Heading to uni? Pack a mattress topper, because you don't know what that poor bed has been through

Whether for comfort or hygiene, you absolutely will not regret upgrading your dodgy uni accommodation mattress with a plush (and clean) topper

(Image credit: Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash)

If you're heading off to uni, something you've perhaps not considered purchasing, but which you absolutely should, is a mattress topper. If you're not quite sure what we're talking about, these are thick layers designed to sit on top of an existing mattress and change the feel of the sleep surface. 

There are two main reasons why I think a mattress topper should sit on the must-buy section of any prospective or returning student's back to school kit list. Let's start with the more palatable of the two: comfort. I think it's fair to say that the bulk of those eye-watering student fees is not, in general, not going on creating delightful home-from-home living spaces. You're paying to learn, not sleep, folks. 

Except actually sleep is pretty important to learning, and a decade-old mattress that was cheap when it was first purchased isn't likely to provide the snooze of a lifetime. One of today's best mattress toppers can do an amazing job of breathing new life into an old mattress. It can smooth over rogue springs, disguise a sagging centre, muffle a squeak and add some plushness to a worn-thin sleep surface. 

And those are just the basic hollowfibre mattress toppers, like the Soak&Sleep Soft as Down topper. If you're willing to pay a bit more, you can add all the benefits of memory foam to an old sprung mattress. Memory foam is a great choice for restless or fidgety sleepers looking for a more soothing and restorative sleep. Important if you're planning on burning the candle at both ends. We have a couple of favourites in this area – the Eve mattress topper if you want a firmer surface, or the Panda topper if you prefer something soft.

panda mattress topper

A mattress topper can completely transform the feel of an old mattress

(Image credit: Panda)

Now to the second reason: hygiene. I don't want to go into too much detail here, but you really just don't know what that mattress has been through. Even if you're fastidious about keeping your living space clean, a lot of students are, in short, disgusting. And there's no way your room hasn't had one revolting inhabitant over its many years of housing students. 

Of course, you don't strictly need a mattress topper for this – one of the best mattress protectors will also do a decent job of providing a clean barrier between yourself and whatever horrors lurk beneath, embedded into that greying mattress. These thinner layers are still a great option if you're on a tighter budget, although they won't change the feel of the sleep surface; they're purely there to provide protection. If you're asking me though, I'd go for a mattress topper every time. One of my friends brought one with her to university, and she was quite literally the envy of everyone in that hall. 

Ruth is currently on secondment as Sleep Editor for Tom's Guide and TechRadar. The role is an extension of her work on T3, where she ran the site's Wellness channel, which includes sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing. She was also Outdoors editor, reviewing and writing about everything from camping gear and hiking boots to mountain bikes, drones and paddle boards. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy, for fear of getting smothered in the night.