Also dubbed “cooling pillows,” gel pillows are supportive, comfortable, and a big hit with hot sleepers.
What Is a Gel Pillow?
A gel pillow is a pillow that contains one or more layers of a special cooling gel along with other filling materials such as memory foam and other synthetic fibers.
The gel is either inserted as gel pods or laminated pads or infused into the additional fill material. A gel-filled pillow quickly absorbs and dissipates heat, thus creating a cooling effect conducive to a better sleep experience.
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What Does It Look and Feel Like?
On the outside, a gel pillow looks and feels like any other standard pillow, especially with a pillow cover on. However, on the inside, it has a pretty unique structure.
The gel, if inserted separately, is usually visible as a blue layer surrounded by the supporting fill material. If it has been infused, the surface of the pillow will come with “holes” punched for active ventilation.
Whatever the design, gel-filled pillows are extremely soft to the touch. It is even possible to customize such pillows to fit the needs of each sleeper by varying the amount of filling content.
What Are Their Pros and Cons?
- Back support
- Reduces night sweating
- Provide better sleep
- Not eco-friendly
- Cannot be machine-washed
- Less durable
- Cause off-gassing
- Might form lumps
- Temporary cooling
What Is Their Purpose?
The primary purpose of a gel pillow is to offer a cooling effect that prevents a person from feeling hot when sleeping. Additionally, such pillows also provide the comfort necessary for a restful sleep.
Even on hot, humid nights, you could stay cool because the gel in the pillows first traps the heat from your head and neck and later dissipates it into the cooling layers.
You also have the benefit of being able to personalize gel-infused pillows to your sleeping preferences. You can effortlessly shape your pillow to provide optimal support exactly where you require it.
For this reason, you won’t have to constantly adjust your pillow to accommodate your head and neck when using gel pillows. It is worth keeping in mind that the cooling effect of a gel pillow doesn’t last for a very long time, which is a major downside.
Do All Cooling Pillows Have Gel In Them?
Not all cooling pillows come with gel.
If the manufacturer specifically mentions “cooling gel,” the pillow contains either an external layer of gel or gel particles and beads infused into the fill material.
However, there are cooling pillows that contain water and even fill materials such as shredded memory foam, which deliver the same cooling effect, although not as effective as gel.
What Are the Different Types of Gel in Pillows?
As discussed earlier, the gel in gel-filled pillows comes in three different types:
- Gel infusions: gel particles or beads infused with fill materials such as memory foam, polyfoam, and latex.
- Gel pods: laminated blobs of gel inserted alongside the filling material
- Gel pads: laminated gel layers – attached or detachable – placed on top or inside the pillow.
What Is the Difference Between Gel-Infused and Gel Swirl?
“Gel-infused” means injecting gel particles between the cells of the fill material, whereas “gel swirls” means infusing swirls of gel scattered throughout the fill material.
While the gel-infused technique is common in pillow manufacturing, the gel swirl technique is widely used in mattress manufacturing instead.
How Do Gel Pillows Work?
Cool gel pillows function by quickly absorbing body heat from the head and neck and dissipating it through the cooling layers, keeping the sleeper heat-free.
However, these pillows fail to rapidly disperse the heat that has been absorbed. As a result, the cooling effect lasts only for a short period. You will find more information on this topic later in this article.
A solution to overcome this issue is to use gel mats that have been temporarily frozen before use.
Are They Comfortable?
Gel pillows in general keep heat from accumulating around your body and offer utmost comfort. However, the level of comfort would also depend on an individual’s sleep position and preferences as well as the additional fill material in the pillow.
Are They Good For Your Neck?
Gel pillows are ideal for people who suffer from neck pain and require additional support in the area.
The gel contours to the shape of the head and neck and offers optimal spinal support, while the added fill material allows the head to rest without elevating or sinking it too much. As a result, the tension in the neck is relieved and the pain alleviated.
