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Having some sort of mattress available, no matter how simple, is helpful when your kids are having friends sleep over. It's not always practical to have and store an ordinary spare mattress just in case of a sleepover though. In that case, your options are:
- an air mattress
- layers of blankets on the floor to serve as a mattress
- the pillow mattress (see pic above)
Since the first two options are self-explanatory, I'll talk about the pillow mattress and how to make or buy it, as well as its pros and cons.
What is a pillow mattress?
A pillow mattress is a temporary foldaway mattress that you can unroll on the floor for a guest to sleep on top of. This type of floor mattress is best suited to guests with a light body weight, such as children. A pillow mattress is simply a series of standard pillowcases joined together and with pillows inside. The pillows can be removed for easy laundering of the joined-together pillowcases, making hygiene a breeze. Being able to take the pillow out is also a helpful space saver for storage purposes, although you could alternatively simply fold it up as a foldaway mattress.
Its length is best with 5 pillowcases to ensure that even tweens or adults can use it if necessary, although younger kids would be fine with 4 pillowcases in length.
The pillow mattress is a great alternative to an air mattress, and as an added bonus the pillow mattress won't leak air and deflate during the night!
There are some pros and cons to pillow mattresses though, so read on to the end to find out what they are.
How to quickly and easily make or buy a pillow mattress
You can either:
- repurpose and upcycle your old existing pillowcases by sewing them together to quickly create your pillow mattress, or
- you can buy it ready made on Amazon
If you buy one...
Please note that if you buy it on Amazon, many of these items expect you to supply your own pillows: you'd simply be buying the joined-together pillowcases to save yourself the hassle of sewing. The deal is reasonably good though if you don't already have spare pillowcases on hand. This is because the Amazon pricing is close to the cost of buying new pillowcases, but with the sewing already done.
How to make a pillow mattress
If you're happy to do a bit of sewing, it's a very satisfying feeling to make your own, as I did. It's even more eco-friendly if you already have existing pillowcases that you're happy to repurpose. Remember, the pillowcases don't have to match or look amazing - they're becoming a mattress cover, so it's OK if they don't look brand new.
There's basically just one step: get 5 pillowcases (matching or not) and sew them together in a row along their long edges. That's it!
Here's another pic of the one I made:
Some tips when sewing this project
Keep the pillowcases right side out when sewing. Initially I tried turning them inside out when sewing but, to my embarrassment, found out that it just doesn't work out that way. You simply won't be able to turn them right side out if you sew them inside out, even if it seems like it would make sense. Whoops.
Each pillowcase has a tag inside. Set up your pillowcases so you are sewing together 1 edge with a tag and 1 edge without a tag. That way you don't have a sudden extra thickness for the sewing machine foot sewing 2 tagged edges together. You can alternate just fine with still keeping all the openings on one side, simply flip the pillowcase over front to back if needed.
Pros and cons of pillow mattresses
- A bit narrower than a standard mattress and therefore helpful for use in small rooms - odds are you can fit your sleepover guest into your child's room with a pillow mattress whereas you might not have space for this with a regular mattress or air mattress.
- Can't leak air and deflate overnight like an air mattress can. I've felt the embarrassment of seeing in the morning that our air mattress deflated quite a bit overnight - not the best experience for our guest!
- Can be made for free with existing items around the house if you happen to have enough spare pillowcases and pillows. In this situation it's also more eco-friendly
- Super-easy to set up before the guest arrives - it doesn't have the hassle of needing to find the electric pump and inflating the mattress
- Easy to store; pillows come out or simply fold away the mattress
- When not using the pillow mattress, you can use the pillows as normal. They're not locked into use as a mattress
- A lot more comfortable than layers of blankets on the floor
- It's not quite as comfortable as a properly inflated air mattress. The pillows look and feel soft but they do "sink down" a bit when lying on it. The heavier the person, the more of an issue this will be. I found a solution to this: if you have 3 old really flattened pillowcases (the kind that's only about an inch high that you wouldn't want to use as guest pillows!) then add an extra 1 in each of the pillowcase slots toward the end you're using as the head. These fit fine in my pillow mattress, even with the fluffier pillow already in the slot. So these first 3 pillowcases now have 2 pillows total in them, and this is where most of the body weight will fall anyway. I found this was way more comfortable.
- If you need to buy new pillows and new pillowcases to make this, even cheap ones, it may cost a bit more than buying a cheap air mattress. Then again, there are other advantages it offers over an air mattress that are mentioned previously.
My take on it
A pillow mattress is a wonderful floor mattress that acts as an alternative to an air mattress for sleepovers, but it comes with its own set of pros and cons. It's still well worth having one ready as a backup in case you ever wind up with more sleepover guests than you already have mattresses for. If you don't want the hassle of sewing, take a look at what's available on Amazon: