Latex Mattress vs Latex Mattress Toppers: What Should You Buy?
The decision to start shopping for new bedding material can be daunting. There are hundreds of products out there and often you’re not really sure what’s the best decision.
We all get here eventually. Your once trusted mattress is no longer giving you the luxurious night’s sleep it once did. From the onset of sudden back pain to restless nights and fatigued mornings, you usually know when it’s time to look for a new bedding solution.
We know that our bodies need solid (and regular) sleep to function properly, so the next logical step would be to start researching solutions. Do you look for a new mattress? What about a mattress topper? Both products have their own advantages and disadvantages and will give you different results. But how do you know what’s best- for both your body and your wallet?
To make the best decision possible, start by taking an in-depth look at what each purchase is and what benefits they can give you. Having a greater understanding of each product can help you make a more informed decision.
Why You Should Buy Latex
Latex is an emerging material in the bedding industry and is quickly gaining in popularity for its weightless, almost buoyant feel and natural health benefits. When compared to traditional spring and memory foam mattresses, latex has a longer lifespan (they’ve been known to last up to 20 years).
Latex foam is derived from the sap of rubber trees before it is turned into a foam core for each mattress. The process is chemical-free and uses all natural solutions (no petroleum-based foams), making it the most natural mattress material on the market.
Dunlop and Talalay Latex
The important thing to know before buying a latex mattress or latex mattress topper is that there are two types, Dunlop and Talalay and that they’re actually quite different. For both Dunlop and Talalay latex, the process starts at a rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis) often found in South America. Latex is found in the sap collected from the rubber tree (a process similar to maple syrup extraction) and is then brought back to the facility where it is combined with all natural ingredients. The extract is later whipped to form an airy batter in a process similar to making a meringue with eggs. The Dunlop and Talalay processes start to differentiate from there.
Dunlop latex batter is placed into a mold on top of a conveyor belt and is left to naturally harden. This process produces latex foam that is denser, more firm, and often inconsistent. The inconsistency is derived from the process because the batter is left to harden naturally- and some particles will become firm before others, offering an inconsistent feel from top to bottom.
The Talalay latex process starts like the Dunlop process but changes course once the batter is ready to be placed into the mold. The Talalay process compresses and vacuum seals the batter, and the batter is then flash frozen and then baked, giving it a more consistent density throughout the mattress. Talalay latex foam overall feels more buoyant than Dunlop latex foam and people often note feeling “weightless”. It also has an open cell structure, making it a more breathable in a final foam state, and the latex foam helps those who tend to sleep hot. The flash freezing process also allows us to make Talalay latex as firm or as soft as needed for our unique comfort layers. (The more batter that’s poured into the mold, the firmer the mattress foam will be.) Where a 100% Dunlop latex can feel firmer, a 100% Talalay latex mattress will feel softer and more contouring.
Latex Mattresses: What is it?
We know that latex is a great material to use in luxury bedding, but why buy a mattress that is 100% latex? What benefits do you, the consumer, get?
Because latex mattresses are made from all natural ingredients, they are completely hypoallergenic. The Ohio State University Acarology Lab released a video featuring millions of dust mites, showcasing how old mattresses collect dead skin cells and sweat/ mold from wear over time, attracting dust mites and other bugs. While the dust mites are themselves relatively harmless, their feces leave particles that many are allergic to. Dust mite allergies can cause sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, and sinus pressure. Latex mattresses are naturally resistant to dust mites and the mildew, mold, and bacteria that can grow on spring and memory foam mattresses. Simply put, they’re the cleanest mattress on the market.
Latex mattresses also have a naturally open cell structure, so they’re more breathable and provide better temperature regulation. You’ll sleep both hot and cold when your body needs to. Latex also offers a unique conforming sensation when compared to memory foam or spring mattresses. When you lay on memory foam, it will sink slowly around you. Latex foam resembles memory foam aesthetically, but in fact, it feels and acts in an almost complete opposite fashion. While memory foam slowly sinks out, latex springs back, and in that sense, it’s a material that is more similar to a premium “coil-on-coil” type innerspring mattress.