Are They Good For Back Pain?
If you suffer from back pain, you might benefit from gel pillows that are supple enough for your back to sink into while still maintaining proper spinal alignment.
Are They Good For Side Sleepers?
A gel-filled pillow is an excellent option for side sleepers since it helps wick the heat and moisture away by lowering the temperature around your neck, shoulder, and, most importantly, head.
For best results, choose a gel pillow that’s super firm and has a high loft for adequate neck support.
Are They Good For Back Sleepers?
Gel pillows that are softer, slimmer, and moderately firm are best for people who prefer to sleep on their backs by assisting in maintaining optimal postural stability, hence reducing spinal pain and distress.
Are They Good For Stomach Sleepers?
Stomach sleepers will appreciate the benefits of using a low loft gel pillow because it helps maintain proper posture and relieves strain on the neck.
Are They Good For Hot Sleepers?
Hot sleepers tend to sweat extra during the night. Gel pillows constructed with either gel-infused shredded fibers or cooling gel inserting pads help avoid this. They are usually perforated to promote airflow and reduce heat retention.
Studies have confirmed that keeping your head cool lowers your body’s core temperature. However, as previously mentioned, the cooling effect is temporary.
Are They Good For Pregnant Women?
A gel pillow’s cooling properties could be beneficial for expectant mothers. Doctors advise pregnant women to sleep on their side, and many gel pillows are designed for side sleepers.
They also provide adequate back support and help alleviate upper lumbar pain, making them perfectly suitable for pregnant women.
Do They Help With Sleep Apnea?
A higher level of comfort at night could help people sleep better and stick to their sleeping routine over time.
In a published Brazilian journal, SciELO gel pillows were tested for the treatment of 23 sleep apnea patients. It was found that almost all patients preferred gel pillows over other types of pillows.
Compared to the regular pillow, people who used the gel pillow reported feeling significantly better about their sleep.
Due to their temperature-reducing properties, gel pillows tend to keep your head cooler at night and prevent excess sweating in the summer.
Do They Help You Sleep Better?
Gel pillows are superior to other air-permeable pillows because they proactively cool the head instead of letting air flow.
According to the findings of a clinical investigation published in the International Journal of Biometeorology, simply lowering the temperature of one’s head at night can reduce overall body temperature and improve sleeping habits.
Do Chiropractors Recommend Them?
If you have back or neck pain, chiropractors frequently advise using a gel pillow while sleeping. Dr. Gregory Minnis from Delaware, USA, says gel-infused pillows are versatile as they can be easily customized as per your needs and help alleviate pain at pressure points.
Are They Noisy?
Gel-infused pillows are usually quiet. However, you might hear the sound of fluid inside while adjusting your pillow.
Do They Smell?
Gel pillows do not have any specific odor. However, the fiber they’re infused with, especially memory foam, can have a strong chemical smell due to off-gassing, which usually fades within a few days of using the pillow.
Do They Turn Yellow?
Pillows filled with cooling gel can be damaged by moisture and humidity, resulting in a loss of loft and an inability to cool properly. Due to moisture and humidity, yellow stains on your gel pillows might appear.
Do They Flatten?
The efficiency of the gel pillow diminishes over time, and the material progressively becomes compressed to the point where it can no longer provide sufficient support. This, in turn, makes the pillows look flat.
Do They Become Sticky?
Your gel pillow can become sticky over time for the following reasons:
- Exposure to heat and humidity
- Inadequate washing
- Rupturing of gel pads
- Keeping chargeable devices under it
- Presence of moisture
- Poor material quality
- Overtime deterioration
Do They Go Lumpy?
Here are some reasons gel pillows go lumpy:
- Presence of moisture
- Overexposure to sun
- Vigorous washing
Can You Machine-Wash Gel Pillows?
No, gel pillows cannot go in the washing machine as most of them are memory foam pillows infused with gel beads to provide extra coolness and comfort.
