How to Choose the Best Pillow Top Mattress: A Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide

Written by: Alex Savy
Read 12 minLast updated August 25, 2020

When asked to imagine the perfect conditions for a restful night, many of us would say: sleeping on a cloud.

And pillow top mattresses are often associated with that feeling. They look welcoming and feel luxuriously soft, which some many sleepers appreciate.

However, not all pillow top beds were created equal. That’s why it’s important to learn how to pick the best pillow top mattress that would meet your requirements and satisfy your needs. Sounds like something you may be interested in? Then let’s cut to the chase!

Pillow Top Mattresses Explained – Pillow vs Euro Top

Pillow top beds have always been among the most popular mattresses on the market. Many consumers choose this type thanks to the comfort levels it is able to provide.

Triggers replace their mattresses

Source: https://bedtimesmagazine.com/2017/01/triggers-replace-their-mattresses/

However, the market is thriving and has a lot to offer, which can often be confusing. Especially if we compare similar-sounding terms – pillow top and Euro top.

So, what’s the difference?

To put it simply, the difference is mainly in the appearance: while the pillow top is sewn on top of the mattress (and looks like a separate layer above the rest of the construction), the Euro top is built into the mattress and hides underneath the cover with the rest of the layers (1).

Generally, Euro top mattresses tend to be a bit more durable thanks to their construction. However, pillow top models often have a plushier feel, which many sleepers find to be more comfortable. Additionally, some mattresses have removable pillow top sections. This allows users to clean or fluff the top up when needed with more convenience.

Common Pillow Top Mattress Materials and What Would Work for You

When trying to find the best pillow top mattress, you are likely to stumble across various filling types. All of them have specific characteristics that can give a mattress a distinctive feel. And this means, not all materials would work for you.

That’s why we need to understand what we are dealing with. The most common materials manufacturers use for the pillow top filling include:

  • Memory foam. Thanks to its elasticity, memory foam offers a good balance of cushioning and support. It can adjust to the shape of one’s body, filling in the gaps and curves and gently cradling the protruding parts. Typically, manufacturers choose softer, less dense memory foam for the pillow top layers to attain a plushier feel. Memory foam is notorious for sleeping hot, that’s why many brands blend it with cooling gel beads. 
  • Polyfoam. This type is more resilient than memory foam, so it doesn’t sleep as hot and has a slightly faster response to applied pressure. Polyurethane foam is also cheaper and makes a good pillow top option for budget shoppers seeking extra comfort.
  • Down. Either natural or synthetic, down pillow top filling can give a mattress that luxurious cloud-like feel. Keep in mind that natural down is more expensive and sleeps warmer than synthetic down alternatives. What’s good about this filling type is that you can fluff it up occasionally to maintain its shape (something you can’t do with foam, unfortunately).
  • Fiberfill. Fiberfill is polyester formed as soft, fluffed fibers. Commonly used for pillows, fiberfill can also work as pillow top stuffing. However, it this case, it can be combined with other materials (like foam or latex, for example). Even though the fibers are synthetic, they are very thin, which allows for good breathability.
  • Latex. This material is naturally bouncy and offers good pressure relief. Additionally, latex is temperature-neutral, which makes such pillow tops ideal for hot sleepers. Keep in mind that latex is more expensive than most materials, so a mattress with a latex pillow top is likely to be pricier than other types.
  • Wool. Wool is an excellent choice for hot sleepers as well. This natural material is breathable and does an excellent job of wicking the excess moisture away. Natural wool pillow tops feel rather soft and don’t typically require any extra materials (unlike fiberfill, for example). 

Very often you can stumble across the combination of multiple materials in pillow top mattresses. For instance, manufacturers can use multiple foam layers of different densities, latex + foam, foam + fiberfill, latex + wool, and so on. The options are endless, which is good news for picky shoppers.

Types of Pillow Top Mattresses 

Now when you know that pillow tops can use various types of filling, let’s look at the parts underneath.

The thing is, almost any mattress type can be a pillow top model. And the construction of the main layers can directly influence the feel of your pillow top mattress.

So, let’s see what bed types you can stumble across and what characteristics they possess:

  • Hybrid. Hybrid mattresses use multiple materials to achieve a balanced combination of support and cradling. Sometimes, manufacturers add a fluffy pillow top for a luxurious touch. Hybrid beds usually combine a sturdy coil base with either foam or latex comfort layers (occasionally both). Generally, hybrid mattresses provide reliable support and good motion isolation. They have reinforced edges and make an excellent option for couples. However, keep in mind that hybrids tend to be rather pricey and heavy (can be hard to transport if needed).
  • Innerspring. As the name suggests, innerspring mattresses use springs (coils), which are usually pocketed (individually wrapped in fabric).  Spring mattresses are very bouncy and offer great support, even around the edges. When combined with a cloud-like pillow top, innerspring models feel softer but still preserve their supportiveness.
  • Foam. There are two types you can come across: memory foam and polyfoam. Both are cradling and hugging, but polyfoam is more resilient and has a faster response to pressure. Combined with a pillow top, foam mattresses are good for pressure relief and soothing tension alleviation. However, pillow top foam beds may be too soft for sleepers who prefer a stiffer feel, heavier individuals (over 250 pounds), or strict stomach sleepers.
  • Latex. Less common among the pillow top mattresses, latex beds are famous for their durability and bounciness. Latex is also naturally temperature neutral, which makes this type suited for hot sleepers. Pillow top latex mattresses can offer durable, resilient support with some extra cushioning on top for a luxurious touch.

Are Pillow Top Mattresses Really Worth It? Advantages and Drawbacks

Even the best pillow top mattress cannot be perfect. After all, every bed can satisfy only a certain circle of users, depending on their preferences and needs. 

To help you understand whether pillow top models are worth your money, let’s consider both the good and the bad. Starting with the advantages, as there are more of those:

  • Extra comfort. Pillow tops are usually plush and pleasantly soft, which so many sleepers appreciate. A good pillow top mattress would combine the support from the core layers and the fluffy top section, which is ideal for users seeking that cloud-like feel.
  • Good motion isolation. The soft cradling of the pillow top absorbs the shock from motion rather well. A good pillow top can nicely balance the bounciness of the mattress, even if we’re talking about the resilient coils.
  • Affordability. Even though pillow top mattresses look and feel luxurious, there are many models that use cheaper filling (like fiberfill, for instance), which means there are plenty of options for budget shoppers. 
  • Extra cushioning for pain relief. If you need more cradling, a good pillow top mattress may do the trick. It would work for side sleepers who need some additional padding for sensitive shoulders, for example.
  • Temperature regulation. If the pillow top is filled with latex, fiberfill, or wool, it can aid temperature regulation during the night. This would come in handy if the main layers of the mattress use heat-retaining memory foam.
  • Higher profile. Generally, pillow top mattresses are quite thick, which gives them a more elegant, expensive look. However, it doesn’t end there. Some sleepers prefer high-profile mattresses as it is easier for them to get in and out of bed in this case.

What some users appreciate about pillow top mattresses is the fact that you don’t have to flip them (2). While simpler beds require this if you want to prolong their lifespan, pillow top mattresses have only one side suitable for sleep, so you can’t (and don’t need to) flip them.

Now, moving on to the potential issues you may face when using a pillow top mattress:

  • Mediocre durability. Here’s the sad reality: the soft, inviting pillow top is usually the first one to sag or flatten. Some filling materials are prone to developing body impressions on their surface after regular use. Therefore, when searching for the best pillow top mattress, keep in mind that you might have to replace it after a few years.
  • Larger sheets. As mentioned before, pillow top mattresses typically have a high profile. This means your regular sheets might not work. You will need to invest in larger-sized (or deep-pocketed) bed sheets to fit your new mattress.
  • Potential heat retention. If the pillow top uses traditional memory foam, you may experience some heat retention. This may also happen due to the softness of the top layer: you will sink deeper into the pillow top and your body will be enveloped by the material, which can also make you feel warmer.
  • Extra plushness. This aspect is a matter of personal preferences, but it’s important nonetheless. Some consumers find pillow top mattresses too plush and not supportive enough (3). 

With all that in mind, it’s safe to say that the main concern here is the limited lifespan of pillow top mattresses (compared to other bed types).

Average Mattress Lifespan

Source: https://sleepstandards.com/how-to-choose-a-mattress/

Some pillow tops can become flatter with time, others sag, depending on the material used. You may still try to fluff it up, especially if the top section of your mattress is removable.

What Makes a Good Pillow Top Mattress: Factors to Consider When Shopping

We are lucky to have so many options to choose from. 

However, sometimes such a variety can be overwhelming. It’s better to learn how to sift through the information and focus on what matters.

