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A mattress pad, also known as a ‘mattress protector,’ is a relatively thin layer that tucks over the top surface of a mattress with elastic edges similar to those of a fitted sheet. The pad’s primary purpose is to protect the mattress. The term ‘mattress topper’ refers to an individual layer of additional cushioning that can be placed on top of a mattress or other sleep surface in order to provide extra softness, comfort, and support. Some toppers rest freely on the uppermost layer of the mattress (known as the comfort layer), while others are designed to fit beneath the top sheet. Pads and toppers come in sizes that correspond to standard mattress sizes. Toppers may also be used to create a ‘dual-firmness’ surface for couples using Queen- or King-size mattresses.
A ‘cooling’ pad or topper is designed to help sleepers maintain a moderate, well-regulated body temperature throughout the night. They can also reduce sweating. These pads and toppers can be beneficial for people who tend to sleep hot or warm, as well as those using mattresses that act as heat traps. Generally speaking, two types of cooling pads and toppers are available:
Regardless of the cooling topper type, most models feature covers made of materials that help sleepers stay cool. These include cotton, rayon, and/or bamboo fabric. Additionally, some models feature covers made from phase-changing material, or PCM. PCM absorbs body heat until the sleeper reaches a certain temperature and then stop retaining heat, allowing the sleep surface to maintain a steady, comfortable temperature throughout the night regardless of how hot the sleeper feels.
Please note: some brands offer toppers that need to be placed in a refrigerator or freezer prior to being used. Most of these toppers keep sleepers cool for a reasonable length of time, but their coldness will wear off — and most need to be refrigerated or refrozen each night. These toppers are fairly rare compared to active and passive cooling toppers. As a result, we have exclusively evaluated active and passive cooling pads and toppers for the purposes of this article, and did include any refrigerated pad or topper models in our analyses.
Both active and passive cooling pads and toppers carry unique benefits and drawbacks for owners. The table below looks at some of the similarities and differences between the two product types in terms of lifespan, effectiveness, and other performance metrics.
|Criteria||Active Cooling Topper Rating||Passive Cooling Topper Rating||Explanation|
|Effective Temperature Regulation||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Active cooling pads and toppers are more effective at regulating sleep temperature than passive cooling models, according to owners.|
|Thickness and Firmness Selection||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Due to limited availability of active cooling pads and toppers, customers may have a hard time finding models that accommodate their sleep preferences. The options for passive cooling models are much more extensive.|
|Durability||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Most cooling pads and toppers perform for at least two years. Active-cooling models are prone to breakdowns due to their technical components, while passive-cooling models may lose their temperature-regulating abilities over time.|
|Noise||Poor to Fair||Very Good to Excellent||Active-cooling pads and toppers with electrical components can be quite noisy. Passive-cooling models are much quieter on the whole; memory foam, latex, and wool are virtually silent, whereas feathers may produce slight rustling sounds.|
|Odor Potential||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Active-cooling pads and toppers may emit some odors when they are unpackaged, but these models are not associated with long-lasting smells. Memory foam, natural latex, and feathers all have relatively high odor potential, while smell complaints for wool are not as common.|
|Ease of Moving||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Active-cooling pads and toppers can be quite heavy and difficult to maneuver during the night due to extraneous parts. Passive-cooling pads and toppers tend to be much lighter, although latex and memory foam models tend to weigh much more than wool and feather models.|
|Ease of Cleaning and Maintaining||Poor to Fair||Poor to Fair||Cleaning cooling pads and toppers can be a hassle. Most models need to be spot cleaned or dry cleaned, and active-cooling pads and toppers with water pumps may develop mold if they are not regularly cleaned. The exception: passive-cooling wool models, which can often be machine washed.|
|Upkeep Costs||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Active-cooling pads and toppers can lead to repair expenses down the road, in addition to cleaning fees. Passive-cooling models almost never need the same level of repair, but dry-cleaning bills can add up.|
|Availability||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||A limited number of active-cooling pads and toppers are currently available, whereas passive-cooling models are fairly common.|
|Average Price (Queen)||$700 or Higher||$100 to $400||Due to their high-tech design and electrical components, active-cooling pads and toppers tend to be much more expensive than their passive-cooling counterparts|
|Customer Satisfaction Rating||87% (625 Customer Reviews)||83% (10,283 Customer Reviews)||Active-cooling pads and toppers have earned a higher customer satisfaction rating than passive-cooling models.|
Next we’ll look at some of the top-rated cooling pads and toppers among today’s customers. The first table features details for five of the leading passive cooling models.
|Brand||Exceptional Sheets||Milliard||SleepBetter||Sleep on Latex||Slumber Cloud|
|Model||Bamboo Mattress Pad with Fitted Skirt||Gel-Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper||Iso-Cool Memory Foam Mattress Topper||Pure Green Natural Latex Mattress Topper||Nacreous Mattress Pad|
|Material||RevoLoft down alternative||Gel-infused memory foam (2.5 PCF)||Standard memory foam||Natural latex||Outlast liner fabric|
|Cover||Rayon from bamboo|
Backing: 70% polyester, 30% nylon
Skirt: 76% polyester, 16% nylon, 8% spandex
(160 thread count)
|Rayon from bamboo||100% cotton Quilted with RichLoft polyester fill|
(300 thread count)
|No cover||60% cotton, 40% viscose|
(350 thread count)
Pocket depth: 18″
Pocket depth: 20″
|Pocket depth: 20″|
|Price (Queen)||$114.99 (Amazon.com)||$109.99||$212.18||$129.00 to $149.00 (1″)|
$199.00 to $249.00 (2″)
$299.00 to $369.00 (3″)
|Weight (Queen)||8.05 lbs||11 lbs||30 lbs||24.8 lbs||Not disclosed|
|Owner Satisfaction Rating||85% (4,210 customer reviews)||86% (1,138 customer reviews)||80% (509 customer reviews)||87% (385 customer reviews)||80% (265 customer reviews)|
Now, let’s look at two of the highest-rated active cooling toppers on the market, as well as a to-be-released topper model that has generated a fair amount of buzz among consumers and critics.
|Brand||Chili Technology||Sleep Number||Kyro (Prototype Only)|
|Model||ChiliPad||DualTemp Individual Layer||Sleep Performance System|
|Construction||Water container (‘Cube’) attaches to pad and circulates water through a network of tubes.||Layer attaches to a cooling fan placed beneath the bed. The fan can be adjusted using a remote control.||Topper attaches to a water-based cooling system that can be manually adjusted.|
|Customization||Dual-zone temperature control|
Range: 55 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 43 degrees Celsius)
|Warm or cool the bed by as much as 35% of the original temperature.||Cool the sleep surface down to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees Celsius).|
Split Cal King
Split Cal King
|Universal (fits all sizes)|
|Price (Queen)||$999.00||$749.99||$299.00 (Indiegogo only)|
|Weight (Queen)||27 lbs||Not Disclosed||Not Disclosed|
|Owner Satisfaction Rating||88% (487 Customer Reviews)||86% (76 Customer Reviews)||Not available. This product is slated for wide release in May 2018.|
For more information on this topic, please visit our Best Mattress Toppers guide, as well as our individual review pages for convoluted polyfoam, feather, fiber, memory foam, latex, and wool mattress toppers.
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