Recently we both started experiencing some significant back pain, bad enough that we’d wake up with it every morning. We tried managing the pain with ibuprofen, Salonpas, and Icy Hot. And we went through the usual analysis in our heads: Are we dealing with compression? Another back problem? An issue related to prior surgery? After many months of torment, the Aha! moment was anti-climactic: our mattress was killing our backs.
Mattress Shopping Fun, or Lack Of
If there’s one shopping experience that’s significantly painful, and intentionally made so by the manufacturers and retailers, it’s looking for a new mattress. Just like with carpet, the big-S manufacturers (Sealy, Simmons, Serta, Spring-Air, Stearns & Foster) do not sell the same mattress model to more than one retailer. They do this specifically to prevent the end consumer from doing any sort of legitimate comparison test, and moreover it allows the mattress retailers to set their own completely arbitrary price. They have quite a racket going. It’s so difficult that even Consumer Reports basically refuses to compare and rate mattresses.
Choices in Mattress Materials
Mattresses are manufactured with basically a few options.
The most common mattresses sold are innerspring mattresses. If you were to rip open a common mattress purchased at a big-box store, you’d probably be shocked by what you’re paying big bucks for. It has a bunch of rather uncomfortable springs, egg crate foam, maybe some other fillers, and a lot of expensive air. No wonder the stores never show a cross section of what they’re selling you. The difference between a $300 spring mattress and a $1,000 spring mattress will be based upon the number of coils, whether they are wrapped in some thin fabric, how pretty the outer cover is (which gets covered up by your sheets anyways), and how magical and extensive the marketing budget was to sell it to you. None of our LP friends we have polled have found innerspring mattreses to be comfortable for our bodies or provide adequate support for our backs (whether one might be experiencing kyphosis, lordosis, scoliosis, or just a sore back).
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam mattresses are very popular right now and are filled with polyurethane (synthetic) memory foam. Some of the higher-end innerspring mattresses will include a layer of memory foam. Unfortunately usually this layer is the very top layer and the manufacturer will use a very thin/cheap layer which wears out and sags, pretty much negating the added value of the memory foam and possibly decreasing your comfort level. Many of our LP and AH friends rave about their memory foam mattresses. It helps that they are very affordable and also available in toppers for innerspring mattresses.
High-End (special) mattresses are associated with a huge advertising budget and similar prices. Some of these brands include the Sleep Number Bed and Tempurpedic. Many people are extremely happy with these beds (including a family member who raves about their Tempurpedic), but we’ve researched them and based upon trying them in the store, we just don’t get the appeal for the price. Dwarf Dad has slept on a Sleep Number Bed in a hotel and it felt like a big AeroBed or something you’d sleep on during a sleepover at a friend’s house. And it sounded like one too since when you increase/decrease your Sleep Number, you are adding or removing air from the mattress. The Tempurpedic mattresses, especially the high-end ones, seem nice to lay in but they are massively expensive and can range as high as $6,000.
Latex Mattress Review
Latex Mattresses have been used since the 1920’s but fell out of favor due to the low cost of innerspring mattresess. The word Latex is commonly used to refer to natural latex rubber, which can be produced by extracting the sap from the rubber tree (Dwarf Dad has witnessed this during a tour in Malaysia). It also can be made synthetically which is how latex is commonly made for gloves, condoms, balloons, and other uses. Latex is poured into mattresesses using one of two techniques: Dunlop and Talalay. The Dunlop process creates a more dense, heavier product. A Talalay mattress is created by pouring less latex into a mold which is then sealed into a vacuum chamber where all air is removed, then it’s flash frozen and baked. A good analogy we’ve seen is that Talalay is like angel food cake while Dunlop is like pound cake. You can definitely feel the difference by laying on both types of mattresses. Many of the online gurus will recommend a dunlop core with a talalay upper comfort layer, but we’ve been happy with a pure Talalay core.
Latex Mattress Density
When you purchase a Latex Mattress, you will be given a choice of density (firmness) for your mattress. Latex mattresses come in a range of firmness (called ILD or Indentation Load Deflection, which is the standard numbering system for rating firmness of foam) ranging from 14 (Super Plush/Soft) to 44 (Super Firm/Hard). Latex International’s Talalay cores come in 7 separate ILD’s. So we suggest you try laying on them in the store for as long as possible (at least 5 minutes) to get a true feeling for their comfort level.
Latex Mattresses and Latex Allergies
There is some concern over the choice of Latex for mattresses due to latex allergies. From what we’ve read, there have been only a few allergic reactions to latex throughout history and this is usually where a pure latex product made with a “cold-dipped” method is applied directly to the skin such as with surgical gloves. With a latex mattress, you’re never sleeping directly on the mattress as it will always be covered with the mattress cover, along with your sheets, blankets, etc. Moreover, latex mattresses go through a five-stage washing process at the factory which should remove any proteins that can cause an allergic reaction. We have not been able to find a single report of an allergic reaction to latex mattresses or pillows online.
