A memory foam topper might be the ticket if you demand an excellent sleep from your old mattress, yet your tight budget won’t allow you to splurge on a new one.
Besides rejuvenating a lumpy mattress, these bed solutions also solve the issues of an overly firm or soft new mattress. But considering all the different brands available, which model fits your rest needs better?
This comprehensive guide captures everything that you need to know about memory foam toppers and some of the best models worth checking out.
What is memory foam?
Memory foam is a special type of material that was designed purposely for astronauts by NASA. Its main purpose was to cradle the astronauts on their seats and deflect any potentially injurious impacts by gravitational pull as the rocket shot to space and during re-entry into the atmosphere.
Memory foam was released to public domain in 1989. Fagerdala World Foams (a Swedish Company) was the first to use it on mattresses in 1991.
Why is memory foam popular?
Similar to mattresses, toppers are available in all sorts of materials including latex, wool, polyester, and goose and down feathers. As our general guide on mattress toppers shows, each of these materials has its target sleepers. They also have their share of advantages and drawbacks.
However, despite all the myriad options available, memory foam has been the most popular among most homeowners since it made its debut on mattresses. Here are some of the major reasons for its popularity;
Excellent conforming ability
Memory foam is also known as Visco-elastic foam due to its ability to react to the sleeper’s body temperature and weight. When you lay on this mattress for some minutes, its cells respond to your heat and weight.
This makes the mattress to compress and mold to appropriate points on your body. Sleep Specialist, Donald Arand, Director of Kettering Sleep Disorders, Dayton, Ohio, tells WebMD that this excellent conformity allows the body to rest in its most natural position which is great for a more restful sleep.
Reliefs pressure points
Pressure points are areas that support a large proportion of your weight including your knees, shoulders, and hips. Due to their demanding task, stress and pain may build up around these areas after a long day.
The definite advantage that memory foam has over its immediate competitor, latex, is that it does not push back against these points. The fact that it cradles these points eliminates the risk of aggravating the pain as latex might do.
Actually, memory foam reliefs any pain that may have accumulated around your sensitive points. According to Sleep specialist Kathy R. Gromer, MD, of Minnesota Sleep Institute, this may improve sleep significantly.
This feature makes memory foam mattresses and mattress toppers a favorite choice for people suffering from arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Offers balanced support to your back and spine
Compliments to its top-notch conformity, a memory foam mattress topper supports the entire body evenly. It does this by distributing the weight throughout the sleeping surface thereby allowing your spine to rest in its most natural resting position.
We cannot say the same for latex. Latex that has been extracted through the Dunlop process tends to be a little bit on the firmer side. Consequently, it may fail to offer critical support to vital areas of your body including the lower back and the upper body.
Back and side sleepers of average weight may be forced to sleep at unnatural positions. Needless to mention, this is a harbinger for back pain and muscle tension, especially around the shoulders, neck, hips, and heels.
Allows different sleeping positions
Another impressive feature of memory foam toppers is that they accommodate almost all sleeping positions and styles. Thanks to the viscoelastic nature of memory foam, these toppers conform and cradle to every part of your body that is in contact with the topper.
What this means is that whether you are a stomach sleeper, back snoozer, or side sleeper, a memory foam topper will fit you.
But there’s a small catch. While these toppers suit all sleeping styles, do know that they differ in terms of firmness and density levels.
Thus, the best topper for side sleepers may not automatically be a good choice for a back sleeper. We will talk about firmness and density levels, their importance, and how to get the 2 values right in the next section.
Minimal partner disturbance
A partner who never stops to turn, toss and roll can easily change the bed into a war zone. Lots of movements in the bed can lead to disturbed sleep patterns which may have tremendous effects on your health. It can also be quite a problem especially for a couple with varying schedules.
But that’s where memory foam toppers come in. Memory foam is renowned for its ability to absorb movements and isolate you from your partner’s motions. This is an important feature especially if you are a light sleeper.
Worth noting is that high-density foams perform better in terms of motion isolation than low-density foams. So, if you or your partner moves a lot at night, you know where to turn to.
