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Home / Best Pillows of 2021 / Best Gel Pillows

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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.

The Best Gel Pillows

Product Details

Serta iComfort TempActiv Pillow

Best Overall

Serta iComfort TempActiv Pillow

Serta iComfort TempActiv Pillow
Price: $109.99
Fill: Solid memory foam
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Back and side sleepers
  • Those who sleep hot
  • Customers who want a longer warranty
Highlights:
  • Hole-punched core allows air circulation
  • Gel-infused surface engineered for cooling
  • Designed for all sleep positions
Serta iComfort TempActiv Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Serta pillows

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.

GhostPillow

Best Value

GhostPillow

GhostPillow
Price: $
Fill: Aerated Gel Memory Foam
Firmness: Medium Firm
Who it's best for:
  • People who prefer pillows with firmer feels
  • Hot sleepers
  • Value seekers
Highlights:
  • Phase-change material designed for instant cooling
  • Aerated gel memory foam core engineered to transfer heat away and permit airflow
  • Generous 101-night trial
GhostPillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on GhostBed pillows

The GhostPillow from GhostBed is available in three different designs. For optimal cooling and temperature control, we recommend the GhostPillow Memory Foam, which is constructed with a single piece of gel-infused memory foam aerated with small holes to promote airflow. The pillow’s medium firm feel ensures the foam will contour to a moderate yet even extent, making it best suited for sleepers who need extra support.

The pillow’s cover is made of phase-change material, which dissipates heat away from the surface and helps you sleep cool. The cover also has an inner mesh liner for added air circulation. The cover can be removed and laundered in your household machines, but you should only spot clean the foam if it needs to be cleaned.

Considering its high-quality construction and strong temperature regulation, the GhostPillow Memory Foam is very reasonably priced. GhostBed also backs this product with a 101-night sleep trial, along with a five-year warranty. Shipping is free for all orders in the contiguous U.S.

TEMPUR-Ergo Cooling Neck Pillow

Best Luxury

TEMPUR-Ergo Cooling Neck Pillow

TEMPUR-Ergo Cooling Neck Pillow
Price: $129 - Standard
Fill: TEMPUR memory foam
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • People with sharp pain and pressure points around the head and neck
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Shoppers in the market for an ultra-durable pillow
Highlights:
  • Contoured shape designed to relieve pain and pressure
  • Constructed of durable and close-conforming TEMPUR memory foam
  • Gel infusion intended to transfer heat away
TEMPUR-Ergo Cooling Neck Pillow

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Tempur-Pedic offers a wide selection of pillows that vary by size, shape, and material composition. The TEMPUR-Ergo Cooling Neck Pillow is a leading gel pillow for a few reasons. For one, the proprietary TEMPUR memory foam that comprises the pillow’s core is known for above-average longevity, so you should be able to use this pillow for years to come before a replacement is needed. Both sides of the pillow contain a thin layer of cooling gel to draw heat away from the surface, and the performance fabric cover is also quite breathable.

The TEMPUR-Ergo also features a contoured shape intended to provide neck support and cradle the head. This ergonomic design means fewer aches, pains, and pressure points for side and back sleepers. The pillow has a medium feel, so you’ll notice some deep contouring along the head and neck. The cover can be removed and machine washed.

The TEMPUR-Ergo Cooling Neck Pillow’s sticker price is somewhat high, but Tempur-Pedic will deliver it for free anywhere in the contiguous U.S. and rates for Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories are very reasonable. The pillow is backed by a five-year warranty.

Coop Home Goods Eden

Best Cooling

Coop Home Goods Eden

Coop Home Goods Eden
Price: $79.99 - Queen $89.99 - King
Fill: Cross-cut gel-infused memory foam and microfiber
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • Sleepers who prefer a pillow with adjustable loft
  • Value seekers
Highlights:
  • Adjustable loft
  • Plush, pressure-relieving blend of shredded memory foam and microfiber
  • Designed for cooling with a a breathable cover and gel-infused foam
Coop Home Goods Eden

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Coop Home Goods pillows

A pillow with adjustable fill is ideal for those whose thickness preferences fluctuate from night to night, as well as pillow shoppers who are unsure about their desired loft. The Coop Home Goods Eden is a great choice for first-time buyers thanks to its premium construction and approachable price-point. The pillow contains a proprietary blend of gel-infused memory foam and microfiber fill that can be added or removed to increase or decrease the loft. Coop Home Goods also sells the fill in bulk whenever your supply is running low.

