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Best Cooling Mattress

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For many sleepers, sleeping warm is a nightly frustration that is a perpetual detriment to restful and comfortable sleep. Your weight, home, climate, age, and personal preference can all impact how hot you sleep. These factors play into the bed you’re sleeping on as well. The combination of your mattress, mattress protector, sheets, and bed foundation are all involved in how cool or warm your sleep experience is.

For this guide we’re going to focus on the best mattress for hot sleepers. These are sleepers who I would describe as above average in terms of their cooling needs. The reason why you sleep hot isn’t as important, all that really matters is you sleep warm and you need the right combination of mattress and other bedding accessories to help better manage the temperature regulation of your bed.

I’m going to focus this guide mostly around the best cooling mattresses, though I’ll briefly touch on a few key bedding and accessory options that can further help to improve the cooling of your mattress.

Just want to skip the guide and jump straight to the recommendations? Click here to jump down the page and see my list of the best mattresses for hot sleepers.

What materials make the best cooling mattress?

The materials used in the mattress are an important factor in determining whether it sleeps cool, warm, or hot. In any case, there really is just one fundamental factor that determines cooling. How well (or poorly) a material is able to breathe, allowing air in and out of the material.

For example, a traditional spring coil can easily breathe, given that the coils are very thin and at most will be wrapped in a thin layer of foam or fabric, however, there is still lots of air between each coil. A material like memory foam may not breathe as well as a coil, as there is simply more material preventing air from circulating in and out of the mattress.

Similar to breathability, a material’s heat conductivity and heat retention is important. A steel coil isn’t great at absorbing your body heat and it’s even worse at holding onto that heat. However, a traditional memory foam soaks up body heat and retains it, usually causing that memory foam to feel a bit softer and warmer.

Over the course of the last couple of years I’ve tested all major online mattress companies in the US and a handful of the big brands as well. In that testing I’ve come to believe that the cooling of materials is generally ordered as follows (from most cool to least cool):

  1. Coils
  2. Latex
  3. Gel
  4. Advanced poly foams
  5. Advanced memory foams
  6. Basic poly foams
  7. Basic memory foams
Mattress coolest materials - from most cool to least cool

Mattress coolest materials – from most cool to least cool

It’s important to remember that the materials used alone are not the only factor that determines the cooling of a mattress. The combination of materials, layer design, and cover also play an important part.

Coils & Springs

These are what you would describe as the most traditional of mattress types. They use one or more layers of coils / springs. As such, they are primarily air with thin coiled metal springs that provide comfort and bounce for the mattress. Bear in mind, most coil mattresses still contain some foams (usually poly foam or memory foam). These foams are mostly quilted within the covers of the mattress. Many times they are not explicitly disclosed.

Coil mattress example - 4" pocketed coils, 8" support coils

Coil mattress example – 4″ pocketed coils, 8″ support coils

Latex Foam

Latex foam doesn’t change its feel based on how hot or cold the room is because it is not a good conductor of heat. It always will feel the same. Additionally, most latex foam layers are aerated, which allows for greater airflow. This combination of factors makes latex a great option for cooling in a mattress.

Response time on latex is very quick, note the fast bounce back

Response time on latex is very quick, note the fast bounce back

However, this is only true of 100% natural latex. Blended or synthetic latex is aerated in the same way, but they also share qualities of a poly foam, in some respects. This isn’t to say that all synthetic or blended latexes are bad or not cool, they certainly can be. However, you’ll want to be sure you know the types of latex being used in the mattress to make a proper judgement call.

Latex mattress example - 4" latex, 6" support foam

Latex mattress example – 4″ latex, 6″ support foam

Gel & Infused Materials

In shopping for a mattress you’ll see lots of gels, gel infused foams, copper infused, graphite, and other materials. Using these materials isn’t bad, in many cases they can and will help to regulate temperature within the mattress. However, it is heavily dependent on how those materials are being used.

A true gel works like water. Water helps cool because it can absorb an enormous amount of heat before the temperature of the water has been discernibly changed. Gel works the same way. It absorbs heat and holds it. In this way, a gel has a maximum level of heat it can absorb before it too will begin to heat up.

Poly foam infused with copper and gel

Poly foam infused with copper and gel

That said, it’s important to note that just because a mattress has gel in it doesn’t mean it’s going to make that big of a difference. Swirled gel and gel beads have very little impact, in my opinion. That doesn’t mean that the foams aren’t cool, they still may offer great cooling due to other factors in the foam and mattress at large. However, gels and other infused materials included like this have a small impact.

Some foams are more completely infused with these materials, and the gel, graphite, copper, or other conductive materials permeate the foam more fully. In these cases, there is more of a notable impact on cooling performance.

Polyurethane Foam & Memory Foam

All thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs. This type of relationship is also true about polyurethane foam and memory foam. All memory foams are poly foams, but not all poly foams are memory foam. 

