Choosing a Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Pad for College
Starting college is exciting. When moving into a dorm room, you may notice that your bed isn't comfortable, so you decide to improve its comfort. Choosing the right mattress product to elevate the coziness of your bed might seem a little daunting, so we're here to help sort out the confusion, and help you determine the difference between using mattress toppers vs. mattress pads for use at college.
Choose a mattress topper for college because it is thicker than a mattress pad and adds more protection to your mattress, it offers greater support and comfort and helps relieve back and neck pain in your body. Mattress pads are not a good choice for college because they are thinner than mattress toppers and only provide protection such as waterproofing or prevention of stains, sweat, or damage, without adding any significant comfort and support to the mattress.
Comparing a Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Pad for College
If you are looking for a noticeable change in comfort and support in your dorm bed, a mattress topper would be the right choice for you. If you are comfortable enough with your mattress and just want to make it softer and give it extra protection, then opt for a mattress pad. Read our article about placing a mattress pad on a foam mattress to find out how they provide an extra layer of comfort.
Mattress toppers provide support and significantly change the feeling of your mattress at college by making it more comfortable. Mattress pads provide cushioning, protection, and softness to your mattress, however, mattress pads offer less support than mattress toppers and are not the ideal solution for a basic college mattress.
Below is a chart summarizing how mattress toppers and mattress pads differ.
|Features||Mattress Toppers||Mattress Pads|
|Primary Function||Provide extra support and comfort to the mattress||Provide softness and protection to the mattress|
|Materials||Memory Foam, Latex, Wool, Cotton||Cotton/Polyester Blend, Feather, Fiber, Latex, Memory Foam|
|Thickness Range||2 - 8 inches||1 inch or less|
|Density Range||2 - 4lbs or higher||Less than 2lbs|
|Durability||3-10 years||3-5 years|
|Price Range||$75 - $400||$100 or less|
|Example from Amazon||Viscosoft||Queen Mattress Pad|
If your college bed is lumpy, make sure to also take a look at how to choose a mattress topper for a lumpy mattress for more information.
Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Pad – Do You Need Both for College?
Mattresses in college don’t cater to individual sleep preferences, and only provide the minimum amount of support, so they will benefit from the addition of a mattress topper or mattress pad. The choice between the two will depend on the state of the particular mattress—how worn it is, how soiled it may be, and the structure of the mattress. Deciding to buy either a mattress topper or mattress pad will be determined by the condition of the existing mattress in your dorm room.
If the college mattress only needs slight improvements to its softness or firmness then a mattress pad will be sufficient. But if the mattress is old and worn out, then a thicker mattress topper would offer better support and comfort. A severely damaged mattress at college will need both a mattress topper and a mattress pad as temporary solutions until you can buy a new mattress.
Below is a summary of particular dorm mattress issues and their respective solutions.
|Dorm Mattress Issues||Mattress Pad or Mattress Topper?||Example from Amazon||Price|
|Mattress is too firm||Mattress Pad||Sleep Zone||$40|
|Mattress is too soft||Mattress Topper||Lauraland||$110|
|Mattress retains too much heat||Either (With a cooling layer)||Merous King||$36|
|Mattress is too old||Mattress Topper||Star Cast Sleep Solution||$85|
Is a Mattress Topper the Same As a Mattress Enhancer?
The variety of products in the bedding industry may make it tricky to distinguish which items perform the same function and which differ slightly. Mattress toppers and mattress enhancers are essentially the same types of products because they perform the same functions. Both mattress enhancers and mattress toppers improve the comfort of the mattress in varying degrees— because mattress toppers are thicker than mattress pads their enhancement will be more noticeable. Read our ultimate guide to mattress toppers to learn more about the different types of toppers.
Mattress toppers and mattress enhancers both elevate the performance and longevity of a mattress when placed on top of it. They are both designed to improve comfort, provide pain relief, and make the bed firmer or softer. They are a useful addition to a bed when the mattress gets a little old because they emulate the experience of sleeping on a new mattress.
What Is the Difference Between a Mattress Topper And a Mattress Protector? Which One Do You Need For a Dorm Room?
A mattress topper is a thick pad that covers the top of your mattress and provides comfort and support to your body. A mattress topper has some waterproofing abilities that will prevent liquids from seeping through into the mattress. It also prolongs the longevity of your mattress. A mattress protector is a removable piece of bedding that encases your mattress and is used to ensure its complete protection. Mattress protectors prevent allergens by acting as barriers—they prevent dust, mold, and dead skin from collecting in the mattress. High-quality mattress protectors are also made from breathable fabrics that allow you to keep a cool body temperature during your sleep. Read our article on how often to replace a mattress protector to ensure that your mattress is properly protected.
A mattress topper improves the comfort level and support of a mattress by altering the firmness or softness of the mattress. A mattress protector protects the mattress from accidental spills, body odor, mold, and dust mites. In a dorm room, a mattress protector should be placed over the mattress topper so that it acts as a waterproof barrier for both the mattress and the mattress topper.
A mattress protector with extra-deep pockets like this one from Amazon is a good idea for college dorm beds because they protect the mattress and mattress topper, as well as secure the mattress topper to the mattress which eliminates noise and movement from a shifting topper. Read our other article about how to hold down a mattress topper which provides tips to fasten the topper to ensure undisturbed sleep.
