Eachnight may earn commissions for products you purchase through our links. Our articles and reviews include affiliate links and advertisements, including amerisleep advertising. Learn more Updated October 3, 2021When choosing your new mattress, you may find yourself debating between a standard memory foam or gel memory foam mattress. Memory foam mattresses are popular because they relieve pressure points and contour closely. Gel memory foam has the same qualities, but the presence of gel cools down the foam so you can sleep more comfortably.In this article, we discuss the differences and similarities between these two types of foams. We also talk about other types of mattresses so you know your options before buying your next bed.What is a Memory Foam Mattress?To make memory foam, manufacturers treat polyurethane foam with non-toxic chemicals. This treatment process produces temperature and pressure-sensitive memory foam.Memory foam mattresses soften in response to your body heat and form to your curves. This relieves pressure points and reduces body ache.The responsive foam conforms to the natural curvature of your spine, improving lumbar support. The strong support reduces the chances of back pain and alleviates existing pain.Memory foam beds have excellent motion isolation. Each cell of this dense foam acts as a shock absorber, limiting motion at the source. It prevents sleep disruptions caused due to a partner tossing or turning in bed.The dense foam limits airflow, leading to heat build-up. To address the heat retention concerns in traditional memory foam, gel memory foam was introduced.What is a Gel Memory Foam Mattress?Infusing memory foam with a cooling gel dissipates the heat, minimizing sleep disruptions due to overheating. Gel memory foam mattresses absorb and disperse body heat for better temperature regulation. They include all the benefits of memory foam while also preventing heat build-up.Gel foam is made by mixing or swirling a cooling gel into the foam or adding gel beads (capsules filled with gel) during the manufacturing process. You don’t feel the gel when you lie on gel memory foam, but it works through the night, keeping your bed cool.The performance of gel mattresses may vary from brand to brand. It depends on factors such as the mattress materials and the temperature of your room. For example, a breathable mattress cover keeps the bed cooler, promoting gel memory foam’s performance.There’s a limit to how much heat the gel can absorb. If the temperature increases the effect of the gel wears out eventually causing your bed to heat up, so keeping your room cooler also improves gel foam’s performance.If you want to try out gel memory foam before investing in a mattress, buy mattress toppers or pads made with gel-infused foam. These accessories are placed on top of your mattress to alter your bed’s feel. Mattress toppers are usually 2 to 4 inches thick, while mattress pads are thinner.Other Cooling Alternatives to Memory Foam MattressesMattress manufacturers have invented different ways to minimize overheating in traditional memory foam beds. While gel foam is an option, there are other types of memory foam mattresses with special cooling effects.Plant-Based Memory FoamTraditional memory foam includes 100 percent petroleum-based products, but plant-based foam is made by substituting a certain amount of petroleum with plant-based oils, such as castor oil. This process reduces the synthetic material in the foam, keeping it (and you) cool.Memory Foam with Cooling AdditivesMemory foam mattresses with cooling additives such as copper, graphite, charcoal, and green tea are also effective at regulating temperature. All of these additives work to draw heat away from the body.Similarities and Differences Between Memory Foam and Gel Memory FoamSince gel memory foam beds evolved from traditional memory foam mattresses, they have many features in common, except for the gel infusions.SimilaritiesEach is available in different firmness levels, suitable for side sleepers, back sleepers, stomach sleepers, and combination sleepers (who change sleeping positions through the night).Both contour to your body, relieving pressure points and reducing aches.They are good for back-pain sufferers because the body-conforming memory foam supports the natural curvature of your spine, enhancing lumbar support. Improved back support alleviates lower back pain.Both have an off-gassing odor, caused by the breakdown of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) at room temperature. Airing them out for 3 to 7 days neutralizes the odor.Both are good for couples because they can limit motion transfer.DifferencesGel memory foam sleeps cooler than traditional memory foam.Due to gel infusions, gel foam beds may feel slightly more responsive than traditional memory foam mattresses.Other Mattress TypesIf memory foam or gel memory foam beds don’t suit your sleep needs, there are other