What are cooling mattresses and do they really stop overheating and night sweats?

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Temperature plays a huge role in how quickly we fall asleep and what the quality of sleep is like once we drift off. A 2023 study shows that the optimum temperature for sleep is between 68 and 77 °F (20 and 25 °C), so you may find yourself struggling to fall asleep if your bedroom is too warm (or too cold). Feeling overheated in bed quickly disrupts your sleep and can leave you feeling dehydrated and even cause hot flashes and night sweats.

While turning on the AC or adjusting your smart thermostat so that your room is under 77 °F can help, some hot sleepers need some extra help from their mattress. While the best mattresses usually include temperature-regulating materials to cool hot sleepers, some beds are specifically designed for those who overheat at night.

These are the best cooling mattresses of the year, designed with state-of-the art materials and mattress technologies to help you sleep cool and dry. But how do they work – and do they work? We cover everything you need to know in this guide. Plus, we’ll recommend some of our favourite cooling beds to buy for less in this month’s mattress sales.

A cooling mattress is any type of bed (from innerspring to memory foam) designed to keep sleepers cool and dry using temperature-balancing materials. While a lot of mattresses do provide some cooling features — such as organic, breathable materials or coil layers for ventilation — this doesn’t mean they are technically designed for cooling. Cooling mattresses, meanwhile, are made to prevent you from overheating, which make them more expensive than standard beds.

Cooling mattresses can employ a wide range of different cooling methods. Here are the most popular methods.

Innerspring and hybrid mattresses tend to be the most breathable thanks to the springs or coils they contain, which promote airflow for a cooler sleep. The best hybrid mattresses usually come with a supportive layer of individually wrapped coils and springs to ensure airflow, as well as a breathable cover and a layer of memory foam infused with cooling gel.

Mattresses made from latex are also naturally cooling, and can help reduce overheating at night. Memory foam beds, on the other hand, are the least cooling type of mattress as they are notorious for trapping body heat

However, cooling mattresses are made from all sorts of materials — even memory foam — as they use advanced temperature-regulating tech and materials to boost the cooling power of a mattress and offset any heat-trapping tendencies.

So, do cooling mattresses actually work to stop night sweats, overheating, and generally sleeping hot? While testing out some of the most popular cooling mattresses on the market, our testers found that most cooling mattresses prevented overheating and kept them cool and dry — or at least cooler than before.

While cooling mattresses are designed to regulate temperature, some mattresses can’t live up to their promises when up against those who suffer from extreme overheating or night sweats.

For example, we discovered that many common cooling methods — such as the addition of gel and copper into the foam — didn’t stand up against heat waves or hot flashes. In fact, we advise anyone to take the benefits of gel and metal infusions with some scepticism, as we find the temperature difference it creates to be minimal.

However, other cooling methods have been shown to make a big difference to temperature. For instance, researchers found that Phase Change Material in mattresses lowered skin temperature and improved human heat dissipation by up to 25.6% compared to a conventional mattress. In fact, we discovered that gel and metal infusions tend to work better in tandem with PCMS.

Another cooling material we found to be effective against night sweats and overheating is GlacioTex, which is used in a lot of cooling beds’ covers. We found this fabric to be cool-to-the-touch and excellent for keeping dry when prone to night sweats. We also discovered that the addition of coils, springs, and open, air-circulating structures also help to enhance breathability for a cool night’s sleep.

Cooling gel-infused memory foam was created to offset the heat-trapping effect of memory foam and to provide a cooler surface to sleep on. The gel is designed to draw heat away from your body and wick away moisture from night sweats to keep you cool and dry, and it’s infused into foam by a number of ways: incorporating a gel pad layer on top or in the middle of the mattress; pouring it into the foam mold as it sets; or placing it within the mattress layers in bead form.

Despite its prevalence in memory foam beds, cooling gel is synthetic and not for those looking for an all-natural bed. According to sleep brand Turmerry, cooling gels contain toxic chemicals, including benzene, formaldehyde, and naphthalene, which are unfit for human use as well as the environment. According to eco-luxury mattress brand Avocado, exposure to formaldehyde which is known to cause adverse health effects.

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