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Memory Foam vs Gel Memory Foam: Which One Should I Get?


Everyone is getting some type of memory foam mattress these days. The market has exploded with options for every type of sleeper, but there are so many different kinds of memory foam mattresses out there, how do you choose the bed that's best for you?

Let's start by breaking down the difference between two popular types of memory foam mattresses: Memory foam and gel memory foam.

Which is Better Memory Foam or a Gel Mattress Topper? 

Memory foam and gel mattresses provide slightly different benefits. For example, a memory foam mattress provides full-body support and little to no motion transfer, whereas a gel mattress provides the same benefits but might provide a cooler sleep than a traditional foam mattress. They're very similar, but let's explore a little deeper to learn more.

What is a Memory Foam Mattress?

A memory foam bed is exactly that—it's made of memory foam or has layers made up of memory foam.

Memory foam was originally invented in the 1960s by NASA for space travel. It was used in seats and seat belts to help increase the comfort of astronauts who travel under intense pressure at very high speeds.

Soon, the shock-absorbing foam came to be used in other things like shoes and seat cushions until the 1990's when the first memory foam mattress was released. Since then they have become very popular all over the world for their supreme comfort.

What is Memory Foam Made of?

Memory foam is made of what is called viscoelastic polyurethane foam. This type of foam is viscous, meaning that it changes its shape under pressure and transfers energy very slowly. It is also elastic, which means that it can stretch to change shape and go back to normal when pressure is no longer present.

Not all memory foam mattresses are made of the same materials. Each one is different depending on the manufacturer, but in general, they all have a similar compound that gives them their elasticity and viscosity.

The Original Mattress sleeps cool through breathable, responsive foams for all-night comfort. Shop Now

What is Memory Foam Good For?

Memory foam has many amazing benefits for all types of sleepers. They include:

  • Spinal Alignment: Memory foam mattresses are great for relieving major pressure points while you sleep, specifically in your shoulders and hips. They respond to your body type and sleeping position and contour your body while you sleep. This makes it easier to find a comfortable position and keeps your spine in an ideal neutral alignment.

  • Reduced Motion Transfer: Memory foam also has very little motion transfer, meaning when you're in bed, you won't feel your partner, kids, or pets getting in and out of bed or shifting positions next to you. This helps to promote more peaceful, undisturbed sleep.

  • Silence: Unlike traditional spring mattresses, memory foam is very quiet. There's no noisy squeaking or groaning when you sit or lay down on a memory foam bed.

  • Allergy Sufferers: Since memory foam mattresses are made of dense material, they are not as likely to trap dead skin cells, dust mites, pet dander, mold, and other common allergens. Add a mattress protector to the mix and you have even more protection from irritants.

How Much Does Memory Foam Cost?

Memory foam mattresses tend to cost a little more than traditional mattresses, but there are several reasons why:

  • Memory foam lasts longer: Compared to a traditional spring mattress that typically only lasts about 5 years, a high-quality memory foam mattress lasts for 8 to 10 years.

  • Higher quality standards: In the US there are strict regulations as to what materials can be used in a memory foam mattress. They cannot contain hazardous chemicals and must have less off-gassing, meaning that they have to be made from premium quality materials.

  • Durability: Memory foam mattresses are more durable and maintain their form for longer than traditional mattresses.

While some memory foam mattresses are quite pricey, Leesa mattresses offer exceptional quality at a great value. Our Studio mattresses range in price from only $499 for a twin size to just $899 for a cal king.

You can take advantage of our financing with low monthly payments and as little as 0% APR. There are also plenty of special offers throughout the year with great discounts on all of our mattresses.

What is a Gel Memory Foam Mattress?

The combination of memory foam and gel creates a balance that provides comfort and support. For this reason, the gel material is popular in mattress toppers and mattress pads, too.