So, here are the main points you should consider when looking for the best pillow top mattress:

  • Firmness. Picking the suitable firmness for your sleeping position is crucial. It will determine the support level your body will receive. Generally, side sleepers are advised to choose Soft to Medium-Soft mattresses (around 3-4 on the firmness scale, with 10 being the firmest). Back sleepers are recommended to sleep on Medium to Medium-Firm mattresses (5-6.5 on the firmness scale). As for stomach sleepers, they require a stiffer surface (Medium-Firm or Firm, which is around 6.5-8 on the firmness scale). Keep in mind that your weight would also play a role here: petite individuals usually enjoy softer beds more. At the same time, heavier sleepers (above 250 pounds) typically feel more supported sleeping on firmer surfaces.
  • Mattress type. As you already know, different mattress types can use pillow tops. You are free to choose among innerspring, foam, latex, and even hybrid beds. But don’t forget that they have specific characteristics that may or may not work for you.
  • Price. Even though there are many affordable pillow top beds, you can also come across more expensive, luxurious models. Keep in mind that hybrid and latex mattresses tend to be pricier than foam and innerspring beds. 
  • Quality. While it may be hard to determine how good a mattress is, you can still pick a higher-quality one. How? Firstly, check the reviews. See how the desired model holds up with time based on other people’s experiences. Secondly, you can check the warranty coverage and conditions. Longer warranty usually signifies higher-quality materials used in a mattress.
  • Trial period. Many mattresses require a break-in period, during which the materials adjust to your body (and vice versa, your body gets used to the new sleeping surface). Therefore, a longer sleep-in trial would be beneficial. This way, you will have enough time to understand whether your new bed works for you or not.

Conclusion

The heavenly soft pillow top mattresses can win almost anyone over.

And if you dream about sleeping on a cloud, make sure you pick the suitable pillow top mattress. Pay attention to the materials used as some of them might not work for you. Don’t forget about the firmness level and take your favorite sleeping position and body type into consideration. And finally, always check the warranty conditions. After all, a new mattress is a serious investment, so you probably want it to be reliable.

What are your thoughts? Do you think a pillow top mattress would be comfortable enough for you? Let us know in the comments!

F.A.Q.

Are pillow top mattresses good?

Generally, pillow top mattresses tend to be very comfortable thanks to the balanced combo of comfort and support they provide. However, if you pick the firmness level that isn’t suited for your weight or sleeping position, even the best pillow top bed would seem uncomfortable to you.

Is a pillow top mattress better than memory foam?

This would totally depend on the sleeper’s preferences as these two mattress types have different characteristics. For instance, memory foam is more suited for people who need improved pressure relief and a deeper hug. Pillow top mattresses are more suited for sleepers seeking a more balanced feel and a compromise between support and cushioning.

How long does the pillow top mattress last?

A pillow top mattress would last for around 5 to 10 years. This would depend on the materials used in the pillow top part of the mattress (high-density foam tends to last more than low-density materials). Additionally, the sleeper’s weight can affect the bed durability too. The heavier you are, the sooner your mattress might start sagging.

Why do pillow top mattresses sag?

This happens mostly because manufacturers use softer, less resilient materials for the pillow top (to achieve that plush feel). Typically, the pillow top section sags first while the rest of the construction has a longer lifespan.

Should you flip a pillow top mattress?

No, since only one side has the pillow top section. However, you may try to rotate the mattress occasionally, which may help avoid potential sagging in one spot.

How do you care for a pillow top mattress?

Make a habit of vacuuming your mattress regularly. Spot clean the surface but make sure you use only mild detergents. You can also leave your mattress to air out for a few hours every time you change the sheets (but make sure that the room is well-ventilated). Additionally, if the pillow top part is removable, you can take it outside and hand it over a clothesline to air it out. If you are noticing any unpleasant odors, you can try baking soda to remove those. Spread it on top of the mattress, let it sit for around 24 hours, and vacuum the baking soda up afterward.

References:

  1. Diffen (n.d.). Eurotop Mattress vs. Pillowtop Mattress. Retrieved from https://www.diffen.com/difference/Eurotop_Mattress_vs_Pillowtop_Mattress
  2. Peter Zaluzny (n.d.). How to buy the best mattress. Retrieved from https://www.choice.com.au/home-and-living/bedroom/mattresses/buying-guides/mattresses
  3. Kristine Tucker (n.d.). Pillow Top Mattress Complaints. Retrieved from https://homeguides.sfgate.com/pillow-top-mattress-complaints-91330.html

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