People often buy mattress toppers to help them sleep better. Others attest that it was able to alleviate back pain. But others felt the opposite. Does it help relieve back pain? Or can it just exacerbate the existing condition?
So stay with me as I discover the truths about using a mattress topper.
What are mattress toppers and what are they for
Mattress toppers can be made from a variety of materials and they are laid on top of your mattress. The primary purpose of toppers is to alter the top of your sleeping surface. So it can do one or both of the following.
- Can make your too soft bed a little firm
- Can make your too firm bed softer
So a mattress topper can supply additional protection and support to your existing mattress. Some people also use toppers to protect their mattresses and to act as a protective barrier.
But if it can add support why do some people still wake up with a bad lower back? It’s because of two things. A too-firm mattress can hurt your back. And using the wrong type of mattress can just exacerbate the back pain.
It can make your soft bed softer or your firm bed firmer. So you might not be able to get the relief that you are going for.
And remember that some toppers can do both of what I’ve mentioned above. And some brands can only do one thing- either to soften or harden your existing mattress. So if you bought a firm topper for your already too firm mattress, it can break your back.
The same thing goes when using soft toppers for an already soft mattress. You’ll sink deep into the mattress and this can take a toll on your back.
So how to deal? You have to know which type of topper to buy. And several factors can help you find out. Head on to the next section to find out.
Factors to consider when choosing a mattress topper
Your sleeping position
Are you a back sleeper or a side sleeper? Or perhaps you love to lay down on your stomach? Side sleepers benefit from a mattress or topper with soft to medium firmness.
Side sleepers have more intensified pressure points because the weight falls on the shoulders and hips. That’s why they will benefit from a softer topper.
These cushions the shoulders and the spine so it also supports proper spine alignment. A too-firm mattress can cause back, shoulder, and neck pain. Sidesteppers need a bit of cushion that can cradle the shoulder and hips.
Back and stomach sleepers, on the other hand, need a med firm to a firm mattress. Anything too soft won’t be able to provide support for their back. They need a bed that can provide support to their lower back so that it still follows the normal curvature of the spine.
In the same manner, stomach sleepers need a medium-firm to a firm bed. Anything too soft that makes them sink deep into the bed will force their body to assume a U shape position. And this can really be painful for the back.
Remember that the mattress should be able to help your body maintain its normal curvature. So an excessive deviation from that can result in a bad back the next morning.
Alternatively, if you tend to toss and turn during your sleep, you can also get the most relief from a medium-firm mattress.
Combination sleepers can enjoy a mix of the right amount of plush and support with a medium-firm mattress topper. This level of firmness is quite flexible and can accommodate most types of sleepers.
The material of the topper
The suitable topper material is relatively related to what type of sleeper you are. There are five different types of material used in toppers. And for a sweet slumber, it’s nice to know the pros and cons of each.
Feather toppers are very soft, perhaps it’s the softest out of the 5 types of topper material. It’ll also feel like a lush duvet cover. The softness and comfort level of feather toppers are premium and best for side sleepers. It’ll let you sink in a bit into the bed but it’s enough to provide decent support at the same time. They can also adjust to the temperature, so it’s comfortable for both hot and cold weather.
One of the downsides is that since it’s made from true feathers, it can trigger allergic reactions. And this needs regular fluffing since the feathers tend to settle on one side of the topper.
It’s the most popular material. It can conform to the mold and shape of your spine so it can help your body maintain its normal curve. This material is ideal for all types of sleepers. It’s quite responsive and can provide support for side sleepers. It can also provide optimal support for both back and stomach sleepers.
The downside is that this material can get hot, so you might be sweating under your covers during the hotter season.
Wool toppers might not be able to provide sufficient cushion for side sleepers. But they can have ample support for stomach and back sleepers.
But this material can be quite expensive. And it’s not readily available in the market. Thus, only a few brands make toppers out of wool.
Latex can provide a sufficient level of firmness but might not be cushiony enough for some side sleepers. It can be bouncy too and just a tad bit firmer than memory foam. Relief of pressure pins is one of the reasons many go for latex toppers.
