Gel Vs Memory Foam Mattress: What’s The Difference?

lauren hall 1
written by sleep expert Lauren Hall

In your quest to find the perfect new mattress, you might have stumbled on the consumer favorite — memory foam mattresses. Here is our gel vs memory Foam mattress comparison.

While you’ve gone through the brunt of the work, finished sifting through the endless options of brands, sizes, and materials, there are still choices that need to be made.

Memory foam is known to be a comfortable material, having the ability to conform to your body shape by evenly distributing your body weight and responding to your body heat.

But memory foam also comes in a few varieties, from traditional memory foam to plant-based and gel mattresses. To help you figure out which one is best for you, we’ve put together this guide comparing gel foam and memory foam mattresses.

Memory Foam Mattress

Let’s review what a memory foam mattress is. Memory foam is an oil-based chemical product otherwise known as “viscoelastic polyurethane foam”. It is a soft layer that is said to add comfort and improve sleep quality.

Its malleable properties allow it to mold itself according to your sleeping position and distribute your body weight, relieving pressure point tension and preventing chronic back or muscle pain.

Memory foam is also known to be a good shock and motion absorber. This is particularly useful if you share a bed with someone, as your movement throughout the night is less likely to affect your partner’s and you can sleep more soundly.

While widely praised, there are some potential cons to using a memory foam mattress. Because of its chemical nature, memory foam mattresses are known to produce VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the air in a process called “off-gassing”.

It is described much like a new car smell, although it is said to disappear over a period of time.

The health effects of inhaling VOCs are inconclusive, with some researcher saying that the gases are in too small amounts to harm you, while others say that the small amounts add up due to long exposure and can cause adverse health effects.

Either way, this can be a problem for those with allergies or sensitivities to chemicals. Plant-based memory foam, which uses more natural and less toxic materials, is a viable option as it decreases VOC dispersion.

Another con is that due to the nature of memory foam that responds to your body heat in order to mold to your body shape, memory foam mattresses absorb and retain heat easily.

This has caused some to complain about “overheating” and the mattress getting too hot throughout the night easily disrupts a good night’s sleep. Because of this, gel foam mattresses started entering the market.

Gel Foam Mattress

As previously mentioned, gel foam was introduced into the mattress industry to deal with complaints of memory foam overheating.

Gel foam mattresses utilize gel technology by either adding a layer of cooling gel or in between layers as beads. The purpose of the gel layer is to keep your body temperature down by absorbing excess heat and releasing it away from the body and mattress.

It’s not that far off to say that gel foam is an improvement over traditional memory foam technology.

When memory foam was first introduced, the technology had yet to be implemented and tried in mattresses, and now with user feedback and testing, not only are gel mattresses designed to keep you cool, they are designed for overall better comfort.

The structuring of additional layers including the gel layer helps provide support and prevent you from sinking in too far into the memory foam and feeling “stuck”. 

Hot And Cold

When it comes down to making a decision, you need to examine your own needs and sleeping habits as memory foam and gel foam have their own pros and cons.

Because both use similar memory foam layer technology, you can expect both to provide softness and comfort. What it comes down to is whether you want to stay warm or cool.

If you tend to heat up and sweat in your sleep, a gel mattress will certainly help you cool down.

It’s still unclear whether the gel infusion affects the overall durability of the mattress, but if you don’t need the extra cooldown factor of the gel, you might want to stick with the tried and true traditional memory foam.

Conclusion – Gel vs Memory Foam Mattress

Generally, memory foam and gel mattresses aren’t all that different as they both use memory foam technology as the basis for their production.

They are both soft and malleable, being able to mold themselves into your body shape and sleeping position. What really sets them apart is the added cooling factor of the gel foam.

The best way to figure out which mattress is perfect for you is to do some more research and try out different types.

To help you start off your mattress quest, here’s a list of the best memory foam mattresses and if you don’t want to buy an entirely new mattress, you can look into memory foam toppers to improve what you already have.

Either way, with a little bit more work you’ll find yourself with the perfect mattress and a good night’s sleep.

Related Post: Best Memory Foam Mattress [Review]