The technology of the modern bed is changing, with new materials and designs to comfort and support your sleeping body coming on the market every month. However, many of these materials, like memory foam, can have a downside for some consumers. They retain body heat so well they actually transfer it back to the body, causing overheating, which interrupts sleep when you awaken dripping in sweat to toss off the covers. Then, as perspiration evaporates, the skin becomes chilled, and wakes you again to cover yourself.
The ideal solution is a sleep system that maintains a constant temperature in the bed, cooling or warming as needed throughout the night. There are many products on the market that claim to regulate body temperature, but choosing one that works for you is not as easy as it may appear. Selecting the right product will often depend on one’s expectation and level of discomfort. Solutions come in two basic categories, passive and active systems. Passive systems use materials and fabrics to accomplish the task of reducing heat. Active systems are powered by electricity and can add or subtract heat to the sleep system. Common sense will tell you that a powered system will be the most effective choice, while non-powered products or systems will provide some relief that may or may not be enough of a temperature change for people experiencing extreme discomfort in bed.
Outlast®. Brand Phase Change Technology
One sleep system manufactured by Outlast® utilizes an advanced-materials technology originally developed by NASA. Phase Change Materials (PCM) are compound chemicals or other substances that can absorb, store and release heat by changing state from a solid to a liquid in response to the temperature of the body, much like ice in a glass melts and cools a drink. These substances are encapsulated in microscopic polymer shells, forming durable cells the company calls Thermocules™. These are then incorporated into fibers and fabrics used in bedding that will continually regulate the skin’s temperature. As the skin gets hot, heat is absorbed by the Thermocules™ as they melt. As the body cools, heat is released by the Thermociules when they solidify, helping you maintain a comfortable temperature.
Coolmax® Brand Line of Fabrics
Another, slightly different approach is taken by bedding materials made with the Coolmax® line of fabrics. These innovative textiles were designed for use in clothing, especially for sports and cold weather gear, but they work equally well as bedding. These man-made fibers are hollow, so they insulate extremely well and preserve warmth, but they also have an indented channel running down the length of the filament that helps to absorb and whisk away moisture from the body, thereby cooling the skin. Bed linens made with Coolmax® are available in many retail outlets and online.
Mattress makers have also gotten into the game by manufacturing both built-in and add-on materials systems to help regulate the temperature of the bed. The two most popular passive or non-powered systems are by mattress giants Serta, and Tempur-Pedic. The difference lies in the combination of proprietary materials they use.
iComfort® by Serta Gel Memory Foam
Serta’s line of iComfort® sleep systems employ their Cool Action™ Gel Memory Foam material in the mattress. Millions of extremely small gel beads are infused directly into their advanced open-cell memory foam. This proprietary process creates a remarkably breathable and supportive memory foam that dissipates heat away from the body by circulating air all around it.
Tempur-Breeze™ by Tempur-Pedic
Tempur-Pedic has developed their Tempur-Breeze™ line of mattresses, which employ both their proprietary memory foam and specially developed fabrics to convey heat and moisture away from the core of the bed to the outside walls where it can be dispelled into the environment. The company claims their materials are proven to help hot sleepers remain cooler through the night, and awaken feeling refreshed.
Yet another approach to controlling the temperature of the bed is through a proactive system that transfers heat to and from the body through the principal of conductivity. Like a car engine, these electronically controlled mattress pads manage heat by passing a cooling agent through a matrix of channels or tubes built into the pad. The difference here lies in the electro-mechanical systems and the cooling agent used.
DualTemp™ Air Cooled Mattress Pad
In 2013, bed maker Sleep Number® introduced their DualTemp™ Layer, a mattress pad to go on top of their advanced air support mattresses, but it can also be added to any regular bed. The Layer circulates warm or cool air through the pad at the temperature set by a control system on either side of the bed, so that a couple can dial in different temperatures. Air passing silently through baffled channels beneath the sleeper actively removes heat from the body, thereby effectively cooling a hot sleeper. One problem (as of this writing) is you can’t use it on an adjustable bed because bending the mattress pad blocks the air channels. Another is price, which starts at a thousand dollars and goes up from there. Available sizes- Single Zone: Twin Extra Long. Dual Zone: Queen, King.
ChiliPad™ Active Water Cooled Mattress Pad
Similar in concept, Introduced in 2007 is the ChiliPad™ Cooling/Heating Mattress Pad by Chili Technology. It, too, is a mattress pad that goes on top of a mattress, but it can be added to any bed, including adjustable and hospital beds. The Chilipad™ uses distilled water as the cooling agent in a sealed matrix of soft, silicone tubes layered inside the pad that will not kink or bind. A high-tech sensor determines the temperature of the water and either heats or cools it according to the setting on each individual control, varying the temperature of the bed from 60°-110°ƒ, which is a huge variation. As anyone who has ever driven a car knows, water is a much more effective cooling agent than air, and the amount of heat it can remove from the body is much greater. Yet the technology is 100% safe, emits no electro-magnetic radiation and has no risk of shock. Virtually noiseless, the controlling devices fit discreetly beneath the bed or on a side table, and are barely noticeable. Better still, prices start at $399.00 which is more than half the price of their nearest competitor. Single zone sizes: Single 30″ x 75″, Twin, Twin XL and Full. Dual zone sizes: Queen, King and Cal King.
So there’s no reason to suffer through nighttime overheating, hot flashes or night sweats anymore. The technology of chilling out has finally arrived!