Are you sleep-deprived because of the seemingly most innocent of culprits: night sweating? Your body may heat up, whereas those of others tend to go low. It’s probably the hot climate in your state or country. Or the hormonal changes. Or high metabolism.
Whatever the cause is, there’s a way for you to beat the odds and optimize your sleep. More recent mattress innovations include cooling technology options. Some of the most popular models infuse gel into memory foam. This type is better known as gel memory foam or gel-infused memory foam.
This article will look at how gel memory foam compares with the traditional memory foam, as well as other materials with cooling properties. What makes them different from each other? What are the pros and cons of using gel-infused foam? And how important is it to learn about the newest materials, like cooling gel, to improve your sleep quality?
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Gel Memory Foam vs Standard Memory Foam
Memory foam is one of the most common mattress types on the market. It’s a top pick for people who want a foam that cradles their curves. Unmatched by the resilient latex foam, memory foam has made close conformity its main selling point since eclipsing innerspring. This quality translates to better support, comfort, and pressure relief.
But how did memory foam enter the bed industry? Well, it started as a cushioning material for airplane seats. It was developed by no less than the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to prevent accidents among pilots and passengers during flight emergencies.
In the 1980s, NASA shared the technology with the public, paving the way for the first memory foam mattress to reach consumers in 1991.
Most of the known traditional brands today, such as Sealy and Tempurpedic, have been dishing out memory foam models since the 90s. The material has been lauded for its less expensive processing yet durable design output. However, over time, complaints about its lack of breathability have become a bane for users who tend to sleep hot.
A mattress that sleeps hot is bad news if you are prone to producing night sweats. Of course, you can switch on the AC (air conditioning system), keep your room well-ventilated, or get treated (such as if you have hyperhidrosis) to improve your situation. But a thick memory foam mattress may still not be your best bet in this case.
If you insist, though, you may want to know that the story of memory foam does not end there. In the 2010s, online mattress brands began sprouting like mushrooms. Memory foam innovations came along with this rise. Aside from other cooling technologies, many of the newer models started featuring gel memory foam. And the rest, as they say, is history.
What are the major differences between a gel memory foam and a traditional memory foam? Let’s discuss that in detail below.
Traditional memory foam has become a consumer favorite because of its contouring properties. The foam comes in close contact with your body as it cradles every curve. This shape-hugging ability offers comfort and relief to sleepers. However, it’s the same ability that can make some people sleep hot.
Since it became a hit, memory foam has gained a reputation for being a heat trap. The material retains a lot of heat. One reason is that it restricts airflow. With little space created between your bed and the mattress top, air cannot freely flow. Ventilation across the mattress is reduced.
On top of this effect at the upper layer, the structure of memory foam itself lends the entire mattress susceptible to overheating. It has a high density to support your body. But this thickness turns it into a heat insulator. If it’s soft, it can even be hotter as you lie on it longer.
On the other hand, gel-infused memory foam takes the cooling properties of gel and applies it to the mattress. Usually, the gel foam layer is cut thin and placed on top. This component retains less heat than the standard version. Instead, it diffuses heat so you won’t feel like you’re in a sauna while asleep.
A standalone gel is more responsive than memory foam. When infused in memory foam, it can come in the form of gel beads. In this case, it adopts the conforming qualities of the viscoelastic foam. But the gel beads themselves transform from solid to liquid to absorb the heat produced by your body.
A gel memory foam mattress can keep you cool, but only to an extent. Some models can feel warm as the night progresses. This scenario is probably to the overall density of an all-foam mattress. The thin, low-density gel memory foam layer may be on top. But the core and bottom layers may be made of high-density foam.
The Pros & Cons of Gel-Infused Memory Foam
With the introduction of gel, sleepers can benefit from its cooling and temperature-regulating properties. Some manufacturers use thermal gel, which is cool to the touch. Others inject phase-changing gel into the mattress. Here, the particles of the material turn from solid to the liquid whenever it detects body heat.
Cooling is an important factor for those who want to experience the contouring effects of memory foam without sleeping hot. The cooling gel brings about this kind of comfort. If it’s part of a multi-layer mattress, the gel layer should be placed on top of the memory foam to maximize its impact.
Phase-changing gel technology takes it up a notch. It comes in bead or trace form, which cools you down when it’s getting warm. It is adaptable and preferred more for its lasting effect.
Cooling gel is a semi-liquid component. While it feels cool to the touch when you lie down. Gradually, it can absorb some heat coming from your body and grow warm as the night goes on. It may be slower than traditional memory foam to become warm, but it isn’t slow enough to keep you cool throughout your slumber.
Though thin, a gel layer is not breathable. Thus, it cannot counter the heat retention of denser foam layers in a mattress.
Lastly, the addition of gel in the construction makes a model more expensive than your standard all-foam or memory foam bed.
Your Options: Gel Memory Foam vs Others
Here are some of the alternatives to gel:
Not all manufacturers go gaga over gel. Some create their own proprietary material to deliver the same, if not better, cooling effects. One of the best examples on the market is the Hyper-Elastic Polymer developed by Purple. This patented technology features a gel-like top layer, which contains open grids that allow air to flow freely.
One of the issues with this kind of material is that the resulting mattress may feel different from a regular foam. Sleeping on it may feel strange at the beginning. They can also be expensive to manufacture. Good thing for Purple, its founders found a way to mass-produce the elastic material that mainly makes up its mattresses.
Modern innerspring systems put a premium on breathability. Steel coils are evenly spaced, allowing air to circulate throughout the mattress base. Technically, this design is also effective in providing support and distributing weight.
When placed in hybrids, though, the effect may be tapered depending on the density of the rest of the foam layers.
Latex mattresses are made of one or more latex foam layers. These latex layers usually have holes that promote airflow. However, the effectiveness varies by version. Natural latex sleeps cooler than the blended or synthetic latex.
Latex is divided into Dunlop and Talalay latex. All-natural Talalay is reported to have better breathability. It’s probably because of the dense construction of Dunlop. Talalay also used an advanced vacuum technique, which makes its mold porous. The greater the porousness, the more breathable the structure is.
Copper and graphite are two other alternatives to gel. Actually, they are in the same category as a gel. While shopping for a mattress, you probably came across models with copper-infused and graphite-infused memory foam layers. They have the same effect as a gel in that they feel cool in the beginning and warm in the end.
Phase Change Material
Earlier in this article, we mentioned phase-change technology over and over. This tech does not just cool you down when you feel hot. It can also warm you up during cold or freezing months. This capability is known as temperature regulation.
Brooklyn Bedding Aurora explains how tech work. When the skin comes in contact with the phase change molecules, the latter liquefy, bringing the skin temperature to around the ideal 88 degrees. When the skin feels cold, the molecules solidify to keep it cool but not cold.
Often used in covers and toppers, Celiant is classified as a medical device by the Food and Drug Authority. Tapped for its restorative capabilities, it can turn your body heat into light energy (infrared). Then, it releases the converted energy back to your body. It’s this process that allows for restorative sleep.
While there’s no definitive conclusion to back up the effects, Celiant is said to be good at temperature regulation. We think this characteristic is related to its ability to convert heat to infrared.
However, gel alone cannot counter the heat retention properties of memory foam. It has to be placed together with other cooling and breathable materials to provide optimal results. In some cases, manufacturers choose a different cooling component. Some come up with a proprietary foam that is breathable or phase-changing. Others go for cheaper solutions.
Consider how hot you feel as you drift off. Do you wake up bathed in sweat? Or is your sweating limited to hot months, nothing that turning on the AC cannot fix? If yes, you may have to change a few things in your room, such as ventilation. But if it’s your mattress that’s causing discomfort, then it’s time to shop for a gel-infused memory foam model or any of its alternatives.
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