In the market for a mattress topper? Here’s what you should know

The experts at Consumer Reports show us how to choose a topper and explain when it might be time to spend your money on a new mattress instead.

If you’re tossing, turning, or having other trouble getting comfy in bed, a mattress topper could be a good option to help you get a better night’s sleep. But before you buy one, Consumer Reports says it’s important to know what they can and cannot do.

“A mattress topper can help relieve pressure points for back and side sleepers and it can make a good mattress feel more comfortable,” said Consumer Reports Home Editor Tanya Christian.

There are many different types of toppers to choose from. Memory foam toppers are a popular choice. They offer that “sinking in” feeling. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to about $300 depending on the thickness and materials.

“Only thing about memory foam is that it does trap heat, so you might want to consider another kind if you sleep hot,” Christian explained.

There’s also latex -- made from the sap of rubber trees -- that offers a “springier” feel and can be naturally cooling.

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“If you’re craving a comfier, fluffier feel, try wool, cotton, feather and other fiber fills,” said Christian.

If you do decide to go with a mattress topper, Consumer Reports says to keep these things in mind:

  • You’ll want one with straps to help it stay put
  • Look for one that has a removable, washable cover
  • Know that it can add anywhere from 1 to 4 inches to the height of your mattress. (That’s important to keep in mind when you’re shopping for sheets.)

But before you spend the money on a topper, Consumer Reports says take a hard look at your mattress, because a topper can only do so much.

“Adding a mattress topper to a caving, sagging or otherwise non-supportive mattress is not gonna make it more supportive or better to sleep on. At that point it may be best to just invest in a new mattress,” Christian said.

And if you shop around, you can buy a new mattress that performs very well in Consumer Reports’ rigorous tests for a little more than some of those pricey mattress toppers. For example, the Tuft and Needle Original mattress. Consumer Reports’ tests show it’s ideal for both back and side sleepers.