If you’ve already decided you want a memory foam mattress, you may have already run across the term “gel memory foam.” You might be confused as to how gel memory foam is different from regular memory foam or why it even exists.
The good news is we’re here to help sort out any uncertainty. Below, we’ll talk about the differences between the two foams to help you decide which is right for you.
Gel Memory Foam
If you sleep hot but still want a memory foam mattress, gel memory foam is one of your best options. One of the biggest problems with traditional memory foam was its tendency to retain heat. As a result, the earliest memory foam beds on the market could be downright sweltering.
Gel fixes that problem because it’s a thermally conductive material. This means it moves your body heat away from you and disperses it throughout the mattress to keep the sleeping surface cooler.
The gel can be injected into the memory foam in several different ways. Some memory foams have gel infusions swirled into them while they’re in liquid form. Some memory foams have thousands of gel microbeads to increase breathability. And some memory foam mattresses have a pure gel layer sitting on top of the foam itself.
Gel infusions can sometimes make memory foam a little stiffer. That means gel memory foam might be slightly less contouring than memory foam without infusions. But most sleepers likely won’t notice much of a difference.
Gel memory foam was literally created for temperature control. That means you might not notice the difference in contouring between gel memory foam and regular memory foam. But you absolutely will notice a difference in temperature. Gel memory foam sleeps much cooler than regular memory foam. That allows hot sleepers to find comfort without sacrificing pressure relief.
Gel memory foam (and memory foam with other cooling technologies, for that matter) tends to cost more than regular old memory foam. It tends to take extra steps and extra ingredients to manufacture gel memory foam, so those additional costs will be passed on to you when you purchase.
Don’t let that stop you, though. Gel memory foam shouldn’t cost you much more than comparable regular memory foam mattresses. You can easily get a queen mattress with gel memory foam for under $1,000.
Gel memory foam and regular memory foam are pretty comparable when it comes to durability. Expect both memory foam varieties to last between 10 and 20 years.
If you’re looking for an affordable and high-quality gel memory foam mattress, you should check out the Zoma Mattress. This perforated gel memory foam bed offers tons of cooling comfort as well as stellar support for those who need a balance of pressure relief and lift.
Best of all, you get all this comfort and durability for an affordable price. You can get even the largest sizes of this gel memory foam bed for less than a thousand dollars.
The Zoma Mattress comes with a 100-night sleep trial and a 10-year warranty.
How It Feels
Hot sleepers will love the ventilated AirCloth cover and perforated gel memory foam comfort layer combination. Not only do these two features work together to keep cool air flowing around you. The gel memory foam also helps to simultaneously conduct heat away from you.
For active sleepers, the transition layer adds bounce to the memory foam comfort layer, so it springs back into place as soon as you change position. That means you can toss and turn to your heart’s content.
As mentioned, the AirCloth cover surrounds the mattress’s layers and is woven to promote airflow and heat dissipation. This is not the mattress’s only cooling feature, but it is still an essential part of its cool-to-the-touch nature.
The bed’s first layer is gel-infused memory foam, and its overall comfort is boosted by the exclusive Triangulex™ technology. This innovative bit of sleep technology features triangular cutouts in the head and foot of the mattress, carefully placed to increase the mattress’s flexible cushion.
Reactiv™ is the Zoma Mattresss’s transition layer, a material the company designed to mimic latex without the cost. The buoyancy of the material keeps sleepers from feeling trapped in bed as they lie down or move across its surface.
On the bottom layer, you’ll find the highly durable Support+ support core. This support layer doesn’t just provide amazing spine-aligning lift. It also means this mattress will resist sagging and soft spots for a full decade. Hence the 10-year warranty!
Regular Memory Foam
Even regular modern memory foam is a big step up from traditional memory foam in terms of temperature control. Early on in its development, memory foam was made of closed-cell flexible polyurethane foam. This means it was just a solid piece of foam that hugged your body tightly and inhibited just about all air circulation.
Nowadays, virtually all memory foam on the market is open-cell. This means the foam is full of thousands of microscopic air pockets that permit circulation throughout the foam. That makes modern memory foam much better at temperature regulation than its predecessors.
Memory foam is the most contouring bedding material on the market. It can alter its shape to fit yours in a way other foams like latex just can’t. Regular, open-cell memory foam without any infusions is the most contouring of all.
However, keep in mind that if you want the ultimate contouring, it will come at the cost of responsiveness. Regular memory foam is slow to recover its original shape. This might not bother sleepers who don’t move around during the night. But if you like to toss and turn, memory foam may not be for you.
Regular memory foam is better at keeping cool than its earliest predecessors. But it’s still not the best at temperature regulation. Memory foam without any infusions is still warmer than other options on the market. This may not bother you if you don’t sleep hot. If you do, you may need to look at other materials.
Keep in mind that memory foam can be cooled in other ways besides gel. Infusions of other thermally conductive materials like copper or graphite are also excellent cooling options. Plant-based memory foam is another amazing upgrade over regular memory foam in terms of temperature control.
When you account for both sticker price and durability, regular memory foam is the most affordable bed on the market on average. The average price of a memory foam queen mattress is $1,100. But you can easily find a quality memory foam bed for much less.
Memory foam falls in the middle of the durability spectrum. It’s more durable than coil mattresses, especially innerspring mattresses. But it won’t outlast latex. Expect memory foam mattresses to last anywhere between 10 and 20 years.