The Best Mattress for a Bad Back
After visiting one too many mattress stores (along with Macy’s and other local furniture retailers), we came to a shared conclusion: innerspring mattresses are not good for sensitive backs or backs needing firm support. It’s simple enough to say that the springs just hurt the back and there’s no way around having painful pressure points from the springs, no matter how expensive a cover you put on the mattress. Eventually the upper layer will wear down and you’ll be bearing down with your shoulder blade right on top of a spring all night long. Also, it doesn’t seem to help LP’s with lordosis or scoliosis. By going back and forth laying on spring and non-spring mattresses, it was obvious that a solid mattress would be a much better choice. So the decision had to come down to memory foam or latex. Tempurpedic was out due to the exorbitant cost, so we were left looking at Tempurpedic knock-offs and other similar options. Memory Foam does not have to be expensive! You can buy a highly-rated LUCID by LinenSpa 10 Memory Foam Mattress on Amazon with a 20-Year Warranty for around $300. This makes you wonder why Tempurpedic can cost 10 times as much, right? Costco also has some memory foam alternatives, such as the Sleep Science Latex Comfort. But the LUCID by LinenSpa is much cheaper and seems to be better reviewed. We decided to go with latex due to a subtle feel difference: latex will immediately provide a nice, cushiony feeling, whereas memory foam needs time to ”warm up’ and soften to mold around your body. We’ve also read about people waking up in the middle of the night and being boxed into their body cavity by a memory foam mattress that they had to crawl out of to go pee. Not too fun for LP’s with who have short limbs! Latex will immediately provide that give and also spring back when you get out. There are also a few other reasons we went with latex, which are important:
- Latex is hypoallergenic, will not harbor dust mites and is naturally resistant to mold and mildew. This is very important for our family which suffers with many types of allergies.
- Latex is pierced with holes which allows for the material to breathe. Memory Foam is associated with becoming very hot overnight (which is why the big retailers are coming out with gel-infused memory foam) and latex traditionally does not have this problem.
- A natural latex mattress (especially made with the Talalay process) can be flipped (and is light enough to do so, even for two dwarf parents) to help even out the wear. Many of the modern mattresses are one-sided and not able to be flipped, so all the wear is on one side. And the memory foam mattresses are so big and unwieldy, there’s no possible way an achon and pseudo will be flipping that mattress!
- Latex generally prevents motion transfer (as can be seen in the Tempurpedic commercial with the wife walking on the bed and not spilling the glass of wine).
- A latex mattress should last 20-30 years!
- Sleeping on the latex mattress (and even just laying on it) just feels darn good. Try one out , and we think you’ll agree. Try going back and forth between an innerspring mattress and a latex mattress in the store, then see if you want to buy the innerspring one!
- You can get a 100% latex mattress core that is only 6 inches high, and that is now the height of our mattress. This is obviously very useful for short people to get in and out of the bed.
Latex Mattress Shopping
There is one difficulty with shopping for a latex mattress, and that’s dealing with the local retailers. Due to their relatively higher price point (we paid $1,300 for a 6″ Talalay queen core wrapped in bamboo), your local Mattress Discounters, Sleep Train, or other store will not flood their showroom floor with latex. When we originally started shopping, we almost purchased a Vera Wang latex mattress at Sleep Train until we did some research and found out it was only partially latex. Don’t be surprised if the retailer is not fully honest or forthcoming with you regarding this point: the salesperson will tell you it’s a latex mattress, and the sign will say latex mattress, but most likely it’s an innerspring mattress with a couple inches of latex on top, and then some cheap memory foam on top of the latex. We eventually found message boards where the owners of the Vera Wang mattress were fuming at how their high-priced mattress wore out early. To add insult to injury, Sleep Train no longer carries the partial-latex mattresses.
