The difference between a mattress pad, mattress topper, or even a mattress protector might not be obvious to the untrained eye.

However, you’ll find that each item is distinct and has its own unique properties that can change the way your mattress feels by adding a layer of comfort to the top of your mattress.

What is a Mattress Pad?

A mattress pad adds a slight extra layer of comfort to your bed. Mattress pads are often quilted, and can be attached to fit snugly over your mattress by anchor straps, encasements, or elastic, like a fitted sheet.

Adding a new mattress pad to your mattress will provide an additional layer of comfort, without adding a thick layer of latex or foam. This can be helpful if you find you find your firm mattress is a little too firm. It can also be a little disappointing if what you’re really looking for is a high-quality mattress topper.

Types of Mattress Pads

There are a wide variety of mattress pads types and each one offers various benefits to the sleeper.


A cotton mattress pad offers a layer of quilting to your mattress. It’s a machine washable, affordable option that is also very durable. One of the drawbacks to cotton is its high absorbency.


Latex mattress pads are much bouncier and still retain that extra level of comfort thanks to its contouring. A latex pad is more likely to change the feel of your mattress.

Memory Foam

Memory foam mattress pads are a solid option and they are responsive to the unique shape of your body. However, it’s not the best option for protection, as it doesn’t block out spills.

Benefits of Mattress Pads

Mattress pads are designed to alter the way the mattress feels so that you might experience more restful sleep. The primary objective of a mattress pad is to add a layer of comfort.

Health and Safety

Some others turn to mattress pads for their health benefits. Adding a protective layer around your mattress can keep you safe from dust that can cause allergies and protect against bed bugs.


Some people will find that their new mattress is too firm, and want a breathable layer of cushioning. Or perhaps their current mattress is old but not yet ready for replacement and needs a thin layer of added comfort.


If you have a mattress protector that makes noise or just a squeaky bed, a mattress pad will help muffle it. You can also decide whether you actually need a mattress protector.

What is a Mattress Topper?

Mattress toppers lay across the surface of your mattress and add a thick layer of comfort. They are much thicker than mattress pads and most mattress toppers are made from things like memory foam, gel memory foam, fiberfill or latex.

Old mattresses can experience some wear and tear from regular use over the years. Mattress toppers are a great way to get extra support and are much more affordable than buying a new mattress altogether.

Types of Mattress Toppers

Some of the most popular types of mattress toppers are memory foam mattress toppers or gel memory foam toppers, latex mattress toppers, and feather mattress toppers.

Memory Foam

An acceptable way to change the feel current mattress is by adding a memory foam topper. These toppers have the ability to contour to your body while reducing any tossing and turning.


Latex toppers relieve back pain as the material works to eliminate pressure points while you sleep. Latex is also 100% resistant to mold and mildew. Some products use a mix of mattress materials, like the plush organic mattress topper from Birch. This one is made of organic cotton, organic wool and natural latex.


Feather mattress toppers are perfect for softening up a too-firm mattress. It’s a very lightweight material that works well to regulate body heat.

Benefits of Mattress Toppers

People turn to mattress toppers for additional support when they find their current mattress unsatisfactory. Many people who suffer from back pain find that using a mattress topper aids in pressure relief. Mattress toppers are affordable, and made from materials that are known for making the body more comfortable during sleep.


The extra layer of cushioning relieves pressure points in the body that are usually under stress during sleep. Using a mattress topper will help relieve back pain and muscle aches.


If you’re unsatisfied with your current mattress, you might not need to toss and spend hundreds of dollars on a new mattress when a mattress topper could be the answer.


Many mattress toppers, made of memory for or latex, are known for contouring to the body. Certain types of mattress toppers are also great for regulating body heat.

Should You Choose a Mattress Pad or Topper?

If you’re mostly happy with the level of support that your current mattress provides but want a bit of added comfort, a mattress pad might do the trick.

However, if your mattress leaves you stiff in the morning you might consider turning to a mattress topper. Mattress toppers do a much more thorough job of addressing your sleeping need than mattress pads do, and are a great alternative to buying a brand new mattress.

There is an elephant in the room here, though. If your mattress is worn out, you may just need to get a new one altogether. Think about how long mattresses are supposed to last, and if it’s time for a new one, take the sleep quiz to help make your decision.

Adam Tishman
Adam is a co-founder and CEO of Helix Sleep

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