In need of relief from a Hawn latex bed given to me. Considering memory foam topper, please help me


I’ve been given my parents old bed, a hawn latex bed and box spring set king size. It’s only a couple years old and in great shape. It seems to be about 8" and from what I can gather from reading, it’s got 6" of dunlop latex with 1" comfort layers top and bottom. Although I don’t specifically know, I would guess that it is the firm version. All of these are my guesses and I wouldn’t bet money on them but it’s the most educated guess I can make at this time.

My biggest problem is back pain from this thing. I literally feel like I fell asleep in a busy subway and everyone walked on me the entire night. First thing I do every morning is get up and walk like im 80 years old to my pain pills, take one and sit for a while until it kicks in. I have a herniated disk L4, and I’m sure this is only making it worse. I threw my old bed out when I was given this one, so this is all I have available to me at the moment.

I am 6’2" and weigh 320lbs. I sleep mostly in a weird position, what I could best describe as what you would see on a tv homicide chalk drawing. It’s like on my stomach, but turned partially because my tummy needs to be out from under me because the bed is so firm. Before this bed, I would either sleep on my stomach or side. My girlfriend is 5’8" and 150 lbs. She is a side sleeper.

I have been reading on here, and trying to figure out the best option to make this bed work. I’m thinking a memory foam topper is what I’d like to do unless you have a better suggestion. At this point, I can’t financially invest into an entire bed setup and need a lower priced alternative such as a topper. I’d like to spend $200-$300 at most, but if I need to I could flex a little higher up to $400. There are tons of options and my over-analytical mind wants to learn and research everything which has been leading to a lack of action all the while dying from this terrible bed. I need your help to find what will work best for me so I can buy it and get some relief.

I’d love to make myself have the perfect setup for sleeping, but I don’t want to do that at the cost of making my girlfriends sleep be negatively affected. I understand that us being so different in our sizes will make it more difficult to get something that matches us both best, so I’d like to find something to make it very comfortable for me and as comfortable for her as possible as well.

Thanks in advance for your help, I’m looking forward to your knowledge and experience to help me finally have a good nights sleep.


Hi JustinP,

Normally back pain is a symptom of primary support (the support layers) that aren’t firm enough or comfort layers that are too thick but since your mattress only really has a single layer (with an inch of quilting foam or material on each side) and is firm … the odds are good that your pain is coming more from twisting to get away from pressure issues which means that the comfort layers probably aren’t thick enough. This could be compounded by having a mattress which only has 6" of latex which would be on the thin side for someone of your weight and it may be firming up too quickly under your greater weight (it may not have the range of response that greater weights usually need).

I understand that the primary issue is the back pain but it would also be helpful to know how it “feels” to you in your “normal” sleeping positions (and your girlfriend) in terms of softness/firmness and pressure relief and what your normal sleeping positions are (if you have a mattress that allows you to sleep in the way you usually do).

The first thing I would do though to make sure it really is an issue of the comfort layers is to check the box spring under the mattress to see if it has weakened or softened under weight over the years. You can test this by pressing on it firmly with your knees in different areas (especially the center which supports much or your weight) to make sure there are no soft spots or better yet to test your mattress on the floor for several nights to see if this makes any difference (and hopefully provide a description of how it changes your experience on the mattress for better or worse).

If your mattress is Dunlop … it may also have a slightly firmer and softer side so I would also flip and rotate it to see what differences there are (if any) on each side of the mattress.

If the issues remain and are not connected to the box spring (or the firmer and softer side of Dunlop) … then the next step would be to decide on the material you prefer as a topper. The choice between memory foam and latex (or other materials) is one of personal preference but they are very different from each other so I would make sure that you really did prefer one over the other. While they can provide similar levels of pressure relief … memory foam with your weight would likely be less durable and they would also have a very different feel (memory foam is a slow response material while latex and polyfoam are fast response materials). If you do decide to go with memory foam … I would make sure that it was at least 5 lbs density because of potential durability issues with your weight combined with lower density memory foams.

I would also talk with Hawn because they may know the details of the mattress you have and have some good suggestions as well that could be helpful. Knowing what you have would be helpful as a reference point in knowing what to add. They may even have a similar mattress and some toppers that you could test.

While you didn’t mention how your girlfriend feels on the mattress, with a lighter weight side sleeper I would suspect that she may also be feeling the mattress is too firm for good pressure relief? Knowing how she felt on what you have (and on her preferences between memory foam and latex or any other topper materials) would also affect your topper choice and help you find a balance that would have better odds of being suitable for both of you.

There are some good sources in post #4 here for toppers that would be within your budget.

The first step though is to confirm and decide on the material you prefer (and you could test both in local stores) and then to make the most suitable choice in that material.

My sense is that 3" would be a good thickness (assuming that your further feedback also points in this direction) because there is little in the way of comfort layers in your current mattress so there would be less risk in going with something thicker than I usually suggest be added to a mattress that already has a thicker existing comfort layer.

I may be able to make a few more suggestions or at least guesses that are a little more specific with a little more information and a more detailed description of what you are feeling on the mattress that can fill in some of the gaps and unknowns involved in making your best choice.


