Does Anyone Actually Know What Gel Is?

Gel memory foam. Gel swirls. Gel beads. Gel has even been turned into a verb. (The shoe sole insert commercial. You know the one.) Does anyone actually know what it is? Can they define it? What does it have to do with your mattress? We know, at Mattress Man Stores. If you are curious as to the pressure relieving benefits of memory foam but still believe that it will sleep like hot quicksand, it is time you learned a few things about gel memory foam.

Here’s Where We Define Gel

The Mattress Man has done his research. IUPAC defines gel as a “nonfluid colloidal network that is expanded throughout its whole volume by a fluid”. The “solids”, or polymer chains, form a three dimensional matrix that hold enough liquid to remain elastic. Gel is said to have a jelly-like state. We, like you, were taught in elementary school that one cannot use the word being defined in the definition. True, jelly is not gel. But we still think that using jelly-like in the definition of gel might be cheating.

“Using the word jelly for these is also cheating.”

In mattresses, gel is most often used in the cushioning layers. These cushioning layers usually consist of some combination of flexible polyurethane foams. When you hear the word foam, there are two main types: polyurethane foam and memory or viscoelastic polyurethane foam.

What Makes Gel Cool (Temperature)

The liquid in a gel is composed of Phase Change Materials (Let’s call them PCMs. Everyone else does.) These are organic or inorganic materials that change states (i.e. solid to liquid) and in doing so, absorb or release heat. The most approachable explanation that we’ve heard was the phase change observed in a candle. When you light a candle the wick burns more quickly until the wax melts. When the wax is in a liquid state it can absorb more heat. Wax is a PCM. It is perhaps the original PCM.


Cooling Gel’s Role in Your Mattress

Like wax, when the gel inside of mattresses changes to a liquid, heat is absorbed. This does not mean that the liquid is spilling into the mattress. Perish the thought. Gels are usually encapsulated. (Recall the “Gel Beads” at the beginning of this article.)

The exact contents in those beads are closely guarded proprietary secrets. The universal goal is to allow the sleeping surface to remain at the ideal temperature.

Dr. Gel-kyll and Mr. Hyde

Gel has another role besides heat dispersion. It is not sinister, rest assured. Do you recall the most common type of cushioning? Flexible Polyurethane Foam. That’s right. And what is memory foam? Slow-recovery polyurethane foam. Right again. Gel can change the resiliency or “recovery” of foams. What that really means is that the foam will return to its original shape faster.

Have you ever laid on a memory foam mattress and felt like you were sinking into a hole? That feeling, associated with traditional memory foam, is called “cradling”. It may be your dream mattress and a waking nightmare for someone else. That other person might want a similar cradling support, but with a “recovery” that is faster. The addition of gel into memory foam can do that. With faster recovery, you can change positions to your side without fighting your way out of the hole your body left when you were on your back.

“The traditional memory foam struggle.”

When You Are Ready to Begin Your Mattress Hunt

How will you know if you will like the feel of gel memory foam? How thick should the layers be? How dense? These are answers that an informed sleep specialist can give you. The answers have to be tailored to you. A comfort scale listed on a manufacturer’s website shouldn’t mean much to you. A mattress that conforms to a 95-pound person may form a sinkhole under the weight of someone who weighs 295 pounds. A mattress that feels supportive to a stomach-sleeper may be too firm for a side-sleeper.

Look for an independent store with clearly labeled pricing. (Bright red half-price signs on every mattress is a sign…that you should leave.) Look for a sales staff that is willing to listen to your wants, needs, and budget. The value is determined by the components and support, not multi-star ratings on the internet. Opinions on comfort are irrelevant. Reviews can be doctored by webmasters. A seasoned, honest sleep specialist will shoot you straight. If you are in Western North Carolina or upstate South Carolina, stop by Mattress Man Stores. We will help you find a great mattress at a great value.

Wrap It Up

Now you know what gel is. You know that when you add it to memory foam, you’re less likely to feel like you are lying in sweltering sinkhole. If you struggled to move around in a traditional memory foam mattress, gel memory foam could help you feel like a nimble sleeper if such a thing exists. Mattresses are not mysterious white squishy rectangles. They are not greater than the sum of their parts. Gel memory foam is in many mattresses. Visit Mattress Man Stores, or your locally owned sleep shop, and we will inform you as to what to expect from your next mattress, whether you want gel memory foam, an innerspring, or a combination of the two.

Mattress Man