Have you ever considered how much time you spend in bed? Granted, you spend most of it unaware, but over the course of your lifetime, you’ll spend about one-third of it sleeping – or trying to. That makes the type of mattress you buy a pretty big deal.
Two types of mattresses you’ll find as you begin your journey for the best mattress are memory foam and gel memory foam. These two kinds of beds have a few things in common, but they also have some differences that are important to know about. We’ve compiled a list of the pros, cons, and questions about each to help you decide which mattress you want to spend more time sleeping on.
Why People Love Memory Foam
No matter what type of memory foam people purchase, there are a few reasons why it’s so popular: comfort, quality, and cost.
Mattresses made from memory foam are universally acknowledged to be some of the most comfortable beds on the market today. This is due to the fact that memory foam conforms to your body, hugging its curves as you sleep. This helps to disperse body weight more evenly and relieve pressure to the points on your body that take the most weight, such as the shoulders and hips.
Reduced pressure on certain points of the body helps to improve circulation. It can also reduce aches and pains, which makes for very restorative and restful sleep.
Many memory foams also have antimicrobial features, which is terrific for those with allergies. Dust mites and other allergens simply have no place to go in a memory foam mattress, allowing for a healthier space for sleep.
Memory Foam: What is it?
Memory foam mattresses are made from a material called viscoelastic memory foam originally created by NASA. This material, when placed under pressure and heat, molds to the shape of the body as you lay atop it. This helps to evenly distribute body weight to make sleep more comfortable. When you get out of bed, the memory foam mattress shifts right back to its original shape.
Some of the best features of memory foam include:
- Reduced motion transfer – The memory foam absorbs energy so it doesn’t shimmy and shake as more traditional mattresses can
- Increased relief for pressure points – Memory foam mattresses distribute your weight evenly. This helps to avoid putting extra stress on pressure points that can leave you waking up achy and stiff
- Durable – A mattress has a lifespan of about 10 years on average. Over the course of the life of a memory foam mattress, it stays comfy and supportive
- Great feel – Memory foam is comfortable, which is why it’s become so popular
Of course, there are some drawbacks that are important to consider when it comes to memory foam, such as:
- Temperature – Memory foam mattresses tend to hold heat in due to the material they’re made from. This makes some people hot at night as they sleep
- Off-gassing – A new memory foam mattress may off-gas when first moved into your bedroom. Off-gassing is a process where compounds used to make the product release. This results in an unusual odor many people don’t like.
The Construction of Memory Foam Mattresses
How a mattress is constructed depends on the manufacturer. Still, all memory foam mattresses have a few things in common. These shared construction features include:
- A reinforced edge – One of the biggest complaints about traditional memory foam is its lack of edge support. They have a tendency to compress or sag when you get in and out of bed. Newer models are now constructed with an edge made of high-density foam to solve this problem.
- Layered structure – Many memory foam mattresses use several layers of memory foam to achieve their support
- Central support – In the past, many complained about the propensity for a foam mattress to sag in the middle. Newer models account for this by using a reinforced core made from high-density foam.
Memory Foam Price
There’s a large range in the price of traditional memory foam based on the quality of the mattress and how much support it offers. You can find memory foam mattresses priced anywhere between $300 and $1,500 on average. Of course, you can find memory foam for over $3,000 too, depending on the brand and how it’s delivered to you.
Gel Memory Foam: What is it?
Gel memory foam is made from similar viscoelastic material used in traditional memory foam mattresses with one huge difference: gel. Millions of tiny liquid gel beads are infused into the foam to help make the sleep surface cooler and more flexible. It’s a relatively new technology in the world of sleep that is a direct answer to the overheating that many complain about with memory foam.
Aside from its cooling properties, gel-infused memory foam also helps to wick away moisture as you sleep. It also works to increase the airflow to keep you cool as you sleep.
Some of the biggest advantages to gel memory foam mattresses include:
- Cooler sleep – The ideal temperature for sleep is 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Gel memory foam helps to keep you cool so you can stay asleep with increased air circulation.
