Comfort, quality and price are important considerations when deciding between a firm and a pillow-top mattress. Pillow-top mattresses boast a luxurious layer of cushioning sown to the underlying inner spring or air mattress and tend to be more expensive than basic mattresses. Firm mattresses will give good support to your back but a lot will depend on quality and construction, as a cheap mattress will eventually wear out and sag.
A pillow-top mattress is a good option for people who want all-in-one softness without the inconvenience of having to add a mattress topper to an underlying mattress. A key advantage is that the padding adds extra comfort while not sacrificing the support of the mattress underneath. Therefore, a pillow-top mattress is a good compromise between support and comfort.
A firm mattress will offer good support for your body. If you opt for a firm mattress, you have a much wider variety. Sprung, air, latex and memory foam mattresses have different firmness levels to choose from. You can buy latex and memory foam mattresses that are soft on one side and firm on the other. This means that it's not necessary to buy a new mattress if your firm mattress is too firm. Many mattresses also combine firmness with the added upholstery for support and comfort. Buying a firm mattress no longer has to feel like sleeping on a hard board.
Coil and spring count is important whether you are considering a firm sprung mattress or even a pillow top, as it is the quality of the mattress under the added padding that will determine its firmness and durability. Generally, the higher the coil count, the better the quality of the mattress. Look for a coil count of more than 3,000 if you want a very firm mattress. A mattress that has been hand-stitched will also be more durable.
Pillow-top mattresses are very luxurious but have the potential disadvantage that the padding may wear flat before it is time to replace the mattress. The padding will be harder to replace than a separate mattress topper because it is sewn onto the mattress. It may be hard to adjust to a firm mattress if you are accustomed to sleeping on a softer mattress, and even people with back pain or joint discomfort may still require a layer of cushioning, depending on the nature of the problem.
If you need a firm mattress because you suffer from back pain, it may be advisable to find a mattress suitable for your weight, age and height rather than simply buying an “orthopedic” mattress. The British charity group BackCare advises people not to take too much notice of the term orthopedic, as there is no regulation of manufacturers' description of their product. An orthopedic mattress just means a firm mattress.
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