If you’ve spent any time searching for a mattress lately, you might have run into the latest battle for comfort: gel foam vs. memory foam gel foam vs memory foam.
Which is best? Well, that depends on what you want from a mattress and how much you want to spend.
When it comes to gel foam and memory foam, you’re going experience a similar amount of comfort; the real pickle is the choice between the heat-retention and lower price of memory foam or the higher cost but cooler sleep of gel-infused memory foam.
See our article about Polyurethane Foam – Comfort and Support Layers
What is Gel Memory Foam?
Before we go any further, let’s first clearly define exactly what gel infused memory foam mattresses are. This material was largely introduced to consumers in 2011, and it was designed specifically to help keep the body temperature down in order to help encourage entrance into the more rejuvenating stages of sleep.
A good way to visualize how this works is to consider a gel ice pack. In much the same way as the gel inside the pack keeps your food cold, the gel infused into the mattress helps keep your body cool.
Types of Gel Memory Foam
As with most types of products on the market, different companies have put their own spin on the manufacturing of gel memory foam products. For example, some mattresses incorporate a gel pad layer either on top or beneath other layers of the product. It can also be poured into the foam mold as it sets or even placed within the layers in bead form. It’s worth mentioning that a gel-infused product can often offer higher cooling properties as beads often warm up to body temperature and then cease to offer the same degree of temperature regulation. This is more often the case when the gel beads are located in the upper comfort layer.
Gel Memory Foam vs. Regular Memory Foam
Gel and traditional memory foams offer many of the same benefits. For starters, they can both be a good solution for sleep partners as memory foam in general is known for its ability to successfully reduce motion transfer. Many of us saw the old commercials when memory foam was still a relatively new idea. A glass of red wine was placed on the mattress while someone jumped up and down next to it.
The contents of the glass didn’t even move. This was not a sales gimmick. I later purchased a Tempurpedic traditional memory foam mattress, and I was very impressed with the motion isolation it was capable of providing. I was equally impressed with its ability to conform to my body and help reduce pressure points. However, there were those two notorious areas that prevailed: sleeping hot and feeling stuck.
Gel Memory Foam
Regular Memory Foam
Is Gel Memory Foam Better?
Things have come a long way since the introduction of traditional memory foam, and, in my experience, cool memory foam mattresses utilizing gel properties helped me stay significantly cooler. They also typically incorporate a combination of additional layers to help prevent you from sinking in too far, thus feeling stuck.
Will Gel-Infused Memory Foam Affect Durability?
The purchase of a new mattress is typically a sizable investment, and you naturally want to ensure you’re buying a product that will stand the test of time. Because gel memory foam has only been on the market since around 2011, it’s a little early to make determinations about gel-infused memory foam durability in general, but there is a better way to make gauge memory foam mattress durability.
The key lies in the density of the product you may be considering. While good durability in materials like polyfoam would be represented by a high density of between 1.5 to 1.8 pounds per cubic feet, memory foam is different due to the way it’s produced. A quality memory foam product you can expect to last will feature a density of between 4 to 5 pcf regardless of whether or not includes gel technology.
Top 5 Gel Mattress Reviews
Now that you have a better idea of what a gel memory foam mattress is, let’s take a moment to look at a few of the best gel memory foam mattresses we’ve had the chance to try out here at The Sleep Judge.
Brentwood Home Bamboo Gel – Best Budget Gel Mattress
- Warranty: 25 year limited
- Layers: Bamboo, New Zealand Wool, Polyester cover, 3 ½ inches gel memory foam, 2 inch Airflow layer, 7 ½ inch base foam
- Weight: Twin- 36 lbs., Twin XL- 37 lbs., Full- 43 lbs., Queen- 53 lbs., King- 68 lbs., California King- 68 lbs
If you’re on a budget, the Brentwood Home Bamboo Gel mattress is a good value considering that you can purchase the queen size model for less than $600. This product features the gel-infused components in the top comfort layer where you’ll find 3 ½ inches of gel memory foam. When we tested this mattress for heat transfer capabilities, we found that it was able to cool down to 64 degrees Fahrenheit in 10 minutes after laying on it for 30, which is pretty average compared with non-memory foam mattresses we’ve tested. This indicates that the gel does a pretty good job at overcoming hot sleeping.
