It’s easy to focus solely on a mattress when upgrading your sleep space, but pillows also play an important role in providing comfort and support. Like mattresses, pillows come in a variety of styles, shapes, sizes, and materials. Finding a model compatible with your sleep style can lead to better sleep quality.
We’ll discuss how a pillow’s loft, firmness, and materials influence the feel and performance of a pillow. We’ll also cover how sleep position, body type, and health factors affect a pillow’s performance so you can find an ideal pillow based on your needs and preferences.
The Sleep Doctor's Picks
Saatva Latex Pillow
- Soft and breathable organic cotton cover
- Talalay latex for a soft and springy feel
- Loft adjusts between 2 and 8 inches
- Side and back sleepers
- People under 230 pounds
- Those sensitive to off-gassing odors
Saatva is best known for its luxury mattresses, but the company also produces high-performing pillows. The Latex Pillow is designed to reinforce proper neck and spine alignment using a responsive Talalay latex core. The shredded latex is supportive yet moldable, resulting in a medium soft feel.
You can adjust the pillow’s loft, or height, from 2 to 8 inches, thanks to a removable layer of microdenier fibers. The optional padding has a fluffy feel similar to down, and the adjustability allows the pillow to support a variety of sleep styles.
We found that the pillow’s loft and feel performs especially well for side, back, and combination sleepers. However, stomach sleepers may find that the Latex Pillow’s thickness elevates the neck too much. Additionally, people over 230 pounds might require a firmer model that provides better support for their upper bodies.
Our testing showed that the pillow regulates temperature well, especially compared to memory foam designs. Latex is more breathable than most types of foam, and the organic cotton cover helps wick away heat and moisture.
Latex naturally resists mold, mildew, and dust mites, which may benefit people with allergies. The removable and machine-washable cover also makes it easier to reduce allergens.
The pillow has gussets on the side to help with shape retention. Shoppers can choose between queen and king sizes. Sateen pillowcases are available as an optional add-on.
Saatva ships the Latex Pillow free of charge to the contiguous U.S. A 45-day sleep trial and a 1-year warranty is also included.
We recommend the Latex Pillow for side and back sleepers looking for a pillow with an adjustable loft and a medium soft feel. It offers solid support while also keeping you at a comfortable temperature.
Brooklinen Down Pillow – Plush
- Available in three firmness levels
- Silky cotton sateen cover with a 400 thread count
- Down and feather clusters for a fluffy feel
- Stomach sleepers
- Shoppers on a budget
- People who like a moldable design that still keeps its shape
Down pillows are sought out for their cloud-like feel, but they’re also associated with steeper price tags. With the Brooklinen Down Pillow, you can enjoy a luxurious feel at a more accessible price-point. The versatile pillow also comes in three different support levels.
Available in standard and king sizes, all versions feature a silky 400 thread count cotton sateen shell. The Plush model is filled entirely with down clusters, and the extra fluffy feel particularly appealed to our testers who are stomach sleepers. The Mid-Plush version has an inner feather core combined with an outer down layer for a balanced feel, making it a good option for people who enjoy a moderate loft. The Firm option also has two chambers but has a higher ratio of feathers than down, which gives the pillow additional support.
Double stitching along the edges increases durability and prevents fill from seeping out. Our testers reported that the pillow is very moldable but still retains its shape well. Our tests also showed that the pillow should have a longer than average lifespan when compared to other down models.
All of the down fill is sourced sustainably from Canada. In addition, the Down Pillow undergoes an antimicrobial treatment designed to reduce bacteria overgrowth.
You can spot clean the Down Pillow with gentle soap as needed. Dry cleaning is also possible, but Brooklinen cautions that it might damage the fill.
Brooklinen offers free ground shipping throughout the U.S. Purchase of the Down Pillow includes a lengthy 365-night sleep trial, and the pillow can still be returned if washed.
We recommend Brooklinen’s Down Pillow to stomach sleepers who enjoy a moldable pillow with a fluffy feel and multiple firmness options.
