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Published Feb 18, 2023 10:00 AM
If you find yourself tossing and turning because of an uncomfortable mattress, a mattress topper could help you get a better night’s sleep. Made from a space-age cushion that contours to the sleeper’s shape, a memory foam topper can help relieve pressure on the shoulders and hips or better support the back, depending on its design. The right mattress topper can revitalize an old mattress or soften an overly firm one to help you get better sleep and wake up with fewer aches and pains. Here are our recommendations for the best memory foam mattress toppers.
How we chose the best memory foam mattress toppers
Memory foam started in the space program, but today, it’s a common household material. It’s made from polyurethane foam that’s undergone treatment with various compounds and chemicals, giving the foam viscous characteristics that allow the foam to change shape under pressure. It will continue to change shape slowly as pressure increases. The elastic properties give the foam stretchiness that helps it return to its original shape without damage.
I’ve worked in the sleep industry researching and testing products for three years. After reading numerous sleep studies and digging into what makes a great sleep product, I’ve honed in on how and what products help you get better slumber. I’ve combined that real-world experience with peer recommendations plus a look at the following technologies when it came time to make my recommendations:
Foam density: Dense foams can be soft or firm, but the denser the foam, the longer it lasts.
Cover design (cuts and grooves): If the mattress topper had a cover, those covers better be removable and washable. A cover can prevent a dirty topper, but it should be washable.
Cooling technologies: Cooling technologies like gel foam or gel-infused foam, along with the design of the foam itself, can enhance breathability. Memory foam is known for trapping heat, so the topper should feature at least one cooling technology in its design.
The best memory foam mattress toppers: Reviews & Recommendations
Finding the best memory foam mattress topper for you comes down to your sleeping preferences. Are you looking for a softer landing or firmer material to support your back and neck? The following five options offer something for all kinds of sleepers.
Best overall: Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR Supreme 3-Inch Mattress Topper
Why it made the cut: This Tempur-Pedic’s performance, quality, and removable, washable cover easily make it our top choice for sleepers of all sizes and sleep styles.
- Thickness: 3-inch memory foam
- Firmness: Medium-firm
- Extra feature: Removable cover
- Removable, washable cover simplifies cleaning and maintenance
- Foam deepens pressure relief as body heat and pressure increase
- Dense, durable foam
- Six sizes available
- Requires airing out upon arrival
- Can be warm
Tempur-Pedic enjoys a well-deserved reputation for excellence in the sleep industry. The Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR Supreme 3-Inch Mattress Topper meets their high standards and delivers well-cushioned rest for struggling sleepers. It features 3 inches of Tempur material, Tempur-Pedic’s memory foam “recipe.” It’s the same foam found in their mattresses and has similar durability, meaning it will last. The foam stretches and conforms under pressure and heat, which deepens the cushioning as you sleep. That continued customization relieves pressure at the shoulders and hips but provides support for the neck and lower back.
This model also gets high marks for the removable, washable cover. Memory foam mattress toppers without a cover can easily attract hair, dirt, and dust. The cover offers protection and works as part of the memory foam’s cooling system, which offers impressive breathability.
Most memory foam mattresses and mattress toppers have a bit of an odor upon arrival. The Supreme is no different and does require some time to air out, but it doesn’t take long. While most users don’t report overheating, there are a few that found this topper caused some overheating. However, many of those same users report that the comfort of the topper outweighed the discomfort from excess heat.
Best cooling: BedStory 3-Inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Why it made the cut: The BedStory’s gel-infused memory foam absorbs heat for improved temperature control and comes in three heights and firmnesses.
- Thickness: Comes in 2-, 3-, and 4-inch heights
- Firmness: Soft, medium, and firm firmnesses available
- Extra feature: Removable cover
- Gel infusion absorbs body heat for cooler sleep
- Aeration pattern provides good air circulation
- Multiple firmness options work for different-size people
- CertiPUR-US certified foams
- Lacks long-term durability
- Corner loops may break when used on thicker mattresses
The BedStory 3-Inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper comes in three thicknesses: 2-, 3-, or 4-inch. Each thickness offers a different firmness level—medium with the 2-inch, soft with the 3-inch, and firm with the 4-inch. It gets high marks for offering different firmness levels and thicknesses so that people of different shapes and sizes can get cool and comfortable.
The gel-infused memory foam absorbs body heat and transports it away from the sleeper. That cooling ability is supported by aeration holes that aid heat and air circulation even as the foam contours to the body.
The BedStory topper’s CertiPUR-US-certified memory foam does an excellent job of following the body’s shape. To receive the certification, a third-party organization monitors and ensures that the topper was made without the use of substances that can potentially harm people. Even as it surrounds your body, you can rest easier knowing it’s free of things like plastics, vinyl, and toxic flame retardants.
A cover works with the gel and aeration design to dissipate further heat. Plus, it’s removable for easier maintenance and washing. Loops at each corner of the cover help hold the topper in place. The loops are helpful, but they aren’t quite long enough for the tallest mattresses and may break. One other issue noted by a few users was that, over time, the foam lost its ability to return to its original shape. Interestingly, even when it wasn’t as plush as it used to be, it maintained its cooling abilities.
Best zoned: Best Price Mattress 3-Inch 5-Zone Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Why it made the cut: This mattress stood out for the quality and design of the targeted zoning, helping it to support the body’s natural physiology.
- Thickness: 3-inch memory foam
- Firmness: Soft to medium-soft firmness
- Extra feature: Lavender infusion
- Targets five body zones
- Soothing lavender infusion helps sleepers relax
- Zoning design also enhances breathability
- CertiPUR-US certified foam
The Best Price Mattress 3-Inch 5-Zone Memory Foam Mattress Topper features cuts and grooves in the memory foam to alter the density by zone. The five zones focus on the body’s most common problem areas—head/neck, shoulders, hips, lower back, and knees. The design in each area offers more or less support based on the body’s needs. For example, a spiral design through the lower back provides firmer support, while the chevrons at the shoulders allow the shoulders to sink into the topper, relieving pressure.
