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Dorm Mattresses Are Notoriously Uncomfy, but These 6 Hacks Can Help

Don't put up with an uncomfortable dorm room mattress all year when this is all it takes to make it comfier.

McKenzie Dillon Writer
McKenzie, a Certified Sleep Science Coach and proclaimed mattress expert, has been writing sleep content in the wellness space for over four years. After earning her certification from the Spencer Institute and dedicating hundreds of hours to sleep research, she has extensive knowledge on the topic and how to improve your quality of rest. Having more experience with lying on mattresses than most, McKenzie has reviewed over 150 beds and a variety of different sleep products including pillows, mattress toppers and sheets. McKenzie has also been a guest on multiple radio shows including WGN Chicago as a sleep expert and contributed sleep advice to over 50 different websites.
Expertise Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach, Bachelor of English.
McKenzie Dillon
4 min read
A girl sleeping on her dorm room mattress feeling comfortable

Don't settle sleeping on an old, uncomfortable dorm mattress. Follow these tips to make it cozier. 

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Moving into a new college dorm room is exciting, but let's face it -- there's nothing fun about sleeping on a firm, saggy dorm room mattress. It can be difficult to get a full night's sleep on your not-so-comfy dorm room bed. Sleeping soundly through the night is important for knowledge and memory retention, with some studies stating a good night's rest before an exam can lead to better grades and a higher GPA

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In a perfect world, your bed should properly accommodate your specific needs like sleeping position and or preferences. Dorm room mattresses tend to be firm and are made with either low-quality foam or innersprings. You would also hope the mattresses are switched out with each incoming new resident, but that's far from the truth. There's no saying how much dust mites and dander have collected inside the beds over the years. Fortunately, there are ways to make your sleeping space feel more clean and comfortable -- even if you're on a budget. 

Below, we list the best ways to upgrade your dorm room mattress for a comfortable, improved sleep. 

For more tips on how to upgrade your sleeping set up, check out our articles on how to make a memory foam mattress sleep cooler, make your firm mattress softer and create the perfect sleep environment.

Read more: Best Mattress for 2022

1. Invest in a mattress topper 

A mattress topper is a great way to make your bed feel firmer or softer, depending on what you're looking for. It can also change up the feel of your mattress, whether you like memory foam or a latex foam feel that's more responsive. You can even consider a cooling mattress topper that's breathable and/or offers cooling relief. There are also budget mattress toppers that cozy-up your mattress for less than $70. 

2. A mattress protector can do wonders

Protect your mattress from bed bugs, household allergens and nasty spills by getting a mattress protector. Your dorm room has limited space and the odds that you'll have at least a few meals in your bed while binge-watching Netflix is pretty high. A spilled drink on your mattress can cause stains and your foam to wear down. With a protector, you make sure you keep your bed nice, clean and good-as-new. 

They go on your bed like a fitted sheet in between your sheets and the bed (or topper). They're water-resistant, comfy -- and depending on the material -- breathable. Typically, mattress protectors are made from cotton, polyester, polyurethane, latex, spandex or vinyl.  

3. Don't underestimate the power of a good pillow

Not only should your pillow be comfortable, but it should also accommodate your sleeping position. Side sleepers usually sleep best on a tall pillow that keeps their head propped up, in line with the neck and spine. 

Young woman stretching arms across her pillows after a restful sleep.

You can sleep much better with comfy pillows and sheets

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On the flip side, stomach sleepers should consider a thin pillow that doesn't keep the neck kinked like you're watching a movie in the front row of the theater. 

Back sleepers should look for a pillow somewhere in the middle. The goal is to have a nice, neutral "C" shape in the neck. If you have a pillow that props your head up so much you're looking at the wall in front of you rather than the ceiling, your pillow is too tall. 

Read more: Best Mattress for Side Sleepers

4. Upgrade your sheets and bedding

Your college might provide you with a catalog of college dorm bundle sets you can purchase at a low cost. The problem with this bedding is that it's cheaply made and will match anyone else who purchases from the catalog. 

I made the mistake of doing this when I moved into my college dorm for convenience sake, and I ended up having the same matching, uncomfortable starchy bedding as my roommate. Consider looking for sheets with a thread count of at least 200 and a quality comforter to upgrade your dorm bedding set-up. 

5. Use a fan to keep you cool

One of the biggest buzzkills for sleep is a hot temperature. If you're going to an older college, you may not have air conditioning in your room. Newer dorms have central air conditioning, but you may not be able to control the temperature. Survive a hot dorm room by opening a window and blowing a fan next to your mattress. You can even make-shift an AC by putting a bowl of cold ice water in front of your fan, forcing it to blow cool icy air towards you. 

6. Ask your college if you can bring your own mattress

Your college might not let you bring your own mattress, but it's worth asking. Call your university's student services and see what their policy is on bringing in your own twin XL bed. If they do, even a cheap mattress is usually more comfortable than an old dorm room mattress. This way, you can choose a comfy bed that's clean, fits your specific preferences and sleeping position. 

For easy ways to improve your sleep, learn how to make the perfect sleep playlist or take a look at our wellness editors' favorite sleep hacks.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.