6 things you need to know before you buy a mattress topper

From fit to feel, here's everything you need to know before you buy a mattress topper in the Presidents' Day sales

Zinus Green Tea Mattress Topper on a bed.
(Image credit: Zinus)

Investing in a premium mattress topper might be the best decision you make this Presidents' Day. The right layer of thick, firm foam could transform the feel of your mattress, keeping you cool and comfortable all night long. 

I still remember my first night in my college bed. I woke up stiff and sore, with the indent of an innerspring across my hip. I logged straight onto Amazon and ordered the best mattress topper I could find. I left that dorm room long ago, but I still have the mattress topper: it strikes just the right balance between comfort and support.

As H&G's resident sleep writer, I lead a team of expert testers. Together, we've slept on some of the world's best mattress toppers. I understand what separates a decent topper from a premium product. I want to share six simples rules to help you find a mattress topper that meets your sleep needs.  

6 rules for buying a mattress topper

Although the big day isn't for another week, mattress sales on Presidents' Day are already dropping. I've seen some deep discounts on bedding, and mattress toppers, in particular. As a shopping writer, I appreciate a good bargain, but I'd urge you not to sacrifice quality for cost. It's worth slowing down while you shop and following these rules to avoid buyer's remorse. 

1. Know your sleep style

Before you buy any sort of bedding, you should stop to consider your sleep style. Some sleepers rest on their backs, while others sleep on their front or sides. You might sleep in a similar position each night or switch between all three. However you sleep, there's a mattress topper out there to meet your needs.

For a side sleeper, I'd recommend a softer mattress topper filled with plush materials, such as memory foam. Side sleepers need a topper with a bit of give, so that their shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles can sink into their bed.

If you sleep on your stomach, you should consider a firmer mattress topper, filled with natural latex. A firm mattress topper should support the natural alignment of your spine and keep your mattress from swallowing you up. A back sleeper's best bet is a medium-firm mattress topper, which lifts their lower back but allows their shoulders to sink in. 

I've rounded up a few of my favorite mattress toppers at the fairest prices you'll find online. I'd recommend you shop around until you find the topper that suits you. 

2. Learn your topper types

When it comes to softness versus support in mattress toppers, it's all a matter of materials. Most of the time, you don't need to sleep on a topper to learn how it feels: you just need to scour the specifications. 

Memory foam mattress toppers work best for back and side sleepers. All that soft and spongy foam offers great lumbar support and alleviates pain and pressure from your joints. Just bear in mind that it isn't that breathable: I wouldn't recommend a memory foam mattress topper to a hot sleeper. 

If you tend to sleep on your stomach, you'll appreciate the support you get from a latex mattress topper. Latex is firmer than memory foam, and cooler, too, so it's ideally suited for hot sleepers and summer months. If you're keen to shop sustainably, you should consider an organic latex mattress topper, though you'll have to pay for it. 

For that sink-in feeling, there's nothing like a featherbed. These toppers are filled with down or down alternative, rather like the best duvet inserts. A featherbed isn't quite as supportive as a latex or memory foam mattress topper, but it should feel soft and squishy.  

3. Consider ways to keep cool

Once you've worked out your sleep style, and your favorite fabrics, it's time to consider your internal temperature: whether you sleep hot or cool. If you suffer from night sweats and hot flashes, or you simply tend to run a little warm, the trouble might just be your mattress.

Memory foam mattresses are the worst for this. All that thick foam holds heat and blasts it back onto your body. As you warm up, so does your topper, trapping you in an endless cycle of hot sweats.

The right mattress topper could solve this problem, acting as a barrier between your body and your mattress. If you know you sleep hot, or you live in a particularly warm climate, you should keep an eye out for mattress toppers infused with copper or similar materials. These conductive fibers quickly carry heat away from your body to keep you cool and comfortable.

4. Strap in

Corner of a Coop Retreat Mattress Topper on a bed.

(Image credit: Coop Home Goods)

The whole point of a mattress topper is to make a quick and easy upgrade to your sleep routine. If you end up tossing and turning all night, trying to keep your topper from sliding off the edge of the bed, then you might as well get rid of it.

For a safe, secure fit, you should look for toppers with straps to stretch all the way around your mattress. Some specialist sleep stores offers super-stretchy toppers to accommodate deep-pocket mattresses. I recommend double-checking the specifications to get a sense of the stretch of your topper. 

Of course, there are a few exceptions that prove the rule. The Avocado Organic Latex Mattress Topper doesn't have straps: instead, there's an organic cotton canvas underneath the topper which maintains friction with the mattress. Although our expert tester was skeptical, she couldn't fault the topper's performance. 

5. Consider your partner

Birch Plush Mattress Topper on a bed.

(Image credit: Birch)

Perhaps you and your partner share a bed, but not a sleep style. Where you might appreciate a firmer mattress, they might prefer a softer surface: where you sleep hot, they sleep cold. 

While it might be difficult to find a mattress topper to suit diverse sleep needs, it is possible. Something like the Birch Plush Organic Mattress Topper should suit all sorts of sleepers. It's filled with Talalay latex for support and wrapped in organic cotton for softness. 

Luxury latex can get pretty expensive. If you're working with a tighter budget, you might prefer something like the Earthfoam Mattress Topper. Filled with natural rubber, this topper offers medium-firm support to suit all sleep styles: just bear in mind that it sleeps a little warm. 

6. Make sure you need one

Earthfoam Mattress Topper on a bed.

(Image credit: Earthfoam)

With the right mattress topper, you can transform the look and feel of your bed for less. My mattress topper saved my life in college and it's helped to soften up the firmer mattress in my new place. If you're sleeping in a dorm or a rental, where it just isn't practical to get a new mattress, you might get a lot of use out of a topper. Sleeping with a topper should work to reduce wear and tear on your mattress and elongate its life span.

There are lots of reasons to buy a mattress topper. With that said, a three-inch layer of foam is unlikely to solve persistent problems with your sleep. If you're wondering whether to buy a mattress topper vs a new mattress, it might be time to bite the bullet and spend the money. If you pick up the best mattress in the Presidents' Day sales, it might not even be that expensive. If you ask me, any price is worth paying for a good night's sleep.

Final thoughts

There's so much to shop in the Presidents' Day sales, from big-ticket items, such as mattresses, to sleep essentials, such as the best pillow or the best bed sheets. I'll keep track of all the best prices on the hottest products and put them all in one place, to save you time and money. 

Emilia Hitching
Sleep Editor

Emilia is our resident sleep writer. She spends her days tracking down the lowest prices on the best bedding and spends her nights testing it out from the comfort of her own home – it's a dream job. Her quest to learn how to sleep better has taken her all around the world, from mattress factories in Arizona to sleep retreats in Scandinavia. Before she joined Homes & Gardens, Emilia studied English at the University of Oxford. She also worked on the other side of the aisle, writing press releases for regional newspapers and crafting copy for Sky.