Do You Need A Mattress Topper Or A Mattress Pad?

Whether you just brought a new mattress home or you’re looking for ways to improve your current sleep setup, you’re probably seeing a lot of information about mattress pads and toppers. But what’s the difference, and what do you actually need? Welcome great debate of “is it a mattress pad, a mattress cover, a mattress protector, or a bed-mattress-pad-protector-cover?

Mattress Pad Let’s start with the first question—what is a mattress pad? A mattress pad is a generic term to refer to a layer that goes over your mattress. It adds just a little bit of comfort to your mattress without adding a thick layer of foam, memory foam or latex. It is typically a fitted-sheet style construction with cotton batting that makes it almost like a fluffy sheet-like layer. It won’t revive a mattress that’s passed its prime, but it will soften and add support for when you fall asleep. If you want the mattress protector version of this, a waterproof mattress pad can offer that, but you should always triple-check that it’s designed to do so before relying on it.

Often you can find what’s called a pillow top mattress pad or a cooling mattress pad—both are essentially upgraded versions of the simple pad. Pillow tops usually are made of down or a down alternative. Cooling mattress pads will be infused with gels or heat-wicking materials. These are great for stuffy sleepers! Choose the mattress pad that will help you get a comfortable night’s rest.

An organic mattress pad might also be a simple solution for an uncomfortable mattress if you don’t want to add foam or other chemically-produced materials to your bed.

Mattress Topper A mattress topper is basically a foam or latex mattress pad, usually without the fitted sheet construction. The topper can fit under your bedsheets and won’t move around too much. Toppers can come in a variety of materials such as foams, memory foam, and latex. —usually, they are memory or polyfoam based. Because mattress toppers are often thicker than your average mattress pad, they provide more support and comfort than a mattress pad cover. Because mattress toppers have a little more heft to them, they can often make an older, less comfortable bed feel while you sleep.

Mattress toppers can also come in down, wool or cotton varieties. They are typically much thicker than a mattress pad.

They aren’t a permanent solution, but they can certainly help you sleep until you can replace your bed. Toppers will change the entire surface feel of your mattress, so it’s more of a commitment than a thinner mattress pad.

Mattress Pad vs. Mattress Topper So which one do you really need? Here’s a helpful breakdown:

If you want an additional layer of comfort between you and your mattress, with just a hint of added plushness, a mattress pad is probably the perfect fit for you.

If your mattress needs a facelift, or you want to change up the kind of material you’re sleeping on without buying a new mattress, a topper is a better choice.

Either way, your sleep setup can be enhanced with one of these additions. Keep in mind that you probably can’t make up for a severely damaged or dipping mattress. If you are experiencing soreness or looking for a mattress topper for back pain, you might want to consult with your doctor about what your next steps should be.

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Shelly Weaver-Cather
Shelly Weaver-Cather

Shelly Weaver is part of the Content Team at Tuft & Needle, leading the writing and editing of our blog. Not quite a Phoenix native, (They take that sort of thing super seriously.) Shelly has spent most of her life in the Phoenix Metro area and has no plans of leaving anytime soon. She made the unexpected jump out of wedding photography and onto T&N’s team in 2016, and found a passion for the people that keep the lights on. She still finds herself shooting in her free time, though these days there are less bridal portraits and more masterpieces of her first child, Duke, a lab-pit mix with an unparalleled love for both T&N mattress hogging and couch destroying.

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