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Mattress Toppers - What in the Princess In the Pea is this?!

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I have to admit. The first time I heard about dorm bed mattress toppers I thought "what in the Princess In The Pea Nonsense is this?!" Surely a luxury item that isn't needed.

It wasn't on our packing list. I wasn't messing with it.

But then we went to the "accepted students day" at my son's potential university and got a tour of the dorm rooms! The mattresses were something I wasn't prepared for. And after some research I found that most schools have changed out their old fashioned fabric mattresses for vinyl covered pads - similar to gymnastics mats. They are great because they can be fully sanitized and you don't have to worry as much about bedbugs or mildew. But they are in no way comfortable. So I quickly learned how important a mattress topper was going to be.

So what is a mattress topper? It's a 2-4 inch thick pad that sits on top of your mattress. It's different from a traditional mattress pad. It's pretty much the mattress :)

Top commonly asked questions!!

How do I choose?

My best advice is to read reviews. Figure out what type of sleeper your student is and then read reviews to see what fits whom. The perfect topper for a hot sleeper may be awful for someone who wants a lot of softness and vice versa.

This is my video review of the Lucid 3 inch which worked great for our son.

To open or keep closed?

When your topper first arrives it will likely be in a box that is about 10x10x20. They are vaccuume shrunk and when you open it they start to puff up. Some mattress toppers have an odor reported for the first 24-48 hours. Some do not. The Lucid had no odor. If you are only mildly concerned about this, open the cardboard box and pull out the topper in it's plastic bag. You can use scissors to carefully cut slits in the plastic to let it start to air out without allowing it to puff up and expand. If at all possible, I recommend keeping it shrunk/closed until you arrive at the dorm. They puff up to be somewhat large and difficult to travel with. Ours "inflated" to about 85% of it's height in the first 45 minutes or so and then we put the sheets on.

If you are exceptionally worried about odor or having time to fluff up, go ahead and relieve your stress and open your topper, let it fluff up and then you can use a vac-seal system to shrink it back down again. These vacuum seal jumbo bags are great for re-storing your topper and also good for packing sweaters/comforter/pillows any other bulky items for travel.

Do I Need A Mattress Cover / Encasement

Yeppers. Yes you do.

So back in the olden days... like 2004... schools used to require families have a zippered waterproof encasement to put around the mattress to protect it from you and to protect you from bedbugs. If your institution still has that type of mattress, bag it up. If your school has the newer vinyl mattresses, give it a good wipe down and then proceed to build your bed. We put our topper directly on that mattress. Then we encased them both together with a zippered waterproof cover. This does a few things. 1) it prevents the topper and your sheets (and your child) from slipping around climbing in and out of bed. It holds everything together. 2) dorm beds are used for everything - studying, sleeping, eating, watching tv. The cover protects your nifty new mattress topper from sweat, drink spills and whatnot. 3) it makes it significantly easier to change the sheets. 4) it keeps your topper pristine to use for subsequent kids or to sell after the dorm season. This is the one we used but really any great deal on a zippered encasement will work.

TIP from a pudgy mom...

When it comes time to build your dorm bed - if you have a lofted or bunk style - pick up the mattress and bring it down to the floor first. Stack everything together and put the fitted sheet on it and THEN lift it back up to the lofted bunk! It is NOT EASY (aka hilarious) to be 6 feet in the air inches from the ceiling trying to zip up a mattress and tuck in fitted sheet corners... Guess how I know...

What size - do I need deep pocket sheets?

Dorm beds are often twin or twinXL size. The difference is 6 inches in length and no difference in width. Toppers come in all mattress sizes including the weird fullXL which for some reason shows up a lot in furnished apartments. If possible get the right size topper for your bed and the right sized encasement. If you are gifted/inherit a toper that is 6 inches too long you can cut off the excess. If you recieve one that is too short place it 3 inches from the top which will even out the gap to be places your body typically isn't (at the very top or the very bottom). The encasement needs to be the right size to keep items from slipping. Your fitted sheets need to be the right size but you do not need deep pocket sheets. Even with 2,3 or 4 inch toppers, the original mattress is so thin that regular sheets still work.

You can get away with a variety of sizes for your comforter/blankets depending on your sleeping style and bed layout. If you love a twin comforter but have a twin xl bed it still can work - especially if your bed has a rail at the head and foot preventing length to hang off anyway. Or, if you want extra fluff a full comforter works well on twin beds as well.

So, in closing, I was converted....

I went from being skeptical to 100% recommending a mattress topper. If your budget is tight, consider finding that budget by removing from your list extra decorative bed pillows which never get set up past the first week or so of school or budgeting down desktop decor in favor of good sleep.



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