On Memory Foam, Latex and Spring Mattresses

MEMORY FOAM vs. LATEX

While all foams have some similarities, there are notable differences in feel and performance of memory foam vs. latex. To start, let’s put out two terms: slow response and fast response. Memory foam is called a slow response foam. To define slow response, let’s add in another term: creep. Creep means that the foam slowly conforms to heat applied, anywhere between 80 degrees to 120 degrees F. It also slowly reforms to its flat shape as it cools. Memory foam has creep, thus it is a slow response foam. Latex, on the other hand, is a fast response foam. Any pressure put on it will create compression; once the pressure is removed, the latex rebounds to its original shape as soon as the pressure is removed. Latex’s movement is very simple; its motion is quickly and directly in response to pressure.

Because memory foam can take a little while to cool down, the valleys made by sleepers take a while to return to a flat position, since warm memory foam is not flat foam. This has some sleepers resenting the valleys that they have to crawl out of to change sleeping positions. Latex does not develop valleys; instead it has a small bounce to it, that fast rebound that returns it to shape. This bounce is most noticed in the firmer layers as their density gives more pushback against the supporting slats. The spongy cradling effect of the softer layers are noted for their cushy feel and absorbent abilities of pressure points. In short, latex’s bounce is characteristic of its fast response and memory foam’s creep is characteristic of its slow response.

Since memory foam’s creep is responsible for retaining heat, memory foam sleeps hot. Latex, while still a solid piece of foam not a bladder full of cold air like a spring mattress, does not retain heat, thus does not sleep hot.

FOAM vs. SPRING

Comparing one foam to another presents some obvious similarities; they have multiple firmnesses to choose from, they feel spongy, they are solid, they are heavy. Comparing a spring mattress to a foam mattress presents more of a striking difference.  Equate the feel of a spring mattress to the support you would feel on a hammock; equate the feel of a foam mattress to sleeping on a giant sponge. To expound, a latex mattress can mold itself around you the way a stress ball molds around your fingers as you grip it. A spring mattress can not be molded, though it can stretch like a trampoline. Latex makes deep pressure point relief possible. In a foam, the latex will dip underneath you in exactly the points that the most pressure is  applied. One a spring mattress, a point of pressure will cause the entire surface to slope toward that point.

It is possible however to get the best of both feels, the spring mattress feel and the latex mattress feel, by picking the appropriate ticking or zippered encasement.  Combine the bounce and pressure absorption of the latex with the stiffness and thickness of the Quilted Ticking. The ticking will imitate the taut fabrics on conventional coil mattresses and will be able to cushion your entire body rather than specific points. The stiffer ticking forces a more even weight distribution of the sleeper  creating some slope and some sinking in, similar to a spring bending underneath your weight. The quilted ticking will also moderate some of the squishiness of the soft latex layers, diffusing that enveloping feeling that some of the softer layers give off as they cradle you. If you want to be raise above the latex instead of being surrounded by it, besides choosing firm layers of latex, consider the tautness the quilted ticking provides.

 

Pregnancy, Sleep and Latex Mattresses

Birth and pregnancy are beautiful, empowering moments in a woman’s life and can be complemented by knowledge and a few tricks.  This is my personal experience with bedding and pregnancy; perhaps it may be similar to yours.

My fourth pregnancy was fairly simple as mine usually are: at the beginning there was an extra tiredness, a need to sit down frequently, and a wondering if I was really pregnant; in the middle, I was loving the big belly, finding new pressure points, going on frequent walks to relieve sore joints; and at the end, there was the hefting around a giant, heavy belly and noticing different pressure points again and remembering that I actually do have abdominal muscles though I can’t feel them.

The first three months, nothing changed between me and my latex mattress. We still enjoyed each other’s company, I slept well. My medium over a firm with quilted ticking was serving me well until about month four when I noticed I started waking up more frequently during the night. Then I went on vacation and stayed in a college dormitory with a cheap, cheap, cheap spring mattress. I had a complete inability to keep from rolling toward the middle; the amount of abdominal work it took to stay on my side of the mattress made what was left of my abs sore the next day, my belly was either way too low if I faced the center of the bed and way too high so that either way, I kept falling toward the saggy center. If that wasn’t enough, being used to a nice comfort layer of my own mattress, my hips could not handle the tension of the springs and forced me to take the cheap memory foam cushions from the couch to use as a floor mattress. When I got home from that trip, I realized that my hips had slowly been protesting all along and I had to do something. I stole my husband’s soft layer of layer and lay it on top of mine. That was it. I needed that. So I ordered a new slab for me and didn’t love its squishiness but loved being able to sleep mostly through the night. The layer was super squishy since I merely covered it with a sheet under my sheet and didn’t put it in a new bit of ticking, just on top of the original arrangement of medium over firm in their ticking. Interestingly enough, when I switched to the softer layer, since my head was higher on the mattress than comparatively to the firmer combination, I needed to take some fill out of  both of my pillows. Then I had the perfect sleeping solution again.

