- A good mattress topper balances comfort and support, stays put on your mattress, and keeps you cool.
- We slept on 18 mattress toppers for several nights and consulted with two experts to find the best.
- The Parachute Down Mattress Pad is our top pick because it’s comfortable and dissipates heat well.
Buying a new mattress is an expensive undertaking. If your mattress is less supportive than it once was or you inherited a bed that isn’t right for your sleeping style, a topper can improve your comfort until you are ready to replace your mattress. They’re also a great option for college dorm rooms or other situations where you might not have a say in the comfort of your sleep surface. Though most toppers are designed to make your bed softer, we found some models can potentially add firmness.
These thin slabs of padding can also help with body temperature regulation. And, when you go camping, a topper affords you extra padding between your sleeping bag and the hard ground.
To test mattress toppers, I slept on 18 different models for at least two nights each, and several for many more. I also spoke with Rebecca Robbins, PhD, associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Randall Laurich, DC, a chiropractor practicing in South Florida for 22 years.
I have four years of experience testing sleep products professionally. In addition to honing my subjective assessments, I’ve developed several objective tests to evaluate which toppers are best for specific needs. You can find details about how I test mattress toppers in our methodology section.
Here are the best mattress toppers you can buy in 2021
- Best mattress topper overall: Parachute Down Mattress Pad
- Best budget mattress topper: Lucid Bamboo Charcoal Memory Foam Mattress Topper
- Best cooling mattress topper: Bear Pro Mattress Topper
- Best mattress topper for back pain: Tempur-Pedic Topper Supreme Mattress Topper
- Best latex mattress topper: Avocado Organic Latex Mattress Topper
- Best firm mattress topper: Airweave Mattress Topper
The Parachute Down Mattress Pad was one of the best in every category we tested, including heat dissipation, motion isolation, comfort and support, and fit.
Pros: Excellent heat dissipation, comfortable and supportive, made in the US, attaches to your mattress like a fitted sheet, machine washable, best motion isolation
Cons: Warranty void if tag removed
The Parachute Down Mattress Pad did well in every category we tested. The only category it was just “good” in was the surface temperature immediately after getting up. Yet, two minutes after getting up, it registered cooler temps than before I laid down. It was one of only two toppers to dissipate heat this well.
Parachute recommends washing your Down Mattress Pad before you sleep on it. Fortunately, it’s machine washable, and the cleaning process was effortless. Once it’s ready, the topper goes on your mattress like a fitted sheet and has deep pockets to fit mattresses up to 18 inches thick. I liked that it stayed in place well and didn’t shift after sleeping on it for several nights.
The topper is made in the US of European white down and features a sateen cotton shell. The down of the topper kept me cool while offering plush comfort. I fell asleep quickly each night and woke up feeling refreshed in the morning. I preferred to sleep on my side while testing the Parachute topper, but it wasn’t overly soft so I felt good on my back and side as well.
The Parachute Down Mattress Pad is also a smart choice for couples with its impressive motion isolation. In fact, it did the best at dampening motion transfer in our tests.
The biggest negative has to do with the warranty. The tag on the pad states that the warranty is void if removed.
The best budget mattress topper
If you’re looking for a cheap way to make your mattress cooler and softer, consider the Lucid Bamboo Charcoal Memory Foam Mattress Topper.
Pros: Excellent cooling properties, great motion isolation, made of CertiPUR-US certified foam, stays in place, easy to set up
Cons: May be too soft for some sleeping styles and body types, plush design hinders movement
The first thing you notice when you lie down on the Lucid Bamboo Charcoal Memory Foam Mattress Topper is how much you sink in. The topper comes in two-, three-, and four-inch thicknesses. I tested the three-inch-thick model, which was a little too soft for me, and I like soft. Unless you require the softest of the soft, I’d recommend trying the two-inch style instead to ensure you are keeping your spine properly aligned.
Despite the overbearing plushness, which made sleeping on my stomach uncomfortable, I woke up feeling refreshed after each night I slept on the Lucid Bamboo Charcoal topper.
The topper is nothing more than a slab of CertiPUR-US certified, bamboo charcoal-infused memory foam. There are several holes to help with heat dissipation, which apparently works since the Lucid topper never got very hot in my tests. When I got up from it, the heat dissipated quickly.
The thick foam also helped with motion transfer, causing this model to register one of the lowest scores on the vibration meter I use for this test. Despite not attaching to the bed, it stayed in place as I slept on it.
