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Gel Foam Mattress Buying Guide

Here's everything you need to know about cool gel mattresses - the ideal mattress for a cooler night's sleep.

A gel foam mattress is a type of memory foam mattress, infused with cooling gel. Cooling mattresses can have many features that make it ‘cool’, for example open-cell foam, or even graphite strips. In this guide, we’re delving into how gel memory foam works, and how it can give you the refreshing night's sleep you deserve.

Close up of a Sleepeezee pillow top cooling gel mattress on an orange bed frame.

What is a gel memory foam mattress?

If you’ve read our Cooling Mattress Buying Guide, you will have come across gel foam mattresses. They are excellent for keeping you cool at night, with the same support and comfort features as a regular memory foam mattress. While memory foam is known to retain heat, however, this innovative cooling foam does not.

Memory foam can often get warm due to its inability to allow air to pass through as easily as it can in a pocket spring mattress - our Memory Foam Mattress Buying Guide can give you more information on this. So, if you suffer from hot flashes or night sweats, you might want to consider a gel foam mattress.

Although open-cell memory foam allows better air circulation, holding ‘pockets’ of air, gel is a much more effective cooling method while still letting you enjoy the benefits of traditional memory foam.

How does gel foam work?

Cooling memory foam is a viscoelastic foam that has gel beads inside it. These beads stay cold, and are what draws heat away from your body, while the foam provides support and comfort.

These innovative gel beads also provide added ‘bounce’ to your mattress, making it extra comfortable.

What’s the difference between memory foam and gel memory foam?

It might not seem like there could be much difference between memory foam and gel memory foam, but there are. While they have lots of similarities, there are some key differences that can alter your decision when choosing a mattress. We’ve also included the benefits of open-cell memory foam to give you a better idea of the differences between these innovative materials.

Traditional memory foam

  • Moulds to your unique body shape
  • Offers personalised support and pressure relief at all points of contact
  • Closed cell structure traps heat
  • Doesn't allow air to flow through very easily

Gel memory foam

  • Moulds to your unique body shape
  • Also offers incredible pressure relief and support
  • Actively draws heat away from your body, resulting in a much cooler night’s sleep
  • Inclusion of gel adds bounce and extra comfort

Open-cell memory foam

  • Moulds to your unique body shape
  • Offers the same level of support as traditional memory foam
  • Open cell structure allows air to pass through, preventing heat retention
Graphic showing three types of memory foam - traditional, cool gel foam and open cell - with a symbol to dictate the temperature of each. The different temperature properties of different memory foam types.

Memory foam, open-cell memory foam and gel foam all have similar support and comfort levels, but differ when it comes to heat retention, cooling properties, and airflow. The main difference between traditional memory foam and cool gel foam is that the latter actively removes heat, while the former stores it. If you struggle with staying at the optimal sleeping temperature, then you should consider these differences.

Similarities between gel and traditional memory foam

Gel foam and traditional memory foam both provide stable head and neck support, as well as personalised relief to your hips, shoulders and other heavy pressure points. The key feature of all foam mattresses is that they provide support and relief to every pressure point of your body, as they effectively ‘cradle’ your body shape.

Another key similarity between gel foam and memory foam is that they are available in different firmnesses, thicknesses and densities. These are the factors that will impact the support you receive the most, which will depend on not only your preference, but your sleeping position. For help and advice on these factors, read our helpful Buying Guides.

Is a gel memory foam mattress good for a bad back?

Since memory foam is great for bad backs due to its excellent pressure relieving properties, cool gel memory foam is too. Arguably, cool gel memory foam is better for a bad back than traditional memory foam, as the coldness will sooth any aches and pains as you sleep.

To tackle both a bad back and overheating at night, opt for a mattress with both cooling properties and orthopaedic support. A medium firm or firm cool gel mattress will support your spine while keeping you cool.

Hybrid pocket spring cooling gel mattresses

If you’re not a fan of foam mattresses, but still want to experience the cooling features of cool gel foam, there are plenty of hybrid mattresses that incorporate both springs and cooling gel.

These mattresses feature a layer of springs which react to your movements throughout the night, targeting support as you move. Then, they provide layers of cooling gel, which draws heat away from your body and ensures a cool bed.

The added air flow through the spring system, coupled with the cool gel layer, will create the ideal cool bed for a hot sleeper. A ‘best of both worlds’ sleep surface, a cool gel mattress with pocket springs is the ideal choice for hot sleepers who prefer a spring system for support rather than foam.

Luxury gel topped mattresses

You can also find pillow top mattresses which feature a plush layer of cooling gel foam, alongside other comforting fibres stitched into the surface of a supportive spring mattress base. One of our favourites is the Coolflex® Hybrid ICE Mattress, which features a luxurious layer of cool gel infused memory foam, stitched onto a base of supportive pocket springs.

For more help and advice on cooling mattresses, read our guide to The Best Cooling Mattresses For Hot Sleepers 2024. Or, if you need help choosing a mattress more generally, our Mattress Buying Guide can help.