My (frustrating) latex journey

In my quest for a chemical-free mattress, I fondly recalled my first latex mattress as a child back in the 50’s and decided to go that route. I ordered the soft/medium/firm combo from Sleep-EZ and tried every possible configuration yet still awoke with lower back pain. So I returned it (great return policy and very gracious folks to work with).

Next I spoke with Tim at Quality Sleep Shop in Chicago and purchased an inner spring mattress with 1" of 1.8# 32 ILD HD foam over 1" 14 ILD and a flame retardant wool cover. The first night on that both of my arms went numb. I am 5’10" and weigh 155# and am a side sleeper.

I really wanted to make this high quality mattress work so I ordered a 3" 19 ILD topper from Brooklyn Bedding. I tried various pillows and could not find one that worked. Sent it back. Got a 28 ILD which I have been sleeping on for about 3 weeks now. It feels great when I am awake but I find myself sleeping in on stomach and waking up with low back pain. BB has a 24 ILD topper but at this point I don’t know that it would make any difference. I am still within the return time frame on both items,

I can sleep on a regular no frills innerspring mattress just fine! But these don’t hold up plus they have flame retardants. I would appreciate any direction/suggestions that ya’ll might offer.

Hi JannyGoats,

Numb arms usually means that the mattress doesn’t have enough thickness/softness to relieve pressure when you are sleeping on your side. This would usually indicate the need for more thickness softness in the comfort layers.

If you could describe the specifics of why the 19 ILD topper didn’t work for you and the specific symptoms you were experiencing it may be useful as a reference point. You may have gone from one end of the range to the other and “jumped over” the thickness and softness you needed.

In scanning your previous posts it seemed that you were a side sleeper and occasional back sleeper but from this comment it seems that you also spend time on your stomach which generally needs thinner/firmer comfort layers to prevent the pelvis from sinking down too far which results in hyperextension of the lumbar and a swayback position which can lead to lower back pain. If you are a combination side/stomach sleeper then it’s usually a good idea to have “just barely enough” thickness and softness in the comfort layers to relieve pressure so that there is less risk of alignment issues when you are sleeping on your stomach.

Stomach side sleeping is a difficult combination to get right and generally involved experimenting with both thickness and softness. If you use a softer 3" layer it may improve pressure relief but it could make your stomach sleeping symptoms worse. It may also be worth considering a body pillow so you don’t turn on to your stomach and still have the sensation of having something pressed against your stomach which some stomach sleepers need.

Post #2 here and the posts it links to has more information about some of the more common issues and symptoms that may be helpful to assess some of the underlying reasons for any issues you may be having.

Post #2 here and the posts it links to may also be helpful in helping you decide on the thickness and softness of a topper that may work best for you but if you spend time on your stomach then 3" may be thicker than your ideal.

There are hundreds of variations of basic innerspring mattresses that each have different designs so it may be helpful if you knew what the ones you sleep well on had in common.


Thank you, Phoenix. I did not even sleep on the 19 ILD as I could not get a pillow to raise my head up to a sufficient position so as to not cause what felt like an arching of the cervical spine as I lay on my side which put pressure on my lumbar region.
Yes, I likely did ‘jump over’ the range that may have worked. I’m willing to try the 25, just not sure if I need a 2 or 3" topper.

I am not nor have I ever been a stomach sleeper. Just the fact that this is the position that I find myself in tells me how uncomfortable I am. Side is always my preference and if I am sleeping very well (which is rare these days) I will wake up on my back. To quote your article reference “Finally if a mattress is too firm and there are pressure points on the hips (for side sleepers especially) then you may “twist” the lower body away from pressure which twists the spine and puts it out of rotational alignment which can also cause back discomfort or pain in the area where the spine is twisted.” I feel this must be the case.

I just had my husband (a chiropractor) look at my spine as I lay on the mattress and he said my hips and cervical region were elevated in relationship to the rest of my spine and that it looked like I needed a softer surface.

As to the inner spring mattresses that I have slept fine on, the last one was probably a 20 yr old Simmons in a rental unit. The mattress I had previous to this was a one sided Plush. No problem. We have a 6 month old (!) broken down Serta I can sleep on. Sorry I can’t provide you with any more particulars as to the make up of these, Phoenix. Makes me wonder if I should try a polyfoam (not memory) topper.

At any rate, with this info, 2 or 3"?

Blessings to you, my friend~

Hi Jannygoats,

It’s unfortunate you didn’t have the chance to sleep on this because it would have provided a very useful reference point. In general though … a thicker softer topper would allow your shoulders and hips to sink in more deeply (which is what you need) which would also reduce the gap between your head and neck and the mattress and this would generally require a thinner pillow rather than a thicker one.

There are so many variables involved in choosing a mattress/topper combination that it’s not really possible to know for certain what would work best for you based on “theory” and it would be similar to your husband trying to diagnose the underlying cause of back pain or an alignment issue without having a chance to see what may be happening in person. This is why I suggest using the topper guidelines I linked so you can use your actual experience as a guideline for the thickness and firmness which would have the highest odds of success rather than “theory at a distance” that is working blind. The 3" topper may have worked well for you with a thinner pillow or at least it could have pointed to the direction that may work best.

