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Mattress Ratings > Pillow Top Mattresses

The Truth About Pillow Top Mattresses

Review, Ratings, Comparisons and Complaints Based on Over 1,600 Owner Experiences

March 3, 2014

What You Need To Know

THE GOOD: Pillow top mattresses overall have above-average initial comfort. Tops that include memory foam tend to be effective in relieving pain, including back pain.

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: 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.

MATTRESSES WITH PILLOW TOPS: Pillow tops are most often found on innerspring mattresses and to a lesser extent on airbeds. They are only occasionally found on other mattress types, such as memory foam, latex, and water.

Pillow Top vs Non-Pillow Top Mattresses

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

  Pillow top mattresses non-pillow top mattresses
Owner satisfaction c c
Longevity / durability d c
Price / affordability c- C+
Reduced pain / pressure b c
No initial odor / off gassing c- b-
No sleeping hot c- b-
Easy to move on / get up off c B
Back sleep friendly c+ b
Side sleep friendly b C
Front sleep friendly B- c+
Good for sex b b-
No rotating needed d+ c+
Lightweight c- c+

Analysis of Key Issues

INITIAL COMFORT

Collected owner experience data shows that the initial comfort of an innerspring or air mattress with a pillow top is good or excellent. The pillow top is initially effective at minimizing pressure points, relieving pain and fostering better sleep. But the initial comfort often does not continue beyond the first few years or even the first few months in some cases, especially in regard to pillow tops on innerspring mattresses.

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 often undermines mattress comfort and support.

A person's weight and size does not appear to be a large factor in regard to whether a pillow top will sag / compress.

pillow top mattress longevity comparison

PILLOW TOP LIFESPAN

The chart below shows the lifespan of pillow tops as a group according to 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 in the top, are at least two times more likely to sleep hot than non-pillow top beds.

About 7-9% of pillow top mattress owners report that their bed acts as a heat trap resulting in an uncomfortably warm sleeping surface.

By contrast, about 3-4% 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 the chemical-like 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

Pillow tops tend to be fairly effective in the relief of pain, including back, hip and shoulder pain, when they are new. 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 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 1,600+ 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 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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