Home / Best Pillows of 2021

Best Pillows of 2021

Sleepfoundation.org is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

Written by

Lauren Fountain

author

Like mattresses, pillows play a major role in how well you sleep – and finding the right one can be challenging. Shoppers today have a lot to consider in terms of composition and fill, thickness, durability, temperature regulation, and pain relief. You should also take personal factors into account when searching for a new pillow. People with neck and shoulder pain may need a pillow with an orthopedic shape, while heavy snorers often require a high-loft pillow to keep their heads upright. Your sleeping position, weight, and body mechanics can all affect how your pillow feels.

Our top picks listed below are based on our own in-house testing, which examines fill, construction, and quality among other factors. Our testing team includes side, back, and stomach sleepers with varying weights and sleep habits. Our selections for the best pillows are chosen using our testers’ scores along with in-depth research and analysis.

Top Picks Overview

Below our top picks you’ll find a buyer’s guide that can help you learn tips for finding your perfect pillow. This guide includes a complete rundown on pillow types and important criteria for shoppers. We’ll take an extensive look at pillow materials, loft, firmness, and shape so that you can choose the best one for your personal preferences. You can also find helpful information on what to expect when it comes to average costs, cover materials, and sizing.

Product Details

Brooklinen Down Pillow

Best Overall

Brooklinen Down Pillow

Brooklinen Down Pillow
Price: $99 - Standard $119 - King
Fill: Pure Canadian white down or a down/feather blend
Firmness: Plush
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who aren’t sure about their ideal pillow firmness
  • Value seekers
  • Shoppers looking for a pillow with a long sleep trial
Highlights:
  • Three firmness options to suit different sleeper preferences
  • Down and feather clusters with a cotton sateen shell ensure a soft, cloud-like feel
  • Each order comes with a trial period spanning an entire year
Brooklinen Down Pillow

SF readers get the best price at Brooklinen

Many people enjoy the luxuriously plush feel of down pillows, but some sleepers complain of insufficient support and excessive sinkage around the head and neck. The Brooklinen Down Pillow is a standout product because three different designs are available, each with a distinct feel and support level.

The Plush pillow contains pure white down for exceptional softness that may be ideal for stomach sleepers. The Mid-Plush option is chambered with a feather core and an outer down layer for added support without sacrificing the plush feel. The Firm option is also chambered, but contains more feathers and less down for extra reinforcement around the head and neck. All versions of the pillow are encased in shells made of smooth, silky-soft cotton sateen.

The pillow is given an antimicrobial treatment intended to stave off harmful bacteria, though you can also spot-clean or dry-clean the pillow as needed. Double-stitching along the perimeter ensures above-average durability and reduces the potential for fill escaping. Standard and king sizes are available. All Brooklinen Down Pillows are made in Canada.

While Plush pillows cost more than the Mid-Plush or Firm ones, prices are reasonable across the board. Brooklinen provides free ground delivery for U.S. customers, and international orders qualify for affordable flat-rate shipping. Each order includes a 365-night sleep trial, giving you plenty of time to decide whether to keep or return the pillow. Exchanges are also allowed if you aren’t satisfied with your initial firmness selection.

Saatva Latex Pillow

Most Comfortable

Saatva Latex Pillow

Saatva Latex Pillow
Price: $155 - Queen $175 - King
Fill: Shredded 100% American Talalay latex and down alternative
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • People who tend to sleep hot
  • Combination sleepers
  • Consumers who prefer buying products with organic components
Highlights:
  • Shredded Talalay latex core offers a balance of contouring and responsiveness
  • Removable outer pillow for adjustable loft
  • Optional pillowcases made of silky-soft organic cotton
Saatva Latex Pillow

Buy more, save more. Get up to $450 off!

Talalay latex is a popular choice for pillow fill because it cushions and conforms to the head and neck, but also feels more responsive and supportive than foam. The Saatva Latex Pillow contains a core of shredded Talalay latex that creates a medium soft feel. This plushness is enhanced by an outer pillow padded with down-like microdenier fibers and a cover made of smooth organic cotton.

Your head may sink a bit into the pillow, but a thick profile ensures adequate elevation for most side and back sleepers. The outer pillow can be removed, which reduces the loft and makes the pillow more comfortable for stomach sleeping. This customizable design can also be useful for combination sleepers who usually switch between two positions while they sleep.

Above-average temperature control is another benefit to the Saatva Latex Pillow. Latex won’t trap heat quite like foam, and the same is true of the microdenier material when compared to real down. The cotton cover also enhances the pillow’s breathability. The cotton has received certification from the Global Organic Textile Standard, ensuring the fibers are sustainably grown without chemical pesticides. The cover and outer pillow are machine-washable. You can also add two silky-soft sateen pillowcases to your order for a small surcharge.

Saatva provides free shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. Your order includes a sleep trial that allows you to test out the pillow for 45 nights. Those who decide to keep it will also receive a 1-year warranty.

Layla Kapok Pillow

Best for Side Sleepers

Layla Kapok Pillow

Layla Kapok Pillow
Price: $99 - Queen $119 - King
Fill: Shredded memory foam and kapok tree fiber blend
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Those seeking an adjustable pillow
  • Side, back, and stomach sleepers
  • Individuals who normally sleep hot on memory foam
Highlights:
  • High-loft design supports and contours to the neck, reducing pressure and improving spinal alignment
  • Copper-infused memory foam regulates temperature
  • Generous 5-year warranty and 120-night money-back guarantee
Layla Kapok Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Layla pillows

The Layla Kapok Pillow combines shredded memory foam fill with kapok fibers. The kapok fibers are sustainably harvested from the seed pods of the kapok tree, which grows in Indonesia. These two materials come together to provide a mix of cushioning and support.

The pillow also features an innovative cover that is woven with copper fibers that are designed to draw heat away from your face and neck to prevent uncomfortable heat build-up over the course of the night. Copper is also naturally antimicrobial.

The cover also has a zippered opening so that users can remove the cover for washing. This opening also allows for loft adjustments. The pillow arrives overstuffed, which may be perfect for larger side sleepers, but those who sleep on their backs or stomachs will want to remove some fill to achieve the appropriate loft level for proper spinal alignment. This customization enables the pillow to suit a wide range of sleepers.

Layla backs the pillow with a 120-night sleep trial and a 5-year warranty.

Casper Original Pillow

Best Value

Casper Original Pillow

Casper Original Pillow
Price: $65 - Standard $85 - King
Fill: Crimped Polyester Microfiber Fill
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Sleepers who like the feel of down
  • People with allergies
Highlights:
  • Innovative pillow-in-pillow design balances support and softness
  • Great performance at a low price-point
  • Gusset design helps keep fill material in place, preventing clumping
Casper Original Pillow

Save 10% off your cart with code SF10

The Casper Original Pillow is a down alternative pillow filled with polyester microfiber. It mimics the soft feel of down, but doesn’t contain animal products. The pillow shares a similar construction with many down pillows in that it has a softer outer pillow surrounding a firmer core.

Although polyester microfiber feels similar to down, it doesn’t contain any feathers, making it suitable for those who avoid animal products. Casper doesn’t claim their Original pillow is hypoallergenic, but it is likely a good choice for people who experience allergy issues with down.

This pillow comes in one firmness level, which is medium-soft. Its firmness and loft make the pillow most suitable for side and back sleepers. Stomach sleepers might find that the Casper Original Pillow elevates their head too high, which can lead to neck discomfort.

The Casper Original Pillow is constructed with a gusset, or a 2-inch panel that circles the outer edge of the pillow. This gusset increases the pillow’s loft and adds structure.

Due to the gusset and other aspects of the pillow’s construction, sleepers will find that the contents of the Casper Original Pillow stay put and do not shift throughout the night. Although some down and down alternative pillows can become lumpy over time, lumpiness shouldn’t be a problem with this pillow.

Casper offers a 100-night sleep trial and 1-year limited warranty on their Original Pillow.

Boll & Branch Down Pillow

Best Firmness Options

Boll & Branch Down Pillow

Boll & Branch Down Pillow
Price: $158-198 - Standard $168-228 - King
Fill: Down, Down-Feather Core
Firmness: Soft, Medium Firm, Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who normally find down pillows too soft
  • Hot sleepers
  • Shoppers concerned with animal welfare
Highlights:
  • Multiple density/firmness options to suit different sleeper types
  • Breathable organic cotton cover
  • Pillow certified by the International Down Standard
Boll & Branch Down Pillow

SleepFoundation readers get the best prices on Boll & Branch products.

Many sleepers appreciate the cloud-like plushness of down pillows – but for others, down feels too soft and sinks excessively beneath their heads. If you belong to the latter group, the Boll & Branch Down Pillow might be a good option. The pillow is available in three densities, each with a distinct feel. You can choose between a soft, medium, or firm feel for the pillow. Each density also has a different loft, making the pillow suitable for side, back, or stomach sleeping.

The pillow is constructed with three chambers. The core contains a blend of down and feathers, while the two outer chambers are padded with pure down. Feathers are more supportive, so the core is intended to prevent excessive sinkage. The cover is made of organic cotton and touched up with embroidery and piping to give the pillow a luxe appearance.

While people with down allergies may still experience symptoms if they use this pillow, the fill is washed with environmentally safe detergent to reduce allergens. The pillow has also received certification from the International Down Standard, indicating animals are never harmed or mistreated while their plumage is extracted. The pillow is completely machine-washable.

The price of this pillow depends on the selected size and density, but all options are competitively priced. Boll & Branch offers free shipping for all U.S. orders and backs each purchase with a 30-night trial period.

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow

Best for Neck Pain

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow
Price: $89 - Small $99 - Medium $129 - Large
Fill: Solid Memory Foam
Firmness: Extra Firm
Who it's best for:
  • People who wake up with neck or shoulder pain
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Those who want to invest in a long-lasting ergonomic pillow
Highlights:
  • Ergonomic shape supports the neck and cradles the head
  • Core composed of durable, high-density TEMPUR memory foam
  • Soft knit cover is removable and machine-washable
Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Tempur-Pedic pillows

The name Tempur-Pedic has become synonymous with memory foam, as the brand was among the first to popularize the use of this material for everyday sleep products. The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow has an ergonomic shape that elevates and supports the neck while cradling the head. This design is well suited to anyone who experiences frequent neck or shoulder pain and primarily sleeps on their back and/or side.

The core is constructed from TEMPUR foam, a proprietary material with a dense composition that preserves its shape and limits the sagging and indentations commonly associated with memory foam. The cover is made of knit polyester knit, and can be removed and machine-washed whenever the fabric needs to be cleaned.

Three standard sizes are available for the pillow, each with a different loft level. A helpful guide on the pillow’s product page shows you the best size options based on sleep position and the distance between your neck and shoulders. You can also select a more compact travel size if you’re prone to aches and pains while on the road.

All of the sizes are reasonably priced, making the pillow a good investment given its durable foam construction. Tempur-Pedic provides free shipping throughout the contiguous U.S. The company does not permit returns, so all sales will be considered final, but your purchase includes a 5-year warranty that covers material defects.

GhostBed GhostPillow - Memory Foam

Best for Back and Stomach Sleepers

GhostBed GhostPillow - Memory Foam

GhostBed GhostPillow - Memory Foam
Price: $95
Fill: Aerated Gel Memory Foam
Firmness: Medium Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Hot sleepers who enjoy foam pillows
  • People who seek pressure relief for the head and neck
Highlights:
  • Memory foam is aerated to promote cooling
  • 6-inch loft and medium firm feel
  • Cover is machine-washable
GhostBed GhostPillow - Memory Foam

SF Readers get 25% off pillows at GhostBed

While memory foam pillows are typically known for trapping heat, the GhostBed GhostPillow – Memory Foam is designed with several cooling features that help reduce heat retention. Sleepers who are looking for a foam pillow that doesn’t lead to overheating may find this to be an appealing option.

