Which Is Better – Gel or Memory Foam Mattress?

Last Updated: May 28, 2018.

How does gel foam compete against the popular memory foam mattress? You may have found in your research that memory foam mattresses offer perfect back support. With the addition of “gel” infused within your mattress, you expect a cooler sleep. However, is this the case? How much better are gel foam mattress compared to the popular memory foam mattresses? In this article, we go through what the gel in gel foam is, what it does for you and your sleep and whether it’s worth your money.

It’s important to get the right answer because gel foam can be 5 to 20% more expensive than memory foam. There is also buzz in the mattress community how gel foam is a marketing ploy to sell higher-priced mattresses to consumers. Finding the right information and answers is difficult because of the opinions surrounding the topic. This article aims to clarify the myths that surround gel foam and how it can benefit your sleep over the next several years.

What Is Gel Foam?

One major complaint mattress users have is how hot they are during the night. The heat from their body and bed cause sweaty nights and interrupted sleep. Manufacturers eventually came up with the solution now known as gel foam.

Gel foam is a type of memory foam mattress with an extra ingredient: the gel infused inside the mattress. A common misconception is that there is a thick blob of gel layered within the mattress. What it is are gel particles mixed with the polyurethane foam (aka memory foam). When you think of gel foam, think of memory foam with microscopic gel beads added to it.

The gel infused in mattresses use a low thermally conductive material commonly found in sports equipment and reusable ice packs. Although the exact ingredient formula and the mix is a trade secret, a major ingredient to gel foam mattresses is phase-changing material.

The phase-changing material, known as PCM, regulates temperature extremely well. They have low thermal conductivity, absorbing heat from your body over time for better sleep. It also releases heat well, creating a cooler surface for your bed. PCM is non-toxic and not flammable, meaning they aren’t poisonous to you and your skin.

How Does A Gel Foam Mattress Help Me Sleep Better?

Gel foam providers a “cooler” surface for sleep. The cooling isn’t as over the top as most marketing ploys tend to say they can be. Much of the “cooling” experience is determined by the bedding material you use and the temperature and airflow of your bedroom. However, gel foam mattresses achieve two things:

  • Increase airflow
  • Reduces heat

With the addition of the substance, your mattress looks like a piece of cheese with holes in it. The holes might not be as big as you may be picturing it. The granular gap created by gel particles provide space for air to circulate within the layers of your foam-based mattress.

You won’t hear your mattress breathe out loud. However, during your sleep, as you shift and turn, the extra airflow means a better cooling mattress overall. Heat also dissipates better, reducing the heat build up that causes the common complaint of hot flashes during sleep.

When you fall asleep, your body is at its warmest. Naturally, the body will cool, but having a cooler room and mattress surface means falling asleep better.

Are Gel Foam Mattresses Worth The Money?

If you love the support that memory foam mattresses offer and want to do whatever you can to achieve the best sleep possible, then gel foam mattresses are worth it.

You can expect anywhere between 5 to 20% markup in price when comparing gel foam mattresses to similar memory foam mattresses. For example, if a 12-inch memory foam mattress is $400, a 12-inch gel foam mattress will be $420 to $480. Assuming the gel foam mattress will last for a six years (memory foam mattresses last an average of 6 to 7 years before comfort levels noticeably decline), then that means you are paying at most an additional $0.037 for every night of sleep.

If you are looking to replace your bed with a gel foam mattress, be sure to visit our gel foam reviews page for the best ones.

In the grand scheme of providing yourself a better quality sleep for half a decade, the additional 4 cents each day is worth every penny if you can climb into a bed that can provide a better cooling sleep.

Gel foam mattresses, like popular memory foam mattresses, offer full body support. Depending on the number of layers and the density of the foam, you will have a range of firmness to choose from. Typically less layers and higher density makes your mattress firmer, while more layers and lower density provide a softer surface sleep experience.

Our Final Thoughts

When it comes to gel vs. memory foam mattress, the marketing hype around gel-infused mattresses might be overstepping the cooling technology of gel. The gel foam mattresses have a cooler surface than memory foam mattresses but at the increase in price. If you have trouble sleeping at night because of heat, then the materials in the gel foam mattress will help you sleep cooler at night.


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