Latex Mattress Topper: What is it?
A latex topper is a sheet of latex foam that you can place on top of any mattress to alter the comfort level to your liking. Toppers come in a variety of thickness and sizes (usually 1/2-4 inches). Latex toppers are most popular because they are a faster and cheaper solution to quickly adjust firmness levels of any mattress. For example, if your sleeping partner is finding it difficult to sleep on your new mattress, a half-size topper can be a quick win instead of purchasing another new mattress altogether.
What’s right for you- a latex mattress or a latex mattress topper? First, it’s important to examine why you want new bedding to begin with. Below you’ll find a few common scenarios for those looking to purchase new bedding to help you decide if a mattress or mattress topper suits your needs the best.
I need help with pain management.
If you’re waking up with pain, try to find the root of your problem. Are you experiencing upper back pain? Lower back pain?
Depending on how long you’ve had it or the level of wear and tear, your existing mattress could be the root of your problem. Consider looking for a new mattress entirely. Latex is a great material for pain management because it provides optimal support for your body and promotes increased circulation and blood flow. The latex conforms to your body without putting stress on your pressure points.
A latex mattress could be your best solution for a comfortable, pain-free sleep. A 100% latex mattress, a mattress with a core only made of latex (in lieu of synthetic latex and memory foam combinations) will also provide additional comfort.
I want to save money.
Both mattresses and mattress toppers can be a big investment, especially when you’re beginning to shop for a ultra-luxury latex foam topper. Latex mattress toppers are actually pretty costly compared to memory foam toppers because latex is an expensive material to work with. If your mattress is newer and you just need a quick solution to adjust the level of firmness, a topper may be a good solution. However, If you have an older mattress and are cost conscious, you should consider buying a new mattress. A topper will only be a band-aid solution and you’ll likely be mattress shopping again within a year or two anyway.
I want to save my old mattress.
It’s never fun to say goodbye to a great mattress, but it happens to everyone eventually. In fact, Sleep Council recommends switching a mattress out every 7 years.
If you’re trying to breathe new life into your old mattress, you might want to think twice. Like we mentioned above, a topper is really only a temporary solution to fix an old mattress. You’ll have to buy a new mattress in a year or so anyway, so save your money for a more permanent solution.
I want to mimic the feeling and benefits of a latex mattress.
Mattresses that are 100% latex have a unique, weightless feeling that can’t be reproduced. If you have a memory foam or spring mattress and purchase a latex topper to try to mimic the 100% latex feeling, you’ll be left disappointed.
When shopping for a latex mattress (or topper), it’s also important to note that there are different blends available. Not all latex mattresses can claim they have 100% Talalay latex. Most offer a combination of Talalay, Dunlop, memory foam, springs, or synthetic foams. A hybrid mattress with a latex as a topper will also not give you the same feeling as a mattress that’s 100% Talalay latex. Do your research before you buy.
I want to fix the dip in my mattress.
As we mentioned above, it’s recommended to switch out a mattress every 7 years (consumer reports. If your mattress has visible signs of wear, like dips and tears in the fabric, it’s better to get an entirely new mattress instead of purchasing a topper. Toppers conform to your existing mattress (dips and all), so if it’s more worn your topper will just follow suit. Not only will you be out several hundred dollars, you’ll have to buy a new mattress anyway.
Latex Mattress vs. Latex Topper
The best time to buy a new latex mattress topper is when you have a newer mattress and you want to slightly adjust its comfort level. For example, if you find your new mattress to be slightly too firm but your mattress warranty is up, a topper could be an ideal solution.
Overall, mattress toppers are supposed to enhance the mattress that you have, not turn a bad mattress into a luxury product. It’s temporary. The topper will form to the underlying foundation of the mattress, so if it’s sagging or wearing, the topper will too. It’s not a magical cure. The topper will actually also wear in that direction over time.
When shopping for a new mattress or mattress topper, remember to ask yourself, “Why am I here? Why am I looking?” Your ideal solution will make itself known from a quick investigation. Bedding shopping can be tricky (and confusing), but a little bit of research can go a long way.