Gel Memory Foam vs Memory Foam: What’s The Difference?

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written by sleep expert Lauren Hall

Gel Memory Foam vs Memory Foam Mattresses:

When searching for a new mattress you may find yourself coming across a wide array of memory foam vs gel-infused memory foam mattresses and may wonder to yourself what is the difference and which one is best for me? 

Well let me tell you, I’m here to answer all your questions.

Now memory foam mattresses have advanced massively over the years and adapted to make the material cooler, more ventilated, and more comfortable throughout the night. There are some key differences between a regular memory foam mattress and one that is gel-infused. 

However, it can make our job as a buyer more difficult as you’re not too sure which one is which or which one you should go for, with more memory mattresses than you can count, there’s no wonder we find it difficult.

But wait let me tell you something:

To make life easier for you, I have factored in all the confusing features: all the differences, benefits, and limitations of both and then an overall summary of which one is best for whom. 

Memory foam is one of the most comfortable materials, it conforms to your body’s shape and evenly distributes your body’s weight while relieving pressure points. So if you find the right one and take notes from my top tips then you will be thanking yourself later. 

To help figure out which is best for you, stay tuned! 

What is a Memory Foam Mattress?

First things first we need to distinguish the main differences between traditional memory foam and gel memory foam. Memory foam is made by treating polyurethane foam with chemicals in order to increase its density and viscosity. It is a soft layer that is said to add comfort and improve sleep quality.

Memory foam, which is also known as viscoelastic foam that conforms to your body, relieving pressure points along the way. Its malleable properties react to temperature allowing it to mold itself according to your sleeping position and distribute your body weight.

It has also been said to have benefits in relieving muscle pain, thanks to it being able to conform to your body’s shapes and curves, and also by relieving pressure points it allows for muscles to heal and promote a better sleep posture while you sleep.

Traditional memory foam is also brilliant for providing cradling support and pressure sensitivity. These mattresses will conform to your unique body shape and provide you with the right cushion and support, allowing for effective spinal alignment.

Traditional 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.

Memory foam has been sold since the 90s and although it has evolved with time to tackle its one disadvantage: heat retention. Traditional memory foam mattresses have a close-cell design which led to trapped body heat, causing the mattress to heat up.

Nowadays you will find a wide range of infusions as well as a much more ventilated design to tackle and ventilate heat. Infusions are designed to dissipate heat and draw heat away from your body while the ventilated design was made to evenly distribute and circulate airflow.

Infusions included gel, copper, lavender, and much more and that’s when we get into gel memory foam.


What is a gel memory foam mattress?

Gel memory foam was introduced to tackle and dissipate body heat away from your body so you can have a well-rested night’s sleep without being disturbed by a hot or cold sweat throughout the night.

Gel memory foam mattresses are either infused with gel beads (capsules of gel) into the memory foam, swirling liquid gel into the memory foam, or even adding gel on top of the comfort layer. Each works differently in dissipating heat and keeping you cool while having the benefits of the conforming memory foam. 

So you can enjoy the cooling sensation of the gel while having the pressure-relieving and conforming features of the memory foam as a whole without feeling too hot throughout the night. 

Some memory foam mattresses have thermal gel infused in the mattress which absorbs body heat to lower temperature while others use ‘phase-changing materials’. They help to cool your body down and keep you at that regulated temperature. 

Some gel memory foam beds may have better cooling capabilities than others, it all depends on the structure of the mattress as well as the layers, also how hot the sleeper gets at night. Gel-infused memory foam paired with a ventilated design has been said to have many benefits for dissipating body heat and regulating body temperature. 

When a memory foam bed 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”. 

Difference Between Memory Foam vs Gel Memory Foam:

There are some key similarities and some key differences to consider between memory foam and gel memory foam:


– They both offer body contouring, a memory foam mattress molds, and conforms to your unique body shape in order to relieve pressure points and align your spine. This is brilliant for cushioning, support, and pain relief while you sleep so you wake up feeling well-rested. 

– They limit motion and noise while tossing and turning, making them brilliant for couples

– They vary in different sizes, thicknesses, thicknesses in order to meet the needs of the stomach, back, and side sleepers. 

