Hybrid vs memory foam mattresses: what's the difference and which will suit you best?

We weigh up the pros and cons of these popular mattress types, with expert insight into their history, manufacturing, and which is best for you.

Bed in luxury neutral bedroom on box spring bed base
(Image credit: Studio / ANNA STATHAKI)

Hybrid and memory foam are two of the most popular mattress types, especially when it comes to mattresses in a box. But with so much marketing jargon out there, how do you decide if either of these mattress types are right for you?

Memory foam mattresses are known for their ability to mold to body shapes, with the foam originally being developed by NASA in the 1960s to absorb shock and add protection in airplane seats. Hybrid mattresses are a more modern invention, introduced in 2008 to combine traditional innerspring beds with foam for the best of both worlds. 

There are pros and cons to both types and we’ll explore those further in this guide. As a general overview, memory foam mattresses provide excellent pressure relief, whilst hybrid mattresses give more of a blend of comfort and support. 

Both types feature heavily in our guide to the best mattresses, so we'll look at each type in more detail to help you decide if either of these popular mattress types are the right choice for you. 

What is a hybrid mattress?

mattress in beige room with large window

(Image credit: Danetti)

A hybrid mattress blends traditional springs with foam. It lots of ways, it could be seen as the modern upgrade of an innerspring mattress. This mixture of two styles of mattress always contains springs, but it doesn't necessarily need to use memory foam. The springs can be combined with many different types of foam, like latex, polyfoam, memory foam, or gel memory foam.The combination is designed to give you both comfort and support, with the foam molding to your body and the springs providing firmer support underneath. 

Hybrid mattresses can be made up of multiple layers in addition to the foam/springs combination. For example, transition layers are a layer of material between the foam and the springs which are designed to stop the mattress sagging. There's also zoned support, where mattresses have different materials for the different parts of your body. 

What is a memory foam mattress?

Leesa memory foam mattress

(Image credit: Leesa)

A memory foam mattress is made from polyurethane, also called viscoelastic foam. As I mentioned above, this was originally developed by NASA as a shock-absorbent material. Once NASA released the material into the public domain, the first mass-market memory foam mattress was launched by Tempur-Pedic in 1991. 

The best memory foam mattresses feel soft, with the foam adapting to your body in response to both its heat and pressure. This contouring feel helps to relieve aches and pains, providing excellent pressure relief and promoting neutral spinal alignment. 

When we talk about a memory foam mattress, we mean a mattress with no springs. However, memory foam mattresses have other layers in them such as comfort foam,  which is the extra-soft, breathable foam on which you sleep, support foam, which is the thick foam layer that makes up most of the mattress, and transition layers between these two types of foam. Just like hybrid mattresses, memory foam beds also have zoned support. 

What are the differences between a hybrid and memory foam mattress?

Obviously there will be variations in the layers you’ll find in mattresses across different brands and models, but these are the essential differences between hybrid and memory foam mattress types.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 HybridMemory Foam
Support Layer InnerspringsHigh-density memory foam
Comfort Layer Foam / LatexMemory foam
Durability 7-10 years5-7 years
Temperature RegulationHighLow
Motion TransferMediumLow

Head to head

What are the pros of a hybrid mattress?

Support and comfort – The combination of coils and foam means that hybrid mattresses provide plenty of comfort from the contouring foam, whilst the layer of springs keeps the mattress supportive and stops sleepers from sinking in too far.

Breathable – Because most modern hybrid mattresses use individual pocketed coils, there’s plenty of airflow to help prevent sleepers from overheating. Coils are usually combined with other breathable materials to keep sleepers cool throughout the night.

Durable – Coils and springs in hybrid mattresses are generally made from stainless steel, making them extremely durable and preventing the mattress from sagging too quickly.

Sleeping positions – Hybrid mattresses suit all sleeping positions and are particularly suited to combination sleepers, as the bouncier coils make it easy to change positions.

Heavier weight sleepers – Coils mean that hybrid mattresses are more suitable for heavier weight sleepers, who won’t sink too far into the mattress and will remain supported.

Pressure points – Hybrid mattresses can help to relieve pressure from the muscles, with the foam contouring to pressure points and the coils providing extra support.

