Finding the right topper...


First time poster here. First off, just wanted to thank Phoenix and this website for providing so much great information, you have no idea how much it helps. Anyways, I’ve tried searching the forums but couldn’t find the answers I needed.

I’ve been getting lower back problems from body impressions in the crappy Sleep Country memory foam mattresses. We’ve gone through several beds and even the firmest one showed impressions within 1 week (I’m 185 cm tall and 160lbs, wife is 140lbs). I found that if I slept on a friend’s old firm mattress, no pain. Couch, no pain. Air mattress, no pain. Even if I slept in the middle of the mattress (wife works nights sometimes) I would get no pain, but that’s because there would be a sort of “hill” in the middle (in between the two impressions). After lots of research, including on this site, we decided to buy the Pure Latex Bliss mattress at “Mattress Mattress” in Edmonton, AB. I think it is the Pamper, 8" of latex. It is nice and firm and so we put a 3" latex topper on top which we bought at costco:

The topper is 85% natural talalay, 28 ILD made by “Literie Laurier” in Quebec. But last night (first night), sleeping on it, I still found some “body impressions”, after waking up, I could definitely feel the difference between the sides where we sleep and the middle - back pain was still there. Just felt like I was sinking in too much. I removed the topper and the latex mattress underneath doesn’t show any impressions. So my guess is it is the topper. So, my question is this.

Is it common to have impressions in latex toppers? Should I buy a firmer talatech 2" topper like they sell here? I was thinking the 32 or 36 ILD.

I think tonight we’ll try sleeping on the mattress itself, but I wouldn’t mind something slightly softer (I do like firm) and also to extend the life of the mattress.

Thanks in advance for any help.


Hi electricalBear,

I don’t think you are dealing with impressions from foam softening (or impressions that remain without any weight on the mattress) as much as you are dealing with comfort layers that may be too thick and soft and are allowing the heavier parts of your body to sink in too far before they “reach” the firmer support layers below them. Thickness and softness work together to create the softness of a mattress layer or layers. The pamper has 2" of soft latex on top which is over much firmer latex and most people would “go through” the thinner softer top layer and feel the firmness of the support layer underneath. It could be “perfect” though for some people that were either lighter, thinner, or stomach sleepers or even back sleepers or who just preferred firmer mattresses. The goal is always to match the layering of a sleeping system (mattress, topper, and any other layers that are included) to the specific and unique needs and preferences of the person and when there is already a couple of inches of soft foam in a mattress, then a thinner topper is usually a better idea because it will isolate you less from the firmer support layers that you need to “reach” to stop the heavier parts of your body from sinking down too far relative to the other parts of your body. Firmer toppers won’t stop the compression of the softer layers below them although they will modify them to some degree.

While I’m not there to see what may be happening with my own eyes … and I don’t know the details of your body type and sleeping position(s) … if you are sleeping out of alignment or the back issues are in the lower back area … it is likely because the upper layers of your mattress are a little to thick/soft to keep you in the best alignment in all your sleeping positions rather than being from any softening or “impressions” of the latex foam itself (which wouldn’t happen so quickly)

Adding even firmer toppers won’t correct the underlying issue (although it may slightly or temporarily improve it) because again the softer layers below can still allow your heavier parts to sink down too far and it may even aggravate it because they may “hold up” the lighter parts even more and/or cause pressure issues.

I would also give any change more time than just a few days before you “evaluate” the effect it is having because there is also an adjustment period for any new mattress or layering combination, partly because the mattress will soften initially (latex less than other materials) and partly because your body may need to adjust to sleeping on a sleeping system that is different from what it is used to and “readjusts” its sleeping memory. If you make changes faster than your body can “catch up” to them it can become very difficult to find the best possible balance between pressure relief (thickness/firmness of the upper layers) and support/spinal alignment (firmness of the deeper layers and how deep they are in the mattress).

I would go very slow and sleep on each new combination for at least a week before making a change unless it just wasn’t possible to do so … and depending on exactly how the basic mattress without a topper feels and performs in combination with your body type and sleeping positions … you may need a thinner topper to reach your “ideal”.


Hi Phoenix,

Thank you for your detailed response, some excellent points in there. I will take your advice and slow things down, try combinations for a bit longer. We’ll try sleeping on just the mattress for the next week. I’m going to return the 3" topper as I agree that we are going “through” it too much. I might also take your advice on finding a thinner topper; I was looking at this topper from Sears:

I spoke to NovoPure in Vancouver and they said it is a Dunlop latex, with an ILD of 32; it is a 2" topper. I’m thinking this might be pretty perfect considering it is slightly firmer than 3", also, it is Dunlop rather than Talalay so it should be firmer and more durable no?

Any thoughts on this topper?


Hi electricalBear,

I think the thinner topper will keep you closer to the support layers of the mattress and should represent an improvement over the 3" topper.

