Mattress toppers can provide instant relief and help extend the life of an aging mattress—even The best mattresses You don’t have an infinite lifespan. Investing in one of the best mattress toppers can completely change the sleeping feel of your mattress, with different thicknesses and durability ratings to choose from. If you think a standout might be right for you, here are the questions to consider.
1. Is it actually the upper I need?
Also known as a bed topper, this is a thick layer that goes on top of your mattress, sometimes with straps or an elastic skirt to hold it in place on the bed. Anecdotally, there is a slight difference in the market in the US versus the UK. Most US toppers seem to be made of memory foam or sometimes latex foam, while in the UK synthetic fiber toppers are very common. (We’ll get into more of the different packaging options in the next section.)
However, a topper is something different from a mattress protector. These are thin sheets, designed purely to protect your bed from spills and stains, and offer an easily washable top layer. Head over to our best mattress protector roundup for our top picks.
A mattress topper is also something different from a mattress pad. As we explained in our Mattress Top vs. Pillow Comparison article, this is a quilted layer designed to add cushioning to the mattress but without changing the feel of sleep quite as a topper does. They sit somewhere between the visor and the top when it comes to thickness (they’re often about 1 inch thick). They’re not a real thing in the UK, but they are in the US.
2. What materials should I choose?
Mattress toppers are available in a range of materials, and no one material is better than another – you should choose one made from a material that works best for you sleeping style. These are the most common materials you will come across:
memory foam – Widely used to make many Best mattress in a boxMemory foam covers mold to your body to help relieve pressure on your joints. However, they tend to retain heat. (Example: Casper Comfy Mattress Topper in the main photo for this article.)
jelly filled – If you’re a hot sleeper, look for a top made of gel-infused foam to help keep your body temperature down while you sleep. You can also look for blankets filled with charcoal or graphite as both can help draw heat away from the body. (Example: Saatva Graphite Mattress Topper review).
rubber – Natural latex is flexible and breathable, as well as durable. The latex cap will last longer than other materials and is ideal for those who want to be able to change position easily. They are often somewhat expensive. (See review of Naturepedic Adagio Organic Latex Mattress Topper.)
synthetic filling – These hollow fiber or microfiber sheets are usually a bit cheaper than other materials. Microfiber sheets are soft, with hollow fibers that provide extra support. These substances are also useful for allergy sufferers.
wool – Wool blankets are often organic, and wool is a naturally breathable material. Fleece upper is durable and provides a softer feel to the upper.
3. Why should I buy a mattress topper?
Why do you want a mattress topper? Asking yourself this question will help you choose the right product for your requirements. These are the main reasons why people buy toppers:
- Extend the life of your old mattress by adding an extra layer of padding
- To soften the mattress and help break it
- To enhance the comfort of a slimmer mattress
- To change the shape of the mattress, make it softer, firmer, cooler, etc.
4. How thick should the mattress topper be?
Mattress toppers vary greatly in thickness, but they are generally 2 to 4 inches. We don’t recommend anything less than two inches, because we’re not likely to provide any additional support or cushioning. The happy middle is about 3 inches, which is where your pressure points will be supported. A two-inch topper can still provide a little cushioning but may be of more use just to change the ‘feel’ of your mattress a bit.
Some people might enjoy a thicker top lid, but there’s a risk here of it sinking too deeply into the top and feeling a little trapped. This can make position changes very difficult and may lead to overheating.
5. What features should I look for?
Besides choosing a sheet made from the right type of material and thick enough to suit your sleeping style, there are other factors to consider. Material-wise, consider whether you’re looking for a top to keep you cool at night or provide more insulation.
It is not uncommon for memory foam toppers to sit on top of a mattress without any means of attachment. If you’re a heavy sleeper, we recommend looking for one with elastic straps or a skirt to keep it in place. Alternatively, you can add a mattress protector on top and use it to hold the topper in place – just make sure it’s deep enough around the mattress and the topper.
You also need to think about taking care of your mattress topper. Knowing how to clean a mattress topper isn’t always easy. Check care instructions to see what’s the deal before you buy – some toppers are clean only, others have removable, machine washable covers (some have removable covers it’s not Machine washable, which is an interesting option to watch out for). Some thin sheets with padding may be fine to put in the washing machine fully, assuming they fit.
If cleaning isn’t easy, we recommend adding a mattress protector on top to keep it free of stains and dust mites, and airing the topper regularly to help keep it fresh.
6. Will the topping help relieve aches and pains?
If you wake up with aches and pains, your mattress may be causing you problems. While it is by no means a permanent solution, a quality mattress topper can provide some relief for a while. Remember that eventually, your mattress will need to be replaced.
Your choice depends on the type of pain you are experiencing. If you sink too far into your mattress, your spine will not be in an aligned position, causing back pain over time. A firmer mattress topper can help straighten your spine (our advice on the best mattresses for back pain has more tips).
Of course, if your mattress is too firm, this can also cause pain as a result of the pressure build-up. In this case, the soft and plush top layer will help you dive further and reduce your body pain at pressure points. Something like the Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Adapt topper excels at cushioning aching joints.
7. Do I really need a new mattress?
There comes a point where no mattress topper will hide the fact that your mattress needs replacing. Different types of mattresses have slightly different lifespans (we explore more in our article on How Long Does a Mattress Last), but there are also other major signs that it needs replacing, even with a topper on top:
- Your mattress has turned yellow with age
- Your mattress has rips or sagging in various places, especially around the edges
- Your mattress is saggy and unsupportive
- Any slight movement from your partner wakes you up
- You notice an increase in allergy or asthma symptoms