When it comes to mattress types, latex and innersprings couldn’t be more different. They have different feels, different support levels, different components, even different weights.
While only you can decide which mattress fits your personal preferences and sleep needs, we definitely think one is better than the other when it comes to the latex vs innerspring debate. Let’s talk about which that is and why.
What is a Latex Mattress?
Latex is a natural substance made from the processed sap of the rubber tree. Latex isn’t just used to make mattresses; it goes in everything from paint to balloons to gloves to tires and even chewing gum.
The latex foam mattresses are cushioning, durable, supportive, and naturally cooling. It also quickly bounces back to its original shape, giving it a springy feel that memory foam doesn’t have. Perhaps best of all, natural organic latex is one of the most non-toxic and pure mattress materials on the market today.
Parts of a Latex Mattress
A latex mattress usually comes in a configuration of three foam layers: the comfort layer, transition layer, and support layer.
The top layer of a latex mattress is made of soft, cushioning foam. This is the layer you sleep on, and it’s meant to cradle and support your body to relieve pressure on your joints and promote spinal alignment.
The transition layer of a latex mattress is made of more durable foam and placed between the comfort and support layers to protect you from pressure caused by the firm bottom layer.
The support layer is the firmest foam of all, and it helps a latex mattress maintain its shape and prevent sagging.
Types of Latex
There aren’t different types of raw latex—all latex is the same until it’s processed. Natural latex can undergo one of two main processing methods: Dunlop and Talalay. These processing methods create different feels and different densities. While these differences aren’t extreme, they might be enough to influence your buying decisions.
Dunlop latex is made using the most energy-efficient latex processing method. In this method, liquid latex is whipped into a foam, poured into a mold, and zapped in a vulcanization oven. After vulcanization, the solid foam is washed and dried. This process creates a denser, heavier foam than Talalay.
The Talalay process is less efficient and more expensive than Dunlop. Before vulcanization, the liquid latex must be whipped into a foam, poured halfway up a mold, and allowed to proof inside the mold until it expands to fit it. The proofed latex is then flash-frozen, vulcanized, washed, and dried. This makes for a lighter, bouncier, but more expensive latex.
One thing to note about Talalay latex is it can’t be organic. Because it contains polyurethane fillers, it’s not all-natural. However, this does not make it unsafe to sleep on. It simply means only Dunlop latex can be certified organic.
Synthetic latex is made from petroleum products called Styrene and Butadiene. For this reason, synthetic latex is also known as Styrene-Butadiene Rubber (SBR).
While SBR attempts to mimic the properties of latex, it doesn’t offer the same support or cushioning, which is why it’s usually found in cheaper, lower-quality mattresses. SBR can also be used in things like yoga mats and shoe soles.
Pros and Cons of Latex Mattresses
Natural latex mattresses have a lot of great attributes, but they have a few drawbacks as well:
- Organic latex is all-natural and free of toxic chemicals
- Springy and responsive
- Naturally cool
- Highly durable
- Offers support and pressure relief
- Won’t off-gas (emit harmful gasses called Volatile Organic Compounds)
- Hypoallergenic (for those without latex allergies)
- Heavy and hard to move
- Not as contouring as memory foam
- Lack of coil core can reduce airflow
What is an Innerspring Mattress?
Innerspring mattresses are made with a network of springs topped with a layer of plush materials like cotton, wool, fiberfill, etc. Usually, this layer is fairly thin compared to the support layer of the bed.
Innerspring mattresses have a lot of bounce, and the coil network encourages airflow. However, the coils from an innerspring mattress may cause pain in pressure points, and innerspring beds are not good at isolating motion. They also don’t offer the same contoured support as latex.
Parts of an Innerspring Mattress
Innersprings typically only have two layers—the comfort layer and the support layer.
The comfort layer of an innerspring mattress is typically thinner than other mattress types unless it has a pillow top. Pillow tops are usually a couple of inches thick, and they sit on top of the comfort layer to provide extra cushioning.