Layla Kapok Pillow
- Memory foam and kapok fibers for balanced support
- Copper infusions in the cover are intended to remove excess heat
- Adjustable loft to fit different sleep styles
- People who tend to sleep hot
- Eco-conscious shoppers
- Those who enjoy a balance of plushness and support
Many pillows are either very dense or impossibly soft, but the Layla Kapok Pillow is designed to balance support with fluffiness. Shredded memory foam is blended with soft kapok fibers for a medium soft feel, and a zippered cover allows you to adjust the loft by removing or adding fill.
The removable polyester-viscose blend cover has a soft, quilted hexagonal pattern. The fabric contains copper fibers engineered to dissipate excess heat, and unlike some memory foam models, we found that the pillow has very good temperature control. The cover can also be machine-washed to reduce bacterial buildup.
Our testers found the pillow to be exceptionally moldable, which many side sleepers appreciate. The pillow comes with a surplus of fill, which can be added to benefit larger people who require greater support. However, stomach and back sleepers may want to remove some of the fill, as these sleepers typically enjoy a flatter pillow.
The Kapok Pillow is available in queen and king sizes, and it comes with free FedEx ground shipping for customers in the contiguous U.S. Layla also provides a 120-night trial and a 5-year warranty.
Our testing team found that the Kapok Pillow is a good fit for hot sleepers and eco-conscious shoppers who enjoy an adjustable loft and a plush yet supportive feel.
Cozy Earth Silk Pillow
- Breathable bamboo-derived viscose cover
- Mulberry silk fill has a supple and airy feel
- An easily moldable design
- Sleepers who tend to sweat at night
- Shoppers who value sustainable materials
- People sensitive to chemicals
The Cozy Earth Silk Pillow is intended for sleepers who enjoy contouring from their pillow but still want to feel supported. The mulberry silk fill is airy and malleable, resulting in a medium soft feel. Despite being highly moldable, the pillow is designed to resist clumping.
The bamboo-derived viscose shell helps draw out heat and moisture, making this pillow a good fit for those prone to sweating or hot flashes. The naturally breathable material has a silky-soft feel, and our tests showed that it kept the surface cooler than many synthetic materials. The fabric is also tested by the manufacturer during production to make sure it doesn’t contain pesticides and other harmful contaminants.
The supple design is well suited to side and combination sleepers who like to fold their pillow in half. Its moderate loft and medium soft feel are also fitting for stomach and back sleepers who don’t need as much height.
Cozy Earth recommends spot cleaning or dry cleaning the pillow as needed.It can also be machine-washed on the rinse cycle and then tumble dried on a low setting. Following proper care guidelines will help extend the pillow’s lifespan, and the pillow’s specialized weave is designed to help with this by minimizing pilling and premature wear.
The Cozy Earth Silk Pillow comes in standard and king sizes. Shipping is free to all 50 states, and you have 100 nights to test out the pillow. A generous 10-year warranty covers manufacturing defects, including atypical clumping. However, not using a pillowcase voids the extended warranty.
With its silky feel and moldable design, we recommend the Cozy Earth Silk Pillow to sleepers looking for a balance of support and fluffiness.
Best for Side Sleepers
Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
- U-shaped design tailored to side sleepers
- Adjustable latex and polyester filling
- Above-average durability
- Side sleepers
- Those who like to fold their pillows in half
- People with neck pain
As the name suggests, the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow is designed to support neck and spinal alignment for side sleepers of any weight category. Its ergonomic U-shape contours the head to reduce neck strain, and the zippered cover allows you to fine-tune the loft by adding or removing fill.
The Cotton Side-Sleeper’s cover is removable and can be washed in a standard household washing machine to minimize allergen triggers. We found the soft and stretchy cotton-polyester blend to be quite breathable, keeping our testers dry and comfortable.
The pillow’s interior is made of latex noodles and polyester fibers, making the pillow both firm and responsive. Latex adds structure and breathability, while the polyester provides a fluffier feel similar to down. Heavier side sleepers or those who prefer extra loft can purchase additional fill.
The Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow comes with OEKO-TEX certification, which confirms that certain harmful chemicals are not used during the manufacturing process. Latex is also known for its durability, so the pillow should resist premature wear when used properly.
The Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow comes in one size. Your purchase includes free shipping to the contiguous U.S., with the exception of California. Returns are possible within 45 days of delivery. The company stands behind the model with a 5-year warranty.
The Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow offers good neck support with the option to adjust the fill as needed, making it our recommendation for side sleepers who experience neck pain.
Best for Neck Pain
Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow
- Ergonomic design targets pressure points on the head and neck
- Adaptive TEMPUR memory foam supports spinal alignment
- Available in small, medium, large, and travel sizes
- Sleepers with chronic neck and shoulder pain
- Shoppers seeking a wider range of sizes
- Side and back sleepers
Waking up with a stiff and sore neck can point to a lackluster pillow. The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is engineered to alleviate and prevent neck pain by encouraging proper spinal alignment. Made from high-density memory foam, the ergonomic design cradles the head while raising the neck at a slight angle. This combination helps maintain the spine’s natural curvature for back and side sleepers.
The pillow’s polyester knit cover is designed to be hypoallergenic and can be washed in standard household machines. The soft fabric encases TEMPUR foam, a specialized type of memory foam designed to hold its shape under weight and pressure. Our testers found that, despite its density, the foam closely conforms to the head and neck to help alleviate tension.
Shoppers can choose between four sizes, including a smaller travel option. During our tests, we found that side sleepers generally preferred models with higher lofts, while back sleepers preferred lower lofts. The width between your neck and shoulders can also help determine the best size for you. Frequent air travelers with neck pain might also want to consider the travel model.
The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is non-returnable, but a 5-year warranty protects customers from manufacturing defects. Shipping is free for residents in the contiguous U.S.
Because of its multiple size options and good neck support, we recommend the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow for sleepers who experience back or neck pain and enjoy the feel of memory foam.
SHEEX Infinite Zen Performance Pillow
- TranquilAire in the top layer is engineered to draw out heat
- Plush quilted polyester jacquard cover
- Solid memory foam core for extra support
- Hot sleepers
- Those who prefer pillows with a lower loft
- Sleepers with allergies
The SHEEX Infinite Zen Pillow uses innovative technology to promote temperature regulation, making it a good choice for those who sleep hot. A proprietary layer of TranquilAire and the quilted jacquard cover are designed to dissipate excess heat for a cooler surface.
The Infinite Zen Pillow’s solid memory foam core has a medium firm feel to comfortably accommodate a range of sleep positions. Our testers reported that the sturdy foam contoured the neck and shoulders without flattening easily. A 2-inch gusset also helps the pillow maintain its shape.
At 5 inches thick, the pillow has a relatively low loft. This can be good for sleepers who need a lower pillow height to keep their neck and shoulders aligned.
The Infinite Zen incorporates Microban, an antimicrobial treatment formulated to reduce the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew. You can also stay on top of allergen triggers by machine-washing the zippered cover.
The foam used in the pillow is CertiPUR-US certified, indicating that it’s free of a variety of harmful contaminants. One standard/queen size is available.
A 5-year warranty protects customers from manufacturing and material defects. SHEEX also offers free standard shipping for U.S. orders over $150.
With a cooling design and 5-inch loft, the Infinite Zen Pillow is a good choice for hot sleepers who prefer pillows with a lower loft. The microbial treatment and easy-to-clean cover also make this pillow a good fit for those with allergies.
Nest Bedding Easy Breather Natural Pillow
- Shredded foam fill can be added or removed to change the loft and firmness
- Shell composed of breathable, moisture-wicking Tencel fabric
- Available in four sizes, including an ergonomic side sleeper design
- People whose pillow loft preferences vary
- Hot sleepers and those prone to night sweats
- Side and back sleepers
An adjustable pillow like the Nest Bedding Easy Breather can be a useful investment for combination sleepers who switch between positions at night, as well as anyone whose loft and firmness preferences vary.
