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Mattress comfort layers - latex
As a comfort layer, latex in its softer versions has as many benefits as it does when used as a core material in its firmer versions. It can be purchased in ILD's from as low as 14, similar to memory foam, and it has comparable pressure relieving qualities to memory foam as well due to its ability to form itself to the exact shape of your body profile while you are sleeping, and to do this instantly as you change positions. Latex and memory foam share this ability to form a pressure relieving cradle more than other more commonly used materials.
Because even in the softer versions it has a higher resilience and is more "supportive" than other foams, it will also help support the more recessed areas of your body, such as the lumbar, that need "filling in" and are not in close contact with the firmer support layers underneath and because of its resilience it it less motion restricting than memory foam and changing positions and other movement on the mattress easier. This also makes thicker, and in some cases more pressure relieving, comfort layers possible when needed or preferable without the same degree of risk that a thicker "pillowtop" or "eurotop" comfort layer will put your spine out of alignment.
Its other main advantage is that even in the softer versions, it is more durable than any other type of foam and will both keep its desirable qualities for longer than other foams and is not nearly as prone to body impressions and premature breakdown. Durability is especially important in the comfort layers of a mattress which are subjected to greater stresses than other deeper layers.
There are many in the industry, including one of the largest manufacturers of Talalay latex in the world, who believe that in the very softest ILD's, Talalay latex that is made completely of NR (natural rubber) may not be quite as durable or resistant to impressions as the blended version of Talalay latex in spite of the fact that it would still have greater durability than other commonly used foams. This is because Talalay latex is lighter and less dense by nature than either Dunlop latex or firmer Talalay and in ILD's that are very low, blended talalay may be a preferable choice. Blended Talalay is also less expensive than natural rubber Talalay.
Talalay latex is the most popular as a comfort layer because it can be made softer than Dunlop and is more consistent in its softness across the entire surface of the mattress. Dunlop however is also used in the comfort layers because of its firmer and less "lively" nature which is attractive to some who prefer its feel. Latex is also the most breathable of all foams and this can be an important part of temperature regulation for those who tend to sleep hot. There are also versions of Talalay latex available that are specially formulated to help regulate temperature (Celsion latex is one of them) for those who need it however even the regular forms of latex perform very well here.
As mentioned previously, the only disadvantage of latex is that it is a more expensive material than other foams however because it can be very successfully combined with other less expensive core materials such as HD or HR polyfoam or innersprings, mattresses with latex comfort layers are available at very reasonable prices and in lower budget ranges if you know where to look and how to find them.
It is also worth mentioning here that many retail outlets will call a mattress a "latex mattress" even if it has as little as 1" of latex in its construction. This is completely misleading and is simply an effort to take advantage of the known benefits of latex as a selling point even though there may not be enough latex in the mattress to make a significant difference. Only a mattress with a latex core should really be called a "latex mattress" and even here the type of comfort layer should be identified in the "category name" given to the mattress. In general terms a mattress should always be identified by both the main material in its core and in its comfort layers. This type of misinformation is often not so "accidental" and some salespeople will "insist" that a mattress is made of latex when it only has a very thin, and possibly meaningless layer. Some of the very largest brands and retail outlets are "guilty" of this. This is why it can be very important to verify the claims of some manufacturers and retail outlets before you buy a mattress... which of course we are happy to help you do in our forum.
I noticed that the lbs. per cubic foot for latex is never mentioned on this site or any other that I have found. For all other types of foam, it is important to find out the lbs. per cubic foot to be able to determine the quality of the foam. Is all latex good quality or is there a way to tell if it is good quality or bad or lower quality latex?
The density of latex (most often used for Dunlop latex and in Kg/M3) is mentioned quite often on this site, but the relationship between ILD and density in latex is different from that in polyfoam, and as all latex is generally considered to be a high quality and durable material, the ILD tends to be the more important variable to know, along with the type (Dunlop or Talalay) and approximate blend (the percentage of natural rubber and synthetic rubber) of any latex layers.
To further clarify:
In polyfoam, density is mostly independent of the softness or firmness of a foam material (both low and high densities can be made in a full range of firmness and softness levels) although they are very loosely related (in the same "variety" of foam ... then much firmer is often a little higher density than much softer but not always). Density though is the single biggest factor in the quality and durability of polyfoam and memory foam. So, density and ILD are separate items that are useful to know about the quality and softness of polyfoam.
With latex, all types of latex are generally considered high quality materials and there is a mostly direct relationship between density and firmness (higher density = higher ILD).
Talalay latex is usually accurately measured, or at least it's within a fairly narrow range, of the listed ILD. For Talalay, the higher ILD's use proportionally more latex (are denser), so knowing the ILD will tell you of the softness of the product. Knowing the density isn’t necessary for determining quality/durability like in polyfoam (but it is sometime provided), as we know there is an almost straight-line relationship between ILD and density in Talalay latex. And the latex produced in foam cores is very consistent from top to bottom because of the unique Talalay process.
