Gel Foam vs. Memory Foam: The Detail That Makes a Difference

January 4, 2022 | Casper Editorial Team

Gel foam and memory foam may sound almost the same, but there are actually three big differences between the two mattresses: temperature, bounce, and price.

To get the sleep you need, you’ll need to know how these factors differentiate the mattresses. In addition, you’ll want to understand the many elements they have in common, including head and neck support and stable bed movement.

Keep reading to learn how to tell gel foam vs. memory foam apart so you can choose the right mattress for your sleeping needs.

What Is a Memory Foam Mattress?

A memory foam mattress is made of a synthetic material called polyurethane that uses body heat to mold to each sleeper’s position. There are two main types of regular memory foam mattresses: traditional and open-cell.

  • Traditional memory foam: made of a polyurethane by-product and closed cells that trap heat
  • Open-cell memory foam: designed with spongy passages that let the heat escape as you sleep

Traditional memory foam mattresses are made of a polyurethane by-product and closed cells that trap heat. Meanwhile, open-cell memory foam mattresses are designed with spongy passages that let the heat escape as you sleep.

What Is a Gel Foam Mattress?

A gel foam mattress is like a memory foam mattress, but with gel pods added to the top layers of foam. 

These gel pods provide extra support for your lower back and neck. In addition, they add more bounce to your mattress, allowing the foam to mold back to its original shape faster. The gel also helps draw heat away from your body, keeping you cool as you sleep.

what is a gel foam mattress

Similarities Between Memory Foam and Gel Foam

Since they’re both made of the same polyurethane foam material, memory foam and gel foam mattresses share a lot of similarities. Here are the primary characteristics they have in common:

1. Head and Neck Support

Mattresses made of polyurethane foam conform to your unique sleeping position. Their moldable shape is engineered to provide the unique head and neck support each sleeper needs.

To maximize this support, it’s a good idea to invest in a supportive memory foam pillow in addition to your foam mattress. That way, your bedding can support your body from head to toe.

2. Stable Bed Movement 

While non-foam mattresses tend to move as you toss and turn, foam mattresses offer more stability. That’s because the dense foam prevents the movement you might experience on other mattress types.

Especially for those who share a bed with their partner or pet, the steadiness of a foam mattress is a major plus. With a foam mattress, you’re less likely to be disturbed by your sleeping partner’s every move.

3. Varied Firmness

While some associate traditional memory foam with firmness, new memory foam mattresses actually vary from ultra-soft to extra-supportive. For back sleepers who need extra support, there’s a foam mattress that provides the medium-firm to firm mold they need. Meanwhile, side sleepers can find the soft to medium-firm foam mattress that cradles them with comfort. 

mattress firmness scale

The choice between a plush vs. firm or a medium vs. firm mattress is up to you and your sleeping preferences. Whichever you prefer, there’s a foam mattress that can satisfy your sleepytime needs. 

4. Pain Relief 

Learning how to sleep with back pain can be a challenge, but the support of a foam mattress can help. Memory foam and gel foam mattresses are designed to provide the moldable back and neck support necessary to reduce achy joints and muscles.

The foam Casper Element Mattress®, Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress®, and Casper Wave Hybrid Mattress™ are designed to help relieve back pain. Their Zoned Support™ technology is engineered to maintain proper spinal alignment all night long. 

Not ready to buy a whole new mattress for pain relief? A foam mattress topper can add that extra oomph of support while you search for a new bed.

Differences Between Memory Foam and Gel Foam

Although gel foam and memory foam mattresses are alike in many ways, their differences may put one in front of the other for you. Check out the three factors that separate the mattresses:

1. Temperature 

Gel foam mattresses have a cooler feel than some memory foam mattresses. That’s because the top layer of cooling gel is designed to wick away heat and moisture. For those who tend to sleep hot, gel foam mattresses can provide the cool-to-the-touch comfort you need.

Meanwhile, due to their closed-cell structure, traditional memory foam mattresses trap heat, keeping you warm and cozy. Sleepers who get chilly at night may prefer the warm feel of a traditional memory foam mattress. Others may opt for an open-cell memory foam mattress that allows heat to escape.

2. Bounce

Compared to memory foam mattresses, gel foam mattresses tend to bounce back to their original shape faster. Their gel pods add a bouncy feel to the top layer that molds to your body and reshapes as soon as you leave the bed. 

On the other hand, traditional and open-cell memory foam mattresses hold their shape a little longer. If you opt for memory foam, be sure to rotate your mattress every six to 12 months to keep the foam cells bouncing back.

3. Price

Since they’re made of more materials, gel foam mattresses tend to come at a higher price than memory foam mattresses. For example, the queen-sized memory foam Casper Original Mattress™ costs $1,295, while the queen-sized Casper Wave Hybrid Mattress with cooling gel pods costs $2,895.

For some, the added cool and bounce in gel foam mattresses make them worth the slightly higher price tag. Meanwhile, sleepers on a budget may find that regular memory foam mattresses offer just as much comfort without breaking the bank.