The Nest Bedding Easy Breather provides this versatility with its shredded memory foam fill, which can be added or removed to change the pillow’s feel. Our testers found that when the Easy Breather is filled to capacity, the pillow is highly supportive and ideal for side sleeping. However, back and stomach sleepers may prefer to remove some of the fill, making the pillow thinner and softer. You can order additional fill from Nest Bedding whenever you need a replacement.
The shell is made of Tencel, a eucalyptus-derived textile known for exceptional breathability. Tencel also wicks away moisture to keep you dry at night, even if you tend to sweat in your sleep. You can remove and machine-wash the cover for quick and easy care, but the foam shouldn’t be exposed to excessive amounts of water.
Four sizes are available. The standard, queen, and king sizes all have the traditional rectangular shape. The side sleeper design is angled to cradle the head and support the neck without compromising spinal alignment.
All sizes are affordable, especially compared to the price-points of other adjustable pillows, and customers in the contiguous U.S. receive free ground shipping. Each order includes a 30-night trial period and a 2-year warranty against structural defects.
The Easy Breather Pillow has an adjustable design, multiple size options, and temperature-regulating abilities, making it a good option for side and back sleepers who sleep hot and have varying firmness preferences.
Pacific Coast Feather Best Pillow
- Resilia feathers are washed at least eight times to remove allergens
- Brushed cotton shell is soft and breathable
- Below-average pricing for a feather pillow
- Sleepers who prefer very plush surfaces for their head and neck
- Those who might be allergic to feathers
- Shoppers with tight budgets
Feather pillows provide very plush surfaces for sleepers who prefer a softer pillow. Pacific Coast’s Feather Best Pillow is a high-quality option at an affordable price. Our testers reported that the fill, which consists of Resilia feathers, did a good job of cushioning the head and neck while also offering more support than down. A crisp cotton shell completes the hotel-style design.
The feathers are washed at least eight times during production. This process is intended to remove contaminants that can trigger symptoms for people with feather allergies. Pacific Coast backs each purchase with an allergy-free warranty, giving you the option to return the pillow if you experience symptoms of any kind.
Thick piping trims the stitches to keep the fabric intact and prevent rips and tears that might allow fill to escape. You can wash and dry the entire pillow in any household machine, making it easy and convenient to clean. The Feather Best Pillow comes in standard/queen and king sizes.
On top of its low price-point, the Feather Best Pillow has reasonable flat-rate shipping fees. Pacific Coast offers a 30-night trial period and a 3-year standard warranty in addition to the allergy-free warranty.
Our testing team recommends the Feather Best Pillow for sleepers on a budget who prefer a plush yet supportive surface and want to avoid allergens.
Best for Back Pain
- Ergonomic design cradles the head and supports the neck
- All three chambers can be adjusted by adding or removing foam fill
- Tencel-blend cover sleeps cool and wicks away moisture
- People with persistent neck, shoulder, or back pain
- Those who want to invest in an adjustable pillow
- Side and back sleepers
SpineAlign is best known for sleep products designed to reduce back pain. This is especially true of the SpineAlign Pillow, which features an ergonomic design best suited to side or back sleeping. The center chamber of the pillow is flat and recessed to support the neck and cradle the head, while both side chambers are fuller and softer to provide more comfortable cushioning. Our testers felt that this design offered good support and contouring.
The fill consists of shredded polyfoam. All three chambers have zippers allowing you to add or remove the fill, making the pillow fully customizable. SpineAlign sells extra foam in bulk, in case you need to replenish your supply. The shell for all three chambers is composed of breathable, moisture-wicking Tencel fabric.
SpineAlign does not recommend machine-washing any of the pillow’s components. Instead, you may spot clean the shell as needed and use a king size pillowcase to safeguard the pillow from dust and other contaminants.
SpineAlign offers free ground delivery for all orders within the contiguous U.S. Your purchase includes a sleep trial that runs for 60 nights, and returns are accepted after you’ve slept on the pillow for 30 nights. If you choose to keep your pillow, you’ll receive a manufacturer’s warranty that covers defects for up to one year.
The SpineAlign is a good option for side and back sleepers who want both pressure relief and an adjustable design. It also provides solid support for sleepers who experience back pain and prefer a cool surface.
