This week's record-breaking heat means only one thing: Summer is quickly approaching. And when it is hot outside, you want to be cool, especially when trying to get a good night's sleep.
Fortunately, technology has enabled mattress manufacturers to infuse gel into foam and latex, helping to ensure a comfortable and cool sleep surface.
In addition to creating a cooler mattress, the gel works to alleviate pressure points and allows the foam to conform to your body while sleeping.
"It's not really about the night; it's about getting through the day - knowing the importance of sleep and the part it plays in your health, wellness and quality of life," said Tony Smith, who heads marketing for Simmons Bedding Co., which recently rebranded its three major bedding lines under the Beautyrest umbrella.
Smith has first-hand knowledge of how important it is to sleep properly. At the recent Las Vegas Market at World Market Center Las Vegas, he admitted to being so tired that he accidently stepped into the ladies bathroom at an airport when trying to catch an early-morning flight.
Beautyrest is trying to help people live Life Fully Charged by getting a good night's sleep and utilizing its Recharge Sleep System, which blends sleep technologies to help consumers rest and recharge themselves, much like a human battery.
"We're taking a holistic approach," Smith said of Beautyrest's effort to helping people sleep better.
The sleep system combines AirCool memory foam, AirCool design and independent support technology to provide personalized back support and spinal alignment while offering pressure-point relief, enhanced air flow and dissipating heat.
With the AirCool memory foam, a liquid form of gel is mixed homogeneously throughout the layer, allowing it to respond quickly to each movement and remain cool.
"Living Life Fully Charged is guiding our entire operation, said Gary T. Fazio, chief executive officer of Simmon's Bedding Co.
According to Steve Dohm, Western region vice president for Kingsdown, there has been a shift in the past year showing a demand for mattresses utilizing gel technology. In fact, in spring 2011, the sales of memory foam mattresses eclipsed traditional spring mattresses for the first time.
Younger generations who are more technology savvy are looking to memory foam mattresses to provide a more comfortable and customizable sleep experience. Consumers are given the option to determine how thick a layer of memory foam they want or if they want it in combination with latex or traditional innersprings. The various combinations provide plush to firm surfaces. They also appreciate how foam absorbs movement from a partner, which could interrupt their sleep.
But foam mattresses are not perfect.
"More than half of the complaints are that they sleep hot," Dohm said. "Gel is a great solution."
To dissipate the heat, gel is introduced to the foam, either by incorporating it into the material or through an added layer in the mattress. Dohm said gel has the ability to reduce the temperature of a foam mattress by about 10 degrees.
Foam mattresses in the Kingdown's BluTek collection are vented horizontally and vertically to help them remain cool. Dohm said there are pinholes and a unique side breezeway to provide the ventilation and cooling. Extra support is provided through a 4.5-inch progressive support core.
"We are committed to offering consumers a variety of products that support everything you do in bed," said Jodi Allen, chief marketing officer for Sealy.
According to Sealy's recent research, body temperature plays a key role in sleep patterns, probably more than most people realize. The study showed that body temperature drops to its lowest level about four hours after you fall asleep; therefore, scientists believe a cooler bedroom may be most conducive to sleep because it mimics the body's natural temperature drop.
In most cases, any temperature above 75 degrees and below 54 will interfere with your sleep, company officials said.
This is the reasoning behind the use of gel to cool memory foam mattresses, especially in the top layers.
"The addition of gel memory foam to the most supportive mattress available helps cool you down when things get hot," Allen said.
She compared the effect to turning over your pillow to get to the cool side.
Yet incorporating gel into foam doesn't mean you have to give up the kind of support typically associated with innerspring mattresses.
This month, Sealy introduced gel memory foam to its popular Posturepedic line. Each model features OptiCool gel memory foam and a core support center, a reinforced area in the middle of the mattress that is a combination of power-packed materials and titanium alloy springs.
Also, the corners and edges are reinforced to prevent sagging and a StayTight foundation was introduced, giving the set a more finished, furniturelike appearance.
Additionally, it offers the all memory foam Optimum collection, which fuses the company's OptiCool gel foam with Outlast material in the top 2 inches of the mattresses to provide the best cooling experience possible. Outlast is the same material used in performance outdoor gear to help wick away moisture.
Allen said the combination of OptiCool and Outlast removes 12 times more heat than other memory foam mattresses.
Additionally, the mattresses have an OptiCore layer, a firmer section near the bottom to offer deep support. The Optimum line has five mattresses, ranging from plush to firm.
"Gel products are in high demand right now, but incorporating gel into a mattress isn't enough. It needs to be used properly in order to experience all the health benefits," said Ralph Rossdeutscher, president and chief executive officer of Natura. "Whereas other manufacturers infuse small amounts of gel into a latex or foam core, we use an entire layer of our patented OrthoGel."
Natura's NexGel OrthoGel technology eliminates pressure-point pain by providing localized support. The gel layer is formed from hexagonal columns fused together to form a durable honeycomb structure. When one column relaxes to cradle a pressure point, the surrounding columns redistribute the weight, customizing alignment and maintaining even support, Rossdeutscher said.
In addition, the hollow column design allows air to circulate, creating a temperature-neutral, breathable mattress.