If you like a mattress with a lot of bounce and coolness, but you don’t want to sacrifice cushion and contouring, you might want to check out a hybrid or latex mattress. Both of these mattress types can keep you cooler than traditional memory foam and better supported than a traditional innerspring mattress, though they do so in different ways.
While hybrids use coils to achieve airflow and bounce, latex doesn’t need any help in this area. Below, we’ll take a look at the differences and similarities between hybrids and latex mattresses and talk about which could be right for you.
What is a Hybrid Mattress?
Hybrid mattresses do exactly what their name says they do: combine an innerspring mattress with a foam mattress to create a hybrid of the two. All hybrids come with a pocketed coil support layer topped by at least two inches of foam in the comfort layer.
This combination makes for a mattress that’s cooler and bouncier than a memory foam or latex mattress but more supportive and pressure-relieving than an innerspring mattress.
Parts of a Hybrid
While it’s true all hybrids have a coil support layer and at least two inches of foam, there’s a lot of variance in this setup, and some hybrids have much more support and cushion than others. Many hybrids also come with more than two inches of foam laid out in multiple layers.
The comfort layer of a hybrid is always made of soft or medium foam. This is the layer you sleep on, so it’s intended to support the body, cushion pressure points, and promote spinal alignment.
Not all hybrids have a transition layer, but many do. A transition layer is normally made of responsive polyurethane foam. Transition layers offer pressure relief from the coil support layer and enhance durability.
All hybrids feature a pocketed coil core for bounce and support. These coils help increase the overall responsiveness of the bed, and they also promote airflow through the mattress, helping to reduce moisture buildup and keep you cool while you sleep.
Not all hybrid mattresses have a base layer, but some hybrids put a layer of sturdy foam underneath their coil support core to help reduce motion transfer and protect the bottom of the coils.
Types of Hybrids
A hybrid’s top layer is always some type of contouring foam, but it can be memory foam, gel foam, latex foam, or any other type of mattress-grade foam.
Memory foam hybrids combine the contoured support of a memory foam mattress with the airflow and responsiveness of coils. Memory foam is the most flexible of all the possible hybrid comfort layers. It compresses under your pressure points and adapts to meet your body, offering customized support in a way latex just can’t.
If you like the support of memory foam but not its tendency to retain heat, a gel memory foam hybrid mattress could be the solution to all your problems. To increase memory foam’s temperature-regulating ability, manufacturers add gel beds, liquid gel, gel toppers, etc. to the liquid foam. The cooling gel can help pull your body heat away from you, keeping you cooler than regular memory foam.
If you want an extra springy mattress without purchasing an innerspring, a latex hybrid mattress could be up your alley. While latex cannot conform to your body in exactly the same way memory foam can, it regains its shape a lot faster than memory foam. If you change positions a lot, latex could be a good choice for you. Latex is also naturally cooling; it doesn’t need a bunch of additives or structural alterations to wick hot air away from you.
Pros and Cons of Hybrids
Hybrids are great because they combine the best attributes of innerspring mattresses with the best attributes of foam mattresses to bring both coolness and comfort. However, they do have a couple of drawbacks when compared to latex.
For one thing, an innerspring/hybrid coil support system always makes these mattress types less durable than all-foam mattresses because coils lose tension faster than foam wears down, causing the mattress to sag sooner. For another, hybrids are expensive to manufacture, and that expense is passed along to the customer, making hybrids generally the priciest bed type on the market.
- Combines bounce of springs with cushioning of foam
- Supportive and responsive
- Coils promote airflow
- Relieves pressure points
- Available in a variety of different materials and firmness options
- Most expensive mattress type
- Less durable than all-foam beds
- Heavier than innerspring mattresses
What is a Latex Mattress?
Natural latex is made by harvesting the sap of the rubber tree and processing it into a foam. Organic natural latex is one of the most non-toxic, eco-friendly mattress types you can purchase, so if you’re only interested in plant-based materials, a latex mattress is basically your only option—but it’s a great option.
Latex foam mattresses are naturally bouncy, cool, and the support is only matched by memory foam. Latex is also one of the most durable mattress materials, and can easily outlive the average mattress life expectancy of a decade. That means even though the purchase price of a latex mattress might be higher than that of an innerspring or memory foam bed, the fact that latex will outlast these other mattresses reduces its overall cost because you don’t have to replace it as often.
