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Pillow Top Mattress vs. Memory Foam Mattress – Which One is Right For You? – The Bedding Planet

Pillow Top Mattress vs. Memory Foam Mattress – Which One is Right For You?

Whenever you are shopping for a mattress, you will be faced with tons of choices. Among the best luxury brands available today are memory foam mattresses and pillow top mattresses.

Both come with extra comfort for your back and neck, and they do an excellent job of relieving the pressure points that cause tossing and turning.

But, the two have significant differences. So, which one is right for you? a pillow top mattress or a memory foam mattress? A memory foam mattress are better in terms of durability, allergies, motion transfer, and pressure points. However, if you enjoy the bounce of a traditional mattress, a plush sleeping surface, and extra comfort, then a pillow top mattress will be your ideal bet.

Ultimately, what you prefer will determine which mattress is best for you.

To make the decisions easier, let’s consider the properties of each mattress, its pros and cons, and who it’s best for. At least this way, you will have enough information on both to choose which will best suit your needs. Let’s get to it.

The Memory Foam Mattress

Created in 1966, memory foam was first used on seat cushions before they were adopted into hospital beds to help alleviate patients’ bed sores. It didn’t take long before the mattress industry started using memory foam for household beds.

As a polyurethane foam, memory foam has added chemicals to give it its viscoelastic properties it is so famously known for. The viscoelastic property makes the mattress respond to pressure and body contouring, which helps relieve pressure points and make your nights much more comfortable.

The material also responds to heat, including body heat. It softens and allows your body to sink into the material, which, as we already said, helps in alleviating pressure on your joints, shoulders, and back.

When properly taken care of, a memory foam mattress should serve you for at least eight years and a maximum of ten years. Being a luxury brand, you can spend anywhere between $600 and $2000 for a mattress, but it’s worth every coin.

The structure is made of three layers, comfort, transition, and support. The top layer or comfort layer is memory foam to contour and alleviate pressure. The transition layer ensures you don’t bottom out on the dense support layer, while the support layer, made of high-density foam, reinforces the upper layers and prevents sagging. This makes the mattress durable.

Like other mattresses, memory foam mattress comes in various firmness, and they are comfortable for most sleeping positions.

Things to Note With Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory transfer

The mattress absorbs shock upon impact and eliminates motion transfer. You can, thus, toss and turn, get up and out of bed, and your partner won’t even notice. That’s what makes these mattresses the best option for anyone with a restless sleeping partner.

Heat retention

Manufacturers have developed mattresses that wick head away by using gel, graphite, or copper together with the memory foam. Gel is the most affordable and readily available, which is perfect if you are on a budget.


Off-gassing is uncomfortable for a lot of people. It occurs when a product, such as a memory foam mattress, is manufactured from VOCs or volatile organic compounds. To prevent this, buy a plant-based or CertiPUR-US certified mattress. Alternatively, give the mattress a few days to off-gas or deodorize it.

The Pillow Top Mattress

A pillow top mattress is more or less the same as a traditional spring mattress, but it has an additional layer of padding above the comfort layer. This layer is often filled with cotton, daw, latex, polyester fiberfill, or memory foam. It looks like a gigantic pillow resting on top of your bed, which is where the name ‘pillow top’ was derived from.

The pillow top cushions your mattress’s coil layers, adds comfort to the bed, and helps reduce pressure points. If you enjoy the feel of a traditional mattress and love the extra comfort of memory foam, this is the perfect in-between. However, this mattress tends to attract allergens, which is a bummer if you are prone to respiratory irritation.

You will expect to spend between $1000 and $1400 for this mattress, which is a fair price for what you will be getting in terms of comfort and durability. Speaking of durability, this mattress will serve your four to seven years, depending on the material quality and how well you maintain it.

Things to Note About The Pillow Top Mattress

Thermal regulation

Unlike memory foam mattresses, you don’t have to worry about getting too much heat with the pillow top mattress. Pillow top mattresses don’t affect the temperature of your bed, even when they incorporate viscoelasticity. This is because of their limited thickness.

Off gassing

You can expect some level of off gassing in pillow top mattresses, but it will obviously not be as much as it is in memory foam. Some pillow top mattresses use artificial latex or natural latex blend, and sometimes viscoelastic foam. This is where the off gassing comes from. Because VOCs cause a risk to your respiratory system, ensure your mattress comes with a safety certificate. Alternatively, keep the mattress out of your room until it has off gassed itself.


While a memory foam mattress will last up to eight years, pillow top mattress is only good for up to seven years. Customers have often complained that these mattresses lose their shape after a few years of use, making sleeping uncomfortable. Luckily, you can get a few more years of use if you use a mattress topper as most layers below the pillow top are usually still in good condition. This is definitely not the best option, but it will do.

Now that you understand both mattresses let’s compare them.

A Memory Foam Mattress vs. Pillow Top Mattress Comparison

Memory foam mattress pros

  • Durability – from what we have already seen, a quality memory foam mattress is more durable than a pillow top mattress. If comfort and durability are top of your list, a memory foam mattress is better.
  • Pain relief – memory foam offers better support for your joints, which leads to pain relief on your neck and back. Remember, the mattress contours to your body shape.
  • Firmness – both mattresses come in different firmness variety, but memory foam is the best among them. According to reviews, memory form offers enough firmness for support, but it’s still soft to offer comfort.
  • Motion transfer – although pillow top mattresses offer more comfort than traditional spring mattresses, they don’t offer the same motion transfer that comes with a memory foam mattress.
  • Weight distribution – memory foam distributes your weight evenly and is said to be comfortable, especially if you are heavier.

Memory foam pillow cons

  • Off gassing takes longer, and it may be too strong for people with sensitive respiratory systems.
  • Temperature – although manufacturers are working on ensuring the mattresses regulate heat, some customers still complain of too much heat, especially during hot weather.

Pillow top mattress pros

  • Off gassing – although they may have some level of off gassing, it won’t be as severe as in a memory foam mattress. If you are to leave it for a few days to off gas itself, the process will be faster than with a memory foam mattress.
  • Temperature – pillow top mattresses don’t give a ‘too-warm’ feeling experienced by memory foam mattress users.
  • Economy – they are not as expensive as memory foam mattresses and are a great option if you are on a budget. The top could still be made of memory foam, hence giving you that extra comfort you need for a good night’s sleep.

Pillow top mattress cons

  • They don’t offer extra support heavier people need to have a good night’s sleep.
  • It still has the same cons that apply to traditional spring mattresses. For instance, when your partner moves, it affects your sleep.
  • They wear out faster.

Without a doubt, memory foam mattresses score higher than pillow top mattresses even though both are luxury brands.

They also last longer, which means you get your money’s worth when you buy one. Although pillow top mattresses may not be as good as memory foam, they are an upgrade from the regular spring mattress.

They are more comfortable but compared to memory foam, they probably won’t be the first choice for many. Depending on your needs and budget, you now know which between the two to choose.

Niklas Lampi

My name is Niklas and I'm the author and content operator at The Bedding Planet. I've always had a big interest in bedding and more specifically sleep. If I find something that makes me sleep better, whether that's a lifestyle change or a better bedding environment, I'm ready to share it with the world!

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