Hybrid vs Pure Latex for the Painful Back

Hi Phoenix,
You have a wonderful site here with more info than anyone could imagine! In my first visits to bed retailers I’ve found my knowledge has been equal to, or better than theirs…which isn’t good because I’m a bit overwhelmed.

My Ortho mattress is six years old and of course is shot due to the compression of the comfort foam. It’s too hard. I have had lower back pain, worst upon awakening, since May 2012. I have L4 degenerative disk disease. My pain is better when sleeping on my back on my day bed which has a 5" cushion on a wood base or slats (cant see into the upholstered foundation). The carpeted floor is not good. I put a 3" 4lb density memory foam topper on the bed which made minimal improvement for me and engendered back pain for the wife. My hips really sink into it. She hates the feeling and her pain progressed so it was removed.

I am 6’2" 205lbs. Side and back sleeper who moves through all positions if not comfortable though i can stay on my back with pillows under my legs on the day bed.
She is 5’3" 120lbs side sleeper.

We live in west Los Angeles. I have ruled out memory foam. I favor a latex coil hybrid or latex. I have felt a couple of diamond hybrids incl royal grove (dont know if the other one was a disguised maple for Beds etc). They were pretty good. The only ethos i have found was way too soft. I’m going to try to find some more diamond beds today and try the PLB. I figure that once i have done that i might be ready to talk to henry at flexus.

I consider myself bright, and now informed, but i find myself getting overwhelmed. There’s no way i want to customize layers of foam or buy online but even knowing more than 90% of consumers (thanks to you) i am fatiguing and my photos of alignment are starting to look alike!

Hi Dr. Rich,

Unfortunately this is all too common. Even those who read the overviews on the site will find that they know more about mattresses than many of the salespeople who sell them (especially in the mass market outlets and chain stores) and when you start asking questions you will see eyes start to roll, evasive answers, or outright wrong or misleading information presented as fact.

This is fairly typical when you add a topper to a mattress where the foam near the top has softened or broken down. the topper will still sink into the softened foam below it (especially in the areas it has softened under the heavier areas of the body) and it puts you further away from the firmer support layers which are designed to “stop” the heavier areas of the body from sinking in too far. This is why it’s easy to fix a mattress where the upper layers are too firm (with a topper) but very difficult to fix a mattress where the top layers are too soft. Any improvement is usually minor or temporary.

[quote]I am 6’2" 205lbs. Side and back sleeper who moves through all positions if not comfortable though i can stay on my back with pillows under my legs on the day bed.
She is 5’3" 120lbs side sleeper.[/quote]

There are several ways to accommodate different needs and preferences on the same mattress. You can read a bit more about them in post #2 here. A good manufacturer or retailer though will have the knowledge and experience to help with this (again so you don’t have to “be the expert” yourself) so this is just to give you the confidence of knowing that a mattress can accommodate the different needs and preferences of two very different people.

Given the retailers and manufacturers you are mentioning you have probably already seen this but just in case … the list of the better options and possibilities I know of in the greater Los Angeles area are in post #2 here.

I understand how easy it is to get overwhelmed with all the information especially on a site like this where the information base keep growing. The easiest way to bypass this is to limit the places you visit to the ones that have the knowledge and experience to give you good guidance and focus more on “finding the experts” than on becoming one or crossing the line into information overload. Too little knowledge usually leads to poor choices in terms of quality or value (especially if most of your shopping is at mass market outlets) but there is also a line where too much information can lead to information overload and paralysis by analysis.

I would also trust your body when it comes to pressure relief and alignment rather than going by “specs” about what is “right” or “wrong”. Some guidelines for testing for pressure relief are in this article and for alignment are in this article and a simpler version is in post #11 here. Keep in mind that everything boils down to the two basic functions of a mattress which is pressure relief and support/alignment and everything after that is all about preferences and making sure that the mattress you are considering uses high quality materials so the comfort and support won’t break down too quickly.


