need help with topper questions

Hello, I have been finding your mattress forums to be pretty helpful in answering some of my questions. I realize that this question will probably be broad but want to ask anyway before I spend all the money. Last year I went from a Tempurpedic the high end Rhapsody w adjustable base to a Comfortaire mattress still using the adjustable base. I have a herniated disk in my lower back above the tail bone. I am also in a lot of pain on any given day all over my body. I changed beds because the Tempurpadic although was somewhat comfortable for most of my body did not give me the back support I needed. I tried several mattresses in my home for at least a month before I finally decided on the comfortaire. Now I am facing the problem of making the bed too firm or too soft. The firmer the better my back feels and the worse my shoulders and rest of my body feel and vice versa when it is set on a softer level. So I was thinking of getting a topper. That way I could make the mattress firmer for back support yet have a softer topper for my shoulders and rest of my body.

I recently ordered a wondergel cushion to use in my vehicle and so far I really like it. I have been researching the intelli-gel topper and the serta foam/gel toppers. I am not really a huge fan of memory foam because I move A LOT when I sleep, but I am not sure if the price is worth it for the intelli-gel topper.

I am a big person, about 275 pounds, 5’6" and I have an apple shape, so most of my weight distribution is in the midsection and back area. I am a side sleeper, but once in awhile will end up on my back.

I would really love to get your opinion based on the info I have given. Thanks so much :slight_smile:

Hi Thompson08,

One of the “issues” with an air mattress is that it is always either as compressed as it can be or not compressed at all and there is little progressive resistance to compression between the extremes of it’s compression range. Because of the lack of gradual compression with air … it is much less adaptable to different sleeping positions than any other type of support core. The support core of a mattress (which is what the air bladder is) is the primary part that controls alignment (which is why firmer is better for your back) and the comfort layers over the support core control pressure relief and how much the mattress “allows” your shoulders to sink into the mattress. Trying to control “comfort” or pressure relief with the lower layers is just not very effective for the reasons you mentioned (just like trying to adjust alignment by changing the upper layers is also less effective)

So if I was in your shoes I would set the air bladder at or close to its firmest position (which will provide better alignment and support for your back) and then adjust the comfort and how far your shoulders sink in by using a topper.

The topper that would work best may involve some trial and error and will also depend on what type of layers you currently have over the air bladder. If you have too much soft foam or materials in the upper layers … it can also compromise alignment because it can allow the heavier parts of the body (hips/pelvis) to “travel” too far before they reach the firmer support layer. The key with a comfort layers is “just enough” in terms of the thickness and softness of the upper comfort layers combined with the topper you choose. This will depend on your body type, sleeping positions, health conditions, and personal preferences.

The intelligel is a buckling column gel which has some unique properties as you can read here.

With your weight I would also be hesitant to use memory foam unless it was a higher density (at least 5 lbs) and I would also make sure that you used layers that were as thin as you could “get away with” because visco elastic materials have a property called “creep” which means that the foam can relax over the course of the night and you can start the night off in good alignment but over time your heavier parts can gradually sink in deeper and you could wake up out of alignment.

I would probably also avoid the Serta foam gel toppers because they are a “particulate” type of gel memory foam which IMO would be less durable than other types of gel memory foam or higher density regular memory foam. You can read about some of the different types of gel materials in post #2 here. If you do choose to use a gel memory foam I would tend towards the type that didn’t have particles in it.

A “pure gel” topper will be more durable than memory foam but will also be more expensive.

I would also consider latex (which is a fast response material as opposed to the slow response of memory foam or gel memory foam) because it is more supportive (gets firmer faster) and more durable than memory foam. The choice between fast and slow response is a matter of preference and they have a different “feel”. Fast response materials will be more movement friendly while slow response materials can be more movement restricting.

There are sources for all the different types of toppers mentioned in post #4 here and it may be well worthwhile talking to a few of them to see how each of them may fit both what you need and your preferences of how you want them to feel. It would be worthwhile to talk with each of them that offer the choices you are considering because in the absence of our own personal testing (which is always the most accurate way to know what a certain material will feel like for you) their descriptions, comparisons and suggestions may help you get a “feel” for the differences between them.

The first step though is to identify what you already have in your mattress in terms of soft layering on top of the air bladder which can help you avoid choosing a combination of comfort layers and topper which are too soft and thick and could put you too far away from the support layers of your mattress. In general 2" is a reasonable “average” choice although if your current comfort layers are not too thick and with your heavier weight an extra inch may be less risky than with lighter weights.