Great for people with allergies
Similar to memory foam mattresses, these toppers are also known for their hypoallergenic properties. The dense structure of these toppers and mattresses curb dust mites and other allergens such as moulds and pet dander effectively.
This feature makes memory foam toppers a win-win for people who may have allergic reactions towards other materials such as latex, wool, feather, and other fibers.
Memory foam lasts long
A mattress topper is meant to be a temporary solution to purchasing a new bed. However, it’s important that it lasts long enough to;
- Pay for itself (value for money)
- Allow you enough time to get a new mattress
- Give your new overly firm mattress time to break in
You may ask, ‘’what makes memory foam so durable?’’ The reason for this is its viscous elastic property. This feature makes memory foam sensitive to your body temperature.
It ‘melts’ and molds to your natural curves but regains its original shape once you get up. If the topper is of good quality, it should do this year after year.
On average, a quality memory foam topper could last you upwards of 5 years. Let’s just agree that this is enough time to break in your new mattress or save money for a new one.
Drawbacks of Memory Foam toppers
As good as memory foam toppers appear to be, they have several prominently mentioned drawbacks that might be a turn off for most homeowners. The major cons are;
They tend to sleep hot
As we mentioned before, memory foam melts due to your body temperature and weight to contour to your body shape. This means that as the night wears on, the mattress topper tends to envelop you in a cocoon.
While this is its key advantage in regard to pressure relief, it makes the topper to trap heat around you. Again, its density constricts air circulation between the topper and your body. Heat retention is also the most cited problem with memory foam mattresses.
To offset the issue of sleeping hot, most manufacturers have introduced cooling components into the memory foam material. These components include gel beads and plant products (more about these later)
This is the chemical odor that emanates from a new mattress. It is not surprising that memory foam mattresses and toppers have this problem. Remember that, unlike latex that is derived from trees, memory foam is manufactured from polyurethane and other petroleum chemicals.
That is why a memory foam topper will have a smell similar to that of fresh paint or a new car. Luckily, these odors always fade away with time.
These chemical smells sound scary to most people. But do know that although a small proportion of people report slight complications, these odors never reach potentially harmful levels.
If you are super sensitive to these smells, however, here is a basic guideline on how to ensure that your mattress is safe for use;
- Ensure it is USA-made- the USA has the stringiest regulatory standards regarding the manufacture of foam products
- Check out for the Certi-PUR Certification seal– Certi-PUR US is a non-profit certification program that tests, analyses, and certifies polyurethane foam products.
It ensures that these products have low VOCs and are made without; mercury, lead, PBDEs, TDCPP, TCEP, Phthalates, and ozone depleters among other potentially harmful ingredients.
Memory Foam Topper Buying Guide (Features that matter)
Consider the type of Foam
While visco-elastic foam is the common type of foam, the need to curb its major problems (heating and off-gassing) has led to the development of 2 other types of foams; gel-infused and natural (plant-based) foams. You will learn more about this in a short while.
After identifying the type of foam that you want to go with, the next most important thing is to identify the size of the topper. Of course, this will depend on the size of your bed.
Toppers come in all sizes to correspond to different bed sizes. It’s important that you get a size that fits. A bulky topper may make it hard to spread your bed sheets. On the other hand, a small topper can create a ledge around the sleeping surface. This could lead to spinal misalignment- you don’t want this!
Memory foam toppers range from 2 inches to 4 inches in terms of thickness. Although thin mattresses do very little in adding comfort to your existing mattress, they have excellent mobility. They may also solve the problem of sleeping hot.
Thin mattress toppers are of great use when you already own a comfortable mattress but you wish to add a little bit of support or softness.
Unfortunately, if your mattress is old or overly firm, a 2-inch topper may not suffice since it won’t contour enough to your body shape. This affects support.
3-inch toppers offer mid-range thickness and are the most popular. This is because they contour to your natural body curves to offer you optimum support where you need it without sleeping as hot as a 4-inch topper.
