Memory Foam Vs Hybrid Mattress
written by sleep expert Lauren Hall
Memory Foam Vs. Hybrid Mattress
As you hunt for a new mattress, you’ll probably come across the two most popular beds on the market, memory foam mattresses and hybrid mattresses. Your eyes may be switching left and right as you look at both products to see which one to get, but in most cases, this can just make things more confusing.
Getting a good night’s sleep is such an important thing. Back problems, a restless partner or overheating can really disrupt your sleep if you’re choosing the wrong mattress, and these factors can really determine which mattress is best.
It’s not so much about which one is best in general; it’s more about which one is best for you as there are many unique factors to consider, such as are you a hot sleeper? What’s your sleeping position preference? Do you sleep with a partner or pet? All of these go into choosing which mattress is the right fit for you.
Hybrids usually have better cooling qualities; they are bouncy and responsive, and cushioned while still offering efficient pressure relief, whereas memory foam mattresses are supportive and contour your body much deeper than hybrids. However, they do retain body heat and sleep hot.
But don’t let that put you off.
I’m going to highlight the key differences between hybrid beds and memory foam beds to help highlight their key strengths and weaknesses to help break down the buying process a bit for you. Hybrid mattresses may be best for one person, while memory foam may be best for another.
Everyone is different, after all. But enough of me babbling on, let’s delve into the ultimate hybrid vs. memory foam showdown!
What Is A Memory Foam Mattress?
So before we delve into the side-by-side comparison, let’s strip it back to the basics. What is memory foam and what is a memory foam mattress?
Memory foam was first created by NASA and called it viscoelastic foam in the 1960s to counteract the extreme pressure which astronauts faced when exiting and entering the earth’s atmosphere. It was then used in hospital beds to offer lumbar support and help with bedsores.
Nowadays, it has taken the bed market by storm with mattresses, pillows, and even mattresses toppers.
The main component that makes up memory foam mattresses is a polymer called polyurethane; it is an extremely versatile plastic polymer that is used to create a wide range of materials and products, including furniture like sofas and mattresses.
Memory foam is known as viscoelastic polyurethane foam or low resistance polyurethane foam; it is created by adding various compounds and additives to polyurethane depending on what type of memory foam is being created.
These added chemicals give it a slow response to pressure and even viscoelastic qualities. Memory foam molds to your body, when activated by heat and pressure and then bounces back to its original shape after pressure, is removed from the surface.
The chemicals used to create the foam can affect viscosity and elasticity. The viscosity is how long it takes to change shape under pressure or to transfer energy from one place to another, while the elasticity is the stretch, contouring and whether it will return to its original shape after the pressure is taken away.
A memory foam mattress can also be referred to as an all-foam mattress because many memory foam mattresses have three foam layers to create the mattress: a comfort layer, a responsive layer, and a support layer.
- A top comfort layer: this often offers plush protection and comfort on delicate pressure points around the shoulders and hips. It provides plush comfort that we love from a memory foam mattress.
- A transition layer: this is then followed by a transition layer that is a little firmer than the comfort layer and supports and contours and conforms your body shape to relieve pressure points and provide support.
- Support layer: the final layer tends to be a support layer or base layer often found at the bottom of memory foam mattresses. It is a high-density foam that helps enhance the durability of the mattress and protects it from sagging over the years.
Memory foam mattresses are brilliant for all kinds of sleepers and sleeping positions because memory foam mattresses contour to your body weight and shape to relieve pressure points no matter what position you’re sleeping in.
The best memory foam mattress for side sleepers will be one that is medium to soft in firmness; this allows the mattress to cradle your hips, shoulders, and neck to help relieve pain throughout your body.
The best memory foam mattress for back sleepers would be a medium-firm to firm feel; this will prevent your hips from sinking down too far, which also improves lumbar support and helps to alleviate pressure points around your shoulder, neck, hips, and back.
The best memory foam mattress for stomach sleepers would be a firm mattress as this will improve spinal alignment, stopping the hips from sinking into the mattress. Stomach sleepers put their spine in compromised positions, so it might be best to try to train to sleep on your back or side to prevent aches and pains.
Stomach sleeping causes undue stress to the sleeper’s back, which straightens the spine’s natural curvature and inflicts chronic pain. Stomach sleepers need a very firm mattress to improve spinal alignment and ensure the hips don’t sink into the mattress.
What Is A Hybrid Mattress?
Hybrids are very similar to memory foam mattresses, but they tend to have similar layers but instead of high-density foam at the bottom hybrid mattresses use coils in their base layer, most commonly pocket coil support cores.
Because of the innerspring coils, most hybrid mattresses have extremely good edge support, much better than memory foam, so it gives you more surface space to sleep on. It incorporates innerspring mattresses with memory foam mattresses.
They are far easier to move around over a memory foam mattress as they have more of a responsive feel to them and a bit more bounce. You can still have all the conforming and pressure relief capabilities of memory foam but with a bit more of a responsive feel.
An innerspring mattress just doesn’t provide as body contouring and support as memory foam, but memory foam tends to sleep hot, so hybrids blend the best qualities of the two to give you the very best mattress.
Hybrid beds also prevent you from sinking too far into the mattress as the base layer is supported by durable springs which help you bounce back. Plus, with the more open design and gel-infused foam, hybrid mattresses also tend to sleep much cooler as airflow and temperature are regulated.
Hybrids enhance breathability within the mattress and offer all-night coolness, so if you tend to sleep hot and want to have the benefits of memory foam without trapping body heat, hybrid mattresses offer the best of both worlds. However, latex might be better in a hybrid if you sleep really hot as it keeps a neutral temperature.
I do love a memory foam hybrid mattress, though.
If you go for a hybrid mattress with pocketed coils, you can still get the benefits of motion isolation as pocketed springs move individually; plus, when paired with memory foam, it silences almost all movement making hybrid mattresses a brilliant option for couples.
Benefits Of A Memory Foam Mattress:
Right, so the best way to compare memory foam and hybrid mattresses is to go through the benefits and drawbacks of each. Both memory foam and hybrid mattresses have their pros and cons. So let’s start by talking about memory foam.
Body Contouring and Pressure Relieving:
Memory foam is best known for its body contouring and pressure-relieving capabilities; it’s what many people love about the mattress. Memory foam works wonders for relieving pressure around your back, hips, neck, and shoulders.
This conforming quality is activated through body heat and pressure to mold around your body, and then once it has cooled, it returns back to its normal shape. This conforming of the foam layers helps promote neutral spinal alignment as it cradles your body to relieve pressure points.
Memory foam beds are best for those with back pain or chronic pain as they can help to relieve built-up pressure around your pressure points. This is the reason memory foam was created by Nasa to relieve pressure when exiting and entering the earth’s atmosphere.
A memory foam bed is one of the best mattress types for couples as memory foam offers brilliant motion isolation. Movement is absorbed within the memory foam, so if you sleep with a restless partner or a pet that tends to move a lot in the night, memory foam ensures minimal disruptions.
So your partner or pet can move around and get comfortable throughout the night without the worry of waking you, so you both wake up feeling well-rested and ready for the day.
With innerspring mattresses, every time you climb into bed, the springs will squeak, memory foam absorbs noise much better than any other mattress material on the market. Hybrid mattresses are almost as good as all-foam mattresses as pocket coils move individually, and when paired with memory foam layers on top, this offers good motion isolation.
Memory foam is a great option for those with allergies, as long as you regularly clean the mattress and protect it with a mattress protector. The material used to make memory foam is brilliant for those with allergies as it is hypoallergenic.
For those suffering from allergies, it is recommended that you vacuum your mattress multiple times a week to keep up with the cleaning and prevent the buildup of dust mites. Plus, a mattress protector will protect your mattress from dust mites by 80%!
Check out my full guide on how to clean a memory foam mattress here.
Drawbacks Of A Memory Foam Mattress:
The only issue with memory foam is that there are quite a few drawbacks to the mattress, including sleeping hot, poor responsiveness, sagging, and the off-gassing smell. Let’s talk about these in more detail.
Memory foam is known to sleep hot because of its porous structure, which is responsible for pressure relieving. Memory foam is known for retaining heat; when body weight is placed on the mattress surface, air bubbles are displaced, and air circulation is restricted, which causes heat retention.
Even with an open-cell structure and gel foam, because of how dense the foam is, it is known to trap heat.
But nowadays, there are many technologies in place to help combat this, such as using a plant-based foam, open-cell design with cooling gel, or natural infusion to help dissipate heat and regulate airflow. But even for these mattresses, heat can still get trapped in the memory foam layer.
