Fine tuning comfort layer

Hi All (notably Phoenix),

After much research on this forum and shopping at local stores, I ordered myself a DIY latex mattress. I’m a 5" 9’, 205 lb male, and generally sleep about 50/50 side and back. I ordered a 34 ILD 6" all natural dunlop latex core, and a 26 ILD 3 inch all natural talalay topper (it is an N3 - the nice people at KTT enterprises found me a 26 since i though 28-29 would be too firm). For a cover i ordered the Sleepez non quilted stretch cover.

I’ve had the latex a few days now, and while I haven’t put the cover on yet., my initial impression is that the 26 ILD topper is letting my hips sink in about the right amount (I guess I would prefer if my hips sank a tad further, but not too much), but my shoulders are not sinking in as much as my hips (my shoulders only really sink in maybe half an inch or so when im on my back), which puts my spine at a bit of an angle (with my hips low and my upper back / neck/shoulders higher). This is worse when I am on my back than when I am on my side (on my side my shoulders still don’t sink as much as my hips - but it is closer because of the additional pressure my shoulders put down when I am on my side, if that makes sense).

I plan on giving it at least another week or two to break in and to confirm my feelings, but in the meantime I wanted to get some feedback about how I can soften up the top layer to let my shoulders sink in a bit more without letting my hips drop too much more. Because the bed is a split king with my girlfriend (who has memory foam on her side) - I cant replace the 3 inches with anything more than 3 inches. I am thinking about three options:

(1) replace the 3" 26 ILD topper with a 3" ~22 ILD topper
(2) replace the 3" 26 ILD topper with 1" of 22 ILD (or even lower) and 2" of 28 ILD
(3) replace the 3" 26 ILD topper with 2" of 22 ILD and 1 " of 28 or 32 ILD

The question is really whether a 3" 22 ILD would sufficiently stop my hips, or whether I should hedge my bets and split up the 3" into a 2-inch and 1-inch layer, with the lower layer being harder to stop my hips. To the extent it is relevant, I think the 34 ILD core is soft enough that I wouldn’t mind hitting it a little bit (I can’t feel it at all right now with the 3" 26 ILD, even when I push down). This is my only return on the topper so I am tempted by the flexibility that the mix of layers gives me - but I also don’t want to introduce unnecessary levels of complexity when a simple step down in firmness will do.

Thank you. .

**Edit: another option would be to order half the length of my bed in a 3" super soft 19 ILD or so, and cut my top layer in half to create a 2 zone system (with 26 under my hips/legs and 19 under my shoulders). This is intriguing but kind of makes me nervous re: what it will feel like and getting it right.

Hi djgoldb,

If you are attracted to the idea of designing and building your own mattress out of separate components and a separate cover then the first place to start (and hopefully you’ve read this already since you’ve already purchased your layers) is by reading option 3 in post #15 here and the posts it links to (and option #1 and #2 as well) so that you have more realistic expectations and that you are comfortable with the learning curve, uncertainty, trial and error, or in some cases the higher costs that may be involved in the DIY process. While it can certainly be a rewarding project … the best approach to a DIY mattress is a “spirit of adventure” where what you learn and the satisfaction that comes from the process itself is more important than any cost savings you may realize (which may or may not happen).

For those who decide to take on the challenge then I would normally suggest either using the specs (if they are available) of a mattress that you have tested and confirmed is a good match for you in terms of PPP as a reference point (the same type and blend of latex in the same thickness and firmness levels and a very similar cover which can also make a significant difference to the feel and performance of a mattress) or use a “bottom up” approach (see post #2 here).

Having said that … since you have already purchase all your layers I would suggest putting everything together (including the cover) and sleeping on it for a few weeks so that the layers have a chance to break in a little and you have the chance to adjust to a new sleeping surface (see post #3 here).