4-inch toppers may be your go-to choice if your mattress is badly worn out. They offer the most cushion. This thickness might also be ideal for heavy people. The major drawbacks with thicker toppers are that they retain heat the most and can also be quite pricey.
Density vs your preferred firmness
Now, memory foam toppers offer 3 basic density levels low, medium, and high density. Can you tell the difference? I bet no. So, let’s have a quick overview of the 3 levels.
Put in the simplest way possible, density refers to the weight of the memory foam per volume. You can learn a lot of things about the topper simply by understanding its density.
In memory foam, density is measured by weighing one cubic foot of foam. Thus, if a topper claims to have a density of 2lbs, it means that a one-cubic-foot block will weigh 2lbs.
However, do know that some mattress toppers may combine 2 layers with different densities. This offers the sleeper the benefits of the 2 layers.
Low density (3lbs and under)
Low-density mattress toppers have 3 pounds of foam used in each cubic foot. This isn’t much of the construction material compared to the levels below.
Given the viscous-elastic behavior of memory foam (reacting to body temperature), a low-density topper tends to mold to your body quite fast. Therefore, low-density toppers feel soft right off the bat. They don’t subject you to some stiffness before softening.
That being said, a low-density topper may be ideal an ideal option if all you need is to add a soft feel to your mattress rather than support.
Medium density (4-5lbs)
This is the most popular level. It tends to favor a large proportion of people due to its good mix of firmness and softness.
The thing with a medium density topper is that you don’t sink into it as fast as you would do on a low-density topper. On the same note, it does not subject you to stiffness as a high-density top would do.
This level also tends to have a mid-range price tag. If you are not so sure about which density bracket to consider, I would recommend you to try this.
High density (6lbs+)
Orthopedic mattress toppers fall into this category. This bracket is ideal for people suffering from conditions such as arthritis that may cause excruciating pain on their spine, back, and hips.
Unlike our first options, high-density mattresses may feel so stiff at first. However, they heat up like any other foam to mold to your natural curves. They only thing is that they take the longest time to bottom out. As such, they offer the best support to the sleeper who needs some therapeutic care.
Needless to mention, high-density toppers and mattresses are the priciest. But they are also the most durable.
As I told you, some models may combine 2 densities in a bid to offer you the best of both worlds. A good example here is a topper with a low-density top layer on a high-density layer. This model might be ideal if you want a soft topper with a good amount of support.
Best Memory Foam Mattress Toppers
Visco-elastic memory foam
Also known as regular foam, this is the mother of all other foams. It is the most popular and the cheapest of the 3.
- Excellent conformity
- Great motion isolation
- Good for back pain relief
- High durability
- Sleeps hot
- Off-gassing issues
- Has slow response
Best Visco-elastic memory foam topper
Red Nomad Ultra Premium Memory Foam Mattress Topper (2’’)
One of the best-selling and affordable toppers out there, the Red Nomad has a thickness of 2 inches and a density of 2.5lbs. These 2 values put it squarely as a favorable option for lightweight sleepers who want to add a feeling of softness to their already supportive mattresses.
As such, I wouldn’t recommend it if you are looking for support. Again, if you are too heavy, for instance, above 200lbs, this one might not be for you. You need a thicker topper.
This topper comes in 6 different sizes; California King, King, Queen, Full, Twin, and Twin XL. We like that this is a Certi-PUR certified topper that has been made in the USA. As such, you really don’t need to worry so much about the quality and your safety when sleeping on it.
It may have some smells once you take it out of the package. But this will subside with proper airing. Worth mentioning is that we didn’t find any serious complaint about irritating odors.
Does it sleep hot? Well, given its thickness and low-density, we don’t expect this model to sleep as hot as a high-density 4-inch topper. The manufacturer claims that the Red Nomad has been designed with Cool Cycle Polymer technology and might help in sleeping cool.
- Made of certified materials
- Satisfaction or refund guarantee
- May sleep hot
- Not the best especially for heavy people and side sleepers
Gel-infused memory foam Toppers
As the name suggests, gel-infused memory foam toppers refer to regular memory foam that has been mixed with gel microbeads. This science brings 2 major benefits.
