NASA Invented It, But Today’s Best Memory Foam Mattress Toppers Have Perfected the Art
Supersoft and still cooling—what more could you want?
Published Jun 28, 2022 11:59 AM
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Around here, we’re firm believers that your bed should be the most comfortable spot in your home. And if you prefer to rest your head upon a softer surface at the end of the day, you’ve come to the right place. Memory foam mattress toppers are an easy and affordable way to make any mattress, old or new, more comfy. They can extend the life of more worn mattresses, make a too-firm mattress a little cozier, and even help notoriously uncomfortable beds—we’re looking at you, hand-me-down sleeper sofa—become totally passable.
Memory foam is preferred by those who like to feel “cradled” while they sleep. Originally developed by NASA researchers, memory foam responds to body heat by softening, allowing the sleeper to “sink” into the mattress topper. This can help relieve pressure on joints and other trouble areas, which can help reduce sleep pain. Those of a certain age may remember the famous Tempur-Pedic commercials of the 1990s that demonstrated that one person could jump on one side of the bed and not spill a glass of red wine on the other side. While we didn’t replicate that specific test at home, it’s accurate to say that memory foam is great for couples (especially when a tosser-and-turner is part of the equation).
Memory foam used to have a reputation for retaining heat, but the introduction of gels and other cooling technologies over recent decades has all but eliminated that issue. All our picks for the best memory foam mattress toppers regulate temperature well, and each has a unique set of features that sets it apart from the crowd. Here are our top picks.
- Best overall: Brentwood Home Memory Foam Mattress Topper
- Best value: Linenspa Gel-Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper
- Best splurge: Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Topper Supreme
- Best for guests: Burrow Nomad Sleep Kit
- Best cooling: GhostBed Memory Foam Topper
Best Overall: Brentwood Home Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Thickness: 2 or 3 inches | Sizes: All
What we like:
- 5-year limited warranty and 1-year sleep trial return policy
- CertiPUR-US, Climate Neutral, and Greenguard Gold certified
- Comes in a 2- or 3-inch thickness
- Cover is not removable; spot-clean only
- Topper must be rotated every month during the first 6 months, and then every other month (not doing so voids the sleep trial)
Why we chose it: Ideal for warm sleepers—and it’s one of the more environmentally friendly toppers on the market.
Brentwood Home is known for being environmentally responsible, and when it comes to eco-friendly awards, this mattress topper is the honor student. First, it’s certified CertiPUR-US, which means that the foam used meets specific standards for sustainability and durability. It’s also Greenguard Gold certified for low emissions by the UL Environment (one of the most respected home safety and sustainability inspection organizations). Additionally, the company has partnered with Climate Neutral to ensure that any carbon emissions it creates are offset 100 percent.
This topper is comfortable as heck, too. Made of at least 20 percent BioFoam (sustainably made from vegetable products), each contains a unique “blue cooling gel,” as Brentwood calls it, that reduces heat retention. Finally, the topper cover is made from very lightweight Tencel, a durable and supersoft fabric that won’t make noise or feel weird under your sheets.
Best Value: Linenspa Gel-Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Thickness: 3 inches | Sizes: All
What we like:
- Gel infused to help regulate temperature
- Comes in a wide variety of sizes
- 3-year warranty
- It may take a day or two to expand to its full size after shipping
- The 3-inch version provides a plusher feel; the 2-inch version is firmer
- Cover not included (but can be purchased separately)
Why we chose it: Temperature-regulating comfort under a hundred bucks.
Looking to get a little extra mileage out of an old mattress? Can you feel the coils in your sofa bed while you’re trying to sleep? Or maybe you’re a hot sleeper looking to cool down at night? Then this could be the best mattress topper for you. The highly rated pick contains temperature-regulating gel beads that help dissipate heat while you sleep (don’t worry, you don’t actually feel the beads, just their cooling benefits), while memory foam helps relieve pressure points by better distributing body weight.
This style comes in both 2- and 3-inch options. The 3-inch version is plusher, so if supersoft isn’t your style, drop down to the 2-inch thickness.
Best Splurge: Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Topper Supreme
Thickness: 3 inches | Sizes: All
What we like:
- 10-year warranty
- Removable, washable cover that is mold-, allergen- ,dust mite–, and dander-resistant
- Comfortable enough to use on its own when on the go
- May be too plush for those who like a firm sleep spot
- Superhot sleepers will want to upgrade to the Cooling topper
Why we chose it: Makes any surface almost as good as having a Tempur-Pedic mattress.
There’s no denying that after 25 years in the biz, the Tempur-Pedic name is top of the list when it comes to quality and comfort. The Tempur-Topper Supreme is no exception. The patented Tempur material has the same proprietary technology as Tempur-Pedic mattresses, so the topper expertly responds to your body weight and positioning to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. The brand even says that this pad is “ideal for camping, recreational vehicles, overnight guests, or other situations that make a Tempur-Pedic mattress impractical.” And while we haven’t yet tested this pad in a tent on the forest floor, we believe it. The Supreme is designed to minimize heat retention, though extra-warm sleepers can upgrade to the Tempur-Adapt plus Cooling topper.