But this material can get too hot. And it can also cause allergic reactions in some people.
These are the least popular and least expensive. Polyester cannot provide the needed support. Instead, it can give you a bit of cushion. So in terms of overall comfort and support, it’s quite inferior compared to the other types of topper material.
Moreover, a polyester blend topper is better off as a mattress pad. And if you just need a slight cushion to your firm mattress, this can be a good choice.
A mattress with a decent amount of padding, a topper that’s 3 to 4” is sufficient. If you have a very thin mattress, you need a topper that’s about 3 to 4” thick.
Alternatingly, your mild back pain can benefit from a thinner topper. While if you have severe back pain, a thicker topper would help alleviate the pain.
Your weight might also affect your option of a topper. The heavier you are, the more amplified the pressure points will be, especially for side sleepers.
- A soft topper works for those who weigh 130 lbs
- A medium-firm one is ideal for those who have an average weight
- A firm topper is ideal for overweight people
A durable topper can make your purchase worth the buy. A high-quality mattress topper is more likely to hold its shape over its lifetime. So you won’t have to buy a new one every time your old topper loses its shape.
Other points to consider
- If you suddenly feel back pain with your old mattress, your mattress is worn out and in dire need of replacement. But replacing a mattress can be expensive, that’s why a topper is an affordable alternative ( until you’re able to buy a new mattress).
- If your mattress is already comfortable, opt to buy a mattress protector. This can protect your mattress from wear and tear so that you might not need to buy a topper for some time. This will prevent your mattress from denting too soon.
- If you just recently developed a bad back with your old bed, some factors can contribute to it. Perhaps you need to venture back into your regular workout routine? And you might also be suffering from one of these- muscle injury, disk regeneration, osteoarthritis, or sciatica. For women, it’s also possible that you might be pregnant. These can account for the sudden back pain too.
- A topper may be a temporary solution that can make your mattress more comfortable. But it’s not a permanent solution to a dilapidated and sagging mattress. Keep in mind that while a suitable topper can help relieve back pain, nothing can replace a good quality mattress.
- To get the best quality sleep, opt for toppers that are made from natural materials. And if you have allergies to synthetic materials, make sure to pick a suitable material.
Other advantages of a mattress topper
Apart from providing support and cushion, you can also enjoy the following benefits from a suitable mattress topper.
- It can provide better air circulation for your bed.
- Some toppers can help regulate your temperature as you sleep. So you can feel comfortable both in colder and hotter weather.
- Some brands are infused with cooling gel. And this can render your sleep more comfortable.
- You can update your bed easily and more economically.
- When made from natural materials, toppers can amp up your sleep hygiene.
- Some materials can help prevent mold, mites, and mildew infestation.
- Toppers can inhibit motion transfer. So if your partner is tossing and turning at night, it won’t disrupt your sleep.
- Some toppers also have nice covers. So it can act as a mattress cover and it can help extend the life of your toppers.
Sleeping positions to help deal with back pain
What’s the best sleeping position to help relieve back pain? It varies. There are no single best positions as our bodies are wired differently. But here are 4 slumber positions that just might help relieve back pain.
On your back with pillows underneath
Sleeping on your back distributes your weight evenly so there are fewer pressure points. And placing a pillow underneath your back can help keep your spine in a natural position.
On your stomach with a pillow underneath your abdomen
Only do this if you don’t have neck issues. Sleeping in this position with a pillow underneath your abdomen will relieve the pressure from your back.
Sleeping on your side with knees tucked in aka a fetal piston is ideal for people with a herniated disc. Curing your back opens up space between the vertebrae and relieves pressure between the disc.
On the side with a pillow between your knees
It’s everyone’s favorite sleeping position, if I may say. This actually keeps your hips, pelvis, and spine aligned properly. Just don’t sleep on the same side every night, especially if you have scoliosis.
A mattress topper can help alleviate back pain, or it can also exacerbate the pain. The key is choosing a topper that has the right firmness level. And it has to hit the balance between cushion and firmness, depending on your needs.
I have listed some guidelines that you have to consider in choosing the suitable mattress topper for your bed. Don’t settle for anything in between because that can break your back.