premium material is extracted from the sap of the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), which is later processed into the resulting blocks of latex foam.
These mattresses are probably one of the most healthy and eco-friendly solutions for a mattress, however the more natural they are, they tend to feel firmer than anticipated and desired.
There are several great properties that come with latex, such as the resiliency, durability and anti-microbial properties which people sensitive to allergies will surely appreciate. This material is also naturally dust-mite resistant and mold-resistant.
Latex is also very elastic by nature and quickly regains its original shape after pressure is added to it. This type of elasticity allows it to evenly distribute pressure so it caters for great support independently for each part of your body.
If you were to lay on a latex mattress, you would sense a softness comforting feel, which allows you to sink into the mattress, and seemingly support you fully.
Apart from its unique comforting feature, latex has more great qualities like its improved breathability, which makes it ideal if you tend to sleep hot or live in a warm humid climate.
Here are the 3 kinds of latex foam available on the market:
This is quite durable and it’s considerably more expensive compared to other types. It is not as common therefore to find natural latex in brand name mattresses, and if there is any, it will come in only a couple of inches (1-2) to promote the mattress as organic. See for instance the Avocado Gwen mattress. Be careful to look for the amount of natural latex used in a certain mattress.
Any mattress containing entirely natural latex will cost more than $1500.
A mixture of natural and synthetic latex in varying quantities.
100% synthetic latex
The above two, blended and 100% synthetic latex mattresses, contain petroleum-based oils and chemicals which research studies show are harmful to your health. You should take care when choosing a mattress which contains these chemicals, since even the dust and air in your household can get infected, as off-gassing or in tiny particles which are released whenever the mattress, and therefore the foam is pressed. These tiny particles get absorbed by regular dust and create chemical absorbing sponges. Exposing infants and children to these chemicals, which are the most vulnerable of the population, is highly dangerous.
What type of process is there for getting latex?
There are two distinct types: Talalay or Dunlop process.
The original process of making latex involved Dunlop.
Dunlop is denser and more supportive compared to Talalay.
Talalay, on the other hand, is softer and provides better pressure relief compared to Dunlop.
Either process can be entirely 100% synthetic, however, there is not such a thing as 100% Natural Talalay.
Memory foam including gel memory foam
Memory foam mattresses are a type of polyurethane foam named visco-elastic foam. These type of mattresses were originally developed for use by astronauts at NASA, however, as years passed by, they became affordable and therefore publicly distributed. Memory foam mattresses have several distinct attributes, the king among them how they conform to your body’s natural curves and offer better contouring and a hugging feel.
For those of you who appreciate feeling nestled and comforted when sleeping, this is definitely an ideal option for a mattress. The ability to mold into your body’s shape, offers profound medical benefits, as it enables for the sort of pressure relief you need while it leaves your sensitive areas free of substantial pain. This can prove especially beneficial if you suffer from chronic pain or an injury, as it also allows for better blood circulation.
In case you sleep with a partner, memory foam is a great option since it leaves little room for motion transfer and so you can rest assure you or your partner will sleep undisturbed.
Memory foam is also dust-mite resistant and hypoallergenic, so you shouldn’t worry much about bed bugs or allergies with this type of mattress.
On the other hand, there is always a downside of things, and memory foam is no exception. It is made of harsh chemicals and so it is not the perfect option if you are looking for a healthy mattress.
In addition, it is not the ideal choice if you are looking for a cool mattress, as generally speaking this type of material tends to sleep hot. However as you will see just below, there has been a solution found to this issue.
There are three types of memory foam:
These are made from petroleum-based ingredients and the process of manufacture remains the same as decades before.
Gel-infused or gel memory foam is a more recent trend and advancement of the traditional type of memory foam. It involves the infusion of gel into the mattress or a particular layer and benefits the user in terms of breathability as it enables a better airflow and helps to sleep cooler than regular memory foam does. It is thought that gel memory foam leaves less off-gassing compared to traditional memory foam, however, this is still not widely proven as it is a rather new product.
Plant-based memory foam grew out of the concern for the harmful effects of VOCs, temperature issues and slow response rate of traditional memory foam. This type of memory foam comes with much larger cell structure for enhanced breathability and also comes with less cost for human health and the environment as it emits really low VOCs.
Despite its pitfalls, as you can imagine, all the perks and the unique feel of memory foam come at a cost. It may be rather affordable nowadays, yet it still is significantly more expensive than the traditional spring mattress.back to menu ↑
Pros and cons of foam vs spring vs latex vs Memory foam
If you are still uncertain about which material is best for you, take a look at the following chart which lists the pros and cons of each type of material mentioned above.
All things considered, comparing the different types of materials used for mattresses doesn’t leave a clear-cut winner. There are pros and cons for each type of mattress, and it all comes down to personal preference really. There are some obvious areas where one wins over the other though.
Memory foam is definitely a winner when it comes down to pressure relief and body contouring, with latex mattresses coming close in terms of the pressure relief and comfort offered. Both memory foam and latex are hypoallergenic and dust-mite resistant, so they make a great choice if you are prone to allergies.
In addition, you will benefit from the support offered by both, whereas a polyurethane foam or spring mattress lacks in terms of back support and spine alignment. In addition, a spring mattress can be susceptible to allergies, so you may want to avoid it if you are sensitive to these things.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t consider memory foam or polyurethane foam as your first option if you tend to sleep hot. Although gel memory foam or plant-based solutions enable better breathability, we would recommend getting a latex mattress instead. In particular, if you choose natural latex, then you will ensure the best cooling sleeping surface and the most eco-friendly solution which will benefit your health.
Polyurethane foam is probably only better in terms of being lightweight, so you can easily move your poly-foam mattress around or flip it if you have to. Other than that, it lacks compared to the rest in terms of support and comfort, whereas it isn’t as durable. Instead, choose latex if you want a truly resilient and durable mattress which can last for as long as 30 years!
Overall, latex and memory foam are obviously the superior options, however, you should keep in mind the unique feel of memory foam and bouncy feeling of latex, so do give them a try if possible before proceeding with your buy. Chances are, if you are a traditional spring feel the person, you will have trouble adjusting to the memory foam feel.
Ultimately, the best kind of mattress is the one that best accommodates your needs. Price is mostly an issue, so if you are on a budget, then perhaps getting a latex or memory foam mattress is not as easy, however, do not despair; there are plenty of amazing options for these types of mattress which can deliver top quality at affordable prices. Explore our top lists to get better insights on which memory foam or latex mattress is best for you.