What are the cons of a hybrid mattress?

Price tag – Not all hybrid mattresses cost more than memory foam but, in general, they are more expensive as they contain more different materials.

Weight – Hybrid mattresses are heavier than memory foam mattresses because of their stell coils. If you’re going to be moving a mattress around by yourself this could be a consideration.

Motion transfer – Although there are plenty of hybrid mattresses that do a decent job of absorbing motion, they’ll never be as good at it as a pure memory foam mattress. If you’re a light sleeper or share your bed with a restless partner the bouncier coils could disturb your sleep.

Sound absorption – As coils weaken over time, you’re likely to notice your hybrid mattress becoming noisier.

Emma memory foam mattress

(Image credit: Emma)

What are the pros of a memory foam mattress?

Contouring – Memory foam adapts to your body’s shape, filling in the gaps between the body and the mattress to relieve pressure and give targeted support where it’s needed. As your weight is evenly distributed, you should notice a decrease in pain and stresses in your muscles and joints.

Motion isolation – Because memory foam ‘hugs’ your body it does a brilliant job of absorbing motion. This makes it a great choice if you’re a light sleeper or you share your bed with a restless partner.

Sound absorption – Memory foam is quiet and, even if foam starts to deteriorate a little over time, will not make any noise.

Sleeping positions – Memory foam beds are particularly suited to side and back sleepers, with the contouring foam helping to cradle pressure points at the neck, shoulders, back and hips.

What are the cons of a memory foam mattress?

Off-gassing - Most memory foam mattresses need 'off-gassing'. You need to leave them out for volatile organic compounds to evaporate. It's totally harmless, but it's bad smell that hangs around for a couple days. 

Temperature regulation - Memory foam mattresses are notorious for sleeping hot. The thick foam traps heat, so if you run hotter than the average person a memory foam bed might not work for you. 

Sink-in feeling - Some people can't stand the feeling of sinking in to the bed you get with softer memory foam beds - it makes them feel claustrophobic. 

Buy a hybrid mattress if...

  • You switch positions at night and want a mattress with bounce.
  • You want a mattress that’s comfortable in all sleeping positions.
  • You are a hot sleeper and want to stay cool throughout the night.
  • You are of a heavier build.
  • You like to sleep more on top of the mattress, but still want your pressure points supported.
  • You want a longer-term investment.

Buy a memory foam mattress if...

  • You enjoy sleeping ‘in’ your mattress and want the contouring hug of memory foam.
  • You are a side or back sleeper and want your pressure points cradled.
  • You want a bed with low motion transfer, so a restless partner won’t disturb you. 
  • You want a cheaper option pricewise.
  • You need a hypoallergenic mattress.

Best hybrid mattress

Best memory foam mattress

Hybrid v memory mattress FAQs

Which type of mattress is cheaper?

A memory foam mattress tends to be the cheapest option of the two, which prices starting from under $200. Any mattress that have a spring construction, like hybrid mattresses do, are going to be more expensive.

Which type of mattress is more supportive?

Coils  tend to offer a more supportive sleep over foam, so hybrid mattresses are usually the more supportive of the two options. The offer better support particular to stomach and back sleepers and are the best options for heavier weights. 

Which type of mattress lasts the longest?

Again, the coils in a hybrid tends to give them a longer lifespan and they are less susceptible to sagging. Hybrid mattresses can last over 10 years, whereas memory foam mattress a lower down the average life span of a mattress at around 7-8 years. 

Choosing between mattress types is the best place to start when buying a new mattress. And hybrid and memory foam are some of the most popular choices, and ones we would recommend as being a safe bet. But do your research, read reviews, ask friends and family that have similar sleep needs to you what they prefer, and make the most of sleep trials too – most reputable brands will allow you to have a testing period with your mattress so you can work out if it's the right one for you. 

Jo Plumridge

Jo Plumridge is a freelance writer and photographer with over 20 years of experience writing for a variety of magazines and websites. She writes, perhaps unsurprisingly, about photography, but also extensively on all things sleep-related, alongside reviews of home and tech products. Jo is constantly looking for the best ways to get a good night’s sleep, although she’s yet to find any products that prevent the cats she and her husband foster from waking them up at 6am.