Pressure-relieving mattress toppers can make the person more comfortable in bed and may help prevent and treat pressure sores. Although many types of mattress overlay materials are available, no single type is effective in all situations. To be effective, the overlay must fit the patient’s body contour and be properly used. You can also read our post about hospital bed mattresses and toppers here.
A pressure-relieving mattress overlay is often made of open- or closed-cell foam or a viscoelastic material. These materials are typically not harmful to the skin and can help reduce friction. They also keep fluids from soaking through to the mattress surface, protect the person from sharp objects underneath, and prevent the development of pressure sores.
Pressure sores (also known as pressure injuries) are skin lesions that develop in response to pressure. Stress, friction, abrasion or irritation during activities like sleeping, sitting, walking, working or changing position causes stenosing tenosynovitis (also known as neuropathic tenosynovitis), a chronic inflammatory condition that does not respond to commonly used pain medication. These lesions can lead to skin breakdown and scarring and sometimes infection after repeated damage on the skin’s surface.
Few major problems can occur, depending on the type of material:
- The topper can also make the bed higher, which can make transfers more difficult if your care receiver is still walking and doesn’t have a height-adjustable bed.
- Some overlays have a more unstable transfer surface.
A standard hospital bed mattress may be uncomfortable for the person, especially if he or she spends a lot of time in bed. For example, he or she may find the mattress too firm and uncomfortable. Or the vinyl mattress cover may make the individual hot and sweaty. Both pressure and moisture contribute to the development of pressure sores, especially with high-risk individuals.
The pressure-relieving mattress topper can be purchased in many different thicknesses that vary from 1 inch (25mm) to 2 inches (50mm).
If the mattress cover has buttons or hooks, it may not easily attach to the upper surface of the mattress. This can make a transfer difficult or impossible.
Some manufacturers recommend the use of an adhesive film on the top to keep the overlay in place and prevent slippage. However, some people have found that this method does not work very well, especially for older patients who may be less active and more frail than younger people. It is recommended that you test a bed product before you purchase it.
Many caregivers place a special pressure relieving mattress topper or overlay on top of the existing mattress as pictured here. Or the person’s health care provider may prescribe one to treat a pressure sore. Although many types of mattress overlay materials are available, no single type is effective in all situations.
4 Main types of Pressure Relief Mattress Toppers
Below are four of the main types of toppers or overlays, each with their pros and cons. It’s vital that you talk to your healthcare professional before making a purchase, especially if the person you care for is frail, spends a lot of time in bed, or has a pressure sore.
Medicare may pay for all or part of the cost of a specialty mattress or overlay if the person meets certain coverage guidelines. Check with your healthcare provider for more information.
1.Pressure Relieving Foam
Some of the pressure-relieving foam toppers you can find here.
How it Works
- Special “open-cell” construction disperses person’s weight, reducing areas of high pressure.
- Two main types are latex foam and visco-elastic foam (also called Memory Foam).
- Can be effective in preventing and treating certain types of pressure sores.
- Some, but not others, find visco-elastic foam hot.
- Some, but not others, find visco-elastic foam hard to turn over on.
- Check bed height for transfer safety due to the change in bed height.
•Effective pressure relief depends on the thickness and density of the overlay. A 3-inch height with a density of 4 to 5 lbs (pounds) is generally recommended, though factors like “response time” complicate how soft or hard a mattress feels.
Please note: We’re not including information on the “egg crate” foam mattress topper as the foam used is not a pressure relief material.
2. Australian Medical Genuine Sheepskin Wool (NOT SYNTHETIC)
How it Works
• Thick, soft, springy wool fibers distribute body weight and pressure points over a large area.
• Wicks away moisture from the skin.
• Sheepskin absorbs over 30% of fiber weight in moisture.
• Smooth pile reduces friction & skin tearing.
• Good for people who complain of heat; remains cool in summer and warm in winter.
• Sheepskin is placed on top of the bottom fitted sheet (person sleeps on the sheepskin).
• Safety-Wise! Not all sheepskin is the same. Choose sheepskin with an optimum therapeutic wool pile that meets the Australian Standard 4480.1 for Australian Medical Sheepskins.
• Buy a single size for localized relief from pressure sores.
• Buy a double size for full-body relief.
• Green sheepskin is specially tanned to be urine resistant.
• Machine washable and dryable but may take two drying cycles. Although pricey, consider buying two so you can wash one.
3. Alternating Air Pressure with Pump
How it Works
• Rows of air cells inflate/deflate alternately so the pressure on any given point changes continually.
• Plastic air tubes deliver air from the electric motor to the mattress.
• The mattress is covered by a sheet.
• Person may become agitated at the motor noise and constantly changing pressure and movement of the mattress.
• Person may find the plastic cover too hot or too comfortable (our testers did)
• Person must be able to tolerate pressure in certain areas.
• Talk to a health care provider before purchasing – there may be better alternatives.
How it Works
There are many hundreds of different types of gel and foam mattress toppers you can browse here.