There weren’t any instructions for setup, and I was confused by the low-grade fabric covering that came on the topper. (I assumed it was for shipping purposes and tossed it.) The topper had a strong initial odor and was compressed, but it expanded and was odor-free by bedtime.
The best cooling mattress topper
The Bear Pro Mattress Topper is your best bet if you’re looking for a plush topper that will offer you support; pressure relief; and a cool, comfortable night’s sleep.
Pros: Excellent cooling, plush comfort, good pressure relief, made in the US of CertiPUR-US certified copper-infused foam, great motion isolation, stays in place, 100-night trial period
Cons: Had a strong initial odor that took several days to dissipate, doesn’t attach to the mattress
The Bear Pro Mattress Topper was both the best cooling and best memory foam topper we tested. It’s made in the US of CertiPUR-US certified copper-infused memory foam. I found it provided a plush feel that will appeal to all sleeping styles thanks to its ideal balance of support and pressure relief. I experienced comfy, restful sleep each night I tested it.
The Bear Pro was one of the best at cooling in our tests. In fact, it was one of two toppers to register a lower final temperature reading than the initial reading before I laid down on it. I was surprised by this, so I reran the test and verified my findings. This topper dissipates heat well. It accomplishes this with a copper and Celliant construction, which Bear claims helps with heat regulation. We weren’t able to find any scientific studies to back this up, but based on our experience, it seems to be working.
The Bear Pro was also one of the best at motion isolation. Despite not attaching to the mattress, the topper stayed in place just fine.
The biggest negative with the Bear Pro Mattress Topper was the strong “new bed smell” that lasted for several days. Other than that, setup took less than five minutes, and the topper expanded to full size by bedtime.
The best mattress topper for back pain
If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, you’ll appreciate the body-contouring foam of the Tempur-Pedic Topper Supreme Mattress Topper.
Pros: Made of supportive and pressure-relieving memory foam, good heat dissipation, removable and machine-washable cover, 10-year warranty, easy to set up
Cons: No trial period, shifted significantly in the night, hard to put the cover back on after washing it
While testing the Tempur-Pedic Topper Supreme Mattress Topper, I was getting back into running and weightlifting after an injury sidelined me. I suffer from chronic lower back pain that’s aggravated by both these activities. I went to bed with my body exhausted and awoke feeling refreshed and ready to run and lift again, and I think the Tempur-Topper Supreme had a lot to do with the fast recovery.
I’ve long appreciated the supportive feel of Tempur-Pedic’s proprietary memory foam, which slowly adjusts to the contours of your body and keeps your spine aligned no matter what position you’re sleeping in.
The pad features a cover made mostly of polyester that zips off so you can throw it in the washing machine. Removing the cover and washing it was easy, but putting it back on was a different story. It took me about 10 minutes to slide the cover on the floppy pad. I recommend just putting a mattress protector over it (and your mattress) to save the hassle.
Setting up the Tempur-Topper Supreme was intuitive, and there was minimal initial odor, which completely dissipated by bedtime. The topper also did a good job of staying cool, and when I got up from it, the heat dissipated quickly.
There are a few negatives with this model, though. First, you can’t return the topper once you receive it. Fortunately, there is an impressive 10-year warranty so if there are manufacturing defects, you can get a replacement.
Another negative is the pad shifted by several inches over the course of the night as I slept on it, and there are no straps to keep it in place. Lastly, the motion isolation was just average.
The best latex mattress topper
The Avocado Organic Latex Mattress Topper is designed for all sleeping styles and body types, and it’s made of eco-friendly materials and comes with a one-year trial period.
Pros: Made in the US with organic materials and natural latex, comfortable and supportive, great motion isolation, one-year risk-free trial period, 10-year warranty
Cons: Sleeps hot, shifts a bit, expensive
I’m a big fan of natural latex as a sustainable, responsive material to sleep on. The soft rubber-like foam offers cushioning around the hips and shoulders while supporting your lower back and neck. You don’t sink in like with memory foam; instead, there’s more bounce.
The Avocado Organic Latex Mattress Topper is great because it’s made of high-quality materials, including GOLS organic certified latex rubber foam. The topper as a whole is Made Safe and Greenguard Gold certified and handmade in California. The quality translates to a hefty price ($449 for a Queen), but Avocado also offers a one-year risk-free trial period and 10-year warranty; both are the best of any of the toppers we tested.
