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Gel Foam Mattresses

GEL FOAM MATTRESSES

Nicky P.

Last updated: 24.10.2020 11 Min.

Gel foam mattresses or gel mattresses are among the new and trendy mattresses on the market. This is largely due to their specific comfort properties. But, they are often very expensive.

Gel mattresses are usually hybrid models. Usually, 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 when considering purchasing a gel foam mattress.

Gel foam mattresses
  • Overview
  • Definition
  • Structure
  • Pros & cons
  • Suitability
  • Online purchasing
  • Look out for
  • Sizes
  • Cleaning
  • Gel mattress toppers
  • Slatted frame
  • Alternatives

Advantages

  • Good pressure relief for the back and joints; can be beneficial to blood circulation
  • Highly elastic
  • Durable (pay attention to the high density of this mattress type)
  • Temperature-neutral
  • Suitable to those suffering from allergies (resistant to mites)
  • Can be used with an adjustable slatted frame

Disadvantages

  • Can feel like a softer mattress if not combined with firmer base layers; heavier-weight people should pay special attention in choosing the right degree of firmness
  • Can be more difficult to handle as gel foam mattresses tend to be very heavy

What exactly is gel foam?

Gel mattresses consist of foamed polyurethane, also known as PUR gel foam. A viscous gel is then added to the PUR gel foam.

This is a fairly modern type of mattress. The gel foam consists of a 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 sink in sufficiently, while still benefiting from the good stability and rebound force of a gel foam mattress.

To a certain extent, it can be said that gel foam mattresses combine the properties of cold foam and Visco foam.

Gel foam mattress versus gel mattress

A gel foam mattress should not be confused with a gel mattress. 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 are less common. Most modern gel mattresses only have a gel layer on top. The actual mattress core, however, consists of springs or cold foam.

Classical gel foam mattresses are mixed with other foam, supplementing the properties of the foam.

Structure of a gel foam mattress

Let’s take a closer look at the structure 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 layer is integrated into the mattress. This layer is usually found at the very top of the mattress. Depending on the model, however, there may also be a gel 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.

Advantages and disadvantages of the gel foam mattress

A gel foam mattress combines the positive properties of various other mattress types. It is point-elastic like a cold foam or Visco foam mattress. At the same time, it also has a high rebound force and is as durable as a latex mattress. Due to its flexibility, it is suitable for any slatted frame. And similar to spring core mattresses, it also has very good breathability.

The advantages at a glance

  • Adjusts well to the body - ideal for back, neck, or circulatory problems: A gel foam mattress consists of PUR gel foam. This material is similar to cold foam and viscose foam. In our experience, gel foam mattresses also have similarly high degrees of body adaptation and point elasticity.
  • Pleasant to lie on: Many people find the gentle sinking into the gel foam very pleasant.
  • Very good breathability: The gel foam mattress is permeable to air. This gives it a cooling sleeping climate and makes it suitable for people who sweat heavily. It is also temperature-neutral, meaning that it is equally soft in warm and cool temperatures.
  • Very good body adaptation and pressure relief: The gel foam mattress adapts well to the body and distributes pressure evenly, reducing annoying or painful pressure points.
  • Often recommended for orthopaedic problems: Due to their good adaptability, gel foam mattresses are often recommended for orthopaedic problems. The foam supports the spine well and relieves the joints.
  • Well-suited to restless sleepers: Restless tossing and turning can quickly become a problem on Visco mattresses. This is not the case with gel foam mattresses. Since they have a high rebound force and restore back to the original shape quickly, changes of position are much easier to accommodate.
  • Suitable for any type of slatted frame: The gel foam mattress is made of flexible material and can be used without problems on adjustable or electric slatted frames. A box spring or rigid slatted frame works equally well.
  • Safe for those suffering from allergies: Gel foam mattresses are not good habitats for house dust mites, making the mattresses great for those suffering from allergies.

The disadvantages at a glance

  • Slightly softer feel: Gel foam mattresses tend to feel softer. Many people may like that but others may not. It is, after all, a matter of individual preference. Some firmness can be added into gel foam mattresses by combining the gel foam with firmer base layers, like a cold foam or spring core.
  • Not ideal for heavier-weight stomach sleepers: If you weigh over 100 kg and like to sleep on your stomach or back, then we would recommend a barrel pocket spring mattresses. Gel foam mattresses are likely to cause you to sag, especially in the lumbar area, which could lead to a hollow back and subsequent health problems.
  • Heavy mattresses: Gel mattresses tend to be heavier and can be difficult to move. The extent of this depends on the other layers in the mattress.

