Advice needed: Latex Mattress Layer Configuration? And.. how to choose the right pillow?

My wife and I are in the market for a new mattress. The information on this site has been incredibly helpful. Based on what we’ve found, we’re pretty sure that we want a latex mattress with a softer talalay comfort layer and firmer dunlop support layer(s). Over the next couple of weeks we plan to go out and try some local mattress stores and see what we can test first-hand to validate this and determine how firm the support layer(s) should be.

Three questions:

  1. I read in the “5 steps” guide about the importance of testing with a good pillow when testing for alignment – any recommendations on how to go about choosing the correct pillow?

  2. While I have a pretty good idea on the comfort layer we’re likely to like (or at least where we should start our testing), all I really know is that I want the support layers to be firmer. But what about in 3- and 4- layer latex mattress construction? Is it better to gradually increase? Is it a matter of personal preference? Are the 3rd and 4th layers even necessary? Open to thoughts on this.

  3. Given that we want to try different latex mattress configurations, are there any recommended stores we should check out in the Minneapolis area?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

Hi NathanJM,

A pillow that is a suitable thickness and firmness will vary with the type and firmness of a mattress because a pillow needs to keep your head and neck in good alignment and the thickness and firmness that does this best will depend on your body type and sleeping style and on how much you sink into the mattress (which will change the distance between your head and neck and the mattress surface that needs to be “filled in”). Outside of choosing a pillow that meets your “needs” and keeps your head and neck in good alignment, there are also many preference choices involved in choosing a pillow (even more than choosing a mattress) because the “feel” of a pillow and the type of material that someone may prefer is a preference choice and different people can have very different preferences about the type of materials and the feel and response of a pillow that they prefer. There is more about choosing a suitable pillow in the pillow topic here.

When you are testing mattresses I would use a pillow that would generally be a good choice for your body type and sleeping style “on average” but if a pillow clearly isn’t working with a particular mattress (and your head is either sagging or is too high) then you can ask the store for one that is either thicker or thinner.

There is more information in post #2 here about the different ways to test or choose a mattress (either locally or online) that is the best “match” for you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) that can help you assess and minimize the risks of making a choice that doesn’t turn out as well as you hoped for that are involved in each of them.

Unless you have a great deal of knowledge and experience with different types of mattress materials and components and their specs and different layering combinations and how they combine together and can translate them into your own “real life” experience that can be unique to you … I would tend to avoid using complex specs or “theory” to try and predict how a mattress will feel or perform for you and focus more on your own actual testing (hopefully using the testing guidelines in step 4 of the tutorial) and/or your personal experience. When you try and choose a mattress based on complex combinations of specs that you may not fully understand how they will actually feel to you then the most common outcome is “information overload” and “paralysis by analysis”. There are many different types of latex with different properties and firmness levels and differences in layer thicknesses that can make a significant difference in which mattress works best for you so one mattress that meets your general criteria may be a good “match” for you while another one that “appears” to have the same or very similar general specs may not be nearly as suitable for you to sleep on.

When you can’t test a mattress in person though then the most reliable source of guidance is always a more detailed phone conversation with a knowledgeable and experienced retailer or manufacturer that has your best interests at heart and who can help “talk you through” the specifics of their mattresses and the options they have available that may be the best “match” for you based on the information you provide them, any local testing you have done or mattresses you have slept on and liked that they are familiar with, and the “averages” of other customers that are similar to you. They will know more about “matching” their specific mattress designs to different body types, sleeping positions, and preferences (or to other mattresses that they are familiar with) than anyone else without you needing to first go through the learning curve about mattress theory and design and the many complex specs that may be involved.

There is also more about mattress thickness in post #2 here and in post #14 here but I would focus more on whether a mattress is a good match for you in terms of PPP than I would on the thickness of the mattress because there are so many variables involved outside of thickness alone that can make a significant difference in which mattress is the best choice for you. Based on “averages” most people don’t “need” more than about 8" to 9" of latex unless they are in much higher weight ranges (closer to the upper 200’s or higher) but they still may prefer it depending on the specifics of the mattress and their body type, sleeping style, and individual preferences.

The better options or possibilities I’m aware of in and around the Minneapolis area (subject to the quality/value guidelines here) are listed in post #2 here.


Thanks for the links!

We went over to Moss Envy, who carries the Savvy Rest line composed of 3 x 3" latex layers, and were able to test out a few different configurations.

Two things were immediately apparent:
1) The staff at Moss Envy were very accommodating and willing to re-arrange layers to help us test different configurations
2) We definitely need & prefer a softer comfort layer. I’m the heaviest of the two of us, checking in at about 135 lbs. Additionally, my wife has a condition called Ehlers-Danlos, Hypermobility type, meaning it is very easy for her joints to move out of alignment and/or sublux, especially her shoulder joints. We both are primarily side and back sleepers. The Soft Talalay top layer was clearly the best of the configurations we tested in that most of the firmer layers did cause subluxation to varying degrees.
3) We’re having trouble figuring out the appropriate middle and bottom layers. All of the configurations we tried seemed to result in the shoulders too high / hips too low for proper spinal alignment. All of the mattresses they had had different configurations on the left side and the right side. At one point, we did try lying sideways on the mattress, so that the shoulders could have a softer lower two layers than the hips… this seemed to bring the best alignment. It does sound like Savvy is willing to do a split configuration (softer in the shoulders, firmer in the hips) for a relatively small upcharge, but then the mattress would not be eligible for the usual 90-day layer exchange, meaning it leave little room for error. I’m not sure if there are lower cost latex mattress alternatives. I did contact SleepEZ and they indicated they would not do this kind of zoning.
a. Based on what I’m describing, does it seem like we’re on the right track with the split layer concept?
b. Obviously I’d prefer a more standard configuration from a cost perspective, so is there another configuration you’d recommend that we test before continuing down the split layer road?
The attached table summarizes what we tried:


Hi NathanJM,

It’s very possible because of your wife’s lower weight that in a standard 3 layer component latex mattress she may do better with ultra soft Talalay that is in a lower ILD range than the standard “soft” layer that is offered by Savvy Rest or other component latex mattresses.

It may be worth testing some of the Pure Latex Bliss mattresses that have softer latex comfort layers just to see if your experience is any better or “points to” softer comfort layers (you can see the PLB specs in post #2 here) but you may need to call or email them to see if there are any retailers that carry them in your area because their retail store finder doesn’t show any that are within 100 miles of you. Of course it’s also possible to add a softer topper to any mattress as well if you need it. Some of the better online sources for latex toppers I’m aware of are listed in post # here and latex toppers can be ordered in a firmness level as low as 14 ILD.
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Even though it’s not necessary with latex in most cases … a zoning system can be helpful with more challenging situations or body types and her experience certainly “points to” a greater likelihood that she may be one of those that does better with zoning. There is more about zoning in post #11 here and the other posts it links to.

Several of the online manufacturers that are members of this site have some form of zoning in their component mattresses that may also be well worth talking to.

Spindle uses 100% natural continuous pour Dunlop that has 7 zones with firmer center zoning.

CozyPure also uses a 5 zoned support core in their Organic Comfort Zone line of mattresses.

Flobeds also has a customizable zoning system in their vZone line of mattresses where both the individual layers and the individual zones can be customized to suit the needs and preferences of each person.

Reverie also has latex cylinders in their support system that can be rearranged or “zoned” in different ways as well.

All of these mattresses also have side to side split configurations available as well so that each side of the mattress can be customized differently to match different needs and preferences for each half of a couple. There is more about side to side split mattresses in post #2 here.