Come month six, I was waking up a few times a night but had resigned myself to this as I remembered from other pregnancies that waking up is a bit unavoidable when you have to find new positions to sleep in. What I was unwilling to resign myself to was the deep ache that started to come from my left sacralilliac joint. I knew my pelvis would start expanding eventually and that baby’s head was tucked down on that side anyway, but the mere act of lying down would drive tears into my eyes and was something to be reckoned with. The only thing that would help was walking, so I would often walk around my culdesac for  a half hour before I could go to sleep and often took my husband on mile long walks which actually did completely loosen up that joint and gave me temporary relief that even the chiropractor, who I had been seeing regularly, couldn’t provide. While these long walks were amazing at letting me fall asleep again without pain, it wasn’t until I asked myself what the right side of my hips were doing to cause my left side such discomfort that I realized that my sitting position while I was driving was the cause of it all. I had started driving my children to a school 45 minutes away, so needless to say, I was putting in a lot of drive hours. Once I scooted the chair forward and made sure that I didn’t twist my body to let my right foot reach the gas pedal, the pain went away that week. Phew! Back to decent sleep and no pain.

Month eight was way past my joking about how hard it was to roll over in bed from side to side and figuring I was carrying the weight of a couple bowling balls around, all in my belly. No, month eight was countdown time. Now I love so many parts about being pregnant, the amazing craziness of my body knowing how to grow a baby without my mental intervention, the intimate connection I get to share with another human being, the chance to participate in life, the change in social expectations, even the chance to look completely different from normal, but I will say that to get my own body back is always quite welcome. Once my new pressure points on my hips kept me up for an hour in the middle of the night, I knew I had to do something about them. I started with the mattress. Should I make it softer, try a different sleeping position, use a pillow between my knees? The pillow in between my knees seemed to make the pain worse, so I ditched that.  I tried sleeping slightly on my back, propped up with a blanket folded behind me and tiny pillow under my belly so that it wasn’t hanging in midair, but that was only variety and not terribly comfortable. Giving my husband back his soft layer and going back to my 6″ combo of medium over firm surprisingly did make a little difference and I slept a little better, but it was not until I added a medium layer to my medium over firm that sleep came much more easily. I found the latex cradled my belly and supported it well, well enough that if I rolled into it too far, I would give baby hiccups, which he had been getting for months when I would sit cross legged or at a 90 degree angle when driving. Because we needed a new ticking made for the 9″ version of the mattress now (my husband’s side had been 9″ for a while but the top layer had been sitting on top of the ticking, wrapped in a couple of sheets), I had my sewing room make a Knit Ticking instead of the Quilted Ticking we previously had. The flexibility of that ticking was noticeably different and with my growing pressure points, I thoroughly appreciated latex’s ability to sink in underneath me instead of stiffly supporting my body. Despite ache free sleeping, I had started waking every few hours to roll over and trying not to wake my husband with my huffs of exertion as I did so.  When I woke up one morning with a slight pain on the right side of my belly where the baby’s back was, I ignored it until the next day when it started spreading down my side. Bother. This was an easy ache for me to solve and I should have been on top of it months ago, but I’ll admit, I got lazy. I had been hefting around that belly of mine through the nightly turning, just letting my skin and bones support it. I knew I should be tightening my abdominal muscles around it every time I rolled over and doing so took care of that ache quickly. Another month of ache free sleeping was on its way.

Month nine came with yet a different hip pain, this one I just couldn’t figure out after all my previous adjustments to my sleeping positions, mattress and supplements. By now my legs had stopped cramping when I slept, but my right hip was just sore as soon as I would lie down. Finally I realized that this bed ache was my fault. I had been accustomed to sleeping on my side with my upper hand on my hip so that I wouldn’t put that hand in an awkward position and it would fall asleep. Once I let that hand rest on my belly and transitioned to sleeping on my right side more, the ache alleviated. Sleep was still pretty good. About three nights before baby came, I knew he had to be coming soon as it started taking me half hour to fall asleep after rolling over. Labor began for me in the middle of the night, a first as it usually began in the early evening. I was so grateful that I got to run the marathon with some sleep under my belt.

