Are mattress toppers worth it? A case for and against

A woman lifts a very thick white memory foam mattress topper up by one corner off a blue bed
(Image credit: Amazon)

Thinking of buying a mattress topper and wondering whether they are worth it? The answer depends on why you’re getting one. The very best mattress toppers make an instant difference to the comfort levels of your existing bed, but there’s a wide range of difference in the quality. 

So while they are definitely worth it for many sleep scenarios (we’ll cover some of these below), a topper won’t save your bed if it’s old and in need of replacing. In that case, you need to bite the bullet and invest in the best mattress for your budget. 

Here we look at the pros and cons, plus some specific sleep comfort situations to help you decide whether this popular mattress accessory is worth your money or not.

Are mattress toppers worth it: Pros

These popular mattress accessories can supercharge your sleep comfort in a variety of ways. One of the most useful things about them is their ability to change the ‘feel’ of a mattress instantly. There are options to cool you, to add extra support and stability, or to relieve pressure points. 

Mattress toppers are a fantastic way to transform an older bed, or break in a new mattress that’s a little too firm for now. They’ll also help lengthen the lifespan of your existing mattress by keeping it free from stains and spills. 

Though we still recommend investing in the best mattress protector for proper safeguarding.

Summing it up, the pros are:

  • Helps prolong the life of an older mattress
  • Makes firmer mattresses feel softer
  • Boosts the comfort of a thinner mattress
  • Can have a cooling effect, depending on what you buy
  • Far easier to clean than an entire mattress

A person presses their hand into a blue-colour Gel Foam Mattress Topper and it leaves an indent

(Image credit: Lucid)

Are mattress toppers worth it: Cons

A mattress topper isn’t always a magical fix for every sleep comfort problem. With most measuring at between 2 and 4 inches, they won’t fix a sagging mattress or one that has springs poking through the top. More serious issues need a new mattress (take a look at our mattress in a box guide for inspiration). 

Different materials come with different benefits and issues. Latex toppers can be too firm and bouncy for some sleepers, whilst memory foam can sleep hot and make it hard for sleepers to turn over quickly in bed. Polyester blends are cheaper but become lumpy and compress quickly, while feathers can be noisy and aggravating for those with allergies. 

Summing it up, the cons are:

  • A topper won’t fix serious problems with your mattress
  • It can be costly to get a good quality one
  • Some aren’t suitable for people with allergies
  • They can make your bed too hot

So those are the major pros and cons in our debate on are mattress toppers worth it. Let’s take a look at some specific scenarios now…

Worth it if: Your mattress has a few years left

High quality mattresses are built to last for a decent amount of time (anywhere from seven to 25 years, depending on the materials they’re made from). But the truth is, they all start to lose quality, bit by bit, over the years. 

Even with regular rotation and flipping (if suitable) your mattress will be a little more worn down in the areas where we lie each night. A mattress topper adds a valuable extra layer, smoothing out the surface and giving you a more comfortable surface to sleep on. 

A topper can also help to relieve pressure points, add stability, make it easier to turn over in bed, or cool you down, depending on the one you buy.

A woman sits on a mattress holding a hand to her lower back

(Image credit: Getty)

Not worth it if: Your bed is sagging and worn-out

Whilst a mattress topper can help with a few gentle depressions, it’s not going to be able to fix a sagging and worn-out bed. So if yours has passed its sell-by date, your money is better spent on a new mattress instead.

How can you tell if your mattress needs replacing? You might notice that it’s sagging in areas even when you’re not lying on it. Foam doesn’t spring back quickly after a sleeper lies on the mattress, though modern foams are designed to be very responsive and to prevent premature sagging.

If you have broken springs or some are poking through the surface, or you’re waking up with back, shoulder or neck pain, even a four-inch topper won’t solve that. 

Worth it if: Your new mattress needs softening up

With the proper research, you should be able to find a mattress that suits your body and sleep style (read our guide on how to choose a mattress). It’s really important to buy a mattress that offers you the right kind of support for the way you sleep and that helps you wake up pain-free. 

However a new mattress can be a bit of a shock to the system if you’ve been sleeping on an older, softer and more worn-out bed. In this case a mattress topper is worth it. How come? Whilst you’re waiting for your new bed to soften up and adapt to your body, the topper will provide a softer comfort layer that prevents you from waking up feeling sore.  

Do check with the mattress manufacturer first as some of them, such as mattress in a box brand Emma Sleep, will send you a free comfort layer if the firmness isn’t quite right for you at present.

A man in a blue shirt goes mattress shopping

(Image credit: Getty)

Not worth it if: You are replacing your mattress

If you’re planning on replacing your mattress imminently, hold off on the bed topper. It’s unlikely to offer you any improvements to your sleep if you’re snoozing on a tired mattress, and certainly won’t prolong the life of one that’s so utterly past being healthy and useful. 

In addition, you have no way of knowing what accessories will work with your new mattress. Plus, you don’t always need a topper with a brand-new bed; some are infinitely comfy from the start. (Check out our Saatva Classic mattress review for one of our faves, or our Nectar Memory Foam Mattress review for smaller budgets).

Worth it if: You want to make a sofa bed comfy

Sofa beds are not known for their plushness and comfort. In order to fit a mattress inside a sofa, manufacturers have to be very precise about the depth and the resulting offering is usually not very thick. In fact, many sofa beds are so uncomfortable to sleep on, they become a waste of money. 

This is where a mattress topper is worth it and then some. Many are thin enough to leave on the sofa bed when they’re folded away, and they add enough plushness to make sofa beds comfortable enough for guests to wake up feeling refreshed.

Are mattress toppers worth it: Conclusion

Wrapping it up, mattress toppers are worth it if you are looking to boost the comfort of either a sofa bed, a brand-new bed that needs breaking in, or one that has a few years left in it but needs a tweak in terms of softness, firmness or cooling. 

But if your bed is sagging and causing you pain, it’s time for a new mattress. Our best mattress guide has some great options for every budget, including the best memory foam mattress.

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Jo Plumridge is an experienced mattress reviewer with several years' experience covering all things mattresses and sleep, and who tests memory foam, hybrid and organic mattresses. What Jo doesn't know about a boxed mattress isn't worth knowing, so naturally we tasked her with producing a series of features for Tom's Guide looking at all aspects of mattresses, from how to pick between latex and memory foam (it's a tricky one), to the seven mistakes people make when buying a mattress for the first time. When testing the DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid for Tom's Guide, Jo said: "I loved the back support and pressure relief it offered. Plus, it looks far more expensive than it is."