Contrast this with Dunlop latex, which is more often listed by density (Kg/M3) and "word ratings" rather than ILD. With Dunlop it's probably more accurate to compare by its density than by its ILD, as there can be variations from the foam slit off the top versus the bottom of a Dunlop core, as there can be particulate settling during the Dunlop formation process. Dunlop densities typically vary between 55 to 95 kg/m³.
Either ILD in Talalay, or ILD (if it's accurate) or density for Dunlop (see post #2 here as a reference), would probably be the best way to compare relative firmness between different Dunlop layers and sources if they are the same type and blend of latex. If two layers are a different type or blend of latex then ILD ratings may not be comparable between different layers.
In the end, for a piece of latex, the firmness of the mattress is correlated to density - the more material is used, the firmer the mattress is. Hardness is the resistance against exerted pressure. Hardness and density (mass per unit volume) of latex mattresses are related or connected to each other, which is not necessarily the case with polyfoam.
I hope that helps out.
Welcome to the Mattress Forum!
I haven't seen much about Sleep on Latex they seem to have a good product.
This site itself isn’t a review site, but Sleep On Latex is a member of this site which means that I think very highly of them and that I believe that they compete well with the best in the industry in terms of their quality, value, service, knowledge, and transparency. They do offer products using high quality componentry.
Regarding “reviews” themselves, while other people's comments about the knowledge and service of a particular business can certainly be very helpful, I would be cautious about using anyone else's suggestions, experiences or reviews on a specific mattress (either positive or negative) or review sites in general as a reliable source of information or guidance about how you will feel on the same mattress or how suitable or how durable a mattress may be for you. In many if not most cases they can be more misleading than helpful because a mattress that would be a perfect choice for one person or even a larger group of people in terms of comfort, firmness, and PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and your Personal preferences) may be completely unsuitable for someone else to sleep on (even if they are in a similar weight range). In other words ... reviews or other people's experiences in general won't tell you much if anything about the suitability, quality, durability, or "value" of a mattress for any particular person (see post #13 here ).
I have back issues.
I’m sorry to hear about your back issues.
Because each person is different in terms of their physiology, weight distribution, and body shape as well as the positions they sleep in, their individual preferences, and the specifics of any back issues they may experience, there unfortunately is no such thing as a mattress that is "better for backs" in general because a mattress that is good for one person's back (or back issues) may be completely unsuitable for someone else to sleep on ... even if their body type, sleeping positions, or back issues appear to be fairly similar. There is only a mattress that keeps you in good alignment which would be best for YOUR back.
In general, what you would be looking for is a mattress with firm enough deep support and then comfort layers that are "just enough" in terms of thickness and softness to "fill in" and support the more recessed parts of your sleeping profile and relieve pressure in your most pressure prone sleeping position (usually side sleeping for those who sleep in this position) so that there is less risk to alignment in your other sleeping positions.
I'm also concerned about the chemical fire retardant that many companies use.
There is a lot of misleading information in the industry about fire retardants and "chemicals" ranging from significant "fear mongering" on one side to completely minimizing fire retardants as an issue at all on the other. Like most issues that arouse strong feelings or controversy the most reliable and "accurate" information tends to be in between both polar extremes so there is "some truth" that "some mattresses" may use some chemicals that some people would find questionable or wish to avoid.
There is also more about "safe" fire barriers in this article and post #2 here . The most common method used to pass the regulations in the mattress industry is the use of inherent, "non chemical" fire barrier fabrics that are either quilted into the cover or are wrapped around the inner materials of the mattress like a sock and foams that use fire retardant chemicals are much more common in the furniture industry than they are in the mattress industry. There are other brands who will use a wool layer as a method to pass fire retardant guidelines (such as Sleep on Latex).
I'm tired of replacing mattresses so frequently, poly foams tend to compress in short order.
This is a common complaint of many mattress shoppers, as too many offerings use lower density and lower quality materials that tend to provide a very short comfort life. When shopping for a mattress, I would always make sure that you find out the information listed here so you can compare the quality of the materials and components to the durability guidelines here to make sure there are no lower quality materials or weak links in a mattress that would be a cause for concern relative to the durability and useful life of a mattress before making any purchase.
In case you haven't read it yet ... the best place to start your mattress buying research is the mattress shopping tutorial here which includes all the basic information, steps, and guidelines that can help you make the best possible choice ... and perhaps more importantly know how and why to avoid the worst ones.
Two of the most important links in the tutorial that I would especially make sure you've read are post #2 here which has more about the different ways to choose a suitable mattress (either locally or online) that is the best "match" for you in terms of "comfort", firmness, and PPP that can help you assess and minimize the risks of making a choice that doesn't turn out as well as you hoped for and post #13 here which has more about the most important parts of the "value" of a mattress purchase which can help you make more meaningful quality/value comparisons between mattresses in terms of suitability (how well you will sleep), durability (how long you will sleep well), and the overall value of a mattress compared to your other finalists based on all the parts of your personal value equation that are most important to you (including the price of course and the options you have available after a purchase if your choice doesn't turn out as well as you hoped for).
With this information you’ll hopefully be on your way to making an informed mattress buying decision.
If you need help or have specific questions as your read through the literature, I'll do my best to be assistive.