Mattress Toppers: What Are They & Are They Worth It?
Last Updated on November 28, 2023
Waking up with aches and pain? Having trouble falling asleep because you can’t get comfortable? The wrong mattress can really put a damper on your sleep environment.
But if you’re not ready to buy a new mattress right now, you’re not out of luck. Adding a quality mattress topper is a fantastic way to instantly upgrade your comfort and get back to sleeping soundly. Here, we’ll explore everything you need to know about toppers, including the different types you can choose from, how to select the right one for your needs, or how to determine if you need one or not.
What is a Mattress Topper?
First things first: what exactly is a mattress topper, and what’s the point of buying one? Simply put, it’s an extra layer you can put on top of your mattress to achieve a variety of goals, including:
- making a too-firm mattress a little softer
- making a too-soft mattress a little firmer
- alleviating aches and pains by providing more support
- extending the life of your mattress
- providing a hypoallergenic barrier between you and your mattress
- reducing motion transfer, if you sleep with a partner
- making your mattress more comfortable for your sleeping style
While upgrading your mattress can definitely help you sleep better, a mattress topper is a good option if you’re not ready to do that—or if you want to try something out in the meantime while you shop around for a new one.
Do you need a mattress topper? Maybe yes, maybe no. It really depends on how you feel about your mattress.
And is a mattress topper worth it? Absolutely! The right topper can completely change the feel of your mattress. Keep in mind, though, that a topper isn’t a long-term fix if your mattress needs to be replaced. A mattress that is sagging heavily may even pull a lower-quality topper down with it!
Mattress Toppers vs. Mattress Pads
If you’re saying to yourself, “I’ve got a mattress pad, I’m all set!”... Think again. There are some big differences between toppers and mattress pads.
While a topper is usually thick and designed to offer support, a mattress pad is typically on the thinner side. While it does add some softness, it’s not going to add that next-level comfort. Its design is like a fitted sheet with a little bit of padding, and you may see it marketed as a “pillow-top” mattress pad.
Mattress Toppers vs. Mattress Protectors
Mattress pads and mattress protectors are sometimes used interchangeably, so it’s important to do your research. If you’re looking for something that will protect your mattress from things like fluids, oils, dust mites and other allergens, you need something that can pull its weight. A good quality mattress protector will be 100% waterproof, with protection on the sides too—not just the top. It’s also smart to look for one made with breathable materials. While the traditional plastic protectors tend to retain heat, you can find newer mattress protectors made with super-soft cotton.
Selecting Your Mattress Topper
Next, how do you choose the right mattress topper, with so many options out there? If you're imagining the old-school egg-crate toppers, we’ve come a long way. Nowadays, you can find a variety of toppers in different materials, styles and densities. We dive a little deeper into selecting a mattress topper here, but here’s an overview.
Finding the right size for your mattress topper is easy: just select the same exact size as your mattress. So if you have a queen size mattress, you’ll purchase a queen size mattress topper. We don’t recommend trying to piece together two smaller mattress toppers, unless you’re placing it on top of a split king mattress and prefer the individual sides.
Mattress toppers come in a variety of densities, so this is another factor to consider. This will usually come down to preferences, although heavier people will typically need a thick topper. A good middle-of-the-road option is 2- to 3-inches in depth.
Sleeping Style and Preferences
Your sleeping style will also play a part in selecting the right mattress topper for you. Side sleepers, for example, need extra support around their shoulders and hips, which are the heaviest parts of your body when you’re on your side. Back sleepers need support without any sagging, to keep the spine aligned. Stomach sleepers may want a topper with cooling features, as your face and neck are pressing up against your mattress.
Down feathers, faux down, memory foam and more—oh my! How do you choose? For the best support, memory foam is your best bet. While the other options may seem soft, they just don’t provide the same level of contouring and comfort that memory foam does. If you sleep hot, opt for gel-infused memory foam to keep you cool.
How to Use a Mattress Topper
Once you’ve narrowed down the type of topper you’d like, it’s time to understand how to use it properly. A memory foam topper, for example, will come in a condensed box, so it will require some time to expand. Some need about a day to fully expand and air out, with slight scents that go away with time. The initial smell is similar to a new pack of tennis balls or a new car, and is normal and harmless.
If your topper has “zones” or looks like the egg-crate style, make sure to place it with the textured side facing up. Those little peaks and valleys promote airflow, so you stay cool all night.
Another common complaint with mattress toppers is that they slide around throughout the night. To combat this, we recommend adding a cover, pad, or protector on top of your mattress topper. This helps it stay in place, even if you’re tossing and turning.
Are Mattress Toppers Worth It?
We’ve explored what mattress toppers are, how to select a mattress topper, and how to put one on your mattress. So the question remains…are mattress toppers worth it?
If you ask us, 100% yes! If you’re struggling to get a good night or sleep but you’re not ready to upgrade your mattress yet, buying a mattress topper is a great compromise. When added to any mattress, you’ll get next-level comfort at a fraction of the cost of a new mattress.
Marc has spent the last two decades designing & manufacturing mattresses and other sleep products, drawing on a lifetime of experience working with the material sciences. With several patents to his name, he works closely with the GhostBed team to create products with the perfect balance of comfort & support. Learn More