During the first few weeks you sleep on your first combination of layers I would avoid speculating too much about any changes you may think you need and I would also avoid the temptation to use your more subjective sensations (such as guessing how far various parts of your body may be sinking in relative to the others or what your combination of layers “feels like” initially) to assess your success. Once you have spent enough time on your mattress to identify any consistent patterns in your sleeping experience I would rely on any actual symptoms you experience (such as lower back pain or pressure points) to decide on whether your mattress is a good “match” for you in terms of PPP and use your “symptoms” as a guideline and reference point to help you decide on whether you need to make any changes and if you do on the types of changes that would have the best chance of success.

IMO … you are too early in the process to really think about or decide on making any changes yet and I would take a more slow and incremental “symptoms based” approach.


PS: It may also be worth reading post #7 here for more about the “process” involved.

So, after sleeping for several nights with the cover on, my initial suspicion is correct - the mattress is too firm when on my side. My lower back is hurting and I’m uncomfortable sleeping. I can feel that my hip is hitting the hard core underneath which then causes it to tilt inwards. I ordered a 3" 19 ILD which arrived yesterday and slept on it tonight (directly over the core) - and it is an improvement in that it lets my shoulders sink in a bit more - but I am confident now that the 34 dunlop core is too firm and not letting me sink in sufficiently - i can feel my hips hit it and shift… So, I am thinking I will return the core and opt for the traditional 3+3+3 talalay setup. I was thinking 19/28/36, but I fear that may be over correcting in the other direction and will let my hips sink too far. I could also reduce the mid layer to a 2 inch, 28 mid layer, and then have a 4 inch core - which would put me a bit closer to the core. Or I could do something more along the lines of 24/28/36, which would be less of a change between the first 2 layers, but i fear my shoulders wont sink in to the 24.

In any event, this current setup wont work - i cant even sleep on it through the night. Thoughts/advice would be great - thank you.

Hi djgoldb,

It may still be a little bit early to make any significant changes (it’s only been about 2 weeks or so and you have only been sleeping on the mattress with the cover for a few days). You can see an example here of one of the members where it took about 2 months for the mattress to break in and for their body to get used to a different sleeping surface and an initial break in and adjustment period of 30 days isn’t at all unusual.

Again I would sleep on your new combination for more than just one night before you decide whether it is working for you. I would also keep in mind that both layers are compressing simultaneously and not sequentially (the deeper layer doesn’t only start to compress after the top layer is finished compressing) so they will compress and become firmer to different degrees and the top layer will “firm up” faster than the layer below it which generally smooths out the transition between them. It would be somewhat unusual to be able to feel the transition between a 3" 26 ILD comfort layer and a 34 ILD support core underneath it since they are relatively close in terms of ILD.

It may be that you were feeling the firmness of the top layer which may not be allowing you to sink in “enough” on your side to “fill in” the gaps in your body profile when you are sleeping on your side rather than the firmness of the layer underneath it. Most of the “sink” will come from the upper layers (not the deeper support core) so it may be worth trying a 3" 24 ILD layer on top of the support core that you currently have to see if it makes a difference or how it compares to the other two combinations. Your cover may also need more time to break in and lose any of its initial stiffness as well.

It would also be helpful if you let us know whether replacing the 26 ILD comfort layer with the 19 ILD comfort layer resulted in any changes to your lower back pain (you only mentioned how your experience changed with your shoulders) since this may also be a “pointer” to the layering combination that may be best for you.

If you do decide to replace your current configuration with a 3 layer system then I would be tempted to replace it with the slightly firmer of the two combinations you mentioned (24, 28, 36) which would give you a combination where the top 6" of your mattress were both a little softer than the 26/34 combination you started with and the transition between the top two layers would also be very small and then you can use your experience on this combination to assess whether you would need to make any additional changes. I tend to prioritize posture/alignment over pressure relief so when there are undecided between two combinations I would tend to choose the one that is slightly firmer. If you still find that the top 2 layers are too firm for you then you can try the 19/28/36 combination which would be the next increment softer.

