Have you compared mattresses lately? Years ago, when people walked into a department store or mattress store and tested out floor models, they simply chose the one that felt the most comfortable. The biggest decision was choosing between soft, medium or firm. Now they come with a dizzying variety of options. People wonder what’s the difference between a memory foam mattress, a gel foam mattress, and a gel mattress? Is it worth the cost to have a bed that adjusts? What about the chemicals some manufacturers include? When you spend a third of every day in bed, it’s important to be sure you’re making the best choice.
Memory Foam Mattress
Memory foam and gel foam are similar products. Memory foam is made of viscoelastic, a substance Nasa developed in the 1970s. If you’ve seen the commercial or image where someone presses their hand into the mattress and the handprint remains, you’re familiar with memory foam.
NASA used it for crash padding and seat cushions because it conforms to body shape and protected astronauts during the massive force of takeoff and reentry. It has tiny memory pockets that respond to temperature change and pressure. Body heat and weight cause it to take on your body shape, then as it cools, it returns to its original contours.
Mattress manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients they include in their mattresses, but memory foam often contains ingredients that are potentially toxic or that produce gasses that create health concerns. Here are a few of the chemicals that have been found in memory foam.
- Methylenedianiline – This chemical irritates eyes and skin. It has been known to cause liver and thyroid disorders and may cause cancer.
- Methyl benzene – When inhaled, this chemical impacts the nervous system.
- Formaldehyde – Adhesives that hold memory foam together can cause eye and respiratory irritation and are possible carcinogens.
- Fire retardants – Foam is flammable, so mattresses are usually doused in chemicals that can cause organ toxicity, cancer, neurological disorders and other diseases.
Memory foam mattresses tend to release odors they off-gas for months after purchase. They are extremely soft, but they don’t provide much support. Because of the chemicals used to manufacture them, they often make sleepers feel hot.
Gel Foam Mattress
Gel foam mattresses are also made with viscoelastic, but manufacturers infuse the material with gel. The foam is mixed with tiny beads of gel that are either distributed evenly throughout the mattress or mixed with the top layer of mattress material.
Manufacturers claim the gel improves mattress circulation and reduces heat, so the sleeper doesn’t get as hot. Gel foam mattresses are more expensive than regular memory foam and may not be as durable. As gel within the mattress breaks down, the mattress may lose structure.
Other than the tiny gel beads that make sleepers feel marginally cooler, gel foam mattresses have the same drawbacks as memory foam. They’re made of flammable material that doesn’t provide support. The heaviest parts of the body press down into the foam and the spine can twist out of alignment. Sleepers spend less time in deep REM sleep and expose themselves to toxins.
Intellibed produces the only gel mattresses that come with patent-protected Gel Matrix™. It’s not gel mixed with foam; it’s an elastic solid copolymer gel. The Gel Matrix™ creates the co-polymer Gelastic, which creates a honeycomb design of tiny squares that evenly distribute body weight.
The soft gel cradles hip joints and shoulders and has the ability to recognize when pressure might create discomfort. Cells of the honeycomb relax to relieve pressure while other parts of the mattress continue to support lighter body parts like your lower back, knees, and feet.
Gel Matrix™ is extremely durable. While most memory foam and gel foam mattresses deteriorate within five years under normal wear and tear, Intellibed gel mattresses retain their integrity for their entire lifespan.
Gel Matrix™ was originally used in hospitals. It’s made of pure mineral oil, so it contains non-toxic ingredients. The 100 percent copolymer gel mattress doesn’t off-gas and isn’t saturated with flame retardants that can harm your health.