What’s In the New Gel Memory Foam Mattresses?

A gel memory foam mattress is made from viscoelastic foam that is “infused with gel beads” to make this notoriously warm sleeping surface a bit cooler and more breathable.

A mentioned in other articles on memory foam mattresses, the nature of viscoelastic foam may turn a “warm sleeper” off in spite of any other comfort features they might find attractive. The ideal match for a memory foam mattress is a sleeper who tends to feel cold while sleeping and derives therapeutic comfort from the extra warmth. However, even these happy customers may feel damp and wilted during the hottest days of summer.

Memory foam manufacturers have taken these complaints seriously and have been busily working on making their mattresses cooler and more comfortable without compromising the factors that make them attractive to so many people—a cradling type of support that eases pressure points and helps some sufferers of joint and muscular pain, arthritis and fibromyalgia sleep better.

Why Gel, Why Now?

Gel memory foam is a relatively recent development which certainly seems to be having success in the market. The use of gel in mattress making has become a significant trend, and one that mattress shoppers now have to deal with as yet another feature to make decisions about, along with all the other numerous features discussed here. Just as a warning, there are at least a dozen types of gels in mattresses, each with its own cute, trademarked names, such as InteliGel, Oxy-Gel, and so on.

While beaded memory foam is a relatively recent development, at least in the last five years, the idea of putting “gels” into mattresses has been around for a while. Gel mattress pads have been widely used in medical settings to prevent pressure sores and other circulation problems in critical-care and immobile patients.

More recently mattress manufacturers have caught onto the potential of gel for the mass consumer market, and it has indeed been a lucrative one. Manufacturers are busily finding new ways to construct and use gel in their bedding products. Not only does it provide a cooling effect but also for enhancing support, responsiveness and pressure-relief in all types of foam—polyurethane, viscoelastic and latex.

What IS this stuff anyway?

A gel is a sort of hybrid substance, a cross between liquid and solid. Technically it is more liquid than solid, but it behaves more like a solid than a liquid. Most gels impersonate a solid when left undisturbed but then will display their liquid side when pressure is applied.

This is pretty much what happens with gel-infused memory foam. When you lie down on such a mattress, the beads slide and congregate in areas where your body presses most deeply into the mattress. They offer more support in those areas, because they will reach a point where they will no longer compress and will, in fact, gently push back to give you a bit more lifting and support.

So the gel in effect is offering a different kind of sleeping surface, one that gives in and then says, enough already, and gives back, so to speak, so you will not sink in too much but just enough to feel well taken care of.

What is it made of, and should we care?

Details about the actual manufacturing process that “infuses” these “gel beads” into the foam are sparse. Likewise, it is a bit difficult to find out what chemical substance actually is used to make these interesting little beads, although with some digging, we find that most forms of mattress-gels are derived from petroleum-based polymers. That doesn’t tell us a whole lot, though.

Many gel formulations are patented and are not shared with the public, although if you really wanted to, you could check out the patent itself, which explains quite a bit. I’m guessing that is a bit more than you are disposed to do. Gel types differ according to how they are made and the configuration they are put into. So you have the aforementioned gel beads, but you also have other forms of mattress making which we will discuss in other articles. It is nice that, finally, mattress manufacturers are aware that a hot mattress is not comfortable, no matter how much great support it offers.

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