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How to make a pillow-top mattress firmer

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You can make a pillow-top mattress firmer by using a mattress topper, replacing the bed base, or rotating the mattress to even out the wear. However, any adjustments will affect how your bed feels and performs, and there are no guarantees it will feel more comfortable.

A pillow-top mattress has an extra layer of padding sewn or stitched to the top of the mattress. The top layer is typically made from plush materials like memory foam, latex and wool, creating a soft and luxurious sleeping surface.

While some people appreciate the gentle, cushioned feel of pillow-tops, others may find them too soft and prefer a firmer mattress. A bed that is too soft can put the spine in an unnatural position and lead to discomfort or pain. Fortunately, there are several ways to make a mattress firmer.

Hand pressing down on mattress

Reasons to make a pillow-top mattress firmer

While pillow-tops are popular for their plush and luxurious feel, some people might find them uncomfortable for various reasons.

Lack of comfort or support

Pillow-top mattresses, while offering a plush and cushioned sleeping surface, might not suit everyone. While a lightweight person may appreciate its softness, a much heavier individual could sink too deeply into the mattress, causing the spine to curve unnaturally. They may also find it difficult to turn over in bed. An unsupportive pillow-top mattress can lead to poor-quality sleep and cause aches and pains.

Pillow-top mattresses may become uncomfortable over time as the fillings deteriorate. The components can break down and sag, resulting in an uneven sleeping surface. Furthermore, if your body has changed, for example, if you’ve put on more weight, the mattress might struggle to provide the necessary support.

Some poorly constructed pillow-top mattresses lack edge support, making it feel like you’re falling off the bed, thus reducing the usable sleeping area.

Firmness preference

Mattress firmness often comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer a mattress that cradles and hugs the body, while others prefer to lie on top of it.

Sleeping partners may have different firmness preferences. A softer mattress may feel just right to one but uncomfortable to the other. Making a pillow-top mattress firmer could accommodate both their comfort needs.

Your preferred sleeping position can also affect mattress firmness. Pillow-tops are popular with side sleepers because they conform to the body, cushioning the shoulders and hips. On the other hand, back and stomach sleepers may prefer a firmer mattress.

However, don’t assume that a firmer mattress is better for you. Correct support depends primarily on your body weight; typically, the heavier you are, the firmer the mattress you need.

A mattress should conform to body shape, keeping the spine aligned and correctly supported. An overly firm mattress can cause painful pressure points and discomfort. Conversely, an overly soft mattress can lead to back pain by causing the body to slouch, putting the spine in an awkward and unnatural position. So it is important to choose the right firmness.

A quick way to check if a mattress is too soft is to lie on your back and try sliding your hand under the lumbar region of your back. If it’s hard to slide your hand under, the mattress might be too soft. On the other hand, if your hand easily slides underneath, the mattress may be too firm. There should be some slight resistance when sliding your hand under your back.

Your pillow-top mattress is relatively new

Pillow-top mattresses are designed to gently cradle and conform to body shape. They can feel quite different to other mattresses, especially if you are used to a firmer mattress.

A new pillow-top mattress may initially feel uncomfortable and even cause back pain. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the mattress isn’t supporting you properly.

During the initial breaking-in period, it is generally best not to make any changes to your bed that will make it feel firmer. After a few weeks, the new mattress should feel more comfortable.

Tips to make a pillow-top mattress firmer

An overly soft mattress can be uncomfortable and contribute to back pain. However, there are various ways to make it feel firmer.

Replace the mattress

If your pillow-top mattress is relatively new, you may be able to return it to the store or manufacturer. Many new mattresses come with sleep trials, allowing you to return the mattress within a specified period if you find it uncomfortable.

If not, speaking to the seller about alternative options might be beneficial. Whilst they may not be able to offer a full refund, they may allow you to exchange the mattress for a more comfortable model.

Give yourself at least a month to adjust to a new mattress. However, if your mattress is a few years old and showing signs of wear and tear, like permanent indentations or squeaking components, making it firmer may not help much. Replacing the mattress is a better option.

However, don’t let an uncomfortable pillow-top mattress discourage you from buying another one. Many people prefer pillow-tops because of their luxurious design and the convenience of not needing to flip the mattress. Not all pillow-tops feel soft, so if you prefer this type of mattress, consider replacing your existing one with a firmer model.

Rotate the pillow-top mattress

An uneven sleeping surface can cause misalignment and make you feel like you’re sinking too deep into the mattress. It usually occurs as the fillings settle and body impressions or indentations form on the mattress’s surface.

Pillow-tops are single-sided, and whilst you cannot flip them over to sleep on the underside, occasionally rotating the mattress should help to even out the wear.

On the other hand, a sagging mattress can be more problematic and usually occurs over time when the components break down, leaving permanent indentations. Consequently, the body will conform to the mattress, dipping in the same areas.

There’s no proper fix for a sagging mattress, and while rotating the mattress may help, it is best to replace it as soon as possible.

Use a firmer mattress topper

Using a mattress topper with a pillow-top mattress can help make it feel firmer. Most mattress toppers are between one and four inches deep and are available in materials like memory foam and latex that provide extra support.

However, while a topper can improve the overall comfort of a relatively new mattress, it won’t fix an old sagging mattress. It will simply conform to its shape.

Also, be mindful that pillow-top mattresses are usually deeper than other mattresses because of the extra layer attached to the top of the mattress. Adding a mattress topper will increase the overall bed height, making getting in and out of bed more challenging. You may also require deeper bedding.

Replace the bed base

Replacing the bed base you are using with the mattress is another option. Your bed base affects how your mattress feels and performs. For example, a sprung base provides extra cushioning and makes your bed feel softer, while a solid base or one with rigid slats can make it feel firmer.

If you have a sprung base, placing a smooth sheet of plywood board on top can make the bed feel firmer without having to replace the base. However, if the base is several years old, check its condition. An old, worn-out base is unlikely to provide adequate support, potentially causing issues like sagging. In such cases, replacing the bed base is recommended to prevent further problems.

Final thoughts

Making a pillow-top mattress firmer doesn’t necessarily mean it will feel more comfortable. If your mattress is worn out, making it firmer is unlikely to make much difference.

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About the author

Tony Brown is the founder and creator of The Bed Consultant. His career in the bed industry began in 2002. After graduating from university with a degree in Business Administration, Tony joined one of the largest independent furniture retailers in the UK as a bed consultant. Tony has helped thousands of customers find the perfect mattress.

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