Hybrid Mattress vs. Gel Memory Foam

Published
by Max Stevens

Are you looking for a cushioned and breathable mattress? Maybe you’re torn between a hybrid and a gel memory foam mattress?

These two mattress types are often considered the best choice for hot sleepers. And why is that? They have properties that prevent heat retention, help with dissipation and effectively regulate your body temperature.

But what’s the difference between the two? Besides breathability, more factors come into play when buying a mattress, such as:

  • Motion transfer
  • Noise
  • Cost
  • Sleeping position
  • Bodyweight

Not considering these can make you buy the wrong mattress and suffer years of not-so-quality sleep.

In a 2020 consumer report, millennials rate “a good night’s sleep” as the most crucial factor in overall health and wellbeing. And the goal of this guide is to take you one step closer to that.

We’ll provide you with a detailed comparison between hybrid and gel memory foam mattresses, their pros and cons and answer common questions our readers have.

What is a hybrid mattress?

multiple foam layers of hybrid mattress
Image: Nectar

A hybrid mattress combines multiple layers of foam as the comfort layer and a spring system as the support core.

  • The comfort layer is usually memory foam, gel memory foam, or latex foam. All of them provide cushioning and pressure relief.
  • The support layer is composed of springs. This provides breathability, support, edge support, and easy movement.

Advantages of a hybrid mattress

So, what are the advantages of using a hybrid mattress, and why may you want mixed materials rather than a singular one?

Breathable

Aside from being beneficial to hot sleepers and people living in tropical areas, sleeping in a hot environment has a negative effect on sleep quality. A study showed that core body temperature had a significant impact on:

  • sleep calmness
  • difficulty in falling asleep
  • sleep satisfaction
  • sleep adequateness

Wherein sleep quality at 32°C body temperature was the best while sleep quality at 36°C and 38°C was the worst.

If you’ve tried sleeping on an all foam mattress or memory foam mattress, you would know that it has a tendency to retain heat and this will affect your core body temperature. This is because the structure of foam mattresses does not allow air circulation through the mattress.

On the contrary, a hybrid mattress contains a spring core layer which provides ventilation within the mattress through the spaces of the springs.

Strong support all throughout

Because of the spring support, hybrid mattresses have strong support throughout the mattress’s surface, including the edges.

This means a hybrid mattress can support plus-sized sleepers, back, and stomach sleepers without the feeling of sinking on the mattress.

And with strong edge support, the hybrid mattress surface area increases since sleepers can lay right up to the edge of the bed.

Ease of Movement

Because of the responsive spring, sleeping on a hybrid mattress won’t feel like being stuck in bed. A combination sleepers dream. Couples will also benefit from the bounce of spring.

Disadvantages of a hybrid mattress

But not all is positive about a hybrid mattress. These are the disadvantages of the hybrid mattress.

Motion transfer and noise

The springs on a hybrid mattress contribute to the motion transfer within the bed. This is bad news for people sharing a bed, as slight movements can disturb them.

Springs also tend to squeak, and although this is only a minor noise because of the thick foams that suppress the noise, it might worsen if the mattress is already old and worn out.

Cost

The spring and multiple foam layers contribute to the high cost of hybrid mattresses. They typically cost around £700 for a king-sized mattress. This is higher when compared to a king-sized gel memory foam mattress which costs around £500.

Heavy

Because of the spring and multiple layers of foam on a hybrid mattress, foam layers can be pretty heavy, weighing an average of 50 kg. This might inconvenience people living alone who need to move the bed.

What is a gel memory foam mattress?

A gel memory foam mattress is one type of memory foam that was developed to address the heat retention problem of traditional memory foam. Traditional memory foam uses the body’s heat to soften and mould the body’s curves. To a sleeper, this would feel like a hugging sensation.

In a gel memory foam mattress, phase changing materials (PCM), which in this case is the gel, are infused into the memory foam. This is meant to regulate body temperature by:

  • absorbing excess heat from the body and storing that heat, and
  • releasing stored heat to the body if the body temperature drops

It is called “phase-changing” because the gel changes from a solid to a liquid as it absorbs body heat and from a liquid to a solid as it releases body heat.

Advantages of a Gel Memory Foam Mattress

These are the pros of using a gel memory foam mattress. It might convince you to buy one.

Cooling

The gels infused in the foam help cool and regulate the body temperature. Now, why is this important? Aside from being good news for hot sleepers, it can help with insomnia. A study found that impaired thermoregulation, particularly the reduced ability to dissipate body heat, increases wakefulness at night.

Motion isolation

Since gel memory foam is an improved version of memory foam, it still has the shock-absorbing properties of memory foam.

This is beneficial for people who are easily awakened by slight movements. This feature of the gel memory foam mattress is what sets it apart from the hybrid mattress.

Pressure relief

Like a traditional memory foam mattress, a gel memory foam mattress cushions the joints. It relieves pressure on body parts such as the shoulders and hips by contouring the body’s curves in contact.

This property is also beneficial for side sleepers as it can ensure spine alignment.

Disadvantages of a gel memory foam mattress

A mattress as good as a gel memory foam mattress also has negative qualities.

Sinking Feeling

Similar to memory foam, gel memory foam provides contouring and hugging comfort. This may also feel like a sinking or stuck feeling for heavier people, wherein you sleep in the mattress instead of sleeping on it. And if you’re the type to change positions a lot at night, this feature might be a problem for you.

Lack of Edge Support

Unlike a hybrid mattress with spring support on the perimeter of the mattress, gel memory foam would have to rely on foam firmness for edge support. The softness of gel memory foam cannot support heavyweights on the perimeter, hence the lack of edge support. You may feel like falling off the edge if seated on the edge of the gel foam mattress.

Temporary Cooling

Remember the process of how PCM gels absorb and release heat? This phase-changing process is repetitive until the temperature between the body and the foam is the same. This is why some users report that the cooling effect of the gel memory foam is temporary, or they only felt it at the beginning of their sleep.

Hybrid Mattress vs. Gel Memory Foam Mattress

At this point, if it still confuses you, here’s a summary of the pros and cons of hybrid mattresses and gel memory foam mattresses.

Hybrid

Gel

Pros

  • supportive
  • breathable
  • strong edge support
  • good for back and stomach sleepers
  • pressure relief and contouring
  • motion isolation
  • quiet
  • good for side sleepers

Cons

  • can be squeaky because of spring
  • transfers motion
  • heavy
  • can feel like sinking and stuck into the mattress
  • no edge support
  • cooling is temporary

Frequently Asked Questions

What mattress is best for back pain?

7 million mattresses per year are sold in the UK, and 30% of these are bought to alleviate back pain. That’s how people rely on their mattresses to ease back pains.

In the 1970s, an orthopaedic mattress which offers a firmer sleeping surface was introduced. Still, evidence supporting the medical benefit of using a firm mattress is lacking. Recent studies are debunking this and prove that sleep quality is the worst on orthopaedic mattresses.

Instead, a medium-firm mattress is recommended, which is a mattress that is not too hard and not too soft. A hybrid mattress can be considered a medium-firm mattress since it has a contouring foam layer and a supportive spring core.

Do hybrid mattresses get softer?

Temperature plays a big role in the softness of your hybrid mattress or memory foam mattress. Memory foam has a viscoelastic property, making it possible to be flexible and return to its previous shape, given the right temperature. When it’s hot, it becomes softer, and when it’s cold, it becomes firmer.

The same applies to hybrid mattresses since they often have a memory foam top layer, depending on the mattress design.

Does a hybrid mattress need a box spring?

A boxspring can be used to:

– Help absorb shock from the mattress, especially an innerspring mattress
– Provides a foundation for the mattress
– Add height to the mattress
– Allow proper ventilation to the mattress

Since a hybrid mattress can efficiently absorb shock with the foam layers and is breathable because of the spring support, a box spring won’t be necessary for a hybrid mattress. If you really want to, it can add height to the mattress.

How long does it take to break in a hybrid mattress?

Even the most raved mattress can be a bit off at first, and it would surely take time for your body to adjust to a new mattress. Thankfully, mattress companies are well aware of this. Some manufacturers like Nectar only allow returns after the 30-day Adjustment Period.

Other manufacturers like Emma offer a 200-night mattress trial period. They claim that this period is more than enough time for the body to fully adjust to the new hybrid mattress, which can take up to six weeks.

What is better: a hybrid mattress or gel memory foam mattress?

We can all agree that both hybrid mattresses and gel memory foam mattresses are excellent breathability. But after considering all the factors above, what mattress is a better purchase for you? Let’s sum it up.

Who are hybrid mattresses best for?

If you can relate to one or two of the situations below, a hybrid mattress might be perfect for you.

– You need a supportive mattress.
– You need a mattress that doesn’t feel like you’re stuck in bed.
– You need a mattress with strong edge support.

With that, here are some of the best hybrid mattress recommendations:

Casper Hybrid Mattress
Nectar Hybrid Mattress
Simba Hybrid Mattress

Who are gel memory foam mattresses best for?

If you can relate to one or two of these situations, a memory foam mattress might be perfect for you: You need a body contouring mattress, You need a mattress that isolates motion, You need a mattress that is quiet and not squeaky.

With that, here are some best memory foam mattress recommendations:
Studio by Silentnight Original Mattress, Inofia Mattress, Happy Beds Ocean Gel

Still can’t decide? You can buy a hybrid mattress with a gel top layer instead, like this one from TheraPur. Get the best of both hybrid mattresses and gel memory foam mattresses in one!

Sources

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Max Stevens

Chief Editor here at The Sleep Checklist. Suffered from a seemingly infinite knot in my thoracic area (between the spine and shoulder blade) due to my lifelong side sleeping habits. With my girlfriend, we look to provide the most relevant and best mattress advice.