Slow-moving mattress nightmare

I had an inner spring mattress that wasn’t super comfortable. It was a hand-me-down and my spouse decided to surprise me with a new bed. Well, he bought a Tempurpedic in winter even though I warned him not to because I anticipated offgassing. The seller balked when we wanted to return it, because they wanted us to keep it for a long time.

The offgassing made me really sick and we were finally able to return the beds but they didn't want to refund our money. So, we got inner spring beds. The one I got seemed very comfortable (thick foam plush top) in the showroom but I have had to sleep on a comforter that's folded in half (to double it). Otherwise, it is too firm.

I have had several episodes of severe lower back pain which are probably related to the spinal curvatures I have (kyphosis, lordosis, and scoliosis). I went to doctors who gave me bad advice and ended up becoming injured due to a combination of weight lifting and tennis. The bed I have sinks in because of the foam which seems to be leading to lower back pain. However, I also get back pain from a bed that doesn't sink. Firm beds are impossible for me. For instance, the latex bed (85/15 blend) at Ikea was much much too firm even with the pillowtop. Just being on it for a short time caused my back to hurt. The other bed they sell, which is marked firmer, was like laying on a brick. My lower back seems to be irritated by both firmness and softness—but especially firmness.

One oddity is that I went to a Best Western and slept on a firm bed on top of pillows. I used nine of their pillows, both to sleep on and to use behind and in front of me (I mostly sleep on my side). Although I tossed and turned and it felt uncomfortably firm, I didn't have pain the next day. I am 6' 2" and weigh 160-165 lbs. I used to weigh ten pounds less, so I'm thinking of trying to lose some weight to put less stress on my back, but I'm concerned that I will then have less padding when sleeping. When I was in Japan for a month in 2010, I slept on two futons and a blanket on top of a tatami floor and didn't have back pain, although I did have numbness in my hands from circulation issues from my arm being pressed. I had tried a room next door that had a Western innerspring bed and it was impossible because of the hardness and pressure points.

I had another bout of severe lower back pain recently, after a badminton match. I couldn't stand up for almost six days. I also have to sit on a stack of Tempurpedic pillows in order to use a car. I even have to have pillows when I sit on a booth at a restaurant. If I don't use the pillows, I end up with pinching pain (probably from swollen discs). If I sit in the plastic chairs in one of my classes I end up having trouble walking and standing sometimes. So, it's clear that my body needs a lot of softness to avoid making the discs swell, especially when I'm sitting.

I think some of my back pain may be from inflammation from allergies. My house has bamboo flooring and I think it is still off-gassing after all these years, although not nearly as much as it did when it was fresh. Every time I would come home from being away I'd smell what was probably formaldehyde (a sort of burnt paint odor). This brings me to my next problem. I am apparently allergic to latex and I just bought a bed from Savvy Rest. I had no idea I was allergic to latex, because the only thing that happened to me in the past was a strange dry feeling on my skin after touching it, with just slight itching. I touched raw latex at a showroom and the skin thing was all that happened. I didn't get a headache or anything.

Since the bed was delivered and unpacked, I have had headaches, dizziness, nausea (no vomiting), itchy skin (no welts or redness), scratchy throat, a feeling of lethargy, overheating/sweating, itchy/burning eyes, and dark circles under my eyes when I wake up. There is an very [b]powerful[/b] (not mild at all like most people have said online) odor of cake batter from the latex layers, even when they're in the wool/cotton enclosure and covered with sheets and two feather comforters. As soon as a I walk into the living room, where I put the latex pillow I bought, I get an instant headache. That is not an exaggeration. I had tried a synthetic blend at Original Mattress factory and I couldn't tolerate the odor, especially the pillows, but since their stuff has a lot of synthetic (60% I think), I assumed, based on all the comments about natural rubber only having a gentle mild hypoallergenic odor that I would be OK with 100% natural. The smell of the synthetic blend was different from what I recall. It didn't smell like cake batter. It was overpowering to say the least. I don't know how anyone could use one of those pillows, and those were out in the showroom not fresh.

I played a tennis match (I still play, although I try to be careful) the day after having sleep in the same room where the new bed was and I couldn't move well and kept missing routine shots. It was like I had donated a lot of blood and had no energy. It was also hard to focus and see the ball. It was as if the ball was not where I expected it to be. I am concerned that my allergy is going to result in brain damage from swelling or something. I tried taking an allergy pill (generic Zyrtec), but it didn't seem to have any effect. I've never used that stuff before.