• Gel sections sandwiched in-between top and a bottom foam layer, distribute a person’s weight more evenly to relieve pressure around bony prominences.
• May have a convoluted, high-density polyurethane foam topper.
• Has non-shear/low friction surface
• Some may find it hot; look for a breathable cover.
• Check bed height for safety due to change in bed height.
Best Memory Foam Mattress Toppers
When parents come over to visit, they don’t have to worry about their backs aching after sleeping on new mattress. If you know better, pressure relief mattress with toppers and pads work wonders. It is not any different for this Sweetnight Mattress Topper.
We found this medium soft 3” SweetNight Mattress Topper to be quite convenient and affordable as an upgrade to other mattresses. Featuring a natural fiber made of bamboo and an OEKO-TEX-certified surface, this mattress is the one you need if you are the person with a sensitive skin or who is prone to allergies.
We would definitely recommend this mattress which comes with a topper that brings together some nice cooling and favorable properties thanks to the bamboo charcoal foam and cool gel memory foam, coupled with an innovative design of an egg crate made to provide the best support, comfort, and breathing freedom in all seasons and on whichever sleeping position one likes.
The only downside about this mattress is that the soft side is not really super soft. If anything, it has a bit of some medium firmness. It feels a bit plush but only when you lie on the bed until your body settles in when you lay down completely.
Otherwise, the slight feeling of sinking in only lasts a few seconds and might make you even sleep immediately. One can tell there is a bit of gel-like feeling in the memory foam which makes it even more pleasant.
2. Best Price 4-Inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper
We decided to go with this memory foam mattress topper after much research and consideration. We tested this mattress with an individual on the heavy side to test how well it would support a heavier weight, we had concerns that the individual in question would just sink right through, but we were pleasantly surprised when it adequately supported the weight and provided a comfortable night’s sleep.
We were able to test out the mattress the same day it was delivered and are highly satisfied with the durability and high-quality materials.
This mattress topper works well for individuals with back pain. The supportive, yet soft quality provides a sleeping surface that will help alleviate back pain by eliminating pressure points. As this topper is fairly thick, it is sufficient to eliminate pressure point in heavier users while still being soft enough to sleep comfortably. If you are concerned with pressure points, you should definitely consider using this topper.
This topper is an excellent value and is of high quality.
It is easy to set up and does require some time to allow it to fully expand after being removed from the packaging. For us, it only took about one day to fully expand after removing it from the packaging.
Standard size sheets will work with this topper.
The only negatives we found with this topper is that it had a slight odor for about two days, which dissipated quickly, and that the topper
is fairly warm, which may be a slight problem in the summer, but will be beneficial in the winter.
Best Gel Memory Foam Mattress Toppers
1.LUCID 3″ Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper
We are quite satisfied with this mattress topper. It has an excellent density which provides the support needed to help alliterative and eliminate pains associated with sleep. We tested this mattress topper out and found that it is excellent for eliminating back pain associated with sleep. It molds exactly to the spine and the whole body to maintain the natural alignment of the body while lying down. This ability to mold exactly to the body allows this mattress topper to cradle and support pressure point areas where the pain originates to eliminate that pain.
The pain management aspect of this mattress topper makes it an excellent choice for persons with sleep-associated pain.
A few important things:
- This topper was easy to set up.
- It had a faint odor for a few hours but became undetectable quickly.
- We did not wait the recommended length of time after opening the package to try it out, but this did not seem to cause any damage.
- The density is perfect. It is sufficiently supportive without being too firm.
- It fits a king-size bed frame perfectly, and standard sheets still work even with the added thickness.
- It seems to be extremely durable and of high quality.
- The gel infusion helps eliminate heat retention.
- It does retain heat a little bit. Certainly more than a mattress alone does, but not so much as other mattress toppers. It is not too hot to sleep in comfortably in the summer.
We are quite impressed with this mattress topper. It is comfortable and supportive and made from high-quality materials.
2. Linenspa 2 Inch Gel Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper
This mattress topper works well on firm mattresses meant to provide spine support. Since mattresses that provide good spine support are generally too firm to sleep comfortably on, we recommend this mattress topper. It is thin enough to reflect the supportive nature of a firm mattress and maintain proper spinal support while also making the mattress more comfortable and even providing additional support to the spine as it molds to the body.
We tested this product with an individual complaining of chronic back pain for years, who had never been able to find a solution that would allow them to sleep comfortably for an entire night. After only sleeping on this mattress topper for three nights, the individual stated that their back pain has improved significantly and that they have not been waking up from aches and pains in their back at all while using this mattress topper.
Even though it is a fairly thin mattress topper it is extremely dense while still being comfortable and soft.
This mattress topper is a good choice for individuals that are concerned that a thicker mattress topper will be too soft, or allow too much sinking.
Since this mattress topper is fairly thin, we have not had a problem with the heat retention common with thicker mattress toppers, making this topper a viable option for both summer and winter use.