– They are ideal for those suffering from back pain as memory foam and gel memory foam mattresses align the spine and relieve pressure points all over your body, providing effective lumbar support.


– Gel memory foam mattresses make your mattress feel cooler in comparison to a regular one, thanks to the gel infusion dissipating body heat and regulating body temperature. 

– Gel memory foam also springs back much faster than traditional memory foam, so it will conform to your body shape without leaving a dent when you wake up in the morning. 

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.

Other Gel-Infused Memory Foam Bedding Accessories: 

Gel memory foam has become increasingly popular in recent years and now you will find it in most memory foam bedding accessories. If you don’t want to invest in the price of a memory foam mattress these gel-infused memory foam mattresses pads and toppers are much more affordable!

Gel-infused Mattress Topper:

A mattress topper adds a layer of gel memory foam to your bed to adjust the firmness or softness of the mattress underneath. Gel-infused mattress toppers range in sizes from 2-4 inches in thickness. 

They’re a much cheaper option of buying a gel memory foam mattress as it gives you the feel of the gel foam before you decide to buy one. Mattress toppers are brilliant for adding softness and support to a firm mattress or adding a level of firmness to one that is too soft. 

They also prolong the life of your mattress and make it feel like new. Gel-infused memory foam toppers allow you to keep cool throughout the night while aligning your spine, relieving pressure points and providing you with the comfort you need for a good night’s sleep. 

Gel-Infused Mattress Pads: 

Mattress pads are very similar to mattress toppers but they are often much thinner, they aim to protect the mattress, provide an added layer of comfort while including cooling agents to dissipate heat and regulate body temperature throughout the night. 

They are designed to add a bit of softness to a mattress that is too firm or to firm up a mattress that is too soft and doesn’t provide enough support. 


Other Cooling Variations to A Gel Memory Foam Mattress:

Gel memory foam mattresses are not the only mechanism implemented to keep your memory foam bed cool and allow you to feel well-rested in the morning. The structural design, infusions, plant-based substitutes and cover materials play an important role in the coolness of your mattress. 

Structure of the mattress: 

Some memory foam mattresses are designed with convoluted air holes and air channels that go within the memory foam. This helps to enhance breathability and allow for as much airflow possible in a memory foam mattress. 

They run in certain areas where optimal airflow is needed the most, as well as air pockets all throughout the mattress. The ventilated structure plus the paired gel infusion helps to dissipate heat, regulate body temperature, airflow and draw heat away from the body. 

Infusions added to the mattress: 

Instead of gel, manufacturers add other infusions within the mattress such as graphite or copper. This is because they are brilliant heat conductors and will draw away body heat and regulate body temperature throughout the night. 

Copper, gel and graphite work to enhance the coolness of the mattress by dissipating heat away from your body, drawing away body heat and regulating optimal temperature for you while you sleep. 

Cover material:

High-quality memory foam beds often come with a fitted cover that is breathable and transforms body heat into energy. Having a cover that is breathable on a memory foam mattress is so important as it prevents heat from getting trapped within the foam. 

Breathable covers include cotton and bamboo are naturally breathable and regulate air flow throughout the night to keep you cool. 


Does a gel memory foam mattress sag?

Sagging can be a concern, mainly at the edges as a result of access weight while getting in and out of bed. To tackle this memory foam is made with enhanced edge support to prevent this excess weight form from affecting the mattress. 

Luckily most manufacturers also include sagging of more than 1-inch in their warranties, so if it begins to sag you may be able to get it replaced under the warranty for free! 

An innerspring mattress is much more likely to sag than a memory foam one as the coils wear out and lose their support. 

Does a gel-foam mattress lead to off-gassing?

Like regular memory foam, the gel has some amount of an off-gassing smell when you first get your mattress, however, it is never usually a cause for concern as it won’t be harmful to your health. There are some cases of minor headaches due to the smell but that is all.

When buying a memory foam mattress, make sure it is CertiPUR-US certified to ensure you’re getting high-quality materials and products that don’t have any harmful chemicals. 


Summary: Gel vs Memory Foam: 

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 mould 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. If you’re a hot sleeper looking for a memory foam option then I would recommend trying one out that has a breathable, ventilated design as well as being infused with gel.

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.

Happy sleeping!

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