Parts of a Latex Mattress
Like hybrids, latex mattresses have several different layers. However, unlike hybrids, latex mattresses are all foam and no coil. Latex beds normally contain 3 to 4 layers of latex foam, each with its own purpose.
The comfort layer of a latex mattress is made of cushioning foam. This layer relieves pressure points and supports the body to promote alignment in the spine.
The transition layer in a latex mattress is usually slightly softer foam made to reduce pressure from the support layer and increase motion isolation.
The base or support layer of a latex mattress usually has the most durable foam. The base layer helps create stability in your mattress and prevents sagging. It also provides support to the foams on top of it to keep your body lifted on top of the mattress, preventing sinkage.
Types of Latex
Natural latex comes in two basic types based on how the raw rubber is processed (all unprocessed rubber is the same—there are no different kinds of rubber tree sap). There’s also a synthetic version of latex, but as we’ll discuss below, it’s no replacement for the real thing.
Dunlop latex is the simplest and most energy-efficient processing method, meaning the final product is a little cheaper than Talalay. For the Dunlop process, liquid latex is whipped into a foam, poured into a mold, and immediately zapped in a vulcanization oven. The foam is then washed to remove impurities and dried to eliminate moisture from the end product.
Dunlop foam is denser than Talalay, and it tends to be densest at the bottom and lightest at the top. However, don’t conflate density with firmness. Both Talalay and Dunlop latexes come in multiple firmness options.
The Talalay processing method is less energy-efficient than the Dunlop method because it requires more steps. Like in the Dunlop method, natural Talalay latex is whipped into a foam and poured into a mold. However, instead of being vulcanized immediately, the foam is vacuum-sealed and allowed to “proof” like bread.
Once the foam expands to fit the mold, it’s flash-frozen and injected with CO2. Only then is the foam vulcanized, washed, and dried. This process makes for a bouncier, less dense, more expensive foam than Dunlop. Keep in mind the differences between Dunlop and Talalay latex are only slight, and most sleepers will be happy with either.
Manufacturers sometimes make synthetic latex foam out of the petroleum products styrene and butadiene, which is why the finished product is called Styrene-Butadiene Rubber (SBR). While SBR is made to imitate the feel of natural latex, this material is not as bouncy, cool, supportive, or durable as natural latex. That’s why it’s often found in cheaper, lower-quality mattresses.
Unlike natural latex, SBR has the tendency to off-gas, or release toxic chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). While the levels of VOCs released by SBR are almost never high enough to threaten your health, they can give off a foul odor that causes mild symptoms like nausea and headache in sensitive individuals.
Due to all these issues, synthetic latex is no comparison to the real deal. If you want synthetic foam, we’d suggest memory foam over SBR foam.
Pros and Cons of Latex Mattresses
Natural latex mattresses are great if you want a cool, springy foam that gives you the freedom to switch positions. However, they do have some drawbacks. The biggest problem with latex is it’s heavier than just about every other mattress material, making moving your mattress a huge pain. Latex also is not as contouring as memory foam, nor does it have the same level of air circulation offered by hybrid and innerspring mattresses.
- Naturally cooling
- Bounces back into place quicker than memory foam
- Highly durable
- Organic latex undergoes minimal chemical processing
- Very heavy and hard to move
- Not as contouring as memory foam
- Lack of coils prevents airflow through the mattress
A Note on Latex Allergies
Natural latex is hypoallergenic for sleepers without a latex allergy because it resists common allergens like dust mites, pollen, dust, etc. However, if you have a known latex allergy, it’s best to avoid sleeping on this mattress type. Some sources might tell you it’s okay because the mattress protector and sheets are between you and the mattress, but since there is always the risk of exposure, however small, we recommend opting for other types of foam if you’re allergic to latex.
Who Should Sleep on Which?
Since hybrid and latex mattresses come in a wide range of firmness levels and feels, they’re both suitable for any sleeper, as long as you get the right type of hybrid or latex mattress.
Back sleepers need support in their lumbar region to keep the lower back from collapsing and causing pain. That means a medium to medium-firm latex or hybrid mattress make the best beds for back sleepers.
Stomach sleepers experience lower back pain because their torso tends to sink into the mattress, over-extending the spine and pulling it out of alignment. To correct this issue, mattresses for stomach sleepers should be medium-firm to firm to keep you lifted on top of the bed.
Side sleepers need cushioning for their hips and shoulders to avert pain in these pressure points. Therefore, the best beds for side sleepers are soft to medium.
