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Are memory foam mattresses hot?

A woman with dark hair sleeps on a memory foam mattress dressed with white pillows and sheets
(Image credit: Getty)

The comforting hug of an all-foam bed is key to a blissful night’s sleep for many people, and the best mattress for those sleepers is one made with lashings of contouring memory foam. But one of the most persistent questions we often get asked is, are memory foam mattresses hot?

The short answer is that yes, memory foam can hold onto heat. Fortunately, many manufacturers have made great strides in developing cooling foams (and gels) to help you sleep more comfortably while enjoying the sink-in comfort of these beds.

The best memory foam mattresses are often among the most reasonably priced in the market too, adding to their popularity, and those innovative cooling technologies are now trickling down to the affordable end.  

Here we explain how some memory foam mattresses are hot, and how you can guarantee a cooler night’s sleep on one. 

What is memory foam?

Memory foam is made from a material called viscoelastic and was originally designed by NASA to use as cushioning in aircraft seats. It’s used in the medical sector and has now filtered down to consumer products like mattresses.

A typical all-foam bed contains a memory foam comfort system combined with a high-density polyfoam support core. 

The contouring effect makes these mattresses particularly suited to side and back sleepers, as they help to keep the spine aligned and relieve pressure at the shoulders, hips and back. 

Cocoon Chill memory foam mattress review: girl sitting in the middle of the bed

The Cocoon by Sealy Chill mattress is made with cooling materials to prevent overheating (Image credit: Cocoon by Sealy)

Memory foam also absorbs motion, preventing movement from spreading across the mattress, making them excellent for co-sharers. Lastly, the material is naturally hypoallergenic, so allergy sufferers usually turn to them.

The closest competitor to memory foam, in terms of pressure relief and contouring, is latex, though latex is bouncier, so it doesn't isolate motion quite as well. For further guidance, read our memory foam vs latex mattresses comparison.

Are memory foam mattresses hot to sleep on?

Traditional memory foam mattresses first appeared in the 1990s and quickly gained popularity for their ability to cradle the body and provide excellent pressure relief. 

But these mattresses were definitely hot, and there are a few reasons why memory foam retains body heat. One is the material’s structure – the dense foam has less airflow than other materials but is needed to give structure. 

A second reason is the way that memory foam contours and hugs the body. This can trap heat and detract from your body’s ability to thermoregulate its temperature. 

Fortunately, technology has moved on and recent innovations mean that you no longer have to suffer hot sleeping to get the body contouring benefits of memory foam.

Why is temperature important to sleep?

Studies (opens in new tab) have shown that humans tend to sleep better in cooler temperatures, with the ideal range for adults being between 60 and 67° F. 

Our sleep cycle is regulated by our circadian rhythm, which is based on the light and dark cycle of the sun and takes its cues from environmental and personal factors. Whilst our core body temperature is around 98.6° F (37° C), it fluctuates by about 2° in the night. 

A man sits on the edge of his bed because he can't sleep

(Image credit: Getty)

Body temperature starts to drop around two hours before sleep, which triggers the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. And during sleep, body temperature continues to fall.

So if your bedroom is too warm your temperature will not start to fall. This affects not only sleep onset, but also sleep quality, your amount of unbroken sleep, and time spent in different sleep stages.

This leads to grogginess and, over time, can negatively impact your immune system, memory, and even lead to specific health conditions.

Cooling memory foam materials

As previously mentioned, modern memory foam mattresses have plenty of innovative ways to help you stay cool during sleep. This includes the use of open cell foam, which allows air to flow more freely through the mattress. 

Another innovation is gel memory foam. This is typically infused with gel beads to absorb body heat, helping you to sleep cooler on a memory foam mattress. In fact, a couple of the all-foam models in our best cooling mattress guide use gel-infused foam.

Different manufacturers have developed techniques to stop their foam from becoming hot. For example, mattresses in a box  brand Casper uses its own AirScape tech. Here thousands of perforations in the foam direct body heat away from you during sleep. 

Casper has also developed a powerful cooling system called Snow Technology – read our Casper Wave Hybrid Snow Mattress review for more on that.

Tempur-Pedic’s Breeze range (priced from $3,799 (opens in new tab)), meanwhile, uses phase change technology to keep you cool, with its ProBreeze mattress helping you feel 3 degrees cooler than your room at night. Its LuxeBreeze promises to keep you 8 degrees cooler, but it’s one of the most expensive cool beds you can find.

