What is a Pillow Top Mattress? (Is it worth paying extra?)

What is a Pillow Top Mattress? (Is it worth paying extra?)

There’s nothing better at the end of the day than sinking into a soft, comfortable bed for some quality sleep. It’s one of the best feelings that there is, and it’s not just great for relaxing; getting a good night’s sleep is important for your physical and mental health, and you want to wake feeling refreshed and ready to take on the new day. 

Your choice of mattress plays a big part in this: choose the right one and a perfect night is yours; choose the wrong one and you might be beginning the day feeling exhausted and painful. This is even more important if you already suffer from poor sleeping or insomnia.

One choice for a better sleep is a pillow top mattress, but what exactly is one, how can they help, and what should you know before buying?    

What is a Pillow Top Mattress?

The main feature of a pillow top mattress is that they are pretty much that: a mattress topped with a pillow. They take a standard spring mattress base and add a soft topping, made from cotton, synthetics, or even memory foam.

This creates a soft surface that will conform to your body shape and provide maximum comfort while still having the support of the mattress beneath. They are commonly used by those looking for a more comfortable night or trying to relieve back pain when sleeping.

Example of a Pillow Top Mattress:

The Sealy Sanctuary Spa Mattress is a good example of a pillow top mattress. This is a premium mattress with “medium” firmness rating from the Sealy Sanctuary mattress collection. 

Sealy Sanctuary pillow top mattress

It has a quilted pillow top, which creates a sumptuous feel when you lay down. 

Inside the pillow top there is a layer of latex, which provides pressure relief for key areas of your body.

Sealy mattress with latex pillow top and springs

Beneath the pillow top there are are also two layers of pocket springs (a total of 2,900), which individually respond to your body shape and provide tailored support.

This mattress has been treated with Purotex, which is a natural anti-bacterial treatment against dust and dust mites. Keep in mind that the height of this mattress is 39cm. Generally mattresses with a pillow top are around 30-39cm high.

How is it priced?

Pillow top mattresses are priced at around £600-1,500 for a double size. However, their price will depend on the brand and materials used inside the mattress (memory foam, latex, if there are any pocket springs and if yes how many, etc.). 

In the example above, the Sealy Sanctuary Spa Mattress is priced at £1,299.99 for a double size and comes with a 10 year guarantee. On the other hand the Sealy Sanctuary Haven Mattress from the same Sealy collection doesn’t come with a pillow top and is priced at £899.99 for a double size. This is a £400 difference!

However, keep in mind that the difference in the price is not just because of the pillow top. The Sealy Sanctuary Haven is cheaper also because it only one layer of springs inside, not two layers (the total number of springs is 1,500 vs. 2,900). It is also 30cm high, which is 9cm less than the Sealy Sanctuary Spa.

Shopping tip: If you’re looking for a high quality pillow top mattress at a lower price, check out the Slumberland Clima Airstream Memory Mattress priced at £749-£849 for a double size. 

Pillow Top Mattress Pros and Cons:

Many people choose pillow top mattresses as their preferred choice for their bed, and there are many reasons why they could be the right option for you. However, there are several reasons why a pillow top might not be right for you. Let’s have a look at the pros and cons below. 

Pros:

  • The first plus point about pillow tops is that they are much softer than an ordinary mattress. The extra layer of padding makes for a bed that you can sink into, forming to the shape of your body and helping to take the strain off pressure points, such as the shoulder and hip. If the mattress is topped with memory foam, this makes for an even more comfortable sleeping experience.
  • One of the reasons people choose a pillow top mattress is to try and alleviate pain when sleeping. The extra comfort provided by the topping helps to take the stress off your joints while the mattress underneath still offers support, with many people reporting a reduction in back or hip pain from using a pillow top.

Overall, if you are looking for a much more comfortable night’s sleep, you suffer from back or joint pain, or just want some extra luxury, a pillow top mattress can help solve your problems in a simple and cost-effective way.

pillow top mattress pros and cons

Cons:

Pillow top mattresses aren’t without their faults, and there are some things that you should bear in mind when deciding whether or not they’re the right choice for you.

