What's Difference Between Gel & Regular Memory Foam?

Memory foam is a popular choice for bedding products, as it provides extra support and comfort compared to other materials. Many people don’t realize that there are different types available, each with advantages and disadvantages. Two of the most common are traditional and gel-infused.

Traditional memory foam was originally developed for NASA – and the manufacturing process has changed little since then. It is made from polyurethane combined with other chemicals to give it the characteristic softness and density.​

When the material heats up it changes shape, allowing it to mold to your body. Traditional foam usually has a closed cell structure that retains heat. This is why it’s often considered a warm bedding material.

Traditional and Gel memory foam

Gel-infused bedding products combine traditional memory foam with a gel substance. Small beads of the gel are bonded to foam, creating additional airflow and increasing support. This provides a number of potential benefits, including cooler temperatures and a less noticeable odor.

If you’re not sure whether to buy a traditional or gel product, this article is here to help! Listed below are the main benefits and disadvantages of both types, so you can quickly see which option matches your requirements. We’ve also included the top-rated product for both materials.

We highly recommend reading our review of the Sleep Innovations.

Traditional

memory foam
PROS:


  • Many people describe sleeping on memory foam as similar to “floating” or “lying on a cloud.” If your current mattress or pillow is too hard, the material can provide a welcome relief.
  • Mattresses and pillows made from memory foam provide greater support for your body. The material molds to your body shape so that each limb and joint receives equal support.
  • The material also doesn’t transmit movement. This means that if your partner gets up or fidgets at night, you won’t be disturbed.
  • If you sleep on your side, it may relieve pressure on the shoulders and hips. This reduces the need to move around at night.
  • Traditional products are usually cheaper than gel-infused products of the equivalent quality – although there are exceptions.

CONS:


  • Traditional options are one of the warmest bedding materials. Overheating can be reduced by manufacturers cutting holes or channels to increase airflow, but this doesn’t always make a significant difference.
  • The chemicals used to create memory foam can have a noticeable odor. This usually disappears over time – but the process can take months in the worst cases. The strength of the odor depends on the manufacturing process, with products produced in the UK or US less likely to have a strong smell.
  • Traditional products are usually slower to return to their original position when you move. This can sometimes cause you to feel “trapped” in one position rather than able to move around at will.
  • It is more expensive than other materials. The price of a mattress, pillow or topper usually depends on the density of the foam, so if you’re on a tight budget you may need to choose a lower density option.

Who should buy traditional?

You’ll nearly always experience increased sleep quality with memory foam – especially if you enjoy warm and cozy bedding materials. If you live in a cool climate, traditional foam is a good choice.

It can increase sleep quality if you suffer from joint pain or stiffness at night. The foam provides soothing support that relieves pressure on uncomfortable areas. It’s also great if you’re fed up with being woken up by your partner’s movement at night!

Our Favorite Traditional Options

Sleep Master 12-Inch Pressure Relief Mattress


The Sleep Master 12” Pressure Relief is one of the best traditional memory foam mattresses on the market. It’s designed to provide the support necessary to relieve pain while still providing a comfortable night’s sleep.

The Sleep Master 12” has a top layer of memory foam above a higher density layer for the perfect combination of comfort and support. Other features include a ten year limited warranty and CertiPUR-US certification for performance, content and durability.

Many reviewers say that the mattress has made a big difference to their body’s comfort at night. Majority of them mention that the product didn’t have an overpowering smell when first opened.

Like most options, the Sleep Master needs time to properly inflate after delivery. Reviewers write that it took a few days to fully inflate, but after this it provided a comfortable and supportive night’s sleep.

Gel Memory Foam

memory foam
PROS:


  • Gel products provide all the benefits of traditional, including comfortable support, reduced movement transmission and increased sleep quality.
  • It is also cooler than traditional foam. Gel has “open cell” interior structure. This allows air to flow through the product and reduces the chance of overheating.
  • Gel-infused products are more supportive. The gel prevents you from sinking deep into the mattress, yet is still soft enough to relieve pressure points.
  • Gel products have a shorter response time. This means that they reshape when you move position faster than traditional products.

CONS:


  • Gel is cooler than traditional – especially when you first touch it – but still absorbs heat. While many people find the products cooler to sleep on, they are still warmer than other types of bedding.
  • One of the benefits of gel foam is the extra support. If you enjoy a soft sleeping surface – which is especially important for side sleepers – then dense gel foam may not be the best option.

There is some concern over the long-term durability of gel products. They are relatively new on the market, so it’s difficult to judge whether the combination of gel and memory foam can match the durability of traditional products.

Who should buy gel?

In most cases, gel products are a clear upgrade from traditional styles. If you love the feel of memory foam but hate being hot at night, choose a gel-infused product. They provide the same advantages as traditional products, but are cooler and less likely to have a noticeable odor.

Our Favorite Gel Options

Perfect Cloud Atlas Gel-Plus 10-Inch Mattress


One of the top rated gel products is the Perfect Cloud Atlas. It is built with advanced gel technology to provide a supportive and cooling night’s sleep.

The top layer of the mattress is 3 inches of Gel-Plus memory foam that is both supportive and soft. The second layer is also 3 inches thick, but built with “Double Air Flow Comfort Foam” for increased cooling.

Finally, the third layer is support foam that’s also designed with “Double Air Flow” technology.

Aside from its cooling construction, the Perfect Cloud also has a generous 25-year warranty. The product is CertiPUR-US certified – which means that it doesn’t include mercury or other potentially dangerous chemicals.

Reviews of the Perfect Cloud Atlas Gel-Plus Mattress have been very positive. Most of them say that it feels terrific to sleep on and that the gel-infused material does a great job of preventing them from sinking too deep into the mattress. Other positive comments from reviewers include that it provides excellent back support and reduces the pain associated with pressure points.

The Perfect Cloud Atlas is relatively firm when it’s first unpackaged. This is because the material needs time to settle. The mattress will gradually become softer until it reaches its final firmness. If you find that the mattress is too hard on the first few nights, don’t panic – this is normal and temporary.

Conclusion


Traditional is a popular choice for those who want greater comfort and support from their mattress. The material relieves pressure points, increases sleep quality and reduces disturbances from your partner.

Gel-infused bedding has taken the market by storm in recent years. The material provides all the benefits of traditional foam – yet solves some of the problems associated with the material. It is cooler, often has a less noticeable odor and provides greater support.

So which type should you choose? If you’re on a tight budget and aren’t concerned about the warmth of memory foam, traditional products are an excellent choice with many advantages over other materials. They are also the best option if you want to be able to sink further into the mattress. If you want a memory foam mattress that provides excellent value, we recommend the Sleep Master 12-Inch Pressure Relief Mattress.

Gel-infused products, on the other hand, are usually the better option for most people. They are great if you find traditional foam to be too hot, or if you require additional support. The gel also reduces response times, so you won’t feel trapped in one position at night. We recommend the Perfect Cloud Atlas Gel-Plus 10-Inch if you’re searching for a high-quality gel-infused product.

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