Like the comfort layer of an innerspring, a pillow top is often made of cotton, wool, or fiberfill, though it can be made of foam as well.
The support layer of an innerspring is made of coils, but there are several different types:
- Bonnell Coils – hourglass-shaped coils wired together around the edges
- Offset Coils – another hourglass coil, it has square edges instead of round ones
- Continuous Coils – S-shaped coils interlinked with long wires
- Pocketed Coils – individual coils wrapped in their own pocket
Of all the coil supports, pocketed coils offer the most durability and motion isolation.
Pros and Cons of Innersprings
Innersprings are cool and have a lot of responsiveness, but they do have some issues to watch out for:
- Coils allow for tons of air circulation
- Good if you like a bouncy mattress
- Lightweight and easy to move
- Coils can put pressure on joints
- Doesn’t offer contoured support
- Coils break down and cause sagging
- Thin comfort layer offers little padding
- Not durable
Are there other types of mattresses?
Yes, there are four major mattress types. Aside from latex and innerspring mattresses, you also have hybrid and memory foam beds. Memory foam is a type of polyurethane foam specially designed to cradle and cushion the human body. Memory foam mattresses offer the most contoured support of all the bedding materials (though the springier latex is a close second).
Hybrids, meanwhile, combine a pocketed coil support layer with at least two inches of foam. Hybrid mattresses offer a lot of the positive aspects of both innerspring and foam mattresses. They’re responsive, cool, and cushioning, but they cost more than other mattresses—sometimes a lot more.
Do all innersprings come with a pillow top?
Not every spring mattress is a pillow top mattress. Some just come with a standard comfort layer. Pillow tops add to a mattress’s cost, and they also prevent you from flipping it. So some people prefer an innerspring without a pillow top, even though it’s less cushioning.
What’s the difference between an innerspring and a hybrid?
A hybrid offers much more cushioning and contoured support than an innerspring bed. Hybrids also never come with any support layer other than a pocketed coil one, so they’re more durable and better at isolating motion transfer than innersprings.
Possibly the biggest difference between hybrids and innerspring beds is the cost. Innersprings are generally the cheapest mattress while hybrids are the most expensive.
Is latex better than memory foam?
However, the best one for you depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a springier mattress that will bounce back to its original shape as soon as you change position, go for a latex bed. If you want a mattress that will conform to your unique shape to offer customizable support, memory foam may be a better option for you.
Latex mattresses are also cooler and more durable than memory foam, while memory foam is more budget-friendly and lighter than latex. It all depends on which attributes you prioritize.
Do I need a certified latex mattress?
If you want only the most non-toxic organic product, then you do need to get one that’s certified. Organic mattresses often have Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certified latex. To apply for this certification, latex product manufacturers (including mattress manufacturers) must prove they adhere to strict ethical, environmental, and safety standards.
These standards are meant to protect consumers, workers, and the planet alike, so you can rest assured that any mattress sporting the GOLS label has only the safest and most ethical organic latex.
Who should sleep on a latex or innerspring mattress?
Your sleep style and body type dictate the mattress firmness you need more than what material you need. For instance, side sleepers would need a medium mattress while stomach sleepers would do better on medium-firm, but sleepers who prefer either position can still pick any material they like.
That means your preferences are the most important factor in what type of mattress you choose. If you sleep hot or like a bouncy bed, an innerspring might be the best choice for you. But if you like contoured support or want a plant-based mattress, then you will probably prefer latex.
Latex is also the material for you if you want a durable mattress that will last many years. Latex is a good choice for back pain sufferers as well since it is better at promoting alignment in the spine.
The differences between latex and coil mattresses couldn’t be starker, but if we had to pick one to recommend, it would be the latex mattress. Latex mattresses are more contouring, more supportive, and more cushioning than innerspring mattresses. They’ll do a better job of cradling your pressure points and supporting your body.
Of course, if you just can’t live without the bounce of an innerspring, you could always get a latex hybrid!
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.