  • Pillow tops add an extra level of comfort to your mattress, but that comes at the price of being much less durable over time. Common problems include the topper losing its softness and beginning to sag, and the padding breaking up and moving around inside the cover, leading to an uncomfortable and uneven sleeping surface.
  • One thing that has to be mentioned about pillow tops is that they can reduce the lifespan of your mattress (a good quality mattress should last you around 7 years). As the main feature of them is the topping, once this has compressed and lost its comfort its purpose is done, and you no longer the feeling of softness and luxury that you bought the mattress for.
  • The topping also effectively makes the mattress one-sided; you can’t turn the mattress to get some extra life out of it, as you would with a standard mattress, as the pillow top is on one side only.
  • Unlike removable mattress toppers, the pillow is stitched or glued on, so you can’t just replace it when it begins to wear out and lose its comfort. Once the padding’s gone, the entire mattress will have to be replaced, even though there’s likely to be plenty of life left in the base.

Is a Euro Top the Same as a Pillow Top?

Both “Euro Top” and “Pillow Top” mattresses have an extra layer of padding on the top for added comfort. Their main difference between the two is in the way they are made. With pillow tops, the padding is sewn or glued to the top of the basic mattress base. With euro tops, however, you have this padding placed under the mattress cover.

Euro Top vs. Pillow Top Mattress

This is easy to see when you look at them, as euro tops look like a standard mattress, only taller. While pillow tops have the appearance of a large pillow laying across the top of the mattress. Both types are fixed to the mattress base and are not removeable or replaceable.

There’s little difference in comfort between the two styles, except that euro tops offer a little extra sideways support to the padding by being integrated with the rest of the mattress. Euro tops also have the extra layer of fabric to protect the padding from wear and keep it clean.

A good example of a Euro Top mattress is the iGel Advance 2500 Plush Top Mattress from Bensons for Beds. Inside the Euro Top there is 5cm of iGel™ Advance (beaded gel), which regulates temperature very well and relieves pressure. 

How to Choose a Pillow Top Mattress?

What should you be looking for when buying a pillow top mattress?

1. The first point is an old one that you’ll have heard many times before, but it can’t be said enough: buy the best quality option you can.

A high-quality pillow top that’s made with durable materials will last a lot longer than a budget choice and will save you money in the long run. Cheap pillow tops will sag quickly and lose their comfort; buying the best you can from the start will make a huge difference to the lifespan of your mattress.

2. Secondly, look at the materials the pillow top is made of. There are many different materials available that pillow tops can be made from, and you need to choose this just as wisely as the quality of the mattress.

Cotton and nylon are common choices for padding, and there are memory foam and latex foam options available, too, with the foam versions offering a much higher level of comfort, though they are a little more expensive.

The choice of fabric for the covering material is important as well to help with longevity and also temperature control. Choosing natural fibres is the best option for a temperate sleeping experience.

3. Whatever material they’re made from, however, pillow tops are generally a bit warmer than standard mattress bases, due to the heat-retaining qualities of the extra padding, though some are sold with ‘coolness’ labels which use cooler materials to try and overcome this, so always look out for them if you struggle with sleeping hot.

Although you can’t flip a pillow top, you can, and should, still rotate it from top to bottom regularly. This helps to prolong the life of the mattress and stop it from sagging prematurely in areas where more weight is placed on it.

Soft, Medium or Firm Pillow Top Mattress?

All pillow and euro top mattresses are designed to be softer and more comfortable than a standard mattress, but they still come in different levels of softness. When buying, you’ll often see them advertised with names such as ‘softer’ or ‘medium firm’; this is a personal choice as to how soft you like your mattress, but it’s important to know that not all pillow tops are the same.

What Bedsheets Do You Need?

As pillow tops add an extra layer to the mattress, they make it thicker (usually around 30-40cm), so you may need larger sheets, particularly if you use fitted ones, to ensure a good fit. Deep pocket sheets should be large enough to cover a pillow top mattress comfortably. However, double check that your old sheets can fit your new mattress, or you’ll need to purchase new ones.

Shopping tip: If you’re still not sure that a pillow top mattress is right for you, check out our list of top 10 UK mattresses that you can buy online. Almost all of them come with a 100-200 night trial, so you can sleep and test them at home. Plus they come with free shipping and returns. 

Please note, any prices mentioned in this article are accurate as of January 26, 2022 and may be subject to change.