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Gel foam mattresses

Best Gel Foam Mattresses UK (2021)

Nicky

Last updated: 15.09.2021 11 Min.

Gel foam mattresses are quite trendy.

They're among the newest mattresses available on the market, and they're becoming increasingly popular - largely due to their high levels of comfort.

But, they are often very expensive.

Most gel foam mattresses are hybrid models, whereby only the upper comfort layer consists of gel foam.

As with other hybrid models, it's important to pay attention to the other layers that the mattress is composed of as well.

In this article, we'll explain what to look out for looking at the best gel foam mattresses available in the UK.

Gel foam mattresses
  • Overview
  • Definition
  • Composition
  • Suitability
  • Key criteria
  • Sizes
  • Slatted frames
  • Cleaning
  • Gel foam mattress toppers
  • Online purchasing
  • Alternatives
  • Conclusion

Advantages

  • Adjusts well to the body, making it ideal for back, neck, or circulatory problems
  • Good pressure relief
  • Recommended for orthopaedic problems
  • Pleasant and comfortable to lie on
  • Very good breathability
  • Suitable for heavy sweaters
  • Temperature-neutral
  • Well-suited to restless sleepers
  • Suitable for any type of slatted frame
  • Safe for people prone to allergies (mite-resistant)
  • Durable (but pay attention to density)

Disadvantages

  • Slightly softer feel isn't suitable for all - best combined with a firmer base layer
  • Not ideal for heavier-weight people or pure stomach sleepers
  • Can be more difficult to handle as they tend to be quite heavy
  • Pure gel foam mattresses are very expensive

What exactly is gel foam?

Gel foam mattresses are very modern.

They are made of foamed polyurethane, also known as PUR gel foam.

A viscous gel is then added to the PUR gel foam.

This viscous gel that can optimally adapt to the shape of the body.

Sometimes sleeping on a gel foam mattress can feel a bit like sleeping on a waterbed.

This improves the sinkage of the mattress and the body will definitely sink in sufficiently, while still benefiting from the good stability and rebound force of a gel foam mattress.

In a way, gel foam mattresses can best be described as combining the features of cold foam and memory foam.

Gel foam mattresses versus gel mattresses

Gel foam mattresses should not be confused with gel mattresses.

Pure gel mattresses are filled with a thick gel.

These are very heavy and can weigh up to 100 kg. They are also much more expensive than gel foam mattresses.

Pure gel mattresses aren't very common. They often just consist of a gel layer at the top of the mattress and are then combined with springs or cold foam.

Even most gel foam mattress are hybrid models, mixed with other types of foam to supplement the properties of the foam.

Gel foam mattress

gel foam

Composition of gel foam mattresses

Let’s take a closer look at the composition of a gel foam mattress.

These are often mixed with other foams and can also consist of only one single layer, for example, gel mixed with cold foam.

That said, the modern-day hybrid models are more common.

Here, an additional gel foam layer is integrated into the mattress.

This layer is usually found at the very top of the mattress and serves as an upper comfort layer.

Depending on the model, however, there may also be a gel foam layer at the top and the bottom of the mattress.

To ensure that the gel pads have a sturdy base, these mattresses are usually combined with the firmer and hard-wearing cold foam.

It is also possible, though, to add a gel layer on top of a spring mattress to give an overall softer and more comfortable feel when lying down.

Is a gel foam mattress the right mattress for you?

In general, gel foam mattresses can be suitable for many different types of people.

If you're looking for a mattress that adapts well to your body, offers a high degree of comfort, and offers sufficient support, then a gel foam mattress is a good choice.

They're also highly recommended for people looking for a good compromise between cold foam and memory foam mattresses.

The below table will sum up who will benefit most from a gel foam mattress:

Suitable for: Less suitable for:
  • People who like softer mattresses
  • Side sleepers
  • Restless sleepers
  • People who struggle with back and neck pain or circulatory problems
  • People prone to allergies
  • People who don't like soft mattresses
  • Pure stomach sleepers, especially if they weigh over 100 kg
  • Heavier-weight people
  • People who may struggle with handling the mattress as they tend to be very heavy

Good for people with high orthopaedic demands

A mattress with an integrated gel foam layer is highly recommended for people with orthopaedic demands.

This is because gel foam can adapt optimally to the contours of the body and support healthy spine alignment.

If combined with a spring or robust cold foam core, it will also support the body well and offer sufficient stability.

