What’s the difference between a pillow top and a memory foam mattress?
That’s pretty much what I’m gonna try to go over in this article. I’ve tested out many beds, many of which actually feature a pillow top or memory foam within their constructions.
But if you’re interested in both options, why should you really go with one of these beds over the other.
That’s exactly what I’m going to try to discuss in this article. Along the way I’ll talk about what these two types of beds share in common, how they differ and at the end I’m even going to try to wrap things up with a final verdict on who I see each type of mattress being best for.
Now let’s talk about pillow top beds versus memory foam.
To start, let’s define what each type of mattress is.
Table of Contents
What is a Pillow-Top Bed?
What exactly is a pillow top in a mattress? That way you can get a better understanding of what I’m talking about.
As the name implies, a pillow top bed is any mattress that uses a pillow top for its main comfort layer.
A pillow top is basically a top layer of a mattress that usually involves a quilted cover with various foams woven into it.
Many mattresses these days even opt for European pillow tops, which means that there’s an actual gap between the pillow top and the rest of the bed, unlike a conventional one, which is just an extra layer sewn directly on the top of the mattress.
Types of Pillow-Top Mattresses
Pillow tops can be comprised of any common bedding material, ranging from neutral foam to latex foam and some can even be made up of memory foam, like the beds from DreamCloud.
This is an option that is technically a pillow top bed and a memory foam mattress, so it’s basically the best of both worlds.
Since there are many types of pillow top mattresses, their feel can vary based on the types of material that they use.
For example, DreamCloud is going to have more of a memory foam pillow top feel, while a bed like Avocado Green is going to feature more of a latex foam pillow top feel.
Some examples of a pillow top bed are options like the WinkBed, Bear Hybrid, Saatva Classic and even Brentwood Home Oceano.
But in general pillow top beds are usually regarded as having more of a neutral foam feel, especially since other comfort foams are often used within them as well to balance things out.
Takeaways For Pillow-Tops Beds
One of the biggest takeaways for pillow top mattresses is pressure relief. Since many of them are designed to soften up a bed and add more comfort to it, I’d say that most offer a lot of pressure relief for side sleepers, while also retaining more of a neutral feel.
For this reason, they can also benefit anyone who suffers from joint pain, fibromyalgia or even arthritis.
The vast majority of pillow top mattresses also use coils or inner springs for support. So I also see these types of beds being really good options for heavier individuals.
What Is Memory Foam?
This material was actually first produced in the 70s and the basic concept behind it is that it basically conforms to your body’s shape and remembers it. Hence the name.
With a traditional memory foam mattress, like a Tempur-Pedic, when you first hop on it, it’ll likely appear to be pretty firm, but then you’ll slowly start to sink into its top layers as you nestle in, which will conform to the shape of your body.
This type of material can be divisive amongst certain sleepers.
A lot of people really enjoy the body conforming qualities that memory foam beds provide, because they give a cradling sensation for a lot of folks.
But other folks don’t really enjoy it, because it can also make you feel like you’re stuck in the bed when you go to rotate between sleeping positions due to the slow respond nature of the material.
Types Of Memory Foam
But keep in mind that is the case for more traditional memory foam mattresses. A lot of online brands these days are producing more and more beds that feature a lot more responsive memory foam feels.
For these type of beds you get that sink in sensation, but the bed is much faster to respond back into its original shape once pressure is released.
This mitigates a lot of that stuck feeling that some folks find to be slightly uncomfortable.
Options like Layla, Amerisleep, Bear and Lumen Leaf are all beds that tend to have more responsive memory foam feels.
Who Are Pillow-Tops Beds Best For?
But who is each type of mattress going to be best for?
Now that I’ve defined them a bit more for you, I’m sure you’re probably wondering that specific subject by now.
Since pillow top beds have been around a bit longer than memory foam ones, I’d say that they’re mainly going to be best for anyone who wants a more traditional style of mattress.
A bed with a pillow top is likely gonna feel pretty familiar to you and it may even remind you a bit of the bed that you grew up sleeping on.
They should also provide a pretty nice amount of cushion and pressure relief for those who suffer from any kind of chronic pain. And since most mainly use coils for support, they’re probably going to be my go-to options for heavier folks.
Who Is Memory Foam Best For?
In terms of memory foam, these beds should also provide plenty of pressure relief for most sleepers out there.
But they’re most likely going to be best for anyone who wants to sink into their bed and be cradled by it.
If you tend to stay in one main sleeping position throughout the night, memory foam beds are also really good for these types of sleepers, because the material often causes you to stay put, which could lead to more restful sleep.
Memory foam beds are also superior in regards to motion isolation, if that’s one of your main concerns, if you maybe sleep with a partner.
In general, I think lots of folks are gonna enjoy the feel of one, especially if you’re already a fan of this material.
In a nutshell though, if all that information that I just said went in one ear and right out the other, totally don’t blame you if that’s the case.
Go with a pillow top bed if you’re looking for a more traditional type of mattress.
And go with a memory foam one if you want something that will conform to the shape of your body a bit more.
Me personally I actually sleep on a pillow top mattress. I have for a number of years now and that’s my main preference in regards to this comparison.
But my friend Alex actually sleeps exclusively on a Tempur-Pedic. So dense memory foam and he can’t even imagine sleeping on another type of bed.
But it’s ultimately going to come down to your specific preferences when it comes to your nightly sleep.
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Alex P. Davis has a BA in Interior Design from The New York School of Interior Design and 10 years of experience expertly designing sophisticated interiors.