What the Gel is Going On?

Posted by Mark Kinsley on
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You may have noticed a rise in the number of mattresses containing gel on your sales floor, but how much do you know about gel bedding? Arming yourself with knowledge about this rapidly growing mattress category can help you step up your sales game.

What is gel?

Gel is a combination of polymer and oil mixed together to produce a material that’s used in a variety of products. When gel was first introduced into the bedding world, it was mostly used in the healthcare industry, where it enjoyed great success for its pressure relief and cooling properties. Gel then found a home in consumer products, in the form of a solid gel layer included in ultra-premium mattresses. This was found to be heavy and difficult to work with, adding extra weight to mattresses and increasing the unit cost.

Along the way foam gained popularity and then came under attack for sleeping hot. To combat heat issues, manufacturers started infusing foam with gel beads, swirls, sprays or flecks.

The next step in the gel evolution involved formed gel used as a comfort layer. The formed layers are not incorporated into a foam product – instead, they’re constructed into lightweight, hollow columns that flex independently. This gives manufacturers the ability to get past the weight and expense issues associated with gel slab layers, while still providing their customers with the cooling and supportive benefits of gel. In this design, interlocking hollow columns, typically shaped in a diamond pattern, conform and gently deflect pressure as weight is applied, dispersing it across the sleep surface. In products like SomniGel™, the columns are hollow and only 22% of the contact surface is gel, with the other 78% composed of open air, adding to the unit’s cooling capabilities.

The benefits of adding gel to bedding.

We’ve already touched on some of the benefits of gel in bedding, but let’s dive into them a little further.

The chemical construction of gel helps transfer heat away from the body and the sleep surface better than memory foam (which is said to sleep hot), keeping temperatures down at night. In a formed gel layer, the hollow columns also allow air to flow freely through the mattress, contributing further to a cooler night’s sleep. The columns also help relieve pressure by redistributing that weight to surrounding columns. This means the gel won’t push back on pressure hotspots like hips and shoulders.

Hollow column gel is self-reinforcing, meaning it conforms to the individual contours of the body to provide support, but doesn’t take an impression or lose its firmness the way other comfort layers do. It’s also hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and odorless. So most gels will last longer than foam mattresses, while also providing a breathable, healthy sleep environment.

There you have it – a quick overview of gel bedding. Are you selling products featuring gel? If so, what’s the response from consumers? Let us know in the comments section.

About Mark

Mark Kinsley is Leggett & Platt's Staff Vice President of Marketing for the Bedding Group. Outside the office he enjoys spending time with family, mountain biking, hiking, and snow skiing. Connect with Mark on Twitter via @markkinsley. View all articles by Mark

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