My headaches go away as soon as I'm away from the latex, but just stepping into the room and smelling the odor causes them. In fact, I'm in my bedroom (the mattress was moved out of the house into the garage) and I'm getting a headache (more mild, but still annoying) just from the residual odor plus the pillow that's downstairs. Of course, there is the new pine foundation in my room which doesn't have nearly as strong an odor, but pine can be allergenic—especially to a former artist like myself who used turpentine. I know the foundation isn't the bulk of the problem, though, because I had the latex layers in my room before I had the foundation.

I have already lost money because of the Tempurpedic deal (I think I got a bad deal on the innerspring replacements, particularly since mine was a floor model that was supposed to have been heavily discounted but may not have been). I'm losing money by replacing a bed that's only three years old. Now, I have a very expensive latex bed that I probably won't be able to use. I really don't know what to do. It's essential that I get a decent amount of sleep because if I don't my lower back will get bad and I won't be able to function. I'm a graduate student and I simply can't afford to become an invalid. It's hard to focus on my schoolwork with a headache.

The other problem is that the firm-med-soft bed I got is too hard, even with two feather comforters folded lengthwise (I have a twin xl). I knew it would be too firm because I tested at a showroom. But, I couldn't afford the talalay topper. I have found a very inexpensive 3" soft dunlop layer that should take care of the firmness, but with my apparent latex allergy it looks like I'm out of luck.

I've read that even natural rubber can be processed with ammonia, toluene, "sulfur" (I assume it's a sulfur compound not the element alone), and can have fillers like ash and clay. But the bed doesn't smell like ammonia (Windex). It smells like cake batter.

I am really frustrated. I was hoping I'd finally be able to have bed without pressure points that wouldn't make me sick like memory foam.

Hi RF,

My heart goes out to you with all the various issues you are facing. Most of these however seem to be more “medical” in nature and may not be within the scope of the forum. To the degree that they relate to mattresses however I’d be happy to answer any specific questions you may have.

In reading through your post, I’m not quite clear on what you are hoping to do next. Are you looking to buy a new mattress, looking to “fix” the one you have, or do you just have some general questions about various mattresses or mattress materials that are concerning you?

It would help me if you had one or two more specific questions you wanted to ask (or at least one or two at a time if you have more) and I’d be happy to answer them within the limits of my ability.


Here are some questions.

  1. Has anyone else had problems, especially headaches, from the odor of a 100% latex bed, like the Savvy dunlop I have? Has anyone had the same issue with the pillows, like the talalay one I bought from Savvy?

If so, did the odor dissipate? How long did it take?

Several bed makers say that people with latex allergies can generally sleep on the beds, as long as they don’t handle the raw latex. But, for me, although I do have a reaction to touching the latex (itchy irritated skin, dry feeling), the majority of my problem seems to come from breathing in the odor.

  1. Will a soft 3 inch dunlop layer (around 22-24 ILD) be enough to soften the firm-med-soft Savvy I have as well as their 2" talalay topper did? I was comfortable in the showroom with those specs, but I couldn’t afford their topper. I know talalay is softer in general and their talalay is rated soft, but the dunlop is 3 inches so I wonder if the extra inch may help make them more equivalent. However, the dunlop is rated as being firmer.

Given my reaction to the bed, ordering a topper seems like it’s unwise until I can tolerate the bed I have, though. I have thought about other materials, but as I said, two feather comforters folded up weren’t enough to soften. I almost ordered my bed as firm-soft-soft, but I decided it would be better to get a topper rather than be stuck with something that’s not firm enough. Plus, the most comfortable configuration was firm-med-soft plus talalay topper.

  1. I wonder what the chemicals are that I’m smelling. Is that “cake batter” smell from a processing chemical, like ammonia? I’ve read that some natural rubber is processed with toluene even. I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t though. I’ve also heard that latex can be labeled natural even if it has up to 5 percent synthetic. The last thing I’m wondering about is yellowing. There was a shipping problem and the firm layer went missing. The firm layer I ended up getting is yellowish while the other layers are white. I wonder if that is somewhat responsible for the strong odor? The pillow also has a strong odor.

Hi RF,

I’d certainly welcome the experiences of other members about some of your questions but I’ll share what I know.

[quote]1. Has anyone else had problems, especially headaches, from the odor of a 100% latex bed, like the Savvy dunlop I have? Has anyone had the same issue with the pillows, like the talalay one I bought from Savvy?

