First, we slept on sticks and hay. Then, rows of springs with padding, followed by space-age foam. Now, after thousands of years, human civilization has nearly perfected the surface on which we sleep.
As it turns out, the natural properties of latex (from the sap of the rubber tree) make it the ideal material for sleep. It’s somehow both pliable and resilient and in an industry that’s dominated by innerspring and memory foam mattresses, those qualities have earned it the reputation of “the best of both worlds.” That is, a latex mattress has the bouncy “responsiveness” of an innerspring and the contouring ability of memory foam.
The best latex mattresses, like the Zenhaven from Saatva, are made from sap that’s whipped into a batter, flash-frozen to maintain consistency, and then baked. What results is a light foam that allows sleepers a cool and balanced sleep.
Why a Latex Mattress?
While innerspring mattresses can be stiff and unyielding, latex has a supple quality to it. As for memory foam, many sleepers complain of feeling “stuck,” and the material is notorious for trapping body heat. Latex has a certain buoyancy that keeps you floating on the surface, and if the mattress is designed to promote airflow, there’s little worry about sleeping hot as with foam.
As for downsides, there aren’t many. Latex is heavy—a queen size mattress can weigh in at well over 100 pounds—which means you may need help moving the mattress. And because of the costs of harvesting and processing the natural material, it can be more expensive than other types of mattresses. Still, with a product that can last 20 years of more, latex provides a lot of bang for the buck.
What To Look For in a Latex Mattress
There are quite a few latex mattresses on the market, including ones that are latex-blended with other materials, or even synthetic latex (which is apparently derived from petroleum and, buyer beware, that means it has none of the hypoallergenic benefits of natural latex).
Talalay Latex Mattress
For the best combination of quality and value, consider the American-made, Talalay latex mattress from Saatva. What’s Talalay you ask? Talalay is one of the two methods by which latex is processed, the other being the Dunlop method.
Dunlop, the original method of latex production, is minimally processed, which means natural sediment can gather at the bottom of the mold, yielding a denser mattress. Talalay latex, because it goes through vacuum and freezing stages, comes out lighter, softer, and more pliable.
Talalay has a few other notable advantages:
- It’s cooler. The “cells” in Talalay foam are 50% larger than in Dunlop latex, allowing for more than 200% greater airflow. This results in a more breathable mattress, and a cooler, drier sleep.
- It’s relatively healthier. While latex is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, American-made Talalay adheres to a higher quality of health and environmental standards than other kinds of latex that are made overseas.
- It’s more supportive. Talalay latex conforms to your body’s curves more completely than Dunlop, providing better support and greater pressure relief.
The Best Latex Mattress
The Talalay method used to produce Saatva’s Zenhaven mattress also allows for another key feature: five zones of foam density, which means the mattress can give you extra support where you need it most, in the lumbar region. Firmer support under the hips and shoulders keeps the spine properly aligned for a more comfortable and pressure-free sleep.
Want a softer or firmer surface? Zenhaven has figured that out, too. Just flip the mattress over. Because the Talalay process produces a very consistent latex in a wide range of firmness levels, Zenhaven is actually designed to be double-sided, with two firmness levels in one mattress.
Another thing that sets Zenhaven apart is their commitment to customer service, with “sleep guides” on duty 24/7. (I tried calling at 5 a.m., just to test it, and their 24-hour hotline was true to its word). Every mattress comes with white-glove delivery and setup, plus removal of your old mattress, at no extra charge. Finally, at 20 years, Zenhaven has one of the longest warranties in the mattress industry.
After researching where mattress technology has come to this point, I can’t wait to see what Americans will be sleeping on in 20 or 30 years down the road. But then again, it’s highly likely I’ll still probably be sleeping on the same latex mattress I’m getting myself now.
This post is sponsored by Saatva, whose products we know and use. All opinions are our own.