Gel Memory Foam vs. Memory Foam Comparison Chart

gel foam vs memory foam comparison chart

Alternative Mattress Types

Before deciding between gel foam vs. memory foam, it’s important to weigh all your options. Here are three alternative mattress types to consider:

  • Innerspring mattresses: Spring mattresses include a plush top layer, coils, and a foam base, giving sleepers a budget-friendly alternative to more luxurious gel or memory foam mattresses.
  • Latex mattresses: Although latex mattresses are more costly, they are an eco-friendly option that keeps you cooler than traditional memory foam mattresses. 
  • Hybrid mattresses: Hybrid mattresses combine the supportive, moldable feel of memory foam with springs or latex for optimal comfort.

Many foam mattresses actually use these alternative elements to provide sleepers with next-level comfort. For example, some hybrid mattresses incorporate memory foam and gel pods. Discover all the details about these must-have foam mattresses below. 

Gel Foam vs. Memory Foam: Product Comparison

To help you choose your ideal mattress, we’ve put together some of the top-rated foam mattresses on the market, along with the features that set them apart. Learning about their specific elements should help you decide between a gel foam vs. memory foam mattress. 

Casper’s Memory Foam Mattresses

Casper element mattress

The Casper Element Mattress®

With a price tag of just $695 for a queen size, the Casper Element Mattress® gives you seriously comfortable sleep at our coziest price. It is made with AirScape®, a layer of perforated foam that helps keep you cool all night, as well as a durable base foam to help prevent sagging and last for thousands of sleeps.

Casper original mattress

The Casper Original Mattress™

The all-foam Casper Original Mattress™ has a slightly higher price tag of $1,295 for a queen size. Like the Casper Element Mattress®, it is designed with AirScape® technology and a durable base foam. In addition, its Zoned Support™ technology includes three zones of support to help align your spine for all-night comfort, and its premium foam conforms to your body to relieve pressure.

Casper original hybrid mattress

The Casper Original Hybrid

The queen-sized Casper Original Hybrid Mattress costs $1,695 and features Zoned Support™, AirScape®, and premium foam. In addition to the foam, this hybrid mattress includes hundreds of resilient springs to add lift, airflow, and a bit of bounce.

Casper nova hybrid mattress

The Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress

The last gel-free option is the Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress, which has a $2,295 price tag and, like the Original Hybrid, includes resilient springs. It also features Zoned Support™ Pro with seven ergonomic zones designed to help keep your spine aligned and AirScape® 2 with two layers of perforated foam to help keep you cool all night. Lastly, its velvety soft top layer comforts you to sleep.

Casper’s Gel Foam Mattress

Casper wave hybrid mattress

The Casper Wave Hybrid Mattress

The Casper Wave Hybrid Mattress is our most supportive mattress, combining foam and springs for added lift, airflow, and edge support. Like most gel foam mattresses, it has a higher price tag than regular memory foam at $2,895 for a queen size. However, some sleepers may want to splurge for its advanced, gel-infused features. 

Like our other hybrids, it includes resilient springs. In addition, its Zoned Support™ Max includes continuous ergonomic support plus gel pods for optimal alignment. In addition, its AirScape® 3 plus cooling gel creates three layers of perforated foam to help keep you cool all night. The cradling top foams also help you fall asleep faster.

FAQs

Still debating between a gel foam vs. memory foam mattress? Learn the answers to your pressing questions below.

Which Is More Comfortable: Gel or Memory Foam?

Depending on your sleeping preferences, a gel foam or a memory foam mattress may be more comfortable than the other. 

For sleepers who prefer a cool-to-the-touch feel and a bit more bounce, a gel foam mattress provides the ideal, cooling lift. Meanwhile, those who enjoy a warm, cozy sleep with moldable support may prefer memory foam. 

What Is the Difference Between Memory and Gel Foam?

Memory and gel foam differ in the following three ways:

1. Temperature: Gel foam provides a cooler feel, while traditional memory foam traps heat.
2. Bounce: Gel foam bounces back quickly, while memory foam holds its original shape longer.
3. Price: Gel foam tends to cost more than memory foam.

Which Is Better: Memory Foam or Gel Foam?

Both memory foam and gel foam make great mattresses, so the question is which foam is better for you. Memory foam and gel foam each offer moldable support, stability, and pain relief in a range of firmness levels. 

Gel foam mattresses tend to be cooler in temperature and bounce back faster than memory foam mattresses. Meanwhile, since they don’t have the extra gel pod features, memory foam mattresses are usually more affordable.

Are Gel Mattresses Good?

Gel-infused mattresses are excellent mattresses for many sleepers. Like regular memory foam mattresses, they mold to the individual’s unique position while also providing cooling gel pods to keep the body at a comfortable temperature. When it’s time to get out of bed, gel mattresses also bounce back to their original shape fast.

Choosing a new mattress can be an overwhelming task. However, once you’ve settled the debate between a gel foam vs. memory foam mattress, you’ll be on your way to better sleep.

Want to give your options another look? Check out all of Casper’s snooze-worthy mattresses to find your dream gel foam or memory foam bed.