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Mattress Ratings > Pillow Top Mattresses

The Truth About Pillow Top Mattresses

Review, Ratings, Comparisons and Complaints Based on Over 1,670 Owner Experiences

August 12, 2015

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. The 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. A pillow top (or euro top) mattress is generally defined as a mattress with additional padding sewn into the top. This padding can consist of regular (polyurethane) foam, memory foam, latex, fiberfill, polypropylene, cotton or wool. Some tops have an integrated appearance with the mattress while others appear to be merely lying on top. Pillow tops are most often found on innerspring mattresses and to a lesser extent on airbeds.

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.

non- pillow top  
Owner satisfaction c c Pillow top beds tend to rate higher among side sleepers or those preferring more softness, while non-pillow top beds tend to rate higher among back sleepers or those preferring more firmness.
Longevity / durability d c Learn more.
Price / affordable c- C+ Pillow top beds are on average about 30% more expensive than non-pillow top beds.
Support C B- Sagging of pillow tops can undermine support and possibly cause back pain as a result.
Conforming B D Pillow tops are more likely to contour to the body and relieve pressure points.
No initial off gassing odor c- b- Learn more.
No sleeping hot c- b- Learn more.
Easy to move on / get up off c B Pillow tops with at least two inches of memory foam tend to 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 pillow top itself may also absorb motion.
Back sleep friendly c+ b+ Back sleepers tend to prefer firmer mattresses, not necessarily what pillow tops offer.
Side sleep friendly A- C Side sleepers tend to be most satisfied with pillow tops as they often provide the softness they prefer.
Front sleep friendly B B Front / stomach sleepers tend to prefer medium firmness which can be provided by either mattress type.
Firmness options C+ C Pillow tops are mainly available in medium or soft, and non-pillow tops mainly in medium or firm.
Edge support D B Support can be lacking for sleeping or sitting near the edge of pillow top mattresses, especially those with thicker tops.
Short break in period C- B- Pillow tops appear to require two times or more the break-in period.
Good for sex b+ b- See mattress sex comparison for general analysis.
No rotating needed d+ c+ Pillow top mattresses likely require at least twice the maintenance in regard to (head to foot) rotation.
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


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.


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


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


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 or off gassing refers to the "chemical" 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


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


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

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 terms. 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 both sides 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. Our collected owner experience data, however, is unclear as to whether and how much a two-sided pillow top bed improves lifespan.

About Our Mattress Research

Our pillow top mattress research findings are based on 1,670+ mattress consumer reviews that were collected using our unbiased, accurate methodology.


– 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 those with memory foam in the top, 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.

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