Types of Mattress Toppers

Published
by Max Stevens

bed with gray sheets and sidelights in a wooden bedroom
Photo by Max Vakhtbovych on Pexels

Are you searching for a new mattress topper? It’s hard to choose with so many mattress topper types, each with distinct materials and features. And, what happens if you buy the wrong one?  

Buying a mattress topper that’s not suitable for your sleeping preferences is not just a waste of money but also a waste of time and energy. Imagine calling the manufacturer endlessly just to get a replacement or a refund. You can also miss out on the better ones. It’s a hassle, right?

But don’t worry. We’ll cover the different types of mattress toppers: from the actual material used to the individual features and benefits of each mattress topper type to help you sleep better.

Read on down below!

Types of Mattress Toppers

There are many types of mattress toppers, but they’re classified into two: foam types and natural types. Memory foam, latex foam, and polyfoam mattress toppers comprise the foam classification.

While down and feather mattress toppers and wool mattress toppers make up the second classification. We’ll dig into them further down below:

Memory Foam Mattress Toppers

Memory foam mattress toppers are probably the most famous type of mattress toppers. This mattress topper type is a compound material primarily made from viscoelastic polymer polyurethane, a breakthrough material developed by NASA to aid comfortable landing for astronauts travelling in space.

The viscoelastic property of memory foam is the main reason it’s called memory foam. The viscosity of the foam makes the topper remain intact under pressure, and the elasticity of the foam is what makes the topper bounce back to normal after sleeping on it for several hours.

A common problem with memory foam mattress toppers is their heat retention property. Because memory foam is dense, air cannot pass through the foam, and heat is trapped inside, making you feel warm.

This type of mattress topper also comes in different variants: solid memory foam, egg-crate memory foam, and anti-microbial memory foam. Though these variants actually depend from manufacturer to manufacturer, they might name it differently.

Memory Foam Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Gives you good pain relief, especially for back pain, giving you a healthy sleep
  • Durable because of its dense foam
  • Impact and pressure absorption, leading to more comfort

Cons

  • Memory foam retains heat since it contours to your body, which can lead to a sweaty night
  • The material releases a pungent chemical smell when unpacked

Latex Foam Mattress Toppers

Latex foam mattress toppers are among the most sought-after mattress toppers. They’re derived from the sap of rubber trees. It is manufactured on the Dunlop or Talalay manufacturing process.

If you happen to wonder what Dunlop and Talalay are, they are two distinct manufacturing processes. Let us elaborate:

  • Talalay is a more intricate manufacturing process, and the byproduct is a softer and breathable latex material than Dunlop. Though Talalay is pricier than Dunlop because of the extensive manufacturing nuances.
  • On the other hand, Dunlop is a quicker and easier way to produce latex. The end result is a more durable, firmer, and denser latex material. Since Dunlop doesn’t need a more extensive manufacturing process, it’s cheaper than Talalay.

Latex Foam Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Latex foam is more breathable than memory foam
  • Latex foam is hypoallergenic, which means it’s resistant to dust mites

Cons

  • Higher price than synthetic foams
  • Has the same pungent smell as memory foam when unpacked

Polyfoam Mattress Toppers

Polyfoam mattress toppers are almost the same as memory foam mattress toppers. The only difference is that polyfoam has a spongy feel and texture compared to memory foam. It takes seconds for the material to recoil to its natural state, like memory foam.

This mattress topper is also made with fewer chemicals during the manufacturing process than memory foam which is eventually reflected in its final selling price.

Polyfoam mattress is available in plain polyfoam and augmented polyfoam, which features anti-microbial properties, gel beads for cooling, and other material features.

Polyfoam Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Since the material has a spongy feel and structure, it is breathable
  • It’s cheaper than memory foam

Cons

  • Have a short lifespan of approximately 2 years
  • A noticeable pungent smell straight out of the package

Down and Feather Mattress Toppers

Down and feather mattress toppers are made using a duck’s or a goose’s down (the soft feather beneath them that insulates them from the coldness of the water) and their feathers.

With this in mind, there are no chemicals involved, and the down and feathers are thoroughly sanitized before making their way into the mattress topper. This type of mattress topper is also hypoallergenic and a good choice for allergy and asthma sufferers.

Getting a down and feather mattress topper should be your go-to choice if you want a natural and hypoallergenic solution.

Down and Feather Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The fluffiness of the material improves total comfort
  • Breathability is ensured as the down and feather move inside the topper freely
  • Good for hot sleepers.

Cons

  • Have a short lifespan of approximately 2 years, especially when not properly looked after
  • Prone to lumps and uneven surfaces popping up, but can be corrected by fluffing

Wool Mattress Toppers

Wool mattress toppers are rare in the market. Still, once you’ve laid your hands on one, we suggest not letting it go, especially if you love sleeping in the perfect balance of temperatures.

Wool is lightweight and soft, so your mattress topper may skid or slip occasionally. But these do come with straps to secure their position.

In case it’s escaped you, wool comes from sheep, so they’re definitely all-natural, with no chemical additives present.

