Is a Latex Mattress Right for Me?
There are so many good reasons to consider a latex bed, but the latex mattress remains a bit of a mystery and seems like too much of a luxury for some. Fortunately latex mattresses have become more affordable in recent years while the technology that is used to make them is more adaptable and flexible than ever. All this serves to make a latex mattress more “sleeper friendly” and accessible than ever before.
Some people are concerned about latex allergies, which can be serious and should not be dismissed out-of-hand. A latex allergy is typically a contact allergy and the latex allergy usually present when synthetic latex is used. The latex in a mattress is not in contact with the sleeper, which is the most important factor and many latex beds, especially the better ones use natural botanic latex as opposed to synthetic latex. In many cases it is not the latex itself to which people are sensitive, but it is the chemicals and solvents needed to stabilize synthetic latex.
Botanic latex comes directly from tree sap and is made into a foam rubber through the way it is processed and not via the addition of chemicals. Moreover natural botanic latex has the added benefit of being extremely resistant to dust mites and bed bugs. Latex, derived from tree sap, is excreted by the tree as a defense mechanism against bugs and other potential intruders. In many cases the latex itself is harmful to the bug. This is good news for you and I, as it will help us sleep easier without interruption from or irritation by nighttime creepy-crawlies.
Another hypoallergenic aspect of a latex mattress is that many, although not all, are also made with organic wool, cotton and other textiles. This helps further reduce the number of potential irritants and make your bed even more inviting and comforting. It is much easier to sleep when you don’t have to worry about harmful mystery materials in you mattress.
Latex mattresses also benefit from strong flame resistance and many are able to pass the Section 1633 open-flame tests without the addition of any potentially toxic fire retardant chemicals. This is not a benefit that many spring mattresses can boast. Between the large void spaces inside the mattress and the materials used for padding, coil-spring mattresses often need to be drenched in fire retardants to pass the same federal open flame tests.
While all the eco-friendly and green bona fides offer very nice benefits to the mattress, they fade into insignificance if the mattress is not comfortable and this is another area where a latex mattress excels. Offering a conforming, body molding surface that has a similar feel to memory foam, latex is extremely supportive and helps you to reach deep levels of rest and relaxation. By fully supporting your entire body a latex bed prevents hot-spots, or high pressure areas, from getting pinched, worn out or fatigued as you sleep.
This feature helps make latex one of the most sought after materials for use in a bed. Until recently, the scarcity of latex manufacturer has kept the price of latex high enough to be prohibitive for all but high-end beds. But the technology to produce natural latex foam rubber has become accessible enough that many smaller manufacturers are able to produce their own and help the cost remain affordable for the rest of us. Which is not to say a latex mattress is cheap, but it is in line with middle-of-the road mattresses now. Many latex and synthetic foam hybrid mattresses can be purchased for less that $1000 while 100% latex beds can be found that cost $1000-$2000.
A truth with spring mattresses was that thicker was better, but this is not exactly the case with a latex mattress. True, a thicker mattress has more latex in it and will cost more, but the composition of the mattress is also important. Having a mattress with multiple layers is important because different layers can help blend firm support with conforming plushness to achieve a great mattress feel that is also supportive.
Another significant factor in the cost of a latex mattress is the composition of the base layers. Many latex beds use a high-density poly-foam as the core layers due to its performance and cost effectiveness. While poly foam works very effectively, many people prefer their latex bed to be 100% latex. Using all latex does make the bed much greener as poly-foam is often derived from petroleum-based products. Be aware that a 100% latex bed will cost more than a comparable latex and poly foam hybrid bed.
Another aspect to consider is the use of glue in between the bed layers. Most manufacturers use glue to laminate the layers together and create a uniform bed system. Often gluing the layers is not strictly necessary and some greener manufacturers eschew glue as a way to make their mattress even greener. Although an unglued mattress might be slightly more prone to shifting of the layers, this is not a very common problem. Unglued beds are also less prone to off-gassing and unpleasant aromas. Most glue contains solvents and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that seep through the bed and into your bedroom. Although these dissipate over time, they can make your bed seem “smellier” than it will be after it has been in your bedroom for a few weeks.
Bed smell is another issue to consider. Memory foam beds have earned a reputation for the unpleasant aroma, especially when they are new. Although this is reduced in a latex mattress, remember that both memory foam and latex are manufactured materials. There are still some compounds that may be introduced into the latex or memory foam through the production process. This is nearly unavoidable and allowance must be made for the “new mattress” smell. It’s best if you can air your new bed out for 24 – 48 hours in direct sunlight after you receive it. The sun air will help to drive out the bad aroma.
A latex mattress is a great investment to make in your sleep comfort, but there are many things to consider before you purchase. I hope I have given you some insight and offered some useful information about this newer type of bed. Remember to ask questions from whomever you buy your bed and be sure that you are getting the bed of your dreams.