Casper Wave Hybrid Mattress

The Casper Wave hybrid can be infused with Snow Tech for the ultimate in cooling sleep comfort (Image credit: Casper)

At the much cheaper end of the scale, the Tuft & Needle Original mattress (priced from $645 (opens in new tab)) has charcoal and gel embedded in the open cell foam – all of which combines for a chilled night’s sleep. Finally, Layla’s dual-firmness memory foam mattress is infused with copper particles to prevent overheating.

Whichever design you choose, modern technology means you don’t have to overheat on a memory foam mattress.

How to sleep cool on a memory foam mattress

Although the type of mattress you’re sleeping on makes a huge difference to how hot you are in bed, it’s not the only thing to consider. As well as your bedroom environment, your bed frame and bedding can make a big difference to how cool or hot you sleep.  

So remember to consider:

  • The type of mattress
  • Your bed frame (platform, divan, open-slatted, etc)
  • Your comforter and pillow
  • Your bed topper and protector

1. Choose a cooling foam mattress – These are designed to help you stay comfortably cool throughout the night, without the need to kick off all your covers. 

Some use innovative materials (as discussed above) to create a temperature-regulating surface, while others are made with foam infused with materials such as graphite, gel or charcoal to boost breathability.  

2. Reconsider your bed frame – Boost the airflow of your mattress by making sure you’ve got the right bed frame underneath it. Slatted bed frames reduce heat retention as the gaps make it easier for air to circulate. 

A solid divan or a box spring base will hold more heat. The downside of a slatted bed frame? Over time it will become noisier, which could affect your sleep in a different way!

3. Invest in breathable bedding – For hot sleepers, it’s really worth investing in cooling bedding. If your sheets are too dense or thick, or made from artificial fabrics such as polyester, they are likely to retain heat. 

Instead choose natural fibers such as wool, cotton, bamboo or Tencel, or synthetic materials specifically designed to regulate temperature. Our guides to the best comforters and pillows will point you in the right direction.

4. Add a cooling topper – If you want to add extra comfort, cooling or support to your existing mattress, using one of the best mattress toppers delivers instantly. But the right topper can also help cool down a memory foam mattress that’s sleeping a little warm. 

Cooling toppers are made with infused foam to help regulate your temperature and draw heat away from your body. Most come with moisture-wicking covers that can be removed and washed, making your sleep space more hygienic.

3 cooling memory foam mattresses to consider

Sleeping hot but not sure where to start looking for a new bed? The following three options cover a range of prices and should hopefully provide you with your perfect fit…

Cocoon by Sealy Chill: from $499 at Cocoon by Sealy (opens in new tab)
Sealy’s Cocoon mattress combines adaptive memory foam with responsive comfort foam for a blissfully supportive sleep. The clever technology is found in the cooling cover, which is infused with a proprietary ‘Phase Change Material’ that’s designed to absorb and dissipate heat. The mattress is also a bargain, price-wise.

Brooklyn Bedding Aurora: from $799 at Brooklyn Bedding (opens in new tab)
The Aurora hybrid mattress comes in your choice of three firmness levels. Brooklyn Bedding’s ‘TitanFlex’ foam is gel-swirled to promote cooling and combined with individually encased coils. The top layer of patented ‘CopperFlex’ foam is antimicrobial too and designed to promote better airflow while delivering targeted pressure relief.

Nectar Premier Copper: from $1,299 at Nectar (opens in new tab)
As we explain in our Nectar Premier Copper Mattress review (opens in new tab), this all-foam bed keeps you cool via a quilted cool cover made with heat-conductive copper fibers, alongside other heat-wicking tech. This is backed up with 4” of gel memory foam that adapts to your temperature. The Nectar mattress sale (opens in new tab) often throws in free gifts too.

Are memory foam mattresses hot: Conclusion

While traditional all-foam beds retained heat – and some cheaper memory foam mattresses are hot to sleep on – overall there have been some great strides in making these beds cooler. 

Brands such as Nectar, Casper, Tempur-Pedic, GhostBed and Cocoon by Sealy are pushing the boundaries of how to make this popular material cooler to snooze on.

So you needn’t run a mile now if you sleep hot yet want an all-foam bed – if you look for one that focuses on breathability and cooling, you’ll be on the right path.

Read more:

Jo Plumridge is an experienced mattress reviewer with several years' experience covering all things mattresses and sleep, and who tests memory foam, hybrid and organic mattresses. What Jo doesn't know about a boxed mattress isn't worth knowing, so naturally we tasked her with producing a series of features for Tom's Guide looking at all aspects of mattresses, from how to pick between latex and memory foam (it's a tricky one), to the seven mistakes people make when buying a mattress for the first time. When testing the DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid for Tom's Guide, Jo said: "I loved the back support and pressure relief it offered. Plus, it looks far more expensive than it is."