If you’ve been mulling the idea of getting a new mattress for any length of time, you probably have run across the terms “hybrid mattress” and “innerspring mattress.” Since both these mattress types have coils, many people think they’re the same thing.
On the contrary, hybrid and innerspring mattresses are different in just about every way. In fact, many hybrid mattresses feel more like latex or memory foam beds than innerspring ones. Below, we discuss the differences between these two types of mattresses and which one could be right for you.
What is a Hybrid Mattress?
Hybrid mattresses are one of the best new inventions in sleep technology. Hybrids combine all the best features of all-foam mattresses with all the best features of innerspring mattresses to create a bed that’s responsive, cooling, adaptive, and cradling. There’s a lot to love about hybrid mattresses and not much to hate.
Components of a Hybrid Mattress
Hybrid mattresses combine at least two inches of foam in their top layer(s) with a pocketed coil support core. This combination creates an amazing feel that reduces or eliminates all the cons of innerspring and foam mattresses.
For example, memory foam mattresses tend to retain heat and don’t bounce back into place very fast. Hybrids counter these issues with their breathable and responsive individually wrapped coils.
In contrast, innerspring mattresses aren’t very adaptive and are notorious for motion transfer. Hybrids counter these issues with their comfort and transition layers of memory foam or latex foam. Hybrid mattresses are a great option if you can’t entirely give up the feel of an innerspring but need more contouring and pressure relief.
Hybrid comfort layers can be made of any type of foam, but the most common hybrid comfort layer is memory foam. Latex foam is the second most popular option. Other types of foam are catching up.
Memory foam is a special type of polyurethane foam meant to cradle and support the human body. This is the most contouring type of foam. It can adapt to your body shape to cushion your joints and provide superior spinal alignment and pressure relief.
Two common complaints about memory foam are its tendency to retain heat and its low responsiveness. Hybrids can counter these problems with their pocketed coil support core (we’ll discuss below), but they may also come with memory foam top layers that have cooling gel/graphite/copper infusions. They may also boast a bouncy transition layer.
Natural latex is the other popular choice for a hybrid comfort layer. Latex is more resistant to changing its shape than memory foam, so it cannot contour quite as well. However, latex is naturally cooling and bouncy. So those who want a hybrid that feels more like an innerspring might be happier with latex.
Latex is also the purer and more eco-friendly of the two primary bed foams. That means sleepers with chemical sensitivities or those who want a mattress that’s as good for the environment as it is for their backs will also likely prefer latex over memory foam.
Some hybrids don’t come with a transition layer, but most do. Transition layers are made of denser foam that may have infusions to increase bounce. The transition layer’s job is to increase responsiveness and support in the comfort layer and also protect your body from pressure exerted by the support layer.
Hybrids always come with freestanding coils wrapped in individual fabric or foam casing. These are called pocketed coils. If your mattress has an open coil network, it’s an innerspring mattress. Pocketed coils have several advantages over open coils.
First of all, pocketed coils are much more durable than open coils. You can expect most open coil support cores to last no more than a decade, while many pocketed coil support cores can last twice that long.
Pocket coils are also much more adaptable than open coils because they all move independently. That not only means pocketed coils conform better to your body. It also means they’re flexible enough to be used on an adjustable base.
Pocket coils are also much better at motion isolation. Networked coils are notorious for motion transfer, but pocket coils isolate motion without sacrificing too much bounce. They are also almost as breathable as open coils, making hot sleepers happy and keeping memory foam comfort layers cool.
Coil count is the number of coils inside your hybrid mattress. This can be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand, depending on the size and quality of your mattress. Watch out for overly low or overly high counts.
A too-low count can be a sign of a low-quality mattress that won’t last very long. A too-high count doesn’t add durability or support. It’s just an excuse for manufacturers to up the sale price. Look for counts between 800 and 1,000 for a queen hybrid.
Coil gauge means the thickness of each coil. Gauges go from 12 to 18, with 18 being the thinnest. Generally, it’s best to stick to a range of between 13 and 15. Very low gauge coils are more supportive, but they aren’t as adaptable and can cause pressure. High gauge coils are more forgiving, but they’re not as supportive or durable. That’s why middle-of-the-road coils are generally best.
Not all hybrid mattresses come with a base layer, but again most do. Base layers are made of ultra-dense foam. Organic hybrid mattresses may feature a base layer made of cotton or wool. The job of the base layer is to protect the coils from damage. It can also help with motion isolation and sag resistance.
Sleepers for Whom Hybrids Work Best
Hybrids are an excellent choice for just about everyone. They promote lots of airflow to keep hot sleepers cool. They adapt to the body to support the spine and relieve back pain. They cushion pressure points to prevent pain in the hips and shoulders. And they offer tons of support to keep you lifted onto the sleeping surface.
If you want to treat specific conditions with a hybrid mattress, we suggest browsing some of our mattress guides:
The right hybrid mattress can support all sleep positions. Side sleepers will likely do best with a softer hybrid. Combo and back sleepers may appreciate a medium to medium-firm hybrid. Stomach sleepers probably need a firm hybrid mattress. But as long as you select the correct firmness level, a hybrid can be the best option for your sleep style.
Cost of a Hybrid
The biggest con of hybrid mattresses is their price. Hybrids are not cheap to manufacture. That means they’re also not cheap to buy. The average queen-size hybrid can run anywhere from $1,200 to $5,000, with a median cost of just below $2,000. It’s usually very difficult to find a quality hybrid mattress for under $1,000.
Pros and Cons of Hybrids
- Foam comfort layers fight allergens like dust mites and mold
- Adaptable coils conform to the body but are bouncy and breathable
- Latex or memory foam layers contour like an all-foam bed
- Adaptable coils and foams combine to create a flexible and supportive bed
- Durable for up to two decades
- Not compatible with your box springs
- Very expensive
- Heavy and hard to move
What is an Innerspring Mattress?
Innerspring mattresses are made using an open coil network topped with a thin comfort layer made of plush materials that may or may not include foam. Innerspring mattresses are an older sleep technology. People have been sleeping on them for over 100 years. That means they’ve stood the test of time but are starting to become supplanted by newer technologies.
Components of an Innerspring Mattress
Many people think that an innerspring mattress with a pillow top is the same thing as a hybrid, but the two are still very different. A hybrid must have a comfort layer of at least two inches of foam, and it cannot have an open coil support core.
A pillow top is not the same thing as a comfort layer. Pillow tops are sewn over the comfort layer to add extra padding. They can be anywhere from less than an inch to several inches thick. While pillow tops can come on all mattress types, they’re much more common on innerspring mattresses. Almost all more expensive innerspring mattresses will have a pillow top.
The comfort layer of an innerspring mattress may be the top layer or sit underneath the pillow top. Innerspring mattress comfort layers are typically thinner—between one and three inches. They can also be made of other plush materials besides foam. An innerspring mattress’s comfort layer can include wool, cotton, plush fibers, foam, or any other cushioning material.
The support layer of an innerspring mattress can be made of pocketed coils, but this is rare. Most of the time, innerspring mattresses feature a support layer of open coils. These are coils that are not encased in fabric or foam. They’re wired together in a network. These springs can come in a few different configurations, including:
Bonnell coils are shaped like an hourglass. These are cheaper coils and are usually found in low to mid-priced innerspring mattresses. Bonnell coil mattresses are not as durable as some other innerspring systems. Bonnell coils are also susceptible to motion transfer and developing squeaking over time.
These coils have flattened ends and are also hourglass-shaped. They’re a bit more contouring than Bonnell springs but still not anywhere near as adaptable as pocket coils. Like Bonnell coils, offset coils are prone to motion transfer and noise.
Continuous coils are S-shaped coils wired together in rows from the head to the foot of the mattress. These coils are more stable and provide more consistent support. However, they don’t really fix the issues with motion transfer or noise potential found in the other two coil types.
