The investment into a new mattress may seem hefty at first, but a good bed can improve your life in numerous ways, from better sleep at night to improved moods during the day.
The right type of mattress can help you get rid of back pains and body aches. It can also increase the overall quality of your sleep. This will naturally translate to a well-rested body and mind. Which will directly impact the life choices you make.
But the process of searching for the right mattress can be a little daunting when you are not sure what you need. There is a wide variety of mattress types and variations to consider. Especially when looking for the best possible option. Sleep preferences vary greatly from person to person. So it’s crucial to invest some thought into what will serve your needs the best. And deciding on what particular type of mattress would work best for you is the first right step.
You may have heard of memory foam and hybrid mattresses, as they’re some of the most popular mattress types. In this article, we weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each to give you a better understanding of what makes them different and help you determine which one will work best for you.
Memory Foam Mattress
Memory foam was invented in the 1970s, and its original use had nothing to do with sleep. It was made by NASA and was meant to be used in airplane seat cushions.
Memory foam is a variation of polyurethane foam modified to have viscoelastic properties, meaning the material responds to heat and pressure to contour to your body and adapt to changing sleeping positions.
When you lay down on a memory foam mattress, the material cradles your body to ease pressure; however, when you get up, the material springs back to its original shape as if no pressure was previously applied.
When these mattresses came out, they were pretty rudimentary. Now, they usually feature multi-layered designs to provide the best sleeping experience. Since they use body heat to shape themselves, they can potentially trap heat if poor quality materials are used—it is important to note, a good memory foam mattress should include breathable foams or cooling technologies to avoid overheating.
Pros and Cons of Memory Foam Mattresses
- They are widely available, easy to find and mostly come with a great warranty
- Easy to clean, requiring a mere wiping down of the top surface with a damp cloth
- Relieve pressure and strain from your back by providing adequate support
- Contour to your body, making you feel comfortable and snug
- Have practically no motion transfer
- Are completely silent to move on
- Are naturally hypoallergenic, as they have increased resistance to dust, mites and various other allergens
- Low-quality poly-foam may have a risk of premature sagging
- Possibility of off-gassing if low-quality memory foam is used
- Can be costly
- Can be hot to sleep on as might trap heat
- Slow movement response time with little bounce to it
- Can have poor edge support
Memory foam mattresses usually consist of several layers. The durability of a memory foam mattress mostly depends on the quality of materials used to make these layers. Cheap traditional memory foam will almost always sag prematurely and won’t provide proper support. Whereas improved memory foam will be able to hold for many years.
A good base layer is considered to be most important in setting a proper foundation, which directly affects the lifespan of the mattress. For the foundation layer, a poly-foam with a density of at least 1.8 lb. is considered good enough to make a mattress last 6-8 years.
Comfort and Support
Sleeping on a memory foam mattress is sometimes compared with sleeping on a cloud—they’re very soft, adaptive and supportive. This type of mattress is recommended when you have back issues, problems with spine alignment, or joint pains.
Whether you will enjoy sleeping on a memory foam mattress as opposed to a hybrid is a choice of preference between the overall “feel” of the mattress.
Memory foam beds are ideal for contouring to your body shape, giving each pressure point the precise support it needs. This adaptability of the memory foam comfort layers feels like a customized hug. It keeps the spine supported and aligned in all sleeping positions, leading to a release of pressure in the muscles.
Overall, the natural conforming properties of a memory foam mattress take the strain off the body, helping you get better rest during the night.
The support a good quality memory foam mattress provides to your body helps to alleviate any back or joint pains that you may have. This, in turn, helps you to relax better and improves the quality of your sleep.
If the mattress allows your body to feel supported and comfortable, you will reach a deeper sleep state faster and stay there for longer. This will automatically leave you feeling refreshed, even if you will sleep shorter than the recommended eight hours each night.
To resolve a build-up of tension, it’s important that the spine gets to adequately decompress during the night. If the lower back is not supported during sleep, the back muscles will stay tense, causing back pain. A good memory foam mattress will adjust to the position of your spine, complementing its natural curvature and keeping it aligned at all times.
A mattress that’s too firm will not allow your pressure points to sink in. This can leave you with a gap between your lower back and the mattress, meaning your spine is misaligned and not supported.
On the other hand, a mattress that’s too soft may let heavier parts of the body sink in too deep, which can cause serious backache.
Good quality memory foam mattresses aim to bridge the gap and keep your body in as natural of a position as possible. You should make sure that the uppermost foam layer is thick and supportive enough to suit your body weight. Most people will do well with a layer size of 3-4 inches.
