Moving into your college dorm your freshman year is a momentous occasion. For many young adults, it’s their first taste of freedom and the first space they can truly call their own.
With the start of school just around the corner, you likely already have a vision for your dorm room aesthetic. Maybe you’ve picked out a fluffy area rug, bought an ornate tapestry, or decided on which photos to frame for your desk. But have you thought about your sleep situation?
Of course, you’ll need pillows, sheets, and bedding. But your dorm room bed may require a bit more attention than your bed at home.
Unfortunately, standard-issued college dorm mattresses are notoriously uncomfortable. There’s no telling how many students have used the mattress before you, and they typically aren’t top-quality mattresses to begin with.
So, what’s a college student to do?
Depending on your school’s policies, you likely don’t have the option of replacing the mattress altogether. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a year of discomfort. Adding a mattress topper can go a long way to transform the feel of your bed, and using a mattress protector can put sanitation concerns to rest.
What to Look for in a Mattress Topper
The best mattress toppers for college dorms make the bed feel brand new, even if the mattress has its fair share of wear and tear. To help savvy students find the right topper for them, we’ve compiled a list of qualities to look for as you shop your back-to-school list.
Size: Twin XL Mattress Toppers
The majority of schools in the U.S. supply twin XL mattresses measuring 38 inches wide by 80 inches long. However, you should look up your specific school’s mattress specifications before purchasing any mattress accessories or bedding.
Twin XL mattresses are the same width as standard twin mattresses but 5 inches longer. That means twin mattress toppers are not compatible with twin XL mattresses.
Mattress toppers come in a variety of materials, including polyfoam, memory foam, latex, cotton, wool, down, and polyester. For a college dorm mattress, we recommend a topper with ample structure and support, not just cushioning. While toppers stuffed with cotton, wool, down, or polyester add comfort, they don’t provide enough support or pressure relief to compensate for a subpar mattress.
At Nolah, we make our mattress toppers with our proprietary polyfoam, Nolah AirFoam™️. It’s the same foam used in our award-winning Original and Signature mattresses.
This advanced foam is cushioning and contouring, offering four times better pressure relief than standard memory foam. That means it takes tension off high-pressure areas like your shoulders, back, and hips. Meanwhile, our AirFoam™️ topper adds spine-aligning support to the mattress underneath.
Your ideal mattress topper firmness depends on your body type, sleep position, and personal preference. In general, lighter individuals and side sleepers prefer softer mattress toppers, back sleepers enjoy medium-firmness toppers, and heavier individuals and stomach sleepers benefit from firmer toppers.
The Nolah Mattress Topper comes in two firmness options, Plush and Luxury Firm.
Most mattress toppers range from 1 to 4 inches tall. We recommend choosing a topper based on the material and firmness level more so than the height. When made with high-quality materials and construction, thinner toppers can provide more comfort and support than thicker alternatives.
Living in a dorm, you don’t have much control over the temperature settings. If you tend to sleep hot, you’ll want a mattress topper that helps keep you cool while you sleep.
Shoppers should know that some mattress topper materials actually trap heat within. Memory foam, which contains heat-sensitive viscoelastic chemicals, is a common culprit.
On the other hand, natural materials like latex and viscoelastic chemical-free polyfoams like Nolah AirFoam™️ are 100 percent temperature neutral, keeping cool all night long. These materials also have highly breathable structures, which lets fresh air flow in and out. Our topper also has a moisture-wicking organic cotton cover for added comfort and cooling.
What to Look for in a Mattress Protector
Now that you know how to make your dorm mattress more comfortable, you can focus on keeping it clean. For dorm dwellers, mattress protectors serve two important purposes: they keep your mattress (and topper) safe and clean, and they create a sanitation barrier between you and the used mattress. To these ends, the best college dorm mattress protectors have the following qualities.
In college, you’ll make messes. Maybe you’ll spill your morning coffee all over the bed, or your late-night snack will take a dive. Whatever the case, you’ll want a waterproof mattress protector to prevent mattress staining and damage. Even if you aren’t prone to accidents, you’ll want a waterproof protector to keep sweat stains at bay.
A mattress protector needs to withstand wear and tear. The most durable mattress protector materials include bamboo, quality cotton, and polyurethane.
When adding layers to your sleep setup, the last thing you want to do is trap heat within the bed. Because protectors cover the entire surface (and possibly the underside) of the mattress, they’re a common cause of trapped warmth and moisture. To prevent humidity build-up, look for a protector made with a breathable, moisture-wicking material. Again, bamboo and cotton make ideal options.
Thick, plasticky mattress protectors tend to make a lot of noise. Unless you want to keep yourself (and your roommate) awake with the sound of rustling, opt for a soft protector with only a thin waterproof backing, not an intrusive vinyl layer.
Mattress protectors keep mattresses safe from liquids, germs, mold, and unwanted creepy crawlers. For further peace of mind, invest in a hypoallergenic mattress protector that accomplishes all this without the help of added chemicals.
Before you buy a mattress protector, make sure it will fit your bed! Again, find out what size mattress your college supplies, including the height dimension. Depending on the design of the protector you buy, it may only fit mattresses up to a certain thickness.
Better Sleep, Better Student
Hopefully, this guide has helped you find a mattress topper and protector that will make your college bed comfortable and clean. With your curated bed setup, you should get plenty of rest to power you through long days of classes, homework, and extracurriculars.