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Mattress Ratings > Pillow Top Mattresses

The Truth About Pillow Top Mattresses

Review, Ratings, Comparisons and Complaints Based on 1,874 Owner Experiences

May 16, 2016

What You Need To Know

THE GOOD. Pillow top mattresses have above-average initial comfort. Tops that include memory foam tend to have above average (back) pain-relief potential and conforming ability.

THE BAD. Pillow top mattresses overall are at least two times more likely than non-pillow top mattresses to have problems with durability, off gassing, and heat retention.

WHAT IS A PILLOW TOP MATTRESS. Pillow tops are most often found on innerspring beds and perhaps airbeds. A pillow top (or euro top) mattress is generally defined as a mattress with several inches of additional padding sewn into the top. This padding can consist of regular foam, memory foam, latex, fiberfill, cotton, wool. Some tops have an integrated appearance with the mattress (euro top) while others appear to be merely lying on top. A non-pillow top mattress, by contrast, often has only minimal to moderate padding.

Pillow Top vs Non-Pillow Top Mattresses

The following table compares pillow top and non-pillow top mattresses based on actual consumer experiences. The findings apply mostly to innerspring mattresses.

  Pillow TOP non- pillow top  
Longevity / durability d c Learn more.
Easy to maintain d c+ Pillow top mattresses likely require at least twice the maintenance in regard to (head to foot) rotation.
Price c- B- Pillow top beds are on average about 30% more expensive than non-pillow top beds.
General support C B- Sagging of pillow tops can undermine support and possibly cause back pain as a result.
Edge support D+ C+ Support can be lacking for sleeping or sitting near the edge of pillow top mattresses, especially those with thicker tops. Eurotops (tops that are tapered near the edges) tend to perform better.
Conforming ability B D+ Pillow tops are more likely to contour to the body and relieve pressure points.
No initial odor c- b- Learn more.
No sleeping hot c- b- Learn more.
Easy to move on / get up off D+ B Soft pillow tops with at least two inches of memory foam provide some resistance to movement / changing positions.
Motion isolation B C Pillow top beds often have sophisticated spring systems that keep movement isolated so as to not disturb one's partner. The top itself may also absorb some motion.
Back sleep friendly B b- The conforming ability of most pillow tops can be beneficial to back sleepers.
Side sleep friendly A- C Side sleepers tend to be most satisfied with pillow tops as they often provide softness for hips and shoulders.
Front sleep friendly C- B+ Thicker and softer pillow tops may allow stomach sleepers to sink too far into the mattress thereby undermining neck alignment and or breathing ease.
Firmness options B- C Pillow tops are mainly available in medium or soft, and non-pillow tops mainly in medium or firm.
Short break in C- B- Pillow tops with memory foam especially can require extended time for break in.
Heavy person friendly C B People over 230 pounds may find that they sink too far into thick pillow tops.
Good for sex b b- Pillow tops often provide good comfort but may lack the bounce of non-pillow tops. See mattress sex comparison for general analysis.
Easy to lift, move, handle c- c+ Pillow top mattresses with their extra material tend to be heavier by about 20% on average.

Analysis of Key Issues

INITIAL COMFORT

Owner experience data suggests that a pillow top mattress is initially effective at minimizing pressure points, relieving pain and fostering better sleep. But these benefits often do not continue beyond the first few years – or even the first few months in some cases.

PILLOW TOP DURABILITY

At least 30% of pillow top mattress owners report significant sagging or compression occurring within three years of ownership. By contrast, about 17% of non-pillow top mattress owners report the problem. Sagging, of course, often undermines comfort and support.

A person's weight and size do not appear to be the main factor in regard to whether a pillow top will sag / compress as owners weighing under 150 pounds regularly report the problem.

pillow top mattress longevity comparison

PILLOW TOP LIFESPAN

The chart below shows the lifespan of pillow tops as a group based on owner experiences. In other words, it shows how long a pillow top maintains all or most of its initial comfort before it sags or compresses.

pillow top mattress lifespan chart

SLEEPING HOT

Pillow top mattresses, especially those with memory foam, are at least two times more likely to sleep hot than non-pillow top beds.

About 8% of pillow top mattress owners report that their bed acts as a heat trap resulting in an uncomfortably warm sleep surface.

By contrast, about 4% of non-pillow top mattress owners report a sleeping hot issue. (Learn more about mattress heat retention.)

pillow top mattress sleeping hot comparison chart

INITIAL ODOR / OFF GASSING

Initial odor or off gassing refers to smell or gas that a mattress can give off when it is new due to the manufacturing and or packaging process.

The intensity of the odor can vary from mattress to mattress, and the odor can last from a few hours to a few months.

Non-pillow top mattresses have few complaints regarding off gassing odor. By contrast, about 8% of pillow top bed owners, especially owners of beds with memory foam tops, complain about odor. Learn more about mattress off gassing.

pillow top mattress off gassing comparison chart

PAIN RELIEF

Especially when they are new, pillow tops tend to be effective in the relief of pain – including back, hip and shoulder pain – as at least 20% of owners report pain-relief benefits. As the top ages, compresses and sags, at least some pain benefits disappear.

In addition, pillow tops with memory foam tend to be more effective in the relief of pain than pillow tops without memory foam. Learn more about mattress pain relief.

pillow top memory foam pain comparison chart

PILLOW TOPS: AIRBEDS VS INNERSPRING BEDS

Airbeds and innerspring beds are the mattress types most likely to have a pillow top.

Airbeds
Any part of an airbed can be replaced, including the pillow top. The top is not permanently attached to the airbed, and, as a result, the existing top can be easily removed and a new top added. The cost of the replacement top may or may not be covered under the warranty. In addition, the pillow top of an airbed can often be easily rotated or flipped to extend its life.

Innerspring Beds
In contrast to an airbed, a pillow top on an innerspring mattress is almost always permanently attached and cannot be easily replaced or replaced at all. This likely means that, unlike the case with airbeds, the entire mattress would need to be replaced (or repaired by a professional) if the pillow top lost its comfort. The cost of replacing / repairing the mattress may or may not be covered under the warranty terms.

A small number of innerspring mattresses have a pillow top on the front and the back of the bed. This allows the mattress to be flipped on occasion to increase the lifespan of the pillow top and therefore the lifespan of the entire bed.


About Our Mattress Research

Our pillow top mattress research findings are based on 1,850+ mattress consumer reviews that were collected using our unbiased, accurate methodology.

Remember

– While pillow top mattresses tend to have good-to-excellent initial comfort, their long-term comfort is generally no better than fair due to compression and sagging.

– Pillow top mattresses overall are about twice as likely to have a problem with initial odor / off gassing than non-pillow top beds. This is usually because pillow top beds include more foam material.

– Pillow top beds, especially softer models and those with memory foam, are at least two times more likely to sleep hot than non-pillow top beds. About 8% of pillow top mattress owners report unwanted heat retention.

Pillow tops are mainly available in medium or soft, and non-pillow tops mainly in medium or firm.

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