Memory foam and hybrid mattresses feel similar, which can make it hard to decide between the two. It helps to compare the differences, such as a memory foam bed’s full-body cradle to a hybrid’s springy support.
In this guide, we explain what hybrids and memory foam mattresses are, and the pros and cons of each type. We also answer a few frequently asked questions at the end.
What is a Memory Foam Mattress?
Memory foam’s popularity took off with the bed in a box trend, and many owners fell in love with its pressure-relieving abilities. A memory foam mattress fully molds itself around the body, leaving no area unsupported.
A memory foam mattress must contain at least two foam layers—the top layer of memory foam, and a base layer of supportive foam, usually poly-foam. A third layer can improve the bed’s responsiveness, allowing it to regain its shape quicker and preventing you from sinking in too deeply.
What is a Hybrid Mattress?
Hybrid mattresses combine parts from an innerspring and an all-foam mattress to address the drawbacks of both. A proper hybrid has at least 2 inches of foam in its top layer with a coil support base layer.
Hybrids offer the contouring feel of foam with the bounce of a traditional innerspring mattress. The coil setup of a hybrid provides better motion isolation than most innerspring mattresses—the coils are usually individually wrapped to allow each coil to react independently to movement. In contrast, an innerspring’s coils transfer movement easily, making sleep elusive for restless sleepers or couples.
Pros of a Memory Foam Mattress
Memory foam mattresses are well known for their ability to relieve pressure points. If you have a health condition such as chronic back pain, a memory foam mattress can prevent pressure from building up and soothe existing aches.
Of all mattress types, memory foam might be the best at isolating motion—the material absorbs movement at the point of impact. If you sleep with a restless partner or have a condition that keeps you up at night, such as restless legs syndrome, a memory foam mattress can minimize sleep disturbances.
Memory foam mattresses are available across all price points; there are quite a few inexpensive gems you can try. Many quality memory foam mattresses cost under $1000.
Cons of a Memory Foam Mattress
Some memory foam mattresses can have a chemical-like odor when first opened. The smell is caused by volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, breaking down after exposure. The odor should vanish within three to seven days.
If you’re sensitive to smells, shop for a memory foam mattress with a CertiPUR-US® certification—to qualify, a foam must contain low amounts of VOCs.
Little Temperature Regulation
Traditional memory foam mattresses are often too dense to let go of absorbed body heat easily. If the heat builds up in the mattress, it may cause you to wake up overheated and in a sweat. Many manufacturers reduce heat retention by infusing the mattress with cooling gels or other conductive materials (copper, graphite, charcoal), or by increasing airflow with added air channels or cutouts in the mattress.
Lack of Edge Support
Memory foam mattresses typically lack edge support because of their responsiveness—most beds’ edges give way to pressure. A few models do have more rigid edges to make getting in and out of bed more manageable, but it’s not a standard feature.
Delayed Response Time
Lower-quality memory foam may be slow to respond to your body’s movements, which leaves you feeling trapped in your bed. Cheaper foams can take up to a minute to snap back into shape, though high-quality foam should regain their shape within seconds.
Pros of a Hybrid Mattress
Foam beds conform to pressure, but hybrid’s coils add a springy lift. This added bounce can improve the bed’s responsiveness, letting it adjust to your movements faster.
Hybrids make excellent cooling mattresses for hot sleepers, as the coils let air flow through to wick away body heat. A comfort layer with gel memory foam or breathable cotton can further improve heat dispersion.
Hybrid mattresses often have firmer foams lining their perimeter to protect the coils system. Firmer sides make it easier for you to slip in and out of bed and let you sit on the edge. As separate foams, however, the edges can wear down before the rest of the mattress does.
Cons of a Hybrid Mattress
While most hybrid beds contain pocket coils to isolate motion, the bouncy coils can still transfer movement. Motion transfer becomes more of an issue as the mattress materials age.
Hybrid mattresses are some of the more expensive beds available, as they combine different materials. A mid-priced hybrid typically costs around $1200.
While memory foam mattresses and hybrid mattresses can have comparable lifespans, each often lasting about seven years, hybrids have a higher risk of sagging as coils wear out. Many bed in a box hybrids wear out quickly, as the mattress usually contains thinner, less durable coils for better compression.
A hybrid mattress with a memory foam layer may have an initial smell, just like a regular memory foam mattress. As with a memory foam mattress, the odor should disappear within a week if placed in a well-ventilated area.
What Is the Right Mattress for You?
Your comfort preferences and budget restrictions influence you choice when deciding upon the best mattress for your needs.
If you want a bouncy bed, go for a hybrid mattress. Its supportive coils lift you and make it easier to get out of bed.
If you want a bed that lets you sink in, choose a memory foam mattress.
If you’re a hot sleeper, consider a hybrid mattress. A hybrid’s coils provide more space for airflow to remove body heat.
If you’re easily disturbed by noises or movement, we recommend a memory foam mattress. A hybrid’s coils may occasionally squeak or let you feel your partner’s actions, especially as the coils age.
If you’re shopping on a budget, choose a memory foam mattress. Most quality hybrid mattresses cost more than $1000.
Sleeping position is often irrelevant when choosing between a hybrid or a memory foam bed, as both types are available in a wide range of firmnesses.
Other Types of Mattresses
Perhaps neither a memory foam mattress or a hybrid is the right type of mattress for you. There are different types of mattresses you might want to consider.
A latex mattress is an eco-friendly choice. Natural latex is made from rubber tree sap, and a natural latex mattress may last up to 20 years. Latex is inherently firm, though, so if you’re a side sleeper, you may wish to add on a pillow top.
An innerspring mattress has a coil system with a thin comfort layer of foam or fabric. Innersprings are readily available at most mattress stores at affordable prices.
However, we cannot recommend an innerspring mattress for all sleep positions. Back sleepers and stomach sleepers can usually rest comfortably on an innerspring mattress, but most side sleepers wake up with aches and pains on innersprings, as the bed cannot contour to their sides for adequate pressure relief.
What Else to Consider
Mattress materials aren’t all you should think about when mattress shopping. You’ll also want to look at the company policies and see what other customers thought of the mattress.
Many mattresses today come with an attached sleep trial and warranty. Sleep trials let you try out a mattress at home and often last 90 to 120 days upon delivery.
Warranties protect a mattress owner from manufacturing defects. Most quality mattresses come with a 10-year warranty.
If you’re interested in a particular mattress, look for customer feedback and third-party mattress reviews. Reviews give you an outside perspective on a bed—we recommend searching for feedback from people who have owned the mattress for three or more months, as this will provide you not only with an idea of the mattress’s comfort but also its durability.
Can you flip a hybrid mattress?
No. A hybrid mattress is built from top to bottom, with the thick comfort layer on top and the coil system underneath. Flipping a hybrid mattress means flattening the comfort layer and sleeping on the bed’s thin foam base.
Similarly, most memory foam mattresses are built with the support layer on the bottom and a comfort layer on top. While a few memory foam mattresses are double-sided, they often have different firmnesses on each side.
How thick should a mattress be?
A good hybrid or memory foam mattress should be at least 10 inches thick. A thinner bed is more likely to wear out, and its comfort layer(s) may not be thick enough to relieve pressure points.
Did We Help?
Only you can decide what mattress type is best for you. Memory foam mattresses conform to you for pressure relief and a hug-like feeling, while hybrids offer bouncy support and a breathable bed.
If you’re still hesitant about a mattress, remember that a sleep trial will let you try it out for a few months–and you can exchange or return it if the mattress is uncomfortable.