When it comes to support and pressure relief, the Avocado Organic Latex was one of the most comfortable toppers I slept on. Whether I was on my stomach, side, or back, I felt great, and I woke up feeling refreshed in the morning. I tested the plush topper, which was slightly softer than average, but it’s also available in firm.
Unfortunately, it slept quite hot. It did an okay job of dissipating the heat once I got up, but when I was on the topper, it reached surface temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Another negative is it doesn’t attach to the mattress, which might have prevented it from shifting at night.
On the plus side, the motion-dampening properties were great. I was able to set up the topper in under five minutes. While there was an initial odor, by bedtime, it dissipated.
The best firm mattress topper
The Airweave Mattress Topper is ideal for back and stomach sleepers who are looking to add firm support to their mattress.
Pros: Firm support that may appeal to back and stomach sleepers, completely washable, 100-night risk-free trial period, easy setup, good bounce and easy to move around on
Cons: Poor heat dissipation, poor motion isolation, shifts on the mattress, not recommended for side sleepers
For the most part, mattress toppers are designed to help give a softer feel to a mattress that is maybe too firm for your sleeping style. The Airweave Mattress Topper, on the other hand, does the opposite.
It’s made of firm, interwoven strands of polyethylene that the brand claims allow for better airflow and heat dissipation (though in my tests, the topper was among the hottest and didn’t dissipate the heat well once I got up).
I primarily sleep on my side, but the Airweave topper felt a little too firm for me to sleep in that position. Instead, I gravitated to my stomach and back, and the supportive feel left my body pain-free in the morning.
The Airweave Mattress Topper came tri-folded in a large, 62-inch by 30-inch by 9-inch box and was easy to set up. It didn’t have an initial odor, and I liked how easy the topper was to clean. It’s the only model I tested that is completely washable. The polyester/cotton blend cover is machine washable, and you can wash the core with mild soap and cool water.
The topper doesn’t attach to your mattress, which might have been helpful since it shifted as I slept on it. Another negative was the poor motion isolation. It was the worst at dampening motion transfer. But the Airweave topper has a lot of bounce, which makes it easy to move around and could help facilitate intimate activities.
What else tested
We tested 18 mattress toppers for this guide. These are the ones that missed the cut.
What else we recommend and why:
$150 and under
Allswell 4-Inch Memory Foam: This CertiPUR-US certified copper gel-infused memory foam topper was in the middle of the pack in every test, which makes it a solid product, but nothing sets it apart. It was easy to install, affordable, and stayed in place on the bed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a warranty.
SensorPedic Bamboo Charcoal Infused Memory Foam:If our budget pick isn’t available, we strongly recommend picking this topper up, especially if you suffer from back pain. When I started testing, my back pain was flaring up, but after two nights on this, I was feeling great. It didn’t make our guide because it wasn’t particularly good at cooling, and there’s no trial period.
Helix Ultra-Cool Pad: If you’re looking for just a subtle addition of plushness to your mattress, this is a good option. The pad is only about an inch thick and goes on your mattress like a fitted sheet. (It’s also machine washable.) Yet it didn’t do as good of a job cooling as its name would suggest, and it didn’t add much support or pressure relief compared to just sleeping on the mattress alone.
Nest Bedding Cooling: This topper didn’t live up to its name as it held onto heat once I got up from it and also had poor motion isolation. However, it was comfortable to sleep on, is made in the US with CertiPUR-US certified foam, and didn’t move on the bed. It’s on the softer side, so it may be a good option for side sleepers who prefer a more pillow top feel.
Slumber Cloud Core: This pad did at least okay in every test we put it through. It goes on your mattress like a fitted sheet, which kept it in place, and it’s easy to clean. It was also comfortable and supportive. The Core mattress pad also offered impressive motion isolation. The biggest negative is the relatively short 180-day warranty. Also, it was just in the middle of the pack at cooling and heat dissipation.
Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Adapt + Cooling: Though this model shares the same product page as our best topper for back pain, it didn’t perform as well in our tests. It was also inferior at cooling despite its name and $80 more than the other Tempur-Pedic topper. However, it was comfortable to sleep on, has a removable, machine-washable cover, and is backed by a 10-year warranty.