Washing gel pillows in the machine can ruin them and make them lumpy. It is recommended to either spot-clean your gel pillows or wash them by hand.
How Do You Clean a Gel Pillow?
To clean a gel pillow, wash it by hand in these 9 easy steps:
- Fill a large tub with lukewarm or cold water.
- Add a cup of mild detergent.
- Put your gel pillow in the water and squeeze it gently.
- Give it a break for ten minutes and allow it to settle.
- Refill the sink after rinsing out the soapy water.
- To get rid of the detergent, gently squeeze the pillow.
- Repeat the process several times until no more detergent remains.
- By setting the pillow on a dry cloth, let it dry naturally.
- Dry both sides by frequently flipping it over.
How To Spot Clean Them?
To spot clean your gel pillows, follow these 10 easy steps:
- Mix ½ cup baking soda, 1 cup detergent, and 1 cup vinegar with warm water in a bucket.
- Apply the cleaning solution directly to the spots and leave them for 15 minutes.
- Take a clean cloth and dip it in the soapy solution.
- Rub the wet cloth on the pillow’s surface to remove dirt.
- Rinse a towel in clear water and clean the soapy surface.
- Take another bucket with clean water and dip the towel.
- Use a wet towel to clean the surface.
- Repeat until the water becomes clear.
- Let it dry in the sun.
Can You Put Them in the Dryer?
It is not advisable to dry a gel pillow in the machine dryer. However, you can leave it in an airy place for a couple of hours. Using your hands, check for moisture in the pillow and ensure it is completely dry before putting it back in its cover.
Should You Put Them in a Pillowcase?
Yes, you certainly should. This not only makes cleaning the cooling gel pillow simpler but also helps it feel more pleasant to lie on.
A pillowcase is required for all types of pillows to ensure that dust mites and other allergens never get in touch with your expensive pillows.
Can You Put Them in The Refrigerator?
Because most gel pillows are placed inside or on top of the pillowcase to provide cool comfort, it is advisable to put them in the refrigerator for a few hours on warm days to get a better cooling sensation.
Are They Better Than Memory Foam Pillows?
Gel pillows and memory foam pillows both come with their own set of pros and cons. However, a gel pillow outperforms a memory foam pillow when it comes to beating the heat. Memory foam cannot provide a cooling sensation like gel pillows, which are designed for that very purpose.
Additionally, gel pillows are more affordable. They are more malleable and do not trigger allergies or cause off-gassing. The fact that gel pillows are a hybrid form that contains memory foam or latex in addition to the cooling gel makes them superior. After all, they carry the best of both worlds!
Are They Better Than Down Pillows?
Gel pillows are a cruelty-free alternative to Down pillows. They outperform Down with their cooling properties by absorbing overnight heat in hot sleepers. They are well-suited for stomach sleepers for the same reason.
However, Down pillows are known for their durability since they last 5 to 10 years, whereas gel pillows have a shorter lifespan of 2 to 3 years. The latter is also recommended for neck and back pain due to its loft and firmness. Gel pillows are 100% vegan and don’t need occasional fluffing like Down.
However, when deciding the winner, we must keep in mind an individual’s sleeping preferences. While the cooling sensation of gel pillows might excite some, the luxe feel of sleeping on Down pillows might tempt others.
Are They Better Than Latex Pillows?
Where gel pillows are synthetic, latex pillows can be natural or synthetic. Both easily contour to your head and neck to provide support. But latex pillows are more springy and hold their shape better.
They are both suitable for all types of sleepers and have a mild odor. On the price point, both are similar. Neither is costlier than the other.
However, cooling gel is malleable, whereas latex is firmer. It is not fair to tell which one is better since they both share similar properties and can be suitable for different people with different needs.
Are They Better Than Cotton Pillows?
Cotton pillows get more points for being lighter, fluffier, and quieter than gel-infused pillows. However, gel pillows are more affordable than they are.