If so, did the odor dissipate? How long did it take?[/quote]

I don’t think you are alone and there are certainly others who are sensitive to the smell of latex. While the smell of latex can vary between manufacturers, Talalay generally has a sweeter smell than Dunlop and the smell of Dunlop can last longer than Talalay. In most cases people can’t smell it any more after a few weeks and in many cases it only takes a few days but for some that are very sensitive there can be a slight smell if you put your nose right in the latex that lasts quite a long time (just like rubber products can still have a slight smell of rubber for a long time)

All of the better quality latex that is sold in North America has been certified through various testing protocols for harmful ingredients and offgassing (you can see the certifications for Savvy Rest CoCo latex Dunlop and Latex International Talalay here). Two of the more common of these standards are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Class 1 (safe for babies) or Eco-Institut. All of the Talalay latex made by Latex International and Radium including their 100% natural and blended versions have the Oeko-Tex certification.

While this would ensure safety for the vast majority of the population and I have seen some very sensitive people who have MCS do very well with even blended latex … there may be some who are even more sensitive than the testing or perhaps even react to the smell itself rather than any harmful offgassing that it represents.

While a latex smell can linger for weeks (and if you put your nose into the rubber it could still have some smell that is semi permanent) … in most cases it isn’t noticed except with very close inspection after a few weeks and many people don’t smell it even after a day or two.

The foamed latex that is used in mattresses is quite different from the latex that is used in gloves and condoms etc and the surface proteins that cause most of the latex allergies have mostly been removed with washing during the course of manufacturing. Of course some people with a type IV allergy may still be sensitive to close contact particularly if they have been sensitized but it would be quite rare. There is more about latex allergies in post #2 here.

That would probably depend on several factors. One of these is the accuracy of the Dunlop ILD rating (they can have a wide variance) and on the ILD of the Talalay you are trying to emulate. With a 2" soft Talalay layer … much of what you feel would be the layer below it coming through while with a 3" dunlop topper most of what you would feel would be the topper itself so it would also depend on what the toppers were on. It would also depend on the weight of the person and how deeply they compressed either topper as well as individual perceptions (it always amazes me how different people’s assessment of what is soft or firm can be so different). All things considered though … on top of your F/M/S Savvy Rest my guess is that for most people the 3" “soft” Dunlop topper would feel firmer than the 2" “soft” Talalay topper.

The featherbeds will generally compress and not re-distribute weight as well as a more resilient material like latex. It is more of a point specific cushioning instead of an overall weight re-distribution. I think you were probably wise to avoid the F/S/S configuration because of the possibility of alignment issues with a comfort layer that was too thick and soft. You’re probably wise to wait until you know how long you will still be affected by the smell of the latex.

You are not likely smelling anything that is “harmful” even though it is clearly affecting you. For some people smells that are unpleasant to them can cause headaches even if the smell itself is not the result of something toxic. You can see from the Savvy Rest testing that there is no Toluene in either the Talalay or the Dunlop and almost all the potential VOC’s are below the detection threshhold of the test. You are probably just smelling the natural smell of rubber itself. I don’t know of any 100% natural Dunlop that contains any SBR (synthetic rubber) and most of the better manufacturers say they don’t use any in their formula. Latex International has also said that their 100% natural Talalay doesn’t use any SBR either. Latex also is a natural material that will have natural variances in color and the baking process can also led to differences in color (you can see the Savvy Rest page about the natural variations here).

None of the odors you are smelling are likely to be from harmful VOC’s (unless you are picking up something that is below the threshhold of the testing) but this doesn’t change that you are probably sensitive to the smell itself and until it goes or at least diminishes somewhat to a tolerable level for you (probably a few weeks) it may continue to affect you.


Good news!

Although my allergy is still present, doesn’t seem to be particularly bad or getting worse. If I keep the raw latex off my skin that helps. The pillow irritates my eyes, so I’m using my old one. It was the strong odor that had really gotten me. Since I aired it out in the garage, most of that has dissipated. The pillow is still too strong to use, but the bed is OK. It also seemed to soften a bit, probably because of the foundation. I (just barely) had tried it without the foundation because of a delivery issue (I couldn’t fit everything into the RAV4 so I had to make a trip to get the foundation from a relative’s house later) and it was much harder. I also wonder if it softened a bit because it lost some water from the airing out? It’s probably mainly the foundation being somewhat flexible.

I was able to sleep on it last night, even though it’s firmer than I prefer. I turned more than usual but my back feels decent. I think the extra support is probably an improvement over my current bed although time will tell. The topper is supposed to arrive today so I’m looking forward to trying it. It will probably soften it enough to be more comfortable. I’ll probably need to air it out, too, though. That won’t be so easy since it’s too cold to leave the garage door open. I have read latex shouldn’t be allowed to freeze. I bought an electric oil heater for the garage and kept the temp around 45-50, but I was able to air out the layers quite a bit because of Indian summer.

