Sleepopolis is supported by readers purchasing products we feature. Product links on Sleepopolis are referral links. If you use one of those links and buy something, Sleepopolis earns a commission from the sale. Need more info? See my disclosures.
Every sleeper needs one, but finding the best pillow can be harder than it seems. Having the perfect pillow can lead to less time “fluffing” and more time sleeping, but how can you know what the best pillow really is? When searching for the best pillow review, there are a few criteria to look for that will help you to determine quality, longevity, and comfort.
This guide will help you break down factors that make a pillow good or bad for certain sleepers. Considering differences like sleeping position, weight, and feel preference will help sleepers make the best choice for their body.
Pay attention to body cues to help select the best pillow. Sleepers who sleep with an arm stuffed under their pillow show signs that they may need a pillow with a higher loft. Stomach sleepers who wake with neck or back pain may be using a pillow that is too much loft. Regardless of your position, the ultimate goal it to make sure the back and neck maintain proper alignment.
The table below breaks down some of my favorite pillows and what types of sleepers they may be best for.
Not sure what type of pillow you need? Keep reading below to get the breakdown of what type of pillow might work best for you.
Want to skip ahead? Click here to jump right to the best pillow for stomach sleepers, best pillow for side sleepers, or best pillow for back sleepers. Wondering what pillow material is best for you? Click here to jump right to our Pillow Material Guide. Let’s get started.
Best Pillow Reviews
|Memory Foam or Natural Latex||Adjustable||$99||Any||Read Review|
|Memory Foam||Adjustable||$52||Any||Read Review|
|Goose Down||High||$134||Back or Side||Read Review|
|Memory Foam||Adjustable||$99||Back or Side||Read Review|
|Memory Foam||Low, Medium, or High||$84||Any||Read Review|
|Organic natural latex||Medium||$99||Back or Side||Read Review|
|Latex||Low or High||$139||Any||Read Review|
|Poly Foam||Low-Medium||$95||Back or Side||Read Review|
|Down Alternative||High||$42||Back or Side||Read Review|
Before we dive in, here is a quick section on standard pillow sizes. Selecting the right pillow starts by selecting the right pillow size. Keep in mind, not all manufacturers design to these pillow spec sizes. Always check the pillow size before purchasing.
Toddler Pillow Size: 14″ x 20″
Standard Pillow Size: 20” x 26”
Queen Pillow Size: 20” x 30”
King Pillow Size: 20” x 36”
Every sleeper is different, and finding the best pillow can be a hard task. Loft, materials, and density are all important factors to evaluate before buying a pillow.
Loft is the general height of a pillow when it is lying flat on the mattress. A dense, molded foam pillow will generally have a low to medium loft while a fluffy down pillow may have a higher loft. Determining the type of sleeper you are will help you to decide how much loft is right for you.
In general, stomach sleepers require the least amount of loft to be comfortable. The main goal of a great pillow is to keep the spine in alignment with the head and neck. If this alignment gets tweaked, it can cause uncomfortable pressure points to form.
A low lofted pillow helps stomach sleepers keep their head in alignment with the rest of their body, which is flat on the mattress. Heavier weight sleepers, or those who sleep with their body / shoulders further up on the pillow, may need more of a medium loft.
Side sleepers are the ones who are notorious for punching or folding their pillows, even sleeping with an arm tucked under the pillow. Sound familiar? In many cases, side sleepers benefit from pillows that have adjustable loft. This adjustable loft can be handled in a couple of different ways.
Depending on the size of the sleeper, the loft can vary a bit more for back sleepers. Just as with side and stomach sleepers, the main goal is to maintain alignment of the neck and spine during sleep.
Generally, a low- or medium-loft pillow is a good choice for back sleepers. The degree to which you sleep up on the pillow, the weight / size of your head, and the weight / size of your shoulders all determine the ideal loft for back sleepers.
In most cases, more petite sleepers will need a lower loft, while average and heavier sleepers will need a medium loft.
GUIDE: Best Mattress for Back Pain
In a category almost completely their own, is the group of the best cooling pillows. Cooling pillows may vary in material, but the goal of these pillows is the same- to keep the sleeper cool through the night. These pillows are often cool to the touch, use phase change covers, gel foams, aerated foams, or other proprietary cooling technology.
Phase change covers, like what is used in the CarbonCool pillow by Malouf, uses a surface cooling technology to help regulate the temperature of the pillow and keep you cool while you sleep. This pillow also uses an aerated foam to help with air circulation.
Another nice cooling pillow is the ActiveX pillow, which uses a fill of Energex foam. Energex does not retain heat and has a feel that’s a bit of a cross between latex and memory foam. Additionally, the cover uses a phase change fabric, which provides a cool to the touch feel.
Z Latex Pillow
The Malouf Zoned Talalay latex pillow uses 100% natural latex, which as a material does not retain heat. Additionally, it is covered with a bamboo / polyester blended fabric that has a cool feel and does a nice job of breathing. This is a more natural cooling pillow option.
How to Choose the Best Cooling Pillow
Cooling pillows can be a nice way to offset warm mattresses for sleepers who are sensitive to temperature or heavy weight sleepers. Use the chart below to help decide which material helps to meet your cooling needs.
Please bear in mind, this chart should be used as a general guideline, not an absolute ranking system. Because there are a multitude factors (including subjectivity), it would be inaccurate to say that memory foam is ALWAYS warmer than latex or that a quilted cover is ALWAYS warmer than Tencel. Instead, use this chart as a general framework to help guide your pillow selection process.
For example, a shredded memory foam pillow with a phase-change cover may be cooler than a cotton or latex pillow. At the same time, a solid, molded latex pillow with a quilted cover may be warmer than some memory foam pillows.
It’s important to consider the pillow material, density, and cover together when assessing how cool a pillow is. Sleeper weight, mattress type and personal preference may also effect the coolness of a pillow.
Pillow materials can greatly vary from traditional poly fiberfill, to noodle foam, shredded foam, molded foam, or even natural materials like buckwheat. Each material is designed for a different sleeper—different needs require different materials.
Foam pillows can be filled with many different types of foams—memory foam, latex foam, and polyurethane foam are the most common. These foams may be molded foam, shredded foam, noodle foam, or a blend.
- Molded foam is a rigid foam that cannot be adjusted or change shape. These pillows generally undulate or have a contoured design to account for different sleepers’ needs. Many who suffer from back or neck pain look for comfort in a contour molded foam.
- Shredded foam is foam that has been shredded into small pieces. Many shredded foam pillows are adjustable so sleepers can add or remove fill as needed to reach their desired loft. They are also generally more breathable than molded foam pillows. Shredded foam is good for all sleeping positions, but especially good for side or stomach sleepers due to adjustability.
- Noodle foam is foam that has been extruded into long noodle shapes, varying in length by manufacturer. This foam is similar to shredded foam in terms of breathability and adjustability. Concerning performance, I think noodle foam tends to group together a bit more than shredded foam and needs less fluffing as a result. Noodle foam is also good for all sleeper types, but especially stomach or side sleepers.
Memory foam pillows generally have the most sinkage, hug, and a slower response time than other pillow types. The slow response time allows these pillows to conform to the shape of the head and neck, providing great support where individuals need it most. On the other hand, maximum contour can sometime lead to poor air circulation and heat retention.
Memory foam is also the most common material for unique support pillows that go between the knees, under the stomach, or that support a sensitive area of the back or neck.
Memory foam pillows can be made of molded foam, shredded foam, noodle foam, or a blend.
Pros of Memory Foam
- Pressure relief
Cons of Memory Foam
- Retains heat
- Strong smell
Open shot of the Coop Home Good pillow outer cover, inner cover, and memory foam fill
Latex foam pillows can be 100% natural latex, synthetic latex, or a blend of the two. Natural latex is extracted from trees and gives latex mattresses great bounce and cooling. In a pillow, the bounce is less noticeable, but the cooling factor is still there.
A synthetic latex or blend of natural and synthetic will generally have many of the same qualities as an all-natural latex, but at a fraction of the cost. Many sleepers who are looking for more natural or organic pillows like the hypoallergenic qualities of all-natural latex. In addition, latex foam pillows generally have a less strong smell as compared to memory foam.
Similar to memory foam, latex foam pillows can be made of molded foam, shredded foam, noodle foam, or a blend.
Pros of Latex Foam
- Great cooling
- More natural
- Longer lifespan
Cons of Latex Foam
- Generally more expensive
- More bounce
Natural latex foam noodles
Poly foam pillows are made of polyurethane foam and are generally one of the least expensive pillows on the market. Poly foam provides a balanced feel compared to memory foam or latex foam. Poly foam pillows can use shredded foam or a solid core molded foam. In terms of cooling, poly foam is generally cooler than memory foam, but not quite as cool as latex foam.
There are varying densities of poly foam, ranging from ultra-lightweight to extremely rigid. The density of the poly foam is determined by the amount of foam used in the pillow (in terms of quantity and pounds per cubic foot density).
Pros of Poly Foam
- Balanced feel
Cons of Poly Foam
- Strong odor
- Can be less durable
Shredded poly foam that the My Pillow is filled with
To make the quick distinction, natural and organic pillows are not necessarily the same thing. All organic pillows are natural, but not all natural pillows are organic.