Better for restless sleepers

While memory foam also offers great body adaptation and is highly recommended for orthopaedic problems, moving around on a memory foam mattress can be quite cumbersome.

A great advantage of gel foam mattresses is that the material bounces back to its original shape quickly - much faster than with memory foam mattresses.

This is why gel foam mattresses are such a good choice for restless sleepers.

People who suffer from allergies or sweat heavily

The gel foam mattress is very well ventilated due to its open-pored structure.

This is great for people who sweat easily or those suffering from allergies.

House dust mites or bacteria find it very difficult to live in gel foam mattresses.

Good for back and side sleepers

Gel foam mattresses are good choices for back and side sleepers.

If the gel foam mattress is additionally divided into contour zones, then you will also benefit from the ideal sinkage depths.

Only heavier-weight stomach sleepers should choose a firmer mattress with more support, such as a high-quality pocket spring core mattress.

Stomach sleepers could sink in too deeply on a gel foam mattress, which could lead to a hollow back, resulting in longer-term back and neck problems.

We generally recommend choosing a mattress that offers a risk-free trial period. This will allow you to test the mattress in the comfort of your own home and decide if it’s right for you.

Emma Original back sleeper

Emma Original side sleeper

Criteria to consider when purchasing a gel foam mattress

There are numerous factors to consider when making your choice of which gel foam mattress to purchase.

1. High density

The higher the density, the higher the quality.

This is true for all mattresses, including gel foam mattresses.

We recommend looking for a gel foam mattress with a density of at least 50 kg/m³, ideally 60 m3/kg.

A higher-density mattress also generally has a longer lifespan, meaning that you'll be able to enjoy your investment for much longer.

You can use the below table as a rough guide:

Density in kg/m³ Expected lifespan
Up to 25 Up to 2 years
30 Up to 3 years
35 5 - 6 years
40 6 - 8 years
50 - 60 10 years and more

2. Height of the mattress

Gel foam mattresses tend to be softer mattresses.

The wider the gel foam layer, the deeper you will sink into the mattress.

Your new gel foam mattress should thus be deep enough to provide sufficient space to sink into.

We recommend a total height of at least 18 cm for a comfortable sleep.

Higher mattresses also make it easier to get into bed.

This applies to all ages and not only to older people.

We also think higher mattresses look slightly more attractive.

3. Choose the right degree of firmness

Choosing the right degree of firmness is where most buyers struggle to make the right decision.

Admittedly, the information provided by manufacturers is a little confusing.

Degrees of firmness are usually indicated by H (for hardness), followed by a number (to indicate the degree of firmness).

The right degree of firmness generally depends on your body type, weight, and preferred sleeping position.

If you or your partner weigh over 100 kg, for example, you'd need a firmer mattress that offers more support.

This can be difficult to find in a gel foam mattress, so you might even have to choose a different type of mattress, such as a pocket spring mattress.

If a mattress is too soft, then you won't be supported adequately - which can result in an uncomfortable sleep or even long-term neck and back pain.

Degrees of Firmness

4. Risk-free trial periods

Since gel foam mattresses may not be suitable for everyone, it's always a good idea to try out a mattress.

That's why we always recommend purchasing from a manufacturer that offers the following:

  • Free delivery
  • Risk-free trial period
  • Free returns

Trial periods usually last 30 to 100 days.

This gives you the time to ensure that the mattress you've purchased really is right for you.

If you're worried that it's too firm or too soft, for example, then testing it for a period of time will help you decide.

After all, it takes the body a few weeks to get used to a new mattress.

If you're not completely satisfied with the mattress, you should be able to return it, free of charge, for a full refund

Choosing the right gel foam mattress size

Like all other types of mattresses, the gel foam mattress is available in many different sizes.

The standard UK sizes include:

Singles can opt for smaller sizes, such as the 90 x 190 cm or 135 x 90 cm mattresses. This saves space - and money.

But couples should definitely consider choosing larger mattresses, such as the 150 x 200 cm or 180 x 200 cm sizes.

WHICH MATTRESS SIZE IS RIGHT FOR ME?

UK Mattress Sizes

Choosing the right slatted frame for your gel foam mattress

A good slatted frame can enhance your gel foam mattress.

Here are some factors you should consider.

1. Pay attention to zoning

To support the division of contour zones in your gel foam mattress, consider choosing a slatted frame that has the same division.

For example, we advise you to use a 7-zone slatted frame for a 7-zone gel foam mattress.

A 7-zone slatted frame allows the pelvic and shoulder areas to sink in more deeply while stabilising the rest of the body.

