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

Here's everything you need to know about hybrid vs memory foam mattresses, from how they're made to who they're for

The DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid Mattress on a bed in a bedroom.
(Image credit: DreamCloud)

Hybrid vs memory foam: the debate rages on. Where memory foam models are soft and squishy, designed for side sleepers who like a plush surface, hybrid mattresses combine that luxe foam feel with the airflow of an innerspring.

To the untrained eye, most mattresses look pretty similar. As you scour the specifications, you'll find a lot of the same references to plush foam, supportive springs, and cooling covers. It can be difficult to spot the difference between hybrid and memory foam mattresses, let alone work out which might fit your needs.

That's where I come in. As H&G's resident sleep writer, I lead a team of expert testers. Together, we've found the best mattress to suit every style of sleeper and size of budget. I've outlined the pros and cons of hybrid vs memory foam to help you find the mattress that meets your sleep needs.

Hybrid vs memory foam mattress: Pros and Cons

This article will tell you everything you need to know about hybrid vs memory foam mattresses, from how they're made to how they feel. To help you make an informed choice, I've assessed each mattress type against the same criteria: comfort, quality of construction, cooling properties, and the all-important price.

What's the difference between hybrid and memory foam mattresses?

Before we begin, it always helps to define our terms. For the benefit of visual learners, I've summarized the differences between hybrid vs memory foam mattresses in a table below.  

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

A memory foam mattress is soft and supportive, filled with thick layers of polyurethane, also known as viscoelastic foam. Invented by NASA scientists and prized for its shock absorbency, memory foam is designed to adapt to the shape, weight, and temperature of your body.

Most memory foam mattresses comprise a few layers of foam: support foam makes a solid base, while plush foam creates a nice, soft surface, and transition foam reduces friction between the layers. All that thick foam provides excellent pressure relief. I'd recommend a memory foam mattress to sleepers who suffer from chronic pain, and anyone who sleeps on their side.

A hybrid mattress is springy and supportive, combining all the best bits of a memory foam mattress and a classic innerspring. Inside a hybrid mattress, you'll find a few inches of thick foam or luxe latex for plush comfort, alongside hundreds of steel coils for increased airflow.

The best hybrid mattress should suit all sorts of sleepers, whether they lie on their front, back, or sides. Your average hybrid mattress will feel firmer and sleep cooler than a memory foam model. That's good news for hot sleepers, and anyone who likes a firm surface, but less suitable for anyone who sleeps cool or longs for pressure relief.

What are the benefits of a hybrid mattress?

Casper Wave Hybrid Snow Mattress on a bed in a bedroom.

(Image credit: Casper)

The best hybrid mattresses strike a careful balance between memory foam comfort and innerspring support. That's what makes them suitable for all sleepers: a hybrid mattress should be soft enough for side sleepers to sink in, yet firm enough to maintain the natural alignment of the spine. 

Hybrid mattresses tend to be more breathable than memory foam models. That's thanks to all those spring coils, which boost airflow as they contract and expand. These coils tend to be made from stainless steel, which stops sagging and extends the natural life of the mattress.

I'd recommend a hybrid mattress for particularly tall or heavy sleepers. The bounce from the springs should keep you from sinking in, while the thick layers of plush foam should cushion your bones and relieve pressure from your joints. 

To save you time and money, I've rounded up a few of my favorite hybrid mattresses at the fairest prices you'll find online. Whether you're shopping for cooling foam or custom comfort, I've got you covered.

What are the downsides of a hybrid mattress?

Nectar Hybrid Mattress on a bed in a bedroom.

(Image credit: Nectar)

Compiling those products got me thinking: hybrid mattresses are seriously expensive. Unless you want to spend upwards of $1,000, I'd suggest you shop the mattress sales or wait for a federal holiday discount.

If you share a bed with your partner or your pet, you need a mattress with optimal motion isolation. Your side of the bed shouldn't move when theirs does. It might sound silly, but a hybrid mattress is just too bouncy to minimize motion transfer. That's why I wouldn't recommend a hybrid mattress for a light sleeper. 

