Oh boy, an article on which mattress you should buy, bet you’ve never seen one of these before!
Don’t worry though, this isn’t one of those articles that gives you eight completely different mattress options (because we’re all so different), leaving you more confused than when you arrived. I think you’ll finish this guide feeling fairly confident that the few mattresses I suggest are the best on the market.
So what exactly should a great mattress accomplish?
A perfect mattress should, in theory, accomplish the following things:
- Promote restful sleep by being comfortable and pressure relieving
- Offer customization options to find your Goldilocks level of support both before and after purchase
- Made of a breathable material that doesn’t impede natural body temperature regulation
- Remains uniformly supportive over a long period of time
- Returns energy to the body during movement to limit frustration and muscular heat output
- Made of nontoxic materials that won’t off gas into the home
I think we can all agree that this all sounds ideal, so what achieves this?
What are the Best Mattress Materials?
A mattress basically comes in two parts, the comfort layer, and the support layer/core. The comfort layer is designed to provide pressure relief and immediate comfort. The support core is designed to provide long term comfort by keeping the spine in a neutral alignment.
That’s the gist of how a modern day mattress is built.
What’s the Best Comfort Layer Material?
The comfort layer’s job is to make the demarcation point between you and the mattress disappear. You should feel like you’re floating on a cloud and each part of your body is equally free of pressure.
For the top comfort layer of a mattress, there are basically two main options:
- Latex foam (dunlop or talalay)
- Synthetic foam (gel, memory, etc.)
When it comes to latex, talalay is superior to dunlop as a comfort layer, as it’s far more breathable and can be made much softer than dunlop.
- It provides better air flow and breathability. See video example 1 and example 2. (volume warning on #2)
- It has better elasticity, giving the material better durability as well as energy return.
- Because of the production process, talalay cores offer much better density consistency than dunlop.
Talalay Latex or Memory Foam for Comfort?
Now, when it comes to talalay and memory foam, talalay has several distinct advantages over synthetic foams:
- Rebound and pressure relief: While memory foam is well known for its pressure relief properties, a soft talalay layer is equally good at this. The advantage of talalay is its ability to rebound extremely quickly, and it’s consistent pressure relief over time. Meaning, it won’t sink lower over time or change its properties much with temperature.
- Superior breathability: The production process for talalay latex creates a resilient open cell structure with thousands of tiny intersecting bubbles in the structure of the latex. This results in a very breathable structure capable of supporting natural body temperature regulation. While some synthetic foams attempt to replicate this feature, they all fall short of what talalay latex accomplishes. They also become far more susceptible to degradation as they open the cell structure of the foam.
- Long-lasting structure: Latex is well known for its durability, and you can be sure that the structure of your latex will remain consistent over many years; as opposed to memory foam, which is well known for its inability to remain consistent over time.
- Future replacement: Another benefit of most latex mattress is the layered design, meaning that years down the road if/when your comfort layer begins to degrade, you can easily replace it, rather than the whole mattress.
- No off-gasing: Any synthetic foam based mattress will be off-gasing toxic chemicals into your home for many years, with the bulk of the off-gasing occurring in the first month or so. I would certainly avoid using any foam for your toddlers bed. [R]
For these reasons, I propose talalay latex as the best option for the comfort layer of your mattress.
See Mattress Underground’s breakdown of comfort layers if you want to dive deeper on this topic.
What’s the Best Support Core Material?
Under the comfort layer lies the support material, which is designed to provide the support that keeps your spine in a natural alignment throughout the night.
Memory foam is a notoriously poor support material, so we’ve come to rely primarily on springs and latex for this task.
Innerspring vs Latex
Again, I believe latex has the edge here, let’s go over why that might be:
- Customizability: Latex has the advantage of aftermarket customization. Both before and after you receive a latex mattress, you can swap layers to dial in that perfect level of support. Springs simply cannot achieve this ability of personalization post sale.
- Elasticity of materials: The reason springs and latex are both superior to memory foam, is their ability to provide resiliency that pushes back against the body. They’re both pretty equal in terms of their support abilities, but latex is preferable due to its personalization capabilities.
- Cost: The main advantage of going with an innerspring support core is its price, latex is always going to cost a bit more.
- Mouldability and shape: Another advantage of latex, is its ability to easily form to the shape of an adjustable bed base. Which of course I’m a big fan of, as you’ll know if you’ve read the sleep position article.