In the end though the only way to know whether any combination will be a good match for you will be based on your actual experience and how your symptoms “change” with each combination you try since there really isn’t a formula that can predict which combination will be best for you with any certainty. For most people there is a range of combinations that will work well so they don’t have to find the combination that is “exactly right” down to the smaller details but if you are more sensitive to smaller changes then it can take some trial and error to find the combination that is inside the comfort/support range that is suitable for you.

You mentioned in your previous post that you were also considering a 2 zone system and if you do decide to go in this direction I would make your cut line about 2" above the position of your belly button on the mattress (near the bottom of the rib cage) but playing with different layer thicknesses and zoning systems where you need to cut the latex can become more complex so I would do a little more experimentation with your 6" and 3" layers so you have better reference points before introducing additional complexities into your design.


I didn’t mean to say I felt the transition necessarily to the core - but more of that I can tell that it is the core that is getting firm very fast and I’m feeling that in my hips. When I tried the 19 ILD - it felt softer, but I still felt a distinct hardening once i sank a certain amount - similar to the 26 ILD. Unfortunately, while the 19 felt better sleeping, my back pain has persisted pretty much unchanged. I am pretty confident it is the core because even my girlfriends memory foam side feels similar. So, I really do think it is the second 3 inches that needs to change. I am going to try and sleep tonight with the 26 on top, over the 19, over the core, and see how that feels (the 19 over 26 feels a bit soft).

Hi djgoldb,

It may be worth trying both combinations for a few days each (ie. the 19 over the 26 as well as the 26 over the 19) to see what you can “learn” from different combinations. I would always test each new combination for at least several days rather than just a single day so that your experience shows more of a “pattern” and your body has the chance to "catch up to the changes you are making. The 19/26/34 would be somewhat of an “approximation” of the 19/28/36 you were mentioning earlier and it could give you some idea of how it may work for you.


So, 26/19/34/34 (counting 34 twice bc of 6 inch core) - left my back feeling significantly better but I can tell it was too soft in the long run (my hips felt low). Seems to confirm that the 2nd 3 inches need to be less than 34 and more than 19. Will continue to try but I’m leaning towards something along the lines of 26/28/36. It gives me less flexibility in rearranging layers but my body seems to prefer it so what can I say.

Hi djgoldb,

I would be cautious about reading too much into a single nights experience with any combination and I would go by the actual physical symptoms you experience (which seem to be improving) rather than how much it “feels like” your hips are sinking in but it sounds like you may be heading in a good direction.

This would make sense to me. Depending on the exchange options you have you could either try the 24/28/36 combination with blended Talalay 3" layers or you could use your 26 ILD 100% natural N3 layer as the top layer (instead of the 24) or as the middle layer (the 100% natural would be a little firmer than the same ILD in blended Talalay so depending on the actual ILD of the blended layer you were comparing it to it would probably be a little closer to a 28 ILD than a 24 ILD in blended Talalay.


I was thinking of doing all three layers natural…so maybe 24/26 will be better than 26/28? I guess it is a small difference…

Also, regarding blended vs natural - I wasn’t comparing apples to apples (26 vs 19), but to me I could feel a difference in how dense / springy the natural was - it might have just been the ILD difference but the blended felt more cake-like and less rubbery/bouncy. So - I may slightly prefer the natural - but I don’t think the difference is worth it if there is a notable lessening in durability… Any sense in how big the durability difference will be in the 24-28 ILD range?


Most people wouldn’t notice a difference of only 2 ILD which would also be inside the range that a single layer could vary across the surface of the layer anyway (they test each core in 9 different places and the individual measurements can vary by more than 2 ILD.

The natural also comes in wider ILD ranges than the Blend and the N2 would be somewhere in a range between 20 - 24 and the N3 would be somewhere in a range between 25 and 29. Even the blend that is rated with specific ILD numbers would be in a range but it would be a narrower range than the natural.

Most people wouldn’t notice much if any difference between the blend and natural in a single layer has the same thickness and ILD but the difference between them may be more noticeable with a whole mattress or multiple layers.

While it’s not possible to quantify the difference in durability in terms of a specific length of time because of all the many variables involved in durability (see post #2 here) … it would probably be safe to say that there wouldn’t be much meaningful difference between an N3 layer and a blended layer that was the same thickness and ILD in the same mattress design but once you are down to N2 (lower 20’s) or lower the difference in durability would be more and in N1 the difference would be greater yet.


For a top layer - as between a 25 ILD 100% natural (N3), and a 24 ILD blended - is there any reason to go with blended besides price? I generally like the feeling that the latex is “pushing” back against me - but I also like sinking in a bit - which I suppose are somewhat opposing preferences that cut both ways. I also move around a lot at night and tend to put a decent amount of wear on the top layer, which worries me with the natural long term…

Hi djgoldb,

There is more about 100% natural Talalay vs blended Talalay in post #2 here. In the same ILD … the blend will tend to be more durable and more pressure relieving while the 100% natural is denser and will tend to be more “supportive” and more resilient although with a single layer if the ILD is the same most people probably wouldn’t notice much if any difference in a “blind” side by side comparison.

I would also keep in mind that latex in general is a more durable material than other types of foam so “less durable” is only relative to other types of latex and 100% natural Talalay is still a very durable material.


So I decided to use my N3 (26 ILD) as a mid layer. I have two options for top layers (based on what KTT has available) - either a 24 blended (which actually averages at 23), or another N3 layer (which averages at 25) - negligible difference?

Edit: I’m also planning a 36 ILD blended base layer. Any reason to go higher? I figure 36 talalay is probably similar to the 34 dunlop core I have now - which seems plenty firm for the bottom 3 inches, but its dunlop so comparing is somewhat difficult…

Hi djgoldb,

Yes … in practical terms a difference of 2 ILD would be negligible.

I agree that there wouldn’t be any specific or obvious reason to go higher for a 3" bottom layer with your body weight and it would be “similar” to a 34 ILD Dunlop.


So, I have spent several days sleeping on 24/26 (N3)/ 36, and I have wanted to share my experience and also ask for advice.

First of all, it isnt too soft. Based on what I read I was scared I would be going way softer (perhaps too soft) - but in reality the difference is not that huge - when you are talking about relative levels of compression of a layer, latex gets firmer so fast that even if you drop 8 ILD like i did (34 to 26 in the second layer), the practical effect is that my hips sink maybe half an inch more. However, the comfort is significantly improved on my hips because the 26 doesnt stop as abruptly at the 34 dunlop did. So that is good. I also feel that having my hips lowered improved my lower back pain because it lined up better with my lumber when I was on my side.

However, the 24 on the top does not let my shoulders sink in enough. The change to the mid layer did not translate to much difference in my shoulders - and they are still relatively high compared to the rest of my spine - which is causing me mid/upper back pain (between my shoulder blades mainly). I measured my shoulders (from side to side, not around), and they are about 4-5 inches wider than my hips - which means they theoretically should need significantly more room to sink.

My conclusion from this is that I probably should keep what I have for my hips, but do zoning with a softer layer under my upper body. I tried this by sleeping sideways on my mattress since my girlfriend has memory foam as her top layer. Although I did not sleep like that - it did seem better.

So - my questions are: (1) does zoning sound appropriate - or is there another better way to achieve better relative sinking of my shoulders, (2) if i do zoning, should I change the top 3 inches or mid layer?, and (3) what should I use to zone with? I was thinking of using memory foam since it lets my shoulders sink in easily, but perhaps something like 14 ILD latex would work also (i doubt 19 is going to do much from 24).

