Pros and Cons of Using a Mattress Topper
Mattress toppers can make a huge difference for sleepers, ranging from alleviating pain and pressure to creating an experience that regulates body temperature. There are also the less advertised pros, such as less noise and even better responsiveness for sex.
Pros of using a mattress topper on an existing mattress include the following:
- Improved Sleep Surface: Toppers can add comfort to old mattress surfaces that have developed some sagging or indentations over time, as well as newer models that are too soft or firm for its current sleepers.
- More Support: Mattresses made of materials like memory foam or latex can help create and maintain a stable, even sleep surface with enhanced neck and back support.
- Pain and Pressure Relief: Some mattress toppers, such as memory foam and latex models, conform closely to sleepers bodies. This helps align the spine and target pressure points in the neck, shoulders, lower back, and hips.
- Dual Comfort Options: For mattresses that are not designed with a dual-firmness comfort layer, a topper can be an inexpensive way to modify the feel of one side while maintaining the original firmness of the other.
- Increased Durability: Utilizing a mattress topper can help extend the lifespan of a mattress by reducing sagging and indentations in the comfort layer.
- Mattress Protection: Although they are primarily intended to add extra comfort, mattress toppers can create a buffer that protects the top surface of a mattress from stains, soiling, and physical damage.
- Minimal Noise: With the exception of featherbeds, which may produce rustling sounds, mattress toppers produce little to no noise when bearing weight.
- Better Sex: With the exception of memory foam toppers (which are considered less-than-ideal for sex), toppers are generally considered responsive enough for sex.
- Inexpensive Alternative to Replacement: Most mattress toppers cost less than $200, but even the most expensive toppers — such as wool and latex models — rarely exceed $400. As a result, using a topper is much cheaper than replacing the mattress completely.
- Cooling Effect: Many mattress toppers have gel features or other cooling and aeration technology that will keep you from overheating at night, ensuring a deeper night’s sleep.
Despite the benefits of using a mattress topper listed above, there are also some drawbacks associated with these products. You may overestimate how much the topper can help your sleeping situation if you have a mattress that badly needs replacing. Additionally, some toppers may not fit your bed very well or make it difficult for you to move around freely at night.
Here are some of the downsides to look out for:
- Fitting Issues: Mattress toppers that do not lie freely on the sleep surface are usually smaller than the mattress itself, which allows sheets to fit over them. This may present two issues. One: the sleeper may need to purchase new sheets. Two: the topper may slide around beneath the sheet, depending on how it’s constructed, which can lead to uncomfortable bunching and an uneven surface.
- Edge Support: Due to the fact that toppers are slightly smaller than mattresses, this may reduce how supportive the bed feels around its perimeter where people tend to sit.
- Limited Improvements: Although toppers can significantly improve older mattresses with some sagging or indentations, they may not be as effective at changing the feel and comfort level of a mattress with extensive damage.
- Off-gassing: Some topper types — particularly polyfoam and memory foam models — may emit unpleasant off-gassing odors that eventually dissipate, especially in well-ventilated rooms, but these smells may be persistent.
- Sleeping Hot: Toppers made of feathers or wool tend to sleep fairly cool, but memory foam, fiber, and latex models tend to retain high levels of body heat and sleep somewhat hot as a result.
- Difficult to Move: The average topper weighs at least seven or eight pounds, and some topper types — such as latex — often weigh more than 20 pounds. This can make them difficult to move and maneuver during the night, especially if they are tucked beneath fitted sheets.
- High Maintenance: Mattress toppers are rarely machine washable, and usually need to be either dry cleaned or spot cleaned by hand. Some toppers, such as featherbeds, also require constant fluffing in order to maintain proper loft.
Important Considerations for Topper Shoppers
Next, let’s look at some of the key factors to keep in mind when shopping for a mattress topper and browsing different types, brands, and models:
- Material: Different mattress topper materials offer different comfort experiences. Memory foam and latex conform closely to the sleeper’s body for improved spinal alignment and pressure relief. Wool and feather toppers do not conform as closely, which creates less resistance for people moving on top of the mattress, and they also sleep somewhat cooler. Shoppers should research the properties of each mattress topper type as they relate to their sleep needs and preferences.