First, the gel beads help in dissipating heat from the sleeping surface. This means that these toppers may sleep a little bit cooler than plain memory foam. Second, these gel beads add to the density of the topper which leads to improved comfort.
The major disadvantage with gel-infused toppers is that while they dissipate heat, the cooling effect is not long-lasting. This is because, rather than transferring the heat away from the sleeping surface, these beads absorb it.
This means that the cooling effect stops once the maximum heat absorption limits have been reached. When this happens, the gel beads actually become heat reservoirs and may sleep hotter than regular foam.
- Helps in dissipating heat from the body
- Microbeads add to the density of the topper and may improve comfort
- May degrade faster
- Sleeps hot eventually
Best Gel-infused Memory Foam Mattress topper
LUCID Gel Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper (2-inch)
Are you looking for an affordable topper that will add a soft feel and a little bit of support to your mattress? The Lucid Gel infused topper might be a good option. Unlike our first option, this is a 2-inch topper but with a 3-pound density.
That being said, you should expect a little bit more cushioning around your neck and shoulders. It might not be the best option for people with chronic spine and back pain especially emanating from injuries. However, most buyers report that it has helped alleviate back and neck pains that their old or overly firm mattresses caused.
If you like sleeping cool, the gel beads in this topper may help in distributing the heat across the bed. We also like that this topper has ventilation holes that may help in boosting airflow. This added breathability may contribute to your comfort.
- Gel beads dissipate heat for a cool sleep
- Ventilation holes add to its breathability
- It’s affordable
- 30-day return window and a 3-years warranty
- Does not have a cover
- Sleeps hot after some time
Natural (plant-based) Memory Foam toppers
Plant-based memory foam is the latest entrant in this arena. As the name suggests, this type of memory foam uses plant oils (typically from soy) to replace a certain portion of petroleum products.
The main idea behind this infusion is to solve some of the prominent drawbacks with traditional memory foam namely off-gassing, heat retention, and slow response.
In our experience with these mattresses, and with the backing of reports from users, plant-based mattresses and toppers seem to work as expected.
- They sleep cooler- these toppers have a more open-cell structure which leads to minimal heat being trapped
- Have fast response time- response time refers to how fast the topper recontours to your movements. Plant-based foam has a higher response time than conventional memory foam albeit slower than latex. As such, these toppers may be the best choice for intimate couples.
- Disintegrates fast
- May be pricey
Best Plant-based memory foam topper
SleepJoy 3″ ViscO2 Memory Foam Mattress Topper
The SleepJoy 3’’ is one of the most recommendable options in this category. This topper comes in all six sizes. So, there might be an option for everyone. In addition to this, it comes in 2 thicknesses; 2-inch and 3-inch.
As we said before, the 2-inch topper might be a superb choice if you are planning to improve the softness of your already supportive mattress. On the other hand, the 3-inch thick option is ideal if you want a topper that contours nicely to your body curves to relief your pressure points.
This 3-inch memory foam also tends to support different sleeping positions without trapping more heat around you as a 4-inch topper would do.
SleepJoy ViscO2 has some good news for sleepers who toss and turn in their sleep due to heat. Its plants-oils infusion technology offers it a more open-cell construction that allows greater airflow.
The manufacturer has also added some ventilation holes to boost its air circulation. Most buyers affirm that this topper actually sleeps cooler than most gel-infused and traditional memory foam.
Are you looking for more back support? You will be excited to realize that ViscO2 has a 4-pound density. This unique thickness and density combination make it a great option for most sleepers regardless of their sleeping styles.
- Sleeps cooler
- Contours to your curves to relieve pressure points
- Medium-density offers optimum support
- Relatively affordable
- Some people find it a bit firm
- Reports of knockoffs
Need more options?
DreamFoam Bedding DF20GT2050 Gel Memory Foam Topper
This DreamFoam Bedding Gel-infused topper is yet another great option for those who are looking for something more affordable, cushy, and relatively supportive.
This topper comes in 8 different sizes including Short queen, full- X Large, and King X Large. The good news is that you can cut it to fit your needs, for instance, an RV bed or a massage bed.