2. Height-adjustable slatted frames

We recommend a height-adjustable slatted frame as gel foam mattresses are very adaptable.

Adjustable head and foot sections not only offer increased comfort, but they also improve blood circulation, especially in older people, making it easier to breathe.

That said, you can also easily use the mattress on a rigid slatted frame.

3. Small spacing between the bars

Ensure that the space between slats isn't greater than 5 cm.

This ensures that the characteristics of a high-quality, zoned mattress are enhanced.

READ OUR ARTICLE ON BEST BED FRAMES

Cleaning your gel foam mattress

You should clean your new gel foam mattress from time to time to keep it fresh.

You don't need special cleaning agents for this.

Make sure that you purchase a gel foam mattress with a removable cover that can be machine-washed at the highest degree possible.

This is the easiest way to ensure your mattress remains clean and hygienic.

It's also important to choose a good slatted frame as this will allow the mattress to remain well-ventilated and prevents the formation of mould or mites.

In general, you should air your bedroom well every day.

Gel foam mattress toppers

A mattress topper can be a great addition to your current mattress.

They can significantly adjust and improve the comfort of your sleep.

Gel foam toppers take on a similar function as an upper gel foam comfort layer in a mattress.

This means that you can easily upgrade your cold foam or spring mattress by simply adding a good gel foam mattress topper.

There is a huge selection of mattress toppers available.

Take a look at some of our recommendations below.

Buy gel foam mattresses at a better price online

Gel foam mattresses can be expensive.

This is largely due to the expensive production process.

Depending on where and which gel foam mattress you buy, you can easily spend up to £1000 or more.

But, you can also buy cheaper gel foam mattresses, especially if you choose to purchase online.

We've reviewed dozens of online mattresses.

Don't forget to also check out our discounts page for regular special offers and updates.

VIEW ALL CURRENT PROMOTIONS

Alternatives to gel foam mattresses

If you don't think a gel foam mattress is right for you, then consider these alternatives.

Memory foam mattresses

Memory foam mattresses have similar properties to gel foam mattresses.

They are often characterised by the so-called memory imprint.

When pressure is applied, the foam becomes softer and forms an imprint, which remains for a little while.

Due to its extremely high adaptability, memory foam is often used for orthopaedic purposes.

While both gel foam and memory foam mattresses can be great choices, there are a few key differences.

For one, memory foam mattresses are more temperature-sensitive and tend to provide a warmer sleeping climate.

Gel foam, in contrast, is completely temperature-neutral and more breathable overall.

Gel foam mattresses are also better suited to restless sleepers.

Visco foam

Memory foam imprint

Innerspring mattresses

If you are looking for a firmer model with more stability and elasticity, then you should choose an innerspring mattress.

Innerspring mattresses have springs at their core, which adapt to the body in a point-elastic manner.

The gaps between the springs also provide natural ventilation channels, ensuring high breathability.

Make sure, though, that the innerspring mattress you choose is of high quality.

There are many inferior models available, and these tend to wear out quickly and form dents.

Mattress springs

Eve premium hybrid pocket springs

Cold foam mattresses

The feeling of lying on a good cold foam mattress is comparable to lying on a gel foam mattress.

Both types of mattresses have good point elasticity and high adaptability, and both can be recommended for orthopaedic problems.

The biggest difference is in terms of the sleeping climate.

The gel foam mattress has a cooler sleeping climate, while the cold foam mattress provides a slightly warmer sleeping climate.

cold foam mattress

cold foam mattress topper

Latex mattresses

Latex mattresses also have high point elasticity and offer a high degree of comfort.

If you're choosing natural latex, then you'll also benefit from great breathability and a cooler sleeping climate.

Both gel foam and latex mattresses are soft but the latex mattress feels a little more bouncy, while the gel foam mattress is more adaptable.

Latex is a good choice for restless sleepers.

Latex foam layer

latex layer

Conclusion

It's unlikely that you'll consider a pure gel foam mattress but there are some very good hybrid models available.

A mattress that features an upper comfort layer of gel foam offers increased comfort, body adaptation, and breathability.

It's a great choice to increase the overall comfort and feel of your mattress.

But, if you're a pure stomach sleeper or weigh over 100 kg, then a gel foam mattress is not the best choice for you.

Consider the firmer spring mattresses instead.

Nicky

My mum calls me "bear" because I like to sleep so much. I never knew that, one day, that would be a very useful skill. Can you tell that I've found my calling? 

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