It did have a strong chemical smell when we took it out of its packaging, but it dissipated within a few hours. No smell is noticeable while sleeping on it.
Best Luxury Mattress Toppers
1.Hypoallergenic Quilted Fitted Down Luxury Mattress
We absolutely love this mattress pad cover! It easily fit over our thick mattress and is very comfortable to sleep on. It has the perfect density and plushness. As promised it is extremely cool to sleep on. We have had huge problems with other mattress pad covers being too hot to comfortably sleep on in the summer. We are very satisfied with this product.
We are especially satisfied with the cooling aspect of this mattress cover. Finding a mattress pad cover that is both cool to sleep on and provides enough plushness is hard to find. The combination of comfortable density and supportiveness with the cooling quality of this mattress pad cover make it an excellent choice for both summer and winter.
The quilting really helps the cover keep its shape and stay in place; it does not move around at all, even if you toss and turn a bit in the night. It has even helped with back pain, and being hypoallergenic is a definite plus.
It was compressed for shipping, so it took a little time to fully fluff up. We put it in my dryer on the air fluff setting to speed the process along, and that made it even fluffier.
- The quilting ensures that the mattress pad cover keeps its shape.
- It has impressive capacity to dissipate sleep for cool summer sleeping.
- It only took a few hours after removing the mattress pad cover from its packaging for it to be ready to use.
- This mattress pad cover is dense enough to be supportive while also being soft and comfortable to sleep on.
- Even immediately after removing it from the packaging there was no noticeable odor.
- This mattress pad cover is washable, which makes it more likely to last a long time as the ability to keep it clean will extend its life.
2.COHOME Topper Extra Thick Cooling Mattress Pad
Enjoy sleeping in luxury with this COHOME Topper Extra Thick Cooling Mattress Pad. Being 50% heavier and 50% thicker than other mattress toppers on the market, this luxury mattress topper is better than other standard mattress toppers when it comes to anti-flattening and providing longer comfort. This mattress offers uniform stress relief to the entire body and gives one medium softness while not causing back pain.
COHOME topper cooling mattress features a 400TC super breathable cotton top that continuously circulates air so as to absorb traces of sweat and also change the temperature to keep it cool overnight. On the other hand, the chosen alternative filling at the bottom can improve the absorption of moisture perfectly. The good thing is that we noticed how effective it was when we saw it refreshes you every day when you wake up and it also won’t stick to your body when it’s hot at night.
Coming in a baffle box design, this mattress is designed to protect the filling from knocking, ripping and getting destroyed. The organized baffle boxes can effectively distribute your body’s pressure evenly and relieve the shoulders, neck and back with ease. You can now sleep soundly and relax deeply during all your nights. You can also be guaranteed of no more back pain.
We absolutely love everything luxurious, and when it comes to this mattress topper cover, we feel the same. The ViscoSoft 3 Inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper Twin was made to deliver optimum comfort for any sleeping style you like.
With a gel-injected, memory foam topper, this mattress looks like it was made to maximize air flow which is a good thing for us when it reduces trapped body heat. At least one can also get to detach and wash the cover and adjust the elastic straps and resistant mesh to provide a secure fit after every night.
We especially find it amazing how this mattress makes sleep more bearable and comfortable. The 3-inch, high-density, gel-infused memory foam aligns your spine and helps get rid of common pressure points and prevent one from sinking into foam. Furthermore, who doesn’t want to save some money, while still prolonging your mattress life and getting the quality shut-eyes you deserve.
This is actually a wise investment. At least with this luxury mattress, you don’t have to waste money buying and replacing toppers every now and then. Unlike other toppers, this one comes with a bamboo rayon cover that is machine washable and features a slide resistant mesh with some expandable straps that will keep you secured to the mattress. You also don’t have to keep readjusting it all the time.
Best Pressure Relief Pads
Drive Medical Med Aire Alternating Pressure Pump and Pad System
If you or your loved one have some serious issues with mobility and have already developed bedsores, or at greater risk of getting them, then this pressure relief pad is the option for you.
It contains 130 individual bubble cells and comes with a pressure pump that will either inflate or deflate the pressure. The pump is a little bit noisy (sounds like an aquarium), but it produces a consistent airflow of 4 liters per minute and it runs in 5-minute cycles. It is super easy to fit on your bed as it comes with a built-in bracket and it can support up to 300 lbs weight.
The system is delivered in 12″ x 19″ x 8 tight package and the full dimensions are 78″ by 36″. I would say the size is like a longer twin (not queen or king-size). However, it does come with everything you may need with this product (motor, hoses, tubes, etc).
Even though we did not try it, it seems that some other users have been able to resize the pad (if you glue to seal the opened cells).
If you are not happy with the purchase you can return it in 90 days, but it is easily one of the most positively reviewed products on the market today.
The pump works with 220 V supply, but if you have 110V supply you need to buy a separate transformer.
Unlike some other pump systems, this pad system does not vibrate and the inflation/deflation is slow and comfortable.