how thick of a latex mattress, 9 vs 12

I have FINALLY received word from my husband that he is ready to get a new mattress. We’ve decided on all natural latex. I have very bad back struggles. I’m 125 lb and 5’ 3 and my husband is 210 and 6ft. We are going with foamsweetfoam bc of their warranty. The salesman said he would strongly urge us to get the 12inches bc of my back issues and do a med, med, firm, x-firm. Does anyone have any opinions. We want to buy once and buy right but don’t want to buy and extra 3inches for a few hundred bucks if not necessary. I mostly want something that won’t transfer motion and that won’t make me roll into my husband and that is firm enough to keep me straight while i sleep on my side but that isn’t hard as a rock. Thank you so much in advance for anyone’s commets.

Hi aminah,

The majority of people that are in your weight ranges would be fine with 8" - 9" of latex (depending on the type of latex, the design of the mattress, and their body types, sleeping style, and preferences) but of course personal preferences and the results of your own local testing on latex mattresses can also play a role here. You can read about some of the advantages of a thicker latex mattress in post #14 here which along with your own personal experiences in testing latex will give you a better sense of whether it would be worthwhile for you.


Thank you so much for a quick reply. What the gentleman said was that he would normally recommend a med, firm, x-firm which would feel fine to my 200 lb husband but not to the lighter me with back pain and that i should add an extra med. I asked why not a soft/firm/extra-firm. I couldn’t understand his answer as to why this wouldn’t be good. Do you know of anywhere near the Grand rapids or detroit area where i could try a latex mattress? Or could i try a temper-pedic and relate it to that?

Hi aminah,

This makes sense for a mattress where both sides of the mattress were layered the same. the 3 layer combination would feel firmer to you because of your lighter weight but if you add an extra layer of medium then the extra thickness in the top 2 medium layers would make it softer for you and still be fine for your husband. The reason for not using a soft over a firm is that heavier weights could “go through” the softer layer and feel the transition of the firm layer below it and this may be uncomfortable.

There are also manufacturers in the online members list here which can build a 'split layer" mattress which means that each side can have its own layering so you could use a 9" mattress with your side being S/M/F and his side being M/F/XF.

Some of the better options and possibilities in the Detroit area are listed in post #2 here. the better options in the Grand Rapids, MI area are in post #273 here (including one of the manufacturing members of this site).

You have some very good options in your area.


Thank you so much for your careful replies. Thank you especially for the contacts in GR and detroit- we will go check stuff out this weekend- what a help!

I do have one more question about the 3 vs. 4. layers. When FSF recommends the M-M-F-XFirm in order to accommodate our varying weights, why would we not just do M-M-F? Do we actually sink in deep enough that the x-firm on bottom would make any difference. FSF folks say yes and EZ sleep says there is no difference except that it gives more options for firmness.

I’d love to do the spit down the middle but my husband prefers that we swap sides regularly- just for fun.

Also, how helpful are the latex pillows?
thank you again! You must stay busy with all our questions!

Hi aminah,

The further away from you a layer is the less effect it will have on the overall feel and performance of the mattress. all the layers of a mattress compress simultaneously to different degrees but the force of compression both spreads out as it travels through the mattress and some of the force is also absorbed and dispersed through the mattress (the amount of energy that is absorbed by a material is called hysteresis).

This means that the heavier you are and the thinner the mattress the more the lower layer will have an effect. For most people it would have little noticeable effect at all but for some people it would have more of an effect. Shawn’s comments would apply in “most” cases while FSF’s comments would apply in “some” cases.

The thickness of a “comfort layer” or “comfort zone” as well as the thickness of a mattress itself will affect how a mattress compresses just as much as the ILD or compression modulus of the materials. All of these and how they interact are part of how a mattress provides pressure relief. If a mattress has 3 layers that are M/F/XF … then the 3" medium layer would often be too firm for someone that had a lighter weight and could create some pressure point issues even though someone with a heavier weight would compress it more and it would feel softer, distribute weight better, and provide better pressure relief. If you have two medium layers on top … it would provide a softer and more pressure relieving surface for someone who was lighter. As the post I linked mentioned … thicker layers can compress to a greater percentage of their height before getting too firm and compress more gradually and are more adaptable to different body types and sleeping positions and allow the use of firmer foams to get “softer” results. The compression modulus of a thicker layer could still prevent the heavier person from sinking down too far. This is all part of the “art and science” of mattress design.

If you want to swap sides with a split layering all you’d have to do is rotate the mattress 180% and you would still be sleeping on the same layering on the other side.

The choice of pillow material and design is mostly a preference choice and each person may have a different material preference in a pillow. Latex is more “springy” and some people like this and some don’t. Shredded latex can also be 'scrunched" so it can be useful for those who like the “feel” of a latex pillow but sleep in multiple sleeping positions where the pillow height or shape needs to be adjusted when they change positions. There’s more about pillows and what each person may “need” and the many different preferences that are involved in a pillow choice in the pillow thread here. While there are certainly some common “needs” with pillows related to sleeping position and body type to keep your head and neck in good alignment in all your sleeping positions … they also involve many more “preference” and “feel” choices than even a mattress and each person has their favorite type that just “feels” the best to them…


Your feedback has been by far the most helpful in this process. Thank you for your detailed responses. Per your advice we found a mattress to try out in person.

We tried a savvyrest. It was all dunlop.
He liked f-f-m
I liked f-m-m.

Our friend at foam sweet foam still suggests the --xfirm -f-m -m in the all talalay. My concern is the talalay is known to be softer than the dunlop- do you think it will feel too soft? Do you think this combo would be good for someone who likes what we liked? We’re still a bit confused. If we got the xf f m m and it did feel a little too soft do you think we could swap the layers to xf m f m and that could do something for us?

my husband still wants to have the same thing on both sides.

thank you kindly, phoenix

Hi aminah,

I think that one of the most difficult things for most consumers to understand is the amount of technical knowledge, intuitive knowledge and experience can go into the choice of the “best” mattress for any particular person.

When you are dealing with a good online retailer or manufacturer (or local as well) … their goal is always to help you make the choice that they believe will make you the happiest in both the short term and the long term. The goal of both the merchant and the consumer is to get it right the first time so that there are no exchanges involved or worse yet (for both) a refund for those that offer this. This can take considerable expertise. In many cases when you talk with them they will pick up on some cues that you may not even realize you are sending that can make a difference in what they suggest. They are also well aware of both short term and long term needs and preferences that a consumer may not be as aware of. For example someone may test a mattress locally and then provide the information about how it felt and how they say it or in some cases what they don’t say can be as important as what they are actually describing. In other cases they may believe that what they are suggesting will be mostly similar but will have some differences that may be difficult to describe but will have much better odds of making you happy in a few months and years from now as it does at the beginning (and hopefully even more so).

What this means is that you could talk to 3 different manufacturers that could each have a different suggestion and all of them will genuinely believe that you will do better on the suggestions they are making even though they may be different. This is why part of the value of an online mattress purchase is the recourse that you have in the event that you make a less than ideal choice. This is also why the ability to both rearrange or exchange layers or the return or exchange options of the mattress with an online purchase can be an important part of “value” in case “best efforts” are not quite close enough. They are also much more familiar with the smaller details of the layers and components that they offer that can make a bigger difference than their customers may suspect and they will each have dealt with a large number of customers that would be similar to you at least in general ways and made certain choices that needed to be changed after a purchase. Each merchant may pick up on different things in a conversation or sometimes smaller differences in designs or materials may lead to different suggestions as well. Part of the “value” of any mattress purchase is the value, knowledge, and expertise of the person you are working with.

As hard as it may be for many people that haven’t spent years in the industry selling mattresses to really understand, there are many different possible combinations that may work very well for each person that may each have different “tradeoffs” and there may not be a single “best” combination.

So my suggestion is always to talk with each retailer or manufacturer you are working with and ask them any questions that will help you resolve any uncertainties you may have about the “why” behind what they are suggesting. In the end of course you could always “duplicate” what you tested as closely as the materials they offer make possible (if you are absolutely certain that what you tested is your “ideal” in both the short and long term) but this may not always be in your best interests.

In this case as well … each mattress uses a completely method of adapting to two different body types and this can also affect the layer choices that may be best and can take some experience to translate one into the other. Changing the order of layers, the amount of layers, the thickness of the layers, or the softness of the layers can all affect how a mattress feels and performs in sometimes unexpected ways because every layer and component has some effect on every other layer and component in a mattress.

I can certainly provide some of the 'theory" behind different types of layering but in the end it’s always best to work with each merchant you are working with to come to a decision about which layering they offer is the most likely to be “best” for you. They are the most knowledgeable “experts” in their own designs. The objective/technical part, the subjective/intuitive part and even the intangibles that are just based on “gut feel” are all part of this.

The thing I would always remember is that everyone’s goal is for you to end up with a mattress that is the “best” mattress for you and of course I would also factor in your own confidence in your purchase as well as the value of being able to re-arrange and even exchange layers if that is necessary.

To answer your question about Talalay vs Dunlop … if you compress each layer more than 25% then Talalay will typically feel softer in the same ILD as Dunlop yes. Sometimes this may not be a completely accurate comparison because ILD itself is not always as accurate as many people believe and other qualities of each type of latex play a role in how each person perceives “softness” or “firmness” as well. There is “hand feel” softness/firmness, “pressure relief” softness/firmness, and “support” softness/firmness and all of these may be different (see post #15 here). Sometimes people talk about one when what they are describing may be more about another. There is more about the differences between Dunlop and Talalay in post #7 here.

So the “best” advice I can give you is to do what you do best which is some local testing which is as accurate as possible which you can describe as specifically as possible along with asking all the questions that are necessary for your confidence level to be high enough to “pull the trigger” on a purchase. At the same time I would let them do what they are best at which is to listen carefully and to make the suggestions that take everything you have discussed into account (along with the things that you many not even know to ask), answer all your questions, and use their knowledge and experience so that your final choice has the best odds of being everything you want it to be. This is the shared goal of both of you.

If you are dealing with one manufacturer … then this is simple enough because your best choice with that manufacturer becomes your purchase. If you are dealing with more than one manufacturer … then once you have made your final choice at each one … then you are down to choices between “good and good” and there are no clear winners between them then your final choice (see post #2 here) will be a matter of using all the information and knowledge you have gathered, along with your “educated intuition”, and “gut feel” to make a best judgement decision based on all the parts of your personal value equation that are most important to you (including price and exchange or return options of course).

This is why both the design and manufacturing of a mattress and the choice of which one is most suitable for each person is equally an art and a science … which is also why it’s always so interesting :slight_smile:

Hope this helps.