Do you know what the comfort layers are in your mattress?


I am not sure what the comfort layers of this mattress are. I am going to do some research on this stye. I am pretty sure that the comfort layers are not very thick on this mattress.

I was wondering if you had any suggestions of brands for the latex toppers. There are so many items out there, i am just overwhelmed. It would be worth paying for the intelli-gel if it would work for me. The sales rep said I would need to buy yet another mattress protector, which I just bought in order to return if need be.

Would you recommend looking into getting a topper from online or finding a mattress store who deals with toppers?

Thank you for all of your help!!

Hi Thompson08,

Does your mattress have a zipper that you can remove the comfort layers? If it does you could check to see what is in it.

Good sources are much more important than brands. There are only two manufacturers of Talalay latex (both are good quality) and neither of them sell directly to customers and there are more good quality manufacturers of Dunlop latex and none of these sell directly to customers either so a knowledgeable retailer or manufacturer that can help you with your selection is the thing to look for.

I think that testing anything you buy locally can give you a much better sense of how it may work and how it feels but if they aren’t available locally then an online source that has the knowledge and experience to give you good advice (such as some of the ones I linked previously) is the next best thing. If you already have a mattress protector I don’t know why you would need to buy a new one.

With your heavier weight, if you do decide to go with latex I would tend towards firmer latex layers with a minimum ILD of 28 or possibly firmer. If there is little foam in the top of your mattress … then 3" may be a good choice.

With known mattress layers and more simple layering (such as typical latex or memory foam mattresses) … its easier to predict how a topper may work. With unknown layers or more complex layering in your mattress, it’s much more difficult to make predictions and it’s often a matter of trial and error. Making “less risky” choices can at least improve the odds in your favor.

The Intelligel or orthogel buckling column toppers are certainly worth it if they work for someone as you mention but the challenge with any topper is always the ability to predict whether they will do what you want them to do. People are so different and there are so many variables that what will work for one person may not work as well for the next. In the end your own personal experience is the only way to know for sure. Making choices that are less risky (using materials you have tried and know works for you, avoiding toppers that are too soft and thick, or buying from sources that have a good refund policy if the topper doesn’t work) at least can shift the odds in your favor.

Sometimes the most important part of making a purchase if you are in trial and error mode is to buy from a source that offer some kind of refund (this is where the big box stores are good) so the risk of trying various options is reduced or eliminated.

In theory, buckling column gel (which is not the same as so much of the gel infused memory foam you will see) could work well for you. What the columns do is “collapse” under weight but stay firmer in the areas of lesser weight (such as under the lumbar curve). Since you carry weight in your middle this could be a good option because the coloumns under your hips and shoulders would probably buckle but under your lumbar curve they would stay firmer. This way you can be well supported but the heavier or more “pointy” parts of the body can collapse the columns to relieve pressure. they have a slightly unusual kind of “crinkly” feel to them.

A topper like shredded latex could also work well and may also be less risky because of its ability to displace somewhat under the shoulders but stay more supportive under the hips so it can provide some extra softness with less risk of alignment issues.


I ended up ordering a miracle sleep 2" topper. The downside is that I have not been able to find the ILD anywhere for this topper. I have looked all over the place and now I have called the CO that makes the topper, but they were not open today. Do you know anything about that topper? It is a latex. I got it through Amazon so it is returnable. The 2" layer on my comfortaire is pretty soft material, so I thought I could set the air chambers on firm and then get the comfort from this topper. Will let you know how it works out. I am supposed to get it Monday

Hi Thompson08,

Is this the one you mean?

If it is, I would want to confirm that they are returnable (Amazon doesn’t fulfill this so their return policy doesn’t apply) and what the cost is (it seems to indicate that you would pay the original shipping and the return shipping if you returned it) because they are fairly costly (although it does say it is all natural). I don’t know the ILD though.

If the topper is in the softer range, then your plan of firming up the Comfortaire and adding the topper could work well. I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes.


Yes that is the one I bought. It was pricey, but not quite as expensive as the intelligel one I was looking at originally. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this will work in my favor. The reviews I read were pretty good. And I reviewed A LOT of them. For hours I was sifting through the latex toppers, so many to choose from. I will write up my opinion of the topper Tuesday. I will know in one night if it is helping at all because I am already in such pain I do not think it can get any worse.