Updated February 26, 2020 Memory foam and pillow tops are both conforming and pressure relieving; however, they are constructed very differently. Memory foam beds typically contain layers of polyurethane and memory foam, while innerspring beds with a pillow top have coil support systems and cotton, polyester, memory foam, or latex comfort layers. Memory foam beds and innerspring mattresses with pillow tops have different strengths and drawbacks—one may meet your sleep needs better than the other. In this article, we will discuss memory foam and pillow-top mattresses, their materials, and how they compare to each other. Memory Foam Mattresses Memory foam was created in 1966 for seat cushions and later used in hospitals to alleviate bed sores. Shortly after, memory foam debuted in the mattress industry, where it gained popularity for its unique structure and conformability. Memory foam is polyurethane foam with added chemicals to give it viscoelastic properties, including a slow response to pressure and body-counting abilities. The dense material responds to body weight and heat by softening, allowing your body to sink into the materials and alleviating pressure points. Memory foam mattresses can last between 8 and 10 years when cared for properly. Most cost between $600 and $2000. Memory foam mattresses are made of two or three layers: a comfort layer, a transition layer, and a support layer. The top layer is always memory foam to contour and alleviate pressure. The transition layer buffers between the comfort and support layers, ensuring the sleeper doesn’t bottom out on the dense support layer. The support layer is a high-density foam that reinforces the upper layers and deters sagging to prolong the mattress’s lifespan. Memory foam can accommodate most comfort preferences and sleep positions because it comes in a variety of firmnesses. The best mattresses for side sleepers are medium in firmness to alleviate pressure points and maintain spinal alignment. Back sleepers need a medium to medium-firm mattress to prevent their hips from bowing into the bed, which could lead to back pain. Stomach sleepers sleep in a position that overextends their back, so they need a medium-firm to firm mattress to improve their spinal alignment. Motion Transfer Memory foam absorbs shock upon impact, eliminating motion transfer—this allows someone to toss and turn or get up out of bed without disturbing their partner. Heat Retention While memory foam is excellent for individuals who need pressure relief and conformability, it can retain heat, preventing restful sleep. In response, memory foam mattress manufacturers engineered memory foam infused with gel, copper, or graphite to wick heat away. Of the three infusions, gel memory foam is more affordable and readily available—a great option for those on a budget. Off-gassing Some memory foam mattresses emit a chemical smell called off-gassing when first packaged. Off-gassing occurs when a product is made with high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). To avoid off-gassing, look for plant-based or CertiPUR-US® certified memory foam mattresses. Advantages of Memory Foam Conforming support Best for people with hip, shoulder, and back pain Durable Can support most sleep positions Disadvantages of Memory Foam Cheaper models may retain heat and off-gas Poor edge support Innerspring Mattress with a Pillow Top A pillow top is an extra comfort layer on top of an innerspring mattress. This additional layer is usually filled with down, cotton, polyester fiberfill, latex, or memory foam and looks like a gigantic pillow sitting on top of the bed—thus the name “pillow top.” A pillow top is meant to cushion the mattress’s coil layers to alleviate pressure points and add extra conformability. A pillow top is a great option for people who don’t like the feel of a traditional mattress. However, the bed’s overall construction tends to attract allergens, which can irritate sensitive respiratory systems. An innerspring mattress with a pillow top costs between $1000 and $1400 and lasts between four and seven years, depending on the material’s quality and how well you maintain it. Motion Transfer Innerspring mattresses are bouncy due to their coil core, so the bed doesn’t isolate motion as well as memory foam. Heat Retention Innerspring mattresses naturally regulate a sleeper’s temperature; however, the material in the pillow top can increase or decrease the mattress’s air circulation. Cotton, down, and polyester pillow tops encourage air circulation more than latex and memory foam. If you want a cooler mattress, go with a breathable pillow top material. Air doesn’t circulate through latex and memory like a down or cotton pillow top. Sometimes manufacturers infuse memory foam and latex with gel, copper, or graphite to keep you cool. Off-gassing Pillow tops without latex and memory foam components don’t have much off-gassing. If the mattress incorporates a latex or memory foam pillow top, the bed could have a fair amount of off-gassing when first unboxed. The odor shouldn’t last longer than a week. Advantages of Pillow Tops Plushy and supportive Temperature neutral Less likely to off-gas Disadvantages of Pillow Tops Shorter lifespan Collects allergens Conclusion Your sleep needs and priorities significantly influence which type of mattress you end up buying. If you have a restless sleeping partner and need pain relief, consider a memory foam bed. If you enjoy the bounce of traditional innerspring mattresses and a plushy sleeping surface, a pillow top is the best mattress for you. Keep in mind, a mattress with a pillow top has a shorter lifespan compared to a memory foam bed. If you’re buying a pillow top, you may have to purchase a new mattress sooner than you want. This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a Comment Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.