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Buckwheat pillows – also known as sobakawa – originated in Japan, but today they are used across the globe. These pillows are filled with buckwheat hulls, the hard outer casings of buckwheat seeds. The hulls have a firm feel but they are quite small and will conform closely to the head and neck; many people liken buckwheat pillows to firm, dense bean bags.
The best buckwheat hull pillows offer many benefits for sleepers. For one, they are fully adjustable. You can add or remove hulls from the interior to change how lofty and supportive the pillow feels. The hulls are quite durable, as well, and many buckwheat pillow manufacturers sell extra hulls in bulk when owners need to replenish their supply. Another advantage is excellent temperature regulation. The hulls promote steady airflow throughout the pillow’s core, and many of these models come with breathable cotton or organic cotton covers.
If this type of pillow sounds comfortable – or at least intriguing – check out our best buckwheat pillow guide below. We’ll discuss the origin and evolution of sobakawa pillows, how they are constructed, how well they perform in different categories, and what to expect in terms of sizing and pricing. First, let’s explore our best buckwheat pillow picks. Each selection is based on experiences and reviews from verified owners, and hands-on product analysis from our testing crew.
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First up is the Hullo, a buckwheat pillow that is made in the United States. Thanks to an entry-level price-point, the Hullo is a great option if you’ve never tried a buckwheat pillow before and want to test out an affordable model. Small, standard, and king sizes are available. Hullo also offers hassle-free returns within 60 nights, giving you ample time to try out the pillow and decide whether it’s right for you.
While the pillow offers adjustable loft, it maintains a fairly firm feel regardless of the fill volume. This makes it ideal for side and back sleepers seeking a pillow that delivers strong support. The cover is made of organic cotton twill, which is highly breathable and long-lasting. The cover, combined with the naturally durable hulls, gives the pillow excellent longevity. Hullo also sells hulls in 10- or 20-pound bulk shipments whenever you need to replace the original fill.
As is the case with other buckwheat pillows, you’ll never need to clean the Hullo’s fill but the cover can be washed and dried in any household machine. Keep in mind the pillow can weigh anywhere from four to 12 pounds at full capacity, depending on which size you select. Hullo offers free standard shipping for all orders in the contiguous U.S.
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The Turmerry Buckwheat Sobakawa Pillow is a great option for shoppers on a budget. Like other sobakawa-style pillows, this one contains buckwheat hulls that can be added or removed to adjust the overall loft. This makes it ideal for combination sleepers and other folks who prefer thicker pillows one night and flatter pillows the next. Turmerry sells extra hulls in bulk whenever owners need to replenish their supply.
The hulls are sustainably grown in the Midwestern U.S. and the cover is composed of organic, unbleached cotton, so the pillow should also appeal to eco-conscious consumers. Hot sleepers should also feel quite comfortable since the cotton is breathable and air flows freely through the interior.
You can choose from six different sizes for your pillow. These include standard, queen, and king sizes for sleeping, as well as a neckroll and traditional Japanese “mini” size. The last option is a travel pillow, which weighs 2.5 pounds and is very compressible when it needs to fit inside crowded bags.
All six sizes are affordably priced, making this pillow approachable for first-time users. Ground shipping is also free of charge throughout the contiguous U.S. Unused and unwashed pillows may be returned for a full refund within 30 days of the original order. Those who decide to keep their pillow will receive a one-year warranty.
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The Sweet Zzz Buckwheat Pillow is a great option for people who prefer to buy organic, sustainably made products. Both the cotton cover and non-GMO buckwheat hull fill have received certification from the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), one of the world’s leading authorities on these types of products. The hulls can also be added or removed to adjust the pillow’s overall loft, making it suitable for most people regardless of their sleep position – though back sleepers will probably feel most comfortable.
Temperature control is another strength of this pillow. The hulls promote steady airflow throughout the interior to help the pillow maintain a cool core temperature, and the cover is also very breathable. The natural durability of cotton and buckwheat hulls ensures a longer-than-average expected lifespan for the pillow too.
Sweet Zzz offers three sizes for the pillow. Those seeking a traditional rectangular shape can opt for the queen size. Other options include a smaller Japanese size that could be likened to a throw pillow, as well as a cylindrical size that can be used as a bolster as well as a headrest. The cover can be washed and dried in any household machine, though you’ll first need to remove the hulls.
Standard shipping is free for all pillow orders within the contiguous U.S. Sweet Zzz also offers a 50-night sleep trial for the pillow, along with a one-year warranty.
Best for Side Sleepers
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PineTales offers a lineup of buckwheat pillows, and the Premium model is one of its most luxurious options. The buckwheat fill conforms gently to the head and neck but also generates strong support, making this an ideal pillow for back and side sleepers.
The buckwheat hulls may be added or removed to suit your personal needs and preferences. Thanks to the adjustable loft, most sleepers will be able to find a loft that keeps the head, neck, and spine aligned. This is especially helpful for sleepers who experience neck pain at night.
The buckwheat is encased in a zippered shell made of cotton and an outer cover composed of a bamboo-derived rayon fabric. The outer cover is soft and comfortable enough for sleepers to use without a pillowcase, especially if you enjoy a silky feel against the skin. The cover comes in two modern patterns. Shoppers can choose between a standard size or a Japanese size, which is 14 by 20 inches.
PineTales offers full refunds for pillows returned within 30 days, though return shipping fees are not covered.
Best for Neck Pain
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If you like the support of buckwheat pillows and also need a bit of plushness, the Turmerry Buckwheat & Wool Hybrid Pillow offers the best of both worlds. This model stands out from conventional buckwheat pillows by including wool in its design. Sleepers who experience neck pain at night will enjoy the pressure relief from the wool’s gentle contouring.
The pillow is designed with buckwheat fill on one side and wool on the other. Sleepers who prefer a firmer feel with less contouring may use the buckwheat surface, while those who enjoy a plush pillow surface can use the wool side. People who are sensitive to noise during sleep may also prefer the wool side, since buckwheat generates some noise when the hulls shift around. Wool and buckwheat both have natural breathable properties, so hot sleepers should feel comfortable on this pillow.
Regardless of the side you choose, the pillow generates ample support, making it ideal for back and side sleepers. You can customize the loft by removing or adding buckwheat hulls as needed. The zippered pillow cover is composed of cotton in a sateen weave, which has a smooth, silky feel. Shoppers can pick from a standard, queen, and king size, as well as a travel and mini size.
Turmerry offers customers a 30-night return policy and 1-year warranty with this pillow. Shipping is free on all orders to the contiguous U.S.
Best for Spinal Alignment
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The WheatDreamz Buckwheat Hull Pillow offers the same adjustable loft and extra-firm feel of many competing, but extra customization options make it an appealing choice for shoppers. In addition to 100% buckwheat hulls, shoppers may select a pillow containing millet hulls, which feel slightly softer without losing strength or stability. A third fill choice blends the buckwheat and millet hulls to create a more balanced feel.
You can also choose between white and natural organic cotton covers for your pillow, or opt for no cover at all. The cotton is quite breathable and the hulls promote air circulation, so the WheatDreamz is well suited to hot sleepers and warm climates. Five different sizes are available, including a compact model perfect for traveling or small children and a traditional “sobakawa” Japanese throw.
Bean Products sells buckwheat and millet hulls in bulk, so you won’t need to purchase a new pillow when your fill needs to be replenished. Used pillows are non-refundable, but customers may return unopened pillows in their original packaging for a full product refund within 14 days of placing their original order.
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Buckwheat pillows are customizable by design, allowing you to achieve your ideal loft level by adding or removing the hulls. The Organic Wool & Buckwheat Pillow from The Futon Shop takes this characteristic one step further thanks to its dual-chamber construction. Buyers can choose to have the hulls placed in the center, similar to a standard pillow design, or on the sides to create a sloped shape. The latter may be particularly beneficial for people with persistent neck pain, as the extra lift can improve alignment and reduce soreness in the neck.
The fill is a blend of buckwheat hulls and ultrafine virgin wool to create a softer feel compared to most competing buckwheat pillows. The wool also has moisture-wicking properties to elevate the hulls’ natural cooling. The cotton cover is also quite breathable, so all in all this pillow is a great option for hot sleepers. Eco-conscious shoppers should also find it appealing because all three components are certified as organic.
As is usually the case with buckwheat pillows, you can adjust the loft by adding or removing the hulls to your liking. The hulls need to be removed from the pillow prior to machine-washing, but you have the option of adding a pillow protector to your purchase for a small surcharge. Standard, queen, and king, and travel sizes are available.
Price-points for this pillow are on par with industry averages and shipping rates are reasonable. All orders are backed by a 30-night trial.
