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We've spent a lot of time in our articles examining just what makes a great pillow. You can learn all about how to choose a pillow filling here, or see a comparison of cover materials over here. However, today we're going to be putting the spotlight on one particular type of pillow filling which is very near and dear to our hearts here at Brand Name.
Of course, we couldn't be talking about anything other than natural latex.
While we know that what makes "a good pillow" is an extremely subjective definition which is going to vary greatly depending on your personal preference, we truly believe that natural latex, more so than any other filling or material, perfectly maintains the ideal balance between softness, comfort, firmness and support. A natural latex pillow will target and cushion those areas of your body which need it most - no matter what position you happen to sleep in! However, it is also soft and "fluffy" enough to send you peacefully off into dreamland night after night.
But don't just take our word for it! Check out this guide, which thoroughly examines each of the main reasons why natural latex is so irresistible to sleep fans everywhere!
Natural latex is pretty much the only pillow material which can call itself organic AND vegan AND all-natural AND non-toxic / chemical free ALL at the same time! While there are a number of materials - such as down or wool - which fulfill a few of these, only natural latex consistently offers the entire package. And, as an added bonus, its manufacturing process is extremely environmentally friendly and sustainable to boot!
The source of natural latex is the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) which produces it as a thick, sap-like liquid. This liquid protects the tree from attack by mold, mildew, bacteria, and insects as well as decreasing its flammability and helping to keep its bark strong and healthy. The liquid latex can be gradually removed over time via a process called "tapping," which leaves the rubber tree perfectly healthy and able to live and grow as normal. A tapped rubber tree will still have a lifespan of several decades, comparable if not even exceeding what it might experience in the wild! To learn more about the life cycle of the rubber tree and the sustainability of the latex harvesting process, check out our guide found here.
This liquid latex can then be solidified via the application of heat, time and pressure. Don't worry - we'll talk about that in more detail in the sections below, although you can also check out our manufacturing methods comparison found here. Because latex naturally possesses fire resistance as well as insect repelling and antimicrobial properties, there is no need for it to be treated with any harsh chemicals during the manufacturing process. This is extremely good news, as many of these chemicals have been found to be extremely harmful to both human health and Earth's air quality.
So let's take another look at what we know so far about natural latex pillow filling. Natural latex…
Can any other pillow material offer you all these benefits at once?
If you're not sure, we'll answer that for you - NO! Only natural latex offers you all of the above, at once, without requiring you to make any concessions or sacrifices! And that's not all, folks, because there's even MORE that a natural latex pillow can do for you!
Some people prefer to sleep on soft pillows, spending their nights feeling as though they're floating away on a cloud. Others like it firm, preferring the constant reminder of the support that their pillow is providing them. Still others sleep best on something in the middle, not too hard but not too soft - or, as Goldlilocks would say about Baby Bear's bed, "just right"!
But with all those different personal preferences out there, is there any one material which can offer everything a sleeper might want?
You know there is - and by now, you've probably guessed just what it is, too. That's right! Natural latex!
Natural latex is "foamed" during the manufacturing cycle, making it light, fluffy and breathable. Its high elasticity creates a texture which is often described by satisfied customers as "springy" or "bouncy". While natural latex is pressure sensitive, similar to memory foam - meaning that it reacts to the pressure of your body as you lie down - it is significantly more elastic, meaning that it supports your body rather than embracing it. A memory foam pillow will often leave you feeling as though your head is "sinking" into the material, resulting in a "trapped" sensation and difficulty getting yourself out of bed in the morning.
In addition, memory foam pillows may rapidly develop "impressions" in the shape and usual position of your head, making it harder and harder to find a comfortable sleeping position at night. The elasticity of natural latex pillows means that this risk is practically nonexistent. You'll awaken full of energy and your head will "spring" off the pillow as you prepare to face the day!
