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Your mattress is comfortable, but not perfect. You sleep decently, but you find yourself constantly wishing that it was just a little bit softer and more comfortable, or perhaps just a little firmer and more supportive.
You have been using the same well-worn mattress for years and, while it's still functional, it's beginning to become slightly worn down. You've noticed a tear in the corner or a lump just under where your shoulders go in your usual sleeping position. You feel like this mattress could have several more years of productive life in it, but it's just not quite as perfect as it used to be
You live in a hot climate and have a naturally high body temperature. You sleep peacefully at night, but wake up each morning to find that you have drenched your mattress in sweat. Even if you flip it and wash it every couple of days, it starts to stink despite your best efforts. You're starting to despair because you finally found the perfect mattress for you, just the right balance of soft and firm, but its lifespan will be tragically short if you keep staining it with your sweat every single night that you use it.
These three problems might sound completely unrelated, but, in fact, they're far more similar than you could imagine. Why is that, you wonder? Well, to put it simply, all three of these problems have the exact same solution:
It's time to buy a mattress topper!
There are more types and styles of mattresses available for purchase than ever before. Here at Brand Name, we firmly believe that the perfect night's sleep is within everyone's reach. Even if you feel like you've been looking forever, we promise, it's out there, somewhere!
But even with all of the available options, it's sometimes hard to find something that is one hundred percent perfect. Sometimes, you find yourself having to settle for something that's almost there, but not quite.
But that shouldn't be enough! Should you settle? Never! You deserve the best. You deserve YOUR perfect sleep experience!
That's where mattress toppers come in. Mattress toppers are handy little bedroom accessories which can take "almost there but not quite right" to "yes, THIS is it!" A mattress topper can be just the thing to make the difference between "a good night's sleep" and "a great one".
However, just like with any bedroom item, it's important to educate and inform yourself about mattress toppers before deciding which one to buy. As with pillows, blankets, and of course mattresses themselves, there are a wide variety of mattress toppers currently available for purchase. Mattress toppers are typically differentiated from one another in one of two ways: firstly, by the material out of which they are made, and secondly by their properties including but not limited to thickness, density and relative firmness or softness. (To learn how to measure the firmness or softness of your mattress or mattress topper, check out our guide to indentation load deflection found here!)
This handy dandy guide prepared by our super helpful staff here at Brand Name will introduce you to all the most common types of mattress toppers and help you decide which one might be just right for you. We promise you that YOUR one of a kind perfect night's sleep is in reach - and buying a mattress topper might just be the last step you need to finally find it!
As always, let's start with definitions. A mattress topper is a removable layer of cushion which is placed on your bed. Usually, a mattress topper will sit above your main mattress but below your sheets and blankets.
Like mattresses, toppers come in various sizes which take cues from the sizing of beds and typically include twin, double, queen, king, and potentially other more specialized sizes. Because mattress toppers are not directly connected to the mattress itself, it is often recommended to use a fitted sheet on your bed to ensure that the mattress topper does not shift or move around during the night. (This is especially recommended if you are a restless sleeper).
Mattress toppers are also sometimes conflated with the similar but distinct product "mattress pads" or "underpads". However, while the two items share similarities and serve a relatively identical function, mattress pads are typically thinner, less durable and more intended for use during travel, sleepovers or camping. Meanwhile, mattress toppers are thicker and less easily transportable, provide greater support, and are more intended to be used on permanent beds inside the home. For more information about the similarities and differences between mattress pads and mattress toppers, see our helpful comparison here.
As we explained at the beginning of this article, mattress toppers are used to enhance the comfort, support and lifespan of existing mattresses. However, mattress toppers are not a perfect, one hundred percent effective solution to all of your bedroom discomfort problems. A truly low quality, downright uncomfortable mattress can probably not be fixed even with the addition of the highest quality, most comfortable mattress toppers. When deciding whether or not to purchase a mattress topper, it is important to remember that - the topper should serve as an enhancement to your existing sleep environment, not a major fix or complete overhaul.
However, if your mattress IS generally comfortable but just needs a little bit of extra help to be even better at what it does, then a mattress topper is probably exactly right for you. Depending on its size, thickness, and material composition, a mattress topper can improve your bed in any number of ways.
So, as you can see, the reasons why you might want to purchase a mattress topper are practically infinite. But, once you've made the decision to treat yourself to a brand new mattress topper, how do you go about deciding which one is right for you?
As we mentioned earlier, there are two important factors to consider: material and physical properties. We'll get into materials later, but let's start with discussing some beneficial properties you should keep an eye out for during your search for the ideal mattress topper.
Of course, every sleeper's preferences are individual, and what works perfectly for you might not work for someone else. However, there are a few general questions you can keep in mind and ask yourself during the shopping process in order to help determine just what it is that YOU are looking for in a mattress topper!
First of all, comfort. Your comfort is the number one most important factor which is taken into account when deciding on a mattress topper. After all, if you aren't comfortable, then what's the point? So never forget to put your own comfort first!
If you're trying to determine whether or not a mattress topper will be comfortable for you, try asking yourself how soft is it? How firm? What is its indentation load deflection (ILD)? Is it thin or thick? Foamy or puffy, "embracing" or bouncy? If you can, we recommend giving the mattress topper a try by sleeping on it for at least one full night. After all, there's no better way to test whether or not a topper is comfortable than taking it out for a spin!
Next, noise level. Some mattress toppers will shift and move around if you are a restless sleeper. Others will "telegraph motion," meaning that any movements you make will be felt by your partner or anyone else who is sharing the bed with you. Some topper materials, such as feathers, may also make "shh"ing or "shush"ing noises when you move around at night. Some people enjoy this noise or telegraphed motion, while others do not. Ask yourself which you (and your partner, if you're regularly sharing a bed) prefer before deciding on a mattress topper to purchase.
It's also important to think about the size and density of the topper you wish to buy. Mattress toppers come in a variety of thicknesses, typically ranging from half an inch to several inches. Denser toppers typically provide greater support and are recommended from those suffering from back, neck, shoulder, hip or general joint pain. In general, denser toppers also tend to be more durable and have a longer lifespan, although this is not universally true as the quality of the material is also an important factor which influences a topper's durability.
If you plan on purchasing a thick, dense topper, check its ratings and reviews to ensure that it does not retain heat while you sleep. Ideal toppers are breathable, allowing air to flow through and around them throughout the night in order to keep you cool. However, some materials experience a phenomenon commonly referred to as "sleep hot," - heat and moisture such as sweat become trapped inside the material and cause the sleeper's body to become uncomfortably hot, often negatively impacting their quality of sleep on a nightly basis. While reviews of a product may indicate that it does or does not suffer from this fault, we find that the only true way to know is often to test it out yourself.
Lastly, you should make sure that any topper you purchase has been properly rated and tested to determine if it meets fire safety standards. Flammable toppers should be avoided at all costs, as they present a major health and safety risk, especially for children and infants. Additionally, those made from materials which possess natural flame resistance are considered to be superior to those which required treatment with artificial flame retardants. These retardants are often made from chemicals which are both hazardous to human health and harmful to the environment.
Of course, even once you have decided whether you want a soft or firm mattress topper, once which is thinner or one which is extremely dense and supportive, there is still yet another important consideration: material. A dense, firm mattress topper made from natural latex, for example, will still be significantly different from a dense, firm mattress topper made from feathers, wool or memory foam. Therefore, it's also important to educate yourself on the pros and cons of each mattress topper material before making your final purchase.
Most mattress toppers are made from one single primary material, although blends - in particular, blended polyester and cotton or blended memory foam and standard foam - can be purchased. When choosing a material, you should carefully consider all of the properties discussed above - comfort, density, durability, noise level and safety - as many materials specialize in one or another, while very few achieve a perfect balance of everything.
Wool was one of the first materials ever used to create mattress toppers, and remains extremely popular today. In fact, mattress toppers originally began to gain prominence due to the realization that pads of wool could make old-fashioned hard mattresses softer than ever before. Today, wool is still beloved due to its softness and comfort when compared with other materials on the market.
It also possesses a number of natural resistances due to the protective function wool performs for sheep in the wild. In particular, wool mattress toppers are almost entirely invulnerable to mites, mold and harmful bacteria. Of course, as a natural fiber, wool is beloved by fans of organic, chemical-free bedroom products. (However, as wool is harvested from sheep and is considered an animal product, it is not recommended for customers observing a strict vegan lifestyle. Wool is also an allergen, although an uncommon one, so wool toppers are often not fully hypoallergenic.)
In general, wool toppers are low in density and are extremely breathable without posing any risk of retaining too much heat. This is due to the fibrous nature of the natural wool, which does not "clump" or compress significantly over pressure. Wool possesses extremely excellent temperature regulation, meaning that your body will feel cool during warm summer nights but nice and cozy in the depths of winter.