If you’re not into the idea of gel but still want a cooling and contouring mattress, the AS3 by Amerisleep may just be the bed for you. This mattress swaps some petroleum products for plant oils, making this plant-based memory foam just as contouring as regular memory foam and a lot more responsive and cooling.
Amerisleep also sets itself apart from the average mattress brand by offering an extensive 20-year warranty, along with a 100-night sleep trial.
How It Feels
As Amerisleep’s middle-of-the-road option, the AS3 mattress is designed to feel “just right” for most sleepers. The memory foam conforms to the body’s curves without letting the sleeper sink in too far, letting them still feel mostly “on top” of the mattress.
The mattress also feels slightly different across the surface, thanks to the transition foam’s targeted support. It flexes more in the shoulder and hips areas, creating a “softer” feel for more pressure relief. However, other areas feel less conforming to maintain support.
The Bio-Pur® foam inside the AS3 isn’t just bouncier and cooler than regular polyurethane foam. It’s also better for people with allergies and chemical sensitivities alike. This breathable foam wicks away moisture and makes a hostile environment for common allergens like mold and dust mites.
The CertiPUR-US® certified foam is also ultra-low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). That means those who are sensitive to chemical smells or synthetic ingredients may do better with this mattress than with one made of totally synthetic foam.
Another fantastic feature of this mattress is its HIVE® layer. This layer provides five zones of pressure relief, each targeted to a specific area of the body. That means each zone of your body will get exactly the combination of support and cushioning it needs.
Finally, all this comfort and support is built to last, thanks to the durable base layer of Bio-Core®. While most memory foam mattresses last closer to 15 years, you can expect this one to make it to 20.
In addition to gel memory foam, you have other options if you want a mattress with a lot of temperature control.
Traditional innerspring mattresses are excellent when it comes to staying cool, due to the fact that much of their interior is empty space between coils and their comfort layers are usually relatively thin. This design maximizes airflow through the bed, preventing heat from building up.
The main drawback to innerspring mattresses is that many sleepers find they do not relieve enough pressure, leaving them sore in the mornings. Still, when it comes to staying cool on a tight budget, innerspring mattresses may be worth considering.
Hybrid mattresses combine a pocketed coil support core with at least two inches of foam in the comfort layer. The pocketed coils all move independently, which allows the mattress to adapt to your shape all the way through.
At the same time, the coils permit circulation throughout the mattress. This circulation works with the foam layers to keep cool air flowing all the time. The great thing about hybrids is you can have any cooling foam you want on top of the coils, from infused memory foam to latex foam and more.
Natural latex foam is a wonderful cooling option for those who like lots of responsiveness and durability as well as coolness. Natural latex is naturally cool. That means it doesn’t need any infusions or construction alterations to control the bed’s sleeping temperature.
Latex is also naturally bouncy without the aid of coils. And the best part is that natural latex is the most durable material on the market. It will last a bare minimum of 20 years if properly maintained. Just watch out for the price, though. Natural latex’s initial cost is pretty steep: $2,000 for an average queen.
Both gel memory foam and regular memory foam can offer you a good night’s sleep. Hot sleepers should spring for gel memory foam if they want tons of temperature regulation as well as contoured pressure relief. Those who don’t care as much about temperature control but want the ultimate contouring for an affordable price should spring for regular memory foam.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a couple of other ways to cool off memory foam. Copper or graphite infusions are another popular cooling technology besides gel. Just like gel, these infusions help conduct heat away from you during the night. They also have the added benefit of fighting microbial growth such as bacteria and mold.
Another great way to keep memory foam cool is by including plant-based ingredients. Plant-based memory foam is more breathable than traditional memory foam, meaning it keeps cool air flowing through the mattress to shift warm air away from your body.
Natural latex probably has the edge over gel memory foam. This ultra-breathable foam keeps the cool air moving through the mattress. That means it can cool better and longer than gel memory foam because it doesn’t absorb heat and conduct it away. It actually allows warm air to flow out of the mattress.
However, the differences in temperature regulation aren’t that stark. So if you’re willing to sacrifice a little cooling to gain more contouring at a lower price, gel memory foam is still an excellent option.
Gel memory foam may be slightly less contouring than regular memory foam. However, the differences in contouring between gel memory foam and regular memory foam will almost never be stark enough for most sleepers to notice. You may only feel a difference if you experience severe pressure point pain that needs intense pressure relief.
A gel memory foam hybrid is one of the coolest mattresses on the market. This is because the hybrid design combines the thermal conductivity of the gel with the air circulation of the pocket coil support core. This means the body heat that gets conducted downward by the gel memory foam can then be dispersed out of the mattress by the air circulating through the coils.
One of the best things about hybrid mattresses is they work for all sleep positions. The coils can adapt to your shape (unlike those in innerspring mattresses). That means a hybrid of the right firmness level can keep hot sleepers cool and supported no matter how they choose to sleep.
Gel memory foam is a wonderful option for hot side sleepers. This foam can contour around hip and shoulder joints to offer superior pressure relief. This will allow side sleepers to get the cushioning they need while still avoiding waking up in a sweat.
Another fantastic option for side sleepers who also sleep hot is Talalay latex. Talalay latex is lighter and less dense than its Dunlop counterpart. That means Talalay latex contours much better than Dunlop latex.
While this type of latex still doesn’t contour quite as well as gel memory foam, it will offer most side sleepers sufficient pressure relief. The tradeoff for slightly reduced pressure relief is enhanced breathability. So if you can live with a little less cushion but sleep super hot, Talalay latex might be a better option for you.