Sleepers for Whom Innerspring Mattresses Work Best
When it comes to sleeping on an innerspring mattress, this older technology can experience some problems. We already talked about the motion transfer and noise potential that comes with virtually all open coil systems. However, open coils also are not adaptable at all.
They tend to sag rather than compress and conform. That means your spine may fall out of alignment when you sleep on an innerspring mattress. Since the coil system cannot rise to meet the gap in your waist/lumbar region, the middle of your body can collapse to make contact with the sleeping surface. This leaves many people suffering back pain.
While contouring pillow tops can help counter this problem, hybrids adapt all the way through the mattress. This means they’re generally better for back pain sufferers and all sleep styles.
Cost of an Innerspring
What’s the one area where innerspring mattresses whip hybrids? That would be their initial cost. Those shopping on a budget will appreciate the fact that it’s easy to find a high-quality innerspring mattress with a well-made coil support core and a pillow top for under $1,000. The average cost of a good-quality queen innerspring mattress is between $500 to $1,200.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that this is the initial cost. Innerspring mattresses are less durable than hybrids. Some coil mattresses last as little as five or six years before they develop issues with sagging and soft spots. If you have to replace your mattress twice as often, you’re not really saving money in the long run.
Pros and Cons of Innerspring Mattresses
- Lower initial cost
- More air circulation than any other mattress
- High bounce factor for those who like lots of responsiveness
- Light and easy to move
- Not durable
- Cannot contour
- The thinner comfort layer provides less pressure relief
- Has high motion transfer
- Sagging is an issue
- They may become squeaky over time
- Not compatible with adjustable bases
The best hybrid mattresses are often the best beds on the market. Aside from their cost, they run circles around traditional innerspring mattresses. Normally, each type of bed has its pros and cons, and your decision depends on your personal preferences.
However, this isn’t the case for hybrids and innerspring mattresses. Unless you’re shopping on a tight budget, hybrids are the clear winner of this contest.
Frequently Asked Questions
The main difference between open coils and pocket coils is open coils are unwrapped and wired together while pocketed coils are wrapped and independent. This leads to drastically different feels. Open coils offer more bounce and increased airflow. But they cannot adapt, nor do they isolate motion.
Pocketed coils sacrifice some responsiveness and airflow. But they’re highly adaptive and can isolate motion well. Pocketed coils are also much more durable than open coils. They can last up to twice as long.
While hybrids are an excellent choice, memory foam and latex mattresses do have some advantages over them.
Memory foam is usually more budget-friendly than a hybrid mattress. If you’re shopping on a budget, memory foam might be a than an innerspring bed. An all-memory foam mattress may also be more contouring and pressure-relieving than a memory foam hybrid.
Latex mattresses also beat hybrids in a couple of areas. First, latex is the most durable mattress material. So all-latex beds will outlast any other mattress type. Pure latex is also more eco-friendly than a latex hybrid because it doesn’t require metal coils.
Hybrids are too heavy for box springs. However, they’re compatible with platform beds, mattress foundations, and adjustable bases. Mattress foundations and platform beds are wooden or metal frames. They have slats stretched across at regular intervals. The only difference is foundations are made to go in a bed frame, while platforms stand on their own.
Meanwhile, adjustable bases are made to help you sleep with your head or feet elevated. They can take the weight of hybrid mattresses. And hybrid mattresses are adaptable enough to move with the base when it changes positions.
Innerspring mattresses are virtually always more affordable in the short term than hybrid mattresses of comparable quality. They are much cheaper to make and therefore much cheaper to buy. So you can expect to pay a whole lot more for a hybrid than an innerspring.
Keep in mind that while innerspring mattresses may have a lower initial cost, they’re not necessarily more affordable than a hybrid in the long term. Your average hybrid mattress will last a lot longer than your average innerspring mattress. Replacing your innerspring mattress more often than your hybrid can severely negate any savings you might see upfront.
Organic hybrids are made with all-natural materials certified organic under the appropriate authority. Most organic hybrid mattresses will have Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)-certified latex foam in their comfort layers and a cover made of Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified textiles like cotton or wool. They may also have a base layer made of ultra-dense latex foam or durable organic textiles.