Traditional memory foam tends to be quite dense, which makes it easy to retain heat. Because the body is cradled by the material, heat can get trapped in the foam layers, making it difficult to cool down.
Temperature control can be an issue, especially if you are a hot sleeper. When choosing a memory foam mattress, you should pay special attention to the design of the layers within. Now, most quality memory foam mattresses hold layers that are infused with cooling properties. Features such as gel foam, copper foam, and advanced open-cell memory foam can prevent heat retention.
A hybrid mattress is a modern combination of an innerspring mattress and an all-foam mattress. With a hybrid bed, you can get the zoned support and buoyancy of an innerspring mattress, coupled with the contouring benefits of foam.
Nowadays, the springs in hybrid mattresses are upgraded to be much more efficient, durable, and comfortable than in the past. Even though the same contraction principle applies to their functioning, modern hybrid mattresses now mostly contain pocketed coils instead of one continuous coil.
This provides a much-improved experience. And most importantly, the breathability of pocketed coils at the bottom of the hybrid mattress eliminates the potential heat build-up within the foam layers on top.
Pros and Cons of Hybrid Mattresses
- Contour to the body shape and provide zoned support
- Allow for a wide variety of customization in regards to layers, firmness, thickness and many more.
- It can be made from different types of foam, such as memory foam, latex foam, gel foam, and such.
- Effectively reduce the risk of trapped heat by offering extra breathability
- Provide a more responsive sleeping experience
- It can include poor quality materials. This can lead to premature sagging, chemical odors, and other unpleasant side effects
- Can have worse motion isolation when compared to memory foam mattresses, as coils tend to transfer movement easier
The durability of a hybrid mattress depends on the materials used. As this type of mattress tends to have a more complex design, the durability may vary greatly.
It is best to go for a high-quality, pricier hybrid mattress, as much can go wrong with low-quality ones. After all, while enjoying the benefits of both the foam and spring layers, the downsides may also double due to poor quality.
However, due to high competition in the market, many sellers are willing to provide long warranty periods. So, it is worthwhile to scan the market for the best overall option.
Comfort and Support
For those who might not enjoy the cradling feel of an all-foam bed, a hybrid could be a great choice. It combines the cushioning of the foams with the bounciness of the pocket coils.
The contouring abilities of a hybrid mattress may vary to the combinations of materials used. Depending on the type and firmness of the foam within the top layer, the mattress can be extra conforming or firm and buoyant.
Typically a memory foam hybrid provides a more cushioning and slower response. This is great for side sleepers that need more “give” for their hips and shoulders. A latex hybrid is bouncy and doesn’t sink in as much. This means that back sleepers and stomach sleepers will have more concentrated support, keeping their spine aligned and supported through the night.
However, both types of hybrids can vary in their firmness—you can find a memory foam hybrid that’s extra firm and a latex hybrid mattress that’s soft and cushy.
As mentioned above, the firmness of the top layer found in a hybrid mattress depends on the density and type of the foam. This greatly influences the pressure relief as denser foams tend to not sink in as much.
But the pocketed coils within a mattress always provide great pressure point support. This is because they are only joined by a thin piece of fabric, allowing them to move separately and contract only where the pressure is applied.
Another thing to note about hybrids is that sometimes the pocketed coils are designed with zoned support. This means they are firmer in the areas where heavier parts of the body are found (such as the hips, the torso, and the shoulders). And softer where more relief is required (such as the lower legs and the head).
Spinal alignment and pressure point relief go hand-in-hand. Proper support of the pressure points ensures the spine is aligned and in a healthy position. Both memory foam mattresses and hybrid mattresses can ensure good spinal alignment as long as they are made from good quality materials.
Same as the memory foam mattresses, hybrids also come in a variety of different firmness levels. They can range from super soft and cushy to extra firm and supportive. The level of firmness typically depends on the foam part of the hybrid mattress, as they are easier to acclimate. But sometimes you can also find that the firmness is greatly influenced by customized pocketed coils, too.
In regards to temperature regulation, it’s generally thought that hybrids outperform all-foam mattresses due to the better airflow in between the layers of the mattress. While this is partly correct, the new designs of breathable memory foam mattresses can be just as cooling as the hybrids. The foams can be infused with various cooling agents to improve temperature control greatly.
Within this mattress review, we found that picking the right type of mattress depends on your preferences and needs. Both hybrid and memory foam mattresses are great, as long as they are manufactured using good quality materials. They also offer a slightly different sleeping experience because of their designs. So the best way to pick one is to try them out yourself!
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.