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Does Gel Memory Foam Really Sleep Cooler?

Written by Keith Cushner

Quick Overview

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.

Read on to learn more about gel memory foam. This guide also includes a brief look at cooling properties of today’s best-selling mattresses with gel memory foam layers.

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 eight of today’s best-selling mattresses with at least one gel memory foam layer.

Mattress Brand/Model Mattress Type Comfort Layer Specs Temperature Neutrality Rating Our Findings
Bear Hybrid Hybrid 3" Polyfoam 2" Gel Memory Foam Very Good The Bear hybrid mattress will be more temperature neutral than the all foam Bear mattress, as the pocketed coils provide better aeration and trap less heat.
Brooklyn Signature Hybrid 2" Gel Polyfoam 2" HD Polyfoam Very Good Good airflow throughout the coil layer allows the Signature to sleep cool and comfortable for most.
DreamCloud Hybrid 0.5" Gel-infused Memory Foam 1.75" Quilted Memory Foam 0.5" Natural Latex 0.25" Standard Memory Foam Good Though it uses dense foams in its comfort layers, the DreamCloud's cover and coil support base help to keep airflow across the surface.
GhostBed Luxe Foam Phase-change Material 2" Gel Memory Foam 2" HR Polyfoam Good The GhostBed Luxe sleeps somewhat cool compared to other memory foam models.
Helix LUXE Hybrid Pillow-Top Layer 2.5 PCF Gel Memory Foam 2.45 PCF 'Helix Dynamic' Latex-Polyfoam Foam OR 2.5 PCF Memory Foam HD Polyfoam Very Good LUXE hybrids provide strong air circulation through the coil layer, which helps cool off the bed and maintain a comfortable sleep temperature throughout the night.
Loom & Leaf Foam 2.5" 5PCF Gel-infused Memory Foam 2" 4PCF Memory Foam Fair Loom & Leaf mattresses feature cooling gel foam layers in the comfort system, but some owners still claim their mattress is a heat trap.
Nectar Foam 1" Quilted Gel Memory Foam 1" 4 PCF Gel Memory Foam 3" 3.5 PCF Memory Foam Good The Nectar mattress sleeps somewhat warm, but the lyocell cover and gel memory foam offer more breathability than many competing memory foam models
WinkBed Innerspring 1" 1.5 PCF Polyfoam (17 ILD) 1" 1.5 PCF Gel Polyfoam (17 ILD) 2 1/2" Foam-encased Pocketed Microcoils Very Good The Winkbeds mattress is similar to other innerspring models and shouldn't trap heat compared to memory foam and other all-foam construction

Our data reveals hybrids and innersprings with gel-infused foam components have earned much better ratings for temperature neutrality 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.

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 Type Description Average Temperature Neutrality Rating What Sleepers Say
Foam Comfort system contains layer(s) of polyfoam or viscoelastic foam (memory foam) Support core is usually made of high-density polyfoam Poor to Fair Sleeping hot is a chief complaint among memory foam sleepers
Innerspring Comfort system usually contains layer(s) of conventional polyfoam Support core contains steel coils Good to Very Good Innersprings tend to sleep cooler than foam and latex mattresses
Latex Comfort system contains layers of latex, a fluid substance extracted from the rubber tree Support core is usually made of high-density polyfoam Fair to Good Latex can act as a heat trap, but the material tends to sleep somewhat cooler than foam – especially when ventilated
Hybrid Comfort system contains layers of latex, memory foam, microcoils, and or polyfoam Support core contains pocketed (encased) coils Very Good Hybrids have earned the best customer ratings for heat retention among all mattress types
Airbed Comfort system usually has foam layer(s) Support core features adjustable air chambers Fair to Good Some airbeds retain heat to an uncomfortable degree, and this quality is usually found in models with thicker-than-average comfort systems Additionally, airbeds sleep excessively cold for some

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 complete list of mattress reviews.

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