Combo sleepers change positions from night-to-night, and sometimes multiple times throughout the night. A medium mattress can offer the versatility to support your body in every position.
Heavier Sleepers (more than 230 pounds)
Mattresses for plus-size sleepers should be firmer than the firmness level that corresponds to their sleep position in order to avoid sinking into a too-soft mattress.
Average Sleepers (between 130 and 230 pounds)
Average sleepers can usually pick the firmness level that corresponds to their sleep position and personal preferences without adjusting for weight.
Lighter Sleepers (less than 130 pounds)
If you’re a petite individual, you might need to choose a slightly softer mattress than the firmness level that corresponds to your sleep position. That way, you can get sufficient compression to cushion your body.
What is a GOLS certification?
GOLS stands for Global Organic Latex Standard. GOLS applies strict ethical, environmental, and safety standards to all latex that carries its label. For instance, GOLS specifies all rubber trees must be grown without pesticides and sets severe limits on the amount of environmental waste that farmers, manufacturers, and processors are allowed to produce.
GOLS also protects the workers on latex farms and in latex processing facilities from exploitation. And to top it off, GOLS protects the end-user from buying a toxic or unsafe product by setting strict guidelines for what chemicals and processing methods can be used when manufacturing latex. With a GOLS label, you can be sure your latex is free of toxic chemicals as well as harvested and processed responsibly.
Do hybrids also have mattress certifications?
Hybrid mattress manufacturers can apply for a number of different certifications, depending on the materials they use in their beds. Brands that use organic latex can apply for a GOLS certification, and those who use other natural materials like cotton and wool can opt for a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification. Memory foam hybrid makers would need to seek a CertiPUR-US® certification.
Hybrid mattress manufacturers can also demonstrate their beds have low or no VOC emissions by getting a GreenGuard Gold certificate. And an OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certificate indicates every material in a mattress contains no toxic additives.
Remember, hybrids with multiple components can have multiple certificates. For instance, an organic latex beds with an organic cotton mattress cover might have a GOLS certificate for the latex and a GOTS certificate for the cotton.
Do I have to air out my latex mattress?
Latex is moisture-resistant, meaning it’s also resistant to mold and mildew. But that doesn’t mean you never have to air it out. Since a latex mattress doesn’t have a coil support layer, it’s still subject to reduced airflow. That means if you keep it directly on the floor or a bunkie board, you will need to air it out every once in a while.
However, as long as you keep your latex mattress on a slatted mattress foundation or platform bed, it should have enough circulation underneath it to prevent moisture buildup. So if you want to avoid airing out your mattress, make sure you’re putting it on a bed base that promotes airflow.
Is latex better than memory foam?
It really depends on your personal preferences. Latex retains and regains its shape better than memory foam, so if you find memory foam’s lag in bouncing back to its original shape annoying, latex is probably for you. However, if you want a mattress that alters itself to perfectly fit the contours of your body, latex may not be for you because it is not as flexible as memory foam.
Latex is more durable, while memory foam is more affordable. Latex is slightly cooler, while memory foam is slightly lighter and easier to move. Neither mattress material is necessarily “better” than the other, it’s up to you as an individual sleeper to decide which attributes to prioritize.
Are hybrid and innerspring mattresses really all that different?
Yes! Even a pillow top innerspring mattress won’t have the cushioning of a hybrid. Innerspring mattresses are mostly coil and almost no cushion. They usually just have a thin plush layer made of cotton, wool, or fiberfill to top their much thicker coil support system. This means that an innerspring mattress will not conform to your body as a hybrid does. Innersprings also don’t isolate motion as well as a hybrid or last as long as a hybrid.
Pretty much the only advantage coil mattresses have over hybrids is they’re cheaper, but since they don’t last as long, even this advantage is reduced by the fact that you have to buy another mattress a lot quicker.
Hybrids and latex mattresses can both offer a great night’s sleep. Those who want all-natural support should spring for a latex mattress, while sleepers interested in increased airflow and bounce may enjoy a hybrid. Of course, if you can’t choose between the two, you could always spring for a latex hybrid!
Chris was a psychiatrist and neurologist with board certification in sleep medicine Clinical Associate Professor at the University of California. For over 10 years, he served and helped patients at Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital with their sleeping disorders.
After suffered from sleep disorders for years, Chris has been passionate about sleep health ever since. He wants to help others sleep better and wanted to make the world of sleep easy to understand for everyday people.