This would be fairly normal for side sleepers that had a mattress with thinner/firmer comfort layers over firmer support components like yours and where both your hips and shoulders would probably not be sinking in far enough to provide good pressure relief or good secondary support under the more recessed parts of your sleeping profile (the head/cervical area and the waist and inward curve of the lumbar). In particular this could result in your pelvis tilting or twisting which can affect spinal alignment and cause “sagging” of the spine under the parts of your body that aren’t well supported because the comfort layers are too firm or thin for you.

While this isn’t really enough information to draw any conclusions … I would suspect that the mattresses you do better on have a thicker/softer comfort layer than the one you are sleeping on now.

I would use the suggestions in the topper guidelines and your experience on the mattress to help you choose the thickness and softness that you would likely do best with. I would also consider that if you start with a thinner topper and it’s still not enough to provide good pressure relief or secondary support that you can always add an additional inch (you can just buy the bare layers and then add a cover around one or both of them afterwards) but if you choose a topper that is too thick/soft then you can’t “take away” the extra thickness. A 2" topper is generally a safer choice when you are undecided as to whether you need “a little to a fair bit” or “a fair bit to a lot” of additional pressure relief.

Based on “averages” … 19 - 24 ILD is probably “in the range” of what would work for you (and possibly on the softer end of the “soft range”) but each person can be very different so it may take some trial and error as well to know for certain. If you did decide to use a thicker topper in the 3" range rather than the 2" range then I would probably lean towards the firmer end of the soft range to compensate for the extra thickness (thickness and ILD work together to affect softness) although it could still be a little risky because it may still be a little too firm for your shoulders to sink in as far as you need and it may “allow” your heavier hips/pelvis to sink down a little too far before they are “stopped” by the firmer support layers.


I managed to borrow a latex topper from a friend, 19 ILD 3", and have used it for about 5 nights. I don’t wake up with low back pain now, actually I’m surprised at how soft this is and seemingly works. But now it’s getting to feel like I’m sleeping in a trough in the middle of the mattress. I’m wondering if a 2" would be more appropriate to access the firm mattress with some cushioning or a 3" 24 ILD?

I also found an egg crate latex topper on I would appreciate your thoughts on this as well. It is a 28 ILD, 1/2" at the base and 2" at the peak.

Hi JannyGoats,

My general “rule” with topper would be to use “just enough” thickness and firmness that you believe would relieve pressure because this is generally the least risky approach for alignment. In the end though … your own personal experience and trial and error is the only way to know. Slightly thinner with the same ILD would put you closer to the firmer support layers and would “stop” the heavier parts of your body from sinking in as far but would still “allow” your wider lighter shoulders to sink in more easily until they “reach” the firmer layers. Slightly firmer (with the same thickness) would create a slightly firmer sleeping surface which would also reduce the amount your hips/pelvis are sinking in but may not “allow” your shoulders to sink in enough. My “order of priority” for a topper would be good alignment first (without any symptoms of pain or discomfort), good pressure relief second (again without any symptoms of pain or discomfort), and then finally the “feel” or what it “feels like” (as long as there are no symptoms of pain or discomfort) which is much more subjective and can often just be part of getting used to a different material or sleeping surface.

You can read some thoughts about convoluted layers in post #2 here. They will be softer than the same ILD and thickness in a solid material but will get firmer faster as you sink into the material more than a solid layer that is the same type of material and the same thickness in a softer ILD (that would be equivalent to the “effective” ILD of the convoluted topper). As with any topper … the only way to know with any certainty how it will work for you is based on your own personal sleeping experience.


I ordered a 2" 19 ILD and my arms went numb. A 3" 19 ILD and I wake up with a sore low back. So I’m thinking a 24 ILD but 2 or 3"? Hopefully I am rounding 3rd base headed for home on this one!

Hi JannyGoats,

What is your current layering under the topper?


Just the innerspring mattress mentioned in my initial posting above.

Hi JannyGoats,

OK … thanks.

The guidelines I normally use are if you are looking for “just a touch to a little” of additional softness and pressure relief and the issue is more about “feel” … then I would use a 1" topper (or a mattress pad). This doesn’t seem to be a suitable option for you when your mattress only has 1" of soft materials in the comfort layers.

If you are looking for “a little to a fair bit” of additional softness and pressure relief then I would consider 2". This could work well for you “in theory” but your experience seems to indicate that 2" along with the 1" of soft latex in your mattress isn’t quite enough thickness and I would guess that a single increment of extra firmness may not make enough of a difference.

If you are looking for “a fair bit to a lot” of additional softness and pressure relief I would consider 3" which seemed to work for you in terms of pressure relief and I would guess that a single increment of extra firmness will likely be OK as well.

In other words I would first choose the thickness that you believe has the best chance of success and then choose the firmness that you think would be most likely to succeed. Since I can’t feel what you feel on your mattress I am always limited to providing more generic guidelines.

What I would choose next would depend on whether you believed the sore shoulders were from the firmness of the topper itself or because you were “going through” the topper and the top 1" 14 ILD layer in your mattress and the pressure was coming from the firmer layers in your mattress (which seems more likely to me). If you were experiencing numb arms on the 2" of 19 ILD but not on the 3" then the next step of the trial and error process that I would probably consider trying next is 3" (thick enough to keep you from “going through” the topper into the firmer layers) but with a slightly firmer ILD to help to “stop” your hips from sinking in quite as much. While it’s only a small incremental change … hopefully it will be both thick and soft enough to provide “just enough” pressure relief and the extra firmness will be “enough” to improve your alignment so that you are in the “middle ground” between your conflicting needs for good pressure relief and good alignment and you can sleep on the combination without any lower back pain.