Best for Back Sleepers
Sweet Night Original Pillow
- Fill consists of a plush yet supportive shredded foam blend
- Adjustable design allows you to customize the firmness and loft
- Knit cover is soft and breathable
- Hot sleepers
- People who frequently wake up with soreness in their neck and shoulders
- Side and back sleepers
Sweet Night’s Original Pillow is a great option if you’re looking for an adjustable pillow. Available in standard, queen, and king sizes, the pillow uses fill consisting of shredded, gel-infused memory foam blended with shredded polyfoam. Our testers reported that this combination created a plush yet supportive surface for the head and neck with even contouring around these areas.
You can unzip the cover to add or remove the fill and adjust the pillow’s loft and feel. We recommend a thicker, fuller loft for side sleepers. Back sleepers may need to remove some of the initial fill to lower the loft and sleep comfortably. Each order includes a bag of additional fill.
A Tencel-blend cover is both breathable and moisture wicking, making the pillow a good option for hot sleepers, people who sweat in their sleep, and those who live in exceptionally warm or humid places. The shell can be removed and machine-washed, though Sweet Night suggests hand-washing the fabric to extend its lifespan.
The Original Pillow comes at an affordable price-point, and Sweet Night offers free shipping throughout the contiguous U.S., though certain remote regions will be charged an extra delivery fee. The sleep trial runs for 30 nights, during which you can decide whether to return the pillow or keep it. Those who choose the latter receive a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty.
The Original Pillow provides pressure relief and an adjustable design, making it suitable for side and back sleepers who sleep hot and experience neck or shoulder pain.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our team of sleep experts includes a wide range of sleep positions and body weights so we can determine the best pillows for every type of sleeper. We rigorously test countless models, making assessments based on important performance criteria, such as pressure relief, breathability, and firmness level. This allows us to help you determine the best pillow model for you.
What Are the Different Pillow Types?
Considering how much sleep preferences vary, it’s not surprising that pillows come in a variety of styles. Materials and construction methods determine key performance features like contouring, loft, and support.
In addition to standard models, there are also a number of specialty pillows designed to address the specific needs of different types of sleepers.
Fill and Materials
Fill and materials determine a pillow’s comfort and support. Each pillow type has its pros and cons, and some are better suited to certain body types and sleep styles than others.
Down and Down Alternative
Natural down consists of the fine feathers of ducks and geese and is used in a variety of bedding products. Down pillows are usually soft, breathable, and durable. However, they may aggravate allergies or asthma.
Down alternative simulates the fluffiness and malleability of natural down using polyester or other fibers. This option is suitable for vegans and those with allergies, but they tend to be less durable than natural down pillows.
Some people use feather and down interchangeably, but there’s actually a distinction between the two. Down is the soft plumage of ducks and geese, while feathers are somewhat coarser. Feather pillows typically contain a combination of feather and down for a more balanced feel.
Similar to down, feather pillows are lightweight, moldable, and breathable. They often appeal to people living in warm or humid climates because they resist heat buildup. Stomach sleepers can also benefit from their lower loft.
However, feather quills can sometimes poke through the pillow’s lining. Additionally, they tend to make more rustling noises than other pillow types.
Memory foam pillows are valued for their durability and shape retention. Most consist of either solid, shredded, or cut memory foam, each resulting in a different feel. Solid designs tend to be firmer and have higher lofts. Ergonomic models commonly use solid memory foam because of its density and support. Shredded or cut pillows are often combined with other materials like microfiber clusters to create a fluffier feel.
Because memory foam tends to retain heat, this kind of pillow isn’t always the best match for people who sleep hot. However, many manufacturers use gel infusions or other cooling technologies engineered to improve temperature control.
While memory foam pillows often have higher price-points, they do tend to be more durable. That said, they also produce more off-gassing odors than natural materials like down or cotton. This is common for memory foam products, and off-gassing is generally considered harmless. However, the odor can be unpleasant if you’re particularly sensitive to smell.