- Contours to your body – As you sleep, gel memory foam hugs your body’s natural curves. This provides healthy support that helps you wake up free from aches and pains.
- Firm – If you don’t like the softness of traditional memory foam, gel memory foam is firmer due to its density
Gel memory foam is a new product. Because of this, there are a few things that may be a drawback if you’re considering buying one, such as:
- Durability – The durability of a gel memory foam mattress simply isn’t known at this point. Though it’s assumed it’s as durable as traditional memory foam.
- Not always cool – Even though gel memory foam does help to reduce heat as you sleep, the bed can still get hot. Once the gel has absorbed all the heat possible, the bed can heat up.
The Construction of Gel Memory Foam Mattresses
Cooling gel is most often found in memory foam mattresses, but it’s not exclusive to them. You can find cooling gel used in a variety of ways in pillows, mattress toppers, and even comfort layers on other types of mattresses. What is exclusive to gel memory foam is the process used to infuse the gel with the memory foam.
During the construction of the mattress, the cooling gel is fused with the memory foam. This combines all the characteristics people have come to know and love about memory foam with a gel that helps to regulate temperature. It’s not simply memory foam with a little cooling gel added in. It’s a new product that helps disperse heat as you sleep and create a more comfortable experience.
Cost of Gel Memory Foam
Gel memory foam is almost always more expensive than traditional memory foam, but it does depend on the brand and size of the mattress you buy. You can find gel memory foam for as little as $300 and find a few options over $4,500.
What They Have in Common
Memory foam and gel memory foam have a lot in common since they’re manufactured from nearly identical materials. The common features of these beds include:
- Reduced motion transfer – Both styles of memory foam are great for reduced motion transfer
- Reduced allergens – Neither material allows for the accumulation of dust, bacteria, and mold. This feature is helpful to those with allergies.
- Unrivaled support – With any type of memory foam, you get unrivaled support for your body as it molds to your individual contours
- Reduced pressure – Every type of memory foam mattress, from traditional to gel, takes the pressure off points of your body. That take a lot of strain when lying down such as the shoulders, hips, and head
Match Your Sleeping Style
If you’ve shopped for mattresses in the past, then you know that many advertise that they’re the best for certain sleeping positions. With either memory foam or gel memory foam mattress, how you sleep doesn’t matter as much. Both options help to promote healthy sleeping no matter which position you prefer.
For an in-depth breakdown, consider this:
- Stomach Sleepers – Stomach sleepers need a firmer sleeping surface, making a gel memory foam mattress a great choice
- Back Sleepers – Back sleepers benefit from a memory foam mattress since it contours to the body to provide support. The temperature of the bed is a subjective factor for any back sleeper, so choose the mattress type that fits your personal preference.
- Side Sleepers – Many side sleepers experience pain in the shoulders and neck caused by sleeping on their sides. The best mattress for side sleepers allows you to sink further into the bed, providing more support to these areas of the body.
How long does a gel memory foam mattress last?
You can expect your mattress to last about 10 years, depending on its quality and how well you maintain it over time.
How do I know my memory foam mattress has worn out?
There are a few key indicators that your memory foam mattress has reached the end of its lifespan. These include:
- You wake up sore most mornings
- You’ve found your allergies are getting worse
- You toss and turn a lot at night
- You feel lumps or sagging in the mattress
- The mattress begins to creak where it never has before
What size of memory foam mattress is the best?
There are a lot of memory foam mattresses on the market, ranging from thin to very thick. Is one better than the other? Yes! You should look for a memory foam mattress that is 10-inches or thicker, with most measuring between 10 and 12 inches.
So, Which Mattress Wins?
When you compare a traditional memory foam mattress with a gel memory foam bed, you can see that there’s not a lot of difference. Both are excellent choices for anyone. What it comes down to is the temperature and the firmness you prefer. If you like to sleep cool on a firmer surface, then a gel memory foam mattress is the best choice. If not, then a traditional memory foam will provide you with a great night’s sleep.