The pillow is made from a single piece of memory foam with an aerated design meant to enable air flow through the pillow. The surface features a phase change material designed to regulate the temperature of the pillow as your body temperature fluctuates throughout the night. The pillow is encased in two covers. A machine-washable outer zippered cover is made with Ghost Ice fabric, which feels cool to the touch. An inner cover has a mesh design that further promotes air circulation.

With a medium firm feel and 6-inch loft, this pillow should provide adequate support for many side and back sleepers. The memory foam provides deep contouring, which might be an especially good fit for people who experience neck pain during sleep and require a pillow that cushions the head and neck.

GhostBed offers a 101-night sleep trial that allows you to try the pillow risk-free. Customers receive free shipping and returns within the contiguous U.S. The pillow comes with a 5-year warranty.

SHEEX Infinite Zen Performance Pillow

Best Cooling

SHEEX Infinite Zen Performance Pillow

SHEEX Infinite Zen Performance Pillow
Price: $119 - Standard/Queen
Fill: Solid memory foam
Firmness: Medium firm
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • Sleepers who often experience neck pain
  • Back and side sleepers
Highlights:
  • Cooling gel layer designed to disperse heat
  • Solid memory foam construction relieves pressure
  • Medium firm feel provides great support
SHEEX Infinite Zen Performance Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on SHEEX pillows

Memory foam usually is notorious for trapping heat, but the SHEEX Infinite Zen Performance Pillow is an excellent choice for hot sleepers. It stays cool throughout the night while offering a close contour and pressure relief.

The cover is quilted with cooling fibers designed to keep the surface at a comfortable temperature. The cover also features 2-inch gussets for extra support on the edges of the pillow. Next is a cooling gel layer designed to absorb heat away from the surface, great for hot sleepers.

The fill consists of solid memory foam that expertly cradles the head and relieves pressure. Sleepers who frequently experience neck pain may find the Zen Performance Pillow helps prevent morning aches. Back and side sleepers should also appreciate the pillow for its medium-to-high 5-inch loft, which helps to keep the spine in healthy alignment. It comes in one standard/queen size, and the cover is fully machine washable.

SHEEX offers free shipping to the contiguous U.S. and a 30-day trial. Purchases come with a 1-year warranty.

Birch Organic Pillow

Best Organic

Birch Organic Pillow

Birch Organic Pillow
Price: $99 - Queen $119 - King
Fill: Shredded Talaylay Latex, Organic Wool
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • Eco-conscious consumers
  • Shoppers who are concerned with animal welfare
Highlights:
  • Eco-friendly design incorporates organic cotton, wool, and natural latex
  • Sleeps cool thanks to breathable and moisture-wicking materials
  • Backed by a 100-night trial and 1-year warranty
Birch Organic Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Birch pillows

The Birch Organic Pillow features an eco-friendly design that should appeal to consumers who prefer to buy sustainably made products. The pillow contains a core of shredded natural latex cushioned with an outer chamber of New Zealand wool. The latex has earned an eco-INSTITUT certification, indicating the material has been tested for harmful chemicals that can contribute to emissions, while the wool is Integrity Wool NZ certified to ensure the sheep are treated humanely during every step of the extraction process. A shell made of GOTS-certified organic cotton completes the design.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, the Organic Pillow’s components are also highly breathable. The shredded latex won’t retain as much heat as foam, while the foam has moisture-wicking properties to keep you comfortable on humid nights. The organic cotton also helps prevent heat buildup by promoting air circulation.

A medium feel and mid-range profile make the Organic Pillow particularly well-suited to back sleepers, though side sleepers who don’t need as much loft may also find it comfortable. Standard and king sizes are available. Owners should only spot-clean the pillow as needed, and avoid any type of machine-washing.

Given its premium materials and design, the Organic Pillow is very reasonably priced. Birch provides free shipping to all 50 states, and each purchase comes with a 100-night sleep trial and a 1-year warranty against structural defects.

Standard Textile Chamber Down Pillow

Best Luxury

Standard Textile Chamber Down Pillow

Standard Textile Chamber Down Pillow
Price: $99
Fill: Polyester (Outer Chambers), Sterilized Natural Feathers (Inner Chamber)
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Individuals looking for fully machine-washable pillows
  • People who prefer the feel of down
  • Those seeking hotel-quality pillows
Highlights:
  • Hybrid down and polyester design balances plushness and support
  • Three-chamber construction keeps fill evenly distributed
  • Fully machine washable for easy care
Standard Textile Chamber Down Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Standard Textile pillows

The Chamber Down Pillow by Standard Textile, also known as the Chamberloft pillow, is constructed with two outer chambers filled with hypoallergenic polyester surrounding an inner chamber filled with sterilized feathers. The cover is made from breathable 100 percent cotton and is double-stitched for durability.

Standard Textile is known for supplying luxury hotels around the world with quality bedding, and as a result, their pillows are built to withstand regular washing and drying without losing their loft. The three-chamber construction of the pillow ensures that the fill remains evenly distributed through the laundering process. The outer chambers of polyester provide plushness, while the inner chamber of natural feathers provides support to help keep the sleeper’s neck properly aligned.

The pillows are sold as a set of two and are available in standard and king size. They have earned the OEKO-TEX certification, ensuring that all components are free of harmful substances. Standard Textile offers a 90-day return window, during which unsatisfied customers can receive a full refund, minus any applicable shipping and handling fees.

Luxe Pillow (Down and Feather)

Best Feather

Luxe Pillow (Down and Feather)

Luxe Pillow (Down and Feather)
Price: $129 - Standard $149 - King
Fill: RDS-certified down and feather fill
Firmness: Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • People who like the softness of down
  • People with allergies
Highlights:
  • Firmer waterfowl-feather core provides structured support
  • Softer white goose down exterior layers offers a plush feel and soft contouring
  • 300 thread count pillow protector included
Luxe Pillow (Down and Feather)

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Luxe Pillow pillows

The Luxe Pillow is constructed with down and feathers. It contains a firmer, structured core of small-game waterfowl feathers. Surrounding the core are two chambers of soft, white goose down. This construction provides a mixture of support and plushness.

Generally, down and feather pillows aren’t recommended for people with allergies. However, the Luxe Pillow is certified hypoallergenic. The down and feathers they use undergo extensive washing, so they are less likely to bother people with allergies.

Also, the Luxe Pillow comes with a high-quality pillow protector. Pillow protectors help keep pillows in good shape. They also tend to help protect sleepers from inhaling allergens that might develop in the pillow over time, such as dust mites.

The Luxe Pillow comes in one firmness level, which is medium. The loft and medium firmness of the Luxe make it a strong option for side and back sleepers. Stomach sleepers might find that this pillow is too thick or firm for their liking, however. Stomach sleepers often prefer softer, less lofted pillows that allow them to maintain spinal alignment.

The Luxe Pillow comes with free shipping and a 100-night sleep trial during which customers may return the product at no cost.

Hullo Buckwheat Pillow

Best Buckwheat

Hullo Buckwheat Pillow

Hullo Buckwheat Pillow
Fill: Buckwheat hulls
Firmness: Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • People who sleep hot
  • Eco-conscious shoppers
  • Vegans
Highlights:
  • Buckwheat hull fill provides excellent breathability
  • Removable fill offers customizable loft and feel
  • Made with organic, eco-friendly materials
Hullo Buckwheat Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Hullo pillows

The Hullo Buckwheat Pillow is a supportive, adjustable pillow with a Buckwheat fill. Buckwheat pillows, which are pillows filled with the outer casings of buckwheat kernels, are known for their advanced support, breathability, long lifespan, and comfort. The Hullo is one of the most popular buckwheat pillows on the market.

The cover of the Hullo is made of a 100% organic cotton twill. The buckwheat hulls that make up the inner fill are carefully sourced and grown in the US. Users can adjust the firmness, malleability, and loft of the Hullo by easily adding or removing buckwheat halls from the pillow. This allows you to carefully tailor your pillow to suit your sleeping position, weight and personal preference. For example, back sleepers can adjust the amount of buckwheat hulls in the Hullo so the pillow has a lower loft, while side sleepers can add more hulls to achieve a higher loft.

The Hullo comes with a 60-night trial. During that time, pillows may be returned, but the customer must pay the cost of return shipping.

Why You Should Trust Us

For some people, finding the right pillow can be just as conducive to good sleep as finding the right mattress. That’s why we at Sleep Foundation have tested over 300 pillows to determine which models will help you get the best night’s sleep. Since sleep position is a common factor in finding a comfortable pillow, we draw on feedback from side, back, stomach, and combination sleepers on our testing team.

To evaluate pillows, our testers lay on each model and moved around the surface to assess qualities such as firmness, feel, contouring, and breathability. Based on our hands-on testing, we determined that the above list of picks represents the best of the pillows on the market today.

In-Depth Pillow Guides

For more personalized pillow guides, check out the following pages:

How to Choose a Pillow

There is no single perfect pillow for everyone. To find your ideal pillow, you must consider your sleep position preferences, as well as many aspects of pillows you’re considering.

This section guides you through the various pillow qualities to evaluate while pillow shopping. Once you know what to look for, you can feel confident that you’re truly buying the pillow because it fits your needs.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Pillow

Marketing hype shouldn’t drive your decision-making as you shop for the perfect pillow. Companies may claim that their pillow feels like sleeping on a cloud, works well for all sleepers, and stays cool all night. Instead of being swayed by advertising, it’s best to evaluate the facts.

You should consider many factors when pillow shopping. First, your personal sleep position preference heavily influences which pillows best fit your body. Of course, many shoppers are limited by a budget. Keep these factors at the forefront of your mind while examining your pillow options.

Also, learn each pillow’s loft and firmness level to determine if it’s a good option for you. Identify the materials each pillow is made of, if it has cooling properties, and if it will relieve pressure in your neck and shoulders.

In this section, we provide more information about the factors to consider when pillow shopping.

  • Sleeping Position: Your preferred sleep position majorly affects which pillows you find comfortable. Stomach sleepers tend to like softer, flatter pillows, since thick pillows can prop the head too high, causing neck pain. Side sleepers generally prefer thicker pillows, which keep the head up and the spine aligned. Back sleepers likely prefer medium pillows, though they are the most flexible group.
  • Loft: “Loft” refers to a pillow’s height or thickness, specifically when the pillow is sitting flat with nothing on top of it. People with different sleep position preferences generally prefer pillows with different lofts. Loft and firmness level combine to determine a pillow’s height once weight is put on it.
  • Firmness Level: Just like mattresses, pillows come in different firmness levels. Firmness affects how a pillow feels, as well as how high it holds your head. For example, a pillow with a high loft might not hold your head up as high as you’d expect if it is extremely soft and sinks under weight.
  • Price: Pillows are available at nearly every price point, ranging from under $10 to upwards of $1,000. Most pillows are sold for under $200, however. The price of a pillow is generally determined by the pillow’s materials and construction. Price loosely correlates with quality, though there are plenty of decent pillows available at affordable prices.
  • Pressure Relief: Like mattresses, pillows can be pressure-relieving or create pressure points. Since pressure points lead to discomfort or even neck pain, pressure relief is an important pillow quality for many sleepers. Pillow materials, loft, and firmness level combined with a person’s preferred sleeping position determines how well a pillow performs in terms of pressure relief.
  • Quality Materials: There is no single pillow cover or fill material that stands out as being the highest quality. Varying qualities exist within each material type. Customers can research types of down, polyfill, memory foam, etc. to better understand what determines quality within each material type.
  • Cooling Properties: Like mattresses, some pillows sleep cooler than others. Down alternatives tend to sleep cooler than down, and buckwheat hulls are known for sleeping exceptionally cool. Memory foam pillows can trap heat, but most contain cooling gel or another cooling material to counteract that tendency.

What Types of Pillows Are There?

Pillows are constructed with a variety of materials. Understanding what these materials are and how they generally perform will help you determine which pillows best fit your needs.

  • Polyfoam: Polyfoam, or polyurethane foam, is a type of foam used in both mattresses and pillows. Although polyfoam can vary widely in terms of both quality and firmness, it’s generally lower cost than memory foam. When used as pillow fill, polyfoam is often shredded or cut into small pieces.
  • Memory Foam: Memory foam pillows often provide a soft, conforming feel. Since memory foam tends to trap heat, manufacturers often infuse it with a cooling agent or construct the pillow in a way that encourages airflow. Some memory foam pillows are constructed of full blocks of memory foam, while others contain shredded or cut memory foam.
  • Down: Perhaps the most traditional pillow fill, down is the soft, fluffy feather found beneath the outer, harder feathers of many birds. Most down pillows contain goose down, and some contain down mixed with feathers. Down is known for its durability, but it may bother some people with allergies or asthma.
  • Down Alternative: Any pillow that was created to feel like down, but does not contain down, is considered a down alternative pillow. Down alternative pillows offer options for vegans and people with allergies who like the feel of down. They are most commonly filled with a polyester microfiber filling.
  • Latex: Latex pillows are pressure relieving and extremely durable. They tend to have a high loft and be more dense, so they’re better for side and back sleepers than stomach sleepers. Latex pillows can be made of one piece of latex or shredded latex fill. Latex feels similar to foam, but is more cooling, especially when aerated.
  • Feather: Generally, the term “feather pillow” is used to refer to pillows that contain both feathers and down. Since feathers are harder than down, 100% feather pillows are less common. Feather pillows are soft, breathable, and a good option for people who sleep hot and want a lower loft.
  • Buckwheat: Buckwheat pillows are filled with buckwheat hulls, the small outer casings of buckwheat grain kernels. These pillows closely conform to the body, and some people liken their feel to that of a bean bag. Many buckwheat pillows are vegan and organic, making them appealing to eco-conscious shoppers.
  • Wool: Wool is a less common fill material that is growing in popularity as customers search for natural pillow options. Most wool pillows are hypoallergenic, organic, and on the luxury end of the price spectrum. Wool is naturally temperature neutral and not extremely conforming.
  • Water: Water pillows typically contain water along with another fill material, such as memory foam or polyfill. Most water pillows require customers to fill the pillow with water themselves. This system allows for adjustable firmness levels. Water pillows are known for being supportive and cooling.

Pillow covers also come in a variety of materials. Most pillow covers are made of cotton, polyester, or a cotton-poly blend. Some are made of other materials, such as bamboo-derived fabric or satin.

Cotton covers tend to be more breathable than polyester. Different cover materials feel different to the touch, but the feel is less important since most customers use pillow cases over their pillows.

What is Pillow Loft?

A pillow’s “loft” refers to its height when it is lying flat with nothing sitting on top of it.

Pillows are generally divided into low, medium, and high lofts. A low loft pillow measures 3 inches or less in height. A medium loft pillow measures between 3 and 5 inches thick. A high loft pillow measures over 5 inches in height.

Unfortunately, these measurements haven’t been universally adopted across pillow companies. Some companies might call their pillow “low loft” or “high loft” when it is in fact medium or average in height.

Check actual pillow measurements rather than descriptions whenever possible. Though some companies provide an exact measurement of their pillow’s loft, many do not.

How to Determine the Right Pillow Loft

The ideal pillow loft varies from sleeper to sleeper. Your sleep position preference, head size, body weight, and mattress firmness are all factors that influence which pillow loft is ideal for you.

  • Sleep Position: Stomach sleepers generally require low loft pillows. Medium and high loft pillows can push a stomach sleeper’s head up too high, putting strain on the neck. Back sleepers tend to prefer low or medium loft pillows. Finally, side sleepers tend to require high loft pillows. A high loft pillow can promote spinal alignment by keeping the sleeper’s head as high as their neck and shoulders.
  • Head Size: Your head size also helps determine the ideal pillow loft for you. Larger heads tend to sink more deeply into pillows. Therefore, people with larger heads tend to prefer high loft pillows. Similarly, people with smaller heads tend to prefer lower loft pillows.
  • Body Weight: Your body weight also influences your ideal pillow loft. The more a person weighs, the higher loft they should seek out. Lightweight sleepers tend to prefer pillows with lower lofts. Of course, other factors such as preferred sleep position and pillow firmness play a role. Body weight alone shouldn’t be used to choose which pillow to purchase.
  • Mattress Firmness: Since you’ll sink more deeply into a softer mattress, you won’t need as much pillow loft to feel comfortable. A low- or medium-loft pillow will feel more comfortable and provide adequate support for your head and neck. Less sinkage occurs on firmer mattresses, so you may need a pillow with higher loft to feel supported.

