Mattress Topper Benefits and Disadvantages: A Complete Guide
A mattress topper is a removable layer of cushion that is placed on top of a mattress, usually underneath the sheets. Mattresses toppers generally come in twin, double, queen, king, and other more specialized sizes. Because mattress toppers are not directly connected to the mattress itself, it is often recommended to use a fitted sheet on your bed to ensure that the mattress topper does not shift or move around during the night. Common materials that mattress toppers are made from include natural latex, memory foam, gel foam, wool, feathers, and polyester blends. But what are some mattress topper benefits and disadvantages?
Mattress topper benefits include that they provide additional softness, support, and comfort for you while you sleep and they prolong the life of your mattress. Mattress topper disadvantages include that they can’t fix more serious problems with a mattress, and that it may be difficult to find the right size topper for your mattress if your mattress is a non-standard size.
People often confuse mattress toppers with other accessories known as mattress pads or mattress protectors; however, mattress pads and mattress protectors are not the same as mattress toppers. Although most mattress pads do offer a bit of cushioning, they are generally thinner than a typical mattress topper. A mattress protector is a thin, protective covering that is often waterproof and is designed to prevent fluids, allergens, and dust mites from getting inside a mattress.
Keep reading to learn more about mattress toppers and their benefits and disadvantages.
What Is a Mattress Topper?
As we mentioned above, a mattress topper is an extra layer of cushioning that is placed on top of a mattress to make the surface feel more comfortable and to make the mattress feel softer, firmer, or cooler.
Mattress toppers can be constructed from a wide range of materials, including memory foam, latex, feathers, and wool. The price of mattress toppers can vary significantly depending on the material they’re made from, but virtually all options are much cheaper than buying a new mattress.
Because mattress toppers are used to enhance the comfort, support, and lifespan of a mattress, they can be very beneficial for sleepers who are dissatisfied with the way their mattress feels. However, mattress toppers are not a perfect solution to all of your sleeping discomfort problems. A low-quality, uncomfortable mattress probably can’t be fixed, even with the addition of a high-quality mattress topper. When deciding whether or not to purchase a mattress topper, it is important to remember that the topper should serve as an enhancement to your existing mattress, not a major fix. You might enjoy these articles about when to buy a mattress topper instead of a new mattress and how to use a mattress topper properly, clean it, and take care of it.
Summary of Mattress Topper Materials and Their Benefits
|Mattress Topper Material||Benefits of This Material||Example of a Mattress Topper Made of This Material||Price|
Ideal for sleeping face down
|Pure Green Natural Latex Mattress Topper||~$240|
Adapts to body position
Perfect for side sleepers
|Sealy TrueForm Memory Foam Mattress Topper||~$95|
|Sleep & Beyond Wool Mattress Topper||~$285|
|Down or Feather||Soft|
|Millsave White Goose Down & Feather Mattress Topper||~$60|
|Cotton Mattress Topper||~$70|
|Polyester||Not too firm|
Not too soft
|Breathable Down Alternative Fiber Mattress Topper||~$50|
Mattress Topper Benefits and Disadvantages
Mattress topper benefits include that they provide additional softness, support, and comfort for you as you sleep. Mattress topper disadvantages include that they can’t fix more serious problems with a mattress and that it may be difficult to find the right size topper for your mattress.
The main benefit of a mattress topper is the additional comfort that it adds to your mattress. There are certain types that can make your mattress cooler in the summer and warmer during the winter, and some toppers can even help with issues such as back pain or neck pain. Even though a mattress topper can’t fix a mattress, it can significantly increase your comfort and allow you to prolong the life of your mattress. If your new mattress is just a bit too firm for your liking, a soft mattress topper can act as a cushion. Plus, mattress toppers made from memory foam or latex can relieve pressure on joints and provide relief for those with arthritis or other painful skeletal conditions (for more information about how environment can lead to arthritis relief, see this study).
The disadvantages of mattress toppers include that there are certain models that can be too firm and uncomfortable. Some mattress toppers can also cause allergy problems if you buy a type that you are allergic to (for more information about allergen levels in mattresses and mattress casings, see this study). You may find that a mattress topper also slides around. Make sure to take a look at how to fix a mattress topper from sliding off for detailed ideas. Additionally, a mattress topper won’t actually fix the condition of your mattress. For example, a mattress topper won’t help a mattress that sags in the middle.
