Updated May 18, 2020Gel memory foam and latex mattresses are multi-layered foam beds capable of adjusting to different body types and sleeping positions while keeping a sleeper cool. Gel memory foam is more affordable, but latex often lasts longer. Gel memory foam and latex both promote airflow, making them very breathable mattress options.Gel memory foam and latex mattresses are comparable in support and hypoallergenic qualities, although both mattress types feel different. Because your sleep needs are unique, you may find one type of mattress caters to your needs better than the other.This article explores the differences between gel memory foam and latex and their advantages and drawbacks.What Is Gel Memory Foam?First, memory foam is polyurethane foam with added chemicals to make it viscoelastic, meaning it responds to heat and pressure. Memory foam is pressure and pain-relieving and has a slow response time (the time it takes for a material to give under pressure or bounce back to its original shape).Memory foam can retain heat, disrupting sleep. To prevent heat retention in memory foam mattresses, manufacturers infuse cooling gel or swirled gel in the memory foam.Gel infusions are used specifically to keep the sleeper from overheating. The gel pulls heat away from your body to regulate your temperature.Some gel memory foam beds have gel pad layers under or on top of the memory foam. Manufacturers also place gel microbeads evenly inside the mattress. Gel-infused foam can offer better cooling properties than gel beads.Gel beads can warm up to your body’s temperature and cause discomfort—this usually happens when the gel beads are located near the top of the comfort layer. A foam with gel spread evenly throughout the layer will wick away heat better than gel beads.Gel Memory Foam Mattress ConstructionA gel memory foam mattress typically only contains at least one layer of gel memory foam. Typically, the transition and support layers are polyurethane foams.A basic gel memory foam mattress has a support and comfort layer. Softer gel memory foam beds have a transition layer that sits between the comfort and support layers, so you don’t hit the firm foam below.What Is Latex?Latex mattresses are slightly bouncier than gel memory foam, and they are either made using natural or synthetic materials. There are three latex mattress types: natural, synthetic, and blended.Types of LatexNatural LatexDunlop and Talalay latex are made from rubber tree sap—a renewable resource. Both are hypoallergenic and antimicrobial. Dunlop and Talalay are excellent options for people looking for an organic latex mattress.Dunlop latex is made with rubber tree sap. It’s firmer, denser, and more affordable than Talalay.The Talalay process incorporates chemicals and rubber tree sap to produce a light and bouncy foam.Synthetic LatexSynthetic latex is made with a chemical compound to mimic latex properties. It’s safe for latex allergy sufferers; however, this material can contain unsafe chemicals. Look for the CertiPUR-US® certification to ensure the foam is manufactured without ozone depleters, PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP, heavy metals, formaldehyde, phthalates, and minimal VOCs.Blended LatexBlended latex is a mixture of synthetic and natural latex. It’s more affordable than natural latex and lasts longer than synthetic latex.Latex Mattress ConstructionYou can find natural mattresses constructed entirely out of latex. Often all-latex beds have comfort, transition, and support layers made with varying firmness levels. Some models even allow you to switch the layers around, so you can customize your mattress’s firmness.Latex mattresses made with latex comfort layers and high-density foam support layers are more cost-efficient and easier to find.Memory Foam and Latex DifferencesKnow the differences between memory foam and latex. While they share similarities, their differences could be deciding factors in choosing the best mattress.ConformabilityLatex and gel memory foam have comparable conformability. The difference is that latex feels more bouncy and has a faster response time.Motion TransferIf you’ve slept on a spring mattress with a partner, you’re probably used to feeling every move they make—otherwise known as motion transfer. Because gel memory foam conforms closely, it also absorbs shock upon impact.Latex mattresses can isolate motion, although not as well as gel memory foam.AvailabilityGel memory foam beds are easier to find than latex beds; however, latex mattresses have become more popular during recent years, so you can find more options than you would have 20 years ago.Ease of MovementDue to gel memory foam’s contouring properties, you may feel as though you’re sinking into the mattress, making it hard to move. Often a firmer gel memory foam mattress or a responsive transition layer prevents sinkage.Latex owners don’t often have difficulty changing their sleep position. Latex is naturally firmer, so it doesn’t allow you to sink.Heat RetentionGel memory foam cools down the mattress by pulling heat from your body, so your temperature is regulated, which helps you sleep better.Natural latex foam is quite breathable thanks to its eco-friendly make-up.OdorOff-gassing is a chemical odor signifying the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Gel memory foam bed owners may smell off-gassing when first unpackaging their mattress.Since Talalay, synthetic, and blended latex are made with chemicals, they may off-gas. If you’re looking for an all-latex mattress, it’s rare to find one made completely of Dunlop or Talalay latex. Most latex mattresses use both Talalay and Dunlop latex, which means it’s difficult to find a latex bed without an off-gassing smell when first unboxed.Most of the time, this odor goes away within 3 to 7 days. We