The 5 best mattress toppers we tested in 2021


Why should I buy a mattress topper?

There are several reasons why you might want a mattress topper. Many people like to have one around to use as a pad under their sleeping bag when camping, or in a pinch, it can serve as a guest bed.

The most common reason people turn to mattress toppers is to make their otherwise uncomfortable mattress more comfortable. “Let’s say you bought a mattress a couple of years ago, and you’re not quite satisfied with it, but you want to extend the life a little bit,” said  Rebecca Robbins, PhD, associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. Maybe you got a second-hand mattress that doesn’t match your sleep style. “Then, that’s a perfect situation to consider a mattress topper,” she said.

“A mattress topper customizes the foundation and the mattress to your personal preference because we’re all different,” added Robbins. “We all vary in our preference for firm versus plush. Some people really want something that’s just super cozy. They want to sink in, whereas others actually prefer a firmer mattress.” 

Randall Laurich, DC, a chiropractor in South Florida, agrees. “I always like to say that everyone’s different, and everyone responds differently to certain things,” said Laurich. “I would say the main benefits are if the mattress is too firm, a mattress topper would actually make it softer and more contouring to the spine. And then, in turn, the benefits become less stress on the spine.”

However, Laurich said to consider that some mattress toppers can be too soft and unsupportive. “I have had patients that have attempted to use mattress toppers and have actually had some negative side effects from it,” said Laurich. “Not having enough firmness can sometimes cause the spine to reduce its curvature. So, it won’t contour to the spine because it is so soft. A softer, thicker topper can sometimes have adverse effects, while a smaller, thinner topper could have more positive benefits overall.”

Should you buy a new mattress or a mattress topper?

A mattress topper can provide all of the benefits listed above, but if your mattress is starting to exhibit sagging and providing less support, it might be time for a new one. First, check your mattress’s warranty. Most warranties cover your bed for at least 10 years, and some last for a lifetime. If your mattress is still covered under warranty, you may be able to get a replacement or repair for free or for a nominal fee.

If your mattress has reached the end of its life and you can’t afford to replace it yet, a mattress topper is a good stopgap that can help you squeeze an extra year or two out of your mattress while you scrape together the funds for a replacement.

Sometimes, our bodies or sleeping styles change, and this can cause our mattress to become less comfortable. This isn’t covered by warranty, and you probably don’t want to throw out a perfectly good mattress that still has plenty of years left in it. This is where a topper can help.

Lastly, mattress toppers can help couples with different sleep preferences. “If you want to sleep together though, you might put a topper under the fitted sheet on one side of the bed for somebody who prefers a plusher experience,” Robbins said.

If you go this route, a Twin XL is your best bet. It’s the same length as King and Queen size mattresses and half the width of a King.

How do you clean a mattress topper?

This will vary depending on the mattress topper. For the most accurate directions, consult the topper’s user manual or tags or the manufacturer’s website. Most mattress toppers are not machine washable. For instance, you should avoid getting latex and memory foam wet since they’re hard to dry. In most cases, you will want to spot clean any messes with a mild detergent and a damp towel. Then, allow it to dry completely before covering or sleeping on it.

Whether you have a mattress topper or not, we strongly recommend using a mattress protector on your bed. The best ones are waterproof and machine-washable and cost as little as $20. Check out our guide to the best mattress protectors for more info.

Which mattress topper is right for your sleeping style?

There are three main sleeping styles: back, stomach, and side. Laurich recommends starting your mattress topper search with a firmness that is best for your style. “A stomach sleeper should have something a little less firm,” said Laurich. “Because when you’re lying on your stomach and have a bit of a belly or abdominal dissension or anything like that, it’s uncomfortable to be on something that’s extremely firm. If you are a back sleeper, it’s better for you to have something firmer that contours better to your spine.”

“If you’re a side sleeper, it’s better for you to have a softer mattress topper,” added Laurich. “But side sleepers get different issues or ailments. For instance, you can get hip issues from being on one side for so long. You can get other issues from positioning your shoulders in different ways. So, it’s really tough to say exactly what the best mattress topper would be based on sleeping style, but these generalizations serve as a good starting point.”

If you’re unsure about your comfort preferences, we strongly recommend choosing a mattress topper that comes with a long trial period so you can return it if it’s not right for you.

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