Natural or synthetic latex pillows offer moderate to high contouring without trapping too much heat. Similar to memory foam, latex cores can be either solid or shredded. The feel of the pillow also depends on the type of latex used. For example, Talalay latex has a springer feel, while Dunlop offers denser support.
Latex pillows are a good option for those who like the higher density and loft of memory foam but don’t want to risk overheating. However, the higher price-points of latex pillows may be cost-prohibitive for some shoppers.
Shoppers who prefer natural materials may want to consider cotton pillows, which are generally soft and breathable. Cotton fibers naturally wick away heat and moisture, which can help those with night sweats or hot flashes.
Cotton pillows tend to be fluffier than latex or foam models. As a result, they may lose their shape or flatten more readily. However, they can be a good fit for stomach sleepers or anyone who prefers a lower loft pillow.
Filled with buckwheat hulls, these pillows have a grainy texture that contours to the sleeper. Buckwheat pillows typically deliver above-average pressure relief since they closely cradle the neck and head. They don’t trap a lot of heat, and they’re often considered a more eco-friendly alternative to other pillow types.
Buckwheat pillows may not be cushiony enough for some sleepers, though, and they tend to have higher price-points.
Shoppers can also find a range of speciality pillows to accommodate various needs.
Also known as cervical pillows, these models are designed to support proper head and neck alignment. Most have a divot in the middle to elevate the neck and cradle the head. They are commonly made from dense and supportive materials like memory foam and latex. Neck pillows can alleviate pressure points by promoting better sleep posture.
These large pillows are at least 48 inches long and are meant to be cuddled. Most are elongated rectangles or horseshoe-shaped. Firmness and contouring depend on the materials, but many use shredded memory foam or down alternative clusters. Some models are intended to alleviate pressure points by encouraging better spine alignment. Other sleepers simply find it comforting to hug a large pillow.
This triangle-shaped pillow is designed to alleviate certain health and orthopedic conditions by elevating body parts. Placing the pillow below the knees can improve leg circulation and speed the recovery process for sports injuries. Wedge pillows can also sometimes help with snoring, sleep apnea, and congestion-related allergies when used as a head pillow. Additionally, some people use wedges as bolsters when sitting up in bed to read or watch TV.
These compact pillows are meant to align the spine and ease tension. Side sleepers can use them between the knees to reduce pressure on the legs and hips, while back sleepers can encourage a straighter spine by placing the pillow underneath the knees. Knee pillows are typically made from sturdy memory foam that resists sagging. Hourglass-shaped pillows are geared toward side sleepers, while wedges are more fitting for back sleepers.
A pregnancy pillow is designed to make sleep more comfortable for a pregnant person’s changing body. The extra weight gained during pregnancy can put pressure on various muscles and joints, resulting in painful pressure points. A pregnancy pillow is typically an elongated C- or U-shape that contours the entire body. Placing the lower section of the pillow between the legs can help reduce pressure on the knees and spine.
What Are the Different Pillow Sizes?
Common pillow sizes tend to have similar dimensions. However, decorative and other specialty pillows come in a range of shapes and sizes.
Dimensions (Width x Length)
20” x 26”
This is the smallest of the common pillow sizes and arguably the most versatile. A twin bed comfortably fits one standard pillow, while larger beds can hold two. Standard pillows work with any sleep position, though people who frequently toss and turn may prefer a larger size.
20” x 30”
The extra length on a queen pillow gives you more room to sprawl out. People who only use one pillow might appreciate the added surface area. One queen pillow fits nicely on a twin bed, while two pillows work well on all other bed sizes.
20” x 36”
King pillows are the same width as standard and queen sizes but are longer than both. A king pillow takes up most of a twin bed’s width but can still fit. Two king pillows can sometimes feel cramped on full or queen beds. The more generous size can add extra support when you’re sitting up in bed. However, king size pillowcases aren’t always easy to find, so you may have fewer designs to choose from.
26” x 26”, 24” x 24”, 22” x 22”, 20” x 20”, 18” x 18”, 16” x 16″
These square-shaped pillows are available in a variety of sizes. The design is widely used in Europe as a standard sleeping pillow, but less so in the U.S. Some people use them only as decorative pillows.