What Pillow Sizes Are Available?

Pillows come in a variety of sizes to fit beds of different sizes and people of different body weights and sleeping habits. Pillow size can be as important as firmness and loft when it comes to finding the pillow that best fits you.

  • Standard: Standard pillows measure 20 inches wide by 26 inches long. Standard pillows are the smallest, and therefore the least expensive, pillows on the market today. They are also the most commonly sold pillows.
  • Super Standard: Super Standard pillows measure 20 inches wide by 28 inches long. Like standard pillows, they are usually used one per twin or full bed, and two per larger bed. Standard pillows provide 2 more inches of length for sleepers who need it due to head size, body weight, or propensity to move during the night.
  • Queen: Queen pillows measure 20 inches wide by 30 inches long, 2 inches longer than Super Standard pillows. Queen pillows give extra room to sleepers who tend to toss and turn throughout the night or find themselves slipping off of smaller pillows.
  • King: King pillows measure 20 inches wide by 36 inches long. King pillows are much larger than most pillows, measuring 10 inches longer than standard pillows and 6 inches longer than queen pillows. King pillows work well with king beds and larger sleepers.
  • Body Pillow: Body pillow dimensions vary, though 48 or 54 inches wide by 20 inches long are common sizes. Body pillows are meant to be hugged. Side sleepers and pregnant women tend to most enjoy them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What pillow types are best for side sleepers?

    Side sleepers generally prefer pillows with medium to high loft, or about 4 to 6 inches thick (if not thicker). Due to the nature of this sleep position, extra padding is needed to cushion the head, neck, and shoulders and ensure even alignment.

    Side sleepers who weigh more than 230 pounds may prefer mid-loft pillows because they will sink more deeply into their mattress than lighter individuals, and thus not need as much padding. Specialty pillows for side sleepers often have contoured shapes or cutouts that mold around the shoulders and cushion the head without sacrificing loft elsewhere.

  • What pillows are best for sleepers with back pain?

    The best pillow for any given sleeper should promote even spinal alignment by providing optimal cushioning for the head, neck, and shoulders. This factor is especially crucial for people with back pain, many of whom experience discomfort due to alignment issues in the first place.

    Stomach sleepers with back pain should choose a low-loft pillow that won’t elevate their head to a significant extent. The same is somewhat true for back sleepers, though they may need a bit more loft to prevent their heads from falling back too much. Side sleepers with back pain may want to consider a medium- to high-loft pillow to ensure adequate cushioning for the head, neck, and shoulders.

  • What pillows are best for sleepers with neck pain?

    The best pillows for people with neck pain will provide sufficient support without feeling too stiff or sinking excessively. In terms of composition, materials like solid memory foam, latex, and buckwheat hulls reinforce the head and neck quite well.

    The pillow should also be firm and thick enough to maintain a full shape throughout the night. Pillows that contain down, feather, or down alternative fiber fill tend to be quite soft and overall support is fair at best, so sleepers with neck pain may want to bypass these products.

Still have questions?

Our product experts have extensive experience testing just about every sleep product on the market. Send an email to [email protected] with your questions and we’ll help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

About Our Editorial Team

author
Lauren Fountain

Certified Sleep Coach

Lauren is a Certified Sleep Science Coach with extensive experience researching and testing a wide variety of sleep products.

About Our Editorial Team

author
Lauren Fountain

Certified Sleep Coach

Lauren is a Certified Sleep Science Coach with extensive experience researching and testing a wide variety of sleep products.