What Is a Mattress Topper?

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 12 minLast updated on March 14, 2023

You might have seen the term ‘Mattress Topper’ when you visited a bedding store. It looks similar to a mattress, but it’s thinner. It’s not instantly clear what it is used for and how it can benefit your sleep. In this article, I’m taking a deep dive into what is a mattress topper, how you can use it, and what are its benefits.

Key takeaways

  • Mattress toppers are great because, for a much lower price, you can alter the whole feeling of your mattress, especially if you are not satisfied with your sleep quality.
  • Mattress toppers can provide pressure relief, support, breathability, bounce, and edge support, depending on the type.

What is a Mattress Topper?

A mattress topper is a supportive layer you can place on your mattress to alter how it feels. It is usually 2-4 inches thick and made from various materials.

Depending on the mattress topper type, it can act as a solution to many of the problems you might have with your mattress. For example, if your mattress makes you sleep hot, you can try a mattress topper to make it more breathable. 

Mattress toppers can have several layers inside, combining different materials, to provide comfort and support. They can also fix the mattress topper on a mattress to prevent it from slipping. That way, the mattress topper just feels like another layer of the mattress itself.

Different Types of Mattress Toppers

Just like mattresses, there are different types of mattress toppers as well. While they differ in the types of layers that make them up, there are four major types: memory foam, latex, feather or down, and wool.

  • Memory Foam. Memory foam mattress toppers are made with viscoelastic polyurethane foam. They are designed to provide weight distribution and zoned support to give each part of the body the support and pressure relief it needs. They are also great when it comes to motion isolation. The only drawback of this mattress topper type is that it’s not as breathable as the other types.
    A memory foam mattress topper on a mattress
    A memory foam mattress topper on a mattress
  • Latex. Latex mattress toppers are bouncy and supportive, just like memory foam ones. However, they do not adapt to the body shape as much as memory foam ones. They also transfer lots of motion. The best thing about them is that they are very breathable and provide excellent temperature regulation. Latex makes some of the greatest firm mattress toppers but feels cushioning at the same time. On the downside, they can be pricier than other toppers.
  • Feather or down. These mattress toppers are stuffed with feathers from geese or ducks. They are plushy and soft and super breathable and pressure relieving. However, they cannot provide as great of support as memory foam or latex ones, and they lose their shape in time as well.
  • Wool. These mattress toppers are made with wool. They are great at naturally regulating temperature, providing a plushy surface, and keeping the mites away. The downside to these mattress toppers is that they can be pretty expensive and sometimes smell weird.

PropertiesMemory foamLatexFeatherWool
FirmnessDifferent options from soft to firmMostly firmSoftSoft
BreathabilityNot breathableExcellent breathabilityBreathableBreathable
SupportMax supportGreat supportNot supportiveLittle support
CushioningSofter models onlySupportive cushioningPlushPlushy cushion
Mattress ProtectionProtects the mattress from dust, dirt, and stainsProtects the mattress from dust, dirt, moisture, stains, and saggingOnly protects the mattress minimally from dust and dirtOnly protects the mattress minimally from dust and dirt
Resistance against mites and moldsProvides habitat for molds and mites if moisture builds upAnti-mite and mold naturallyNaturally anti-miteNaturally anti-mite
Ability to cleanShould not be washedCannot be washedCan be machine washedCan be machine washed

I mostly use memory foam mattress toppers, especially ones infused with gel, since they both manage to provide me with support and thermoregulation. Latex mattress toppers can be too bouncy and transfer motion, but memory foam ones manage to isolate motion, which is great since I sleep with my partner.

Benefits of a Mattress Topper

There are many benefits to using a mattress topper. Let's check them all here to get familiar with how a mattress topper can alter the feel of your mattress and make you enjoy sleeping on it.

Adjust Mattress Firmness

One of the main use cases of mattress toppers is adjusting the firmness of a mattress. If you feel like your mattress isn't firm enough or if it's too soft, a mattress topper can really alter how it feels. There are many mattress toppers that help soften a too-firm mattress. There are also mattress toppers that help make a medium-firm mattress firmer. Depending on how firm you want your bed to exactly feel, you can choose a mattress topper. Latex mattress toppers are often firmer but provide great contour, while memory foam mattress toppers can range from soft to firm (1). Wool and further mattress toppers are mostly soft.

If you've recently bought a mattress but it's firmer than you originally anticipated, a softer mattress topper can help you. This is not the case if you've bought a soft mattress though. A firm mattress topper is not as effective in that case.

