Memory Foam vs. Gel Foam: What's the Difference

If you're shopping for a new mattress, you may be wondering whether a traditional memory foam mattress or a gel-infused memory foam mattress is best for you. When buying a memory foam mattress, keep in mind that the majority of mattresses are constructed from several different layers of foam in varying densities, so you won't necessarily have to choose between the two different types of foam. 

What is Memory Foam? 

In the 1960s, NASA partnered with a contractor to develop memory foam, aka temper foam, to improve the feel of space shuttle cushions and to help in crash protection. And, lucky for us, the technology didn't just stay in outer space. After the revolutionary foam was introduced, it was soon used to create memory foam mattresses.  

Unlike spring mattresses, memory foam molds to the body and, of course, the hand—just think for a second about how many times you've seen a photo of someone's hand print in memory foam. When you lay on a memory foam mattress, you may experience a sinking feeling if the foam is low density. Not sure how to determine if a mattress is low density? Ask for the density per cubic foot or check the weight. A lower-density mattress will weigh less than a higher-density mattress.  

What is Gel-Infused Memory Foam? 

Gel-infused memory foam is memory foam that's been infused with gel microbeads. The addition of gel microbeads to memory foam creates a more breathable foam, helping to regulate your body temperature while you sleep. Adding gel microbeads to memory foam also increases the density of the memory foam, creating a surface that's soft, yet firm.  

Like traditional memory foam, gel-infused foam will still mold to your body, but the benefit is that you won't experience that hot, sinking feeling. The gel beads will wick away heat, keeping you cool throughout the night. 

What are the Benefits of Memory Foam and Gel-Infused Foam? 

Pressure Relief & Spine Alignment  

Since making its earthly debut, memory foam has become known for providing soft, pressure-relieving comfort. It reacts to your body, conforming to your shape when you lay down to sleep at night. Because it does support the body, memory foam has been associated with pressure point relief and proper spine alignment. 

No Motion Transfer  

Memory foam is known for isolating motion transfer. Think about how many times you've seen a commercial of someone jumping on a memory foam mattress next to a full glass of wine. It never spills! That's because memory foam absorbs motion instead of transferring it through the bed. So, if you and your partner have different sleep schedules, memory foam may help you snooze in peace.  

Works on All Bed Frames  

Looking for the best foundation for a memory foam mattress? You can use a variety of foundations including a box spring, platform bed,
slatted base, an adjustable bed frame or the floor. It doesn't matter as long as the mattress has a solid, supportive foundation to ensure even wear. Read more about your various choices here

Easy to Care For  

The majority of memory foam mattresses feature a zip-off cover for easy care. While a mattress protector is still recommended to guard against stains and spills, the cover can be easily removed and washed if an accident does occur.  


A high-density memory foam mattress can last 8 to 10 years and, unlike a spring mattress, it won't sag after a few years of use. Not sure what the shelf life of your current mattress is? Check the warranty. If it has a 10-year warranty, chances are you won't have to replace it within that 10-year period.  

What are the Differences Between Memory Foam & Gel-Infused Foam? 

Heat Retention  

Traditional memory foam and gel-infused foam are alike in nearly every way with the exception of heat retention. Traditional memory foam is known to retain heat and sleep hot. While some memory foam mattresses may try to combat this by using a foam with an open-cell structure, there is still a noticeable difference in temperature between regular memory foam and gel-infused memory foam.  


When shopping for a memory foam mattress, you may notice that there is a slight difference in cost between a gel-infused mattress and a traditional memory foam mattress. Gel-infused foam is high density (aka higher quality) and has temperature-regulating properties, which can make it more expensive. 

How Should You Choose? 

While shopping for a new memory foam mattress, carefully look at how the layers of the mattress are constructed. If sleeping cool and comfortable is important to you, choose a memory foam mattress with a gel-infused top layer so you'll be able to feel the temperature difference on the surface of the mattress.  

If you're shopping on a budget, pay close attention to the density of each mattress layer. Why? A high-density mattress means that you're getting a high-quality mattress that will last you for many years to come.  

To learn more about a high-density gel-infused mattress, take a look at what's inside the Muse mattress.  

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