20″ x 48″, 20″ x 54″
While dimensions vary for body pillows, most are at least 48 inches long. The rectangular designs are more compact than U-shaped models, which are meant to match most of the length of a person’s body. As such, they aren’t always practical for people who share small beds.
How Much Do Pillows Cost?
Pillows range anywhere from $10 to upwards of $200, so you should be able to find a model that fits your budget. Materials and craftsmanship tend to have the most impact on price, but pillow type, size, and brand can also influence price-points.
- Size: Price generally increases with size. That said, a luxury pillow model could be three times the cost of a mid-range model of the same size. Custom sizes or specialty models tend to be pricier because they are less common.
- Type: Not all pillow types require the same construction or craftsmanship. Handcrafted, ergonomic, or more complex designs typically command higher price-points than standard pillows.
- Material: Material type and quality heavily influence pricing. Down, latex, and memory foam tend to drive up cost, while polyester and polyfoam models are usually more economical. Natural and organic materials can also increase price-points.
- Brand: While many shoppers are willing to spend more for brand recognition, an affordable generic model is sometimes comparable to well-known brand products that cost more. Be sure to compare different brands and models to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
How to Choose a Pillow
As with mattresses, there isn’t a perfect pillow that satisfies every sleeper. Preferences vary widely when it comes to pillow type, loft, and firmness. The best model for you also depends on factors like body type, sleep position, and health conditions. And because not everyone has the same budget, pricing is also a consideration.
What Should You Consider?
Shoppers should consider a variety of factors when choosing a pillow, including body type, sleep position, and health concerns.
Your Body Type
Body weight, size, and head shape all affect the way a pillow feels and performs. Sleepers under 130 pounds usually enjoy a plusher model that offers more cushioning. However, a thinner design can still feel supportive for sleepers in this weight category.
People between 130 and 230 pounds are the most versatile and can enjoy a range of lofts and firmness levels. Sleepers over 230 pounds cause pillows to compress more, so they typically require a firmer model to support that level of pressure.
Weight aside, some people simply have broader shoulders, making anything smaller than a queen or king pillow feel cramped. People with larger heads sink into their pillows more, so they usually prefer higher lofts for additional support.
Your Sleeping Position
Sleep position is a huge factor when it comes to pillow compatibility. Side sleepers tend to do best with a high loft pillow that keeps their head on the same plane as their neck and shoulders. A low to medium loft design can help maintain a straighter spine for back sleepers. Stomach sleepers usually require a thin pillow to keep their head from straining upwards.
Your Health Needs
A number of pillows are designed to address various health needs. Pillows that elevate the head and upper body can alleviate snoring, acid reflux, and allergies caused by nasal congestion.
Ergonomic models like wedge, knee, and body pillows can give relief to those with aches and pains by promoting proper spinal alignment. Pillows with cooling features can benefit anyone who sleeps hot. And people with allergies might want to consider a model that’s been treated to resist the growth of bacteria, dust, mold, and other allergy triggers.
While higher-quality pillows tend to have higher price-points, there are options to fit just about any budget. Still, a smaller budget will somewhat limit choices, potentially excluding pricier models like latex, memory foam, or down.
Many companies offer free shipping, which can help with budgeting, but it’s always wise to check for price minimums and other exclusions.
What to Look for in a Pillow
Certain pillow qualities have a bigger impact on comfort and support than others.
Type and Material
The type and quality of materials used determines the feel and function of a pillow. Down, cotton, and microfiber clusters yield a fluffier pillow, while memory foam and latex models have more structure.
Pillows made with synthetic materials are sometimes less breathable and durable than their natural counterparts. If you have allergies, you should approach latex and down models with caution.
Height or Loft
A pillow’s relative thickness is critical for support and proper spine alignment. Each sleep position has different loft needs in order to reinforce good sleep posture. Body weight and frame also influence loft preferences.
Low loft pillows are typically less than 3 inches thick. Medium loft designs are between 3 and 5 inches, while high loft pillows are taller.
What Pillow Loft Do You Need?