Memory foam mattress example - 6.5" memory foam, 5.5" support foam

Memory foam mattress example – 6.5″ memory foam, 5.5″ support foam

Memory foam, also known as visco elastic memory foam and visco elastic poly foam, is a type of polyurethane foam with visco elastic properties. Visco elastic simply means that memory foams have both viscous and elastic characteristics when under pressure. Essentially, they are slower to respond when pressure is applied / released. This affect creates great hug and contour, but for some sleepers it can lead to a trapped feeling that can diminish cooling.

Gel memory foam - response and contour example

Gel memory foam – response and contour example

Poly foams are made from the same basic stuff as memory foam, however, they do not have a visco elastic qualities. This usually means they respond more quickly when pressure is applied / released. It also means the type of hug they create is generally less dramatic.

It’s important to note that the material “memory foam” is not a single type of material. Memory foam is simply a classification of a poly foam that is visco elastic. As such, there are scores of different types of memory foam with different qualities and attributes. The same can be said about standard non-visco elastic poly foams.

What’s the best mattress design for hot sleepers?

While it is important to understand how the material a mattress is made from can impact cooling and heat performance it’s more critical to understand how these materials work together within the larger design of the mattress itself. For example, you will almost never see a mattress that is 100% traditional visco elastic memory foam from top to bottom. Instead, you’ll have a layer or two of memory foam and a layer or two of poly foam. These materials work together to create airflow and a comfortable cooling surface on the mattress.

Below are some of the designs for the most popular mattresses and how these designs facilitate cooling:

Leesa – a top layer of Avena foam sits on top of a layer of memory foam and then finally on top of a layer of base poly foam. Avena foam is similar to latex in its cooling properties, which is why it makes more sense to have it closer to the sleeper. Placing the memory foam below Avena helps to prevent any of the heat retention issues of that memory foam from impacting the sleeper.

Leesa mattress layers (top to bottom) - 2" Avena foam, 2" memory foam, 6" support foam

Leesa mattress layers (top to bottom) – 2″ Avena foam, 2″ memory foam, 6″ support foam

Saatva – a euro-style pillow top sits on top of two layers of coils. The two layers of coils means the Saatva is mostly air. There’s not much material to get in the way of breathability or allow for heat retention. The euro-style pillow top does contain some memory foam, but the layers are thin enough that they cannot absorb a significant amount of heat.

Saatva layers (top to bottom) - euro-style pillow top, 4" foam encased coils, 7" high profile coils

Saatva layers (top to bottom) – euro-style pillow top, 4″ foam encased coils, 7″ high profile coils

Purple – a top layer of a gel elastic polymer on top of two layers of poly foam. The elastic polymer top layer does not absorb a significant amount of heat. Additionally, the grid design of this polymer layer means more airflow. Having this layer on top ensures sleepers have the most cool surface closest to contacting them.

Purple mattress layers (top to bottom) - 2" hyper-elastic polymer, 3.5" polyurethane foam, 4" polyurethane foam

Purple mattress layers (top to bottom) – 2″ hyper-elastic polymer, 3.5″ polyurethane foam, 4″ polyurethane foam

Helix – layers of latex, microcoils, and poly foam. In most Helix configurations the layer of latex is on top. Having this on top helps prevent any type of heat retention. The microcoil layer is mostly air, which further improves breathability. The poly foam layers are generally used more in the core and base of the mattress, helping to mitigate any type of heat retention they might create.

Helix mattress layers (top to bottom): 2" of latex foam, 1.5" microcoils, 2" polyfoam, 4.5" support foam

Helix mattress layers (top to bottom): 2″ of latex foam, 1.5″ microcoils, 2″ polyfoam, 4.5″ support foam

Cool Mattress Designing with Airflow in Mind

Many companies understand how important a cool mattress is and take their material design to the next level by further improving the airflow capabilities. These companies use special machines to mold, compress, or cut the foam into a design that allows greater movement of air.

The most basic level of this technique is to punch holes within the top of the foam.

Example of an aerated latex foam layer

Example of an aerated latex foam layer

More advanced techniques create deeper and more pronounced channels within the foam, dramatically improving airflow.

Best Cooling Mattress

Air channels cut within top layer of foam help to improve breathability (Leesa mattress pictured)

How does a cover effect mattress cooling?

The mattress cover is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of the mattress’ functionality. However, the cover can play a major role in how cool or hot a mattress sleeps. In general, the less material within the cover the better the cooling will be. This is simply due to having better airflow in and out of the cover.

Bear in mind, the cover can only be as cool as the foam / coil layers below (except in rare cases, see phase change material below).

Non-Quilted Covers

Non-quilted / thin covers are the most popular and widely used cover on many online mattresses. In part because they are less expensive than quilted covers, but also because they offer better breathability. A thin cover simply has less material. Less material means less to get in the way of air circulating in the mattress, which ultimately means better cooling on the sleeping surface.