The natural hypoallergenic properties of cotton pillows outperform gel pillows. Although they are both breathable and absorb moisture, a cotton pillow’s organic fiber provides better comfort to people prone to chemical allergies.
Are They Better Than Buckwheat Pillows?
Gel and buckwheat pillows are firm and provide adequate support to alleviate pain. However, when it comes to longevity and strength, buckwheat pillows win.
People looking for an eco-friendly natural alternative to gel pillows should opt for buckwheat pillows. However, they are known to be quite noisy and heavier than gel pillows.
Do They Attract Dust Mites?
Many manufacturers on the market claim that their gel pillows are dust mite-resistant. However, there’s no scientific evidence to support such claims.
There are many ways these microscopic organisms can still enter your pillow despite its dust mite resistance. To keep them away, practice maximum hygiene.
Are They Toxic?
The gel inside cool gel pillows is non-toxic and friendly to the environment. These pillows are not harmful since most of them are created by using natural materials.
However, the material they’re infused with can be toxic. Gel pillows infused with memory foam can cause irritation and allergies in people prone to allergies. Their off-gassing can also turn off some people.
You can look for alternatives with low levels of volatile organic compounds to avoid these problems.
Do They Cause Cancer?
It is safe to use gel pillows since there’s no scientific proof to claim that they can cause cancer or other health issues.
However, it is advisable to avoid pillows filled with materials containing highly volatile organic materials. Keeping your pillows tidy and clean is also recommended.
Do They Provide Permanent Cooling?
At the risk of repeating, we’d like to remind you that gel pillows cool sleepers only for a limited period. They immediately take up your body’s heat.
Although they start out being cooler, the heat within the pillow gradually increases. Once the cooling effect wears off, it will not return until you remove the pillow and allow the cooling elements to recover to normal temperature.
A gel-filled pillow might be a good choice for people who require quick or short-term relief. The pillow’s size and the room’s temperature will affect how long it remains functional. However, they’re not ideal for an overnight sleep cycle.
How Long Do They Last?
Depending on factors like sleeping position, usage, and material quality, a gel pillow usually lasts between 2 and 3 years before it needs to be replaced. However, it is recommended to clean such pillows regularly to avoid dust mites and other allergies.
When Do You Know It’s Time To Replace Them?
It is time to replace your gel pillows if…
- It gives you a stiff neck.
- The gel leaks.
- You notice a weird smell.
- It’s over 2 years old.
- There are visible lumps.
How Do You Choose a Gel Pillow?
These are the criteria for choosing the best gel pillow:
- Design: Selecting the optimal design will assist you in maintaining spine alignment according to your sleeping position
- Filling: A pillow’s general feel and other characteristics, such as how much airflow it permits, are determined by the fill. The gel pad is incorporated into a separate layer or infused directly into the other materials.
- Firmness: Extra firm for side sleepers, soft-to-moderately firm for back sleepers, and stomach sleepers: that’s the rule of the thumb.
- Hypoallergenic nature: If you struggle with allergies and are looking for a gel fiber pillow, then go for the hypoallergenic ones.
- Quality: Higher-quality pillows endure longer and offer much better comfort and pain alleviation.
- Warranty: The warranty conditions will give a clear picture of the pillow’s quality and whether or not it is worth purchasing.
- Price: Invest in a quality pillow without making a hole in your pocket.
How Much Do They Cost?
Gel pillows can cost as little as $10 and as much as $370. The type of pillow, the material used for the cover, and gel placement might also affect the overall price. You might also be charged for premium perks such as an adjustable loft or changeable coverings.
Why Are They So Expensive?
Gel pillows are more expensive than most other types for the reasons listed below:
- They have special cooling properties.
- Their gel pads are made from a specialized material.
- Their gel-infusion technology is costly.
Where Can I Buy The Best Gel Pillows?
You can buy the best gel pillows from one or all of these websites: