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 mattress firmness 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. Use it now to check out some popular pillows now! 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.
|Memory Foam or Natural Latex||Adjustable||$99||Any||Read Written Review!|
|Hyper elastic polymer||Adjustable||$99||Any||Read Written Review!|
|Avena Foam||Medium||$75||Any||Read Written Review!|
|Down Alternative||Low or High||$80||Stomach Sleeper and Back/Side Sleeper Options||Read Written Review!|
|Memory Foam||Adjustable||$52||Any||Read Written Review!|
|Goose Down||High||$134||Back or Side||Read Written Review!|
|Memory Foam||Adjustable||$99||Back or Side||Read Written Review!|
|Memory Foam||Low, Medium, or High||$84||Any||Read Written Review!|
|Organic natural latex||Medium||$99||Back or Side||Read Written Review!|
|Latex||Low or High||$139||Any||Read Written Review!|
|Poly Foam||Low-Medium||$95||Back or Side||Read Written Review!|
|Down Alternative||High||$42||Back or Side||Read Written Review!|
|Memory foam||Medium||$99||Any||Read Written Review!|
|Buckwheat||Adjustable||$41||Any||Read Written Review!|
|Latex and Kapok||Adjustable||$79||Any||Read Written Review!|
|Down Alternative and Latex||High||$145||Back or Side||Read Written 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 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.
Stomach sleepers who sleep on a firmer mattress may need a loftier pillow in order to get the head height properly aligned.
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.
Some pillows allow the sleeper to take out extra fill in order to get the perfect loft for their needs, like the Easy Breather pillow by Nest Bedding. Another approach is to have variable lofts pre-determined and sewn into the pillow, like the Spine Align pillow.
Depending on the size of the sleeper, the loft can vary a bit more for back sleepers. Similar to stomach sleepers, the main goal is to maintain alignment of the neck and spine during sleep. Depending on the amount of sinkage on his or her mattress, each sleeper may need a different level of loft.
Generally, a low- or medium-loft pillow is about right for back sleepers. Some pillows may even be specifically designed for back sleepers.
How does your mattress affect your pillow?
The mattress and the pillow work hand in hand to keep the spine in alignment and avoid pressure points and back pain for sleepers. In the case of a firm mattress, sleepers may find that they need a pillow with more loft since there is not as much sinkage into the mattress. Soft mattresses tend to have greater sinkage, so look for a pillow with minimal loft to keep spinal alignment in check.
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 sleep types, but especially stomach or side sleepers.
Memory foam pillows generally have the most amount of sinkage, hug, and a slower response time than other pillow types. The slow response type 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: Body-contouring, pressure relief, viscoelastic
- Cons of Memory Foam: Retains heat, heavy, less natural (sometimes has a smell)
- Top Picks for Memory Foam Pillows: Nest Easy Breather Pillow (shredded/noodle foam), Coop Home Goods Pillow (shredded/noodle foam), or Spine Align Pillow (solid molded foam)
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 a lot 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 are virtually odorless.
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, very durable, more natural, longer lifespan
- Cons of Latex Foam: Generally more expensive, less pressure relief
- Top Picks for Latex Foam Pillows: Nest Easy Breather (shredded/noodle latex) or Naturpedic Organic (solid latex)
Poly Foam (Polyurethane Foam)
Poly foam pillows are made of polyurethane foam and are generally one of the least expensive pillows on the market. Poly foam provides a very 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 as well as the chemical breakdown. Poly foams are essentially created by combining chemicals (polyol and isocyanates) to make foam.
- Pros of Poly Foam: Inexpensive, balanced feel, breathable
- Cons of Poly Foam: Less durable, flattens easily
- Top Pick for Poly Foam Pillows: Bear Pillow (solid molded poly foam)
Natural or Organic Pillows
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 or Organic Guide here.
Natural covers are another consideration for the natural sleeper. These covers can be made of cotton, natural latex, 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 very 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, natural, breathable,
- Cons of Natural Down: flattens easily, expensive, allergy risk , difficult to clean
- Top Pick for Natural Down Pillows: eLuxury 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: natural, breathable, easy to find
- Cons of Cotton: flattens easily, fill may clump, shorter, less durable
- Top Picks for Cotton Pillows: Naturpedic 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 density of the hulls allows a nice amount of air to circulate through this type of pillow, making it very breathable with great cooling.
This pillow could be a good choice for back sleepers, stomach sleepers, or sleepers who do not toss and turn a lot during the night.
The pillow is very unresponsive to movement, and the hulls are quite noisy, especially for active sleepers who like to reposition throughout the night. Still, buckwheat pillows are very 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: hypoallergenic, breathable, very supportive
- Cons of Buckwheat: extremely firm, unresponsive, not machine washable
- Top Picks for Buckwheat Pillows: ComfySleep Buckwheat Pillow or Qbedding Buckwheat Pillow
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 slightly firmer feel. This generally means more support for the neck and back.
As for cooling, down alternative pillows tend to have comparable cooling to a traditional down pillow.
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: Inexpensive, hypoallergenic, firmer (more support than down)
- Cons of Down Alternative: Less durable, less natural than traditional down
- Top Pick for Down Alternative Pillows: Nature’s Sleep Down Alternative Pillow
Polyester pillows are essentially the synthetic version of natural cotton pillows. They have a similar feel, loft, and density, but are much less durable. Polyester pillows also have nice cooling and loft.
That being said, polyester pillows tend to flatten more easily due to their inexpensive composition and may need to be replaced in 1-2 years. 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.
- Pros of Polyester: Inexpensive, similar feel to cotton
- Cons of Polyester: Less durable, flattens easily
- Top Pick for Polyester Pillows: none
In a category almost completely their own, is a group of cooling pillows. The best 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 memory 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 circulation.
Another nice cooling pillow is the Bear pillow, which uses a proprietary cooling technology on the surface fabric of the pillow as well as mesh sides to help keep the pillow cool. The Bear pillow uses a poly foam that feels like a blend of memory foam and latex foam, for nice contouring and hug, but without the heat retention.
Cooling pillows can be a nice way to offset warm mattresses for sleepers who are sensitive to temperature or heavy sleepers. Use the chart below to help decide which material helps to meet your cooling needs.
Finding the best pillow is more than a matter of opinion. Understanding how materials and loft impact the overall feel and support of a pillow will help you select the best pillow for your needs. Ready to select your perfect pillow? Click here to jump back up to our pillow matrix and select which pillow would be best for you!
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