mattress types available on the market today. Depending on your personal preference, choose any of the following:Latex MattressLatex mattresses are made of either natural latex from rubber tree sap or from synthetic latex foam. We do not recommend synthetic latex because it breaks down faster, causing sags.If you want an organic mattress, all-natural latex beds are your best bet. Latex mattresses conform to your body, but not as close as memory foam does. Compared to memory foam, latex is bouncier and naturally sleeps cool.Traditional Innerspring MattressInnerspring beds are the most common type of mattress, available in a wide price range. They include a thin comfort layer made of cotton, wool, or poly-foam and a coil layer at the base. Coils promote airflow within the mattress, so innersprings are typically cooler than traditional memory foam beds. These coils also transfer motion, causing sleep disruptions due to movement.Hybrid MattressHybrid mattresses combine the features of innerspring beds with memory foam or latex mattresses. Hybrids usually include a pocket-coil layer at the base, topped with a comfort layer more than 2 inches thick. The comfort layer conforms to your body relieving pressure points, while the base layer adds a bounce to your bed.Factors To Consider When Buying a MattressOnce you have shortlisted some mattresses, read their warranties, sleep trials, and return policies. Plus, read through the mattress reviews left by other customers.WarrantiesMost mattress companies offer a 10 or 20-year warranty covering manufacturing defects and sags greater than 1 inch. Some companies offer a lifetime warranty. During this period the company may repair or replace your bed for free or charge you for their services.Sleep TrialsSleep trials allow you to try out a mattress within the comfort of your bedroom. Most companies offer a risk-free 90-120 night sleep trial period. This gives you enough time to know whether the mattress suits your sleep needs. If you are not satisfied with your bed, return it within the sleep trial period and get a full refund.Return PoliciesReturn policies are usually only present if a mattress company does not offer a sleep trial, and we do not recommend buying mattresses without sleep trials. You don’t get enough time to try your new mattress. Most return policies require you to return the bed within 30 days of delivery.FAQsIs gel memory foam better than memory foam?It depends on your specific sleep needs. If you are a hot sleeper, a gel memory foam mattress will be a good option. Otherwise, opt for a high-quality memory foam mattress.Do gel memory foam mattresses last?The cooling effect of a gel memory foam mattress may last through the night or in some cases may wear off earlier. There is a limit to how much heat the gel can absorb, so the gel’s performance depends on factors such as other materials in the mattress and the temperature of the room. If your room temperature is lower or you have a mattress cover made with breathable materials, the effect of the cooling gel may last through the night.What thickness is best for a memory foam mattress?Memory foam mattresses 10 to 14 inches thick are best to meet your sleep needs. Thinner mattresses may not be supportive and durable, while getting in and out of thicker mattresses can be challenging. A mattress between 10 to 14 inches thick offers adequate cushion and support for optimal comfort.What is the difference between foam and memory foam?Most foam mattresses contain poly-foam. Poly-foam beds are not as supportive as memory foam, and they break down faster. Foam mattresses do not last long and are less expensive than memory foam.Do you flip memory foam mattresses?No. Most memory foam mattresses cannot be flipped. They include a specific base layer and top comfort layers. Flipping them will reverse the order, damaging memory foam mattresses. If your memory foam mattress is marketed as dual-sided, then it can be flipped.ConclusionSince memory foam and gel memory foam mattresses have similar qualities, choosing the best mattress of the two may be difficult. Both the mattresses are available in a wide price range, depending on the quality of the foam. However, a quality gel foam bed may be priced slightly higher than the same quality traditional memory foam mattress. If you are a hot sleeper or live in a hot and humid region, then opt for gel foam; otherwise, standard memory foam is a perfect choice.About the author Kiera PritchardKiera Pritchard’s curiosity around dreams and dreaming sparked her passion for sleep science. In addition to freelancing for eachnight, Kiera is also a physical trainer and strives to help others lead healthy lives while asleep and awake. Since joining our team, Kiera has compiled multiple sleep health guides offering our readers advice on how to improve their days and evenings. Find more articles by Kiera Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.