To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

What is a Mattress Topper?

Give your old mattress a new lease of life with a topper

If a night’s sleep isn’t proving restorative any more, then it may be time to invest in a mattress topper. Not sure what a mattress topper is? Read on for our helpful explainer.

The perfect night’s sleep is something that eludes many of us, so having the right bedding is an essential starting point. A comfortable mattress is key to a restful night, but if yours is old and tired then it’s likely compromising your sleep health.

Before you shell out for a brand-new mattress, check whether a mattress topper could be the solution. Mattress toppers can help make your current mattress softer, cooler, or even more supportive, extending its life by eliminating lumps and transforming your sleep for the better.

However, while they’re great value, convenient, and easy to look after, a mattress topper won’t be suitable for everyone. Here, we run through what a mattress topper is and if it could be the solution to your needs.

What is a mattress topper?

Sometimes known as a bed topper, a mattress topper is a thick cushioning layer that’s placed over your existing mattress as an extension of the mattress. To stop it from moving around, it’s usually attached to your mattress using straps or skirts. Mattress toppers can be made from a range of materials, just like mattresses, so it’s important to research what type – if any – will be right for your sleeping situation.

Do not confuse a mattress topper with a mattress protector. A mattress protector is a stretchy and often waterproof sheet that you fit over your mattress to keep it clean and hygienic. You’ll likely still need to use one of these over any mattress topper. Bear in mind, too, that your current bedding may no longer be a suitable fit if your mattress topper plus current mattress is too deep for your usual fitted sheets.

How do mattress toppers work?

Mattress toppers add a layer of comfort, protection, and support, enabling you to extend the life of an older mattress. Available in a variety of materials, you can choose a topper to soften up a too-firm mattress, add an extra level of support, or for delivering better temperature control – meaning you can create your own bespoke hybrid mattress to best suit your needs.

Is a mattress topper suitable for my mattress?

Mattress toppers are suitable for all mattresses within reason. Your current mattress needs to be in reasonably good shape, even if it’s coming towards the end of its lifespan. While mattress toppers can transform old, lumpy mattresses and those that require some adapting for personal preference, you shouldn’t place a topper over a mattress that’s sagging or showing signs of damage to fillings. Mattresses with coils or springs poking through and those over ten years old (excluding latex mattresses, which have a 20-year lifespan) should be replaced.

What are the different kinds of mattress topper?

As mentioned, mattress toppers can be made from many different materials, enabling you to pick one that suits your needs and budget. As well as size, you should consider whether the topper is washable, and whether it meets your own personal requirements – be that comfort, support, temperature regulation, or allergy management. Below is a list of the main types of mattress topper available.

  • Memory foam – This popular mattress material is equally popular when it comes to mattress toppers. Memory foam is known for being deeply supportive of pressure points and with good shape retention. Most people find it extremely comfortable; however, hot sleepers should be aware that memory foam often retains heat.
  • Feather – Mattress toppers with feather fillings offer a comfortable night’s sleep with plenty of warmth and insulation, while being naturally breathable and fairly light to handle. Good for those who prefer a very soft mattress; but allergy sufferers may prefer an alternative filling.
  • Wool – Another natural filling, wool is equally warm and breathable as feather. This filling is soft and luxurious to sleep on, while keeping cosy in winter and cool in summer.

What is a mattress topper. Close up of hands unzipping a mattress topper to reveal filling

  • Latex – Natural latex has many benefits, and adding a layer to your existing mattress setup can deliver superior support, bounce and comfort, along with great temperature regulation. It’s the most durable – and expensive – topper material currently available, but note that it can be heavy and cumbersome to move.
  • Synthetic – Often known as microfiber or hollow fiber toppers, this material is usually a low-cost solution to a comfortable night’s sleep. While not as durable as some other materials, mattress toppers made from synthetic materials have the benefit of usually being machine washable and prove ideal for allergy sufferers.

What thickness mattress topper should I buy?

The thicker the mattress topper, the more of a difference you’ll feel. If your mattress needs rejuvenation, look for a mattress topper around 3in deep; but consider the implications for your current bedding – not all fitted sheets will stretch to this plus an existing mattress. If you’re looking to switch up the style of your mattress, then a thinner topper can be a more affordable solution that’s easier to maneuver and source: 2in and under will do the trick.

How do you maintain a mattress topper?

Check the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the best care for your mattress topper. Many mattress toppers are machine-washable, while others shouldn’t even be spot-cleaned for stains. Whatever mattress topper you choose, using a waterproof mattress protector is good practice to prolong its life and protect against damage from accidental spills, dust, bacteria, and natural bodily processes.

Read more