Adding a mattress topper for adjusting mattress firmness
Adding a mattress topper for adjusting mattress firmness

Regulate Temperature

If your mattress is not as breathable, you feel hot sleeping on it during summer, or you feel like it traps a lot of heat, you can try using a latex, wool, or feather mattress topper to make it more breathable (2). Latex has lots of small holes and pores on it that allow air to go through it easily. Memory foam mattresses are notorious for trapping heat, so if you're feeling hot on your mattress, you shouldn't try a memory foam mattress topper, or at least you should try a gel-infused mattress topper that actually manages to release heat instead of absorbing it.


Mattress toppers are great because you can take them off and put them back on whenever you need to. You can always put a latex mattress topper on during summer to keep yourself cool during the hot nights, and simply take it off during winter to avoid getting cold. The same goes for other mattress topper types, such as memory foam. You can take them off during summer and put them back on the mattress during winter to keep you warm. They're easy to carry and much more lightweight than a mattress, which makes them super versatile.

Can Fix a Sagging Mattress

Mattresses can sag easily after a few years of sleeping on them. Mattress toppers are great because they help fill up the space that is sagging and give you a new environment to sleep on without having to worry about the lack of support.

Keeps the Mattress Clean and Protected

Mattress toppers provide an additional layer on the mattress, and since the mattress is pretty expensive and you can't afford to get them dirty or stained, a mattress Topper can provide a shield. This means that if the mattress Topper gets a stain, you can easily take it off, clean it, wash it if needed, etc.

More Budget-Friendly

Mattresses are way more expensive, and if your mattress has a small problem, you might not be able to immediately throw it out and purchase a new mattress. Mattress toppers are much better because you can get the feeling of a whole new mattress for many times less price.

Provides Pressure Relief

If you wake up in the morning with pain in your body, there are mattress toppers that can help with lower back pain, hip pain, or shoulder pain. They relieve pressure from your joints and muscles, making them relaxed. You cannot achieve this result without buying a new mattress, but luckily, mattress toppers can offer the same level of comfort (3).

Side sleeping on a mattress topper
Side sleeping on a mattress topper

How Should You Use a Mattress Topper

When you first purchased a mattress topper, you should take off all your bedding and clean your mattress surface preferably with a vacuum or a steam vacuum cleaner to clean any stains, dust, or dirt that could be possibly built up on it. Then, you need to wash and dry all your bedding. Next, place a mattress topper on top of the mattress, and if there are any straps around it, stretch them to go under the mattress to prevent the topper from slipping over the mattress edges. Then, you can put the bedding and sheets on the mattress topper and fix them up, especially if they are fitted sheets. Now you can simply use the mattress topper just like a mattress.

Just for extra protection, sometimes I put a mattress protector on top of my mattress topper to prevent any stains or spills from being transferred to the topper itself. This is just an extra layer of protection and ensures your mattress topper won't need to be deep cleaned frequently.

My Experience with Mattress Toppers

I use mattress toppers almost with all types of mattresses that I review. Mattress toppers have always helped me prevent my mattress from sagging, and I can always have more options regarding how I sleep. If I'm feeling too hot, I can put the latex topper on. If I'm feeling too cold, I can put a memory foam mattress topper on. If I need extra support or pressure relief, I can put my medium-firm mattress topper on. Of course, you won't need to have several mattress toppers, but since the price is low, it makes it worth the added comfort and quality.

As a back sleeper and side sleeper, I mostly use mattress toppers for side sleepers because they help sink a bit while providing enough firmness and support for my back. My partner Prefers mattress toppers for stomach sleepers, but we get something in between with enough sinkage and support to fit both of our preferences.


How long does a mattress topper last?

If a mattress Topper is properly maintained, it can last at least three years and at most five years. This is almost half the lifespan of a mattress itself.

Can a mattress topper be used alone?

You can use a mattress topper alone, but keep in mind that the quality it provides is not going to last long, and it won't provide any support for a heavy person. If you use a mattress topper alone, it will likely sag very quickly as well.


If you want to get the most out of mattress toppers, you need to pay attention to the mattress topper type, the firmness, the cooling properties, and the ability to relieve pressure. Memory foam and latex toppers are usually the most common and based on the quality and comfort they provide, they have the most value for money.

I hope this article has helped answer your questions regarding mattress toppers. If you have any comments or thoughts, make sure to share them with me below.


  1. Francisco M Kovacs (November 2003). Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain: randomised, double-blind, controlled, multicentre trial. Retrieved from 
  2. Shintaro Chiba et al. (June 2018). High rebound mattress toppers facilitate core body temperature drop and enhance deep sleep in the initial phase of nocturnal sleep. Retrieved from
  3. Bert H. Jacobson (September 2008). Changes in back pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress after introduction of new bedding systems. Retrieved from

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