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Daniel Noyed

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Gel pillows use cooling gel to regulate temperature and reduce heat build-up on the surface of the pillow. They may use different designs to accomplish this, including gel pods, laminated gel layers, and gel infusions in the pillow material. Gel is most often used in memory foam pillows, which are known for their heat retention. If you’re struggling to maintain a neutral temperature while sleeping, a gel pillow may be the answer.

Gel pillows come in various models, including solid memory foam, shredded memory foam, and microfiber. Despite their claims, not all gel pillows succeed in keeping sleepers cool overnight. It’s important to do your research to ensure you’re getting a product that works. We’ll examine common models and features of gel pillows and share our recommendations to help you find the best gel pillow for your sleeping style.

Product Details

Serta iComfort TempActiv Pillow

Serta iComfort TempActiv Pillow
Fill:
Solid memory foam
Firmness:
Medium Soft
Serta iComfort TempActiv Pillow
Highlights:

Made with ventilated gel memory foam, the cooling Serta TempActive Pillow comes backed by a 5-year warranty and one of the biggest names in the sleep industry.

Who it's best for:
  • Back and side sleepers
  • Those who sleep hot
  • Customers who want a longer warranty

Our Editor’s Pick for the best gel pillow is the Serta TempActiv Pillow, made of ventilated memory foam. The pincore holes help boost airflow to dissipate heat, and the surface is infused with gel for added cooling.

The Serta TempActiv Pillow is fairly flat, with the memory foam contouring closely to provide gentle support and pressure relief. The pillow has a 5-inch loft and a medium feel that cradles the head and neck when sleeping on the back. A thick gusset helps the pillow hold its shape, making the pillow suitable for many side sleepers as well.

Serta is one of the biggest names in the American mattress industry, with a century of experience in providing bedding for satisfied customers. This pillow is priced on the high side, but the quality may be worth it for those who value a pillow backed by a well-established company. The Serta TempActiv Pillow is available in queen size and comes with a 5-year limited warranty.

Classic Brands Reversible Cool Gel Memory Foam Pillow

Classic Brands Reversible Cool Gel Memory Foam Pillow
Fill:
Solid memory foam
Firmness:
Side 1: Medium Soft Side 2: Medium Firm
Classic Brands Reversible Cool Gel Memory Foam Pillow
Highlights:

The Classic Brands Reversible Cool Gel Memory Foam Pillow allows sleepers to choose between neutral memory foam or a laminated gel layer, making the pillow suitable for year-round use.

Who it's best for:
  • Back and side sleepers
  • Those who suffer from shoulder pain
  • People looking for a year-round pillow

Designed with a laminated cooling gel layer on one side of the pillow, the Classic Brands Reversible Cool Gel Memory Foam Pillow is ideal for use in both summer and winter. A mesh knit cover encourages airflow to minimize heat retention. The cover can be removed and machine-washed.

The pillow itself is made of open-cell memory foam that provides enhanced pressure relief for all sleeping positions. The cooling gel side provides firmer support, with a medium firm feel on this side and a medium soft feel on the regular memory foam side. Sleepers can flip the pillow to find the firmness level that best suits their preferred sleeping position. With its relatively high 5-inch loft, the pillow works best for back and side sleepers.

As with most memory foam pillows, the Classic Brands Reversible Cool Gel Memory Foam Pillow is allergen- and dust-mite resistant. The pillow is sold in a standard size and it’s exclusively available for purchase through third-party retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Macy’s.

Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow

Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow
Fill:
Gel down alternative fibers
Firmness:
Soft
Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow
Highlights:

The Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow gives sleepers the plush comfort of a down pillow, with a no-shift construction and gel fibers that keep you cool and supported all night long.

Who it's best for:
  • Those who prefer the feel of a down pillow
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Allergy sufferers

The Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow is made with poly gel microfiber that emulates the softness of down. The interior of the pillow has a no-shift construction designed to keep the sleeper’s head supported all night long.

This pillow has a fairly high loft with an initially soft feel. As sleepers sink deeper into the pillow, the gel fibers compress to form a firmer, supportive cradle. Due to its height, the pillow is best-suited to side sleepers and back sleepers who prefer a thicker pillow.

The pillow has a cover made of 100 percent cotton. It’s woven with a sleek sateen weave with a thread count of 240 that allows room for air to flow in and out. The pillow is fade-resistant, stain-resistant, and dust mite-resistant. Additionally, the entire pillow can be machine-washed in cold water on the gentle cycle. This not only helps keep it clean but also refluffs it when it starts to flatten out.