Thank you for your reply and info. I shall try to trust my body as much as my researching mind! My progress (i’m on vac this week and devoting it to mattress shopping):

Good Night Mattress in Redondo Bch: Nancy was the most knowlegable and professional person i’ve encountered so far. She noted my alignment on the beds tried and seemed to steer me toward a softer comfort layer than i expected. she thought i laid too high on the firmer mattresses with regard to my shoulders and hips. The best were the Nature PLB with a 2" latex topper or the stressopedic signature plush with a 2" latex topper. Stressopedic is a hybrid with only a bit of latex, i know.

Beds etc: The best there were the electropedics (not sure of the thicknesses of the support layer with 1.1" comfort on either side) and a diamond hybrid made for them that i think is the Diamond spinal comfort royal grove eurotop (medium plush) hybrid.

Interiors Made Eezzy: furniture store with very accomodating owners trying to procure an ethos for me to try. They have the Diamond royal grove at a better price.

I’m not sure i like adding toppers rather than getting the right mattress. What are your thoughts on the PLB and stressopedic? With the PLB that runs into $$ which is ok if nec but not sure it is. I am not sure about pure latex vs hybrid. Different feels. Hybrids have a conventional feel. I like the electropedic but i have read your thoughts about the electropedic as not being the best value. perhaps a trip to flexus would help?

Additional info: i think electropedic is 6" core and 11/2" comfort layer on both sides.

Hi Dr. Rich,

I’ll make a few comments about each of the options you mentioned to give you a sense of how I would approach things.

It’s great to see a mattress consultant helping you check for alignment because this is certainly a sign of a more knowledgeable person that is more interested in helping you make the most suitable choice than they are just “getting the sale”. The PLB could be a good choice but there are a variety of prices that are charged by different retailers (although they have minimum advertised pricing). They certainly use good quality materials (talalay latex) but in general they are “better than average” compared to more mainstream brands in terms of pricing but not in the “best value” range although at some retailers they can be very good value (there are some forum posts from various members … particularly with their older models which may still be available in some areas or places … that were being sold for remarkable value). I personally would tend to avoid the latex toppers that are as soft as the PLB … especially for your weight … because even latex may have durability issues at this softness level although it would have less affect on alignment (because you would sink into a topper this soft more evenly). They are also much more costly than other latex toppers available so they may be more useful for testing than a purchase. The durability issue would affect you more than your wife.

Stress-o-pedic is a west coast regional manufacturer that has a good reputation among most retailers but they also use more complex layering and it seems that most retailers aren’t able to provide the details of the layers that they use in their mattresses. I personally have a Stress-o-pedic that is in the range of 15 years old that is a firm two sided version with thin comfort layers that has been regularly flipped and still has an even (and firm) surface that is still in use for a heavy 14 year old young man (just under 200 lbs) and with a 2" shredded latex topper is still works well with no sink holes. While this may be a testament to this particular mattress and the materials they were using 15 years ago … I would not be comfortable buying a mattress where i didn’t know the details of the layers so I could identify any potential weak links in the mattress. If they are able to give you the details of all the layers … then I would certainly consider them on a mattress by mattress basis … with or without a topper. While I would choose them if I was forced to make a “blind” purchase over larger brands because I believe the quality/value would be better … I would prefer not to have to make a blind purchase at all.

Electropedic also uses very high quality materials (again Talalay latex) and they have the benefit of being two sided which are a durability bonus even with latex. Their “value” would depend on the price they were selling foralong of course with all the other factors that are part of the value of every mattress purchase and how they compared to other similar mattresses in apples to apples comparisons. They use a 5.6" latex core with the 1.1" comfort layer on each side (you can see the layering near the bottom of the page here) and have various firmness options in both the core ILD and the comfort layers. These could make a good choice again depending on how they compared to other talalay latex mattresses in terms of suitability and value.

My comments about the Diamond hybrid would be similar to my comments about Stress-o-pedic and would depend on knowing the layering in the mattress so I could identify any potential weak link. They have potential and fairly complex layering (latex, memory foam, polyfoam, and pocket coils) which makes knowing the specifics even more important.

Similar comments about the Diamond as previously.

