What Is a Hybrid Mattress?

A Layer By Layer Look at Hybrid Mattresses

In This Article:
What Is a Hybrid Mattress?
Hybrid vs. Innerspring Mattresses
Hybrid Mattress Pros and Cons
Materials and Construction
Top or Comfort Layers
Support and Transition Layers
The Coil Support Core
The Foundation
The Cover
Hybrid Mattress FAQs

In 2021, mattress shoppers have seemingly endless options. While innerspring mattresses remain the world’s most common model,
industry research forecasts that the demand for customized mattress features will steer the market in the upcoming years. 

Hybrid mattresses embody this shift toward a more personalized sleep experience. Consumers no longer have to choose between coil systems and foam layers. Now, you can have both, all in one bed. 

What Is a Hybrid Mattress? 

All modern mattresses ultimately serve two purposes: 1) to support your body and hold it in a neutral position, and 2) to provide cushioning comfort. 

However, many mattresses serve one of these purposes much better than the other. While standard innerspring mattresses do a good job supporting the body and keeping it aligned, they tend to feel hard and inflexible. Conversely, a lot of newer contouring mattresses are too soft and malleable and don’t provide the structure sleepers need. Hybrid mattresses address this problem by combining traditional coil support cores with either foam or latex. 

How Is a Hybrid Mattress Different From an Innerspring Mattress?

With an innerspring mattress, you don’t just sleep on a bed of cold metal springs. For obvious reasons, all mattresses have some sort of pillow top or soft sleeping surface. But what makes a hybrid mattress different from a standard innerspring mattress with an upholstered comfort layer on top? 

One Mattress, Two Support Systems

Hybrids have multi-layer construction. Many traditional innerspring beds have cotton, foam, or another cushioning material on top, but only a thin layer. On the other hand, hybrid mattresses have numerous layers of foam or latex that provide not just comfort but additional structure and support as well. 

Hybrids have multi-layer construction. They have numerous layers of foam or latex that provide not just comfort, but additional structure and support as well.

Hybrid Mattress Pro and Cons

Not sure if a hybrid mattress will meet your needs and help you get better sleep? Before you decide on a hybrid or move on to the other mattress types, consider these general advantages and disadvantages associated with hybrid technology.

  • Pro: Hybrid mattresses combine the best features of innerspring mattresses with the best features of foam or latex mattresses.
  • Pro: The multi-layer design of hybrid mattresses allows mattress brands to mix and match materials and features. With endless options, you can find a hybrid mattress customized to your specific sleep needs and preferences.  
  • Con: Due to their multi-layered design and loaded features, hybrid mattresses generally cost more than other types of mattresses. That said, many picky sleepers find hybrids well worth the price. 
  • Pro or Con: Most hybrid mattresses are much thicker than innerspring, foam, or latex mattresses. The multiple layers provide extra support and comfort, however, the height can make it difficult for some people to get in and out of bed. 
  • Pro: A high-quality hybrid mattress can last more than 10 years if properly cared for, meaning they outlast most innerspring and memory foam mattresses. 
  • Con: Hybrids also tend to weigh more than other beds, making them harder to move. 

A Closer Look at Hybrid Mattress Materials and Construction 

Within the category of hybrid mattresses, there are many different material combinations  and construction options across models and brands. Depending on your budget, body type, sleep position, and general comfort preferences, you’ll likely find a specific type of hybrid mattress that suits your needs better than the others. 

Top or Comfort Layers

First and foremost, you’ll have to decide which material you want for your bed’s top layer or layers, which we’ll refer to as “comfort layer(s).” Keep in mind that the uppermost layers primarily provide cushioning and contouring while the middle and base layers serve as supports. 

Hybrid mattress layers

Foam and Memory Foam Hybrid Mattresses

After coils, foam is the most common mattress material. However, we caution shoppers against lumping all mattress foams into one category. 

“Foam” is a general term used to describe mattresses made with polyurethane foam, also known as polyfoam. Many mattress companies, including Nolah, have their own proprietary foam formula, making their mattresses unique in density, pressure relief, and contouring capabilities. 

One key formulaic difference divides foam mattress options into two camps. Some are made with viscoelastic polyurethane foam—commonly known as memory foam—while others do not contain the heat-sensitive chemicals manufacturers add to memory foam to make it more flexible and retain its shape. This difference may not sound significant, but the added chemicals drastically change how the material acts and feels. 

