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Are Mattress Toppers Worth It? What to Know Before You Shop

Are Mattress Toppers Worth It
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Updated October 25, 2023

Anyone stuck between a stiff, unsupportive, or all-around uncomfortable mattress and a strict budget understands how difficult it is to replace their old mattress as soon as they may want to. A mattress topper may be the best stopgap solution for getting more use out of an aging mattress. Far more affordable than a brand-new mattress, and easy to set on top of your current bed, the right topper will immediately make your bed as firm, supportive, cool, or warm as you need for the restful night’s sleep you deserve. With so many sizes, materials, and thicknesses available, understanding what you need may seem daunting at first, but upgrading your older mattress to be cozier than ever is simpler than you may expect.

What is a mattress topper? 

A mattress topper is a large rectangular layer of material designed to help people with uncomfortable beds get a few more years of use from an aging mattress. Simply place the mattress topper over your bare mattress, make the bed as you normally would, and depending on the variant you bought, your bed will immediately feel firmer, softer, more supportive, warmer, or cooler as needed.

Mattress toppers are available in all bed sizes from twin to California king, a range of thicknesses, and are made in a variety of material types, including feather down, memory foam, latex, and wool. There is no “best” mattress topper, and while there are certainly models that are higher quality than others, the best topper is the one that helps you to feel cozy in bed all night long.

The benefits of mattress toppers 

Improved mattress comfort

The best reason to buy a mattress topper is to refresh a mattress that is close to overstaying its welcome before you invest in a pricey brand-new model. Some of the comfort-related perks of adding a mattress topper to your bed include:

  • Making an overly firm mattress feel soft and plush.
  • Providing a heat-retaining or cooling effect, depending on the topper’s materials.
  • Adding firmness to a mattress that is sagging or starting to wear out.
  • Giving extra support to your shoulders, hips, and joints with a needed layer of cushioning.
  • Shielding you from the allergic reaction you may have to your mattress, and the dust mites, skin flakes, and body oils within for a more restful night of sleep.

Pain relief

You should never wake up feeling sore or tired after a long night’s sleep, and even if your mattress isn’t what it used to be, the right mattress topper will revitalize your sleep without making a deep dent in your wallet.

For instance, if your current mattress feels too firm, a memory foam mattress topper will take pressure off your joints overnight. On the other hand, the best solution for a sinking mattress that pushes your spine out of alignment while you sleep for a sore back in the morning is a firmer topper to help straighten your spine and alleviate recurring back pain.

A cleaner bed 

If you select a hypoallergenic material that inhibits the growth of bacteria and dust mites, such as bamboo or cotton, and a model that is easily cleaned, a mattress topper will make it easy to keep your sleeping space hygienic and fresh for a long time. A mattress topper also provides a barrier between the mattress and your sheets.

Some of the best ways to clean a mattress topper include vacuuming its surfaces with a soft brush attachment and spot cleaning trouble areas with a damp, soapy rag until stains disappear. Be sure to allow treated areas to dry fully before remaking your bed.

Improved mattress longevity

If your mattress is on the older side and not quite as comfortable as it was, a mattress topper will improve its comfort while extending its life by greatly reducing the pressure you put on your mattress. If your current mattress is severely damaged, stained, or sagging profusely, it may be better to replace it with a new one.

How often should you get a new mattress topper? 

Although a quality and well-cared for mattress topper will extend the overall life of your mattress for another six to eight years, it should be replaced with a fresh topper every three to five years. Rotating your mattress topper every six months and covering both your topper and mattress with a mattress protector will help your topper last even longer.

If you notice that your topper is losing support or you feel discomfort or pain when you wake up in the morning after sleeping on it for a few years, it’s time to start shopping for a new topper.

What to consider when choosing a mattress topper

Firmness

If your mattress is too firm, it will put more pressure on your joints and back, while an overly sagging or soft mattress will have an uncomfortable lack of body support. Those seeking a firmer mattress topper should consider a latex model, while others searching for a softer option may need a plush fabric or feather down memory foam topper.

