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Have you ever asked yourself:  "What is a pillow top mattress?" Well, you're not alone. There's a dizzying array of mattresses available and pillow tops are growing in popularity.

But here's a hint: sleeping on a pillow top mattress is a lot like sleeping on a cloud!

That being said, what is a pillow top mattress?

What Is A Pillow Top Mattress?

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Simply put, a pillow top mattress is a standard mattress with a pillow sewn onto the top. Most of the time that pillow is some type of soft foam. However, you can find pillow top mattresses that use memory gel or even down.

Another thing to note about pillow top mattresses is that the pillow is sewn onto the mattress underneath the actual pillow top. This creates a small space between the pillow top and the mattress around the edges. The edge of the pillow folds under itself, creating a gap. It looks like there's a pillow on the top!

Reasons To Buy A Pillow Top Mattress

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Now you know the answer to the question "What is a pillow top mattress?" the next thing you might ask is "Do I need one?" Like with most things in life, the answer depends.

You see, while pillow top mattresses are comfortable, they have their downsides. But first, let's look at some reasons to buy a pillow top mattress.

Great for your back

First, a brand new pillow top mattress can be great for your back. That's especially true if you buy one with a memory foam pillow top. Because the mattress enjoys an extra layer of softness on the top, you may find that your first few months of sleeping feel great.

Many people also report that the pillow top mattress relieves aches and pains in their back, although there is no medical evidence of this at the time of writing. Still, we won't discount people's individual experiences. Just know that your mileage may vary.

Reduced mattress movement

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Another great thing about pillow top mattresses is that you won't feel your partner shifting too much. Again, this is truer at the start of the mattress' life. As your pillow top ages, you'll feel more movement through the mattress.

If you are easily disturbed at night, then a memory foam pillow top with an individual spring-coil mattress could be the solution to your sleep problems. It's like the best of both worlds.

You get pocket coils that don't transfer vibrations through the mattress and a thick memory foam layer that absorbs energy. You wouldn't feel a bowling ball drop next to you! Check out the Orthosleep Infinity Pillow Top Mattress as a great example of this.

Side-sleep friendly

Also, pillow top mattresses are friendly for side-sleepers. What is a pillow top mattress? It's the first thing most side sleepers should look at. In fact, most side-sleepers prefer pillow tops over any other type of mattress. That's thanks to the softness the pillow top provides the hips and shoulders.

Moreover, if you couple a pillow top with a firm pillow that supports your neck, you may have the best sleep of your life. But that's where the good stuff ends.

Problems With Pillow Top Mattresses

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What is a pillow top mattress known for? Unfortunately, it's famous for a lot of negative things. For starters, if you're a heavier person, a pillow top mattress can cause a lot of problems.

To illustrate, the soft foam on the top isn't good at supporting much weight. That means heavier people can end up with back pain, neck pain, and day-long headaches as a result.

Also, pillow top mattresses don't have a great life span. When you're spending this much on a mattress, you expect it to last for a decade or more. Well, not with a pillow top.

Shortened mattress life

The first and most important negative thing about pillow top mattresses is their short life span. Most mattresses will last you at least a decade. Some are guaranteed for 20 years or more. Not so with pillow tops.

To start, you can't expect any mattress to retain its shape after 10 years. Just think about it. You're sleeping on it for eight hours every night. Of course, it's going to start to wear out.

But with a pillow top mattress, you're looking at less than two years before it starts to sag a little. By five years, you're waking up with back pains and there's a huge indent where you sleep. Now you need a new mattress.

Less support

Another strike against pillow tops is how little support they offer you. If you prefer a firm mattress, avoid pillow tops. They don't support pressure points very well, which means you may find your body hurts after a while of sleeping on a pillow top.

Like we said earlier, if you're a heavier person, you absolutely will not enjoy a pillow top after a year or two.

Impossible repairs

Finally, it's nearly impossible to fix problems with the pillow top. And because that's the part which takes the brunt of the abuse, that could be a real problem.

You see, the pillow top is attached to the mattress underneath the actual pillow. Most of the time it's sewn on but some manufacturers use a continuous piece of fabric to cover the entire thing.

That means you can't repair it. If it ends up with a manufacturing defect, your warranty may cover a repair. Otherwise, sags and tears aren't going away.

Are There Alternatives?

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Good news! If you want the softness of a pillow top mattress without all the problems, there are alternatives.

Many people who ask "What is a pillow top mattress?" have a Euro top in mind. While they are similar, the two mattresses aren't the same. A Euro top can be a great alternative to a pillow top. Also, you can throw a mattress topper over your regular spring mattress and get almost the same effect.

Let's check it out.

Euro top mattresses

Let's start by looking at the distant cousin of the pillow top. We're talking about the Euro top mattress. Both have a layer of foam over top of the spring mattress. That's where the similarities end.

First, Euro-top mattresses don't have a separate pillow top sown on. Instead, the foam layer is attached right to the mattress under the same fabric. There's no gap between the foam and the mattress. It looks like one continuous mattress. That is until you lay on it.

Also, Euro tops use a firmer memory foam, which offers greater support. Heavier people will appreciate a Euro top like the Sealy Response Performance mattress much more than a pillow top.

Mattress toppers

Another great alternative to a pillow top is to throw a mattress topper on your current mattress. So long as you don't already have a pillow top, a mattress topper such as the Milemont 2-inch Cool Swirl Gel mattress topper will fit the bill.

And the great thing about mattress toppers is that you can choose the size, thickness, firmness and even the materials used. If you don't like it, get a different one. And, when it wears out, replace it!

Also, mattress toppers are excellent at protecting your mattress. For instance, they take all the wear and tear instead of your mattress. That means you can extend the life of your mattress, which you can't do with a pillow top.

Two-sided mattresses

Finally, you can buy yourself a two-sided mattress. Now you're asking "What is a two-sided mattress?" rather than "What is a pillow top mattress?"

The two-sided, or double-sided, mattress used to be the most popular type of mattress up until the 1990s, when they began to fade out.

Basically, the mattress looks the same on the bottom and the top. Both sides are upholstered and have the same inner springs to support you. When one side starts to sag, flip the mattress over and enjoy a few more years!

Or better yet, rotate the mattress every few weeks to extend the life of it. Unfortunately, two-sided mattresses tend to be smaller, weaker, and don't last much longer than a pillow top.

You Can Sleep On A Cloud!

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What is a pillow top mattress? It's a mattress with a foam layer sewn onto the top of it. And while it feels like you're sleeping on a cloud for the first year or so, eventually it sags.

But thankfully you have other options. If you want to feel like you're really sleeping on a cloud, go with a mattress topper. Not only will you save money on a new mattress, but you can find the perfect firmness and thickness for your needs.

Or get yourself a Euro-top mattress. They last longer than pillow-tops. On the other hand, they tend to be a bit firmer, so you may lose that cloud-like feeling. However, if you're light, and you don't jump on the bed, a pillow top mattress can be a great purchase. Just don't expect it to last long.

Have you used a pillow top mattress? We'd love to hear what you think! Share your experiences in the comment section.

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