Ideas + Advice


What Is a Mattress Topper?

Mattress topper – you may never have heard the term before or you may be well-acquainted with it. Either way, it’s the kind of product that can change the way you sleep; even if you currently use a mattress topper, the benefits of replacing a mattress topper with a fresh, more supportive one are innumerable. (If your current mattress is sagging or your current mattress topper has seen its day, a new mattress topper can make life a whole lot nicer for a whole lot less than the cost of a new quality mattress.) Whether you’re in need of more support, more comfort or a little bit of both in your mattress, this guide’s for you; here, we’re exploring the ways a mattress topper can be used, how to use it, why you need it, the difference between toppers versus pads and, finally, what exactly a mattress topper is.

What Is a Mattress Topper? Mattress Toppers Explained

Think of a mattress topper as a very, very, very, very thin mattress. A mattress topper is a thin layer, usually foam, and usually no more than a couple inches high. It is designed to go on top of your mattress and is usually bought when you’re just about in need of a new mattress – but not quite. Mattress toppers are the perfect way to stretch the time between mattress purchases, as they allow you to add a temporary form of new support and comfort to the top of your mattress, or the area where your body touches the mattress. Mattress toppers come in a variety of materials and can be found with gel, gel-foam, memory foam and latex components.

What Is a Mattress Pad?

A mattress pad is similar to a mattress topper in that it is designed to be used as an extra layer in addition to the mattress itself. There are, however, differences between mattress pads and mattress toppers. While mattress toppers are mainly bought to stretch the lifespan of a mattress (i.e., mattress toppers are purchased to make a sagging mattress feel new again and are almost never purchased at the same time as a new mattress), mattress pads are mainly purchased to complement a new mattress. While toppers are designed for extra support, pads are designed for extra comfort and feel soft. Mattress pads are the ideal way to add a layer of cushioning between a firm mattress and you while you sleep. (Note that many mattress pads are built into mattress protectors – available as two-in-one designs!)

How Long Do Mattress Toppers Last?

A mattress topper isn’t built to last as long as a mattress; in fact, it’s not even built to be used with a new mattress. (Instead, the purpose of a mattress topper is to refresh an old bed.) Use a mattress topper for a few months. If you know your mattress isn’t giving you the ideal sleeping experience (you know this by sagging indents in the middle of the mattress, a squeaky bed with loose innersprings, and/or tossing and turning throughout the night, finding it hard to fall asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and waking up tired) and yet you’re not quite ready to buy a new bed for financial reasons, a mattress topper is a good solution. In conclusion: don’t make the mistake of relying on a mattress topper for long-term support.

Do Mattress Toppers Work?

Mattress toppers do work, as long as you use them as intended. (Placing a mattress topper directly on the floor or box spring and using it as a bed, for instance, is about the worst thing you can do for your back support and comfort, as mattress toppers are too thin to be used alone – they won’t provide the needed pressure relief and form contour for a quality night’s sleep.) If you use a mattress topper as a temporary means for extending the life of your mattress before you buy a new one, then you’ll find pleasant results from using a mattress topper. Just remember that toppers come in different kinds of quality, and some may not feel as comfortable or work as well as others.

What Does a Mattress Topper Do?

A mattress topper is designed to fill in the gap of a sagging mattress. (If you can get down to eye level with the surface of your mattress and see that there is a cavern in the center of your mattress, an indentation from sagging and overuse or too much weight-bearing, then you know you’re dealing with a sagging mattress and the best plan of action is to fill it in with a new layer.) Without a mattress topper, a spine on a sagging mattress won’t be cradled and held well; conversely, it will cave in, encouraging strain and pressure and your muscles to form around a bad orthopedic posture. While waking up with pain or soreness should never be ignored, a mattress topper can be a form of repair if you don’t have the monetary means to purchase a new mattress immediately.

How to Choose a Mattress Topper

Mattress toppers come in a variety of sizes and types. The first thing you should consider when choosing one is the size of your mattress – a Queen topper goes with a Queen mattress, a King topper goes with a King mattress, a Cal King topper goes with a Cal King mattress, and a Full topper goes with a Full mattress (this is the easiest consideration and one that shouldn’t be ignored.) You’ll also want to consider the feel of a topper; the best way to do this is to know the type of mattress you currently sleep on or prefer, as a firm mattress topper will mimic the feel of a firm mattress, a plush mattress topper will mimic the feel of a plush mattress and a medium mattress topper will mimic the feel of a medium mattress.

Do You Put a Mattress Pad Over Memory Foam Topper?

A mattress pad and a mattress topper are two separate layers, and it can be confusing to know which one goes over the other and which one goes under. The easy way to remember is that a mattress pad should always be the layer that comes closest to contact with your body; mattress pads are designed with fabrics specifically for the contact of skin, while a mattress topper often is not. (If you’re using a mattress toper without a pad, you’ll want to cover the topper with a top or fitted sheet to avoid touching the material.) While you can definitely use both together, a mattress pad is actually not often used in conjunction with a mattress topper, since one or the other is all that is needed in adding more comfort to a mattress.

How to Use a Mattress Topper

Here’s a breakdown of how to use a mattress topper:

  • Decide on the type you want. Buying a mattress topper just because it’s a mattress topper is a one-way ticket to even more sleeping troubles down the road. When buying a mattress topper, give it the same consideration and time as you would with an actual mattress; a topper is the thing you will be directly sleeping on, after all, and can make or break your comfort.
  • Place the topper directly on the mattress. Once you have the topper, place it on your mattress. Align it with the edges so that it looks as though it is simply an extension of the mattress.
  • Cover the topper with a sheet. Place a fitted sheet over the topper, and you’re done!

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Editorial Disclaimer: Articles featuring tips and advice are intended for educational purposes and only as general recommendations. Always practice personal discretion when using and caring for furniture, decor and related items.