For whom is a gel foam mattress suitable?

In general, gel foam mattresses can be suitable for many different types of people. It is particularly recommended for people who want a good compromise between cold foam and Visco foam mattresses.

Suitable for: Less suitable for:
  • People who like a softer feel
  • Side sleepers
  • Restless or calm sleepers
  • People who struggle with back and neck pain or circulatory problems
  • Those suffering from allergies
  • Adjustable slatted frames
  • People who don’t like sleeping on a soft surface
  • Stomach sleepers over 100 kg
  • People who may struggle to handle the mattress as gel foam mattresses tend to be very heavy

If you want a mattress with great body adaptation, a high degree of comfort, and a good support structure, then the gel foam mattress would be a good fit.

Good for people with high orthopaedic demands

A mattress with an integrated gel 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. It will also support the body well and stabilise it with a spring or robust cold foam core.

A great advantage of gel foam mattresses is that the material bounces back to its original shape quickly - much faster than with Visco mattresses. This is why gel foam mattresses are such a good choice for restless sleepers.

The right sleeping position on a gel foam mattress

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.

READ ALL OUR MATTRESS REVIEWS

Those 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.

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.

What should you look out for in 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.

2. Depth/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).

If you or your partner over 100 kg, we would advise you to choose a different type of mattresses, such as a pocket spring mattress. Such a mattress has increased stability and distributes weight well.Heavier-weight people should choose a higher degree of firmness, especially if they’re opting for a gel foam mattress. If the mattress is too soft, then you’ll sink in too deeply, which can result in an uncomfortable sleep or even long-term neck and back pain.

Degrees of Firmness

Available sizes

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

Singles tend to choose smaller sizes, such as 90 x 190 cm or 135 x 190 cm. This saves space.

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

FAQ: Which mattress size is the right one? We’ll guide you through the decision-making process.

The most common mattress sizes are:

Cleaning your gel foam mattress

You should clean your new foam mattress from time to time to keep it fresh. You don’t need special cleaning agents for this.

Make sure that you can easily remove the cover of your mattress and machine-wash it at the highest degree possible. This will certainly make life easier for you.

Choosing a good slatted frame is also important. This allows the mattress to be well-ventilated and prevents the formation of mould or mites. In general, you should air your bedroom well every day.

Gel mattress toppers

A gel mattress topper can be a great addition to your current mattress. They can adjust and improve the comfort of your sleep.

Gel toppers take on a similar function to a gel layer in a mattress. This means you can easily upgrade your cold foam or spring mattress by simply adding a good gel mattress topper.

There is a huge selection of gel mattress toppers available, such as the well-known eazzzy topper.

Which slatted frame should I choose for my gel foam mattress?

A good slatted frame can enhance your gel foam mattress. Here are some factors you should consider.

1. 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. Preferably height adjustable

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

A maximum distance of 5 cm between slats is recommended. In this way, the characteristics of a high-quality, zoned mattress are enhanced.

Alternatives to the gel foam mattress

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

Visco mattress

Visco 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 leaves a mark where the pressure was applied.

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

The biggest difference between gel foam and Visco mattresses is the sleeping climate. Visco 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.

Innerspring mattress

If you are looking for a firmer model with more stability and elasticity, you should choose an innerspring mattress. In addition to the usual layers of foam, this mattress has springs in its core, which can carry loads individually. This means that innerspring mattresses adapt to the body in a point-elastic manner. The gaps between the springs provide natural ventilation channels and so keep the mattress well ventilated.

Make sure that the innerspring mattress is of high quality. Inferior spring mattresses wear out quickly and allow for dents to form. This so-called hammock effect can create and worsen back pain. High-quality innerspring mattress models are pocket spring mattresses or barrel pocket spring mattresses.

Cold foam mattress

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. Both can also be recommended for orthopaedic problems.

The biggest difference lies in the sleeping climate. The gel foam mattress has a cooler sleeping climate. If you prefer a warmer sleeping climate, then a cold foam mattress may be a good choice.

Latex mattress

Latex mattresses also have high point elasticity and offer a high degree of comfort. Latex mattresses made of high-quality natural latex also have very good ventilation. Thus, the sleeping climate on a latex mattress is also cooler, similar to a gel foam mattress.

Lying down on a latex mattress feels slightly different - it feels a little bouncy. The gel foam mattress is more adaptable. Both mattresses tend to be soft.

As a restless sleeper, a latex mattress may be a better option.

Nicky P.

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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