Edit: if I do memory foam - do you know of a place that sells custom lengths? I don’t want to buy a full length topper and then have to cut it and use only 1/3 of it…

Hi djgoldb,

Zoning can certainly be a good solution if you have a body type that is more challenging to “fit” to unizoned layers but I would also keep in mind that “ruler straight” alignment isn’t necessary or even possible in most cases. As long as your design keeps you in the alignment range that doesn’t produce “symptoms” when you sleep on the mattress then it would be fine. There is more about zoning in post #11 here and the posts it links to that may be helpful but of course with any combination of layers or zoning patterns the only way to know whether it’s a good match for you in “real life” will be based on your own personal experience.

There is more about the most common symptoms that people may experience when they sleep on a mattress and the most likely (although not the only) reasons for them in post #2 here.

There is also more about primary or “deep” support and secondary or “surface” support and their relationship to firmness and pressure relief and the “roles” of different layers in a mattress in post #2 here and in post #4 here that may also be helpful in clarifying the difference between “support” and “pressure relief” and “feel”.

These posts are the “tools” that can help with the analysis, trial and error, and detective work that may be necessary to help you learn your body’s language and “translate” what your body is trying to tell you so you can make the types of layering changes that have the best chance of reducing or eliminating any “symptoms” you are experiencing.

If you are experiencing upper back pain from shoulders that don’t sink in enough then some of the other options that may help are either a softer top comfort layer such as the 19 ILD layer you have which would be the next increment softer and would help your shoulders to sink in more deeply than softening the middle layer or your “symptoms” could also be the result of a pillow issue. Some of the information in posts #2 and #3 here may be helpful as well.

You can do either depending on the effect you are looking for. Zoning the top layer can have a bigger effect on the “feel” of the mattress and on how deeply your shoulders are able to sink in relative to your hips/pelvis and zoning the deeper layers can have a bigger effect on how deeply your hips/pelvis sink in relative to your shoulders without sacrificing pressure relief under your hips. The effects of zoning in the deeper layers will be more subtle than zoning in the top layers. In other words if the main issue is how deeply your shoulders are sinking in but the firmness under your hips/pelvis is fine you can use zoning to “allow” your shoulders to sink in more deeply by softening the shoulder zone in the top layer. If the main issue is that your shoulders are fine but your pelvis is sinking in too much then you can zone the deeper layers to “stop” the hips from sinking in too deeply by firming up the middle zone in the deeper layers without affecting the pressure relief under your hips.

While I haven’t personally tried a combination of memory foam/latex zoning … I would hesitate to use it because the materials are too different from each other and I would tend to use the same material in top surface zoning layers so that the sleeping surface is consistent in terms of feel and response other than firmness levels and using memory foam in deeper zoning levels can prevent the memory foam from responding the way it’s designed to and can firm up the memory foam compared to using it in the top layer.

I’m a little lost and unclear about the specific details of the all the exact combinations of layers you have actually slept on for a few days or longer and how they specifically compared to each other in terms of the “symptoms” you experienced in each of them but if I’m not mistaken you have a 19 ILD layer anyway so I would try using it instead of your current 24 ILD top layer to see how it works for you before going to a 14 ILD layer.

If you can write a post that recaps the specifics of each layer combination that you have tried for a few days or longer (listed from top to bottom) in bold and then make some comments about the specifics of how each combination differs from the others and the types and “direction” of the changes you noticed relative to the one before it underneath each layering description it would also be helpful and be a more useful reference to see them all together.

I don’t know off the top of my head which of the suppliers in the component list sell custom sizes so you may need to call them and ask. I would try KTT and SLAB (they sell odd sizes in their scrap section) to see if they have any odd sizes available that would either be the right size for the zone you want or that are only a little larger and wouldn’t need to “waste” most of a layer.


I have tried the following layers = Bottom/middle/top (3" each):

34/34/26 - too firm in every way - hips had pressure pain due to hard mid layer and did not sink in enough - and shoulders did not sink enough - low back pain mostly
(dunlop bottom 2)

34/34/19 (dunlop bottom two)- not much better - hips still felt the 34 dunlop and hurt and did not sink enough - shoulders still didnt sink enough relative to hips. Low back pain mostly.