The Eden has a medium soft feel and the foam contours deeply around the head and neck. This makes it suitable for anyone who experiences aches, pains, or pressure points in these areas. The pillow also sleeps exceptionally cool. Air circulates through the core thanks to the shredded fill, and the cover – composed of pure organic cotton – is also highly breathable. You can wash and dry the entire pillow in your household machines. Tumble drying can also assist with shape recovery whenever the pillow becomes flattened with use.

Since the fill can be replaced as needed, the Eden is considered very durable for a memory foam pillow. Shipping is free for all U.S. orders. Coop Home Goods also offers a 100-night sleep trial and a five-year warranty.

Leesa Hybrid Pillow

Best Reversible

Leesa Hybrid Pillow

Leesa Hybrid Pillow
Price: $99 - Standard $109 - Queen
Fill: Quilted side: Down alternative microfibers Flat side: Cooling gel insert
Firmness: Medium Soft (quilted side) Medium Firm (flat side)
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who appreciate the versatility of a dual-sided pillow
  • Hot sleepers
  • People who weigh up to 230 pounds
Highlights:
  • Adjustable support
  • Reversible design with a different feel on each side
  • Ventilated gel layer designed for airflow and heat redistribution
Leesa Hybrid Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Leesa pillows

The Leesa Hybrid Pillow is a sleek reversible model designed for a unique feel on each side. One surface is quilted with plush down alternative fill, while the other side is constructed with a cooling gel insert to regulate your temperature. We recommend this pillow to anyone who feels like a soft feel one night and a firmer feel the next. Hot sleepers should also find the Leesa Hybrid Pillow very comfortable. The outer cover is made from a blend of Tencel lyocell and nylon, ensuring above-average breathability and durability.

The quilted side features tight baffle boxes that are sewn through, meaning you won’t need to fluff the pillow very often. The gel insert is also removable, allowing you to adjust the loft if you want a lower profile. The gel insert should be spot cleaned, but the cover and inner casing can be washed and dried in your household machines. Standard and queen sizes are available.

In addition to a very reasonable price-point for the Leesa Hybrid Pillow, Leesa also provides free ground shipping to all 50 states. The pillow comes with a 30-night sleep trial and a three-year warranty.

Snuggle-Pedic Supreme Plush Bamboo Pillow

Most Comfortable

Snuggle-Pedic Supreme Plush Bamboo Pillow

Snuggle-Pedic Supreme Plush Bamboo Pillow
Price: $140 - Standard $150 - Queen $197 - King
Fill: Shredded memory foam
Firmness 
Who it's best for:
  • People with pain and pressure points along the head and neck
  • Sleepers who prefer pillows with adjustable loft levels
  • Hot sleepers
Highlights:
  • Adjustable thickness and comfort
  • Soft, shredded gel memory foam fill for conforming and shape retention
  • Machine-washable
Snuggle-Pedic Supreme Plush Bamboo Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Snuggle-Pedic pillows

The Snuggle-Pedic Extreme Plush Bamboo Pillow is another great option for people who enjoy pillows with customizable thickness settings. The fill consists of shredded, gel-infused memory foam that offers an exceptionally soft, cloud-like feel for your head and neck. Add or remove the foam to adjust the loft to your liking, but its feel remains plush regardless of the fill volume. The cover is made of rayon from bamboo, a very breathable material that should prevent you from sleeping hot.

Standard, queen, and king sizes are available for this pillow. The entire pillow can be washed and dried in any household machine, and drying it periodically when flattening occurs will also restore its full shape. Another perk for customers: the pillow is manufactured entirely in the U.S. and does not rely on any overseas labor.

The Extreme Plush Bamboo Pillow is a bit more expensive than the other pillows on our list, but its replaceable loft ensures an above-average expected lifespan. Snuggle-Pedic also offers free shipping within the contiguous U.S., and backs the pillow with a 120-night sleep trial and 20-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.