Memory Foam 

Memory foam is soft, supple, and responds to your body’s weight and temperature. Compared to other polyurethane foam blends, viscoelastic polyurethane foam is less resistant, reacts slower, and is heat sensitive. 

Laying down on a memory foam mattress applies both body heat and pressure, causing the foam to mold itself around your body’s curves and edges. Viscoelastic polyurethane foam takes a few moments to retract to its original form after you reposition yourself or remove your weight, hence the “memory” foam moniker. 

While memory foam feels plush and relaxing when you first lay down, it has some significant drawbacks. Many memory foam mattress owners say the material is too malleable and lets them sink into the mattress. 

Memory foam’s tendency to conform rather than contour makes a lot of sleepers feel “stuck” in their mattress. The material’s excessive moldability also allows your spine to fall out of alignment, which can cause back pain. 

It depends on the density of the material, but in general, memory foam doesn’t provide enough support, especially around pressure points like your lower back, shoulders, and hips. In a hybrid mattress, the lower support layers will help, but many memory foam hybrids still lack stability. 

Another well-documented disadvantage of memory foam is its tendency to absorb warmth. The temperature-sensitive chemicals added to memory foam to make it more flexible also trap heat within the material, making it uncomfortable for hot sleepers. 

Memory Foam with Cooling Infusions

To counteract memory foam’s heat-trapping qualities, many mattress companies offer models with cooling agents like gel, copper, and graphite infused in the memory foam layers. However, you’ll pay a premium for these additives. 

With both hybrid and single-material mattresses, it’s often more cost-effective to buy a model built with a temperature-neutral foam or latex than one made with coolant-infused memory foam. 

Nolah AirFoam™

Nolah’s proprietary AirFoam™ is an example of a polyurethane foam formula that does not contain memory foam’s heat-trapping chemicals. Our premium hybrid mattress, the Nolah Evolution 15” Hybrid Mattress, uses AirFoam™ technology. 

AirFoam™ dissipates heat 20 percent faster than high-end memory foam. It’s also CertiPUR-US certified free of harmful chemicals and 100 percent temperature-neutral. Unlike memory foam, temperature-neutral blends don’t feel harder in cold temperatures and softer in the heat. As a result, your mattress will sleep consistently cool year-round. 

Compared to memory foam, Nolah AirFoam™ and many other non-viscoelastic polyfoam blends also provide better pressure relief and support. AirFoam™ gently contours to your bones, muscles, and joints but doesn’t sink so far that it allows misalignment. The microscopic air bubbles compressed within the foam help distribute your weight across the mattress surface, relieving pressure in peak areas. 

Latex Hybrid Mattresses 

Mattresses made with natural latex, including latex hybrids, generally cost more than other mattress models. However, many sleepers find the luxurious material well worth the premium price.

Tapping latex from rubber trees is a sustainable process, making natural latex a fixture of the eco-friendly mattress industry. Many latex and latex hybrid mattresses, like the Nolah Natural 11” Hybrid Latex Mattress, also use other all-natural and responsibly sourced materials like organic wool and cotton.  

Latex—especially Talalay latex—is extremely durable. It depends on the density of the material used, but latex mattresses are generally firmer than foam and memory foam models. They provide excellent pressure relief, and the buoyancy of the material makes latex mattresses responsive. The surface of a latex mattress gently contours and quickly bounces back to its original state when you move.

Like AirFoam™, latex is temperature-neutral and does not trap heat. For maximum airflow and cooling, many mattress companies used perforated or “hole-punched” latex.

Secondary Support and Transition Layers 

Most hybrid mattresses have one or more secondary support or transition layers sandwiched between the coil base and top comfort layer(s). Typically, the middle layers use the same material as the comfort layer but with a higher density or indentation load deflection (ILD) in the case of latex.  

For example, the Nolah Evolution has two layers between the AirFoam™ comfort layer and the base. It features a 2-inch high-resilience foam layer for extra support and a 1-inch high-density foam transition layer that provides support and stability and responds to the coils underneath. You can see each layer of the Nolah Evolution in the diagram below. 

Nolah Evolution hybrid mattress layers

When shopping for a hybrid mattress, look for an option with at least one secondary support or transition layer. You need this layer for maximum pressure relief, responsiveness, stability, and durability. 

