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CNET's Sleep Expert Reveals Her Favorite Bed Material (And It's Not Memory Foam)

One of the comfiest bedding materials may be something you've never heard of before.

A latex foam slab with air holes to make it more breathable
nespix/Getty Images

People spend a ton of time on their beds but rarely think about the materials inside them. Memory foam is a popular material that you've probably heard of as it's one of the most widely used in the industry. It was first invented by NASA and is a comfortable foam, but it also has downsides. The resistance created by the slow-responding foam can make it difficult to switch positions, and it also has a reputation of sleeping hot.

Instead, there's a type of material that I think doesn't get the recognition it deserves. It offers health benefits, is a lot more breathable than memory foam and can be sustainably sourced. As a mattress tester in a warehouse stacked with over 100 different beds, I chose mattresses with this material as the top two most comfortable. I hope I've hyped the reveal enough. I'm talking about latex foam!

Learn more about the bedding material below, why I think it's so great and why you should consider a latex foam mattress as your next bed purchase. 

See more: Best Mattress of 2022

What is latex foam?

Don't worry, I'm not talking about a bed made with stretchy, shiny black material. Instead, imagine a bed-sized sponge that's supple but a bit more supportive and firm. 

There are two types of latex foam. Organic latex foam begins as a liquid sourced from the sap of a rubber tree, aka the Hevea Brasiliensis tree. The sap is whipped until it has a frothy consistency, poured into foam layer molds and baked to create latex foam. 

Synthetic latex foam is made in a factory using petrochemicals. It looks and feels similar to natural latex foam, but it's a little less bouncy and durable. It also doesn't have the eco-friendly characteristics of natural latex foam, and omits more of an off-gassing smell once it's unpackaged. 

Whether organic or synthetic, the material comes out looking like a large, yellow sponge with little holes perforated in line formations across the surface. It's light, springy and breathable. 

See more: Best Organic Mattress for 2022

The benefits of latex foam 

Organic latex foam has a host of different benefits and really sets itself apart from most other foams that go inside the layers of your mattress.

It is:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Antimicrobial (helps prevent bacteria, mold and other household allergens from growing inside)
  • Eco-friendly
  • Durable 
  • Supportive 
  • Breathable 
  • Cooler than other mattresses since it doesn't retain heat 

This makes natural latex foam especially ideal for people who suffer from allergies and/or sleep hot during the night. Synthetic latex foam has some of the same benefits like durability, supportiveness and breathability. However, it's not hypoallergenic, antimicrobial or eco-friendly. 

On the flip side, the benefit of synthetic latex foam is that it tends to be cheaper than organic material. So you can still get that latex foam feel without paying top dollar. One of the most popular beds that utilize this type of latex foam is the GhostBed mattress, and it's a super comfortable bed with a mixed foam feel. 

What does latex foam feel like?

One reason why I love latex foam is because of its light, airy and bouncy feel. Latex foam is often paired with a pillow top that contains wool and organic cotton, a magical trio that makes sleeping enjoyable (and easy). The pillow top makes a bed feel fluffy and plush, while the latex foam is breathable, bouncy and supportive. 

I don't feel stuck inside the foam like I do with latex foam, and it's a bit more breathable than memory foam and polyurethane foam. It's also a heck of a lot more durable; a plus if you have pets who like to claw and crawl their way into bed with you. 

I have noticed that latex foam used to lean toward the firm end of the spectrum, but I'm seeing more and more brands make latex foam beds with a medium firmness or softer. I personally sleep on the Brooklyn Bedding Bloom mattress and as I've said before, it's one of the best beds I've ever tested.

Final thoughts

I didn't know what latex foam was before I started testing mattresses, comparing and researching bedding materials. Just the sound of "latex" foam may put some people off, but I think many will find it pretty comfortable if they give it a chance. Keep in mind that most latex foam beds you buy online come with a risk-free trial, so you can make the switch back to the kind of mattress you're used to if you don't like it.

For more information on choosing the best products for sleep, take a look at our post on how to choose a mattress type and how to pick the perfect pillow.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.