The Dreamfoam Bedding topper offers the 2-inch thickness option only. While this may be a little bit thin for heavy people, it makes a great deal for people who are looking for a soft top that won’t sleep hot.
Worth noting is that this topper isn’t too firm and neither is it too soft. Therefore, it might be a solution to an overly firm mattress that causes you back pains.
Among several other positive feedbacks, most homeowners report that this topper arrived odor-free. For those who experienced the ‘new mattress smell,’ they noted that it dissipated within hours.
- Minimal to zero odors
- Does not get overly hot
- Helps in relieving back pain
- May be too thin for heavy people
- Has no cover
Lucid 4’’ Bamboo Memory Foam Mattress Topper
If you weigh over 300lbs, a 4-inch memory foam mattress topper may be the way to go. The major problem with these thicker models is that they tend to sleep hotter than their thinner alternatives. Fortunately, Lucid seems to have found a solution for this issue; bamboo charcoal.
Although this technology is relatively new in mattresses, bamboo fabric is quite common in bed sheets and pillowcases.
When used in mattresses, bamboo adds several most sought-after benefits into the mix. Improved breathability is one of the common benefits that past buyers have reported about the Lucid bamboo topper.
With its 4-inch thickness and medium density, this topper contours to your body shape while offering you enough support. As such, you don’t actually feel trapped in. This helps in holding your body in its most natural position and, as most buyers affirm, it helps in relieving back pain and spine pain.
Again, bamboo charcoal is highly regarded for its anti-microbial properties that combine memory foam’s hypoallergenic nature to make this topper one of the best for people with sensitive skin.
We do like that Lucid also offers this mattress in 2-inch and 3-inch thickness varieties. So, regardless of your weight or firmness needs, there might be a Lucid bamboo charcoal topper just for you.
- Highly breathable
- Minimal odors
- Great for people with sensitive skin
- Available in different thickness levels
- Several people find it either too plush or too firm (be sure to get the right thickness)
Sleep Innovations 4-Inch Mattress Topper
Our last pick here is, hands down, the most expensive. But that’s probably because it’s also the most versatile in regard to creating a heavenly sleep experience for you.
The main reason why we included the Sleep Innovations 4-inch on our list is its unique 2-layer construction design. This mattress offers you a 2-inch quilted fiberfill layer on a 2-inch memory foam layer. The first layer of this topper offers you a soft feeling while the second layer supports you to relieve your pressure points.
In addition, the Sleep Innovations features gel-infusion and might help you sleep better thanks to its cooling effect. Its motion absorption feature may also offer you a good rest amidst your partner’s movements.
Another key selling point about it is that it comes with a removable and machine-washable cover. This increases its longevity by protecting it from spills and stains.
The major problem that most buyers highlight is its durability. Despite its 10-year limited warranty (which is quite impressive, by the way) most people say that it does not live to see its fifth year.
This might be a big letdown given its price. However, if you are looking for a temporary solution and you don’t mind the price tag, this one might fit the bill.
- Contours to your pressure points
- Comes with a removable cover
- Gel-infusion for heat dissipation
- 10-year limited warranty
- Does not last long
- Others find it a little bit firmer than anticipated
It is apparent that memory foam toppers have the upper hand when it comes to revitalizing your sleep. The good news with memory foam technology is that it has presented us with lots of options in this arena.
Having explored various top-rated memory foam mattress toppers on the market today, there’s no doubt that SleepJoy 3’’ memory foam topper with plant-based ingredients fits the bill for most people.
The most appealing feature about it is that it combines a mid-range thickness (3 inches) and a mid-density firmness. This is a good mix for a mattress topper that will allow you to sleep in different styles.
Its 3-inch thickness cradles you comfortably to relieve your pressure points while its density offers you enough support so you don’t feel stuck. Importantly, it has almost zero foam smell since it is odor-neutralized in the factory.
If you are open to suggestions, however, don’t forget to peruse our other guide on the best mattress topper. Perhaps a topper made of latex or egg crate foam might suit you the best.