Everything you need to know when choosing a cooling mattress, including how they work and what they're for.
Body temperature changes during the night are completely normal - in fact, they help to regulate your sleep cycles. Your body temperature should drop while you sleep, but in the hot summer months - or if you suffer from hot flushes - you may find yourself still feeling too hot at night.
This is where a cooling mattress can help. The inclusion of certain materials and innovative technology keeps you at the optimal sleeping temperature, so you don’t wake up in a pool of sweat.
Cooling mattresses - known in the industry as ‘passive cooling systems’ - are designed to create a cooler, fresher sleeping environment. Mattress and sleep technology is now so innovative that some mattresses come equipped with special cooling features, such as graphite strips or cool gel memory foam that actively draws heat away from your body.
Want to know what cooling mattresses our product experts recommend? Read our guide to The Best Cooling Mattresses For Hot Sleepers 2023.
There are three types of cooling mattresses - gel, open-cell and natural fibre. Here’s a breakdown of how each works:
Cooling gel mattresses are the most popular type of cooling mattress. This special cooling material can be found as either a layer within a mattress, or infused in memory foam. Cooling gel memory foam is incredibly popular, as it combines cooling properties with comfort and pressure relief.
This special type of memory foam is infused with tiny gel beads which are able to stay cool for a long time, creating a stable temperature.
You’ll see ‘cool gel memory foam’ as a feature on a lot of our cooling mattresses, while some mattress brands will have their own bespoke version, such as Sleepeezee’s ‘Staycool™ Gel’, or Sealy and Silentnight’s ‘Geltex®’, which also manage moisture levels.
For even more information on how gel can be used in foam mattresses, read our Gel Foam Mattress Buying Guide.
Open cell memory foam is similar to ordinary memory foam, but has an internal structure that features ‘pockets’ (or ‘open cells’) which prevent heat retention and promote air flow.
Open cell mattresses allow you to have all the benefits of a memory foam mattress, but without the warmth that is commonly associated with them. In fact, open-cell mattresses actively cool you down, by promoting air circulation and drying excess moisture.
For more information on what type of memory foam mattress is best for you, read our Memory Foam Mattress Buying Guide.
If you don’t think you need an extreme cooling feature such as cooling gel, but still prefer a fresher sleep, a mattress with layers of natural fibres will be ideal.
Materials such as silk, cotton and even bamboo help to create a refreshing sleeping environment. Cotton, for example, wicks away excess moisture, so if you suffer from night sweats, a mattress that features layers of natural cotton will keep you nice and dry.
Natural mattresses allow for much greater airflow, especially when combined with pocket springs or traditional coil spring systems. This ventilation creates a naturally cooling effect, keeping you dry and fresh.
A lot of people enjoy a cooler bed at night, so more mattresses are beginning to include innovative cooling features that take gel and open-celled foam to a whole new level.
Here are some of our favourite cooling mattress features from popular brands:
Geltex® is a super intelligent material that can be found in some of our Sealy and Silentnight mattresses. It uses a combination of gel molecules, foam crystals and air capsules, which actively draws heat away from your body, as well as promotes air circulation.
Emma have taken open cell foam and developed it to create a mattress feature that keeps you cool all night long. This special foam is incredibly open pored, allowing for 50% air percentage within the mattress. This allows the foam to retain and release the perfect amount of heat, ensuring a comfortable, cool sleeping climate.
Innovative sleep experts at Sleepeezee have created Staycool Gel, which forms a heat preventing layer in their cooling mattresses. This stops the buildup of heat in the mattress, while the Graphite Strips actively draw the heat from your body away. These features together, such as in Sleepeezee’s Cool Rest range, provide an exceptional cooling experience.
Simba are hugely dedicated to creating cool mattresses that prevent overheating at night. By infusing their cooling foam with graphite, which naturally draws heat away from your body, this foam has 30 times more airflow than regular memory foam.
In their Cool Gel Latex range, rather than infusing memory foam with cooling gel beads, Relyon use body-contouring latex. Latex naturally has less heat retaining properties than memory foam, enhancing the level of coolness you experience. This material is found within their innovative eCool quilt, which uses Cool Touch technology to regulate your temperature throughout the night.
Using MLILY’s Fresh and Cool Technology, BambuCool Memory Foam is infused with Bamboo, which absorbs excess moisture i.e. sweat. This means you stay dry all night long, without that sticky summer night feeling. You won’t get too hot or too cold, but stay at the right temperature.
For really hot sleepers, we’d suggest pairing a mattress with one of these features with a cooling mattress topper, which can be removed in the winter if you start to get too cold. We also have a range of cooling duvets and pillows - you can read about our favourites in our guide to the Best Cooling Bedding For Hot Sleepers.
If you’re worried about memory foam mattresses retaining heat, you should look for one that mentions ‘open-cell’ in its description or has an additional cooling feature, such as cool gel.
Mattress manufacturers are increasingly incorporating graphite into their cooling mattresses, especially in foam mattresses. This is because graphite has excellent natural heat-removing properties, which counteracts the heat retention of foam, and provides a cooler sleep.
Latex mattresses are also a great alternative to memory foam, as the offer the same body contouring properties, but retain far less heat.
Cooling mattress toppers are incredibly popular, as they can easily be removed when the weather changes and you no longer want a cold bed. You might be interested in a memory foam mattress topper, but are worried about it getting too hot. In this case, choose a memory foam topper that features an open-cell structure, which will help air flow through and keep you cool.
One of our favourite cooling mattress toppers is the Emma® Flip Memory Foam Mattress Topper, which is designed to be flipped to suit your individual needs. On one side, you'll enjoy incredible pressure relieving qualities, and then in the summer you can flip it over to reveal a softer, cooling side that regulates your temperature and wicks away excess moisture, like sweat.
You should also consider how your bed frame impacts the heat of your mattress. A bed frame that enhances air circulation will help to cool down your mattress, especially if you choose a memory foam cooling mattress.
Opt for a divan bed or base with slats that allow air to flow freely - trapped air will cause your sleep set-up to become warm. To read more, you can read our guide to The Best Bed Bases For Memory Foam Mattresses.
If you're struggling with symptoms of the menopause and experiencing night sweats, a cooling mattress or topper will help you sleep far more soundly. By continuously managing your temperature, a cooling mattress will immediately relieve the discomfort of night sweats without waking you up.
If you're trying to stay cool at night during the menopause, we'd recommend a mattress that has orthopaedic as well as cooling properties, such as the Coolflex® Hybrid ICE Mattress, as this will also help with joint pain and back ache. For more tips on managing hot flashes and night sweats, read our guide on dealing with the menopause at night.
For more advice on choosing the right type of mattress for you, read our Mattress Buying Guide.