Anyone shopping for a new mattress will quickly notice that there are more options to choose from than ever before. Memory foam mattresses are one type that has grown increasingly popular. This is, in part, thanks to their ability to contour to your body and provide great pressure relief.
However, consumers report one persistent and troublesome feature: memory foam mattresses sleep hot. Foam is a sensitive conductor of heat, so they tend to feel hotter than traditional innerspring mattresses. Plus, when you sink into a foam mattress, you really feel that heat all around you.
That’s why some companies have innovated the types of foam they use in their mattresses, incorporating elements like copper and gel infusions.
You may be skeptical and wondering: do gel-infused memory foam mattresses actually sleep cool, or do they still trap heat like conventional memory foam mattresses? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Gel Memory Foam?
Gel memory foam is infused with gel microbeads, which helps regulate body temperature. It also makes mattresses feel more responsive, so sleepers won’t rest “inside” the mattress and feel body heat all around them.
Memory Foam Vs. Gel Foam
If you’re a hot sleeper who needs a lot of pressure relief, then it might be smart to opt for a gel foam mattress. Though it won’t make the mattress feel completely cool to the touch, gel microbeads help dissipate body heat and keep sleepers cooler throughout the night. Gel foam mattresses also tend to feel more responsive, so sleepers won’t feel like they’re “sinking” inside the bed.
Traditional memory foam mattresses tend to trap more heat than gel foam beds, but gel foam mattresses usually cost more. If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to consider getting a no-frills memory foam mattress. Additionally, memory foam mattresses often have more of a quicksand sort of quality. You may feel like you’re sinking into the top layers, rather than resting on top of the mattress. This is great for folks who want lots of body contouring, but it’s not everyone’s preference.
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Does Gel Memory Foam Work?
While there are no science-backed studies that show whether or not the gel does indeed keep you cool, the idea behind using gel to cool a dense foam mattress is quasi-scientific: Gel is a semi-liquid, and liquid can be an effective way to cool a surface. When it’s included in memory foam it can help to draw heat away from the body.
But here’s the catch: a liquid that isn’t able to evaporate just stays at the temperature of its surroundings. In a gel foam mattress, the encased gel will naturally take on the temperature of the foam around it. It may heat up slower than traditional foam, which conducts heat easily, but not slowly enough to stay cool for the length of a night’s sleep.
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This may be why some consumers report that gel mattresses felt cooler as they were falling asleep, but that the effect wore off by morning. A Consumer Mattress Reports 2013 study found no difference in breathability between mattresses that incorporated gel and the ones that did not.
Types Of Gel-Infusion
While the presence of gel alone isn’t enough to keep a mattress cool, certain applications of the technology can make for a more comfortable sleeping experience.
One feature to pay attention to is how and where the gel is inserted into the mattress. The most effective gel cooled mattresses are ones that feature a gel layer on top of the memory foam, laid down like a buffer between you and the foam.
The Bear mattress is one example of this type of gel memory foam mattress: it has a gel foam made with graphite forming the top layer of the mattress, which they say is “superconductive,” helping increase airflow and creating heat loss seven times faster than regular memory foam.
According to Bear, this method works essentially by separating your body from the heat-trapping foam, slowing the rate at which the mattress temperature rises overnight. See our Bear mattress review to learn exactly how this works.
Gel memory foam mattresses can be a great choice for people who like the slow-moving feel of memory foam but don’t want to sweat through their sleep.
Be sure to take a look at our list of the best memory foam mattresses and keep your eye out for those with gel and other cooling materials.
Featured image: sasimoto/Shuttershock
Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.
He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.
Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.