Even the best mattress topper—and there are some good ones, as you’re about to read—isn’t for everyone. A topper’s purpose is to make a bad mattress better, and the best fix for that issue is always to buy a new mattress. (And we’ve got you covered with the best mattresses for all types of sleepers, including the best cheap mattresses.)
But not everyone has the budget to participate in the great mail-order mattress revolution of the last decade. If you’re in student housing or subletting, you probably can’t—or don’t want to—drop cash on a new mattress. That’s where a mattress topper comes into play. While the best mattress toppers can’t change your next door neighbor’s penchant for late-night trombone practice, they can counteract a saggy, sad mattress, and offer some relief to a twisted, unsupported spine. And they can work for all types of mattress aficionados: side sleepers, back sleepers, and chest sleepers; sleepers who prefer a firm mattress or a cushy mattress; hot sleepers who need something breathable, folks with latex allergies or who want the luxe feeling of a memory foam mattress topper, and beyond.
To find the best mattress topper for everyone, I sent a half-dozen of the best-rated toppers to the only college students I know: my younger sister and her friends. Over the last few weeks, she and two pals took turns sleeping on and evaluating each mattress topper for its support, comfort, effect on temperature, and smell. (As it turns out, aroma can be an issue.) After some deliberation, the group came to a clear consensus. These are their picks for the best mattress toppers that 2021 has to offer.
The Best Mattress Topper for Back and Side Sleepers: Tempur-Pedic Topper Supreme
Temper-Pedic topper supreme mattress topper
Most mattress toppers are effectively thin layers of memory foam, so it’s no shock that our panel of collegiate sleepers liked this one from Tempur-Pedic best. After all, it was the company that started the memory foam mattress movement. The Topper Supreme is medium-firm—you’ll sink a bit, but quickly find yourself supported by the dense foam. (Though one aristocratic tester wished it had more “fluff.”) The not-too-hard, not-too-soft factor make this a pretty good topper for anyone, regardless of sleep position—but particularly comfortable for back sleepers, side sleepers, and midnight movers. It’s worth noting that memory foam tends to absorb (and radiate) body heat, so if you run hot, you may want to try a latex-based mattress topper.
The Best Mattress Topper for Back Sleepers: Sleep On Latex Pure Green
Sleep on Latex mattress topper
Sleep On Latex
Though all our testers were put off by the Sleep on Latex name (”Sooo weird”), the back sleepers in the group really liked the Pure Green mattress topper. Latex—instead of memory foam—means this topper is firmer than they’re used to (which is maybe a testament to junk college bed mattresses), but the topper still earned marks for being supportive and springy. “It reminded me of a super comfortable trampoline,” one tester said. And unlike other latex mattress toppers, the Sleep on Latex Pure Green model didn’t cause any of our testers to overheat through the night—perforations in the foam do seem to make it a bit more cool. If you’re a particularly hot sleeper, scope out our favorite breathable mattress topper down below—but otherwise, this is an excellent topper.
Honorable Mention for Back Sleepers: Nest Bedding “Alexander”
Nest Bedding “Alexander” cooling topper
The Nest Bedding mattress topper is another firm mattress topper, built for back sleepers. Head-to-head, our testers preferred the one from Sleep on Latex, but the Nest Bedding option is a good option if you’re avoiding latex, for whatever reason. Testers also said the Nest smells like “coconut oil and cookies,” if that appeals.
The Best Mattress Topper for Stomach Sleepers: Lucid 3-Inch 5-Zone Lavender Topper
Lucid memory foam mattress topper
If your dream bed most closely resembles a cartoon cloud, the Lucid mattress topper may be as close as you get on Earth. This mattress topper was one of the few our panel tested that could be accurately described as “fluffy”—which was exactly what the lone stomach sleeper in the group wanted. (It may The Lucid topper has a lot of natural sink, which gives a lovely feeling of being suspended in air, but it’s still dense enough to support body weight. As a bonus, the three testers liked that the topper smelled like lavender—a scent that will fade with time, but masks the fresh-from-the-package chemical foam funk that accompanies most toppers in some form or another.
Best Mattress Topper for Hot Sleepers: SlumberCloud Core
SlumberCloud Core mattress pad
“Where’s the fluff?” one tester asked of the SlumberCloud, which all the sleepers agreed wasn’t particularly cloud-like. But if you’re a hot sleeper don’t walk away yet—the mattress topper’s temperature-regulating fabric really worked according to the collegians. To be fair, none of the mattress toppers we tested presented an issue for hot sleepers, but this is the only mattress topper that actively cooled down the bed.