Cooling mattress vs cooling mattress topper: Which should you buy?

A woman with long dark hair sleeps happily on her side on a white cooling mattress
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you repeatedly wake up at night feeling as though someone has left the heating on, or you have trouble falling asleep because you're too warm, then you could benefit from switching to a cooling mattress or topper. Especially if you're dealing with chronic night sweats or hot flashes (flushes). But when it comes to cooling mattress vs mattress topper for hot sleepers, which of the two is right for you?

Many of the best mattresses we've tested this year offer good temperature regulation, but if you aren't ready to replace your mattress entirely, a cooling bed topper is the answer. Here we talk you through the main differences in price, comfort and support, pressure relief and temperature regulation between cooling mattresses vs cooling mattress toppers.

We'll also be sharing our top recommendations for which ones to buy in this weekend's mattress sales to save you money.

What is a cooling mattress?

The best cooling mattresses are specialist beds designed with temperature-regulating materials such as gel-infused foams, naturally cooling latex, or heat-dissipating Phase Change covers. 

Cooling mattresses come in both hybrid and memory foam varieties and while a few are affordable (the Cocoon by Sealy Chill mattress costs $699 for a queen at Cocoon), the majority fall into the mid-range to luxury bracket. 

A woman with dark curly hair sits on the Cocoon by Sealy Chill

(Image credit: Cocoon by Sealy)

If you're considering investing in one of the best hybrid mattress then even if they don’t have any cooling materials included you will find that they naturally sleep a bit cooler as the layer of coils naturally promotes more airflow which will keep heat away from the body leaving you sleeping cool. 

What is a cooling mattress topper?

Mattress toppers lie on top of your mattress and add an extra layer of padding designed to change the feel of your sleep surface. Most of the best mattress toppers we've tested are two to four inches tall and are made from a variety of different materials including memory foam and latex. 

Mattress toppers usually attach to your bed by either elastic straps on each corner, or a textured base that grips onto the cover your mattress so that it doesn’t slid about when you're lying on the bed. 

While memory foam is known for retaining heat, the best memory foam mattress toppers have cooling elements to dissipate excess body heat. Cooling mattress toppers are often infused with gel foams and some of the more expensive ones use natural latex to regulate temperature. 

Cooling mattress vs cooling mattress topper: Price

Both cooling mattresses and cooling mattress toppers have a huge range of options which will suit all different budgets. When it comes to cooling mattresses you will find prices starting from $800 to over $2000.

Saatva graphite topper secured via thick elasticated bands to a Saatva luxury mattress

(Image credit: Saatva)

One of our favourite budget cooling mattresses is the Chill Hybrid from $539 at Cocoon by Sealy. Our reviewers also rate the Nectar Premier Copper Mattress from $999 at Nectar Sleep, which is a fraction of the cost of a Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Breeze mattress, which can leave you feeling up to 5 degrees cooler with a queen Tempur-Breeze priced from $4,599 at Tempur-Pedic. 

Cooling mattress toppers are a lot cheaper. You can get cooling mattress toppers from $40 to $500, but you could pay up to $2,000 if you go for a smart cooling mattress topper

Our favorite budget cooling memory foam mattress is the $64 Serta Comfort Zone Memory Foam Topper at Amazon. If you have a larger budget, we highly rate the Casper Comfy from $179 at Casper. For one of the best cooling bed toppers on the market consider the Saatva Graphite from $325 at Saatva.

Cooling mattress vs cooling mattress topper: Temperature control

Cooling mattresses incorporate features to target the build-up of heat. These can be gel grids like the GelFlex grid we see in the Purple mattresses, or gel-infused foams that pull away body heat. 

One key difference you’ll find between cooling mattress vs cooling mattress toppers is that a lot of cooling beds have a hybrid design, meaning they have a layer of coils or springs that promote better airflow. 

Cooling toppers sit on top of your mattress and use similar cooling technologies such as gel infusions or breathable fabrics to wick away heat and moisture. 

Both can use phase-change materials to absorb heat and then release it when needed, so if your body temperature drops at night it releases it so you stay a stable temperature.

Cooling mattress vs cooling mattress topper: Comfort & support

A woman with dark curly hair sleeps on her side in a pink nightdress

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The first thing you should do is determine what type of firmness you need for your sleep style. Many cooling mattresses place cooling technologies within the comfort layers, so whether you opt for memory foam or hybrid, this is likely where you’ll find features like gel grids, phase-change materials, or copper infusions.

If you sleep super hot, go for a mattress with springs. This will give you the benefits of the cooling comfort layers with the additional layer of springs that will push around extra air for a super-cooling effect. 

Mattress toppers sit on top of your mattress. A softer topper can add a plush layer, while a firmer topper offers additional support. The cooling aspect will come from gel-infused materials or moisture-wicking covers that are used.

Cooling mattress vs cooling mattress topper: Pressure relief

Both cooling mattresses and cooling mattress toppers have two main goals. The first is to keep you cool, and the second is to ensure adequate support and pressure relief. Cooling mattresses are better at both, often using a supportive core made up of either high-density foam or coils to provide a stable foundation.

This allows your weight to be evenly distributed, reducing pressure on areas like the shoulders, neck, hips and back. On top of the core layer, cooling mattresses have comfort layers aimed at alleviating pressure points. These layers are also usually made from gel-fused foams to regulate temperature. 

A woman with long dark hair wakes up after an uncomfortable night's sleep on a hybrid mattress as she's really better off sleeping on a memory foam bed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mattress toppers offer pressure relief but not as much as a mattress would. Since toppers add an extra layer to your existing bed, they'll alter the feel and are a great choice if you want to soften up a firm mattress or firm up a softer mattress. They do have a shorter lifespan though (two to four years for a topper versus eight to ten years for one of the best mattresses in a box).