This type of design works well for couples with different sleep styles. For example, side sleepers get the pressure relief they need at the shoulders and hips, and back sleepers get added support through the back. Of course, because it’s memory foam, it also provides general pressure relief and contouring to relieve aches and pains. A lavender infusion adds a nice touch to this model since lavender has been linked to improved sleep quality. Users found the scent pleasant, though there’s no conclusive evidence that the lavender specifically improved sleep. The mattress topper is also available in several other infused scents. The only issue with the Best Price model is the density. Memory foams come in various densities, contributing to their firmness and durability. This foam has a relatively low density, which has contributed to a few cases of early breakdown.
Best hybrid: LUCID 4-Inch Down Alternative and Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Why it made the cut: The LUCID mattress topper offers three comfort options for the price of one, making it one of the best mixed-media toppers available.
- Thickness: Two inches of gel memory foam with 2 inches of down alternative
- Firmness: Soft
- Extra feature: Hypoallergenic down alternative
- Three comfort options
- Gentle padding with soft contouring that feels like a blanket
- Memory foam offers excellent pressure relief through the down alternative
The LUCID Foam Mattress Topper combines two mattress topper types in a single product. The down-alternative layer and the gel memory foam layer can be used separately or together, offering three different comfort options. The hypoallergenic down alternative gives the bed a pillowy feel. Combined with the memory foam, it feels like that pillow is giving you a hug. The LUCID is an excellent way to add cushioning to a firm mattress or to experiment with different sleep options to find what works for you.
Alone, the gel memory foam does an adequate job absorbing heat. However, when it’s used with the down-alternative layer, the LUCID can get warm. Down acts as an insulator, and the memory foam’s cooling technologies cannot compensate for that insulation. When each layer is used on its own, heat tends to be less of an issue.
Best budget: ZINUS 1.5-Inch Swirl Gel Cooling Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Why it made the cut: This model’s simple design offers light contouring with good breathability for a price that most people can afford.
- Thickness: 1.5-inch memory foam
- Firmness: Soft firmness
- Extra feature: CertiPUR-US-certified foam
- Thin profile for light contouring
- Requires 3 days to expand fully
- Gel and eggshell design enhance temperature control and breathability
- Needs extra time to air out
- Infused green tea doesn’t cause a change in odor
The ZINUS 1.5 Inch Swirl Gel Cooling Memory Foam Mattress Topper provides comfort beyond its price. The CertiPUR-US certified gel memory foam helps to absorb heat and move it away from the body. Breathability also gets a boost from the eggshell design because it leaves air pockets for heat and air to circulate.
Gel isn’t the only addition to the memory foam. This model also contains green tea, which the manufacturer claims can add antibacterial and antioxidant properties to the topper. Such claims are unsubstantiated, but that infusion doesn’t alter the odor or affect comfort.
With only 1.5 inches of foam, don’t expect deep contouring. This model features light, gentle shaping to take pressure off problem areas. The thin foam also makes this topper easy to roll up and store in a closet or attic until needed.
Things to consider before buying a memory foam mattress topper
Your weight and sleep style: A mattress topper that works for a friend or neighbor may not be the best choice for you based on your weight and sleep style. Heavier sleepers and those over 150 pounds need thicker memory foam to get adequate pressure relief. Side sleepers may also need thicker, softer memory foam that gives under the pressure of the shoulders and hips. Smaller people, those under 130 pounds, may find thick memory foam too firm to provide adequate contouring.
As a general rule, side sleepers need softer support, while stomach sleepers need firmer support to keep the lower back from overarching. Back sleepers fall in the middle but still need support in the low back to prevent poor spinal alignment.
Cooling technology: Memory foam is well-known for trapping body heat. Today’s memory foams perform much better than those on the market 20 or 30 years ago. However, a mix of cooling technologies usually offers better breathability. For example, a gel-memory foam perforated with aeration holes will pull heat away from the sleeper and allow better air circulation. Covers can also provide extra cooling properties.
Memory foam thickness: How much contouring do you want? If you want to be enveloped in your mattress, a soft, thick 3-inch or thicker memory foam topper can feel like a bedtime hug. However, if that makes you feel trapped, a thinner 1.5-inch topper will relieve pressure without making you feel stuck.
Q: Are memory foam mattress toppers good for your back?
A memory foam mattress topper can be good for your back. Of course, it depends on the source of the pain and the type of mattress used under the mattress topper. Back pain caused by a sagging mattress, for example, won’t go away with a topper because the topper will sag, too. However, pain that stems from a lack of cushioning can certainly be helped by memory foam. You can also buy firm or zoned memory foam mattress toppers that offer more back support.
Q: What’s the difference between gel and memory foam mattress toppers?
You can find memory foam mattress toppers without gel and those with it. The gel in the topper, whether mixed or infused into the memory foam, absorbs body heat to help cool the sleeper. There are memory foam mattress toppers that do not have gel, and therefore do not contain the gel’s heat absorption qualities.
Q: What’s the best mattress topper for lower back and hip pain?
A memory foam mattress topper can help relieve lower back and hip pain. A model with zoned support better targets these problem areas by providing pressure relief at the hips and firmer support through the lower back.
Final thoughts on the best memory foam mattress toppers
The quality, temperature control, and washable cover of the Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR Supreme 3-Inch Mattress Topper make it stand out among the best memory foam mattress toppers. If you’re unsure of the height or type of mattress topper you want, the LUCID 4-Inch Down Alternative and Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper gives you three options from which to choose.