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Can a Gel Memory Foam Mattress Freeze?

A gel memory foam mattress is made from viscoelastic polyurethane foam that has gel beads – which are often semi-liquid in their resting state – infused or mixed into the memory foam, or added as a separate gel layer.

And whilst there’s some debate as to whether or not gel-infused memory foam mattresses actually sleep cooler than regular memory foam – you might be wondering if your gel memory foam mattress is at risk of freezing in colder temperatures due to its semi-liquid properties.

If additional moisture is able to seep into the foam and the temperature drops below 32°F (0°C) – your gel memory foam mattress could freeze. In the absence of excessive moisture, you’ll likely find that the average gel memory foam mattress – or regular memory foam mattress – feels hard and uncomfortable at the same temperature.

If you plan on using your memory foam mattress in your RV or living space in a cold climate then keep reading to find out exactly how your mattress will feel at different temperatures.

What Happens to Gel Memory Foam Mattresses in the Cold?

Memory foam is temperature sensitive.

It works by absorbing your body heat and using it to reconfigure the molecules of the foam so that the material can adjust to your exact body shape to take away the pressure on the more angular areas of your body and increase comfort [1].

However, this process often results in memory foam mattresses retaining heat which can cause your body to warm up and make you feel uncomfortable.

To combat this, Peterson Chemical Technology developed the combination of visco foam fused with gel particles as a way to reduce trapped body heat [2].

Today, there are many manufacturers that use their own types of cooling foams that contain gel beads, foam crystals, and air filled cells – such as Geltex from Sealy:

Sealy Geltex – by Sealy UK.

Much of this technology uses gel beads that change from a semi-solid to a liquid state when exposed to body heat.

Crucially, both gel and non-gel memory foam mattresses feel softer at warmer temperatures and firmer at cooler temperatures.

For example, when you’ve been lying on a memory foam mattress for a while, it will feel soft and squishy under your body heat (around 37°C or 98.6°F).

And when you get out of bed, the foam will harden up again as it adjusts to room temperature (around 20°C or 68°F).

Below room temperature, the closer to freezing it gets the harder your memory foam mattress will feel.

For example, one person reported that their memory foam mattress felt ‘hard as a rock’ once the temperature reached 32°F (0°C) in their Class C motorhome [3].

Check out the table and sections below to learn more about how memory foam will feel at different temperatures and what can happen to your mattress in the cold.

Freezing: 32°F (0°C)Room Temperature: 68°FBody Temperature: 98.6°F
Memory foam becomes hard and uncomfortable.Memory foam feels dense but somewhat pliableMemory foam will feel much softer and more pliable.

1: Moisture Can Cause Freezing

Polyurethane based foam has the capacity to absorb moisture – according to this study by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Alaska [4].

Given that gel and non-gel memory foam mattresses, toppers, pillows, and other products consist mainly of polyurethane then it’s possible that they may freeze if they become wet and are exposed to temperatures below 32°F (0°C).

Are you planning on putting your memory foam mattress in your RV or confined active living space?

Then this risk of freezing could potentially increase.

Because during the day, the air humidity may increase as you shower, cook, dry your laundry inside, use a gas heater, or simply if you are in a high rainfall region.

And any moisture accumulated by your memory foam mattress could freeze when the temperature drops below 32°F (0°C) at night.

Furthermore, memory foam mattresses often collect condensation on the underside when placed on a non-breathable surface – which increases the risk of freezing even more.

2: The Mattress Takes Longer to Soften

A frozen memory foam mattress can take several hours to soften up at room temperature.

This means that if you’re trying to sleep on a memory foam mattress in the cold then it’s going to feel pretty uncomfortable because the foam is going to take longer to respond to your body heat.

This means that at first, it will feel like you’re sleeping on a slab of concrete – which will begin to ease up as the foam picks up your body heat.

But the response time of the mattress will likely decrease because the bulk of the mattress will still remain cold.

As such, the mattress will probably feel quite uncomfortable as you switch positions because the foam will take longer to adjust to your new shape.

3: Potential For Mattress Damage

The Cold Climate Housing Research Center study that I referenced earlier said that it’s possible that foam that has absorbed moisture may become damaged by repeated freeze-thaw cycles (Kaplar, 1974) – although more research is needed to be sure.

So if you’re exposing your memory foam mattress to freezing temperatures and then thawing it out on a regular basis then it’s possible that the foam may become damaged.

I’m not exactly sure to what extent this would affect the overall feel of your mattress – but it’s something to keep in mind.

Related Questions

Here’s some of the answers to questions related to the freezing of gel memory foam mattresses.

How Can You Stop a Gel Memory Foam Mattress From Freezing?

The simple solution is to keep the room that your memory foam mattress is in at an even temperature of around 68°F all the time.

And if you’re in an RV or a confined living space, try to avoid activities that increase the humidity of the room with the mattress in.

What’s the Best Way to Thaw a Frozen Gel Memory Foam Mattress?

If you have time, then leaving the mattress at room temperature for a few hours should reverse the effects of freezing and restore the pliability of the memory foam.

How Can You Make a Frozen Gel Memory Foam Mattress Comfortable?

If you can’t increase the room temperature, then one solution is to pile blankets on top of the mattress to make your sleeping surface softer.

You could also try hopping into a sleeping bag and placing it on the mattress.

What’s the Best Temperature For Memory Foam?

Memory foam tends to perform best at ambient temperatures between 55°F and 85°F [5].

Keep Your Mattress at Room Temperature

To summarise, both gel-infused and non-gel memory foam mattresses are liable to freeze when exposed to moisture and temperatures below 32°F (0°C).

In the absence of excessive moisture, you should expect your memory foam mattress to feel hard and uncomfortable at the same temperature.

Therefore, it’s best if you keep your memory foam mattress at room temperature and minimise humidity as far as possible without significant variation to avoid having to deal with an uncomfortable mattress at bed time.

Need a Memory Foam Alternative?

If you need a memory foam mattress alternative, then click the button below to choose from a list of different mattresses.


References and Sources

[1], [2] Wikipedia – Memory foam. Accessed 29/4/20.

[3] Off Grid – Memory Foam in Cold Climates. Accessed 29/4/20.

[4] Alaska Housing Finance Corporation – Moisture Measurement in Polyurethane Foam Insulation. Accessed 29/4/20.

[5] Mattress to Go – Information On Flexible Polyurethane Foam – White Paper. Accessed 29/4/20.

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