Does Gel Memory Foam Really Sleep Cooler?

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Many mattresses sold today are advertised as ‘cooler’ and ‘more comfortable’ than standard memory foam models because they contain layers of gel-infused memory foam in the comfort layer. Gel-infused foams are engineered to improve airflow, release trapped heat, and help sleepers stay comfortable throughout the night — but according to our findings, gel memory foam does not necessarily sleep cooler than standard memory foam.

 

Gel Memory Foam vs. Standard Memory Foam

First developed by NASA researchers in the 1960s, memory foam is designed to react to body heat and conform to a sleeper’s body, forming a cradle-shaped impression that helps align the spine and relieve pressure points. Memory foam is made from conventional polyurethane foam that has been treated with chemicals to increase its viscosity and elasticity. For this reason, memory foam is often called ‘viscoelastic foam’.

Memory foam has certain advantages over other mattress types. The material is virtually silent, and, when used in mattresses, can effectively minimize motion and isolate to certain areas of the bed; these two factors can significantly reduce nighttime disruptions. Memory foam is also light in weight compared to other mattress materials (such as latex or steel springs). However, many memory foam users complain the material retains an above-average amount of body heat, which causes the foam to sleep excessively warm or hot. By comparison, other mattress mattress materials sleep cooler.

To address the heat issue, some mattress manufacturers offer models constructed with ‘gel memory foam’ layers. This trend first gained popularity in the early 2010s. Gel memory foam layers are infused with tiny gel particles or beads. Some feature thermal gel, which is cold to the touch, to help lower the temperature of trapped body heat. Other models are infused with phase-changing gel, which transitions from a solid to a liquid when body heat is detected and essentially cools the mattress from the inside out.

Today, 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. Select innerspring mattresses (which feature open coils) are also made with gel memory foam components. Some mattresses feature gel-infused latex or gel-infused conventional polyfoam, as well.

 

Does Gel Memory Foam Work?

Gel memory foam, like standard memory foam, often conforms to sleepers bodies for improved spinal alignment and pressure relief. The material also produces little to no noise, and can effectively isolate motion. But in terms of sleeping cooler, results vary sharply by brand. It’s also important to note that gel memory foam wears out over time, and may lose some of its cooling properties after prolonged use.

The table below lists results from our mattress performance findings, which are generated through authentic customer experiences with different mattress brands. Please note: if a brand or model is not listed below, this means we have not received enough customer feedback to generate an accurate performance rating.  

Mattress Brand/ModelComfort Layer SpecsHeat Retention/ Sleeping Hot Rating
Bob-O-Pedic 9 Gel2″ Gel Memory FoamFair
Bob-O-Pedic 9 Hybrid2″ Gel Memory Foam
1″ Memory Foam
Very Good
Bob-O-Pedic GelGel Memory Foam
Latex
Fair
Cirrus Gel2″ Gel Memory Foam
2″ Memory Foam
Fair
Englander Tension EaseGel Memory FoamGood
Ghostbed1 1/2″ Latex
2″ Gel Memory Foam
Fair
Lull1 1/2″ Gel Memory Foam
1 1/2″ Memory Foam
Fair
Restonic BrioLatex
Gel Memory Foam
Polyfoam
Fair
Restonic HealthRest TempagelGel Memory Foam
Latex
Fair
Restonic Hybrid SignatureGel Memory FoamGood
Sealy Performance (Response Line)4–6″ Polyfoam
1/2″ Gel Memory Foam
Good
Sealy Premium (Response Line)3 1/2-6 1/2″ Polyfoam
1/2″ Gel Memory Foam
Good
Serta iComfort Memory Foam3/4-2″ Gel Memory Foam
1-3″ Memory Foam
1-2″ Polyfoam
1-1 1/2″ Air Foam
Fair
Signature Sleep 13-14″ Spring1-1 1/2″ Polyfoam
1″ Gel Memory Foam
Good
Simmons Beautyrest Platinum HybridMemory Foam
Gel Memory Foam
Latex (Select Models)
Very Good
Simmons Beautyrest SilverPolyfoam
Gel Polyfoam
Gel Memory Foam
Good
Simmons Beautyrest Silver HybridPolyfoam
Memory Foam
Gel Memory Foam
Very Good
Simmons Beautyrest PlatinumPolyfoam
Gel Memory Foam
Good
Sleep Science Memory Foam1-4″ Memory Foam
2-3 1/2″ Polyfoam
2-3″ Gel Memory Foam (Select Models)
Fair
Yogabed1″ Polyfoam
2″ Gel Memory Foam
Fair

The data listed on this table reveals that hybrids with gel memory foam components have earned much better ratings for sleeping hot than standard all-foam mattresses. Additionally, the amount of gel memory foam used in a comfort system does not appear to play a significant role in reducing heat retention; for example, the Sealy Performance and Premium models have earned ‘Good’ ratings with 1/2″ of gel memory foam in their comfort systems, while the Bob-O-Pedic 9 Gel has earned a lesser ‘Fair’ rating with 2″ of gel memory foam.

Most mattresses that use standard memory foam instead of gel memory foam have earned ratings of ‘Fair’ or ‘Good’ in the heat retention category. Using these data points for our comparison, gel memory foam does not necessarily sleep cooler than standard memory foam.

 

Should You Buy a Mattress with Gel Memory Foam?

Gel memory foam may help certain sleepers stay cool and comfortable during the night. However, individuals that tend to sleep warm or hot should focus less on gel memory foam layers and more on mattress type. Overall, hybrid mattresses earned the most favorable customer ratings for heat retention, followed by innersprings. For more details, please check out the table below:

Mattress TypeDescriptionAverage Heat Retention RatingWhat Users Say
FoamComfort system contains layer(s) of polyfoam or viscoelastic foam (memory foam)
Support core is usually made of high-density polyfoam
FairSleeping hot is a chief complaint among memory foam sleepers
InnerspringComfort system usually contains layer(s) of conventional polyfoam
Support core contains steel coils
GoodInnersprings tend to sleep fairly cooler than foam and latex mattresses, according to our customer feedback
LatexComfort system contains layers of latex, a fluid substance extracted from the rubber tree
Support core is usually made of high-density polyfoam
FairLatex can act as a heat trap, but the material tends to sleep somewhat cooler than foam
HybridComfort system contains layers of latex, memory foam, microcoils, and or polyfoam
Support core contains pocketed (encased) coils
Very GoodHybrids have earned the best customer ratings for heat retention among all mattress types
AirbedComfort system usually has foam layer(s)
Support core features adjustable air chambers
FairSome airbeds retain heat to an uncomfortable degree, and this quality is usually found in models with thicker-than-average comfort systems

Customer experiences with gel memory foam will vary from brand to brand. We recommend testing out mattresses with both standard memory foam and gel-infused foam components before making a purchase; most brick-and-mortar mattress stores will have a good selection of both.

Additionally, a large number of today’s mattress brands offer mattress sleep trials that allow customers to return their mattress within a certain number of days following the original purchase. In most cases, customers that return their mattress within the trial period will receive a full or partial product refund; some companies allow customers to exchange their mattress during the sleep trial, as well.

To compare mattress models with gel memory foam layers, please visit our Sleep Product Database.

 
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