- Dunlop vs Talalay: Some people think that dunlop makes a better support layer than talalay due to its generally denser structure, however this is a misconception. Talalay can be made similarly supportive and benefits from having a perfect consistency throughout the layer. Due to the dunlop production process, denser materials can settle at the bottom of molds, making it a bit more difficult to truly know what the ILD of your individual layers might be. The benefit of going with dunlop support layers comes down to cost.
See Mattress Underground’s breakdown of support materials if you want to dive deeper on this topic.
Buying The Perfect Mattress
It’s really no wonder everyone in the bedding business sleeps on latex, they’ve seen it all, and they know nothing really competes with latex.
But before you buy yourself the last mattress you’ll ever need, let’s go over why you might want to consider buying separate mattresses if you’re in a relationship…
The Benefits of Sleeping on Separate Mattresses
Before you ask, no, this doesn’t mean you have to sleep in different rooms! Or even on separate ends of a room. Although some couples may find psychological benefits to this practice.
Many mattress companies have the option of a “Split King” which is essentially two twin XL mattresses right next to each other. You can still feel like you’re sharing a bed with your partner while each achieving the best night’s rest possible.
What I’m talking about here is sleeping on separate mattresses.
Most couples choose to sleep on a single queen or king-sized bed, usually due to cost, which has several disadvantages that we will address; but for an item you will easily own for 20+ years and spend a third of your life on, maybe it pays not to go the cheap route?
A $3000 bed system will cost you $12.50/month over the course of 20 years. If that bed system has a significant impact on your daily life, it’s a very small price to pay.
Why You Should Sleep On Separate Beds
- Less motion transfer: As you can imagine, separate mattresses means less motion transfer when one of you moves around, even if they’re right next to each other. This should result in less sleep interruptions, frustration, and resentment.
- Individual bed bases: I’m a big fan of sleeping in a neutral body posture position, which I go over in the sleep position article. You and your partner almost certainly vary in their ideal position, which cannot be addressed with a single bed base.
- Personal sheets and comforters: This one is huge! Men tend to sleep hotter than women and most people in relationships can probably attest to this fact. Being able to fine tune your bedding to your metabolic rate is a big advantage to separate beds. Although, even if you share a bed, you can still use individual comforters. Individual bottom sheets also prevent the sheets from becoming taut between bodies, which can cause sleep interruptions during movement, and leads to more ideal individual pressure relief into the comfort layer.
The Best Latex Mattress on the Market
After an extensive amount of research comparing dozens of companies, I believe FloBeds offers the best all talalay latex mattresses on the market.
Their vZone option is the king of personalization when it comes to mattresses. On top of that, they have a layer recommendation calculator based on your body weight to take the guessing out of layer ILD selection.
They also offer a unique, convoluted top comfort layer that tends to produce more effective pressure relief than a flat layer will.
|Mattress||Depth (in)||Price (Twin XL)||Price (Queen)|
- Use the above link or coupon code “ref2483173” for $150 off a FloBeds mattress
The Best Budget Latex Mattress Options
If you’re on a budget, your best bet is a mattress with a dunlop core and a talalay comfort layer. This will give you the best bang for your buck while giving you the benefits of talalays breathability and pressure relief.
SleepEZ offers the most affordable top layer talalay mattress options on the market. I’d avoid the 7″ as three layers is an ideal minimum for good support. They also offer customization of layer densities.
|Mattress||Depth (in.)||Price (Twin XL)||Price (Queen)|
- Use coupon code “WELCOME5” for 5% off a SleepEZ mattress
How to Take Care of Your Latex Mattress
Once you have spent some of your savings on a decent mattress, you might want to make sure you’re keeping it in good shape.
Both SleepEZ and FloBed have removable covers made of a stretch knit cotton and wool batting.
- Every 6 months or so, vacuum the cover, pat it off outside and allow it to sun for a couple of hours.
- You can spot clean the cover with cold water and mild soap if desired and line dry. Don’t machine wash or put in the dryer.
- While the cover is off, don’t allow direct sunlight to shine on the exposed latex. If sun exposure is unavoidable, place some sheets over the latex until the cover can be put back on.
- Your latex layers do not need to be flipped or rotated, so no worries there.
It should be mentioned that the mattress options presented in this article are made from 100% latex, no fillers or synthetics are used in their production, as is sometimes the case with talalay.