When selecting a new mattress, people can choose between a memory foam mattress and a latex mattress. There are several similarities and differences between the two.

One of the key differences is that memory foam mattresses readily adjust their shape in response to pressure, whereas latex mattresses tend to feel more resistant or bouncy.

In this article, we examine the differences between memory foam and latex mattresses. We also outline some factors to consider when choosing between these two mattress types.

Memory foam is a synthetic material that adjusts its shape in response to heat and pressure.

One or more layers of this material make up a memory foam mattress. These mattresses are available in the following forms:

Foam mattress

This type of mattress comprises several layers of foam. The base may consist of a firm foam support layer, while a more comfortable foam layer may sit at the top.

Hybrid mattress

Hybrid mattresses use springs as the support layer and have a memory foam upper layer.

Pros of a memory foam mattress

Memory foam mattresses have several potential advantages over traditional spring-based mattresses. The pros include:

  • Supports and contours the body: Memory foam precisely conforms to the shape of the body, which some people may find more comfortable.
  • Supports back and side sleepers: Due to the way in which memory foam mattresses contour the body, they are most suited to people who sleep on their back or side.
  • Inhibits motion transfer: Memory foam does not allow motion to transfer across the bed. As a result, a person is less likely to wake a sleeping partner as a result of shifting positions during the night.
  • Provides resistance to dust mites: Dust mites are less able to thrive in foam mattresses than in other types due to the density of the material.
  • Optional trial periods: Most mattress suppliers offer extended return periods and long warranties to allow customers to test their products.

Cons of a memory foam mattress

A memory foam mattress may not be the best option for everyone. The potential cons of memory foam mattresses include:

  • Less suited to stomach sleepers: These mattresses may be too firm for people who sleep on their stomach.
  • Increased heat retention: Foam mattresses are dense and retain heat, so they may not be suitable for people who get hot during sleep.
  • Off-gassing: New mattresses can release strong smelling gases. A 2019 study found that foam mattresses release gases called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). However, the study did not investigate whether the levels of VOCs that the mattresses emitted were harmful to health.

A latex mattress is comprised of natural or synthetic rubber. Unlike a foam mattress, a latex mattress typically has some spring to it. If a person pushes into the mattress, the mattress will push back.

Pros of a latex mattress

Some potential benefits of a latex mattress are:

  • Conforms to the body: Latex will conform to the general impressions that the body makes. However, it is more resistant than memory foam, meaning that it will feel more bouncy overall. Some people may prefer this feeling.
  • May use natural materials: Latex mattresses may consist of natural or synthetic material. Natural latex mattresses are a more environmentally friendly option.
  • Promotes airflow: Latex mattresses contain small holes that allow air to flow through the mattress. This airflow should help keep a person cooler during sleep.
  • Helps control allergies: Latex material offers resistance to mold, mildew, and allergens.
  • Durability: Latex is a strong material that can last for many years.

Cons of a latex mattress

A latex mattress may not be the most suitable choice for everyone. Some potential cons are:

  • Latex allergies: Latex mattresses are not suitable for people who have a latex allergy.
  • Motion transfer: In comparison with memory foam, latex is bouncy and has a quick rebound time, making it less likely to inhibit motion transfer.
  • Initial odor: As with memory foam mattresses, latex mattresses may have an initial odor. However, this should disappear after a few weeks.
  • Increased mattress weight: Latex mattresses tend to be heavy, so they are more difficult to move.
  • Increased cost: Latex mattresses can be more expensive than other types of mattresses.

There are many different factors to consider when choosing between a memory foam or latex mattress. The table below provides a side-by-side comparison of the two mattresses.

BenefitMemory foamLatex
Cooling effectX
Good for allergies✔*
Options for side, back, or stomach sleepers
Helps prevent aches and pains
Mold resistantX
Dust mite resistant✔**

*People who are allergic to latex should avoid latex mattresses.

**Natural latex is resistant to dust mites.

Memory foam precisely conforms to the shape of a person’s body. As such, it may help align the neck and spine while easing pressure on the joints. A memory foam mattress might, therefore, be beneficial for people with muscle or joint pain.

However, a 2017 study found that a memory foam mattress provided less pressure point support than a latex mattress. It also reported that the memory foam mattress supported fewer sleeping positions.

A separate 2014 meta-analysis found no significant difference between the amount of support that a foam mattress and a waterbed mattress provided.

A person should be wary of claims that a mattress helps with various conditions or will reduce pain. Instead, wherever possible, they should try the mattress out for themselves. Many companies offer a trial period in which a person can return the mattress for free if it is not suitable.

Latex conforms somewhat to the shape of a person’s body. In this way, it helps distribute the weight of the body more evenly while easing pressure on the joints.

A 2016 study found that a latex mattress was more effective in dispersing weight and relieving pressure points than a foam mattress. The findings also indicated that latex mattresses provide better support for side, back, and stomach sleepers.

Memory foam mattresses and latex mattresses may both offer support for the neck and back while alleviating pressure on the joints.

Memory foam is made of synthetic material that precisely conforms to a person’s body shape. It may be most suitable for people who sleep on their back or side.

Latex mattresses can be composed of natural or synthetic material. Latex conforms somewhat to a person’s body shape, but it tends to be more resilient than memory foam and may feel bouncy under pressure.

A person who is looking to buy a new mattress should read reviews of both the company and their preferred mattress. Those with medical conditions can ask a doctor for mattress recommendations.