Pillows are sold in standard, queen, king, and euro sizes. Each set comes with two pillows. When it first arrives, the pillow should be fluffed up and may take 24 hours to reach its full height.

Perfect Cloud Dual Option Cooling-Gel Pillow

Perfect Cloud Dual Option Cooling-Gel Pillow
Fill:
Firmness:
Medium
Perfect Cloud Dual Option Cooling-Gel Pillow
Highlights:

The Perfect Cloud Dual Option Cooling-Gel Pillow incorporates ventilated gel memory foam and a layer of gel pods for maximum cooling.

Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • Those who prefer a stiffer pillow
  • Side sleepers

Those who struggle to keep cool while sleeping may find relief with the Perfect Cloud Dual Option Cooling-Gel Pillow. This pillow features multiple cooling features designed to beat heat retention.

A layer of gel pods quilted into the cover helps draw heat away from the sleeper. Inside, the pillow is made with gel-infused memory foam that’s ventilated to allow for better airflow. Finally, the pillow has a breathable stretch knit cover with a mesh gusset siding that allows any remaining heat to escape.

With a medium feel and a height of 5.5 inches, the pillow has a thick gusset that maintains the loft at an adequate height for side sleepers. Memory foam contours to the head and neck to support the spine and relieve pressure build-up. The mesh gusset siding allows heat to escape.

The Perfect Cloud Dual Option Cooling-Gel Pillow ships for free and comes with a 3-year warranty. It comes in one size, queen, and weighs 4.4 pounds. The pillow is CertiPUR-US certified to be free of ozone depleters, formaldehyde, and other harsh chemicals. The cover is removable for easier cleaning.

Weekender Bedding Gel Memory Foam Pillow

Weekender Bedding Gel Memory Foam Pillow
Fill:
Solid memory foam
Firmness:
Medium
Weekender Bedding Gel Memory Foam Pillow
Highlights:

The Weekender Bedding Gel Memory Foam Pillow is a lightweight gel memory foam pillow featuring a different feel on each side.

Who it's best for:
  • People with changing temperature preferences
  • Side sleepers
  • Those who prefer a lightweight pillow

The Weekender Bedding Gel Memory Foam Pillow is made from ventilated memory foam with a fairly high 5-inch loft. Along with the airflow through the pincore holes, gel infusions in the memory foam help to regulate temperature throughout the night.

Sleepers can choose between two different sides depending on whether they sleep hot or cool. One side of the pillow is made from a cool-to-the-touch polyethylene and polyester blend that incorporates active cooling technology. The other side is made of 100 percent polyester with a more neutral feel. The cover is removable and machine-washable.

In terms of firmness, the pillow ranks around a medium, compressing just enough to relieve pressure points without sacrificing support. Those who like moving around their pillow as they sleep will be glad to hear it’s relatively lightweight.

Customers can choose from standard, queen, or king size pillows. Weekender Bedding stands by the pillow with a 3-year warranty.

What is a Gel Pillow?

Gel pillows aim to reduce heat retention using gel, either in the form of gel infusions, gel beads, gel pods, or laminated gel layers. The gel works by absorbing heat and transferring it away from your body to prevent the pillow from heating up. Depending on the design, this may be more or less effective at maintaining a neutral temperature on the sleep surface. Using breathable bedding and a cooling mattress can also help with temperature regulation.

The most common types of gel pillows are solid and shredded memory foam pillows. Memory foam is a desirable pillow material because it contours closely to reduce pressure points, but many people find that the material retains too much heat. Adding gel beads or gel swirls can help curb this heat retention. Shredded memory foam pillows offer greater moldability and better airflow, while solid memory foam pillows hold their shape better.

You may also see other types of pillows that have a thin layer of gel on one or both sides. Some manufacturers make flippable pillows with more intense cooling on one side, or removable gel layers that allow the customer to personalize the feel. Alternatively, some manufacturers directly infuse gel into the fibers of down alternative pillows.

Most gel pillows are somewhat reliant on the ambient temperature, meaning that if your bedroom is very hot, there’s only so much they can do to keep you cool. To enhance the gel’s cooling effects, most gel pillows have a cover made of cotton, Tencel, or another breathable fabric. Some may take it a step further and add a cover with phase change material that’s cool to the touch.