When it comes to choosing between the two, first identify any areas of discomfort. If you have lower back pain, for example, buying a new mattress with a supportive core is the better choice. But if you're experiencing shoulder pain, the conforming properties of a topper may solve your problem. 

Cooling mattress vs cooling mattress topper: Motion isolation

Motion isolation stops motion transferring from one side of the bed to the other. Hybrid mattresses, which naturally cooler, aren’t as good at isolating movement as memory foam mattresses. However hybrids isolate motion better than innersprings, and all-foam beds trap heat.

When it comes to choosing a cooling mattress with great motion isolation, look for one made of all foam or that uses memory foam layers to dampen movement. Also look for materials such as gel-infused memory foam or latex to dissipate heat.

Generally, the thicker the mattress the better it is at absorbing movement. Since cooling toppers are an added layer, they aren’t very thick. This makes them less effective at absorbing motion compared to a thicker cooling mattress. 

Also, the primary focus of a cooling mattress topper is to keep your sleep surface cool. So whilst they do use pressure-relieving materials like memory foam that does offer some motion isolation, that isn't its main function. 

The top 5 cooling mattresses and toppers to buy in today’s sales 

1. Cocoon by Sealy Chill Hybridwas from $839$539 at Cocoon by Sealy 

1. Cocoon by Sealy Chill Hybridwas from $839 $539 at Cocoon by Sealy 
This mattress features on our best cooling mattress guide because it offers excellent value, pressure relief and of course, it stays super cool. It uses Phase Change Material memory foam for both comfort and coolness and also does a great job of cradling pressure points. Our Cocoon Chill Memory Foam Mattress review found it a great choice for couples as it offers superb motion isolation. You’ll never pay full MSRP for the Chill mattress with regular sales and today you can get it for 35% off with a queen down to $899.

2. Casper Comfy Mattress Topper: was from $199 $179 at Casper

2. Casper Comfy Mattress Topper: was from $199 $179 at Casper
Just like the Casper mattresses, this topper offers deep pressure relief and a comfortable contouring feel. Of course the temperature regulation is fantastic and that's down to Casper's AirScape perforated foam that draws heat away from the body. Our Casper Comfy Mattress Topper review found this topper perfect for side sleepers. Casper do run regular sales and right now you can enjoy 10% off, reducing the price for a queen to just $269. It also comes with a 30-night sleep trial, five year warranty and free shipping. 

3. The Purple Mattress:$899 at Purple

3. The Purple Mattress: was from $999 $899 at Purple
Purple offer some of the best cooling mattresses on the market. With their polymer GelFlex grid system, this mattress has over 2,800 open air channels that allow air to circulate freely keeping this mattress super cool. It also has layers of breathable foams for superb pressure relief and comfort, something we discussed during our Purple Mattress review. Purple have evergreen sales with discounts up to $200. A queen now costs $1,399 and you do get free shipping, a 10-year warranty, 100-nights to try it out. 

4. Saatva Graphite Mattress Topper:was from $325 $260 at Saatva

4. Saatva Graphite Mattress Topper: was from $325 $260 at Saatva
We rate Saatva highly here with their Saatva Classic taking the top spot on our best hybrid mattress guide, and this mattress topper shares the same magic. It's a great topper if you sleep hot and can also do a good job if you suffer from back pain as it has plenty of pressure relief especially in the lumbar area. This mattress uses a graphite layer to draw heat away from the body keeping you cool all night. There's a good deal on right now at Saatva where you can save up to $130. This reduces a queen to $356 (was $445). It also has a 180-night trial, one year warranty and free shipping. 

5. GhostBed Luxe:was from $2,595$1,298 at Ghostbed

5. GhostBed Luxe: was from $2,595 $1,298 at Ghostbed
A mattress that is both cooling and luxurious is just what we love here. It has a medium-plush tension which makes it perfect for side sleepers. Our GhostBed Luxe Cooling Mattress review says that it has strong motion isolation too so ideal for couples. You can save big at GhostBed and right now there is 50% off with a queen mattress costing just $1,548, this also comes with a 101-night sleep trial, 25 year warranty and free, fast shipping. 

Who should buy a cooling mattress?

✅ Your mattress is old and retains heat:  If your mattress is old or feeling lumpy and uneven it's time to replace it. This is doubly true if it also retains heat.

✅ Hot sleepers: It may sound obvious but if you sleep hot, then your mattress could be making it worse. A cooling mattress uses materials and designs that dissipate heat, promote airflow, and keep you feeling at a regular temperature. 

✅ You want to save on electricity: If your air con is always on blast, switching to a cooling mattress could save you money on your energy bills as you'll be able to turn your AC down at night. This means that over time the initial investment in the mattress will pay for itself. 

Who should buy a cooling mattress topper?

✅  Sleepers on a budget: If you don't have the money to invest in a new mattress a cooling mattress topper is a good compromise and a lot cheaper. 

✅ Your mattress is in good shape: If your mattress doesn't have any dips or sags then you will benefit from just adding a mattress topper. A mattress topper can also help to soften or firm up your mattress.   

✅ You want adjustable comfort: Toppers come in various materials and depths offering different levels of cooling and pressure relief. If you're unsure about committing to a whole new mattress, a topper will allow you to experiment and find the perfect level of cool comfort without the hefty price tag. 

Rachael Penn

Rachael is a freelance journalist based in South Wales who writes about lifestyle, travel, home and technology. She also reviews a variety of products for various publications including Tom’s Guide, CreativeBloq, IdealHome and Woman&Home. When she’s not writing and reviewing products she can be found walking her Sealyham and West Highland terrier dogs or catching up on some cringe-worthy reality tv.