Though latex mattresses have been widely regarded as the most comfortable bedding material out there, the natural versus synthetic latex is a never-ending debate. Unfortunately, most people still believe that all types of latex mattresses are made equal. But, that’s not true. You need to have a deep understanding of the different qualities that distinguish synthetic latex from natural one as it can affect both your wallet, as well as your sleep quality.
Why Is Mattress so Important?
Throughout our lives, sleep plays a vital role in keeping our body and mind in shape. Usually, an average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Lack of enough sleep can lead to several disorders including metabolic problems, tiredness, lethargy, frequent headaches (especially in the morning), poor memory, lack of concentration, and even accidents if you fall asleep behind the wheel.
Sadly, 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder. Specifically, Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, with short-term issues reported by about 30% of adults and chronic insomnia by 10%. Nearly 37% of 20-39 year-olds report short sleep duration, while 40% of 40-59 year-olds report short sleep duration. Almost 35.3% adults report less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period. That means almost one-third Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep.
Apart from your lifestyle, another major factor that affects your sleep quality is your mattress. In other words, a comfortable bed is critical for getting a good night’s sleep. That’s why you should choose the best mattress.
Natural latex, especially 100% natural latex is free of any chemicals or synthetic products. There is no wonder its popularity is climbing by the day. Natural latex is a white milky fluid consisting of various plant secretions including proteins, alkaloids, starch, sugars, oils, tannins, resins, and gums.
Unlike synthetic latex, you don’t have to manufacture natural latex. All you need to do is harvest it from the rubber trees. The harvesting process is not only simple but also naturally sustainable.
It all begins with the rubber trees. In the wild, the rubber trees can grow up to 100-130 feet in height and can live up to 100 years. Hevea brasiliensisis the most popular rubber tree species, which is native to the South Americas including Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia.
However, owing to their economic value, they were planted in just about every other tropical area in the world, especially Southeast Asia and Western Africa. Rubber trees grow quite quickly. Still, it takes around 10 years for a tree to start producing latex in adequate quantity.
When harvesting, cuts are made in the tree bark very carefully. Superficial cuts ensure longer harvesting lifecycle. As these cuts expose the latex vessels, latex starts to ooze out of the bark. A small container, usually a coconut shell, is attached at the bottom of the bark to collect the seeping liquid.
The numerous benefits associated with natural latex are the main reason behind its rising popularity. Let’s see what those are.
Firmness is perhaps the highest benefit of sleeping on a natural latex mattress. Unlike other sleeping materials, natural latex retains its original firmness, despite prolonged use. As it is quite dense, it provides excellent support. However, it also comes with superb point-elasticity, providing optimum pressure relief while sleeping. Hence, it can help reduce back pain.
Motion isolation is the ability of a mattress to absorb the movement of a person when they roll over or turn in sleep. As the natural latex has excellent motion isolation properties, the movement of your partner on the other side of the bed is hardly noticeable. In short, you can sleep without any disturbances.
The cellular structure of natural latex allows for maximum breathability. As the air flows smoothly through the mattress, it does not get hot as you sleep on it even for hours. Thus, you will feel warm in winter and cool in summer.
Natural latex is one of the most durable materials. Apart from retaining their firmness, they can also last for years, ranging from just a couple of years to more than a decade depending on the quality.
Unlike petroleum-based foams, natural latex is devoid of synthetic chemicals and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). It is also fire resistant. So, when you use natural latex, you are sleeping in a safe environment.
Natural latex is also resistant to dust mites, bacteria, mildew, and mold. So, it is the right choice for people suffering from allergies and breathing related issues.
Though natural latex offers numerous benefits, it also comes with a few drawbacks. Here they are:
The price tag is the most prominent barrier to choosing natural latex mattresses. They can cost several hundred or thousand dollars. However, the longevity of natural latex offsets the initial cost in the long run as there is no need to replace or repair natural foam mattress for years.
The second most significant drawback is the latex allergy. Some people are inherently allergic to natural latex products. The allergy can lead to hives, itching, stuffy or runny nose, wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing.
Natural latex is quite dense, hence heavy compared to most other bedding materials. Usually, moving a latex mattress may require considerable efforts.
You are perhaps aware that natural latex (or rubber) comes with a distinct smell. A brand new mattress will have this smell. But, it will wear off eventually.
As the name suggests synthetic latex is produced using artificial substances and petrochemicals. The manufacturing of several different types of synthetic latex or rubber products began in the early 19th century. However, the large-scale production started during the Second World War to reduce the shortfall of natural latex.
1)How Is It Made?
Synthetic latex is made using Styrene-Butadiene Rubber (SBR). The SBR itself is a derivative of petroleum. In the chemical plants, SBR and various other petrochemical ingredients undergo a variety of chemical processes to create the end product. Needless to say, the process is energy intensive and is not environmentally sustainable like the harvest of natural latex.
Source – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SedGDg2K_aI
Perhaps the only advantage of synthetic latex is the price tag. It may not offer all the best features of natural latex, but it is considerably cheaper than the natural variant. As a result, most people often tend to prefer synthetic latex mattresses over the natural ones.
The list of disadvantages is quite long. In many ways, synthetic latex is a no match for the natural latex.
Though synthetic latex is durable, it is not as durable as the natural one. You will notice undesirable color changes, crumbling around the edges and loss of resilience over time. So, you may have to replace your mattress earlier than the natural latex foam mattress.
It is also not as breathable as the natural variant. So, you are more likely to feel uneasy while sleeping, especially if you are using this mattress in hot and humid climate.
The petrochemicals used in the manufacturing of synthetic latex can release volatile organic compounds into the air. So, it is not as user-friendly as natural latex. That’s why it is difficult to find synthetic latex that meets the textile and furniture emissions standards such as ecoInstitut, Oeko-Tex, and Greenguard.
It also comes with a strong odor, stronger than the natural latex. Some people may feel irritated by this smell.
Synthetic latex also allows for a wide array of firmness options. However, none of them comes close to the comfort offered by natural latex. It feels less dense and less springy compared to natural latex foam.
Synthetic latex is not inherently fire resistant. However, most manufacturers have started adding a heat-resistant chemical to the foam. Similarly, chemicals with hypoallergenic properties are added to synthetic latex foam to make it resistant to dust mites and mold.
There is also a third type of latex called blended latex. It is one of the most popular versions of the latex foam mattresses. Usually, a combination of natural and synthetic latex is used to produce this variety. The purpose here is to provide the best of both types of latex.
Blended latex is not as expensive as the natural one and offers more comfort than the synthetic latex. The percentage of natural and synthetic latex varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, a higher percentage of natural latex means higher price tag and more comfort.
Over to You
After the above comparison, it goes without saying that natural latex is the best sleeping material out there. However, whether you choose synthetic or natural latex foam mattress is up to you. Just keep in mind though; finding the most comfortable bed that supports all your pressure points during sleep is essential for your well-being. So, always try to buy the product that comes with the maximum comfort and longevity without going over your budget. Still got doubts? Feel free to share your thoughts and queries in the comments.