Natural latex also focuses on providing support to the parts of your body which need it most during the night. For side sleepers, that is usually the hips and neck, which are bearing most of the body's weight, while back and stomach sleepers tend to need a little extra focus on the spine and shoulders. In particular, natural latex pillows are typically contoured in such a way as to promote proper alignment of the neck and spine. Spinal misalignment is an extremely common problem among sleepers, especially those who maintain bad posture during the night or are not getting enough support from their mattress and pillow.
Meanwhile, proper spinal alignment while you sleep has been linked to a number of positive side effects and general health improvements. Sleepers who give their spine the support it needs are far less likely to wake up with cramps or joint pain. They are also less likely to wake up in the middle of the night due to shortness of breath or blocked airways, as a properly supported neck and spine promote deep, regular, constant breathing throughout the period of sleep.
Lastly, proper body support during the night has been identified by scientists as a cure - or at least an alleviation - for insomnia, a medical condition in which a person has difficulty falling or staying asleep. (Check out our guide here to learn more about the causes, symptoms and cures of insomnia and an even more detailed explanation of why introducing natural latex into your bedroom is the ideal solution.)
Because natural latex can be manufactured in a number of different ways, it is even possible to have many different latex pillows with different densities and levels of softness or firmness (measured via a value called "indentation load deflection" or ILD - head over here to learn more!) That's right, natural latex is extremely versatile and customizable. There are so many latex pillow styles and varieties out there that you will certainly be able to find the right one for you!
But what about once you've found that perfect pillow? There's still one concern - is it durable? After all, what use is an ideal night's sleep if the pillow is going to begin tearing, deforming or developing lumps after just a month or two? Nothing is more frustrating than having to go through the entire rigamarole of picking out a pillow three, four or even five times per year. Not to mention the cost starts adding up even if you choose the most inexpensive brands or only buy during sales!
Don't worry! Natural latex solves that problem too - it is one of the most if not the most durable pillow materials around. Natural latex is extremely elastic and sturdy and thus highly resistant to forming rips or tears. As a pillow filling, latex also does not possess the tendency to "clump" and gravitate towards itself that other natural materials - including cotton, wool and even the highest quality down - often do. As long as you clean it regularly (head over here to check out our helpful Brand Name staff's favorite cleaning tips), a good natural latex pillow can easily last between two and three years before needing to be replaced!
We've already talked about how latex pillows can be found with a variety of different densities and a wide range of softness or firmness levels. But did you know that there are actually two different types of natural latex which can be used to manufacture pillows? And, did you ALSO know that there are two different commonly used manufacturing processes, both of which produce completely different results?
Yup! Both of these things are true - and truly highlight the amazing versatility of which only natural latex, among all the common pillow materials, is capable. Which latex style and which manufacturing method you prefer will be dependent on your personal needs and wants - although us folks here at Brand Name have definitely got our favorites, keep in mind that everyone is different, and what they need out of a pillow is different too!
This type of pillow stuffing is exactly what it sounds like - a solid, unbroken block of natural latex foam in the shape of a pillow. Solid latex foam pillows sometimes come with a cover made from a light fabric material, but do not always feature covers - in some cases, they may be covered only by a removable pillow case, usually made from a natural material such as cotton or bamboo.
There are in fact two major benefits to using solid latex foam as a pillow material. One, it can easily be textured and contoured, which allows you to keep your head centered on the pillow and your neck straight and properly aligned. Secondly, depending on the design, a solid foam pillow can feature different densities and thicknesses in a single model. Most often, a solid foam pillow will be thicker at the base, providing plenty of support for the arched or curved position of the neck while sleeping, and thinner at the top so that the head remains in a neutral position and is not pushed forward too far.
If you find yourself waking up morning after morning with a stiff neck and shoulders and painful joints, then you might just need the extra support provided by a specially contoured solid latex pillow. They are often considered to be the number one recommendation for people who wake up frequently in the middle of the night, as the specialized design keeps your body in a stable, neutral position all night long.
However, it is important to note that solid natural latex pillows will be thicker, denser and heavier than other varieties. They do not fold or "squish down" very well and are not recommended for travel or any situation where you will be moving around a lot and have to transport your pillow. Some sleepers also consider them to be slightly less breathable than more lightweight types of latex, but these pillows will still not retain heat to the extent that materials such as memory foam, polyester foam or thick wool do.
Unlike its solid counterpart, shredded natural latex foam is broken into bead- or pellet-like shapes to serve as a pillow filling. Because it is not solid, it must be contained within a pillow cover, usually made from a natural material such as cotton or bamboo (see here for more information). It is important to keep in mind that a pillowcase on its own will not be sufficient.
While solid latex focuses on firmness and support, shredded latex takes the opposite path, instead emphasizing softness and comfort. It is extremely flexible and versatile, capable of shifting and adjusting its shape as you move around. Tossers and turners who are comfortable with their motion and don't have an interest in staying more still as they sleep may find themselves adoring this pillow filling, as it allows them to remain comfortable no matter what position they are in. However, this kind of pillow typically does not provide as much support for the head and neck as its solid latex equivalent.
Because air is able to flow easily between the shredded latex "pellets," these pillows are extremely lightweight and breathable. They will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and do not present any risk of overheating during the night (a thoroughly irritating phenomenon more commonly referred to as "sleep hot"). In addition, because of their flexible shape, shredded latex pillows are excellent for long road trips, sleepovers, travel by air or any other sort of situation which requires you to keep your pillow as small and compact as possible.
In addition to having a choice between solid foam and shredded foam, you can seek out natural latex which has been manufactured and processed in one of two different ways. While both options ultimately produce high quality, durable pillows which will last you for years and years, the final product will possess slightly different properties depending on the style of manufacturing which was used.
In this article, we will discuss the two processes only briefly, and focus on highlighting the areas in which Dunlop pillows and Talalay pillows differ from one another. For a more detailed look into exactly what you're getting out of each latex manufacturing process, see our in-depth guide here.
The Dunlop manufacturing process is the older of the two, with a history spanning multiple decades and even centuries. It utilizes traditional molding - the liquid natural latex is poured into a shaped mold, usually made from lightweight metal such as aluminum, and then baked at high temperatures in a large oven. This baking process, which is referred to as "vulcanization," transforms the liquid latex into a solid - but still elastic and springy - final form.
Dunlop latex is harder and firmer than Talalay - the resulting pillows are almost always on the higher end of the indentation load deflection (ILD) scale. Dunlop pillows tend to provide excellent support for the head, neck, shoulders and the upper part of the spine. However, they are not as springy or lightweight, and may occasionally retain small amounts of heat in particularly humid weather. Their number one drawback is considered to be their inconsistent density - the traditional process of baking the latex in its mold can result in "settling," in which the denser material travels to the bottom of the mold, leaving the more lightweight remainder on top.
The newer and more innovative Talalay process also involves the liquid natural latex being placed into a mold. However, rather than being baked, it is first foamed - creating the latex's trademark light, fluffy texture - and then flash-frozen to solidify it into a gel-like form. Vulcanization is then the next-to-last step in the process before finally, the resulting pillow, mattress or other bedroom good is thoroughly washed to remove any remnants of the allergenic proteins found within the makeup of natural latex.
Talalay latex pillows are extremely lightweight and breathable. You will absolutely never overheat while using a Talalay pillow! They are also extremely soft and comfortable, to the point that satisfied sleepers describe their experience as "luxurious" and "like resting one's head on top of a cloud". For ultimate comfort, you absolutely cannot go wrong with a Talalay latex pillow. However, they may be less firm or supportive than their Dunlop counterparts, and may in some circumstances be slightly more expensive due to the unique and modern manufacturing process.
So, have we convinced you to give natural latex a try? If so, head on over to our catalog - found right here - to browse all of the amazing natural latex bedroom items which Brand Name has to offer. Buy today, and you might even get to take advantage of one of our frequent, amazing deals and sales!
In addition, if you want to journey even further into the amazing world of natural latex and learn even more about how it can help you sleep better, why not check out our intro to latex mattresses (found here) or our discussion of natural latex's hypoallergenic properties (right over here)!