36/26/24 (all 3 inch talalay) - better on hips - shoulders still do not sink in enough. Mostly higher back pain.

  • Last night I tried laying an additional 1 inch layer of the same 24 latex on this last config. It felt better - but not enough - shoulder still felt high, and still some upper back discomfort throughout the night and morning - but it was less than other nights.

I exchanged the 19 for the 24 so I don’t have that to try anymore. Based on my perceptions of the difference between them and how much my shoulders are sinking at the moment - I am skeptical the change from 24 to 19 would do enough - especially since I have the sticker on my 24 layer and its actually more like a 22 down the middle. The memory foam I tried is the 5.3 lb from select foam, and is something like 12-14 ILD. I agree mixing memory foam and latex would be a little weird - but i wonder whether latex of any ILD is going to let me shoulders sink in like memory foam does - even a 14 ILD latex - if compressed 60% or more (which is probably likely given my shoulder will be right on it) will be a lot more difficult to compress than memory foam, given the difference in compression factor, right?

Hi djboldb,

I’m assuming that you slept on all these combinations for a minimum of a few nights (at least two and preferably longer) … is that correct ?

The low back pain is the most important part of this description because it describes the specific symptoms and “what” you were experiencing. Your comments about how much each part of your body was sinking in is less important because in the end this is speculating about the possible reasons “why” you were experiencing your symptoms. While of course this type of speculation has value because without it you wouldn’t be able to decide on the next combination that you wanted to try … in some cases it may be accurate and in some cases may it not be and once you are testing different layering combinations it’s always more reliable to look at how your specific symptoms change with different combinations to get a clearer sense of the actual effect of different types of changes.

While the most common reason for lower back pain is a mattress that has support layers that are too soft or comfort layers that are too thick and soft … because of the firmness of your top two layers and your other “speculation” I would also have leaned towards softening the upper layers.

Again your comments about your actual physical sensations and “symptoms” are the most valuable here. While you mentioned it wasn’t much better … at least it was better so this would be a pointer that you were moving in the right direction by softening the upper layers. I would have guessed here that the middle layer was too firm and that the transition between the top layer and the middle layer was too much of a differential so if the layers were available I probably would have reduced the ILD of the middle layer so that it had a more gradual progression between layers and I probably would have left the top layer at 19.

There are three changes in this combination (one in each layer) so it’s not really possible to know for certain which of your changes are having which effect. I would tend to only make one smaller incremental change at a time so that the specific effect of each change can be identified more clearly.

If I was in your shoes I would have kept the 19 ILD and changed the middle layer either to the 26 (which you did) or to the 24, I would have tried the 26 first because when there are small differences involved I would normally err on the side of slightly firmer rather than softer. The change in the bottom layer from 34 Dunlop to 36 Talalay would probably have less effect than the other two changes.

Based on your comments it seems that your lower back pain was gone so this is closer to the range that appears to keep your lower back in good alignment and the only remaining issue seems to be your upper body/shoulders. This would also “point to” the combination of 19/26 or 19/24 on top of the 36 as being well worth considering.

Additional thickness will “act” softer than thinner layers on the same layers below them and will allow you to sink in more deeply so the additional inch has a “softening” effect. This also "points to thicker/softer comfort layers and indicates that you are still heading in the right direction.

The next “logical” step would be 36/26/19 or 36/24/19 and I would lean towards the 19 rather than using an ILD as low as 14 with your body weight although if that was the only way that you could make it work then of course suitability always “trumps” durability.

If you have confirmed that softer/thicker comfort and transition layers aren’t effective then that is the time I would begin to experiment with zoning configurations as the next logical step although of course you may decide to “bypass” the next steps of softer/thicker comfort/transition layers and try them anyway but I’ll leave that decision up to your “best judgement”.