Saatva Graphite: We almost included this topper in our guide, but it just wasn’t the best in any of our categories. Its average firmness was comfortable and supportive to sleep on no matter what position I was in. It did a good job of dissipating heat and features straps to secure it to your bed. However, it still shifted and the topper has poor motion isolation.
Birch by Helix Plush Organic: The Birch topper is similar to our best overall pick. Both are handmade in the US using organic latex, cotton, and wool with all sorts of eco-friendly certifications. However, though the Birch was comfortable, I enjoyed the Avocado more. If the Avocado isn’t available, this is a worthy substitute.
Eight Sleep Pod Pro Cover with PerfectFit: The cool thing about the Eight Sleep topper is it makes your bed as hot or as cold as you want. It pumps water between 55 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit through the topper to keep you cool or warm you up. The app (available for iOS and Android) tracks your sleep, and you can adjust the temp to help you stay asleep through the night and wake up in the morning. However, it took an hour to set up, has poor motion isolation, and wasn’t as pressure-relieving as I would have liked.
What we don’t recommend and why:
Lucid Gel Memory Foam: Similar to the topper above, the Lucid Gel Memory Foam Topper is way too soft. But, since it’s made of memory foam, you sink in, which makes it hard to change positions in the night or get up in the morning. Go with our budget pick instead.
PlushBeds Natural Wool: The PlushBeds topper was the only model we tested that had wool fill. It’s handmade in the US and is chemical-free. However, it smelled awful and the odor didn’t go away. It also trapped heat and was way too soft for comfort.
Sleep Number DualTemp Individual Layer: The Sleep Number mattress and AirFit pillow are among my favorites, and I had high hopes for the topper but was disappointed. It pumps air through the topper to warm or cool based on your preferences. I found it didn’t do very well at cooling and wasn’t comfortable to sleep on. I expected more at this price point.
Our testing methodology
I personally tested all of the mattress toppers in this guide. In addition to sleeping on them, there are several objective tests I put each one through. The most important factors to consider when picking a topper are comfort, bed fit, and heat dissipation. I used the same Queen size mattress with each topper for consistency.
Here are the main attributes we looked for and how we tested them:
Setup: I timed how long it took me to unbox each mattress topper and if there were any unusual or unintuitive steps. Aside from the Sleep Number and Eight Sleep toppers, each model took less than five minutes to set up. I noted if the topper came vacuum-sealed, if it had an initial odor, and if any smell dissipated by bedtime.
Fit: Once fully expanded, I measured each topper to see if it covered an 80-inch-by-60-inch Queen mattress. After sleeping on the topper, I noted whether it stayed in place or shifted and if a fitted sheet with 13-inch-deep pockets was able to cover the topper and our 10-inch-thick test mattress. The fitted sheet stayed on through the night with all models we tested.
Heat dissipation: I used an infrared thermometer to measure the surface temperature of the part of the bed where my torso would be before laying on it for at least an hour, right after getting up, and two minutes after getting up. I compared the temperatures to determine which models were best at heat dissipation. I performed these tests several times until I felt confident in the measurements.
Support: This is a subjective test based on my four years of testing sleep products. Each morning, I would record any soreness I felt, how comfortable the topper felt the previous night, and I’d look at my sleep stats collected using the Garmin Forerunner 945 Smart Watch. I’d also note which positions I felt most comfortable in.
Motion isolation: I placed my phone with the Vibration Meter app open on the bed approximately 12 inches from the right side. Next, I lifted a 15-pound bowling ball above my head and dropped it onto the topper so that it landed approximately 12 inches from the left side of the bed (and 36 inches from the phone). I performed this test five times and kept the median score.
Trial and warranty: It’s important that you be able to return a topper if it’s not right for your body type and sleeping style. I looked at the return policy/trial period for each topper and looked for any loopholes, like shipping costs. The median trial period for the models we tested was 30 nights, and I docked points if a topper didn’t have a trial period. Also, since you want your topper to last, we looked at the warranties. The median warranty length is three years.
What we’re testing next
We’re always testing new mattress toppers and retesting our top picks to determine the best models. Here’s what we’re looking forward to testing for potential inclusion in this guide:
Wavy: I’ve had this memory foam topper for about a month and am waiting for it to be available to the public before testing. Wavy still hasn’t announced a release date, but once it’s available, I’ll put it through its paces and let you know what I think.
Sleep Innovations Dual Layer Gel Memory Foam: This topper is wildly popular on Amazon with almost 10,000 five-star reviews, and I had one prior to my product reviewer days and appreciated how cool it was. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a review unit to put through our objective tests and plan to rectify that soon.