This also means that memory foam mattresses are not ideal for hot sleepers. This is also why hybrid mattresses were invented so people can enjoy the benefits of memory foam but the cooling properties of an innerspring mattress.
Memory foam is known for its slow response to pressure; it takes a minute for the material to conform to your body and takes a while to bounce back to its original shape once pressure is removed. This slow response offers deep body contouring for pressure and pain relief, but it can make it difficult to move in and out of the mattress.
But modern memory foam is much better and much more responsive, so it only takes seconds to conform and seconds to regain its shape, making it much easier to get out of the mattress.
However, over time, this responsiveness weakens, and the mattress begins to sag, starting with the edges. While the middle is supportive and conforming, the outer edges tend to sink too much, and the edge support is not as good as an innerspring mattress or hybrid mattress.
Many manufacturers are beginning to reinforce the edges by using a durable, high-density polyfoam to help provide more efficient edge support.
Since memory foam is made with chemicals, there is an off-gassing smell that lasts for anything from a few days to a few weeks! Luckily most modern foam mattresses will air out after a few days, but cheaper foams will keep the smell for longer.
This smell is inevitable, but try to choose a memory foam that is plant-based or uses CertiPUR-US Certified foams; the smell will last for a shorter time.
Benefits Of A Hybrid Mattress:
Here are the benefits of hybrid mattresses.
Joint & Back Support:
Since hybrid mattresses use a combination of pocket coils, mattress springs, and memory foam or latex foam, they offer a good level of joint and back support for all kinds of sleeping positions. Memory foam is known for its body contouring and pressure-relieving capabilities.
Hybrid beds offer great contouring like memory foam mattresses through the foam layers but prevent you from sinking too far into the foam as the innerspring coils provide you with that little extra support.
Memory foam relaxes with your body heat to conform to your body’s shapes and curves. It provides support around your back, hips, and shoulders by cradling around your body. This is also supported by the pocketed springs in the base.
Whether you’re a back, side, or stomach sleeper, a hybrid mattress will offer you a balance between supportive and relaxing sleep, offering the perfect balance of support, comfort, and bounce so you can rest comfortably and wake up feeling refreshed.
Latex also offers similar qualities to memory foam, but it remains much more of a neutral temperature, so many hybrid mattresses use a combination of latex and cooling gel memory foam to help provide support on key pressure points while keeping the temperature cool.
Pressure Point Relief:
If you wake up in the morning with sharp and shooting pains in your shoulder, back hips, or neck, then this may indicate that your mattress is efficient in relieving your pressure points. If your bed is too soft or too firm, it can put pressure on your joints when you sleep.
But with hybrid mattresses, this isn’t the case as the memory foam top is designed with a comfort layer to cradle your body as you sleep, lift pressure points and help promote proper spinal alignment, so you wake up feeling refreshed rather than with a hundred aches.
Hybrid mattresses provide adequate support for pressure point relief, and the pocket coil springs underneath it prevent that sinking feeling, so your body feels cradled without feeling like you’re drowning in the mattress.
Since memory foam is known to sleep hot and retain heat within the mattress, it makes you sleep hotter and may lead to night sweats. Temperature regulation is a super important feature for a good night’s sleep, so your body can drop 1 degree in temperature to reach those deeper stages of sleep.
Hybrid mattresses are the next best thing; they sleep cooler and offer a better night’s sleep. They take advantage of the airflow through the open design of the coils.
When this is paired with a ventilated design and gel-infused memory foam, it helps really knock out the heat in the mattress. Gel-infused memory foam uses phase-changing materials that also help keep your body cool and help it stay cool and regulate body temperature.
Many hybrid mattresses use multiple layers of foam on top of the springs to really try and utilize ventilation. One of my favorite memory foam hybrids is one that uses a breathable foam on top, which is followed by a gel-infused layer and then another open-cell design layer underneath.
With the support of the pocket coils and high-quality memory foam or latex layers, or just the higher amount of layers in comparison to other mattresses, it makes hybrid mattresses far more durable and long-lasting as a whole.
Pocketed coils extend this life even further as the coils are individually packed in a casing which allows individual movement and puts less strain on the coils, so they tend to last much longer.
Plus by being at the base with layers of memory foam on top prevents the memory foam from sagging and prevents the coils from being damaged.
Ideal For Couples:
Memory foam works wonders for reducing motion transfer; while innerspring can be quite squeaky, most hybrids use pocketed springs that move individually with motion. This, paired with the memory foam or latex layer, really helps silence motion transfer.
I wouldn’t recommend buying cheap when it comes to hybrid mattresses as many mattress companies will use cheaper coils such as Bonnel coils which are connected with a lattice structure. These cheap coils create a lot of squeaking with every movement and don’t tend to last as long.
Pocket coil springs, however, are encased individually, so they move individually to help reduce motion transfer. This, paired with memory foam or latex layers, help offer movement silencing when you or your partner move sleep position.
So if you’re sleeping with a restless partner, combination sleeper, a partner that gets up for work before you, or even a pet, the vibrations of the movement should be silenced within the memory foam and individually packed coils so you can have uninterrupted rest.
Drawbacks Of A Hybrid Mattress:
There are a couple of drawbacks with hybrid mattresses, but this is bound to happen with any mattress as it ages. The two main drawbacks are that hybrid mattresses are quite costly and can begin to make noise over the years– which is normal with the aging of any mattress.
Because of the components of the mattress, the multiple layers, and the quality of material used, hybrid mattresses are probably the most expensive mattresses you’ll find on the market, especially if it is a natural latex hybrid. So hybrids are very much investment over traditional innerspring mattresses or traditional memory foam mattresses.
But with the price comes quality. You’ll want to spend a little extra to ensure you get high-quality components like pocketed springs and memory foam with built-in cooling technology. All of these factors will contribute to a quality night’s rest and a mattress that will last you for years to come.
Many cheap manufacturers use Bonnel coils which are connected with a lattice structure; not only does this cause noise with every movement, but this coil support system won’t last you longer than a few years. The same goes for cheap memory foam; the mattress will begin to sag.
With the right care and high-quality materials, many hybrid mattresses will last 10-15 years with ease, so while it comes at a steep price to begin with, it lasts a long time, so it’s worthwhile.
Motion Transfer After A Few Years:
So pocketed coils are the best type of coils used in hybrids, but as time goes on, these coils will begin to experience some wear and tear over the years; it’s bound to happen, and with this, your mattress may become slightly squeaky.
But the best thing about pocketed coils is that they are extremely durable, and when they begin to squeak to the point that it disturbs your sleep, then this may be a sign that it needs replacing, but if you buy a high-quality mattress, this shouldn’t happen for at least ten years.
If you buy cheap, then motion transfer and noise will be bound to happen, which is why it’s important to invest in a mattress that will last.
Which Mattress Is Best For Me?
Knowing which mattress is best for you is quite a hard question to answer as it depends on personal preference. From this, you may decide that memory foam is the way to go while someone else may be swayed towards hybrids instead.
Both offer amazing pressure point relief and spinal alignment, but if you value these deeply, then memory foam may be best for you. However, if you’re a hot sleeper and tend to sleep hot, then a hybrid mattress is a brilliant alternative as it offers similar qualities but with additional cooling.
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam has the best pressure relief on the market, so if you find you’re waking up with aches and pains over your body, then memory foam offers deep body contouring while cradling your joints and promoting spinal alignment to alleviate bed sores and pains.
They also offer the best motion isolation on the market because foam is brilliant at absorbing shocks, sounds, and movement.
Hybrid mattresses do offer good levels of body contouring, too, because of the memory foam layers, but if you want extreme pressure relief, then memory foam may be better.
However, hybrid coils are brilliant for regulating temperature for hot sleepers through cooling technologies and the ventilation between the coils; it helps keep the sleeper cool and regulate body temperature, allowing you to reach those deeper sleep stages.
Hybrid mattresses are conforming, supportive and responsive as they use both coils and memory foam, so really, they are the best of both worlds.
So there you have the key differences between memory foam and a hybrid mattress, so if you’re on the fence about the qualities of innerspring mattresses and memory foam beds then going for a hybrid is the best of both worlds. Also check out my guide of hybrid vs innerspring mattress if you’re back to square one of which to choose– hopefully not the case!
But I say that with an unbiased opinion, hybrid mattresses offer the best qualities of foam and best qualities of coils so you can get the very most out of your mattress. They’re definitely worth the investment.
Time to get a real bang for your buck!
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