Mattress Guides

Gel-Infused Memory Foam

Say goodbye to hot nights with cooling gel-infused memory foam

By Alex Reale

Creating the perfect sleep environment can be tough, especially when it comes to temperature regulation. If you consider yourself to be a “hot sleeper,” then you’re one of many people who deal with such an issue. Nobody likes to feel hot or sweaty while they rest, so it’s crucial that you find a mattress that will keep you nice and cool. Fortunately, there is one solution that you can try that is likely to help you out with your situation: gel-infused memory foam.

What Is Gel-Infused Foam?

You may be familiar with traditional memory foam and how it works in mattresses, but gel-infused foam takes that winning formula and adds temperature regulating material to the mix. Gel memory foam is constructed from the same viscoelastic material commonly found in regular memory foam mattresses, but it introduces one extra factor: gel. In a gel memory foam mattress, you’ll find millions of tiny liquid gel beads infused within the material, which will allow you to sleep cooler by promoting extra airflow and wicking away moisture. 

When it comes to mattress technology, gel-infused memory foam may sound too good to be true, but it was carefully constructed to aid hot sleepers who are tired of waking up due to overheating in the middle of the night.

Does Gel Memory Foam Actually Work?

Everyone has a different sleep personality, which means that not everybody may have the same exact experience when trying out a new mattress. However, in a traditional sense, regular memory foam has long been recognized for being a “hot” mattress material, due to the fact that it can cause sleepers to sink into the mattress, thus trapping body heat and moisture. Conversely, gel memory foam features special cooling properties and attributes that counteract such issues and prevent you from sleeping hot while also wicking away moisture. 

How Does Gel Memory Foam Work?

There are several ways that gel memory foam helps keep sleepers cool. The types of gel beads used in its construction are specially designed to reduce or regulate body temperature. Depending on the manufacturer, these beads can either consist of thermal gel, a cool-to-the-touch material, or phase-changing gel, which has the ability to transition from solid to liquid at a certain temperature, helping to draw heat away from the body. No matter the type of gel beads found in a gel memory foam mattress, they are designed to have a lasting cooling effect that surpasses that of standard memory foam.

Another way that gel memory foam helps with cooling is through its (slightly) firmer sleep surface. With regular memory foam, sleepers (especially those with heavier frames) may tend to sink into the mattress. This causes the mattress to wrap around them and “hug” them, leading to heat becoming trapped and producing a stifling feeling. Gel memory foam is slightly denser, resulting in a firmer sleep surface that reduces sinkage, but still manages to be soft enough for comfort.

Gel Memory Foam and Different Sleep Positions

A major factor to consider when choosing the right cooling mattress is your sleep position, which can ultimately impact not just your sleeping temperature, but also your comfort as a whole.

Side Sleeper

If you sleep on your side, you’ll want a softer mattress that properly cradles your shoulders, hips, and neck, all while ensuring your spine stays aligned. A gel memory foam mattress is dense enough to keep you from totally sinking into the bed, but it still provides just the right amount of body contouring and comfort for side sleepers to remain comfortable. Our best mattress for side sleepers breakdown can provide more information if you’re interested.

Stomach Sleeper

Stomach sleepers need a mattress that supports the shoulders, hips, legs, and neck. A gel memory foam bed may be slightly firmer than a traditional memory foam option, but it’s still on the softer side, which means that it can cause stomach sleepers’ hips to sink in, potentially throwing off spinal alignment. Overall, a gel memory foam mattress may not be the best option for a stomach sleeper unless they have a lighter body frame. Dedicated stomach sleeper? Take a look at our best mattresses for stomach sleepers page.

Back Sleeper

Back sleepers also need a mattress that is firm enough to keep their shoulders, neck, legs, and hips supported, but it doesn’t need to be as firm as a mattress for stomach sleepers. Gel memory foam can provide just the right amount of support for back sleepers unless they have larger, heavier frames. For more, head over to our best mattresses for back sleepers.

Combination Sleeper

Combination sleepers can have some trouble finding the right mattress due to their constant shifting and position changing throughout the night. Gel memory foam mattresses can be great for combination sleepers as long as they spend more time on their sides and back than on their stomachs. For a more comprehensive look at what it means to be a combo sleeper, head to our best mattress for combination sleepers page.

Gel Foam vs Regular Foam

Gel foam and traditional memory foam mattresses share many of the same qualities. They are both ideal for side sleepers and people with back or neck pain who want a mattress that provides body conforming and contouring to relieve pressure points. They are both also excellent when it comes to reducing motion transfer, which is the act of movement traveling across the sleep surface whenever someone gets in or out of bed, making them both great choices for couples. 

The primary differences between gel foam and regular memory foam revolve around cooling. The added gel beads of gel memory foam allow it to have a higher level of breathability and cooling, while regular memory foam is notorious for heat retention, making the former a much cooler sleep option. Gel memory foam mattresses also consist of high-density foam, which can increase durability and allow them to have a longer lifespan.

One thing to remember is that gel memory foam is a relatively new technology that only started emerging in the 2010s, whereas regular memory foam has been used in mattresses since the 90s. Traditional memory foam has more history behind it, but gel memory foam is quickly catching up in terms of popularity. Take a look at our best memory foam mattresses page for a collection of fantastic traditional and gel foam mattresses.

Gel-Infused Bed Accessories

Since gel-infused mattresses were first introduced, gel beads have made their way into other bedding accessories as well. If you’d like to further cool down your sleep experience, you can consider adding these other items to your sleep repertoire.

Gel Memory Foam Mattress Pad

A mattress pad is a thin top layer of material that’s added onto a mattress to increase softness. Adding a gel-infused memory foam mattress pad to your gel memory foam mattress can promote additional cooling and air circulation, or it can be added to another mattress type, such as traditional memory foam, latex, or innerspring.

Gel Memory Foam Topper

A mattress topper is a slightly thicker version of a pad that not only adds a level of comfort to your mattress, but can also prolong its life and help keep it protected. Like with a mattress pad, you can use a topper to add an extra layer of comfort to your existing bedding.

Related: Best Cooling Mattress Toppers

Gel Memory Foam Pillow

If you tend to get hot around your head and neck, then you may want to consider a gel-infused memory foam pillow. These cooling pillows can also do wonders for keeping your neck and spine aligned while reducing aches and pains around your shoulders.

Should You Buy a Gel Foam Mattress?

While hunting for the best mattress for yourself, make sure to consider your personal sleep style and preferences. As mentioned previously, every person has a different sleep personality, so the type of mattress that works for one sleeper may not work for another. As a rule of thumb, it’s advised that you look into gel memory foam if you’re a hot sleeper who is trying to sleep cooler.

You can also consider gel memory foam if you share your bed with someone else and desire motion isolation, if you’re a side, back, or combination sleeper, or if you’re looking for extra pressure relief in your neck and back. If you’re a hot stomach sleeper, you can consider adding a gel-infused memory foam pad or topper to a firmer bedding option, such as an innerspring mattress.