I’m really pleased that I don’t have a severe latex allergy. I got really ill from the odor, but now that that’s not a problem any longer (although the pillow’s latex should have been taken out of its cover and aired out better) I can finally put the bed to use. I’m also going to have to get a second twin xl and put them together because my arms are just too long for this size alone. I’ll try to make it until spring, though, so I can air out the second half more easily.

It does seem like the latex doesn’t cause pressure that is as pointed as coils.

Hi RF,

That’s great news and hopefully the news will be even better when you get your topper. The slight softening would be normal as any new mattress will go through an initial break in period (and much of this would probably be from the cover stretching a bit). Latex doesn’t have any water in it that can dry out although exposure to air or sunlight (ultraviolet and ozone) can cause it to become brittle and crusty from oxidation but this is generally a longer term process. Direct sunlight though without a cover can cause problems much more quickly.

I’ve never heard of any issues with latex freezing and there is lots of latex that is shipped in trucks in the winter months that arrive without any damage. Of course I would probably handle it more carefully if it was deeply frozen and let it warm up to room temperature before handling it more than necessary (to carry it into the house). You may have been reading about latex paints (which shouldn’t be allowed to freeze) rather than latex foam.

I’m looking forward to any ongoing reports but it’s encouraging that at least you get to sleep on your mattress :slight_smile:


The mattress has definitely softened from being slept on a few nights. I took off the topper because it made it too soft. It felt wonderfully cloud-like, but there wasn’t enough support. The topper is rather low-density. It would probably work well as the sole layer on top of a firm or extra firm layer.

What’s ironic is that now that the regular mattress is softening quite a bit, I am considering exchanging the soft layer for a medium (medium/medium/firm). It is sinking in now and I don’t want too much of that because it seems clear that my lower back prefers a firmer bed (although definitely not something rock hard like the Ikea beds).

I don’t like having to use the exchange because of the hassle but also because the latex layer is destroyed. That seems unfortunately wasteful since latex apparently doesn’t harbor bed bugs. It’s too bad there isn’t some way for the latex to be donated to homeless shelters or something. But, I want to make sure the bed works for my back, given its price. I’ll give it more time, since the exchange period is 90 days. I may even replace the soft layer with a firm layer, depending upon the degree of softening that happens.

The odor is still there and it gives me a mild headache, but it’s not bad. I am definitely sleeping better with this bed than with my old sinking one.

Hi RF,

It’s always interesting to me how the initial few weeks of sleeping on a new mattress can make such a difference.

I’ve seen many cases where someone’s experience after the first few weeks is much different from their experience in the beginning. Part of this is from the initial break in period of the mattress itself and part of it is that the mattress begins to feel softer as the body gets used to the new sleeping surface. I’ve seen many people who were “certain” that a mattress was too firm at first but 30 or 60 days later they couldn’t imagine sleeping on anything else.

This is probably the result of the thickness of the combination or your mattress’ top layer and the extra topper. This would give you 6" of “soft” in the top layers which for most people would be too much … even though the same softness would be fine in a thinner layer.

The only suggestion I would have if you do decide to do a layer exchange is to differentiate from the firmness/softness of the comfort layers (which is mostly about pressure relief) and the firmness/softness of the deeper layers (which is mostly about support/alignment). I’ve seen many people change the wrong layers to try to improve either pressure relief or support/alignment (for example getting firmer top layers to improve support when it’s the lower layers that probably should have been changed) or make more drastic changes when smaller changes may have been better. It’s always important to identify as accurately as possible what you are trying to adjust so that a layer exchange has the best possible chance for the outcome you are looking for. Adjusting comfort layers to change support can lead to some confusing outcomes.

There is another thread here for example where switching the lower two layers (from medium over firm to firm over medium) with soft on top made a significant difference and worked out better than exchanging the top layer from soft to medium. I would certainly test something similar (moving the firm layer up one level) before doing a layer exchange

I agree that it would be great to donate exchanged layers instead of destroying them. I would also be very very careful before switching your soft layer for a firm. It’s quite likely that most of the increased softness is not so much the softening of the latex (it doesn’t soften a lot over the first few weeks) itself but your body adjusting to a new material.

I think that this more than anything is encouraging because no matter how well the mattress works for you … if it causes some of the other issues you were mentioning then the rest is of little value.

I would definitely try switching the lower two layers though if you need a little extra support.