suggest placing the mattress in a well-ventilated room to air it out.If you buy a natural latex mattress (one made completely of Dunlop latex), the chance of off-gassing is minimal.Eco-FriendlyLatex is more eco-friendly than gel memory foam due to its natural materials and manufacturing process.DurabilityInnerspring mattresses have an average lifespan of 7 years. Gel memory foam and latex mattresses outlast spring mattresses by 2 to 3 years; however, latex is more resistant to sagging than gel memory foam.Memory Foam and Latex SimilaritiesSupportBoth latex and gel memory foam mattresses promote spinal alignment. When you lie on a gel memory foam or latex bed, the mattress contours to your body shape to alleviate pressure and support your head, neck, lower back, hips, and legs.Latex and gel memory foam mattresses are comparable in terms of support, so you can’t go wrong with either.VarietyGel memory foam and latex mattresses come in a wide range of thicknesses and firmness levels. No matter which one you go with, you’re more than likely to find a mattress fitting your needs.Hypoallergenic QualitiesDue to gel memory foam’s density, pollen, dust, dust mites, and bed bugs cannot get into the material. If you don’t vacuum the bed’s surface and spot clean stains regularly, debris will get compressed into the mattress.Latex foam is also hypoallergenic. Once again, if you neglect the mattress’s upkeep, dust and allergens could infiltrate the foam, changing the bed’s feel and decreasing its lifespan.Warranties and Sleep TrialsWarranties and sleep trials vary based on brand. Look for a gel memory foam or latex mattress with a 20-year warranty, a good return policy, and a generous sleep trial (at least 100 days).PriceGel memory foam and latex mattresses are usually more expensive than innerspring mattresses. Gel memory foam mattresses with multiple comfort layers cost a bit more. Natural latex beds are made from a limited resource, which increases their price.Why Pick Memory Foam?If you’re a side sleeper, you suffer from sore joints, or you have skeletal pain, a gel memory foam mattress could be better for you than latex.Side sleepers have concentrated pressure points on their hips and shoulders because they place all their weight on one side. The best mattress for side sleepers has a soft, medium-soft, or medium feel, which relieves pain and pressure.Because side sleepers sink into the mattress’s materials more than a back sleeper, their body heat can get trapped in the bed and build up. A gel memory foam mattress will prevent heat retention by drawing heat from the sleeper, allowing them to stay cool throughout the night.If your sleep is disrupted by a partner who tosses and turns, gel memory foam’s motion isolation can improve your sleep quality.Fluctuating temperatures can also irritate inflammation. A gel memory foam mattress can regulate your sleeping temperature and reduce pain.Other reasons to choose gel memory foam:Very conforming and supportiveCaters to a larger variety of sleep stylesDeep contouring and pressure reliefPain alleviationSlow response timeWhy Pick Latex?Natural latex mattresses are biodegradable due to the natural materials from which they’re made. This mattress type is an excellent eco-friendly option.You can get latex mattresses in soft, medium, and firm feels, although you don’t get the same contouring effects from latex as you would from gel memory foam. Latex is more responsive, so you will always stay on the bed’s surface—a great option for those looking to improve their spinal alignment. The bounce in latex also helps you change sleep positions more easily.Other reasons to choose latex:BouncyFast response timeMade from a natural and renewable resourceAntimicrobial propertiesVery supportiveFrequently Asked QuestionsIs latex firmer than memory foam?Latex can feel firmer than memory foam does. Some sleepers enjoy this, preferring to feel lifted rather than sink into a soft mattress. Many latex mattress brands offer optional pillow tops for those who would rather have a soft bed.What are the disadvantages of a memory foam mattress?Heat retention is the most cited drawback of a traditional memory foam mattress. Many manufacturers combat this by adding cooling agents while the foam is processed, such as copper, graphite, and charcoal.Some people also miss the bounciness that an innerspring mattress can provide. If you’re looking for a balance between cradling and uplifting, you might want to try a hybrid mattress.Why is latex so expensive?Natural latex is expensive because it requires natural materials. Rubber tree sap must be harvested and either shipped raw or processed and then shipped back. Plus, companies have to cover fees for certifications such as Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).Can bed bugs live in latex mattresses?Dense foams can deter bed bugs from infesting the inside of your mattress. However, bed bugs may still take up residence under or around your mattress. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “if a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug.”How long should you keep a latex mattress?Latex mattresses can last more than decade with care. Its condition can tell you if it’s time to replace your mattress or not. If it’s not snapping back into shape when you get up or you feel it sag when you lie down, it’s likely lost its support.ConclusionLatex and gel memory foam feel similar, but there are some key differences that may influence your choice when purchasing. Couples are likely to choose gel memory foam to sleep cool while a shopper looking for an environmentally-friendly option may choose latex. Before you make your decision, consider if you want your mattress to be conforming, motion isolating, or heat-wicking.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.