Take a look at the table below to see some more details about the benefits and disadvantages of mattress toppers.
|Mattress Topper Benefits||Mattress Topper Disadvantages|
|Soft mattress toppers can be used for extra cushioning and comfort.||Mattress toppers can’t fix more serious problems with a mattress.|
|Some toppers can provide good support for arthritis or painful joints.||Some models can be too firm, which may make them uncomfortable.|
|Mattress toppers are very soft and comfortable.||It may take some time to find the right size topper for your mattress, especially if you have a non-standard mattress size. Here’s a guide to choose mattress topper size and thickness.|
|Some toppers can make your mattress cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.||Some models can trigger allergies for some people.|
|Mattress toppers prolong the life of your mattress.||Some of the better mattress topper models can be quite expensive.|
When Do You Need a Mattress Topper?
You might think that you don’t need a mattress topper when you’ve just purchased a new mattress, but toppers are actually a very common addition when purchasing a new mattress. There are also a few other situations when you need a mattress topper.
You need a mattress topper when:
- You have a low-quality mattress
- You have an old mattress that you can’t replace yet
- You want to prolong the life of a new mattress
- Your mattress is too firm or too soft
Below, we’ll discuss these reasons in more detail.
1. You Have a Low-Quality Mattress
If you have purchased a lower-quality mattress, a mattress topper can compensate for some of the shortcomings of the mattress. Purchasing a mattress topper that adds your preferred degree of firmness or softness can ensure better overall comfort and total body support.
2. You Have an Old Mattress That You Can’t Replace Yet
While this isn’t a long term solution, if you have an old mattress but you must wait to purchase a replacement, you can use a mattress topper to lengthen the life of your current mattress. Although this is a temporary fix, it will buy you some time and increase your comfort until you can purchase a new mattress.
3. You Want To Prolong the Life of a New Mattress
If you have just purchased a new mattress, you will want to take steps to prolong the life of the mattress. A mattress topper will protect the mattress from stains, dust, and allergens, which will go a long way towards making your new mattress last longer and stay in good condition for as long as possible.
4. Your Mattress Is Too Firm or Too Soft
When your mattress is too firm or too soft, adding a mattress topper can be the perfect solution. You can add a soft mattress topper to a firm mattress and make it more comfortable to sleep on, or you can add a firm mattress topper to a mattress that’s too soft. That way, your mattress can be customized to suit your needs and preferences.
|Mattress Topper Firmness||Benefits of This Firmness / Density||Example of Mattress Topper with This Firmness||Price|
Ideal for side sleepers
|Soft Stretchable Mattress Topper||~$40|
|Medium||Not too soft|
Not too firm
Ideal for stomach and back sleepers
Provides a little back support
|Linenspa Gel Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper||~$80|
|Firm||Provides extra back support|
Helps with pain and pressure relief
Improves spinal alignment
|Pure Green Natural Latex Firm Mattress Topper||~$240|
|Extra Firm||Provides extra back support|
Helps with pain and pressure relief
Quickly improves posture and spinal alignment
|ViscoSoft Latex Mattress Topper||~$240|
When Should You Buy a New Mattress vs. a Mattress Topper?
You should buy a new mattress when the mattress is old, saggy, or just generally uncomfortable to sleep on. You should buy a mattress topper when you feel that your mattress is too firm or too soft, if you want to prolong the life of your mattress, or if you want to protect your mattress from spills and allergens.
If your mattress is old, that’s the first sign that you may need to buy a new mattress. Research has found that mattresses have a lifespan of roughly eight years, but this varies by manufacturer, mattress type, whether you sleep alone or with a partner, and how you sleep (for more information, see this article by Healthline). If you’re a larger person, your mattress will likely wear out faster. Mattresses were not designed to last forever, and excessive wear and tear will age them faster. Even the highest-quality mattress will eventually need replacing.
