Lots of mattress pads promise to help you beat the heat, but some do a better job than others. Here's what works and what doesn't.
By Haniya Rae
If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep because it’s too hot, you might consider a cooling mattress topper. You’ll find many toppers advertised as such, but toppers that actually lower the temperature of your bed incorporate hardware to do so, unlike those containing a passive layer of gel-infused foam that simply feels cool to the touch and eventually warms up as you lie on it.
Like conventional mattress toppers, the cooling sort typically slips under your fitted sheet. Some chill water before sending it through tubes in the pad to maintain a programmable temperature; others use a fan to blow air under your covers.
Fortunately, they don’t seem to interfere with comfort. “Most of the models in our tests had sufficient padding and were quite comfortable to sleep on,” says Bernie Deitrick, the engineer at Consumer Reports who tested the toppers.
A few companies offer the option of a dual-zone design, so sleep partners can adjust their own side to their preference, whether it’s making it cooler than the ambient room temperature or warmer.
An added perk: these cooling mattress toppers will keep you from cranking up the AC, too. That, in turn, can help reduce energy costs, since you don’t have to cool your entire room to be comfortable. "Plus, bed coolers use less power than a typical AC unit," Deitrick notes. (The same goes for heating costs during the winter if you use your mattress pad to warm your bed.)
The thinking behind these toppers is this: Your core temperature naturally falls as bedtime approaches. To help promote sleep, a cooler environment can help.
Of course, it’s also just common sense that if your mattress retains heat or if you experience night sweats, you will feel uncomfortable and have a hard time sleeping.
The coldest mattress topper we tested can chill your bed down to a brisk 46° F. But it’s likely not necessary to go to such extremes. “You get the most deep sleep in a cool bedroom—not cold,” says Philip Richard Gehrman, PhD, an associate professor of clinical psychology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. "And what’s cool to one person is not cool to another person.”
As a guideline, the American Sleep Association recommends an ambient temperature of between 60° and 68° F.
Do Cooling Mattress Toppers Work?
If by "work," you mean actually cool the bed, then yes, active-cooling mattress toppers will nudge the temperature of your bed down to some degree—but some are better at it than others.
The best toppers we tested lower the water temperature in a reservoir, then pump that water through a series of tubes in a sleeping pad. Think of it as running the water through a fridge before it comes to your bed.
The other models use passive cooling methods and are less effective. These rely on the existing conditions within your room, and cool you less as the temperature starts to rise. One such option is the BedJet, which cools with a fan. "It didn’t really cut it," says a staffer who tried the BedJet. "There just wasn’t enough cooling."
Do cooling mattress toppers work in terms of helping you sleep better? That’s a trickier question and it depends on whom you ask. A staffer who tried the Cube Sleep System (at the time it was called the Chilipad) and the Ooler Sleep System says she had a better time going to bed without either of them. "I felt like I was sleeping on a science experiment," she says.
But for those who tend to wake up in a sweat, a cooling mattress topper may be worth it. Another staffer who says he typically sleeps hot describes the Cube and Ooler as "amazing.’’ He’s not certain that he fell asleep faster, but he says he certainly slept better. "There was less waking up and tossing and turning."
How We Test Cooling Mattress Toppers
To assess how well these mattress pads cool, we designed a metal device to mimic the human body—complete with lightbulbs placed in each of its three parts (a torso and two legs) to maintain a temperature of 98° F. After strapping it to a mattress pad for maximum cooling, we measured the amount of energy needed to maintain the temperature of the metal device at its set point. The more energy required to do that, the better the mattress topper was at cooling. (We used a similar technique to test the pads for heating.)
Beyond performance, we noted whether each mattress topper has a preheating and precooling function. We looked for built-in padding and assessed whether we could feel any water tubes or other mechanisms in the topper when we used them. We also sent the toppers home with staffers so they could sleep on them at home.
In all, we tested four popular cooling mattress toppers (the Chilisleep company’s Cube and Ooler, the Mattress Cooler, and the Perfect Sleep Pad), as well as the BedJet, a cooling device that attaches to your bed. CR members with digital access can read on for ratings and more detailed reviews. For additional information on making your bed comfortable, check our ratings and buying guides for mattresses, pillows, and sheets.
