Do You Need a Mattress Topper?
Here’s how to know if a mattress topper is the answer to your sleep problems
Apr 6th, 2023 •
A mattress topper can transform the feel of your bed, and revitalize an older mattress or protect a newer one. It can also extend the lifespan of your mattress, which will ultimately save you money over time.
But even given these substantial benefits, not everyone needs one. Read on to learn more about mattress toppers, the pros and cons of buying them, and whether a mattress topper is right for you.
What is a Mattress Topper?
A mattress topper is a two- to four-inch layer of comfort material—such as memory foam, latex, wool, down, or feathers—that you add to the top of your mattress. It’s thicker than a mattress pad, which tends to be about one- to two-inches thick. Mattress pads provide some additional comfort and protection, but they don’t truly change the feel of your bed the way a topper can.
Mattress toppers come in a variety of types, mirroring the range of comfort materials you see in the top layers of high-quality mattresses. The type of mattress topper that is right for you depends on what you want to achieve with your topper.
Memory foam and Polyfoam
Memory foam mattress toppers provide the same benefits you would expect from a memory foam mattress, including support, comfort, and contouring pressure relief. Polyfoam toppers are similar, but typically deliver a more cloud-like feel and less body-hugging.
Some memory foam toppers have cooling materials woven in, but memory foam typically sleeps warmer than other materials, including polyfoam.
A more expensive comfort material, latex is buoyant, durable, supportive, and hypoallergenic. This is a good option if you want to make your existing mattress to feel slightly firmer. In addition, latex sleeps cool, so it’s a good choice for hot sleepers.
Wool is a material that you often see woven into a mattress cover or the top comfort layer, as it provides a plush, cushioned feel. Wool is insulating and helps retain heat, so it’s a good choice if you live in a cold climate. It’s also a naturally antimicrobial material that repels bed bugs.
Down or Feathers
Like wool, down and feathers are natural options for your mattress topper. These mattress toppers are the softest of those listed, so if your primary goal is to feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud, down or feathers may be the way to go. They also insulate and help to keep you warm and cozy in the winter, but they can also keep you cool in the summer because they are breathable.
Adding a mattress topper can have many benefits, including protecting your mattress and changing various qualities of your sleep experience. Read on for more about these and other benefits.
A Mattress Topper Can Change the Comfort Level of Your Mattress
One of the most common reasons for buying a mattress topper is to make a bed feel softer or even firmer. Whether your personal preferences have changed or your once-firm bed has gotten softer over the years, a mattress topper can help you achieve your ideal comfort level.
It’s a common misconception that adding a mattress topper can only make a bed more cushiony and soft. It’s true that more mattress toppers are fluffy than firm, but many mattress toppers are made of durable comfort materials such as latex that can actually give your bed a firmer feel.
A Mattress Topper Can Help You Sleep Cooler or Warmer
Do you have a mattress that you love but find that you sleep too hot or too cold? Mattress toppers are an excellent solution for temperature-regulation issues.
Sleeping hot is one of the most common issues people face when trying to fall and stay asleep. Investing in a cooling mattress topper can help you get better sleep, even if you don’t want to buy a new mattress just yet.
On the other hand, if you can’t get warm enough at night, memory foam, wool, and down mattress toppers provide hearty insulation, trapping your heat against your body to keep you nice and cozy.
A warming topper is a great option if you live somewhere with cold winters but don’t want a warm mattress year-round. You can use your insulating mattress topper in colder months and either remove it or replace it with a cooling mattress topper in the summer.
Mattress Toppers Can Help You Avoid Pain
If you have back pain or arthritis, you know that sleeping on the wrong mattress can massively exacerbate symptoms. Of course, plenty of mattresses are great at helping sleepers wake up with less pain, but if you’re not in the market for a new mattress, a mattress topper can go a long way toward helping ease your suffering.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, back-pain sufferers may find a medium or medium-firm comfort level is best for them. So if you experience back pain, you might want to look for a mattress topper that will change the comfort level of your bed.
On the other hand, people with joint pain may want to look specifically for a mattress topper that will offer additional cushioning and cradling of joints.
If your mattress isn’t quite on its last legs but has seen better days, a mattress topper is a great way to bridge the gap until it’s time to invest in a new mattress. Of course, we recommend replacing your mattress once it reaches the end of its lifespan (7–10+ years for high-quality mattresses), but if you’re not yet at that point, a mattress topper can revitalize your sleeping experience in the meantime.
Mattress toppers are thick enough to smooth over small amounts of sagging and the sensation of lumps and bumps caused by broken springs. So whether you can’t yet afford a new mattress or have a few good years left on your current bed, a mattress topper may be right for you.
It Might Help Ease the Transition Period for a New Mattress
Have you ever settled in on a new mattress and thought about how amazing it feels, only to wake up the next morning with new aches and pains? It’s natural to experience a transition period with a new mattress, especially if it’s more or less firm than your previous bed.
A mattress topper can help ease that transition. If you were already using a mattress topper on your previous bed, then adding it to your new bed will make the transition nearly seamless. And if you’re making a significant change (i.e., from a cushiony memory foam bed to a firm latex bed), a memory topper with a comfort level somewhere in the middle can help you transition with less discomfort.
Mattress Toppers Prolong the Lifespan of Any Mattress
Whether your mattress is new, old, or somewhere in between, a mattress topper can extend its lifespan. It does this by taking on some of the pressure your mattress would normally absorb.
This helps with everything from prolonging the buoyancy of bouncier materials to giving extra years to support materials like innersprings. It will also keep your mattress from sagging for longer.
At the end of the day, this saves you money. Some mattress toppers can seem a little pricey, especially those containing high-quality materials like latex or gel-infused memory foam, but most of the time, the extended lifespan of your mattress more than makes up for this investment.
Your Mattress Topper Protects Your Mattress from Spills and More
Another way your mattress topper extends the lifespan of your mattress is by protecting it from the general grossness that we humans cause. From sloughed-off skin cells to sweat to the accidentally spilled late-night beverage or snack, we generate a lot of mess for our mattresses.
A mattress topper adds another layer of protection between all of these unwanted spills and your mattress. Some mattress toppers also protect against allergens and dust mites.
Now that you know all of the reasons to buy a mattress topper, what are the reasons not to buy one? First, let’s review.
You may need a mattress topper if:
- You want your mattress to have a different comfort level, whether that’s firmer or more plush.
- You find yourself sleeping too hot or cold.
- You want to extend the lifespan of your mattress.
- You have an older mattress with some sagging or lumps and bumps but aren’t ready to replace it.
- You’re experiencing pain and need a more supportive or softer sleep surface.
If none of these apply to you, then you might not need a mattress topper. If you love your current mattress and have no complaints regarding comfort level or temperature regulation, your only reason to get a mattress topper would be to extend the mattress’s lifespan. But it’s not necessary, and if you’re happy with your bed as-is, you don’t need to mess with a good thing and top it with anything.
At the other end of the spectrum, if your mattress is on its very last legs, a mattress topper might not be enough. If there’s sagging, if your mattress looks and sounds like it’s in bad shape, or if you have had it for a very long time, you should just get a new mattress.
Check out our guide to mattress longevity for more detailed information on how long you can expect different types of mattresses to last.
A mattress topper is a smart buy if you want to change your bed’s feel, temperature regulation, or supportiveness without buying a new mattress. It can be a worthwhile investment that actually saves you money in the long run. If you’re interested in purchasing a new mattress topper, check out our roundup of the best mattress toppers of 2023.
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