Latex v memory foam mattress: which is best for you?

We take a deep dive into latex vs memory foam mattresses to uncover which bed is best for you.

A traditional bed in a green bedroom
(Image credit: Future)

If you're new to the world of mattresses, latex vs memory foam can be a confusing choice. They seem like pretty similar materials, so it's surprising that there's anything to separate them. However, the two are actually very different types of bed. 

In short, latex beds are organic, cool, firm, and expensive. Memory foam beds are synthetic, hot, soft, and cheap. They work for entirely different sets of sleepers. 

Thankfully, we've tested plenty of the best mattresses over the years and have lots of first-hand experience of the benefits and drawbacks of both of these beds. 

In this guide, I'll run you through the two materials and explain the detailed pros and cons of these beds. While both types of mattresses offer excellent pressure relief, allivieate back pain, and bring a great night's sleep, they don't work for everyone.

What is a latex mattress?

Latex comes from the sap of rubber trees, with the sap extracted and processed to make a dense foam material. This foam has been used since the early 20th century, mainly in seats for trams, trains and then airplanes, as well as in the first mattresses.

Tapping latex (rubber sap) from a tree in Sri Lanka. White latex flows out of a rubber tree into a collecting cup

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most mattresses use natural latex, but you will also find synthetic latex used (generally to save money). A few mattresses use a combination of natural and synthetic latex. And there are also two main types of manufacturing processes for latex. Dunlop latex is where latex is poured into a mould in one complete pour. This results in the foam feeling denser at the bottom and a little softer towards the tip. Talalay latex has latex poured into a mould that is only partially filled. Air is then added by a vacuum, which expands the latex to fill the mould. This latex is not as dense but is consistent in feel from top to bottom.

Latex offers fantastic support and a bouncier feel, but still provides excellent pressure relief. It’s also great at keeping sleepers cool. You’ll find mattresses that are all latex, but it’s also a popular material in hybrid mattresses.

What is a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam was originally developed by NASA in the 1960s to absorb shock and add protection in airplane seats. It’s made from polyurethane, which is also known as viscoelastic form and has a soft feel. The foam is contouring, with a distinctive ‘hug’ and adapts to sleepers’ bodies in response to heat and pressure. This contouring feel helps to relieve aches and pains, providing excellent pressure relief and promoting neutral spinal alignment.

A close up of an imprint of a hand in memory foam

(Image credit: Alamy)

When we talk about memory foam, we’re actually discussing a group of similar foams. This means that you’ll find memory foam available in different mattress firmness ratings and with a number of different response times. 

Memory foam mattresses are mattresses with no springs. However, memory foam mattresses do have other layers in them such as comfort foam, transition layers, zoned support and support foam.

So, what's the difference?

Obviously there will be variations in the layers you’ll find in mattresses across different brands and models, but these are the general differences between latex and memory foam mattresses. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 LatexMemory Foam
Support LayerLatexHigh density memory foam
Comfort LayerLatexMemory foam
DurabilityUp to 20 years5-7 years
FirmnessMedium-firm to firmSoft to medium-firm
Temperature regulationGoodPoor
Motion transferMediumLow

Head to head

To make things a little clearer, I asked our head of eCommerce Alex David for a direct comparison of two of our favorites of each type of mattress. 

Alex David author profile photo
Alex David

Alex is our Head of eCommerce, overseeing all our reviews content, including mattresses and bedding. After graduating from Cambridge, he first trained with the iconic Good Housekeeping Institute, reviewing a wide range of homes, pet, and garden goods. He then moved to BBC Gardeners' World, before joining Homes and Gardens. 

What are the pros of a latex mattress?

Beige bedroom with palm in blue and white pot

(Image credit: Future)

First of all, latex mattresses are particularly suited to combination sleepers, with the bouncier feel of the foam making it easy to switch positions through the night. Back and stomach sleepers should also enjoy the gentle compression of the latex. 

Latex is is also great for temperature regulation. Latex sleeps cool and many latex mattresses are aerated. These latex foams have air pockets incorporated into the mould, helping to improve airflow through the mattress. 

Natural latex is incredibly durable and you could get up to 20 years' use out of a high-quality mattress. Coupled with a lifetime warranty, that presents a great investment. However, bear in mind that synthetic latex isn’t as durable, and won't last as long. 

Because latex tends to be firm, latex beds are also very good for back pain sufferers. This also means they're good for plus-size sleepers. The firmer feel of a latex mattress means that they're supportive if you weigh more than average. Heavier sleepers won’t sink too far into the mattress and will still be supported.

Finally, and most obviously, latex mattresses are made from natural materials. There's none of the off-gassing smell you get from memory foam beds, and no chance of fibreglass.  Some latex mattresses are also organic – looks for GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) certification. 

What are the cons of a latex mattress?

The flipside is natural latex isn’t cheap because of the cost of manufacture. You’re likely to pay at least double the cost of a memory foam mattress, and more if you choose a completely organic mattress. 

On top of that, latex mattresses are unwieldy. They're essentially just a thick slab of rubber and are very dense, which means they’re heavy. If you can, always choose white glove delivery to get them into your bedroom. The heaviness does also mean that they’re harder to rotate, flip, and move around if you're renovating your bedroom. 

While latex is supportive and durable, providing support and resisting sagging, latex beds are generally firmer than many other types of mattresses.  Side sleepers and lightweight sleepers in particular may find them too firm.  

What are the pros of a memory foam mattress?

Green bedroom with rattan bed decor and quilted throw

(Image credit: Birdie Fortescue)

Memory foam adapts to your body’s shape, filling in the gaps between the body and the mattress to relieve pressure and give targeted support where it’s needed. As your weight is evenly distributed, you should notice a decrease in pain and stresses in your muscles and joints. 

Because memory foam ‘hugs’ your body it does a brilliant job of absorbing motion. This makes it a great choice if you’re a light sleeper or you share your bed with a restless partner. this also means that memory foam beds are particularly suited to side and back sleepers, with the contouring foam helping to cradle pressure points at the neck, shoulders, back and hips.

An underrated pro is that Memory foam is quiet and, even if foam starts to deteriorate a little over time, will not make any noise, unlike spring mattresses. 

What are the cons of a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam sags faster than some other materials, meaning the mattress could have a shorter shelf life. Look for mattresses with high-density foam, as this will help it last longer.

However, if you sleep on your stomach or are of a heavier build it’s likely that you’ll sink too far into the foam, meaning your spine will no longer be aligned and you’ll be lacking support.

In a similar way, the feel of memory foam is not for everyone. This slow-moving material doesn’t respond quickly to movement, meaning some sleepers could feel stuck and trapped in the mattress.

But worst of all, memory foam is notorious for trapping heat, with the foam directing heat back at sleepers. If your heart is set on a pure foam bed, look for one with added cooling elements such as breathable covers, open-cell foam or foam infused with gel, copper or carbon.

Buy latex if...

  • You want a natural or even fully organic mattress.
  • You want a faster response time to change position quickly.
  • You want more bounce.
  • You want a mattress to help with back pain.
  • You are of a heavier build.

Buy memory foam if...

  • You enjoy sleeping ‘in’ your mattress and want the contouring hug of memory foam.
  • You are a side or back sleeper and want your pressure points cradled.
  • You want a bed with low motion transfer, so a restless partner won’t disturb you. 
  • You want a cheaper option pricewise.


Are latex mattresses good for allergies and bed bugs?

Yes, latex mattresses are hypoallergenic, resisting mold and mildew that can cause allergies. Because they're made of thick rubber, it can be hard for bed beds to cling onto them, reducing the chance of bed bugs. 

Do memory foam mattresses have fibreglass?

They can - the Nectar mattress featured above contained fibreglass as a fire retardant. However, this fibreglass is contained in the body of the mattress. the only way to expose it is to cut open your mattress, which you should never do. 

Of course, both of these types of bed might not work for you. You should also consider innerspring or hybrid beds, as these might be a little cooler and less expensive. 

Jo Plumridge

Jo Plumridge is a freelance writer and photographer with over 20 years of experience writing for a variety of magazines, websites and books. She writes, perhaps unsurprisingly, about photography, but also on all things interior design and sleep-related, alongside reviews of home and tech products. Jo loves exploring the latest design trends, although she’s yet to find a carpet that doesn’t show up the cat hair from the cats she and her husband foster.