A natural pillow uses natural materials such as wool, cotton, natural latex, goose down, duck down, etc. All of these materials are found naturally in the environment, whether from plants, animals, or other natural sources.
An organic pillow not only uses natural materials, but it is certified organic. It uses materials and processes that are without pesticides, chemicals, or other harmful synthetic procedures. In order to become “Certified Organic,” the manufacturer must be evaluated by a third-party agent to determine if their product meets the required criteria.
To learn more about the different types of organic certifications, check out our Natural and Organic Guide here.
Natural covers are another consideration for the natural sleeper. These covers can be made of cotton, Tencel, bamboo, etc. Pillow covers made of organic cotton, for example, do an excellent job of blocking allergens without the use of harmful chemicals or additives.
All-natural down pillows are made from the down feathers of geese, ducks, swans, or other waterfowl. These feathers are soft and fine, located under the thicker exterior feathers. These pillows can be 100% down for an ultra-soft feel or a blend of down and other denser feathers for a firmer feel.
Down pillows tend to have a greater loft, but can flatten easily due to its softness. In addition, down pillows must be dry cleaned. Sleepers who like to sink down into their pillows generally enjoy the feeling of a down pillow.
Regarding cooling, they are cool due to the amount of air circulation the down allows. As one might suspect, when the pillow flattens and less air is able to circulate, a down pillow may begin to sleep warmer.
Depending on the density and loft, down pillows may be good for all types of sleepers.
Pros of Natural Down
- Very soft
Cons of Natural Down
- Allergy risk
- Difficult to clean
eLuxurySupply goose down pillow
Cotton pillows use all-natural cotton for the pillow fill. They are hypoallergenic and lack dyes and other synthetic materials. They tend to have high loft, are very breathable, have great cooling, and are lightweight. Additionally, cotton pillows are readily available and offered at an affordable price point.
With that in mind, cotton pillows do have a shorter lifespan, and over time, the fill may tend to clump or flatten, depending on how an individual sleeps. Depending on loft and density, cotton pillows may be suitable for all types of sleepers, as well.
Pros of Cotton
Cons of Cotton
- Flattens easily
- Fill may clump
- Less durable
Angled side view of the Naturepedic organic cotton pillow
Buckwheat pillows are also a smart choice for the natural or organic sleeper. These pillows are filled with natural buckwheat hulls and are extremely dense. The hulls themselves do not not retain heat, making Buckwheat a nice choice for cooling.
This pillow could be a good choice for all sleeping positions, provided you do not change your pillow position much and enjoy a very firm feel.
The pillow is unresponsive to movement, and the hulls are quite noisy, especially for active sleepers who like to reposition throughout the night. Still, buckwheat pillows are breathable and have hypoallergenic qualities, which can make them a great option for sleepers who suffer from allergies.
In addition, the natural hulls are not machine washable. To refresh a pillow, a sleeper can put it out in the sun a couple of times a year. The heat of the sun has a way of giving new life to old hulls.
Pros of Buckwheat
- Very supportive
Cons of Buckwheat
- Extremely firm
- Difficult to clean
Many times, alternative pillows are designed to mimic the feel, sinkage, or other special characteristics of natural or organic pillows. These are generally less expensive than the natural versions and are made with man-made materials.
If you like the feel of a natural down pillow, but can’t swallow spending the cash, an alternative pillow may be a good option. Keep in mind, alternative pillows tend to be less expensive and may not last as long as the comparable natural option.
Down alternative pillows, on the other hand, provide the same feel of a natural down pillow, but at a lower cost. These pillows are often filled with cotton or polyester that is designed to mimic down feathers, but with a more durable and consistent feel. This generally means more support for the neck.
As for cooling, down alternative pillows tend to have comparable cooling to a traditional down pillow. But can sleep cooler depending on the alternative material and cover.
Sleepers who like the feel of traditional down but suffer from allergies or want a more affordable option may enjoy a down alternative pillow.
Pros of Down Alternative
- Requires less fluffing
Cons of Down Alternative
- Less durable
- Less natural
Nature’s Sleep down alternative pillow
Polyester pillows come in a variety of styles. However, in some ways they have a feel similar to more traditional cotton pillows. Polyester pillows also have nice cooling and loft.
That being said, polyester pillows tend to flatten more easily due to their composition and may need to be replaced more often. Individuals can lengthen the life of a polyester pillow by throwing some tennis balls into the dryer with it after a wash. The tennis balls help to fluff the pillow back up and retain its original shape.
That said, always double check the care instructions for your pillow before washing, drying, or performing other maintenance.
Pros of Polyester
- More traditional feel
Cons of Polyester
- Less durable
- More noisy
- Fattens easily
- None currently
Casper pillow layers – outer pillow unzipped to show inner polyester pillow