Everything You Need To Know About Mattress Toppers

Try as you might, picking the perfect mattress is often a difficult task. Even if the mattress felt just right in the store, you may feel like Goldilocks when you get home, sleeping on a mattress that is too soft or too hard. A mattress topper is the perfect solution to this common dilemma. A topper will protect your mattress while adding an extra layer of comfort. You may also benefit from the temporary use of a mattress topper when recovering from an injury, surgery or illness that leaves your regular mattress feeling a bit off. Finding the right mattress topper will reward you with a great night's sleep, but choosing one requires a bit of knowledge.

Women buying new furniture
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The right mattress topper can transform your bed.

Material Choices

Mattress toppers are made of different materials, and each one has its own features. Latex mattress toppers are quite desirable, because they provide a soft cushion that holds its shape well and lasts for several years. It's not as soft as memory foam, however, which lets you sink further into the bed and provides a deeply cushioned surface for sore joints and muscles. Some mattress toppers are made from wool, alpaca fibers, synthetic fibers or a blend of all three. These toppers are soft to the touch and have the added bonus of repelling dust mites and bedbugs. Natural down mattress toppers are soft and luxurious but may need to be fluffed frequently, which is potentially inconvenient. Cotton and polyester mattress toppers are readily available and easy to clean but may not last as long as other topper materials.

Thickness

The thicker your mattress topper, the more cushioning it provides. This doesn't mean, however, that you should buy the thickest mattress topper you can. As a general rule, a 2-inch topper is adequate if you have a quality mattress and are just looking to soften it a bit. If your mattress is in desperate need of softening, however, you should go with something thicker. Those weighing 250 pounds and above will also benefit from a thicker mattress topper. Remember that adding a thick mattress topper changes both the feel and height of your mattress. You may need to purchase fitted sheets with deep pockets to accommodate a thick mattress topper. If your bed sits low, a mattress topper can add much needed height. If your bed already sits high, think about how much extra height you really want to add.

Sleeping Positions

Woman Sleeping On Bed
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Side sleepers need extra cushioning for their hip and shoulder.

How you sleep affects the type of mattress topper that works best for you. People who sleep on their side put a lot of pressure on the hip and shoulder they sleep on. To combat this, choose a mattress topper that is soft but still firm enough to support your body, like down or latex, and keep your spine aligned. Back sleepers also need support, but do best on a mattress topper that has the flexibility to curve with the spine. A memory foam or latex mattress topper often provides the most comfortable support for those who sleep this way. Stomach sleepers, on the other hand, need firm support. Sinking into a bed will bend their spine backward into an uncomfortable position. Stomach sleepers need a very thin mattress topper and may prefer not using a topper at all.

Weight

When choosing a mattress topper, be aware of weight -- both yours and that of the topper itself. You will need to periodically fluff, rotate and clean your mattress topper. Cotton and down mattress toppers are the lightest and the easiest to move by yourself. Memory foam and latex are both quite heavy and get heavier as their thickness and density increase. You might need help manipulating these mattress toppers. Your weight also matters when choosing a mattress topper. A 2-inch mattress topper is likely to provide plenty of cushioning for a smaller person, but a larger person may sink in too deeply to fully benefit from the comfort of the mattress topper. For women over 165 pounds and men over 185 pounds, a 3-inch topper should be the perfect thickness to provide the support and softness needed. If you weigh more than 250 pounds, opt for a thicker mattress topper. A topper that is at least 4 inches thick and has a density of 5 pounds per cubic feet is the best choice. Smaller mattress toppers may bottom out, preventing them from alleviating any pain caused by your mattress.

Limitations

Mattress toppers can dramatically change the feel of your bed and they will minimize the disruption you experience when your partner tosses and turns, but they aren't magic. While they can make a firm mattress softer and add an extra layer of comfort to your bed, they won't fix a mattress that's past its prime. Mattress toppers lack the interior support systems and structures found in mattresses and rely on the mattress itself for their support. If your mattress is extremely lumpy, even a thick mattress topper may not even things out. Does your mattress sag in the middle? If so, it won't be long until your mattress topper does too. A ridge in the middle of your mattress will also poke through a topper.

Cost

The price of mattress toppers varies widely, from $40 or $50 to upwards of $1,000. Natural latex and high-quality memory foam toppers are generally the most expensive, but other materials can also be costly. Thickness, too plays a role, with thicker toppers costing more than their thinner counterparts. Warranty length will also affect topper pricing, as will the size of the topper. A twin topper will be less expensive than one designed for a king-sized bed. Though you do get what you pay for, there is no reason to pay more than you must. Choose the type of mattress topper you think will work best for you, and then shop around to try and find the best price.