Thin mattress cover example - Helix mattress pictured

Thin mattress cover example – Helix mattress pictured

Quilted Covers

Quilted covers offer a more traditional look and feel, but can also mean a little more heat as there is simply more material now surrounding your body. The materials that are quilted within the cover also can play a factor here. Usually a thin low density memory foam or poly foam will be quilted within the cover.

Most traditional mattresses use a quilted cover.

Quilted cover example - Nest Bedding Alexander Hybrid

Quilted cover example – Nest Bedding Alexander Hybrid

Phase Change Material

In describing these materials they almost sounds too good to be true. A phase change material works by absorbing your body heat and then releasing it at a certain temperature. Phase change materials, also known as PCMs, are tuned to a specific temperature. They will continue to absorb heat until the heat source (your body) has reached that temperature.

If your body’s temperature drops below that tuned temperature point then the PCM will release that heat back out, seeking the equilibrium temperature that it has been designed to achieve. In this way, phase change materials are great for both sleepers who sleep too hot and those that sleep too cold.

Phase change material example - Outlast

Phase change material example – Outlast

Other Cooling Fabrics

Other special fabrics and fibers can help to enhance breathability and cooling as well.

  • Celliant – this is a thermo-reactive fiber that turns your body heat into infrared light. Infrared light has been shown in studies to increase oxygenation of the body, which results in better internal temperature regulation.
  • Lycra – this a special fiber you more commonly see in sports clothing. It has an elastic type of a feel, moves freely, and wicks moisture away.
  • Performance Polyester – these are also more commonly seen in sports clothing, like Nike’s Dri-FIT collection. They work in the same way as Lycra, by helping to allow free movement and wick moisture.

Mattress Softness & Sinkage Impact on Cooling

As discussed above the more material that is wrapping around your body the more likely you are feel warmer. This is simply due to the fact that you have more foam and fabric coming into contact with your body.

As a general rule, mattresses that are softer mean more sinkage and more hug, which in turn means more material coming into contact with your body. As a result, softer mattresses are usually going to be warmer than medium or firm mattresses. This isn’t to say that you cannot find a soft mattress that’s also cool, you absolutely can. However, you may want to step up your budget in order to get the right combination of softness with impactful cooling features that can help manage cooling better for you.

On the other hand, firmer mattresses are usually a little cooler for the exact same reason. With a firmer mattress you usually will have a little more of a floating feel above the mattress. The mattress won’t wrap around your body or envelop and hug you in the same way that a soft mattress will. This means you have less material in contact with your body and more opportunity for air to easily flow into contact with your skin. This results in a cooler feel. As a result very firm mattresses usually don’t suffer from heat issues in the same way that softer mattresses sometimes can.

Mattress & Bedding Accessories for Hot Sleepers

Depending on your cooling needs, budget, and the mattress that meets your needs the best, you may find that it’s important to add a combination of one or more cooling accessories. These accessories can help take breathability and cooling of your mattress to the next level.

  • Outlast mattress pad – this mattress pad has both an interior and exterior layer of Outlast, a phase change material. It has a cool to the touch feel and can add excellent temperature regulation to any mattress.
  • Sheex sheets – these sheets are made from performance polyester. They have a feel very similar to Nike’s Dri-FIT collection. High elasticity, highly breathable, and moisture wicking.
  • Malouf Ice-tech mattress protector – this mattress protector provides both excellent protection and a cool to the touch feel. Technically, it’s not a a phase change material, but instead is a phase change treatment to the fabric.
  • Nest Easy Breather latex pillow – latex pillows sleep cool for the same reason that latex mattresses do. Good response, no heat retention, and the noodled version of latex allows for better breathability. The latex used is 100% natural.
Easy Breather natural latex construction

Easy Breather natural latex construction

Best Cool Mattresses for Hot Sleepers

So, here we are at last, the end! We’ve got through virtually every factor and consideration you’ll want to be aware of when deciding on the best cooling mattress for you. With all of that information in mind the following are the best cool mattresses for hot sleepers:

MattressDescriptionCooling FeaturesPriceReview
Soft / medium / firm firmness, coil-on-coil, 11.5"Coil-on-coil support and comfort layers$899Read Review
Medium firmness, Avena + memory foam, 10"Avena top layer (similar to latex) + air channels in foam core$815Read Review
Medium or firm firmness, memory foam, 12"Gel top layer + air channels in foam core$999Read Review
PurpleMedium firmness, polymer + foam, 10"Gel polymer top layer + grid design for air channels$999Read Review
Custom firmness, latex + microcoils + polyfoam, 10"Latex top layer + microcoils$849Read Review
Alexander HybridMedium firmness, hybrid design, 12"Coil support layer + copper infused foam$999Read Review
Soft firmness (Colonial), memory foam, 13"Open cell memory foams + air channels in foam core + Celliant cover$1,849Read Review
Soft / medium / firm firmness, latex, 10"Latex comfort layers$712Read Review
Medium firmness, coil-on-coil, 15"Coil-on-coil support and comfort layers$1,299Read Review

As always, if you have any specific questions, comments, or concerns please don’t hesitate to drop me an email via my contact form.

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