Why should I buy a mattress topper?
There are several reasons why you might want a mattress topper. Many people like to have one around to use as a pad under their sleeping bag when camping, or in a pinch, it can serve as a guest bed.
The most common reason people turn to mattress toppers is to make their otherwise uncomfortable mattress more comfortable. “Let’s say you bought a mattress a couple of years ago, and you’re not quite satisfied with it, but you want to extend the life a little bit,” said Rebecca Robbins, PhD, associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. Maybe you got a second-hand mattress that doesn’t match your sleep style. “Then, that’s a perfect situation to consider a mattress topper,” she said.
“A mattress topper customizes the foundation and the mattress to your personal preference because we’re all different,” added Robbins. “We all vary in our preference for firm versus plush. Some people really want something that’s just super cozy. They want to sink in, whereas others actually prefer a firmer mattress.”
Randall Laurich, DC, a chiropractor in South Florida, agrees. “I always like to say that everyone’s different, and everyone responds differently to certain things,” said Laurich. “I would say the main benefits are if the mattress is too firm, a mattress topper would actually make it softer and more contouring to the spine. And then, in turn, the benefits become less stress on the spine.”
However, Laurich said to consider that some mattress toppers can be too soft and unsupportive. “I have had patients that have attempted to use mattress toppers and have actually had some negative side effects from it,” said Laurich. “Not having enough firmness can sometimes cause the spine to reduce its curvature. So, it won’t contour to the spine because it is so soft. A softer, thicker topper can sometimes have adverse effects, while a smaller, thinner topper could have more positive benefits overall.”
Should you buy a new mattress or a mattress topper?
A mattress topper can provide all of the benefits listed above, but if your mattress is starting to exhibit sagging and providing less support, it might be time for a new one. First, check your mattress’s warranty. Most warranties cover your bed for at least 10 years, and some last for a lifetime. If your mattress is still covered under warranty, you may be able to get a replacement or repair for free or for a nominal fee.
If your mattress has reached the end of its life and you can’t afford to replace it yet, a mattress topper is a good stopgap that can help you squeeze an extra year or two out of your mattress while you scrape together the funds for a replacement.
Sometimes, our bodies or sleeping styles change, and this can cause our mattress to become less comfortable. This isn’t covered by warranty, and you probably don’t want to throw out a perfectly good mattress that still has plenty of years left in it. This is where a topper can help.
Lastly, mattress toppers can help couples with different sleep preferences. “If you want to sleep together though, you might put a topper under the fitted sheet on one side of the bed for somebody who prefers a plusher experience,” Robbins said.
If you go this route, a Twin XL is your best bet. It’s the same length as King and Queen size mattresses and half the width of a King.
How do you clean a mattress topper?
This will vary depending on the mattress topper. For the most accurate directions, consult the topper’s user manual or tags or the manufacturer’s website. Most mattress toppers are not machine washable. For instance, you should avoid getting latex and memory foam wet since they’re hard to dry. In most cases, you will want to spot clean any messes with a mild detergent and a damp towel. Then, allow it to dry completely before covering or sleeping on it.
Whether you have a mattress topper or not, we strongly recommend using a mattress protector on your bed. The best ones are waterproof and machine-washable and cost as little as $20. Check out our guide to the best mattress protectors for more info.
Which mattress topper is right for your sleeping style?
There are three main sleeping styles: back, stomach, and side. Laurich recommends starting your mattress topper search with a firmness that is best for your style. “A stomach sleeper should have something a little less firm,” said Laurich. “Because when you’re lying on your stomach and have a bit of a belly or abdominal dissension or anything like that, it’s uncomfortable to be on something that’s extremely firm. If you are a back sleeper, it’s better for you to have something firmer that contours better to your spine.”
“If you’re a side sleeper, it’s better for you to have a softer mattress topper,” added Laurich. “But side sleepers get different issues or ailments. For instance, you can get hip issues from being on one side for so long. You can get other issues from positioning your shoulders in different ways. So, it’s really tough to say exactly what the best mattress topper would be based on sleeping style, but these generalizations serve as a good starting point.”
If you’re unsure about your comfort preferences, we strongly recommend choosing a mattress topper that comes with a long trial period so you can return it if it’s not right for you.
Check out our other mattress and bedding guides