Below is a summary of particular dorm mattress issues and their respective solutions.
|Dorm Mattress Issues||Mattress Topper or Mattress Protector?||Example from Amazon||Price|
|The mattress needs bed bug protection||Mattress Protector||Utopia Bedding||$20|
|The mattress needs protection against spills & food||Mattress Protector||SafeRest Queen||$30|
|The mattress is tearing apart||Mattress Protector||Queen||$25|
|The mattress is dirty or stained||Mattress Protector||PlushDeluxe||$40|
|The mattress has a weird odor||Mattress Protector||UltraPlush||$35|
|The mattress retains too much heat||Mattress Topper||Subrtex Cooling Pad||$150|
For additional information, make sure to read our related article on how to fix a lumpy mattress topper too.
How Can You Protect a Dorm Bed from Bed Bugs?
Having students from all over the country in one place is a very strong reason to cause concern about bed bug infestations. Before you sleep in your dorm bed, make sure that all of your belongings are secured in plastic bags. Don’t unpack unless a deep investigation for bed bugs has been completed. According to WebMD, bed bugs are apple seed-sized, oval-shaped bugs that are brown in color. When looking for bed bugs, carefully inspect the mattress piping, tags, seams, and around the headboard.
To protect a dorm bed from bed bugs take precautions like keeping the space clean and clutter-free, regularly laundering bedding, and covering the mattress with a mattress protector.
Tip 1. Keep Your Room Clean and Clutter-Free
Keep your room tidy and clean. Always vacuum the rugs or carpets and make sure the room is free of unnecessary clutter. Do not keep your clothes on the ground or bed, but rather hang them up. If closet space is limited then consider buying a portable wardrobe like this one from Amazon, to keep your dorm uncluttered and clean.
Tip 2. Wash Your Fabrics Frequently
Frequently wash your beddings and clothes and other fabrics with very hot water and dry it at the hottest degree possible. This article from Healthline explains how high heat has been proven to kill bed bugs. Also, don’t forget to inspect or wash any gear that is used on outdoor walks or hikes to prevent bringing unwanted insects inside your dorm room.
Tip 3. Purchase a Mattress Protector or Mattress Cover
According to the EPA, you should purchase a mattress protector or mattress cover that encases your original mattress and that is bed bug proof. A high-quality product will be light in color to make the bed bugs identifiable and will be tear-proof. We recommend a mattress cover like this one because it completely encases the mattress and is hypoallergenic.
Make sure you also take a look at our article on how to make a dorm bed more comfortable too for more information, tips, and tricks.
What's the Best Mattress Topper for College?
We all know that mattresses in dorm rooms are very basic and sometimes uncomfortable. Restful sleep is fundamental in the well-being of every person, so you want to choose a mattress topper that fulfills your needs. It is also important to note that when purchasing a mattress topper for your dorm bed, make sure to choose the right size. Read our article about how to choose a mattress topper size and thickness to learn more about the mattress topper options.
Choose a memory foam or latex mattress topper to target pressure relief and maximize the durability of a college mattress. Choose a down or wool mattress topper to improve the comfort of a college mattress and create a soft and fluffy sleep surface. People's needs are unique, so mattress toppers are available in various types of materials, thickness, or density to fit each and every need.
Memory Foam Mattress Toppers
Memory foam mattress toppers are the most common type of mattress topper. They are great for body support and pain relief, and add comfort and firmness to a mattress. Some memory foam toppers are infused with gel or aloe vera for better ventilation, which provides a soothing cooling feature. We like this aloe infused mattress topper from Amazon with its 5 body zones for maximum comfort.
Latex Mattress Toppers
Latex toppers are soft spongy mattress toppers and the ultimate mattress topper for comfort and support. They are famous for their ability to relieve pressure points and soothe body aches. Latex is resistant to mold and microbes, so it’s very durable and hypoallergenic. They provide exceptional support and assist the sleeper in keeping a cool body temperature. We recommend this latex mattress topper because of its certified organic latex materials and pinpoint comfort.
Down Mattress Toppers
Down toppers are filled with goose or duck down. Their feather component makes the mattress topper soft and fluffy—perfect for improving a firm mattress. This material is lightweight and keeps you cool in the summer and warm in winter. We like this extra thick down mattress topper because of its square-shaped stitching which keeps the down in place.
Wool Mattress Toppers
Wool toppers are usually 100% natural, so they are an excellent option for those who have allergies or sensitivities to chemicals. They have moisture-wicking fibers that draw liquids away from the surface and keep the mattress topper breathable, airy, and fresh. They dissipate heat during the summer months and retain heat during the winter months because of their thermoregulatory properties. We like this organic wool mattress topper from Amazon.
If you’re interested in buying a mattress topper, here are some recommended mattress toppers for college.
|Mattress Topper||Product Functions||Price|
|Linen Spa||Rejuvenates an Old Mattress, Perfect for Support and Pain Relief, Cooling Gel, High Density||$45|
|Take Ten||100% Natural Latex, Soft, Hypoallergenic, Proper Thickness for Support, Good Air Circulation||$150|
|Sopat||Cooling, Breathable, Lightweight, Easy for Travel, Super Soft||$70|
Also, make sure to take a look at how to choose a mattress topper for camping for some additional, portable solutions. Also, you might find usefulness in our related article on simple steps to make a comfortable truck camping bed too.
In a Nutshell
Standard dorm beds have basic mattresses that offer minimal support and comfort—but that can be easily rectified by adding a mattress topper or a mattress pad. If the mattress is in poor condition and a new mattress won’t be purchased then a mattress topper is the better solution because it is thicker and offers more support. If however the mattress is only slightly worn then a mattress pad will be the way to improve the mattress’s comfort. Read our article on mattress topper weights to help with choosing the right mattress topper for your needs.