Side sleepers usually need a high loft pillow that keeps the head and neck on the same level. If you’re a side sleeper who constantly folds their pillow in half, you might benefit from a higher loft model.
A medium loft pillow that doesn’t keep the head raised at an awkward angle is best for back sleepers. Those with larger heads should avoid very soft pillows, which could cause the head to sink excessively.
This position needs the thinnest pillow of all in order to prevent an unnatural C-curve in the spine. Some stomach sleepers forgo a pillow altogether.
Since combination sleepers alternate between different loft needs, an adjustable model that lets you add or remove fill can be helpful. A malleable, medium loft pillow may work best since they can be folded in half when switching to side sleeping.
Firmness indicates a pillow’s feel and relative support. Softer pillows allow the head and shoulders to sink more than firmer models.
What Firmness Do You Need?
A moderately firm pillow gives side sleepers an ideal balance of conforming and support. One that is too firm might not alleviate tension at the neck and shoulders. A very soft model can misalign the spine by allowing the head to sink too low.
Back sleepers typically do best with a medium firm pillow that doesn’t flatten excessively under weight. However, a very firm model could prop the head upwards too much, resulting in poor spine alignment.
Most stomach sleepers enjoy a soft to medium firm pillow that helps keep the head and neck on the same level. Extra firm designs are best avoided, as they tend to raise the head at an unnatural angle.
A medium firm pillow that is also moldable is usually the safest bet for combination sleepers. An extremely soft or firm model is less likely to adapt to every position equally well.
Some pillows boast special features to enhance comfort. If you tend to overheat at night, you might want to consider pillows with gel infusions, open-cell foam, copper fibers, and other cooling technologies. If you have allergies or asthma, you may benefit from pillows with antimicrobial treatments. Materials like latex and cotton can also help, as they naturally resist allergen triggers.
Adjustable designs allow you to modify the loft of your pillow by changing the amount of fill. These pillows are good for people who like to experiment with different heights and feels.
Get the Most Out of Your Pillow
It’s important to take good care of your pillow and use it correctly in order to get the best performance out of it.
Support Your Sleep Position
Support refers to how well a pillow keeps the head and neck in optimal alignment. Good sleep posture is key to avoiding aches and pains the next morning. Material type, loft, and firmness all influence relative support.
Different body types have varying support needs. Heavier sleepers generally require more supportive pillows to keep a pillow from flattening too much.
Where you place a pillow to promote good posture is also important. The best option for you depends on your sleep position.
Where to Place Your Pillow
Between the knees. This helps straighten the spine while alleviating pressure points on the knees and hips
Under the knees or lumbar area. This reduces strain on the lower back and helps maintain the spine’s natural curve.
Under the hips or ribcage. This raises the hips and stomach, which minimizes pressure along the spine.
Read the Care Instructions
Every pillow has different care guidelines based on its materials and construction. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prolong your pillow’s lifespan.
Some covers are removable and machine-washable, while others should only be spot treated. You may also be able to wash the core, but this often shortens a pillow’s lifespan.
Know When to Replace Your Pillow
How long a pillow lasts will vary based on material quality, craftsmanship, and use. Most pillows hold up for several years but start losing their shape and loft beyond this time frame. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for indicators that your pillow needs to be replaced.
- Irregular clumping or deep impressions: If a pillow’s fill starts to clump or bunch, then you’re probably not getting the uniform support you need. Memory foam pillows with deep indentations or impressions are likely past their prime.
- Your pillow smells: If you notice unpleasant odors despite regular cleaning, it’s time for a new pillow.
- You have aches and pains in the morning: Waking up with a stiff neck or shoulders can indicate a pillow that is no longer offering you optimal support.
- You’ve changed your sleep style: If you’ve switched your sleep position, you may need a new pillow with a different firmness level or loft.
Boost Your Pillow’s Lifespan
You can extend your pillow’s life by regularly washing pillowcases and, if applicable, the cover. Protectors can also safeguard against bacteria, mold, and mildew, which can degrade a pillow at a faster rate.
Above all, the best method for increasing your pillow’s lifespan is to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines.