While on your mattress shopping journey, you’ve probably come across the terms ‘hybrid’ and ‘memory foam’. Hybrid and memory foam are two different types of mattresses, each with its own pros and cons. However, these pros and cons are relative to the individual shopper, so it can be hard to decide which one is best for you.
We’re here to make this process easier by breaking down the details of each mattress type, how they compare to one another, and who we believe are the best sleepers for each one.
What is a Hybrid Mattress?
A hybrid mattress is a bed built with foam and coils, offering both materials in one product. The foam is placed on top, while the coil unit is toward the bottom. However, some hybrid mattresses have additional foam at the base for added durability. Within this basic hybrid construction, there is plenty of variance among brands and models. Some companies use memory foam and polyfoams in the top comfort layers, while others incorporate latex layers. The amount of layers in hybrids varies as well, with some brands using multiple foam layers for extra comfort and support. Most hybrid mattresses feature pocketed coils, which means each coil is wrapped in fabric so that they react independently of one another as opposed to a traditional innerspring unit in which they move as one. Wrapping the coils helps minimize motion transfer across the mattress.
Read More: What Is a Hybrid Mattress?
Advantages of a Hybrid Mattress
Hybrid mattresses offer some significant advantages to consumers.
- Cooler – Hybrids are more breathable because of their coil unit, which fosters airflow throughout the bed. Plus, many brands include extra cooling features in their cover and foam layers to further promote a cooler sleep space, making this a great option for hot sleepers.
- Easier Movement – Innerspring layers are great for bounce, which means the mattress quickly returns to its original shape after you put pressure on it. This quick response makes it easier to move around on the bed and get in and out of it. For this reason, hybrids are usually preferred by those with limited mobility or combination sleepers.
- Good Support – Hybrids usually provide very good support because of the coils in them. Coils are highly durable and strong, so they’re helpful for those who need more substantial support, such as heavier sleepers. Support is essential for good body alignment and preventing back pain.
- More Variety – Though the basic model of a hybrid is foam on top and coils on the bottom, shoppers will find lots of variations among brands. Manufacturers use a wide range of different comfort materials and design features to enhance their beds. This gives shoppers more options and customization if they decide to go with a hybrid.
Disadvantages of a Hybrid Mattress
While hybrid mattresses have appealing advantages, there are also some downsides to them.
- More Expensive – Hybrid mattresses feature an advanced design, which means they tend to be more expensive than their memory foam counterparts. That being said, there are brands out there that have budget mattresses available, including hybrid models.
- Less Motion Isolation – Motion isolation means that the mattress is built to reduce motion transfer across the mattress. This is usually most important for couples, who want to reduce their risk of being woken up by their partner’s movements. Even though individually wrapping the coils will help, these beds will still have more motion transfer than memory foam ones.
- Heavier to Move – Hybrid mattresses are usually heavier than all-foam models, which could make them harder to transport. If you opt for a white glove delivery service, in which a team of professionals set up the bed for you, this shouldn’t be an issue. However, many companies charge an extra fee for this. If you plan to move a mattress on your own, you’ll probably need extra help with the bed’s added weight.
What is a Memory Foam Mattress?
Memory foam mattresses contain a special type of polyurethane foam known as viscoelastic. This foam was originally developed by NASA in the 1960s to further protect astronauts, and today, it’s used in many household items, including mattresses. Memory foam is designed to cradle the sleeper’s body, which results in excellent pressure relief and is a major reason why the material has become so popular. Most memory beds contain an all-foam structure with memory foam toward the top and a standard polyfoam at the base, though is some variance with the number of layers and other features. Some hybrids contain memory foam, and while those could also be considered a ‘memory foam bed’, for this comparison, we will solely focus on the all-foam model.
For More Information: What Is Memory Foam?
Advantages of a Memory Foam Mattress
- Pressure Relief – One of memory foam’s most notable advantages is that it excels at pressure relief. The material is purposely designed to contour the sleeper’s shape, and as a result, this minimizes pressure buildup throughout the body. Many people have long-touted the material’s ability to alleviate uncomfortable pressure points, earning memory foam a top status in the bedding industry.
- Great Motion Isolation – Memory foam does a great job at providing motion isolation, which means the material can absorb motion. As a result, movement on one side of the bed won’t be felt on the opposite side. Motion isolation is usually most valuable to couples since they’re more likely to be disturbed by movement.
- Good Support – Many memory foam beds can provide good support, particularly ones that are denser and have an overall higher firmness rating. The support in these beds is usually provided by very dense polyfoam layers toward the bottom. While coils may provide slightly more support in comparison, many people will find plenty of quality support from these all-foam beds as well.
- Hypoallergenic – Memory foam is considered a hypoallergenic product. The material’s density makes it harder for dust mites and other allergens to thrive there, which should help those with allergies sleep better. Furthermore, regularly cleaning your memory foam mattress will further prevent these allergens from emerging and prolong the bed’s lifespan.
Disadvantages of a Memory Foam Mattress
- Retain Heat – Memory foam is known for retaining heat. While the foam’s density has its benefits, this makes it prone to trapping warmth. For hot sleepers who frequently wake up from overheating, this could be a significant drawback. However, many manufacturers implement cooling features into the memory foam to help with this issue. So, this doesn’t mean hot sleepers need to skip these beds altogether, but they should look for good cooling beds.
- Minimal Bounce – Memory foam has minimal bounce. Instead, the material has a slow-moving feel to it, taking more time to get back to its original form after experiencing pressure. The lack of bounce could make it harder for combination sleepers and people with mobility issues to move about the bed.
- New Mattress Smell – When you initially unbox a memory foam bed, you will probably notice a new mattress smell, which is known as off-gassing. The smell is a result of the synthetic materials used in foam. Off-gassing typically goes away within a few days, and it’s good to give the mattress extra time to air out. That being said, some people who are sensitive to smells could be bothered by this. Organic beds usually do not come with strong odors and would be better if you’re concerned about this issue.
How They Compare
Memory foam and hybrid mattresses are the two most popular options on the market. Memory foam beds feature an all-foam construction with memory foam towards the top and a dense polyfoam base. A hybrid mattress contains foam comfort layers on top, followed by a supportive coil unit below. Let’s look at how these models compare to one another in different consumer categories.
Memory foam beds are slightly cheaper than hybrids, usually starting at around 800 dollars, depending on the bed size. The cheapest hybrids are about 1,200 dollars. However, the price depends on many things, from the manufacturer and materials to features and benefits. There are budget and luxury options available for both types.
Your sleeping position is a critical factor when choosing between hybrid and memory foam mattresses. Mattress firmness plays a role as well, but certain models are better suited for specific positions over others.
- Side Sleepers – Side sleepers usually struggle with pressure build-up, which is why they need a softer bed. Most people who like sleeping on their side choose memory foam beds because they hug the body and prevent pressure from building up in the shoulders and hips.
- Back Sleepers – Back sleepers are usually a good fit for either memory or hybrid models in the medium-firm range that provide good support to the back. Some back sleepers may opt for a memory foam mattress because they like that the foam relieves pressure on their shoulders.
- Stomach Sleepers – Stomach sleepers usually need firmer models to keep their midsection level, and therefore, these sleepers may gravitate toward a hybrid mattress for the steel coils. Memory foam mattresses can also do well, but only if they’re firm enough.
- Combination Sleepers – People who change positions often are best suited for hybrid mattresses. Hybrids have more bounce than memory foam beds, so they should help with repositioning.
Body weight has a lot to do with the performance of memory foam and hybrid mattresses. A bed won’t perform or feel the same for sleepers with vastly different body types.
- Lightweight Sleepers – A lightweight sleeper will likely prefer a memory foam bed. Mattresses feel firmer to lightweight individuals compared to average and heavy sleepers. Therefore, lightweight sleepers enjoy the soft cradle of memory foam, particularly if they lie on their side.
- Average Weight Sleepers – An average-weight person should be pleased with either memory foam or a hybrid bed. In this case, you’ll have to think about other factors like your sleeping position, bounce, support, cooling, motion isolation, price, and pressure relief before purchasing either type.
- Heavyweight Sleepers – Heavyweight sleepers need all the support they can get to ensure their spine doesn’t get thrown out of alignment. For this reason, most people recommend hybrids for heavier individuals. The coils in hybrid mattresses will usually provide better support for heavyweight sleepers.
The feel of a bed depends on several factors, such as the materials and firmness level. Memory foam mattresses will have a slow response to them, and you should feel as though you’re gently being hugged by the material. Conversely, hybrids have more bounce, so you should feel more on top of the bed instead of in it.
Memory foam and hybrid mattresses are available in multiple firmness options. This allows sleepers to find the perfect firmness for their sleep style. Mattress firmness is rated on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the firmest. Most people enjoy a medium-firm feel that’s around a 5 or 6, but if you’re exceptionally lightweight or heavy, you may prefer something much softer or harder. Between these two mattress styles, the contouring of memory foam may cause these beds to feel softer than hybrids. However, the coils in hybrids usually provide slightly more support than memory foam beds, even if they’re listed as the same firmness level.
