The Best Mattress Topper for You, Based on Your Sleep Situation


If you’re not regularly getting a comfortable night’s sleep, you might blame your mattress — there are some guidelines to choosing a good one, after all. But it’s also possible you’re overlooking a fundamental layer: the topper. Though the add-on can seem like a luxury, it serves a purpose, as people with an uncomfortable sleep surface tend to have worse-quality sleep and may even develop insomnia, says Michael Grandner, M.D., director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

What can a good topper do for you? It adds extra cushioning “without sacrificing the firmness of the mattress itself,” says Jennifer Martin, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine — and some, like the Tempur-Cloud below, also bring enough support to rejuvenate an older mattress.

To help you find your just-right topper, we consulted leading sleep experts and tested a variety of types to determine which ones helped us fall asleep and rest comfortably, without sweating. Both my husband (a side and back sleeper) and I (a stomach and occasional side sleeper) spent nights on seven toppers, and these are the ones that rose to the top in our testing.

If you would like to read all about how we vetted and tested these mattress toppers and which experts we consulted, scroll down for more details.

If you’re looking for a topper that’s extremely comfortable but also offers some support, the Coop Retreat is a great option. The first thing I noticed when climbing into bed is that the topper gives that “ahhh,” sink-into-plushness sensation — without making the mattress feel mushy or uneven.

The Retreat’s cushioning comes from memory foam that has been crosscut, for air circulation, and combined with microfiber, also for better breathability. I’m a hot sleeper and found this one kept me cool. Of all the toppers tested, this was the most comfortable for both of us throughout the night. It also was the only one where I didn’t notice motion transfer from his movements during the night. And it felt completely smooth without any awkward bumps, which we noticed with other filled toppers.

The health-conscious consumer will appreciate that this topper is Greenguard Gold certified, indicating low volatile organic compound emissions, and the memory foam itself has a CertiPUR-US designation — certifying it’s free of ozone depleters and low in VOCs.

Among all the models tested, this was our favorite because it just plain felt good without bringing a single downside in terms of sleep quality. (Some others were great to drift off on but got hot or uncomfortable midway through the night.) It was also the quickest to get used to. From night one, it felt seamless on a 3-year-old innerspring mattress, which wasn’t true of some of the others we tried.

Another plus: It comes out of the box ready to go, versus some other toppers that don’t readily unfurl. If there’s any downside to the Retreat, it’s that the straps are a bit thin and small. We had to stretch them to secure the product onto a 14.5-inch mattress. Once on, though, the Retreat stays put and, most importantly, stays comfortable all night.

Saatva’s memory foam and graphite topper is designed to be cooling, and it delivers on that promise — and other key ones too. It’s 3 inches deep but feels even thicker, thanks to its cushy, not overly firm foam. I fell asleep faster on this model than any other topper: Two nights while reading in bed, I abruptly woke to the clunk of my iPhone crashing to the floor after I nodded off mid-sentence. My husband and I both sleep hot, typically waking up with covers flung off, but that didn’t happen with this topper. Since its graphite layer draws heat from the body, it helps the microclimate (the technical term for the area between your body and the bedding) stay cool.

Some other checks for the Saatva: It comes out of the box ready to go, no waiting for it to regain its proper shape. From a textile perspective, it was the best of the bunch, with a luxe, velvety-soft organic cotton outer layer. It’s sewn on and not removable, alas, so the topper must be spot cleaned. It’s also a bit heavy to lift, but overall we found it easier than most to place on the bed; the well-engineered straps easily accommodated a 14.5-inch mattress. Made in the U.S. of U.S. materials, it comes with a generous 100-night trial. Saatva’s foam also carries the Certi-PUR US designation letting you know it’s free of potentially harmful chemicals.

So why wasn’t it our overall winner? I felt some motion transfer; I am a light sleeper and could feel my husband’s movements more than I did sleeping on the Coop Retreat. Overall, the Saatva is an impressive performer and a recommended buy, particularly if you sleep warm, are a side or back sleeper or want to add a pillow-top feel to your medium to firm mattress.

This topper feels a bit firm when you first hop on, but it molds to the body for a practically customized fit while delivering noticeable support. It feels like a mattress on top of your mattress. For that reason, it’s the one we recommend if you need to revive a tired mattress, perhaps in a dorm, guest room or rental home.

In our testing, the Tempur-Cloud offered a slightly firm feel and excellent pressure-point cushioning. My husband has an ankle injury and noticed less pain on both this pick and the Saatva than the others we vetted. It’s not our imagination: Dr. Grandner notes people with pain feel better sleeping on firmer surfaces like memory foam, even if they don’t predict they will.

While memory foam can trap heat, neither of us felt overly warm at 3 a.m.; the brand uses an open cellular structure (it looks like there are tiny holes in the topper) to minimize heat retention. It’s one of the reasons we named the Tempur-Cloud Breeze the best overall cooling pillow.

Our biggest quibble with the Cloud is you sink in and it almost locks around you, which makes it a little harder to get up and move around. In addition, there’s no trial period.

On the plus side, this Tempur-Pedic topper has a generous 10-year warranty. It also comes with a machine-washable cover, but because it’s designed more like a fitted sheet rather than the zip-on encasement that comes with the brand’s Temur-Adapt topper, it doesn’t fit neatly. The washable layer is still a benefit, though, since most toppers lack removable covers. All in all, the Tempur-Cloud is a solid pick for anyone who likes a classic memory-foam feel and wants to breathe new life into their mattress.

This supremely cushy topper gives the strongest “hotel bed” vibe of any topper we tested. Filled with 3 inches of 100% hypoallergenic microfiber (that feels more like 6 inches), it’s the one I’d snap up for my 15-year-old son, who has allergies and enjoys a marshmallow-soft crash pad.

In our testing, the Parachute was very lightweight and easy to put on and take off a mattress, sort of like a feather bed with no straps. The cover is a soft and smooth 100% cotton sateen, and the baffle box construction does a good job containing the fill and preventing lumpiness.

If you frequently get overheated at night, this isn’t the best option — it sleeps a tad warm, especially compared with the Saatva or Coop Retreat.

The biggest downside is it may feel too fluffy for some people, particularly stomach sleepers. I have disc issues and woke up with a crick in my neck — I suspect the generous fill tipped my head up and back in an awkward way. As Dr. Grandner cautions, “More cushioning isn’t always better.” Bottom line? If you’re a side or back sleeper who wants a soft, hypoallergenic surface, the Parachute might be your perfect fit.

Others you should know about

My Green Mattress Organic Latex Topper: This Chicago-based brand, which was started by parents looking for a safer crib mattress, sells organic, hand-sewn mattresses and toppers. We found their 2-inch organic latex topper, which is certified to the Global Organic Latex Standard, relatively springy and comfortable. The cover is Global Organic Textile Standard certified organic cotton; organic wool is used as a natural flame retardant. You can test it out for yourself — the brand gives a generous 120-day trial period — but keep in mind that some people are severely allergic to latex, so it’s not a great pick for a guest room or Airbnb rental bed.

Quince Premium Down Featherbed Mattress Topper: For the sleeper who loves the warm, cozy feel of real down, this fluffy 3-inch feather bed made of responsibly sourced down is worth considering. It feels premium for the $159 price, with a 100% cotton twill cover and 650 fill. (Fill is a measure of down’s loft, according to the trade group the American Down and Feather Council, and a number over 600 is considered better quality, in terms of warmth and breathability.) On the downside, this pick is heavy and a little cumbersome for one person to put on the bed.

Lucid 3-Inch Gel Memory Foam Topper With Cover: This moderately priced option is a dorm-room stalwart for a reason: Its 3 inches of memory foam infused with gel can transform the feel of a beat-up mattress. The Lucid comes with a removable, machine-washable cover, which is invaluable if kids or college students are sleeping on it. It lost points for its slight chemical smell that takes a few days to dissipate. Another con: It needs a half day or more to flatten out before using.

I’ve spent more than two decades covering health and wellness for a range of leading publications. I also co-authored a women’s health book and regularly report on how lifestyle impacts our stress levels and well-being.

As a mom of two teens with allergies and asthma, I’m also particularly focused on bringing the least-allergenic bedding and most planet-friendly materials into our home. In researching this article, I consulted three experts: sleep researcher Michael Grandner, M.D., director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona; Jennifer Martin, Ph.D., professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine; and Meredith Broderick, M.D., neurologist and sleep specialist and founder of Sound Sleep Guru. They weighed in on healthy sleep surfaces and what to consider when evaluating toppers.

We tested

There are four basic types of topper: memory foam, fiber fill, down and latex. Each material has advantages and disadvantages — memory foam feels firmer than other types and can be better if you have pain. Down adds warmth, ideal if you’re sacking out in a cold climate but less so if you’re in Florida, for example. Latex is a natural material that wears well, but some people are allergic to it.

Since what you’ll find comfortable depends on your sleep position, size and current mattress, it’s a big benefit to be able to try a topper at home with the option to return it if it isn’t right for you. All of our recommended toppers except the Tempur-Cloud and Parachute permit a trial period. When trying out a topper, you’ll want to consider a few factors: whether it keeps you comfortably cool, how the outer material feels, and whether it causes motion transfer, which means you notice the movements of your partner (or pet).

Also key is the topper’s thickness; the ones we tried ranged from under 2 inches to 5 inches. A thicker topper makes for a plusher, more supportive sleep; with memory foam, your body will sink into a thicker topper more than a thin one, so it’ll give you a greater feeling of being enveloped. You’ll want to note how easy it is to get on and off your bed. (Certain toppers add upward of 5 inches onto your mattress height, so it can take time to adapt.) One complaint we have with the category is that almost no toppers come with a removable, machine-washable cover.

I tested six mattress toppers by sleeping on them for two nights each. I placed them on my 3-year-old medium-firm innerspring mattress paired with my usual down-alternative pillows. I collected notes on what each topper felt like for me, a stomach and occasional side sleeper, and my husband, who is a side and back sleeper.

For each topper, my husband and I noted how comfortable it felt to start and whether it remained comfortable throughout the night. I kept track of other key considerations of each topper, such as temperature regulation; whether it needs time to expand after coming out of the box; how easy it was for one person to secure it on a queen-size bed; the quality of the outer materials; and the ease of cleaning.

We also evaluated how healthy and eco-friendly the materials are, eliminating toppers with strong odors, as that can be a sign of unhealthy chemicals in the product.

Our experts

Meredith Broderick, M.D.. a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist in Seattle.

Michael Grandner, M.D., director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and advisor to Sleep Reset sleep coaching.

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