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What Is A Pillowtop Mattress?

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Written By Alex Petrović

Certified Sleep Consultant

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4 June 2024 6 min read

When doing research on the best mattress available, you might have wondered “what is a pillowtop mattress?” Well, that's precisely the question we're going to answer today.

Very commonly used for a hotel bed, pillow top mattresses offer an added comfort layer on top of the mattress.

And in this article, we're going to go through any questions you might have about pillow top mattresses, so you can decide whether they're what you're missing in order to get a good night's sleep. After all, how can you know whether a pillowtop mattress is ideal for you without first knowing what is a pillowtop mattress?

So, let's dive into it! And if you have any questions, feel free to ask us in the comment section.

What does a pillowtop mattress consist of?

A close up image of Sealy Posturepedic Pearl Luxury Pillow Top mattress cover.

Pillow top mattresses live up to their name in many ways. They consist of a mattress and an added pillowtop layer that's sewn or glued to the top of the mattress. The mattress can techically be of any sorts – a memory foam mattress, a spring mattress, or a hybrid. But with memory foam products, the mattresses pillow your head as is, so there's little point in adding another comfort layer on top. Innerspring mattresses on the othed hand benefit greatly from a pillow top.

And the pillowtop itself is usually made of softer materials, as it's supposed to add extra padding to the mattress underneath. The pillowtop can be made from pollyester, cotton, goose down or even memory foam.

What are the advantages of a pillowtop mattress?

An image of Sealy Posturepedic Pearl Luxury Pillow Top mattress in a bedroom.

If you take a look online, you'll see that people are somewhat torn when it comes to pillow top mattresses. This is because they offer some pretty obvious benefits, but also less obvious faults that might catch some people off guard.

The biggest, and most obvious advantage a pillowtop mattress has is added comfort. After all, the mattress pillow is usually made from very soft materials that allow you to sink into the mattress as if you landed on a cloud.

And while they aren't thicker than some mattress toppers, the pillow tops still add a substantial amount of padding.

When combined with a mattress sporting pocket springs, you get both the support of spring mattresses and the comfort of memory foam mattresses – at least in theory.

For example, if you were experiencing shoulder pain, you might want a firmer mattress that offers some pain relief.

However, if you were also a side sleeper, a firm mattress might be too uncomfortable for you. So, by adding additional padding to a firm mattress, you should be able to reap the benefits on both sides. However, some might still say that getting a mattress topper is both the safer and better choice. This is because the pillow top being unremovable can cause some issues down the line.

Disadvantages of a pillowtop mattress

For one, while most toppers can be thrown into a washing machine, pillow tops have to be manually cleaned, which both takes more time and more effort. On top of that, you can't flip the mattress over because of the pillow top, meaning that the mattress isn't going to last as long. And lastly, if the pillow top starts to sag, you just have to live with it, unlike with a topper which you can exchange without having to buy a new mattress as well.

And while it isn't as big of a deal, it's also important to know that a pillowtop can lessen the temperature regulation of your mattress. For example, if you put the top on a mid to high-end breathable mattress, the pillow might actually get in the way and keep some of the body heat that would have otherwise been dispersed into the mattress. So, keep this in mind if you sleep hot.

All of this is to say that getting a pillow top mattress can definitely lead to better sleep quality and comfort, however, it's not perfect. It can't magically make any mattress good, and it might retain heat during the night.

Pillowtop VS Euro Top mattresses

While doing your research, you might also see the term Euro top mattresses being used in the same context as pillow tops. And judging by the pictures, they might seem like the same thing. However, they are slightly different.

Generally, Euro tops are a bit firmer than pillow tops. They're also sown flush with the edges of the mattress while pillow tops typically “sit” on top of the mattress. This means that Euro tops are a bit more minimalistic in terms of design and offer better edge support.

Durability

Generally speaking, Euro tops tend to be a bit more durable. This is because the materials used are often a bit tougher or packed in more tightly than what you'd see with a pillow top mattress. Pillow top mattresses tend to flatten out more quickly and the filling can become uneven across the pillow top as they're not tufted or compact. Likewise, Euro tops, while more durable overall, can start sagging around the corners.