Thickness 

Although mattress toppers are available from one to over four inches thick, it is a good rule of thumb to invest in a model that is at least three inches thick to ensure that your topper provides the body support you need.

Best for Maximum Comfort
Brooklyn Bedding 3-inch Talalay Latex Topper

Brooklyn Bedding 3-inch Talalay Latex Topper

Temperature 

Just as warm or cool sleepers go to bed with more or fewer blankets and comforters, mattress toppers tend to run warm or cool. For example, toppers that use latex and cooling gel memory foam are best-suited for naturally toasty sleepers, while chilly sleepers should look out for feather down or wool toppers. Pay attention to both the reviews and the materials used to make each topper to find the best option for your preferred sleep temperature.

Best perforated design that’s formulated to Increase Airflow
Birch Plush Organic Mattress Topper

Birch Plush Organic Mattress Topper

Budget 

Mattress toppers can cost anywhere from as low as $80 to well over $400, but there are a few factors that help to determine the cost. Expect larger mattress toppers to be pricier than their smaller counterparts, and to budget for models made with materials like latex and memory foam, as opposed to more affordable feather down, wool, and fiber-based toppers.

100% Certified Organic at Affordable Price
Latex For Less Natural Latex Mattress Topper

Latex For Less Natural Latex Mattress Topper

Once you’ve decided the type of topper you need to improve your overall quality of sleep, check online across multiple retailers to compare models and the price between sellers to find the best deal available or invest in an even better mattress topper that fits your budget.

Mattress compatibility 

Once you’ve chosen the right kind of mattress topper to suit your needs, buy one that matches the same size as your mattress. Mattress toppers are sold in sizes ranging from twin to California king, so it will be easy to find one to match your bed.

Mattress toppers vs. mattress pads

While mattress toppers are designed to dramatically change the firmness of your bed by providing a much firmer or more cushioned feel without having to replace an older mattress, mattress pads are for adjusting the comfort level of your bed, while protecting the mattress underneath.

Some buyers use mattress pads to shield their mattress from dust mites, moisture, body oils, and accidental spills, while keeping their mattress in good condition for longer. Others are interested in the moisture-wicking and cooling properties of certain fiber-based mattress pads. Although mattress pads may offer a slightly softer or firmer sleeping experience and tend to be much more affordable, if you need a more comfortable mattress, a quality mattress topper will immediately change your bed’s overall feel.

Potential drawbacks of mattress toppers

Heat retention 

If you live in a cooler climate, a heat-retaining mattress topper made of memory foam or feather down may sound like a nice upgrade to your bed. Since these materials excel at accumulating your body warmth, these otherwise cozy mattress toppers aren’t the best option for warm sleepers, as well as for those who live in hotter climates.

Allergies

Whether buying pillows or mattress toppers, those with allergies should avoid models with down feathers, as these plush and warm toppers are known to aggravate allergy sufferers. The good news is there are many hypoallergenic mattress topper alternatives available, such as bamboo, wool, and memory foam to choose from.

Odors

A particularly common, yet temporary issue that many people have with mattress toppers is the unpleasant chemical odor that emanates from brand-new models. While this awful artificial smell is particularly obnoxious right out of the box, it usually dissipates within 72 hours. If you’re concerned about a weird-smelling mattress topper, leave it in another room for a few days before swapping out mattresses to let it air out.

Final thoughts

If your new mattress isn’t as cozy as you’d like it to be, or you need to extend the longevity of your current uncomfortable mattress, a mattress topper is absolutely worth it as a budget-friendly method of reinventing your mattress to be as soft, cool, toasty, or firm as you need it to be.  As long as your mattress isn’t destined for trash day anytime soon, a mattress topper is a worthwhile purchase you’ll appreciate for years to come.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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