The Coil Support Core

Once you’ve determined which material you want for the comfort and secondary support layers, you can compare your hybrid mattress options based on the coil system’s construction. The most significant design difference you’ll notice is between traditional innerspring and individually-wrapped coil systems. 

Innerspring Systems 

For decades, almost all beds used innerspring systems for support. Innerspring support cores feature rows of springs formed by one continuous piece of metal. The tensioned coils provide resistance and structure, which translates to support and pressure relief. 

However, interconnected springs have limited flexibility, and they transfer motion. When you press down anywhere on the mattress, the entire spring system reacts. If you sleep with a partner on an innerspring mattress, they’ll likely feel your movements from across the bed. 

Connected coils also prohibits close contouring in the mattress’s upper layers and makes even weight distribution impossible. As a result, you feel the most pressure on the heavier parts of your body, like your hips, spine, and shoulders. Traditional innerspring systems often cause soreness in these critical areas. 

Individually-wrapped Coils

Today, many coil and hybrid mattresses use a system of individually-wrapped springs rather than interconnected coils. Also known as encased coils, individually-wrapped coils stand independently, and each spring comes wrapped in a fabric sleeve. 

Individually-wrapped coils limit motion transfer. When a section of springs compresses under pressure, it doesn’t affect the coils on the opposite side of the mattress. Superior motion isolation makes individually-wrapped coil mattresses more suitable for couples and anyone who tends to toss and turn in their sleep. 

Individually-wrapped coils also allow for contouring and targeted pressure relief. They have more mobility and thus can respond to your movements and the curves of your body. Many individually-wrapped coil systems also have specialized support zones. 

For example, the coils in the zone that sits directly underneath your hips can be tensioned to provide more resistance and support. You’ll often see an edge support zone around the mattress perimeter as well. 

Why do individually-wrapped coils have fabric wrappers? The sleeves protect the springs, buffer noise, and reduce motion transfer. 

The Foundation

High-quality hybrid mattresses have a final base layer, often called a foundation, underneath the coil support core. This layer serves as a stabilizer for the support coils and enhances the mattress’s overall durability. 

The bottom layer of most hybrid mattresses uses foam, memory foam, or wool. This layer doesn’t have to be thick, but it is critical to the longevity of the bed. 

The Cover

As with all other mattress types, the best hybrid mattresses come wrapped in a cover for added comfort, cleanliness, and protection. 

The best mattress covers are soft, breathable, cooling, hypoallergenic, and durable. Most built-in mattress covers use cotton or a polyester blend. For example, the Nolah Natural features a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton cover. 

Because hybrid mattresses tend to be heavy, we also recommend choosing an option with built-in handles on the side for easier transportation. 

Hybrid Mattress FAQs

You’ve now been introduced to the most common types of hybrid mattresses and know what to look for in a well-constructed, multi-layer bed. However, you still may have some questions about these new and advanced hybrid models. Before you head to a mattress store or start browsing online, read through these quick facts about hybrid mattresses. 

Do Hybrid Mattresses Ship in a Box? 

Most hybrid mattresses purchased online are compressed and shipped in a box, though it depends on the seller. Be sure to read the shipping details and return policy, as many mattress companies offer in home sleep trials. 

Does a Hybrid Mattress Need a Box Spring?

No, hybrid mattresses do not require a box spring, though that is one option. You can also place your hybrid mattress on any flat or slatted foundation. Some hybrid mattresses can be used with an adjustable frame, but you’ll have to read the product details to find out. 

How Long Do Hybrid Mattresses Last? 

Lifespan depends on the construction and quality of the materials but most hybrid models last about 8 to 10 years. However, if you buy a premium model and take care of it right, a hybrid mattress can last well over a decade. We recommend choosing a bed with at least a 10-year warranty. 

Two-in-One Comfort with Hybrid Technology

Hybrid mattresses marry the support of a coil mattress with the soft contouring of foam or latex. These heavy-duty mattresses pack all the latest mattress technology into one maximum-comfort bed. 

Because hybrid mattresses can use various material combinations and have a wide range of features, it helps to know exactly what you’re looking for before you start comparing brands and specific models. While this guide provides an overview of your options, you should always read the complete description and customer reviews before making a mattress purchase.