I think of a sleeping system as an integrated system and a mattress may be all of this or only part of it. A mattress/topper combination has many advantages not the least of which are that you can adjust the comfort level of your mattress at any time with a different topper if needs or people change and you can also replace the layer that is under the most stress and is likely to soften and degrade the fastest without replacing the whole mattress. The important thing with a topper is that the mattress is suitable for it because if the upper layers of the base mattress are too thick and/or soft … then the topper could put you too far away from the support layers which could risk alignment. The base mattress in this case should have thinner and firmer comfort layers than you would otherwise choose and they should have the least possible amount of lower quality materials that are subject to softening (such as lower density polyfoam). the topper will also extend the comfort life of the materials that are under it by absorbing much of the stress of regular use. This is often how hotels extend the life of their mattresses which tend to use lower quality polyfoam in the comfort layers.

A trip to Flexus would certainly be worthwhile IMO … they do have some very good quality and value choices and they are fully transparent with everything they make. I would at the very least talk with them on the phone.

They have several variations and options in terms of layering but they should be able to tell you which one you are considering and you shouldn’t have to guess. They are part of the same family as Electropedic and if they don’t know the details of what you are testing they can call and find out right away.

Hope this helps.


I visited with Henry at Flexus and the folks at Electropedic.
I finally got to feel latex core/comfort layer beds aside from PLB.

Henry is terrific. He is a hard working independent businessman who is Incredibly knowledgable of his craft and upfront and transparent with info. I spent over an hour with him. He changed layers for me and was incredibly patient and helpful while i napped on his beds. If at all possible i would love to give him the sale. He topped 6" dunlop ild 31 with either 3" of talalay 24 or 3" of dunlop 31. He did this as i asked for a slightly firmer feel which my wife prefers. It felt a bit rubbery to me with dunlop on dunlop but a bit soft with the talalay so i’m not sure. Also wonder about a pure dunlop bed with what has been written about talalay vs dunlop on your site.

Electropedic has double sided talalay as you know. The 9" model (5.6" base, 1.1" comforts) was ok in reg firm and extra firm. Not sure if thats enough for my weight (205lbs) The 11" (6", 1.5"s) was a little too soft or too firm in the two models. Is all talalay better?

Vs. the diamond hybrid royal grove. A blind purchase that the wife may prefer for the feel… Dont know yet.

What do you think? Thanks!

Hi Dr.Rich,

I think the choice between Dunlop and Talalay is strictly a matter of personal preference and not a “better worse” comparison. I personally for example prefer the “feel” of Talalay but my daughter on the other hand prefers the feel of Dunlop (after testing both) and she recently purchased a mattress that is Dunlop from top to bottom. At least we both like latex :slight_smile:

This article along with post #6 here compares the relative cost or value of each type of latex but in very approximate terms … organic Dunlop (100% natural dunlop that is certified organic) and 100% natural Talalay are in about the same cost range, blended Talalay and 100% natural Dunlop are in the next group down, and then blended Dunlop is generally the lowest cost version of latex (outside of latex that is mostly synthetic Dunlop such as “smart latex” used by Sealy or some … but not all … of the latex mattresses at Ikea). I think the best “value” for most people (but not all because preference and budget makes a difference) would be blended Talalay or 100% natural Dunlop.

In terms of your choices … it’s difficult to say because you are in a place where all of your choices are good ones and the parts of your personal “value equation” that are the most important to you will play just as big a role as the “commodity value” of the mattresses you are looking at. No matter which mattress you buy … at the end of its life you will remember more about how well you slept while you owned it than you will about how much you paid when it was new so its PPP (Pressure relief, Posture and alignment, and Personal preferences) is a significant part of the value of any mattress purchase.

If everything else was equal … then the “value” at Flexus is great but a smaller manufacturer can’t carry every possible combination that is available and if you don’t quite “fit” one of the combinations you tested then even if he could order a different ILD there would be some extrapolation involved about whether it would become your “ideal” construction. For example with 3" of 24 ILD Talalay over a firmer version of Dunlop it may be “just right” for you but I don’t know if he has firmer Dunlop on the floor or exactly what he has available.

At Electropedic … they have a slightly different construction and they also have the benefits of a two sided mattress. All Talalay isn’t’ any better or worse than all Dunlop or any other type of latex or combination … it’s just a matter of preference (and of course the “value” and cost of the different types of latex).

With Diamond … I would want to know the missing details of the layering so that I could make more meaningful quality and value comparisons and better identify any potential weak links in the mattress but I don’t believe they would be “poor quality” materials even though they may not have the same value or longer term performance or durability of an all latex mattress and they are different from the rest because they are a more complex combination of latex, polyfoam, memory foam, and pocket coils. This wouldn’t be in the same “value range” as all latex mattress (which is a more costly material than the others) but again its comfort and performance may mean that it’s worth it to you to pay a little extra or to take the chance that it won’t be as durable (or keep its comfort, support, and “feel” for as long) as as the all latex mattresses you are also considering.

So I can’t really tell you what to choose because all your choices are good (although I would be less comfortable with a blind purchase with missing information) and much better than what you would otherwise be considering from a major manufacturer or mass market retailer) but it’s more a matter of “how” to choose between them. For me this would be a step by step process of comparison, tradeoffs, and elimination based on a combination of the quality/value of the materials, how they perform and feel in your testing, and all the other benefits and options that are part of each design and the retailer or manufacturer you are buying from. Final tradeoffs are difficult when there are parts of each that you want to combine in a single purchase but that’s not usually possible so it becomes a matter of choosing which one is best for you based on the objective, subjective, and intangible factors of both the mattress and merchant that are most important to you.


Hi Phoenix! Many thanks for all the info and insight. As i mentioned before, I’ve become a wealth of info for others because of you. Unfortunately, I am having a hard time completing my own quest. After our last correspondence, I was set on a 11" electropedic mattress (1.5" ILD 24 on both sides of 6" ILD 36 with cotton quilting) on a leggett and platt cscape (i like the wave massage and i thought it stronger than the reverie and electropedic and its the same price there). Problem is that at the last moment i thought i sunk in too much and maybe the mattress is too soft. They also have a 44 ILD core which then makes it pretty firm. They can put a 40 instead but then no 10 day exchange if no good. They have a 9" mattrees that is 1.1" of 24 ILD on 5.6" of 36 but i think that may be too thin for me (6’2" 210lbs side and back sleeper). I am so used to a firmer bed that i’m worried about it being too soft. I remember the flexus 3" of 24 talalay on 6" 31 dunlop was like a cloud… Wonderful at the time but i thought it way too soft. The alignment on my current old bed looks fine but I have low back pain in 20 minutes. Its a 7 yr old ortho that feels like i hit hard unforgiving coils through the comfort layer. I am better on the thin sofabed mattress or my day bed! I many pictures of my back while in a side sleeping position on all these beds and its not helping me at all. They all look pretty much the same. Have you advice for me?
Dr. Rich :huh:

Hi Dr rich,

The best advice I can offer is to resist the tendency to pay too much attention to the “comfort specs” of a mattress or compare them to a 'theory" and to pay very close attention to the messages that you get from your body when you are testing along with the help, guidance and suggestions of the person you are working with. Your body doesn’t know anything about ILD’s but it will tell you which mattress best fits your needs and preferences if you spend enough time on it completely relaxed in the showroom. The suggestions to test for alignment in this article and post #11 here may also help.

Just to ease your mind … “in theory” a 36 ILD support core would usually be fine and the amount of primary and secondary support will also vary with the firmness and thickness of the comfort layers which interacts with it so if you take all the “theory” and the variables involved it can become very complex but your body will cut through all the theory and numbers and will tell you which combination it prefers … as long as you spend long enough on the mattress in all your sleeping positions completely relaxed and talk over your options or any concerns with the salespeople who do this every day who can help you “translate” what you are feeling and eyeball the position of your body to give you some feedback as well.

One final suggestion is that if you have two otherwise seemingly “equal” choices that both provide good pressure relief and support/alignment then choose the one that is slightly firmer because it’s a little less risky, all mattresses will soften slightly as they break in, and it’s much easier to do any fine tuning on a mattress that is a little on the firm side than it is to “fix” a mattress that is too soft or lacks support. Keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean firmer ILD’s because thinner comfort layers also keep you closer to the support layers of the mattress and “allow” the heavier parts of your body to sink in less than thicker comfort layers on a similar support core.