A couple of ideas as some food for thought though …

A mattress is always a balancing act between the need to “allow” the lighter parts of the body (such as the shoulders and upper body) to sink in enough into the upper layers (for pressure relief) and “stop” the heavier parts of the body (primarily the hips/pelvis) from sinking down too far into the deeper layers so that your spine is in good alignment. If the upper body is “held up” too much by the upper layers or the lower parts of the torso and pelvis are “allowed” to sink in too far with support layers that are too soft or thick then the resulting misalignment can lead to back discomfort and pain (which is most noticeable when you wake up in the morning). The layering and design that accomplishes this “balancing act” will depend on the body type, sleeping positions, and personal preferences. As a general guideline … side sleepers need thicker softer upper layers. Back sleepers need something “in between” and stomach sleepers need thinner firmer upper layers for best alignment.

So “support” primarily comes from a combination of the firmness of the deeper layers and the thickness of the comfort layers (how far away from the deeper firmer layer you are) while pressure relief comes primarily from the softness and thickness of the comfort layers. This is why the comfort layers need to be “just soft and thick enough” to provide good pressure relief in the most “pressure prone” sleeping position (usually the side for those who sleep in this position) but more than “just enough” can put you too far away from the support layers and not “stop” your pelvic girdle from sinking down fast enough.

When you use a topper over a mattress two things will happen. The first is it will compress and in combination with the layers below it will take on the shape of your body profile. Softer toppers will compress more than firmer toppers. This “cradle” formed by the upper layers re-distributes weight away from the pressure points of the body. The second is it will “bend” into any softer foam below it. This “bending” will happen more if the topper is firmer than the layers below it (what I call a dominating layer) because the lower layers will compress more than the upper layers and the topper will “bend” into the compression (or any dips or soft spots) of the foam below it. This means that the surface of the mattress will be slightly less conforming and feel firmer (less pressure relieving) and you will have a more “on the mattress” feel than if you were sinking in to a softer topper even though the next layer down is still compressing. Many people who are taller and slimmer will prefer a firmer feel like this because they are often be “sprawlers” and prefer a more on the mattress feel with more freedom of movement.

The down side to this arrangement is that the recessed gaps are filled in a little bit less than if the topper was softer and the lighter parts of the body (such as the shoulders) may not sink in as effectively for both upper body alignment and pressure relief.

The odds are that with a thinner topper and also because it is a bit firmer … you will sink in a little less with your heavier parts (hips/pelvis) and reach the firmer support layers faster which will help with alignment. The only possible issue is that it may not “allow” your shoulders to sink in as far if you are a side sleeper.

I wanted to mention all of this because I noticed that you were speculating about using firmer toppers to improve support and support comes primarily from the deeper layers of a mattress (combined with the thickness/thinness of the upper layers) and not nearly as much from the firmness of the topper. You could have very firm support for example with say 3" of soft foam on top of a mattress with a firm support layer underneath it. Using a firmer topper will have less of an effect on support and alignment and more of an effect on pressure relief and surface feel. The thickness of the topper on the other hand will have a bigger effect on support because with a thinner topper your pelvis will have less room to sink down before reaching the firmer support layers which lets the support layers “hold up” the heavier pelvis/hips more effectively. An extra inch of soft foam in other words could lead to a more “supportive” mattress that keeps your spine in better alignment than 2" or 3" of firmer foam.

This is also why it’s not really possible (except to a limited or temporary extent) to improve the deep support of a mattress where the upper layers are too thick and soft (or have softened or degraded) or the support layers are too soft by adding a firmer topper because the real solution would be removing or replacing some of the foam which has softened or broken down with thinner upper layers (not adding thickness with a topper) or replacing softer support layers with firmer ones (which can’t be changed with a topper).

One final thought is that all foams and mattress components (including the cover) will soften or “break in” to some degree in the first few weeks and this is normal. Latex will do this less than other types of foam. Once the initial break-in period is done (usually over the first 90 days or so) … then any further softening will be much more gradual (and again latex will be less than other foams here as well).

Lower quality foams will soften more both initially and faster over time and break down sooner (develop soft spots and/or impressions) than higher quality foams. If any of your latex layers softened over the first few weeks (or worse yet developed an actual impression without weight on the mattress) beyond the normal “break in” process then it could be an indication that the layer was defective which would be very uncommon.


Had to read your posts over a couple of times, but I think I now fully understand the dynamics at work.

Thank you again for all the time you took to respond.



Hi electricalBear,

I think the “short version” (I’ve been known to go into lots of detail on occasions :)) is that softer foam will still compress underneath a firmer topper and that in most cases adding a firmer topper won’t generally “fix” support issues which are generally connected to the deeper layers of the mattress in combination with top layers that are too thick and soft.

The second “theme” is that the thickness of a topper in combination with the upper layers of the mattress is just as important as its softness and is often overlooked.

In your case though … the comfort layer of your mattress is only 2" so you have some “room to play with”.

I’d be interested in hearing about what topper you end up with and how it works for you.

What positions do you generally sleep in (side, back, stomach)?