Based upon our research, we decided it made sense to get a mattress with 100% latex. After all, why would you want to taint your nice solid core of latex with memory foam, springs, or other fillers? But good luck finding many options for a solid latex mattress. For example, the most expensive latex mattress online at Macy’s (iComfort by Serta), which lists for $9,000, is made of the following comfort layers: Gel Memory Foam, Gel Memory Foam, Gel Energy Latex Foam, and Memory Foam (this doesn’t include the base!). A very expensive Aireloom mattress has memory foam, memory foam, latex, latex, memory foam, memory foam foam, and then springs. One resource we found helpful in our search is The Mattress Underground. In addition to their helpful articles, they have a message board where you can find local retailers that sell latex mattresses. In our case, we ended up with a mom-and-pop shop that has been in business for over 50 years. Their product is very simple: they order a 6″ latex core from Latex International and wrap it in a beautiful bamboo cover. The end product is very simplistic and feels great. Since we have a platform bed, we added a bunky board for support (they sell those too) and we have an amazingly comfortable mattress that is only 6 inches high plus the bunky board. And the best result: no more back pain! If we haven’t convinced you, consider trying out a Latex Pillow. After all with Amazon you have 30 days to return it if you don’t like it. A Talalay latex pillow will give you a good idea of a how the bed will feel. But for those of you who might have cervical spinal stenosis, you may be better off with an old, flattened pillow. Dwarf Mama tried a latex pillow and felt it inflamed her cervical compression, possibly due to how thick and supportive it was (causing extended flexion of the neck while sleeping), was while her old foam pillow is worn out and flat. Another option would be to try out a latex mattress topper. This won’t completely give you the feel of a latex bed, but if your old sagging innerspring mattress is hurting your back, a new solid latex topper might provide a world of relief.
Latex Mattress Disadvantages
To be fair, there are some downsides to latex mattresses we should let you know about. First, they are still relatively heavy (especially those made with a Dunlop core) compared to an innerspring mattress. You can definitely find an innerspring mattress cheaper than a solid latex mattress. And lastly, a Talalay latex mattress will have glued-together sections (a queen Talalay mattress has 2 sections). We have never noticed the seam in our latex mattress. And we can’t forget the most important disadvantage of a latex mattress: ever since we purchased our new mattress, our son won’t stop coming into our bed in the middle of the night! He says his mattress is not soft like ours, so now we have to buy yet another latex mattress for him as well. To his credit, we can’t stand the thought of sleeping on his organic cotton orthopedic mattress, either.
A hybrid solution?
If you’re still torn between the various options, check out the DreamFoam Ultimate Dreams Mattress. At around $600 for a Queen, it’s a combination of Talalay Latex and High Density Base Foam, made in the USA, and fully customizable. Good luck with mattress shopping! Have you found a great mattress resource? Let us know!
Best-Selling Latex Mattresses at Amazon
Here’s the current top-selling latex mattresses at Amazon to give you some shopping ideas:
- 6.5-inch, high-quality steel coils are individually-wrapped to increase airflow, isolate motion, and conform to individual sleep styles
- Plush memory foam layer is topped with natural latex for the perfect combination of sink and spring
- Perfect mattress for those who want the comfort of memory foam with the hypoallergenic and breathable properties of latex
- Attractive, two-tone cover finishes the elegant look of this mattress; backed by a 10-year warranty against manufacturer defects
- Compressed, rolled, and shipped in a box for simple setup; easily fits through narrow hallways and staircases
- Mattress comes compressed and rolled for shipping and easy setup
- Backed by a 10-year warranty against manufacturer defects
- 100 NIGHT RISK-FREE TRIAL: IF YOU ARE UNSATISFIED WITH THIS MATTRESS, YOU CAN RETURN IT FOR A FULL REFUND UP TO 100 DAYS FROM DATE OF RECEIPT
- 3-layer comfort: 2-inch cooling gel-infused alternative-latex top layer, 3-inch support-foam middle layer with airflow channels for breathability, and 7-inch durable foam base
- Instant support: responsive top layer made of LURAcor alternative-latex foam offers more bouncy rebound and less “sink” compared to traditional memory foam; helps keep spine in alignment and provides relief to shoulders, hips, and other pressure points
- Firm feel: promotes a restful night's sleep for any body type and sleeping position (front, side, or back)
- Premium quality: hypoallergenic, CertiPUR-US certified, and made in the USA of domestic and imported parts; luxurious quilted cover for extra softness
- Convenience and warranty: vacuum packed and shipped directly to ensure simple setup; please allow up to 72 hours for mattress to reach full height; backed by an Amazon Basics 10-year limited warranty
- Filled with 100% Organic Latex Foam (GOLS Certified) - No Poly Foam, No Synthetic Latex Foam, No Springs
- Quilted Cover Made of Organic Cotton and Organic New Zealand Wool - Designed, Sewn, Assembled and Packaged in our Chicago Factory
- Firm Support - 6” Firm Organic Latex Foam Base Layer - 2” Medium Organic Latex Foam Comfort Layer - Organic Wool Padding
- GOTS Certified Organic, Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Certified, UL Greenguard Gold Certified
- No Assembly Required - Simply place the mattress on your bed frame, unroll the plastic wrap, and your mattresses will spring to life!
- Natural latex king mattress top layer adopts Talalay Latex technology, a healthier manufacturing process without gellation reagents in its formula, combines with our strict purity standards to ensure that you rest peacefully on your new mattress from the very first night. There are no off-putting smells or irritants, and no need to wait days for your mattress to "air out" . Mattress King Size Dimension: 80"X76"X8"
- Classic Independently Pocket Spring Mattress adopts 2.0 mm gauge encased coil spring in the middle of mattress for better blood circulation by relieving numb muscle and pain in joints to have an orthopedic effect on the back, waist and shoulders. Altogether 1056 Premium pocket coils work independently to alleviate motion disturbance which means you won't be woken up when your companion moves in the bed.
