What Is a Mattress Topper, and Do You Need One?

Written by: Andjela Kastratovic
Updated: 09/26/2023

Mattress toppers are one of the best quick-and-easy solutions to improving the comfort of your mattress. But what is a mattress topper? And how does it work? 

Here’s everything you need to know about this handy mattress accessory. 

Let’s get into it! 

What Is a Mattress Topper?

A mattress topper is an additional thick layer of material, about two to four inches thick, crafted from materials like memory foam, latex, feathers, down, and wool, among others.

It’s like an upgrade for your bed. You need to place it on top of your mattress, and you can completely change how it feels. 

Whether you seek more warmth, coolness, firmness, softness, or support, there’s a topper that suits your sleep preferences. Plus, it shields your mattress from stains and sagging, but it’s not the best protection against liquids. 

Mattress toppers are available in various materials and standard mattress sizes, and some of them have extra straps you can use to secure the topper to the mattress. 

Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Pad

Mattress toppers and mattress pads are used for similar reasons but are slightly different. 

If you want to be slightly more comfortable and protect your mattress from spills, dust, dust mites, and other allergens, go for a mattress pad. It adds a light cushion but doesn’t drastically change the firmness. 

On the other hand, mattress toppers are thicker and are meant for those who need a significant shift in comfort. They can make a mattress firmer or softer and even enhance breathability. 

While a mattress pad protects and adds minimal comfort, a mattress topper offers more comfort and support. 

Mattress Topper vs. Mattress Protector

Mattress protectors have a very different use than mattress toppers. 

A mattress topper adds extra cushioning and comfort to your sleeping surface, even revitalizing an aging mattress. It’s all about upgrading the feel. 

On the other hand, a mattress protector is all about defense—securing your mattress from spills, allergens, and stains. 

While a topper enhances comfort and support, a mattress protector keeps the mattress clean and prolongs its life. Using both a topper and a mattress protector is recommended.

Mattress Topper Types

Mattress toppers are available in various materials, each catering to different sleep preferences and needs. Here’s an overview of the different types of mattress toppers. 

Memory Foam Mattress Topper

A memory foam topper, made from viscoelastic polyurethane foam, provides structured support and contouring to your body for pressure relief. These features make memory foam mattress toppers perfect for side sleepers who need extra softness. 

Memory foam mattress toppers can be pricier and trap body heat. Some of these toppers are made from gel foam, making a bed cooler and more comfortable for hot sleepers. 

Latex Mattress Topper

Latex toppers offer a great blend of memory foam’s supportive feel and the cooling quality of latex. With a topper made from this material, you’ll get more contouring and bounce, which makes it a good choice for various sleep styles. 

Within this category, you’ll find Dunlop latex toppers that provide denser support and Talalay latex, which offers enhanced breathability. These toppers are the perfect comfort compromise. They provide excellent support and allow heat to escape, but they might come with a slightly higher price tag. 

Feather and Down Mattress Toppers

Feather and down mattress toppers add a touch of luxury with their plush feel, made from soft goose or duck feathers or down. 

They might not offer much support, but they make up for it with extraordinary softness and comfort. They feel like clouds! Plus, thanks to their breathability, they’re great at keeping things cozy without getting too warm. 

They’re soft and budget-friendly, but they provide little support, and feathers could occasionally fall out. 

Wool Mattress Toppers

Wool mattress toppers are all about that soft, plush feel, similar to feather mattress toppers. They have excellent breathability, making them perfect for winter and hot summer nights. 

And if you have allergies, a wool mattress topper is the way to go. These toppers are great for allergy sufferers because they have hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties. 

While they offer a light and plush cushion and can even help regulate temperature, they can be pricier. Also, they might not provide as much support as some other options. 

Mattress Topper Benefits

Using a mattress topper comes with plenty of benefits. It can make your bed more comfortable, improve sleep, and save you money! Here’s more about that. 

Pressure Relief

Mattress toppers, especially medium-firm ones, can help alleviate back pain by offering softer support. Sleeping on a too-firm mattress might stress your spine and pressure points, causing discomfort. 

A mattress topper adds cushioning, distributing body weight evenly and reducing pressure on your back. This extra support layer can significantly promote better spinal alignment and a better night’s sleep.


Mattress toppers offer a simple yet effective way to fine-tune your bed’s firmness, whether you need it softer or firmer. A mattress topper can make a firm mattress softer and can do the opposite for a soft mattress.

For example, feather and wool toppers add softness to a firm bed, while memory foam and latex foam toppers can enhance support for a plush or thin mattress. You can choose the firmness level you want from the start!

Motion Isolation

Mattress toppers can also work wonders when it comes to motion isolation. If you or your partner tend to toss and turn during the night, a mattress topper can help minimize those disturbances. 

By adding an extra layer of cushioning and support, a mattress topper absorbs some of the movements. This means you’re less likely to feel your partner’s movements, allowing you to enjoy a more peaceful and undisturbed sleep.

Temperature Regulation

Hot sleepers, say goodbye to tossing and turning due to trapped heat and say hello to mattress toppers! 

Toppers made from materials like gel-infused memory foam or breathable latex can assist in regulating your body’s heat. They promote airflow and prevent heat from getting trapped, keeping you comfortably cool during hot nights. 