- Great quality for the cost
- Breathes very well
- Uses natural products
- Excellent motion transfer reduction
- Some complaints of the mattress being too plush
- Some complaints of sagging over time
- Density in memory foam layer is 3 pcf, so this could indicate a compromise in durability (this is typical for a mattress at this price range)
Loom and Leaf – Best Luxury Gel Foam Mattress
- Warranty: 15 years
- Layers: Organic cotton cover quilted with 5/8” foam layer natural thistle flame retardant, 2 inch convoluted memory foam layer with a “gel-swirl”, 2 ½ inches high-density memory foam, 2 inch transition loft pad, 5 ½ inch high-density foam core
- Weight: Not available
If you need a mattress that will last, it’s best to make the investment when you have at least around $1,000 to spend when utilizing the online business model. Loom and Leaf by Saatva is a luxury product that offers the 5 pound density you’re looking for in memory foam, and it incorporates breathable channels with its cooling gel to help you get a good night’s rest. When we put it through our heat transfer test, this product was able to cool down in just 7 ½ minutes. This is 2 ½ minutes faster than average of the products I’ve tested.
- Great quality
- Breathes very well
- High durability expectations
- Far less expensive than many comparable products in the retail mattress industry
- Some complaints of limitations in firmness options
- Can be expensive for those on a budget, although financing is available
- Warranty: 10 year full coverage
- Layers: 3 inches eLux gel memory foam,7 inch high-density support foam base
- Weight: Twin- 46.6 lbs., Twin XL- 49.5 lbs., Full- 89.9 lbs., Queen- 75 lbs., King- 90 lbs., California King- 90 lbs.
Another great option for those on a budget is the eLuxury Supply 10 inch mattress. This is an eco-gel mattress that made without ozone depleters, mercury, lead, and other heavy metals, and, no matter what size you choose, you can expect to spend less than $800. It incorporates the use of millions of cooling gel beads in the comfort layer to help keep you cool. The plush-medium firmness is a good fit for the majority of shoppers.
- Cover is washable
- Minimal odor
- May be too plush for some
- A little sinkage noticed
- Warranty: 10 year limited
- Layers: 1 inch Cool Graphite Gel memory foam, 1 ½ inches Quick Response foam layer, 1 inch Quick Response foam layer, 6 ½ inch foam base
- Weight: Twin- 50 lbs., Twin XL- 50 lbs., Full- 60 lbs., Queen- 70 lbs., King- 90 lbs., California King- 90 lbs.
If you’re an athlete who likes to push your body to the limits, you may appreciate the Celliant Technology-infused cover used in the Bear mattress. This material is scientifically proven to improve muscle recovery and athletic performance. Bear made it their mission in the development of their product to focus on four key areas to satisfy their customers:
- Quality construction
- Little To No off-gassing
- Celiant cover a step above
- Quality materials for the price
- Edge support a little lacking
- Warranty: 12 year limited
- Layers: 1 ½ inch Dunlop comfort layer, 2 ½ inches visco elastic gel foam, 8 inch poly memory foam base
- Weight: Not available
For less than $1,000, Drommabed offers the comfort and support you expect in a sleep product without breaking the bank. This product is 100% American-made, and I found a noticeable reduction in aches and pains upon waking after sleeping on it. It can be a good option for sleep partners who don’t carry a lot of weight as it performed very well during motion isolation testing. You can rest assured that Drommabed makes efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, and they even donate returned products rather than sending them off to the landfill.
- Timely delivery
- Reduction in aches and pains, especially for those who may have been in an accident
- Great motion transfer reduction capability
- Excessive sinkage possible for those who carry a lot of weight
Learn Before You Buy
No matter what product you’re in the market for, it’s important that you understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into. This is especially true when you’re investing in something as impacting on your life as a mattress. The wrong product may not offer you the level of comfort and support you specifically need to get a good night’s rest.
Gel memory foam can be an excellent option for those who carry a lot of weight or who commonly suffer with aches and pains due to pressure points that many mattresses just can’t properly accommodate. Or, perhaps you just like the contour memory foam is capable of offering but have avoided an investment due to their notoriety to sleep hot.
If you plan to use your gel memory foam mattress for a long time, I would recommend you consider Loom and Leaf. If you don’t have the money available, it could be worth taking the some extra time to save up or considering their convenient financing options. However, as you have seen, there are quality products on the market on a budget that can offer you the memory foam experience at a price you can afford.
If you have any questions or comments about finding the best gel infused mattress for you, drop us a line below and we’ll get back with you promptly.