Overall feel

An image of a plush pillow top mattress.

Although the difference isn't astronomical, the choice between a pillow top mattress and a Euro top mattress depends on your sleeping preference. A pillow top mattress is generally softer and thus a better option for back and side sleepers. It's also better in terms of initial comfort, as you can sink right into the top layer.

Euro tops on the other hand might be the perfect option for stomach sleepers, as they tend to like a firmer surface. Plus, the firmness of the Euro top might be more well suited to relieve pressure points and offer better back support. So, sleeping styles play a very big role when making this decision.

So, if you generally like a medium firm feel, Euro tops are probably your best bet. They might even offer better motion isolation, which is quite useful if you're sharing the bed. On the other hand, softer models like pillow tops offer a much softer feel than their non pillow counterparts and generally focus on comfort.

Edge support

In the edge support category, Euro tops have a distinct advantage. Since pillow tops are not only softer than Euro tops, but also just lay on the top of the mattress, they offer very little edge support. So, if you happen to sleep near the edge, a pillow top mattress might negatively affect your sleep quality.

Euro tops on the other hand are sewn flushed with the edges of the mattress and are generally a lot firmer than the pillow top layer, meaning that they offer significant edge support. However, we will point out that Euro tops do tend to sag around the edges after some time, but that's unavoidable with any mattress type.

What is the difference between a pillowtop and a regular mattress?

a hand pressing Inofia memory foam mattress topper

Generally, just think of pillow top mattresses as regular mattresses with a bit extra. In theory, any mattress type or brand can be made into a pillow top, but some are definitely more common than others.

For example, you'll hardly ever find a memory foam mattress with a pillow top as memory foam mattresses are already soft enough as is. On the other hand, a spring mattress can be made a lot more comfortable with a softer pillow top resting on top of the entire mattress.

So, a pillow top mattress really is just like any other mattress, only it has that one added layer of comfort.

Can you flip a pillowtop mattress?

Probably the biggest downside of pillow top mattresses is that they can't be flipped over. The mattress pillow is only attached to one side, meaning that flipping it would be both counterproductive and potentially awkward.

Pillow top mattresses are designed so that you can't simply take the pillow top off. Therefore, there really aren't any options at your disposal if one side of the mattress starts to sag.

What is the average lifespan of pillowtop mattresses?

An image of Relyon Luxury Silk 2850 Pillow Top mattress.

As touched upon just now, pillow top mattresses generally have a shorter lifespan than most regular mattresses. This is because they can't be flipped over, effectively cutting their lifespan in half.

So, while a regular mattress might have a lifespan of anywhere between 7 and 10 years, a pillow top mattress is probably only going to make it to the 3 to 5 year mark. Just goes to show how different mattress types can be.

How do you wash a pillowtop mattress?

Since the pillowtop can't just be removed and cleaned separately (or replaced for that matter), keeping it clean is of the utmost importance.

Ideally, you'd want to clean up any stain the pillowtop might have immediately. First, use a microfiber cloth to soak up any excess liquids before they seep deeper into the pillowtop. Using a drop of liquid detergent, dab the affected area, from outside the stain inwards so the stain doesn't spread.

Then use a clean, dry cloth to soak up any of the cleaner that might still be on the pillowtop. After this, let the mattress air dry in a well-ventilated room.

Conclusion

So, what is a pillowtop mattress? They might just be the ideal mattress for you! They are an excellent choice for people who would like an added bit of comfort while sleeping. And while they do come with some downsides, both pillow tops and Euro tops might just be the thing you're missing!

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About the author

Alex Petrović
Sleep Consultant
A CPD certified Sleep Consultant with more than 2000 hours of research into all the different ways we can get a great night's sleep. As a former insomniac, I know how difficult life can be without a nightly recovery and I love that I get to share everything I've learned with you all. So hopefully we can all sleep soundly!
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