However, wool toppers offer excellent insulation if you’re seeking cozy warmth. With the right mattress topper, you can enjoy a sleep environment that’s just the right temperature. 


If you need more support or your mattress is just starting to sag, a mattress topper can save the day. It adds an extra layer of cushioning and structure, benefiting those needing more comfort and alignment. 

However, while mattress toppers can enhance support, they can’t perform miracles on extremely old or unsupportive mattresses. If your mattress has lost its initial firmness or has visible sagging, a topper might not be enough to fix it. 

Affordable Upgrade

Upgrading your mattress doesn’t always mean investing in a brand new mattress. That’s where mattress toppers come in as an affordable solution. If your mattress is still in decent condition but lacks the comfort or support you desire, a topper can be a budget-friendly upgrade. 

Extended Mattress Lifespan

Mattress toppers aren’t just there to add comfort – they can also make your mattress last longer. 

Lastly, they add a layer of protection to the mattress, keeping it safe from wear and tear. This means your mattress stays in shape for longer, saving you money in the long run. 

How to Choose a Mattress Topper

Choosing the right mattress topper is all about your personal preferences and requirements. 

The State of Your Current Mattress

If it’s starting to sag, you can use a mattress topper to help make it more comfortable and even extend its lifespan. If it’s too soft or too firm, you can also use a mattress topper to set it to the firmness level you need. 

A mattress topper can also help if your current mattress traps heat, doesn’t offer enough pressure relief, or lacks motion isolation. 

If you need more support, go for latex or foam; if you want more softness, wool or feather are excellent choices. 

However, if your existing mattress is already too old, sags too much, and has structural issues, a mattress topper can’t help. It’s time to get a new bed. 

Sleeping Position

Choosing the perfect mattress topper also depends on your sleeping position! A mattress topper can significantly change the firmness and contouring of your existing mattress, so you should be careful with this. 

Most side sleepers need a softer mattress that contours to their bodies and relieves pressure on their hips and shoulders. However, back and stomach sleepers are better off on a firmer surface that can keep their spines aligned. Combination sleepers should sleep on a responsive surface that won’t make them feel stuck. 

Temperature Regulation

When choosing a mattress topper, you must also consider temperature regulation. Some mattresses, like the traditional memory foam ones, are notorious for trapping heat.

Choose a mattress topper made from cooling and breathable materials like gel foam, latex, or even feathers and wool to create a more breathable sleeping environment. 

But not all mattress toppers can help with this. Memory foam toppers can make the problem worse.


It’s essential to have a budget in mind when shopping. While mattress toppers are less expensive than buying a brand new mattress, certain materials, like a high-quality mattress topper made from latex and memory foam, can be costly.

How to Use a Mattress Topper

It’s pretty simple! Lay the topper on top of your mattress, ensuring it’s centered and properly aligned. Based on the design, some toppers have elastic straps or corners to secure them. Once it’s set up, make your bed as usual with sheets and bedding on top, and there you go! Now you have a comfortable bed. 

How to Take Care of a Mattress Topper

Caring for your mattress topper is simple. 

You can regularly rotate and flip the topper to prevent uneven wear. This helps maintain its supportive qualities. 

If your topper has a removable cover, wash it according to the manufacturer’s instructions to keep it clean and fresh. You can also use a mattress protector on top to keep it safe from stains. 

By following this simple advice, your mattress topper can stay in excellent condition and continue to provide comfort. 

Who Should Buy a Mattress Topper?

A mattress topper is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to make their bed more comfortable. 

You can buy a mattress topper if you want to make your bed plusher, firmer, warmer, or even cooler. It all depends on the materials you choose. 

Mattress toppers are also a quick solution if you don’t want to wait to get a new mattress. 

But besides comfort, mattress toppers also protect your mattress and extend its lifespan. If you want to get the most out of your bed, it’s time to get a mattress topper. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a Mattress Topper Fix a Sagging Mattress?

A mattress topper can help with some sagging, especially in the early stages. However, A sagging mattress with support issues can’t be fixed with a mattress topper, and you’ll have to buy a new mattress. 

What Is the Difference Between a Mattress Pad and a Mattress Topper?

While both mattress pads and mattress toppers are used on top of the mattress, a mattress pad is only 1 to 2 inches thick. A mattress pad is usually used to protect the bed from spills and dirt. However, they can’t change the firmness the way mattress toppers can, and they don’t help with pressure relief. 

When Should I Replace My Mattress Topper?

Mattress toppers last less than a regular mattress, so you must replace them every 3 to 5 years. They lose their shape, comfort, and support over time, and if you notice any of these changes, you should replace them with a new one. 

Final Thoughts

Mattress toppers are an affordable solution to your little problems with your mattress. Remember that there are different types of mattress toppers, and you need to take your personal preferences into account when mattress topper shopping! 

We wish you a great night’s sleep! 

Reviews written by:

Andjela Kastratovic - Co-editor

Anđela is a content writer by the day and an Illustrator by night. She loves anything creative, but sleep takes the cake – that’s why she enjoys writing for Anatomy of Sleep so much!

While in high school, she got accepted for her dream job – a ‘professional sleeper’. Her job was to test new mattresses from a local mattress brand and write reports on the quality of sleep. Ever since then, she’s been in love with reviewing mattresses and putting her compelling research into ultimate buyer’s guides. While not exploring the latest brands, she likes to illustrate and spend time with her dog and friends.