However, as time has passed and technological, scientific and manufacturing innovations have marched on, wool has gradually been outclassed by many other mattress toppers now available. In particular, as other toppers become increasingly more affordable, wool has remained prohibitively expensive due to the amount of material needed to craft a single topper. A single wool mattress topper will often set a customer back $350 or more. Wool is also less supportive than almost any other material, and is thus not recommended for anyone who experiences pain or discomfort in their sleep. Lastly, many customers have reported that wool toppers possess a distinct and unpleasant smell, which can require both several weeks of use and multiple washings before it begins to fade - and can severely disrupt sleep in the meantime.
Similar to the classic featherbed or duvet cover, a mattress topper can be made from an outer layer of fabric (typically cotton, bamboo or polyester) and be stuffed with feathers on the inside. It is important to note that the term "feathers" can be misleading, as there are two distinct types of feathers which are used to stuff mattresses, pillows and toppers.
Standard "feathers" can come from any part of any bird - and can even be fully synthetic and produced in a laboratory, containing no natural material at all. On the other hand, "down" refers specifically to natural feathers harvested from the backs or chests of either geese or ducks. In general, down is considered to be softer and more comfortable than standard feathers, but a down topper will also be more expensive and difficult to find.
While down can be extremely pricey (similar to wool as discussed above), but standard feather toppers are typically fairly inexpensive. This makes feathers a popular choice for customers who are not familiar with different materials and are not sure which type of topper to purchase. As another naturally harvested material, feathers and down share a lot of their beneficial properties with wool. Feather toppers are lightweight, soft and comfortable, and do not retain heat as air easily travels through the spaces between the individual feathers. They also are not usually susceptible to mites or bacteria, although they may be flammable without proper treatment.
Another reason why featherbeds, feather blankets and feather toppers gained so much popularity is that they do not telegraph motion. What does this mean, you ask? If you are sharing a featherbed or feather mattress topper with your partner, and you toss or turn in your sleep, it is unlikely that your partner will feel your movement and be disturbed in your sleep. This makes feathers extremely beloved among people with large families or anyone who regularly has to share a bed, especially a smaller sized one.
However, also like wool, feathers are not hypoallergenic or vegan-friendly, as they are harvested from birds and have become a relatively common allergen in recent years. Feather toppers also sacrifice firmness and support for softness and comfort, making them less durable and giving them an overall shorter lifespan when compared to some of the higher-quality materials. In particular, because of their tendency to "clump up" and gravitate towards one another while the bed is in use, feather toppers can lose their shape over time and require frequent replacement or maintenance. Some customers consider feathers and down to collectively be the least durable of the common topper materials.
In addition, feather (and down) mattress toppers have one major downfall which is not shared with any other topper material available for purchase. Each individual feather possesses a sharp end point, also known as the "quill". As the feathers shift around during the night, the quills can begin to poke through the fabric. These sharp points can become extremely uncomfortable - not only can too-frequent quill pokes wake you up, but they can even pierce your skin and draw blood, forcing you out of bed entirely!
Finally, we do not recommend a feather topper if the purpose of your purchase is to salvage or extend the lifespan of an old, worn-out mattress. Because feathers wear out so quickly, you will not be able to achieve your goal and will find yourself needing to purchase a new topper, or a new mattress entirely, frustratingly soon!
Lightweight, synthetic foams made from polyester, polyurethane or other manmade substances are molded into a specific, distinctive shape to produce what is known as an "egg crate" matress topper. This type of topper got its name from its shape, which features evenly spaced cups or dips similar in shape to those used to transport eggs.
The specific shape of the egg crate mattress topper was designed to promote breathability, and it definitely shows! Air can easily travel through this lightweight, porous foam, meaning that you will have almost no risk of overheating even during the middle of summer. This lightweight nature is considered to be the egg crate mattress topper's number one positive quality, as it also makes these toppers easy to move, transport, shift around or flip as needed. Because of this, egg crate mattress toppers are often recommended for people who travel often or regularly sleep in a variety of different beds.
Unfortunately, egg crate mattresses, while inexpensive and a good "quick fix," for a faulty mattress, will likely not provide the long term support or durability that you are looking for. If you're going camping or need to spend a week in an uncomfortable hotel bed while on a business trip, go ahead - these mattress toppers are easy to find and purchase and definitely won't break the bank. However, if you're looking for something to use long term on your bed at home, you probably won't find it in one of these simple designs.