Cooling Mattress Toppers From CR’s Tests
There’s no such thing as a bargain when it comes to these mattress pads. The cheapest option isn’t worth the frustration, and the three most effective models—those that actively change the temperature of your bed as opposed to using a fan—start at around $500.
CR’s take: The Ooler Sleep System works by cooling or heating water in a reservoir before sending it through tubes in its mesh "Chilipad" to maintain your desired temperature. And it does so quite effectively— earning an Excellent rating in our cooling tests and a Very Good rating for heating.
The Ooler costs about $200 more than the Chilisleep company’s Cube Sleep System (see below). The higher price includes the ability to schedule your bed to cool via your smartphone, so there’s no need to remember to do it every night. You can also program your bed to heat up in the morning to wake you up.
The Ooler has a softer cover and a lower-profile cooling tank compared with the Cube (it will fit under bed frames 6.25 inches or higher). The Chilisleep company offers a 30-night sleep trial and a two-year warranty.
CR’s take: When we tested this mattress pad in 2020, it was called the Chilipad. It has since been renamed the Cube Sleep System, though it functions the same way—effectively using cooled or heated water to maintain the mesh Chilipad’s temperature anywhere between 55° and 115° F.
But the Cube’s reservoir is larger than that of the Ooler, so it will fit only under bed frames higher than 8 inches. A remote instead of a smartphone app pre-cools and pre-heats your bed; or you can press a button on the water tank. This means if you want a cool mattress by bedtime, you’ll have to remember every night to chill it. The Chilisleep company offers a 30-night sleep trial and a two-year warranty.
Buy at: Chili
CR’s take: As with the Cube and Ooler, the Perfect Sleep Pad earns an Excellent rating in our cooling test, and a Very Good score in our heating test. It’s also pretty decent at precooling and preheating and has a wide programmable range of 46° to 118° F. All this makes it almost as perfect as its name suggests, except that this model is slightly more noisy than the Cube and Ooler and uses more power to cool and heat.
You can also purchase a vest, knee pad, foot pad, or lumbar belt, which also have water tubes that can be cooled or heated. You get a 30-day trial period, a 90-day warranty on the pad, and a two-year warranty on the control unit.
Buy at: Perfect Sleep Pad
CR’s take: Unlike the Perfect Sleep Pad and the Chilisleep systems, which feature toppers with tubing cooled by chilled water, the BedJet is a tube placed at the end of your bed that blows air from a fan. BedJet offers a lightweight, double-layer sheet (sold separately) to help distribute the air, but you can also simply use the hose on its own.
Because it uses just a fan to cool, the BedJet’s ability to lower your bed’s temperature depends on your room’s temperature. In our tests, it earned only a Fair rating for cooling, but an Excellent rating for heating.
Deitrick found this model to be almost as comfortable as a blanket, except for one problem: “It was annoying feeling the air hitting my chin while I was sleeping.” Also, the airflow can be inadvertently blocked if, say, your dog decides to sleep on top of your covers.
This was also the noisiest bed cooler that we tested, especially at the higher fan speeds (it sounded like a typical fan in your ear). It has only a remote, so as with most mattress toppers on this list, you can’t schedule it to cool or heat. There’s a 60-day return policy and a two-year warranty.
CR’s take: The Mattress Cooler costs considerably less than the other models on this list, and, in this case, you get what you pay for. There’s no padding, just a plastic mat, so it’s no surprise that it earns the lowest rating of the bunch for comfort. This model relies merely on a fan to cool water before feeding it through tubes in the mat, so, like the BedJet, how well it cools depends on your bedroom’s temperature. Moreover, that fan is fitted over an open water tank, so there’s risk for spillage. The Mattress Cooler earns a Fair rating in our cooling tests. This topper has no heating function, and it’s available only in one size (about half of a queen bed, 27x63 inches). There’s a 30-day trial period (but be ready to pay a $20 "restocking" fee if you return it).
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