Hybrid vs. Gel Memory Foam Mattress: What’s the Best?

By Sanchita Sen Certified Sleep Coach

When on the hunt for a new mattress, potential customers may be looking for a specific feel or a more breathable bed. Hybrid and gel memory foam are two popular…

Last Updated On May 22nd, 2021
Hybrid vs. Gel Memory Foam Mattress: What’s the Best?

When on the hunt for a new mattress, potential customers may be looking for a specific feel or a more breathable bed. Hybrid and gel memory foam are two popular mattress options—hybrids provide the best of both memory foam and innersprings. In contrast, gel memory foam absorbs and disperses body heat while relieving pressure points.

What is a Hybrid Mattress?

A hybrid mattress combines pressure-relieving memory foam or latex with bouncy innerspring coils, forming the perfect bed.

Bouncy Comfort & Durable Edge Support

Experience a Hybrid

Hybrid beds have the benefits of each mattress type, including pressure relief and motion isolation from memory foam and cooling and better edge support from innerspring coils. Hybrids also come with drawbacks, like overheating and more motion transfer. The number of layers and materials hybrids contain makes them heavier and more expensive than other types of mattresses.

Comfort Layer

The comfort layer, or top layer, contains memory foam or latex. The comfort layer conforms to the body, relieving pressure points in heavier sections of the body (i.e., shoulders and hips). A true hybrid will have a comfort layer at least 2 inches thick.

Transitional Layer

The transitional layer usually contains poly-foam—providing extra cushion to the body and padding between the comfort and support layers. Some hybrids may include 2 to 4 foam layers.

Support layer

The support layer, or base layer, is filled with hundreds of pocketed coils. The open structure enables more airflow for temperature regulation. Individually-wrapped innerspring coils reduce motion transfer and sound for better sleep.

What is a Gel Memory Foam Mattress?

Gel memory foam was created to combat traditional memory foam’s heat retention properties. During the production process, gel is mixed or swirled in, or gel beads are added to the mixture. Gel evenly absorbs and disperses body heat to regulate temperature. While there is still a risk of overheating, it’s less risky than traditional memory foam.

Similar to traditional memory foam, gel memory foam mattresses conform to the body’s natural curves to relieve pressure points and offer excellent motion isolation.

Other Cooling Foams

If gel foam isn’t cool enough for you, other cooling memory foam options include plant-based memory foam and copper or graphite-infused memory foam.

Plant-Based

Plant oils partially replace petroleum during the manufacturing process, resulting in a memory foam more breathable and responsive than traditional memory foam. Hot sleepers may benefit more from a plant-based memory foam because of its breathability.

Copper and Graphite Infusions

Copper and graphite are natural heat conductors. Copper pulls heat away and may improve local blood flow. Graphite draws heat away and is typically used to cool down high-powered machines, like PCs.

What to Look for in a High-Quality Mattress

Before shopping, consider other mattress types, sleeping position, body weight, and available sleep trials, return policies, and warranties to score the best mattress.

Other Mattress Types

Other mattress types include memory foam, innerspring, and latex. Each type of mattress has its own feel.

Memory Foam

Memory foam is a popular mattress option due to its conforming properties. Heat and pressure soften memory foam, allowing it to form around the body. Memory foam beds also have excellent motion isolation, so you’re less likely to wake from movement.

Memory foam mattresses contain a comfort layer of memory foam and a support layer of high-density foam.

Innerspring

Innerspring mattresses are bouncy with excellent edge support and cooling from its open structure. Drawbacks to innerspring mattresses include little to no pressure point relief and motion transfer.

Traditional innerspring mattresses contain a thin comfort layer of foam or fiberfill (usually in pillow top form) and a support layer of innerspring coils.

Latex

Latex is similar to memory foam—conforming, pressure-relieving, and motion-isolating. Latex foam sleeps cooler and has a responsive bounce. There are two types of latex: synthetic and natural. Synthetic latex is created through a chemical process, while natural latex is made from rubber tree sap. Natural latex comes in two forms: Dunlop and Talalay. Dunlop is denser and more durable, while Talalay contains polyurethane fillers to create its signature soft feel.

Latex mattresses can be expensive, depending on how much natural latex they contain. A typical latex mattress includes a comfort layer of latex and a support layer of high-density foam or latex.

