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Gel Memory Foam vs. Memory Foam Mattresses: Which Type Is Better?

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 7 minLast updated on October 5, 2021

The mattress market is bountiful. However, the number of options often makes shoppers feel a little confused.

This minor issue is especially common when users try to pick between gel memory foam vs. memory foam mattresses.

That’s what today’s guide is going to help the readers with. It will cover the main differences between these two mattress types. Hopefully, this will help shoppers figure out which option would be the most suitable for them.

Memory Foam Mattresses Explained

When looking at gel memory foam vs. memory foam mattresses, shoppers need to understand what they are dealing with. 

Now, traditional memory foam has been around for a while. This material uses a combination of polyurethane (a type of polymer) and chemicals that make it temperature-sensitive. As a result, memory foam has an elastic construction. It responds to the applied pressure and body temperature.

These properties of memory foam make this material quite adaptive. It molds to the shape of the sleeper’s body, cradling the protruding (or heavier) body parts and filling in the curves. It usually helps redistribute the weight evenly and, consequently, prevents tension accumulation.

That’s why memory foam mattresses are often used by back pain sufferers or someone seeking instant pressure relief. These mattresses typically have a multilayered construction, with softer foams on top and a sturdy, dense support base.

What Are Gel Memory Foam Mattresses?

Gel memory foam is very similar to regular foam. That’s why looking at memory foam vs. gel memory foam mattresses can be confusing sometimes. 

The main difference is that gel foam uses small gel particles. They are added all through the material and have a specific goal. Gel serves to draw the excess heat away, locking it in and preventing the temperatures from rising during sleep.

That’s why gel memory foam mattresses are so popular among hot sleepers. These mattresses also have a multilayered construction, but the gel is typically used in the top layer only.

That being said, cooling is not the only thing that makes gel memory foam and memory foam mattresses different. Each material type has its pros and cons that may or may not work for certain users.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Memory Foam Mattresses

When it comes to choosing gel memory foam vs. memory foam mattresses, it is essential to look at what they have to offer.

Now, here are the strongest suits of memory foam models:

  • Low motion transfer. Memory foam returns into its shape rather slowly after the pressure is applied. And since there’s no bounce, such mattresses typically do not allow for motion transfer. This quality makes them ideal for couples, especially if one of them is a restless sleeper.
  • Close conforming. Since memory foam adjusts to the shape of one’s body, it is usually associated with reduced pressure (1). Consequently, sleeping on memory foam often leads to pain alleviation as well.
  • Improved spinal alignment. Because memory foam can easily redistribute one’s weight evenly, it also creates favorable conditions to aid proper spinal alignment. As a result, users who sleep on memory foam are likelier to improve their sleeping posture. However, this could be possible only if the firmness of the mattress is suited for one’s sleeping style and weight.
  • Affordability. Of course, there are plenty of high-end memory foam mattresses. But since this type is widely available, there are more than enough options to suit shoppers on a budget. Additionally, most memory foam mattresses offer an impressive quality-to-price ratio.
  • Above-average lifespan. A quality memory foam mattress can serve users for 10 years (sometimes even more).

Moving on to the drawbacks of memory foam mattresses:

  • Heat retention. Memory foam envelops the body and often feels like a warm hug. Additionally, this material is temperature-sensitive and frequently causes heat to build up. As a result, foam mattresses often cause night sweats, especially among larger users and side sleepers (as both tend to sink a bit deeper). Therefore, for chronic hot sleepers, it might be a good idea to look for a good mattress without memory foam or a gel-infused model.
  • Limited mobility. Memory foam mattresses are loved for their deep hug. However, this enveloping quality often makes foam models feel restricting. In other words, memory foam mattresses can be hard to move on. This can be an issue for combination sleepers who switch positions during the night. Additionally, foam is not always ideal for couples, since sex on a memory foam mattress can seem a bit challenging.
  • Fiberglass. Fiberglass is a common choice for a fire barrier in foam models. However, fiberglass can be rather dangerous if it escapes (for instance, if the mattress cover gets ripped). And while there are plenty of great memory foam mattresses without fiberglass, users need to be extra careful when shopping.

Pros and Cons of Gel Memory Foam Mattresses

When looking at memory foam vs. gel memory foam mattresses, it’s easy to notice that these two types have pretty much the same strong suits. Gel foam, just like memory foam, is cradling, pressure-relieving, and motion-isolating. 

However, it has another big advantage – cooler sleep. Gel memory foam does not cause heat accumulation. On the contrary – gel particles keep the heat inside, allowing the sleeper to remain comfortably cool all through the night. 

As for the drawbacks, gel memory foam and memory foam mattresses share the same ones. However, the former has an additional con: higher price. Gel foam mattresses usually cost a bit more than regular memory foam models. That’s why they aren’t suited for all types of shoppers.

Gel Memory Foam vs. Memory Foam Mattresses Side by Side

To help shoppers figure out which mattress type would work for them the best, it might be a good idea to look at their similarities and differences side by side:

Gel memory foam and memory foam similaritiesDifferences
Both are contouring and cradling, great for pressure alleviationMemory foam tends to sleep hot, while gel memory foam remains neutral or can even have a cooling effect
Both are widely available and easy to come byGel memory foam is typically more expensive than memory foam
Both offer good motion isolation suited for partnered sleepThanks to the gel infusion, gel foam mattresses sometimes feel slightly more responsive than memory foam models, which makes the former feel less restricting
Both can aid proper spinal alignment
Both may have off-gassing upon arrival
Both typically have weak edges and thus, offer a bit less sleeping space

Who Will Benefit From a Gel Memory Foam Mattress?

Naturally, since there aren’t too many differences between gel memory foam and memory foam mattresses, the former would work for users seeking improved thermoregulation. In other words, shoppers who want to sleep cooler should opt for gel memory foam.

F.A.Q.

Which is better, memory foam or gel memory foam?

Generally, gel foam is better since it does not trap heat. However, the final answer would depend on what each sleeper is expecting from their new mattress.

Is gel memory foam firmer than regular memory foam?

Adding gel beads to the foam can make it feel slightly firmer. However, the difference isn’t that significant and shouldn’t affect one’s comfort greatly.

Do gel memory foam mattresses have off-gassing?

Yes, just like regular memory foam models, gel foam mattresses often have a noticeable off-gassing upon arrival. However, the odor usually disappears completely within a few days.

Summary

Overall, there aren’t too many differences between gel memory foam and memory foam mattresses.

Still, each type has its peculiarities and would work for specific types of sleepers. Thus, gel memory foam is more suited for chronic hot sleepers, especially heavier users and those who prefer lying on one side.

Which option is better, in your opinion: gel memory foam or memory foam? Share your thoughts in the comments!

References:

  1. Annie Stuart (February 08, 2010). Memory Foam: Pros and Cons. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/memory-foam-pros-and-cons

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