What is a mattress topper?

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A mattress topper is an extra layer of cushioning that can help improve the comfort of your mattress. It sits on top of your mattress, beneath your sheets and can make your mattress feel softer or firmer.

A mattress topper is an extra layer of cushioning that can help improve the comfort of your mattress. It sits on top of your mattress, beneath your sheets and can make your mattress feel softer or firmer. It is typically held in place with elasticated corner straps or an elasticated skirt that stretch over the corners of your mattress.

They vary in size, thickness, firmness, and material composition. Mattress toppers should be at least 5cm in depth. Anything less is unlikely to make much difference. Generally, the thicker the mattress topper, the more comfortable and luxurious it will feel.

A mattress topper is a cost-effective way of improving the comfort of your mattress without having to buy a new one. It can give a relatively new uncomfortable mattress a new lease of life. But it’s unlikely to improve an old, unsupportive mattress that is past its best.  

lady placing mattress topper on bed close up

What are the benefits of using a mattress topper?

A mattress topper offers several benefits when used correctly. It can help you sleep more comfortably while keeping the surface of your mattress clean, hygienic and in good condition.

Adds an extra layer of comfort

The main purpose of a mattress topper is to make your mattress feel more comfortable to sleep on. In most cases, you would buy a topper to soften the initial feel of your mattress if you’re finding it too firm to sleep on. Keep in mind that new mattresses will initially feel firmer than expected but will soften with use.

Similarly, you can also buy a mattress topper to make your mattress firmer to sleep on. A mattress topper won’t improve an old, sagging mattress as it will simply conform to the shape of the mattress.

Provides an extra layer of protection

Each night we shed dead skin cells and lose around half a pint of moisture, most of which ends up in the bed. A mattress topper provides an extra layer of protection for your mattress by helping to keep its surface clean.

Depending on the material composition, some toppers are machine washable. But special care needs to be taken when cleaning to avoid damaging the material.

Although a topper provides an extra barrier of protection, it is not a substitute for using a mattress protector. Ideally, it would help if you were using both to help keep your mattress comfortable and clean.

A mattress topper can help extend the life of your mattress

Sleeping in the same position each night will often result in sagging or unwanted body impressions appearing on the surface of your mattress. A mattress topper can help alleviate some of the strain that would normally be placed on the mattress from the sleeper’s weight. It can reduce everyday mattress wear and tear and help extend the life of the mattress.

Some toppers may help you feel cooler at night

If your mattress makes you feel hot and bothered, a breathable mattress topper may help you feel cooler at night.

Natural materials, such as wool and down are far more breathable than synthetic materials like polyester. They are also effective at removing moisture away from the body. This allows the sleeping surface to feel cooler.

Many foam-type toppers also have temperature-regulating features, which can help you feel cooler throughout the night.

Mattress topper types

Mattress toppers come in various materials, such as memory foam, latex, goose down and wool. Each type of mattress topper will have its unique properties and feel different to sleep on.

Memory foam

Memory foam or viscoelastic moulds and adapts to the shape of your body, reacting to your weight and temperature. Its pressure-relieving qualities can help reduce aches and pains, particularly around the back, shoulders, hips and knees. Some thicker memory foam toppers may give you a cradling feeling as you gradually sink into the mattress. This can make it harder to turn over in bed.

Also, as memory foam retains body heat, some sleepers may find them slightly warmer to sleep on than other types of mattress toppers. But, many manufacturers have introduced temperature-regulating features, such as cooling gels and breathable fabrics to combat this. 


Latex is a durable material that provides good support. Natural-latex toppers tend to be more breathable and cooler than memory foam toppers. It is also hypo-allergenic, so it will benefit sleepers that suffer from allergies.  

Like memory foam, latex contours to the shape of your body but recovers its shape quicker when pressure is removed. It also tends to be bouncier and is easier to turn over in bed. To avoid the cradling feel you can sometimes experience with memory foam, latex is a good alternative.


Feather mattress toppers typically contain feathers, down or a mixture of both to provide a soft, luxurious, and cosy feel. Feather toppers are light and breathable, but the fillings may flatten down quickly, so they may need regular fluffing or shaking to help retain their shape.


Wool mattress toppers are naturally breathable and hypo-allergenic. The material is soft and springy and retains its shape well.

Synthetic materials

Synthetic materials, such as polyester, microfibre and hollowfibre are commonly used in cheaper mattress toppers. They are not as breathable as other materials and may flatten and lose their shape faster over time.

Some synthetic toppers are non-allergenic, and are less likely to cause allergic reactions. Synthetic toppers are ideal for those looking for a topper on a budget.

How to stop a mattress topper from sliding?

Some mattress toppers tend to slip or slide during use. When choosing a mattress topper, it helps to look for one with elasticated corner straps that stretch over the corners of the mattress or have an anti-slip material underneath.

Is a mattress topper the same as a mattress protector?

Mattress toppers are often confused with mattress protectors, but they are different products with different purposes.

A mattress topper provides an extra layer of cushioning to an uncomfortable mattress. In contrast, a mattress protector helps to keep your mattress healthy, clean and allergy-free by providing an extra layer of protection against stains, spillages and accidents.

Using both can help improve the comfort of your mattress, keep it in good condition and protect its lifespan.

Final thoughts

A mattress topper can provide a temporary fix for an uncomfortable mattress, making it feel more luxurious and comfortable. But, if you’re sleeping on an old-unsupportive mattress, a mattress topper is not a cheap substitute for buying a new one and is unlikely to make much difference.

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About the author

About the author

Tony Brown is the founder and creator of The Bed Consultant. His career in the bed industry began in 2002. After graduating from university with a degree in Business Administration, Tony joined one of the largest independent furniture retailers in the UK as a bed consultant. Tony has helped thousands of customers find the perfect mattress.

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