Best for Guests: Burrow Nomad Sleep Kit
Thickness: 2 inches | Sizes: Sleep surface is 76-by-28 inches; fits most sofas
What we like:
- Includes everything, from a mattress pad to an eye mask
- Rolls into a sleeping bag–size storage sack
- Designed to stand up to wear from pets (and their paws)
- Made for sofas with 3 consecutive cushions
- Remove the couch’s back cushions for the best experience
Why we chose it: Guests won’t mind crashing on your couch when they get to sleep on this specially designed memory foam mattress pad.
The Burrow Nomad Sleep Kit makes it easy for any host to give their guests an A+ (or should we say Zzz+) sleeping experience. Everything in the kit is specifically sized to fit most three-cushion sofas. In addition to a memory foam mattress pad, there’s a fitted sheet (complete with a handy cell phone pocket), top sheet, quilted blanket, pillow, and even an eye mask. Best of all, everything packs into a sleeping bag–size bundle for easy storage. For anyone with a tiny apartment, this is a far better solution than an air mattress—for both you and your guests.
Best at Cooling: GhostBed Memory Foam Topper
Thickness: 3 inches | Sizes: All
What we like:
- 5-year warranty
- Comes with a waterproof cover
- 2-inch elastic band keeps topper in place
- May be too plush for some
- Not returnable at all and not covered by GhostBed’s 101-night sleep trial
Why we chose it: Even the most finicky sleepers will enjoy the five comfort zones and superior cooling abilities of this plush pick.
With its geometric zigs and zags, the GhostBed Memory Foam Topper looks a bit like the surface of the moon. But all those craggy-looking lines actually serve two very important purposes: First, each of five sections is specifically designed to cradle a different part of your body (head, shoulders, torso, legs, and feet). Second, all that texture creates space for airflow, which—combined with the brand’s patent-pending cover (made from ”Ghost Ice” fabric) and gel foam technology—helps ensure a cooler night’s sleep. We also appreciate the elastic band that helps keep things in place.
How We Chose These Products
Knowing that most people turn to the best memory foam mattress toppers when their own bed is feeling a bit too firm, we made sure our picks were at least 2 inches thick (aside from our sofa-friendly find, however). Comfort may be relative when it comes to all bedding, but with memory foam, that soft, sinking feeling that still cradles your body is a must. From there, we conducted industry research to dig into brand stats, manufacturing processes, and eco-conscious attributes, knowing this material has come a long way since its invention. Always check out each brand’s return policy, because there’s no way to know if you’ll like the addition of a foam topper unless you try it out for yourself.
Our Shopping Checklist
Thickness and Support
By design, memory foam creates a softer, plusher sleeping experience. As a rule of thumb, a 2-inch topper is great for adding comfort while keeping some structure (or firmness), while anything thicker starts to fall into the “plush” realm. Anything beyond 4 inches thick and you’re in “sleeping on a lush cloud” territory.
Material and Design
Mattress toppers are usually made of memory foam, down, or latex, though other fibers such as wool and bamboo are beginning to enter the market. Memory foam is the most popular material, and it’s often infused with cooling gel to help reduce heat retention. Some memory foam is also mixed with other materials in order to adjust a topper’s firmness, responsiveness to movement, or heat retention.
“Look for a mattress topper with anchor bands, or the elastic straps that stretch around the corners of the bed to keep it in place,” advises Dr. Peter Polos, sleep medicine specialist and Sleep Number expert. “That will avoid it shifting throughout the night. Also, if you sleep with a partner who has different sleep preferences than you, know that your ideal mattress topper may be different than theirs. Pick one that features half sizes and can be individualized for each side of the bed.”
Sleep Trials and Returns
“A quality mattress topper offers noticeable sleep results, so you’ll want to try it for a couple weeks to make sure you’re experiencing better sleep,” shares Polos. “In the end, if you choose to go with a topper, you must be sure that it adds to the comfort and quality of your sleep. So shop around, try where you can, and involve your bed partner.”
Mattress toppers are often considered personal items and can’t be returned unless there’s a manufacturer’s defect, in which case you’d likely receive a replacement covered under warranty. For that reason, a brand’s advertised sleep trial might not apply to its toppers. Be sure to read the fine print or ask specifically about return and sleep trial policies.
Q: What does a mattress topper actually do? Do I really need one?
“A mattress topper can help increase the quality of your mattress and provide an extra layer of cushion or warmth,” explains Polos. “Without having to buy a new bed, a mattress topper can change the feeling of how you sleep by delivering extra pressure relief, softness, and support.”
Q: Is there a difference in memory foam toppers?
The best memory foam mattress toppers isolate movement, conform to the sleeper, reduce firmness, and don’t retain heat. But there are so many variables within those categories that make memory foam toppers different. Test out a few to see what you like.
Q: How long do gel memory foam mattress toppers last?
How long a memory foam mattress topper lasts depends on the quality and material of the topper to begin with. Regularly rotating a memory foam mattress topper will help prolong its life; reference your item’s instructions for recommendations.
Q: Can I sleep on just a memory foam topper?
It depends. The Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Topper Supreme claims to be comfortable enough to be used on its own in certain situations, like in a mobile home or while camping. Sleeping on just a memory foam topper over a long period of time likely isn’t good for most people, but thicker, more substantial models may be used solo from time to time.
The Last Word
Memory foam mattress toppers help make a mattress softer and more comfortable. They can extend the life of existing mattresses—even those in the best shape—and also help breathe new life into older mattresses by adding extra cushion and plushness to the sleep surface. With varying thicknesses, materials, and compositions available, there’s a memory foam mattress topper out there for every type of sleeper.
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