- Hybrid firm mattress draw from natural organic latex and innerspring mattress components to offer a balanced sleep experience for many individuals. This provides not only comfortable cushioning and close conforming for targeted pressure relief, but also offers strong edge support and a flat, even sleep surface that helps reduce aches and pains.
- Latex hybrid coil spring king mattress adopts Cashmere Wool as the mattress cover, certificated by OeKo-Tex Standard-100, with CFR1633 flame retardant cotton that is in line with the United States 1633 fire retardant standards of fire cotton to protect against fire.
- Shipping & Return: King Size Mattresses are compressed and rolled in a Box shipping to your door, 120 Day Free Returned, No risk and shipping costs or other. (No, you don’t have to squeeze it back in the box.)
- A HYBRID MATTRESS FOR COMFORT. Turn your bedroom into a restful haven with the Awara mattress. Our mattress is hybrid; made with Cooling Natural Dunlop Latex Foam and coupled with the Contouring Support Core of Premium Pocketed Coils. This combination offers pressure relief on your neck, shoulders, back, and hips. It keeps your spine in neutral alignment, and your weight evenly distributed for a restful sleep.
- NATURAL AND ORGANIC MATERIALS. Standard memory foam mattresses are filled with synthetics, including polyurethanes and chemical fire retardants. With Awara, the plush Euro Top cover made with soft humanely sourced New Zealand wool & organic cotton and its natural Dunlop Latex Foam is sourced from locally grown real rubber trees. Sleep soundly - you’re getting into bed with healthy, natural materials.
- COOLING COMFORT. The wool promotes optimal cooling and air flow while absorbing moisture naturally and keeping dust mites away. The organic breathable cotton enhances moisture-wicking and adds a soft touch.
- 180 NIGHT TRIAL AND A FOREVER WARRANTY. You can sleep soundly on your Awara for 180 nights and see how it supports you, and return it if you are not 100% happy (Amazon only). That’s nearly 3 months longer than the industry standard. Building a quality mattress that is meant to last is not just better for you in the long run, but it’s also a more sustainable practice. With the Forever Warranty, you can enjoy Awara for the rest of your life, guaranteed.
- YOUR IMPACT IS TENFOLD. Awara has partnered with Trees for the Future to make your purchase memorable and meaningful. Every time you choose Awara, know that 100 trees will be planted to restore forests in Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, Guinea or Tanzania.
- Balance: The Element is engineered to combine both softness and support. The top layer of memory foam comforms to your body to relieve pressure.
- AirScapeTM: A layer of AirScapeTM perforated breathable foam increases airflow and circulates air so you don't get too hot at night. The tiny holes move hot air and body heat away.
- Support: The durable base foam is engineered to prevent sinking and sagging while supporting your whole body.
- Certified by our Sleep Lab
- 100 night trial and free returns within 100 days of receipt of shipment on products sold by Casper
- 3-inch natural latex surface layer responds instantly with comfortable resilience to create a FIRM feel
- Gel infused memory foam regulates temperature while conforming to the body to ease pressure points
- Temperature-regulating, moisture-controlling TENCEL blend fabric cover creates a comfortable air layer
- Conforms to body weight and curves to relieve pressure points.
- Compressed, rolled, and shipped in a box for simple setup; easily fits through narrow hallways and staircases
- THE COMFORT DIFFERENCE | 6 inches of 100% natural dunlop latex in firm (85 density), 2 inches of 100% natural talalay latex in medium (N2 density), ½ inch 100% natural wool
- 100% ALL-NATURAL LATEX | Our 100% all-natural latex mattress is a pure, botanical product that is sustainably harvested from the Hevea Brasiliensis tree - It contains no harsh chemicals and provides a buoyant, cloud-like sensation for the ultimate sleep experience
- TWO (SIDED) FIRMNESS OPTIONS | With its unique 2-in-1 design, the Latex for Less Latex Mattress has both a medium side and a firm side, making it the perfect mattress for every body - Simply flip the mattress to the side that feels best and say goodbye to restless nights
- 100% NATURAL WOOL FIRE BARRIER | Our California wool is all-natural and breathes better than synthetic substitutes - It helps regulate your body temperature throughout the night and provides a natural flame-resistant fire barrier without synthetic chemicals
- HANDCRAFTED IN THE USA | Our expert craftsmen are second to none - By keeping jobs at home, we make products of impeccable quality while helping the economy - We also reduce emissions by making our natural mattresses locally, which means a healthier planet