You should also buy a new mattress if your mattress is starting to sag or if it doesn’t offer proper support and alignment. If there’s a dent in your mattress in the shape of your body, that’s a signal that your mattress is overly worn and is starting to sag. Saggy mattresses can disrupt sleep and cause aches and pains (for more information on how the ergonomics and surface of your bed can affect sleep and pain, see this study). Similarly, if your mattress doesn’t offer proper support and alignment, you won’t get optimal sleep. For back or stomach sleepers, your spine’s natural S curve should be evident when you’re lying on your mattress. If it’s flattened or exaggerated, the mattress isn’t aligning your spine properly (for more information about spinal alignment during sleep, see this study). If you wake up stiff and sore every day, your mattress could be part of the problem, and you should consider replacing it.
However, there are some situations when you should consider buying a mattress topper rather than a new mattress. For example, perhaps you purchased a firm mattress in hopes that it would be better for sleeping on your stomach, but it turns out that this level of firmness doesn’t work for you. In this situation, you should buy a foam mattress topper; as long as the mattress doesn’t have any other issues that bother you, a mattress topper can offer you additional cushioning and comfort and help you avoid spending money on a new mattress.
If you’re looking to make your bed cooler, you should buy a breathable mattress topper that will help you sleep, rather than buying a new mattress. Your body temperature needs to be able to cool slightly in order for you to enjoy the more restorative stages of sleep, which can be difficult to accomplish if your mattress lacks breathability. Breathable, cooling mattress toppers might be a bit pricey, but they are much more budget-friendly than getting a new mattress.
Does a Mattress Topper Help with Back Pain?
A lot of people have back pain. You might have something to help support your back at work or when you sit, but you might also need support for when you sleep. However, a good mattress can only do so much without a good mattress topper to support your back.
A mattress topper can help with back pain because it relieves pressure points and provides back and side support.
When you have back pain, it’s all about pressure relief, and a good mattress topper does a great job relieving pressure points. 2-inch thick mattress toppers work well, but if you're willing to spend a little extra, a 3-inch model is even better. A mattress topper can bring life back to your existing mattress without you having to invest extra money for a whole new mattress, and it can help with back pain at the same time.
We’ve written a detailed analysis of how to choose a mattress topper to relieve back pain and back support and how to cut a mattress topper to size (in case you are using an orthopedic mattress has an odd size).
How Can a Mattress Topper Help with Neck Pain?
A mattress topper can help with neck pain because it can provide extra support for the neck, spine, and upper back. When it comes to neck pain, a multi-layered mattress topper might be the best solution.
Many mattress toppers consist of two core layers: a top layer with pressure relief foam that's infused with gel to help with temperature regulation, and a bottom layer that’s a 2-inch support layer. With these types of mattress toppers, there are zones that are more padded and give a softer feeling in the area that sits around your neck, shoulders, and feet. The center of the topper has larger zones for additional pressure relief in the neck region, which can help a lot with relieving neck pain. Take a look at our article detailing how to choose a mattress topper for neck pain and support for more details.
Wondering how to choose a mattress topper to relieve shoulder pain? Take a look at our article!
Will a Mattress Topper Help with Hip Pain?
Whether hip pain causes you to lose precious sleep or makes you stiff and miserable the next day, a mattress topper designed to help with hip pain can help you wake up well rested and pain-free.
A mattress topper will help with hip pain because there are certain toppers that have additional softness and don’t put pressure on your hips if you are a side sleeper.
There are many different types of mattress toppers out there, but the best ones for hip pain are made from high-density memory foam. This material acts as a kind of cradle and doesn't put pressure on your hips even if you sleep on your side. These types of mattress toppers also go back to their original shape quickly; memory foam has a fairly quick "bounce back" rate, so it won't wear out in the areas that you put pressure on as you sleep. You may also be interested in seeing this article on choosing a mattress topper to help hip pain and the best mattress topper for a side sleeper.
Should I Get a Mattress Topper?
You should get a mattress topper to make your mattress more comfortable, increase the durability of your mattress, and improve your sleep.
Over time, mattresses can become flattened out and less comfortable. Mattress toppers are a great investment because they enhance or even fully restore the comfort level of an old mattress for an affordable price.
You could also face a situation where you’ve bought a new mattress that isn’t comfortable, or it’s a different level of firmness than what you expected. In a situation like this, a mattress topper can provide you with just the right level of firmness and comfort, as you can target exactly what you need for the top layer. Memory foam or latex mattress toppers can increase the level of supportiveness a lot, while mattress toppers made of feathers or wool can give you a much softer sensation. You might enjoy this article on disposal and donation of mattress foundations.
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