Hybrid mattresses pose a few practical problems, too. For one thing, they're heavy: all that stainless steel makes a hybrid mattress harder to lift, flip, or move from room to room. Even the sturdiest coils will start to soften over time, which means that your hybrid mattress might get noisier with age. If you tend to toss and turn in the night, you might struggle to sleep with all that squeaking. 

What are the benefits of a memory foam mattress?

Emma Original Mattress on a bed.

(Image credit: MattressNextDay)

Let me be clear: you can't cure chronic pain with a memory foam mattress. With that said, our expert testers offer anecdotal evidence that memory foam can alleviate aches and pains and relieve pressure from your muscles and joints. It's not a coincidence that the best mattress for back pain is made from memory foam.

If you want to sleep on a soft surface, a memory foam mattress might be your best bet. With just enough give to cushion your neck and shoulders while lifting your lower back, it's the best mattress material for side sleepers.

If you share a bed, you might appreciate the enhanced motion isolation of a memory foam mattress. All that thick foam is designed to absorb shock and minimize motion transfer from one side of the bed to another. I'd recommend a memory foam mattress for light sleepers, or anyone who shares a bed with a restless partner.

You'll find memory foam mattresses in any of the specialist sleep stores, and most of the major home retailers, too. In case you're feeling spoiled for choice, I've narrowed it down the three best memory foam mattresses for a range of sleep styles. You can't go wrong with one of these.

What are the downsides of a memory foam mattress?

Nolah Original 10" Mattress on a bed.

(Image credit: Nolah)

If you're a side sleeper, you might find this hard to believe, but not everyone likes that sink-in feeling. If you tend to sleep on your back or stomach, or you prefer a firmer surface, I'd suggest you shop for a hybrid mattress, instead. 

Memory foam mattresses are also less suitable for hot sleepers. There isn't much room for air to move through all that thick foam, which means that memory foam tends to trap heat. If you know you sleep hot, but you're set on a memory foam mattress, you should keep an eye out for models with cooling gel, or sleep with a set of the best cooling sheets

Then, there's the off-gassing. Like I said, memory foam mattresses are made from polyurethane, a spongy synthetic that contains a lot of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. When these chemicals are released into the air, they create an unpleasant smell. This smell should only hang around for a couple of days, and it's totally harmless, but I'd recommend airing your memory foam mattress before you take it for a spin.

Hybrid vs memory mattress FAQs

Which is the best hybrid mattress?

After months of testing, we announced the Tempur-Pedic ProAdapt as the best hybrid mattress on the market. Topped with comfort foam and supported by more than 1,000 premium spring coils, the Tempur-Pedic ProAdapt brings together all the best bits of memory foam and innerspring mattresses.

Which memory foam mattress is the best?

There are several memory foam models in our best mattress buying guide, but the Nectar Memory Foam Mattress comes out on top every time. This mattress is founded upon a shift-resistant lower cover, filled with thick layers of foam, and infused with cooling gel: all that for less than $700.

Should I buy a hybrid or a memory foam mattress?

Leesa Original Mattress on a bed against a green wall.

(Image credit: Leesa)

I'd recommend a memory foam mattress for side sleepers, couples who share a bed, and buyers on a budget. If you suffer from night sweats or hot flashes, or you prefer a firmer surface, you might be better off with a hybrid mattress. 

If you still can't make up your mind, but you know you need a new mattress, you should consider conducting a mattress sleep trial. That way, you can test your mattress through several seasons before you commit to the final purchase. If you're still not sold, you can return the mattress at the end of the trial and get your money back. 

Emilia Hitching
eCommerce Editor

Before she joined Homes & Gardens, Emilia studied English at the University of Oxford, where she sharpened her critical writing skills. She also worked on the other side of the aisle writing press releases for regional newspapers and crafting copy for Sky. Emilia combines her business savvy with her creative flair as our eCommerce Editor, connecting you with the products you’ll love. When she’s not in the office, Emilia is happiest when entertaining friends al fresco or out in the country.