- Thickness: Mattress toppers may measure anywhere from 1 to 4 inches thick. The thickness of a topper is should correspond to the mattress surface. If the mattress is much too firm for the sleeper, then a thicker topper will be needed to effectively adjust the comfort level. Thinner toppers may be suitable when minor changes are needed. Also, it’s important to note that thicker convoluted foam, memory foam, and latex models tend to sleep somewhat hotter than thinner models.
- Density: Like thickness, the density of a mattress topper corresponds to other performance factors. High-density memory foam toppers, for instance, offer better edge support and conform closer than low-density foam toppers; however, high-density models also tend to sleep hotter, produce more odor, and not be as good for sex.
- Firmness: Generally speaking, firmer toppers are ideal for sleepers who find their mattress too soft, while softer toppers work best on overly firm surfaces. However, a topper can also enhance the firmness of an older mattress. For instance, a medium-firm topper used on top of a medium-firm mattress can help preserve the original sleep surface while still maintaining the sleeper’s desired firmness level.
- Durability: Although lifespan varies by model, most latex, memory foam, and wool mattress toppers are considered fairly durable and will perform for several years without excessive sagging or indenting. Feather and fiber toppers, on the other hand, tend have below-average durability.
- Motion Isolation: Toppers made of foam or latex tend to absorb motion and isolate it to certain areas of the mattress, which can help reduce sleep disruptions. Feather, fiber, and wool toppers offer minimal motion isolation by comparison.
- Allergy Potential: Some topper materials, such as latex or feathers, may trigger allergies in certain sleepers. Other topper materials, such as fibers and wool, are hypoallergenic and should not cause allergies to flare up.
Mattress toppers are made of a wide variety of materials, from down feathers to memory foam, gel, and even polyester. Each material type has its own benefits and drawbacks. What you like will largely depend on your taste, needs, and sleeping style. In the content and table below, we’ll discuss each material and examine some key similarities and differences between the six most common mattress topper types.
Also known as eggshell foam, convoluted polyfoam mattress toppers consist of polyfoam shaped with ridges along the surface of the topper. This type of topper conforms to the sleepers body, providing a moderate “cradling” feeling and alleviating pressure points. Like all foam sleep surfaces, they tend to transfer motion very well and don’t produce any noises, making them good for couples.
Due to their thrifty design, convoluted polyfoam toppers generally come at a lower price point than most mattress toppers, making them a great value option. That being said, they’re not very durable, and less effective across the board compared to solid foam mattress toppers. We recommend convoluted polyfoam to those looking to soften their mattress for the lowest price possible.
Latex mattress toppers are a luxury option, offering pressure relief, support, and cooling at a higher price point. While latex doesn’t conform as closely as memory foam, it does offer a significant degree of pressure relief. Unlike memory foam, latex tends to sleep cool and is very responsive, making easy to move around on (this includes sex). It’s also a very durable material, perhaps justifying its higher price.
Feather toppers are a good way to make your mattress feel more luxurious. Often made of ethically sourced duck or goose feathers, these toppers add a ‘plush’ feeling to the mattress akin to a pillow-top cover one may find on a nice hotel mattress. While these toppers generally don’t offer much in the way of practical benefits such as pressure relief and support, they are generally loved by fans of a plush feel, providing additional comfort for those sleepers.
Fiber toppers are an alternative to feather toppers, providing a similar feeling without the allergy potential and at a lower price point. While some purists insist on real down and feathers instead of fiber, many fiber toppers can provide a very similar experience, if not identical.
Memory foam mattress toppers consist of a solid layer of memory foam. These toppers conform closer to the body than any other material, making them a favorite for pressure relief. Great for couples and light sleepers, they isolate motion very well and produce no noise. One downside of memory foam is that it traps a lot of body heat, which can be an issue for sleepers to tend to sleep hot at night.
Higher density memory foam toppers (3+ PCF) tend to be more durable and conform closer, but sleep hotter and are more expensive. Lower destiny foam (less than 3 PCF) is cheaper and cooler, tends to develop body impressions over time.
Wool is a versatile mattress topper that provides a soft, cozy experience. Known for its year round temperature neutrality, wool wicks away moisture to keep from overheating while providing good insulation to stay warm and cozy. Plus, the soft feel provides an extra layer of comfort to your mattress.
Topper Material Ratings