Memory foam is unbeatable when it comes to eliminating motion transfer. Hybrids have bouncy steel coils that don’t isolate motion very well. Although most coils are individually wrapped to minimize motion transfer, these beds still won’t perform as well as an all-foam option. Memory foam is dense and absorbs motion well, making it a better option for couples with different sleeping habits.
Hybrid mattresses are known for their breathability and cooling, whereas memory foam has a reputation for overheating. As mentioned, memory foam is dense, so air can’t flow through as it does in hybrid mattresses. Much of the air and heat stays trapped in foam layers, causing the entire mattress to overheat. However, many manufacturers use gel and copper infusions to make cooling memory foam beds that don’t trap heat in their layers. Extra-hot sleepers, though, will likely find their best match in a cooling hybrid model.
Read More: Best Cooling Beds
Both memory foam and hybrid mattresses offer solid support, depending on your needs. This is especially true for firmer mattresses. If you’re a side or back sleeper, you’ll probably find enough support in a memory foam bed. Many back sleepers will also enjoy hybrids. Some stomach sleepers could do well on firm memory foam beds, but if you carry more weight, the extra support of coils may be better for you.
Who Would Benefit From a Hybrid Mattress?
Hybrid mattresses are versatile and should work for most sleepers. Stomach and back sleepers should like these beds thanks to the support they offer. Hybrid mattresses are great for hot sleepers because the steel coils allow more air to flow through, helping them stay cool throughout the night. These beds are available in multiple firmness levels, so even side sleepers may find a hybrid soft enough to relieve pressure in sensitive areas. Hybrids are also great for combination sleepers, who need something bouncy enough to help them reposition easily.
Who Wouldn’t Benefit From a Hybrid Mattress?
Couples with different sleeping habits may not like hybrid beds because of motion transfer. Hybrids with steel coils usually don’t isolate motion as well as memory foam models. This means you may wake up your partner if you toss and turn at night. Also, hybrid mattresses are generally more expensive than memory foam models. Although some brands offer budget options, these are usually more costly than their memory foam counterparts.
Who Would Benefit From a Memory Foam Mattress?
Partners with different sleeping habits should like memory foam because it does an excellent job of isolating motion. Memory foam absorbs motion, so you’re unlikely to feel movement when your partner tosses and turns. People who struggle with pressure buildup should also benefit from memory foam. Memory foam hugs the body and prevents pressure from accumulating in the shoulders, hips, and legs. Lastly, those who live with allergies may find relief in a memory foam bed as these are often considered hypoallergenic.
Learn More: Can Memory Foam Cause Allergic Reaction?
Who Wouldn’t Benefit From a Memory Foam Mattress?
Hot sleepers are unlikely to benefit from memory foam mattresses because of the overheating. Memory foam is dense and doesn’t allow airflow as much as hybrids. As a result, it tends to overheat and make hot sleepers sweat even more than usual. Combination sleepers may not like the lack of bounce in a memory foam bed as it can make it difficult to change positions. Also, memory foam beds have a strong smell when you first unpack them. This is known as off-gassing and could be too intense for some people.
What is a Hybrid Mattress Made of?
A hybrid mattress has a steel coil unit underneath layers of latex, memory foam, or polyfoam. Some hybrids also have foam below the coils. Hybrids are a combination of all-foam and innerspring mattresses, hence the name. A high-quality hybrid is a blend of quality materials that bring support, pressure relief, and comfort. Most coils in hybrid mattresses are individually wrapped in fabric to minimize motion transfer.
Is Memory Foam Good for Side Sleepers?
Memory foam is good for side sleepers because it’s designed to hug the body, which helps prevent pressure from building up in the shoulders, hips, and other sensitive areas. However, this will also depend on the firmness level you choose. A memory foam mattress may be uncomfortable if it’s too firm for side sleeping.
Is Memory Foam or a Hybrid More Comfortable?
Whether a memory foam or hybrid mattress is more comfortable than the other depends entirely on the individual needs of the sleeper. What one person may find comfortable could be bothersome for someone else. Factors that determine comfortability include the person’s sleep position, whether or not they sleep hot, if they sleep with a partner, and their body weight.
Now that you’re armed with more knowledge of the differences between memory foam and hybrid mattresses, you should be better equipped to decide between these two styles. Each bed type comes with specific advantages and disadvantages. You’ll also need to see how these mattresses compare in categories related to your individual needs, such as price, sleep position, body weight, cooling, support, and pressure relief. Once you decide whether a memory foam or hybrid mattress is right for you, we are here to help with our favorite memory foam and hybrid models, which include detailed reviews and information about each product.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.
She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.