Wool Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Softness and fluffiness are ensured since wool is really soft to the touch
  • Good temperature control (this is what keeps sheep cool on warm days and warm on cold days, after all)
  • All-natural material

Cons

  • There’s a noticeable sheep smell, and this may take several weeks to clear up
  • Pricier than most mattress toppers

Newer Types of Mattress Toppers

Aside from the traditional types of mattress toppers we’ve mentioned, here are newer types of mattress toppers:

  1. Gel Memory Foam Mattress Toppers – these toppers are made with plain memory foam with the added cooling comfort of gel beads. These gel beads reduce the heat retention of the topper, so you get to enjoy a cooler night of sleep.
  2. Dual Layer Memory Foam Toppers – these toppers feature two layers: a memory foam core and fiberfill (made from polyester) padding.
  3. Bamboo Mattress Toppers – these toppers are made from the fibres of bamboo. They are incredibly breathable and eco-friendly as bamboo shoots are renewable. Fun fact: bamboo shoots can grow at an incredible height of 35 inches per day!

How to Choose The Best Mattress Topper?

There are no foolproof ways to choose the very best mattress topper. After all, numerous factors can hinder your way to selecting the very best. We’re talking about price points, product availability, personal preference, and medical conditions.

But as a starting point, choosing the most suitable mattress topper for you is simple. Answer some of these questions so you will be able to come up with a decision:

  • Do you want a soft mattress topper, or perhaps a firm one?
  • Do you want a thicker and larger mattress topper?
  • Do you have a low tolerance for heat? Do you need cool mattress toppers?
  • Do you have back pain, neck pain, or shoulder pain?
  • Do you have the budget to go for pricier and premium ones?
  • Do you have allergies and/or asthma?
  • Do you want a mattress topper with anti-microbial properties?
  • Do you have the diligence to maintain and clean your mattress topper no matter how tedious it is?

How to Care For a Mattress Topper?

Caring for a mattress topper needs diligence and discipline. After all, it’s a significant health investment directed towards your sleeping routine. Follow these tips to properly care for your mattress topper:

  • Use a mattress topper protector. These materials are usually waterproof, protecting your bed from extreme sweating, bedwetting, blood, vomit, and spilt drinks.
  • Avoid eating and drinking in bed. Eating and drinking in bed increase the chances of staining your mattress topper. Eat at your dining table or invest in a bedside table to reduce the chances of spilling food and drinks.
  • Always look for manufacturer’s labels. Like your precious clothes, mattress topper manufacturers give you a handling guide in the form of tags and labels. Follow them thoroughly, and expect your mattress topper to last longer than its lifespan.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Difference Between a Mattress Pad and Mattress Protector?

A mattress pad is a thin layer of fabric, commonly made with cotton, that aims to give you control over how soft your overall sleeping experience is.

This means that the primary duty of a mattress pad is to give you a softer feel of your bed, and it doesn’t offer your bed protection from staining and odour.

On the other hand, a mattress protector is usually made from a waterproof material that protects your mattress topper, mattress pad, and mattress. Save yourself from cleaning up annoying stain-inducing liquids such as sweat, urine, blood, drinks, and vomit.

Think of it this way: imagine a motorcycle helmet. The hard shell outside is the mattress protector protecting you from the rain, sand, debris, and dirt. While the soft foam on the inside is the mattress pad that gives you extra comfort from pressure. We do hope this makes sense.

Do Mattress Toppers Make Bed Softer?

Yes, the primary purpose of mattress toppers is to alter the feel of your old mattress. Mattress toppers vary by material and feel. If you want to make your bed softer, you can opt to buy soft and plush mattress toppers such as down and feather mattress toppers.

Do Mattress Toppers Make Bed Firmer?

Yes, mattress toppers can make your bed firmer. But it depends on the material being used. If you want to make your bed a lot firmer, you should buy firm and thicker mattress toppers such as memory foam with a hint of softness.

How Long Do Mattress Toppers Last?

Mattress toppers have different materials and features. Thus, they also have different lifespans. On average, mattress toppers last anywhere from 2 years to 5 years max, regardless of type. But for the sake of specificity, let’s explain further:

  • Memory foam mattress toppers commonly last for 3-5 years.
  • Latex foam mattress toppers commonly last for 3-4 years.
  • Polyfoam mattress toppers commonly last for 1-2 years.
  • Down and feather mattress toppers commonly last for 1-2 years.
  • Wool mattress toppers commonly last for 3-5 years.

These approximations, however, are not absolute. And a mattress topper, no matter the material, can age well beyond the 5-year lifespan when taken care of properly.

Sources:

  • Alsaadi SM, McAuley JH, Hush JM, Maher CG. Erratum to: Prevalence of sleep disturbance in patients with low back pain. Eur Spine J. 2012;21(3):554-560. doi:10.1007/s00586-011-1954-8
  • Hui Mei, Evelyn Lim & M.Y, Amir. (2011). Soft and slow recovery latex foam rubber. Malaysian Rubber Technology Development. Special edition. 61-62.
Photo of author

AUTHOR

Max Stevens

Chief Editor here at The Sleep Checklist. Suffered from a seemingly infinite knot in my thoracic area (between the spine and shoulder blade) due to my lifelong side sleeping habits. With my girlfriend, we look to provide the most relevant and best mattress advice.