In essence, egg crate mattress toppers are not very durable and in fact can rip or tear easily if they are used too roughly or frequently. On top of that, they are the thinnest and least supportive of the available materials - and all that WITHOUT also offering the softness and comfort provided by feathers or wool. We encourage our customers to avoid egg crate mattress toppers unless they are specifically looking for something to suit short-term travel purposes.
The prohibitive prices associated with natural fibers has led to the rise in popularity of blended mattress toppers, made from a pricey natural material cut with a significantly more inexpensive synthetic one. Of these blends, the one which has gained the greatest market prominence consists of all-natural cotton mixed with a foam made from polyester.
The most important thing to understand about blended mattress toppers is that no two brands’ or manufacturers’ models will be exactly alike. Laws regarding the required ratio of cotton to polyester are either not particularly strict or entirely nonexistent. While most companies will include between 25 and 40% cotton in their blends, others will offer significantly less.
Many customers considered blended toppers to be sufficiently soft and comfortable despite their low price point, as those with a higher thread count will often feel closer to cotton than polyester in consistency. The natural cotton and foamed polyester combination is also fairly breathable, and sets itself apart from other available materials by being both hypoallergenic and particularly easy to clean.
However, because blends are variable, this also means that they are inconsistent. There is no guarantee that any one blended mattress topper will be as comfortable or as soft as another. In our opinion, purchasing a cotton-polyester mattress topper for your bed could even be considered a form of gambling!
In addition, it is crucial to keep in mind that blends possess qualities deriving from both of their component materials – meaning that not only the natural cotton but also the synthetic polyester will ultimately have an effect on the topper’s properties. This means that blended toppers can potentially contain harmful chemicals which are not recommended for humans to breathe in, especially if the polyester has been quickly or cheaply manufactured.
Polyester foam is also among the least durable of the synthetic materials. Paired with cotton’s tendency to clump together and form lumps with regular use, this makes a blended topper among the least durable of the commonly available varieties. When used by restless or high-energy sleepers, they can experience lifespans as short as a mere few months! While a blended topper, especially one with a high thread count or percentage of cotton, may seem like a best of both worlds solution, it’s extremely vital to remember that you’re getting the worst of both worlds at the exact same time!
For a long time, memory foam was considered the best of the best. From mattresses to pillows to toppers, countless “top ten” or “recommended purchase” lists would rank memory foam as number one. But now, with more and more alternatives emerging each year, does memory foam still earn its formidable reputation?
Well…we’ll let you decide that for yourself.
The term “memory foam” usually refers to a specific type of chemically enhanced polyurethane foam. The foam reacts with your body heat, “molding” to the shape of your body and giving you the feeling of being “embraced” by your mattress and/or mattress topper while you sleep. Memory foam toppers are also available in a wide range of thicknesses, and can even be found in unique varieties enhanced with oils or minerals providing health or aromatherapy benefits.
Of course, memory foam was initially designed to provide the greatest amount of support possible, and, in that regard, it definitely delivers. Its unique “contouring” ability allows the memory foam topper to focus on providing support to the areas of your body which need it the most. This can be excellent for sleepers who experience pain in their shoulders, back or hips, as the topper can isolate and support those areas in particular while they sleep.
Memory foam toppers have also been reported to be comfortable and to perform well when it comes to significantly extending the lifespan of worn out mattresses. On the surface, it may seem as if these unique toppers do not have any drawbacks at all. And we admit it – there are definitely people out there who will choose, love, and get a lot of use out of a memory foam topper. But this supposedly state of the art foam is not without its darker side.
Most of the topper materials we’ve discussed so far in this article have been described using adjectives such as “lightweight” and “breathable”. However, memory foam is the exact opposite. It is extremely dense, bulky and heavy, making toppers difficult to move, flip or adjust. A memory foam topper is also extremely likely to accumulate and retain heat, leaving you too hot to sleep within just a few hours – or possibly even a few minutes! When it comes to the “sleep hot” phenomenon, memory foam has long been considered to be the worst offender.
In addition, many people find the “embracing” nature of the memory foam to be stifling, rather than comforting or soothing. Customers report feeling “trapped,” like they have “sunk” into their bed and cannot move around or escape. This can lead to feelings of nervousness and anxiety which are just as likely as “sleep hot” to decrease the overall quality of your rest.