Many consumers choose a gel foam mattress for its spring, a.k.a. how quickly the mattress returns to its original shape after you get up. Gel mattresses may also offer a cooler sleeping option, although some complaints include that the cooling effect wears off over time. Not to mention, compared to a traditional memory foam mattress, a cooling gel mattress often has a much higher price tag.

What is a Gel Memory Foam Mattress Made of?

Gel memory foam is made from a viscoelastic material similar to that used in traditional memory foam mattresses, but with one major difference: gel. Liquid gel is either swirled into the foam, layered on top of the foam, or millions of miniature thermal gel beads are infused into the foam. The goal is to help dissipate body heat while still retaining the comfort of memory foam.

What is a Gel Memory Foam Mattress Good for?

Memory foam and gel memory foam mattresses are more alike than they are unalike, but a gel memory foam mattress is good for:

  • Hot Sleepers: Gel memory foam feels cooler to the touch and doesn't trap heat, making it a good option for a hot sleeper.

  • Springiness: Gel bounces back a little faster than traditional memory foam.

How Much Does a Gel Memory Foam Mattress Cost?

Since a gel memory foam mattress requires more materials to make, it comes with a higher price tag, but infusing a mattress with gel isn't the only way to create a cooling mattress. The Leesa Legend mattress has a responsive foam comfort layer that is hole punched for breathability, so it sleeps nice and cool all night long.

Similarities Between Memory Foam and Gel Foam

Memory foam and gel memory foam are more alike than they are different. Both offer the following benefits:

  • Contours to the body for pressure point relief

  • Good for couples due to quietness and limited motion transfer

  • Varying degrees of firmness for side sleepers, back sleepers, or stomach sleepers

  • Lumbar support for back pain and pressure relief for all sleeping positions

Difference Between Gel Memory Foam and Memory Foam

Even though the two are similar, there are two main differences between them.

  • Gel memory foam has more cooling properties compared to a traditional memory foam bed and helps to regulate body temperature.

  • Gel memory foam bounces back a little faster than traditional memory foam.

What Type of Mattress is Best For Me?

If you're feeling torn between traditional memory foam and gel memory foam mattresses, it all comes down to how much you would like to spend. A gel mattress offers a cooler and springier feel, but these two benefits might not be worth the cost to you. After all, there are other ways to make a mattress feel cooler and springier without infusing it with gel.

When you're looking for a new mattress, consider size, comfort, and support. When you're mattress shopping, start here. Leesa is here to help weigh the pros and cons of your options so you can make the right decision.

Ready to upgrade your sleep and find your perfect mattress? Leesa is here to guide you to your favorite new mattress.


How long do gel memory foam mattresses last?

Memory foam and gel memory foam mattresses last for about 8-10 years, depending on how well you care for your bed.

Can you flip a memory foam mattress?

It is not recommended to flip a memory foam mattress. You will end up sleeping on the base of the bed since the memory foam layer is on the top. You can rotate it if you feel you need to keep the wear even.

Does memory foam smell go away?

Yes. The memory foam smell does go away after a short time. Off-gassing might be a mild annoyance associated with most memory foam mattresses, but the good news is that it is not harmful to you.

Is a gel memory foam mattress good?

A gel-infused memory foam mattress offers similar benefits as a regular memory foam bed when it comes to full-body support and little to no motion transfer. However, the gel infused option tends to stay a bit cooler at night, making it a tempting choice, despite it’s high price tag. But keep in mind that there are other great options for those hot sleepers looking to avoid night sweats. The responsive foam comfort layer of the Leesa Legend mattress has holes drilled into it for breathability, allowing it to stay cool throughout the night, while still remaining affordable.

What's in a memory foam bed?

A regular memory foam mattress is comprised of viscoelastic polyurethane foam that changes shape under pressure and shifts energy slowly, creating a satisfying impression effect. And because it’s also elastic, it can stretch to take on a different shape and then return to its original state when the pressure is removed. A gel-infused memory foam mattress is made similarly, only with the addition of the gel.