What Is Gel Memory Foam? It’s A Cooling Memory Foam, Here’s How It Works
Memory foam mattresses are gaining more and more popularity as the bed in a box market explodes. You will have seen a lot of mattresses featuring gel memory foam, and really marketing its benefits. So what is gel memory foam, what does it do, and is it any good?
Gel Memory Foam Is:
Gel memory foam is a variation on standard memory foam. Memory foam is a popular mattress material that was developed by NASA in the 1960’s. Memory foam is known for its ability to contour the body and provide great pressure support, which has made it one of the most widely used mattress materials today.
Gel foam is a memory foam that has been infused with gel. This is an innovation that was widely introduced around 2011 to help memory foam mattresses sleep cooler. Memory foam has developed a bad reputation for trapping heat and causing people to sleep “hot”, so infusing gel into the foam is a way to combat this problem.
There are a couple of ways that gel can be added to a memory foam:
- Gel beads (little capsules filled with gel)
- Liquid gel (swirled through the memory foam)
What’s The Difference Between Memory Foam And Gel Foam?
Memory foam and gel memory foam have some similarities:
- Both offer good conforming and pressure relief
- Both offer great motion isolation
- Both are extremely quiet materials
The big difference between the two is the cooling advantage of gel foam. Gel foam has all the great features of memory foam, and doesn’t have the big negative of trapping heat.
Adding gel to a memory foam can also increase the density of the foam. Higher density = better durability.
How Does It Work?
Here’s how gel foam works to keep you cooler than traditional memory foam:
- Thermal gel: this is cool to the touch, and helps lower the overall temperature of the mattress
- Phase change gel: this gel changes into a liquid when it heats up, and allows heat to transfer out of the mattress (don’t worry, it doesn’t leak anywhere, or make the mattress wet)
- Gel infused foams are typically more breathable
A good way to visualize it is to think about the gel ice packs you can use to help keep food cool inside a freezer pack.
Are Gel Foam Mattresses Good?
The above image is of the Ecosa mattress, which contains gel swirls. This is actually the mattress I sleep on myself, and I think it’s good quality (read my 18 month Ecosa report here)
Yes, gel foam mattresses can be really great. It’s a good cooling solution that can allow for higher density (better quality) foams to be used in the comfort layers of a mattress instead of open cell foams, which can sag quicker (if they’re low density).
You’ll find gel foam in a variety of different mattress types, and as long as the cooling gel isn’t the ONLY cooling solution the mattress features, then it can be a great mattress. Here’s what else to look out for in a good gel foam mattress:
- Cover made from high quality and breathable materials (some companies have even started infusing their covers with cool to touch or antimicrobial technology)
- If other foams are used as comfort layers in the mattress alongside the gel foam, look for either natural latex (which is naturally cooling and breathable) or a high quality open cell foam (for breathability)
- If you’re looking at an all foam mattress, it’s a nice touch if there is a cooling feature in the polyfoam support core, such as convolutions or ventilation channels. This is pretty rare though.
- Look for hybrid mattress designs. A hybrid mattress uses coils as its support core. Air naturally flows much better around coils than through a dense slab of polyfoam. A combination of gel memory foam and coils can make for a powerful cooling mattress.
What Is The Best Cooling Foam Mattress?
Are you ready to start looking at some great gel foam mattresses? These are my top picks for you:
Top Budget Choice: Classic Brands
Top Luxury Choice: Puffy Royal OR the Helix Luxe range
It’s no mistake that the Helix Luxe range has popped up twice in my list. I genuinely think they’re awesome mattresses, and you can choose if you want soft, medium, or firm. Make sure you click on the links above to take a look at my detailed review of them.
If you want a closer look at my top recommendations for hot sleepers, you’ll also enjoy this article.