How to Choose a Gel Pillow

As the term “gel pillow” refers to the practice of adding gel to a pillow instead of to a specific pillow type, there’s quite a lot of variation within this category. In the following sections, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of gel pillows and what type of sleeper is best-suited to a gel pillow. We’ll also answer some commonly asked questions about gel pillows and provide buyer advice on choosing the best cooling gel pillow for your situation.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Gel Pillow

As with any important purchase, it’s helpful to have an idea of what you’re looking for before you start your research. Variables like the pillow’s loft, firmness level, and shape can have a major impact on how comfortable a gel pillow feels and how well it supports you.

Unfortunately, some gel pillow manufacturers can use confusing marketing language to sell their pillows. Focusing on the following key factors and your needs can help you see past the hype and find the best gel pillow for your sleeping style.

Loft
Ideally, the pillow should be just high enough to keep the head, neck, and spine in a flat line. A higher loft is favorable for side sleepers, who have a larger gap to fill between the head and the mattress. By contrast, back sleepers need a medium loft, and stomach sleepers need a very low loft or sometimes no pillow at all.

Fill
The fill used to make a pillow determines its overall feel, as well as other properties such as the amount of airflow it allows. Gel pillows incorporate gel into the fill, either in standalone gel layers or by infusing gel into the other components.

Support
A pillow is only as good as its ability to provide the right support for your head and neck. Pillows that sag under the weight of the head can put added strain on the neck and cause soreness. When evaluating a pillow on how much support it’s likely to provide, be sure to take into account the original loft as well as the firmness. This accounts for any compression that may reduce the loft.

Firmness Level
The ideal firmness depends on your sleeping position and personal preference. A too-firm pillow may cause pressure to build up, while a too-soft pillow may sag excessively and fail to provide the needed amount of support. Most sleepers opt for a pillow that falls somewhere in between. Some pillows offer the option of adding or removing filling to adjust the firmness level.

Pressure Relief
Down, memory foam, and other plush materials conform to fit the head and neck, distributing weight and relieving pressure build-up. This is especially important for side sleepers, who are prone to sore ears when lying on hard pillows. Gel layers that are integrated into the pillow cover often provide extra pressure relief.

Shape
There are a variety of shapes to choose from if you don’t like the traditional rectangular pillow. Side sleepers may prefer a pillow with flared ends that allow more room for the shoulders. Those who sleep on their back may prefer a cervical pillow with a raised neck area for better support.

Price
Your pillow is an important component of your sleep setup, and it may make the difference between a restful, reparative sleep versus a sore neck. While you shouldn’t have to break the bank on a pillow, investing in a decent one can help you sleep better and prolong the time before you need to invest in another new one.

Quality Materials
Better-quality materials not only last longer, but they also provide superior support and pressure relief. When buying your gel pillow, check for indicators of quality such as the foam density or third-party certifications.

Moldability
Most pillows adapt somewhat to the curves of the head and neck, but some pillows take this to the next level and allow sleepers to manually scrunch the pillow into the shape they choose. Shredded memory foam and poly fiber pillows tend to be the most moldable, with solid memory foam pillows settling back to their original shape after pressure is lifted.

Temperature Regulation
The idea of a gel pillow is to help regulate temperature and prevent overheating. Pillows that incorporate room for airflow, such as with ventilated holes or breathable cover materials, have a better chance of reducing heat retention. Some pillows have gel on only one side to accommodate changing ambient temperatures. In the case of cooling pillows, it’s also important to check whether the cover is made of breathable materials.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Gel Pillows?

The obvious advantage of a gel pillow is that it keeps you cool, especially as compared to a traditional memory foam pillow. However, because of limitations in the materials used to make gel pillows, some sleepers may find they aren’t appropriate for their sleeping style.

Pros Cons
  • Cooling: Gel pillows draw heat away from the sleeper to prevent heating the surface of the pillow.
  • Support: In some cases, gel infusions enhance the pillow’s ability to form a supportive cradle.
  • Moldability: Many gel pillows are made of poly fiber or shredded memory foam, both of which allow users to scrunch them into shape.
  • Hypoallergenic: Gel pillows are almost always made with memory foam or microfiber, both of which are resistant to dust mites and other allergens.
  • Not Always Effective: Gel only cools to a certain extent and may not be enough to beat high temperatures in warmer climates.
  • May Be Too Firm: Gel pillows are rarely made of very soft materials such as feathers, so those who prefer a plusher pillow may have trouble finding a gel model that works for them.
  • Off-Gassing: Gel pillows often emit off-gassing odors at first, which may be bothersome to some people.
  • Not Washable: Most down alternative gel pillows can be machine-washed, but memory foam pillows are usually spot-clean only.
  • Unique Feel: Pillows with layers of laminated gel or gel pods on the outside present a jelly-like feel that’s not for everybody.