Finally, memory foam is one of only two materials discussed in this article to be 100% synthetic, containing no natural components at all. This means that memory foam is extremely likely to include harmful chemicals, including volatile organic compounds or even known carcinogens, in its makeup. Breathing in memory foam night after night could possibly lead to asthma, dizziness, nausea or even permanent damage to your lungs, liver or kidneys. And that’s even without considering the damage these chemicals do to the environment when released as gases into the air!
Memory foam isn’t all bad, but it isn’t all good either. When you consider the listed drawbacks in addition to an extremely high price point (easily several hundred dollars), you may no longer see a memory foam topper as the ideal it once was. Luckily for you, there IS one topper material which perfectly blends safety and comfort in a way which memory foam has failed to do. Of course, we couldn’t be talking about anything else but…
100% all-natural latex is the number one material of choice for mattress topper customers around the world. It blends the comfort and breathability of wool, cotton or feathers with the support and durability of memory foam – but without the roster of unpronounceable and hazardous chemical ingredients. If you want a topper which will make any mattress comfortable and last for years and years on top of that, then natural latex is the way to go!
Natural latex is sustainably harvested from the rubber tree using harm-free tapping methods. In another guide, found here, we discuss how every step of the harvesting process takes environmental health and the safety of the trees into full consideration. Innovative manufacturing techniques (see here to learn more!) are used to shape the mattresses, pillows and toppers we all know and love without adding atmosphere- or lung-destroying chemicals into the mix!
The result is a mattress topper which blends soft, bouncy comfort with firm support. Painful or uncomfortable areas of your body will be safely cradled without producing the sinking feeling associated with memory foam. Plus, natural latex is just as airy and breathable as the softest and most expensive of downs or wool. You will be able to sleep peacefully night after night with no interruptions from heat, movement or anxious feelings!
And once you've found this one of a kind, perfect topper, you won't have to give it up anytime soon! Natural latex is also the most durable of the common mattress topper materials - even with regular use, a latex topper can easily last up to 10 or even 20 years without needing to be replaced. Even when you do find yourself needing to dispose of an old topper and purchase a new one, natural latex can be simply and sustainably reused or recycled. In addition to the usual options of reselling to a retailer or thrift shop or reusing your topper as a pet bed, latex can be donated to waste-to-energy plants where they will be used as an environmentally friendly, nontoxic fuel source! (Learn more here)
As an added bonus, latex combines all of the best properties of the natural materials discussed so far in this article. It is completely organic and chemical-free – but unlike wool or down, it is entirely vegan, due to being harvested from trees rather than animals. While natural latex is a known allergen, the manufacturing process is specifically tailored to completely eliminate the specific proteins which cause allergic reactions in humans. That's right - natural latex mattress toppers are in fact completely hypoallergenic, and can safely be used even by those who usually react to the presence of latex.
Of course, natural latex is not without its own completely unique benefit not present in any of the other materials discussed in this article. While some other topper materials, particularly the naturally harvested ones, contain certain resistances to dangers such as insects or fire, it is only natural latex which truly embraces the spirit of "all of the above".
In the natural world, latex - in its original liquid form - plays a defensive role. It protects the rubber tree from mites, insects, mold, fire, bacteria, rot, and any number of other natural nasties. The manufacturing process of natural latex ensures that these inherently occurring resistances are preserved in the final product. Natural latex is completely safe from almost every single one of the problems which usually plague mattresses and toppers. You will be able to sleep in peace without worrying about smelly mold, itchy bugs or potentially dangerous bacteria.
These natural resistances also mean that latex does not need to be treated with any harsh, potentially toxic chemical repellents. Other mattress toppers need to be thoroughly sprayed with or completely soaked in a stew of synthetic chemicals just to meet fireproofing safety standards or be able to resist common irritants such as dust mites. Breathing in these chemicals night after night is a potential danger to sleepers, especially infants and young children. They have been proven to cause shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, can trigger or worsen symptoms of asthma, and can even permanently damage the lungs, liver or kidneys. International laws are even beginning to ban some of these products due to just how harmful they are. And the only way to be totally sure that none of these nasty chemicals are present in your mattress topper is to choose natural latex!
So if your bed isn't exactly the perfect paradise of comfort you dreamed of, don't despair and definitely don't give up! After all, you know that you deserve the best night's sleep every single night of your life! And if your mattress and pillow just aren't quite doing it, a natural latex mattress topper might be exactly what you need to turn a "good" sleep into a "great" one.
To learn even more about mattress toppers and how to choose the perfect one, see our informative article located here. Alternately, head over here to browse our extensive catalog of natural latex products. Bring latex into YOUR bedroom today - because you deserve the best!