Sleeping Positions

The best mattress will have the right firmness level for better sleep. Your favored sleep position is a significant factor in determining which bed you choose. Each sleep position needs a certain level of comfort and support to keep the spine in alignment. For example, a side sleeper needs a softer surface for optimal pressure relief in the shoulders and hips.

Side Sleeping

Side sleeping is the most healthy sleep position, enabling better breathing, improving heart health, and reducing acid reflux symptoms. The best mattresses for side sleeping are soft to medium in firmness as these offer maximum pressure relief in the shoulder and hip areas.

Back Sleeping

Back sleeping naturally aligns the spine because of the back’s direct contact with the sleep surface. Some risks involved with back sleeping include snoring potential and developing sleep apnea. Back sleepers need a medium to firm feel for cradling, pressure relief in the hips, and enhanced lumbar support.

Stomach Sleeping

Stomach sleeping is the least healthy sleep position due to the massive amounts of pressure placed on the spine, increasing the risk of neck strain and back pain. Placing a thin pillow under the hips reduces this pressure. Stomach sleepers need a medium-firm to firm surface to keep the body resting on top of the mattress without sinking too deeply and misaligning the spine.

Combination Sleeping

Combination sleepers toss and turn regularly each night, switching between 2 to 3 sleep positions. Combination sleepers benefit from each sleep position, including natural alignment and reduced acid reflux. They also get the drawbacks, like snoring and back pain. Combination sleepers need a medium to medium-firm mattress for consistent spinal alignment and even comfort and support.

Body Weight

Body weight is another factor to consider when looking for the right mattress. A too soft or too firm mattress creates pressure points and throws the spine out of alignment.

Light Sleepers

Light sleepers weigh less than 130 pounds and need a softer surface to enable body contouring and pressure point relief.

Average Sleepers

Average sleepers weigh between 130 pounds and 230 pounds. They sleep best on a medium surface for a balance of comfort and support.

Plus-Size Sleepers

Plus-size sleepers weigh more than 230 pounds and need extra support from their mattress to sagging. The best mattresses for heavy people are often medium-firm or firm.

Sleep Trials, Return Policies, Warranties

Sleep trials, return policies, and warranties reassure customers of a sound purchase. Mattresses that don’t come with a sleep trial, return policy, or warranty should be avoided—this is often the sign of a cheap bed.

Sleep Trial

A sleep trial allows customers to try a new mattress within the comfort of their own home. Sleep trials usually last between 90 to 120 nights. Should the customer not like the mattress, most companies will pick up and donate the bed before issuing a full refund.

Return Policy

Return policies are an okay substitute if a mattress doesn’t come with a sleep trial. Return policies last about 30 days—around the same time it may take to adjust to a new sleep surface. If the customer doesn’t like the mattress, they can return it for a refund.

Warranty

A mattress warranty covers sagging greater than 1 inch (varies, depending on the brand) and any manufacturing defect which could damage the bed. Most companies include a standard 10-year warranty.

FAQs

What is the difference between memory foam and gel memory foam?

The biggest difference between memory foam and gel memory foam is the inclusion of cooling gels in one material and not the other. Traditional memory foam is dense and doesn’t allow much airflow inside the mattress, leading to heat retention. In contrast, gel memory foam incorporates liquid gel or gel beads in its material to disperse body heat and regulate your temperature.

Are hybrid mattresses good for side sleepers?

Hybrid mattresses can be a good option for side sleepers, lending both comfort and support—optimal pressure point relief in the shoulders and hips with even support across the sleep surface.

Do you need a box spring with a hybrid mattress?

Hybrid mattresses don’t need a box spring, as the number of layers they contain makes a box spring unnecessary. Speak with the mattress manufacturer for advice on the best foundation for a hybrid mattress.

Have You Found Your Mattress?

Hybrid mattresses offer both pressure point relief and a responsive bounce. In contrast, gel memory foam conforms to the body, relieving pressure points and absorbing heat. Based on the information we’ve provided, both have their advantages and disadvantages—choose the mattress that appeals to you the most.


About the author

Sanchita Sen is a full-time writer focusing on the sleep health and mattress industry. She is a former journalist who has written numerous articles on the healthcare sector. Some of the topics she has covered include how to lucid dream, fever dreams, melatonin for sleep, and best gel memory foam mattress. Sanchita holds a Master of Arts in Communications from Convergence Institute of Mass Media and Information Technology Studies. She is also a published author, who seeks inspiration from both real life and the world of fiction.

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