Who is Best Suited to a Gel Pillow?

Gel pillows are favored by people who live in warmer climates or those who tend to overheat while sleeping. They also offer some advantages for other sleeper types.

  • Hot Sleepers: The primary aim of gel pillows is to provide a cooler sleep surface. Not every gel pillow sleeps as cool as advertised. It’s advisable for hot sleepers to do their research and take advantage of a pillow’s sleep trial before committing to a purchase.
  • Side Sleepers: Gel pillows most frequently have one-piece memory foam, shredded memory foam, or down alternative fills. All of these constructions lend themselves well to the needs of side sleepers, as they have a higher loft and cushioning materials that reduce pressure build-up on the ears.
  • Sleepers Who Have Neck Pain: Cervical memory foam pillows have a wavy shape that’s designed to accommodate the curve of the neck and reduce neck pain. For neck pain sufferers who sleep hot, there is a wide selection of cervical gel pillows on the market.
  • Pregnant Women: The cooling effects of a gel pillow may help pregnant women or those going through menopause. Moreover, pregnant women in their second and third trimester are advised to sleep on their side, and many gel pillows are suited to side sleepers. Some women may choose to tuck an additional gel pillow between the legs.

Who is not suited:

  • Those Who Prefer a Plush Pillow: As they’re most often made with memory foam or poly fiber, gel pillows usually have a medium or medium firm feel. People who prefer to sink deeper into their pillow may want to look at non-gel down or feather models.
  • Stomach Sleepers: Stomach sleepers tend to be most comfortable on a pillow with a lower loft, as this helps optimize spinal alignment when lying face-down. Unfortunately, most gel pillows have a higher loft and are made of materials that don’t compress as much. This may place strain on the neck.

Which Gel Pillow Sizes Are Available?

Gel pillows may be sold in the following sizes:

  • Standard: Standard pillows are the most common pillow type. They are most commonly used for twin beds but they can be used with any size mattress. They measure 20 by 26 inches.
  • Super Standard: Super standard pillows are two inches longer than standard pillows, coming in at 20 by 28 inches. This size is more rarely seen.
  • Queen: Queen size pillows measure 20 by 30 inches and despite the name, many shoppers opt to use this size on other types of mattresses as well. Queen size pillows are long enough to accommodate sleepers who frequently switch sleeping positions.
  • King: King size pillows are significantly longer, measuring 20 by 36 inches. They are specifically designed for a king size mattress, and are also long enough to be used as a backrest when sitting up in bed.
  • Specialty: Some manufacturers may offer specialty sizes such as the square Euro pillow, the longer body pillow, or orthopedic pillows designed to provide superior support.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gel Pillows

How much do gel pillows cost?
On average, gel pillows cost between $40 and $50. The price may vary depending on what type of pillow it is, what the cover is made of, and how the gel is distributed. You may also pay more for features such as adjustable loft or removable covers.

How do I clean a gel pillow?
Gel memory foam pillows can handle gentle spot-cleaning, while down alternative pillows can typically be machine-washed and dried. In the latter case, this can also help plump up the filling to extend the longevity of the pillow. Many pillows have removable covers that can be machine-washed to keep the exterior of the pillow clean. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning a pillow.

Where can I buy a gel pillow?
Gel pillows are readily available online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Pillows bought online sometimes come with sleep trials that allow customers to try the pillow out at home and return it for a refund if it doesn’t suit them.

How long do gel pillows last?
On average, a gel pillow lasts for 2 to 3 years before needing to be replaced. This lifespan is on par with most other pillow types, although the exact length may vary depending on materials and design. In most cases, the gel loses its effectiveness over time, and the filling gradually gets compressed and fails to provide adequate support.

Are gel pillows adjustable?
Some gel pillows feature an adjustable loft, particularly shredded memory foam and down alternative pillows in which filling can be added or removed. Solid memory foam pillows may also have two or more layers that can be manually adjusted. In gel pillows with cooling gel on just one side, flipping the pillow over can change the temperature and in some cases the firmness of the pillow.

Do gel pillows have an odor?
Gel memory foam pillows may present some off-gassing smells when they first arrive. These smells are referred to as volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, and they are common with polyfoam and memory foam products. Most sleepers find that any odor goes away after a few days.