Memory foam mattresses have been all the rage for a lot of happy sleepers. It offers unrivaled pressure-point relief and supportive conformability. However, there was one complaint – it absorbs body heat and grows warmer throughout the night.
Foam is a sensitive conductor of human heat that traps heat for longer than the average spring mattress. The solution? Gel memory foam. Gel memory foam was created as a solution to keep sleepers cooler during the night.
But the question still remains: Do gel mattresses make you hot or cold? Although studies are not conclusive, there is reason to believe that gel mattresses are a temporary fix to cooling sleepers at night.
What is Gel Memory Foam?
Gel memory foam was introduced to the bedding industry in 2011. It was created to keep sleepers who enjoyed the feel of memory foam, to sleep cooler at night.
Your body cools down when you initially fall asleep, so having a breathable, cooling mattress is important to prevent heat-related sleep disturbances.
The cooling properties of the gel can wick away body heat without holding it in. It’s those cooling properties that distinguish gel memory foam from traditional memory foam.
Just as traditional memory foam mattresses, gel foam mattresses are made to conform to your body and bounce back to their original shape once you get up.
Due to the viscoelastic properties of memory foam, the materials in the gel memory foam absorb movement just as traditional memory foam. Memory foam and gel memory foam mattresses adjust to the body to reduce pressure points and discomfort.
What Are The Types of Gel?
Since memory foam is not the most breathable of materials, many manufacturers infuse their memory foam mattress layers with things like copper, graphite, and green tea extracts to pull body heat away from the sleeper and out of the bed.
Gel-infused memory foam is very similar to copper-infused or graphite-infused foams because the infusions with the foams all serve the same purpose. Gel infusions are added to memory foam in three different ways:
- Swirling gel into the memory foam;
- Injecting gel beads into the foam layer;
- Adding a gel layer (usually in the comfort and/or transition layer (s).
Mattresses with gel swirled into the memory foam are usually the most preferred type.
Gel memory foam is not limited to all-foam mattresses. The material may be found in hybrids, which feature memory foam layers in the comfort system and pocketed coils in the support core. Some innerspring mattresses that feature open coils are also made with gel memory foam components.
What are the Benefits of Gel Mattresses?
Most memory foam mattresses provide good body support and have low motion transfer, which means that when a person moves on one side of the mattress, the person on the other side stays undisturbed.
Gel foam mattresses also offer similar support and stability, but their biggest advantage is their added cooling effect. This is why so many people buy them. The gel is also popular in mattress pads and mattress toppers.
It has been confirmed that there is a link between high nighttime temperatures and insufficient sleep. Studies have found that higher temperatures lead to reduced sleep quality and duration and make sleep more shallow. So, gel mattresses may help a person get better quality sleep.
Some benefits of gel mattresses include:
- Cooling effect
- Pressure relief
- Good body and spinal support
- Added comfort
What are the Drawbacks of Gel Mattresses?
Gel-foam mattresses consist of synthetic materials and include polyurethane (PU) foam. PU foam and other chemicals used in gel-foam mattresses emit varying levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When inhaled, VOCs can have adverse health effects.
To remedy this, you can look for mattresses with a CertiPUR-US certification, which conveys that their production did not involve harmful chemicals and that they have a low VOC emission.
Also, there have been consumer complaints against gel mattresses that their cooling effect wears off quickly. It may feel refreshingly cool at first, but as the gel conducts heat from a person’s body, it gets warm and stays warm. Let’s look more into this claim.
Does Gel Memory Foam Work?
Gel-infused foams are constructed to improve airflow, release trapped heat, and help sleepers stay comfortable throughout the night. But gel memory foam may not necessarily sleep cooler than standard memory foam.
In sharing a few facts about gel, a liquid substance, it tends to take on the temperature of its surroundings. Just as a gelled ice pack may be cold when it first comes out of the freezer, before long it takes on the temperature of your body or the room.
There is no reason to think that gel would behave any differently in a mattress. Initially, it will adopt the room temperature, which will feel cool against your warmer body.
Since gel encased in memory foam will quickly adapt to the temperature of the surrounding foam, it will most likely warm up slower than the regular foam. But in the end, it cannot stay cool during the entire night. Before long, it will match your body temperature, and the cooling effect will fade.
While memory-gel can initially help you sleep cooler, the question now becomes for how long? How long before you begin sleeping hot again? It is safe to say that gel memory foam will hold less heat than the standard memory foam.
However, this may wear out over time, and it may lose some of its cooling properties after prolonged use. And this will leave you with one of the main drawbacks of the traditional memory foam mattress – overheating.