After writing this post, I’m rather surprised how intimately my mattress and sleep were part of this pregnancy. Maybe it is in part because I am one of those people who have always needed a lot of sleep, so I do make it a priority; maybe it has to do with relaxing and how much better one can feel the body when you taken the time to go inward, which is easy once you lie down and the day is over; or maybe I just enjoy having a body in good working condition and all my adjustments did enable that comfortable condition. Whatever the reason, I am grateful for options and the chance to tweak my mattress. DIY all the way!

If you have had aches and pains during pregnancy during your sleep that you have successfully fixed, please share in the comments below. How have you tweaked your mattress, your sleeping positions, your health to let you get a better night’s sleep?

Bed Frames: Latex and Wool Mattresses

NOTE: Wool toppers are not discussed here, only depths thick enough and solid enough to be a mattress.

Q. Can you use a power base (or adjustable bed frame) with the latex? Will it harm the latex?

A. Yes, you can use a power base with latex. Latex is a very flexible foam, so it will not mind constant bending. However, it is worth noting, that when one is sitting up, one puts a lot more pressure and use on the surface then one does when lying down. That top layer of latex will wear out sooner than the other layers. Of course, that is the nice thing about a layered latex mattress. When one piece wears out, you can simply replace the one piece instead of the entire mattress.

Q. We may be interested in possibly putting the mattress on the floor for a Montessori bed.

A. If you do, especially if your house is not climate controlled, make sure to air out your latex or wool mattress frequently, maybe only seasonally if you have air conditioning. If you can’t flip the entire mattress over to let any accumulated body moisture evaporate, flip half of it up for a day and the other half of it down the next day. While latex and wool are both natural antimicrobial and I have never had any customers with any issues, common sense says that heat and bacteria mingled for long enough in the right conditions could lead to mold.

Q. I am hesitant to use my box spring as I know they are generally treated with flame retardants but I don’t want to loose the height it provides. Do you have another suggestion?

A. The most common supporting systems are slats as they let the latex be a little more flexible than a flat surface like a board or the floor. Some make their own slats of 1” x 4”s, stable them to a ribbon and tie them down to the top and bottom of their metal frame or nail them to their wood frame. Slats are usually spaced 3″-5″ apart, much farther and the latex will sag through them.

A foundation is a strip of slats on top of usually an 8” wooden frame. Sometimes the foundation will come covered in fabric which you may want to check for flame retardants. Your current box spring may be slats instead of springs which can be reused keeping in mind the slat distance and the need for letting the latex breathe occasionally. I have had customers upcycle pallets as ready made foundations. The foundation is where you will get your height.

Tiny House Couch

Designed by the artist who created the first tiny house pictures on our website, another tiny house creation has come to life. Using 6″ of firm natural latex, two batts of 4 lb. wool, inner twill cases, and her customer’s fabric of choice, this design represents a traditional looking couch. The curved armrests were shipped to us for layering the latex and wool inside as well as shaping that piping on perfectly.

Like the couch in the first tiny house, this one can also be collapsed to be a guest bed.

For more images of Pocket Mansions’ work or to hire her services, view her website here.

Neighborhood Store

Natural Latex Couch Cushion

Natural Latex Couch Cushion

I ordered 3 medium firm latex cushions (5″ thickness as seat back) and 3 firm ones (6″ thickness as seats) for our new sofa frame.   Deborah recommended the firmness, based upon our body weights.  They turned out to be very comfortable.  Their cut is also exact to my specifications, so that they fit perfectly on the frame.  Thank you, Deborah!  Attached is a photo of the cushions under some old sheets.  I am still waiting for the cushion cases to be made by Deborah’s seamstress.  Will upload another photo when all is done.

Natural Latex Couch Cushion

Our sofa cushion cases arrived and I am so thrilled.  They look wonderful!  I had been a little worried about the gussets, but they turn out to be just fine.  Deborah and team really went extra miles to make sure that we are completely satisfied with their products.  As I said in an earlier review, these cases are for the latex cushions that I ordered from Deborah.  The seat backs are 3 medium firm, 5″ thick cushions.  The seats are  3 firm ones in 6″ thickness.  Deborah recommended the firmness, based upon our body weights.  They are very comfortable and were cut precisely to my specifications.  Deborah and team, I appreciate your dedication to your work.  You have won my respect!  Considering the fact that all these shopping experiences are on-line, it is amazing how much trust you have earned from me.  It is as if you were just a neighborhood store that we can always turn to and rely upon.  Thank you so much again!