The bed feels hard and unforgiving to me. I would say there is minimal to no pressure relief. I sleep something between stomach and side combined as it is the only relief to me on this bed. I would normally sleep stomach or side on a more comfortable bed.

She feels the bed is firm but not terribly so. She normally sleeps on her side.

We pulled the mattress off and pushed on each of the coils and the ones on the end of the bed where you would sit putting on clothes, and shoes feel weaker, but overall the others feel the same firmness overall. I don’t notice myself dipping into the mattress very much when I lay on it either. We will sleep on the floor and see if that changes things at all as well.

We flipped it and it does in fact feel softer on the other side, although I’m not sure if this is a placebo effect or not.

We both like the feel of memory foam but have never tested latex foam ones. We slept on a friends memory foam bed a few weeks this summer while visiting that was a cheap costco one, but it surprisingly felt really good to us both. The thing I noticed about that bed was that I seemed to really sink in and bottom it out.

Would a 3" 5lb topper squish all the way down on a guy as big as me and would a 4" be too thick? If I buy a memory foam version that is decent quality, given my weight how long can I expect a topper to last? I’m essentially trying to make this mattress way softer then it is.

Thanks for your help and quick response to my previous post.


Hi JustinP,

Thanks for the additional information.

If would be great to know the firmness of the Latex in your mattress but given your feedback it’s probably safe to assume that it’s firm enough to act as a good base layer and it’s probably also safe to assume that part of the issue is that it’s not as thick as most people of your weight would need … even with a box spring which would help provide a bit more give than just the mattress alone.

That makes sense because sitting on the edge of a mattress can compress the springs more than just sleeping on it (the weight is more concentrated). It will be interesting to see if there is any difference on a solid platform (the floor) but I suspect that the box spring is probably OK.

With your weight you will compress any foam more than those who are lighter and this would be especially true with lower density memory foams which tend to be softer and compress more easily than higher density memory foam. the more you compress a foam … the firmer it will get and this can lead to it feeling like you are “bottoming out” even if the foam and the layers under it haven’t actually bottomed out by reaching maximum compression. Lower denity foams will also soften much more over time and be significantly less durable under heavier weights than higher density memory foams.

If you are reasonably certain that you prefer memory foam and it’s slow response and more “motion restricting” feel and possible higher sleeping temperature … then its just is a matter of choosing the best possible option.

The general guidelines I tend to use for the thickness of a topper in terms of providing extra pressure relief and softness are …

1" is “just a touch to a little”
2" is “a little to a fair bit”
3" is “a fair bit to a lot”

Heavier weights tend to need thicker and firmer toppers (they compress it more and firmer foams will feel softer because of this)

Lighter weights tend towards thinner and softer toppers.

Sleeping positions that are more pressure prone (such as side sleeping) can also use thicker toppers than the flatter sleeping positions (such as back sleeping or even moreso stomach sleeping).

The thickness of a topper also needs to account for the thickness of the softer comfort layers that are already in your mattress. The topper and the comfort layers together will be the new comfort layers of your sleeping system. Thinner and/or firmer comfort or quilting layers in your mattress can use thicker toppers while thicker softer comfort or quilting layers in your mattress can use thinner toppers … all else being equal.

Given that your comfort layer is a maximum of 1" … I would suspect that a 3" higher density memory foam topper (5 lbs or slightly more) would have the most likely odds of success. You will “go through” it but all the layers of a mattress compress together so each layer isn’t really independent of the other layers. In other words … the memory foam doesn’t compress by itself all the way before the other layers begin to compress as well. They all compress to different degrees simultaneously so to some degree all toppers are meant to allow the feel of the layers below them to come through.

I think with the higher density of the memory foam and the existing 1" quilting layer in your mattress and because even firmer foams (such as your base layer) start off softer with initial compression and then get firmer with deeper compression (ILD of the softness rating is measured at 25% compression) … using 3" should be a huge (and probably sufficient) improvement but it also won’t be so thick that your girlfriend will have a higher risk of alignment issues (being too far away from the support layers with her lighter weight). If you spend time on your stomach it would also be safer to prevent the risks connected with stomach sleeping (sleeping in a swayback position) … especially with a herniated disc.

The key with toppers is usually “just enough” thickness and softness but no more so that you have the pressure relief you need with the least possible risk of alignment issues.

There are some good options on the topper list that are very knowledgeable and they can tell you how their memory foams respond in terms of speed of response (some are slower or faster response), overall softness level (each density can have softer or firmer versions) and temperature sensitivity (less temperature sensitive memory foams are more consistent and don’t vary as much with changing temperature so they don’t get as firm with cold and as soft with heat). Some of them also carry gel memory foam which can also be a good choice because they may be a little more supportive and a little more heat conductive and cooler … at least until temperatures between the foam and body even out. I would talk with each of them that you are considering and tell them about your circumstances and your mattress to see if they can provide any more feedback as well because they will tend to be very knowledgeable about how their memory foams compare with other types.

Of course all of this is based on best guesses with the information at hand (and you still may want to do some testing on different types of memory foam to get a sense of some of the differences between them) but in the absence of any more specific reference points this is probably the “least risky” direction with the best odds of success.