Buckwheat pillows offer other benefits for sleepers, as well. The hulls do not trap body heat like synthetic fills, allowing the pillow to sleep quite cool. Hulls are also naturally hypoallergenic, making them a good alternative for people who are allergic to down, feathers, and/or latex. Longevity is another strong point of buckwheat pillows since the hulls are very durable; most pillow manufacturers sell extra hulls in bulk when the time comes to replenish your supply. You’ll never need to clean the hulls, but most buckwheat pillows come with cotton covers that can be washed and dried in your household machines.
There are also some drawbacks to using a buckwheat pillow. Most complaints from sleepers stem from the very firm feel of these pillows – excessively firm for some people. The hulls may also emit a strong initial odor that takes several days to completely dissipate. Weight may be another issue for some individuals because buckwheat pillows can weigh as much as 10 to 12 pounds when full to capacity.
Read on to learn more about buckwheat pillows. Our guide will include important factors for first-time buckwheat pillow buyers, pros and cons, and some answers to frequently asked questions about these products.
Before deciding which buckwheat pillow to purchase, we recommend comparing different brands and models to see how they stack up in terms of construction, size, and price. Most buckwheat pillows sold today are fairly similar to one another but there are some important distinctions to take into account.
For most people, the biggest draw for buckwheat pillows is their ease of adjustment. Hulls can be added or removed to change how thick and supportive the pillow feels, and most brands offer bulk hull shipments at reasonable prices when you need to refresh your fill. Expect to pay about $5 to $15 per pound for extra hulls.
Buckwheat pillows are also ideal for people who prefer natural products. Many models are filled with hulls that are grown and harvested organically without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and organic cotton covers are also common. Be sure to check for certifications if you encounter a buckwheat pillow that is advertised as organic. The Global Organic Textile Standard and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are two of the most prominent certifying organizations for products made from organic materials.
You should take other assertions about buckwheat pillows with a grain of salt, too. Some brands claim that adjusting the loft will also change the pillow’s firmness, but this is a bit misleading. While buckwheat pillows can be adjusted for loft, they will maintain a firm to very firm feel due to the natural hardness of the hulls. Buckwheat pillows are also less than ideal for many stomach sleepers due to their thickness and firmness, despite some brands that claim their pillows are suitable for all sleep positions.
Rather than relying on claims and assertions from buckwheat pillow sellers, we recommend focusing on the following factors instead.
Most buckwheat pillows are designed for adjustable loft. Their designs include a zippered outer cover that allows access to the interior and a lined pouch to house the hulls. This level of customization is especially helpful for people who sleep in different positions, since side sleeping generally requires more loft than back sleeping.
Buckwheat hulls are quite firm, so these pillows provide excellent support for most side and back sleepers. The hulls mold to the body without sinking too much, ensuring strong reinforcement for the head and neck. Adjusting the loft by adding or removing hulls can make the pillow feel more supportive depending on which sleep position you use.
Most buckwheat pillows are considered firm to very firm. Some sleepers love how hard and supportive the pillows feel, while others find them excessively stiff and bulky. Exceptions include pillows filled with a blend of buckwheat hulls and softer material that provides more cushioning, such as the Sachi Organics Rejuvenation Pillow listed in our top picks.
Side sleeping usually requires more pillow loft to ensure the head and neck are aligned with the spine. With a high volume of hulls, buckwheat pillows can alleviate pressure for side sleepers very well. Back sleeping promotes spinal alignment, so this position does not need as much loft to reduce pressure for sleepers.
Like other types of pillows sold in North America, buckwheat pillows are typically sold in standard, queen, and king sizes. Some brands also offer smaller sizes inspired by traditional sobakawa pillows from Japan. Body pillows with buckwheat hulls are very rare, but they are available through select brands.
The average buckwheat pillow in a queen or king size costs between $50 and $150. Shoppers can usually save some money by choosing a smaller, traditional sobakawa size. When buying hulls in bulk, you’ll usually pay $5 to $15 per pound; in some cases, you’ll pay less per pound by buying shipments of 10 pounds or more.
Buckwheat hulls are very durable but the pillows will eventually flatten, so you’ll likely need to make at least one bulk hull purchase before the pillow reaches the end of its lifespan. Also be sure to check the cover composition. Common materials for buckwheat pillow covers include standard cotton, organic cotton, and rayon from bamboo.
The hulls mold quite closely to the body. Many liken the feel of a buckwheat pillow to that of a very firm beanbag. Since the hulls are so small, the pillow will contour quite closely to the head and neck to deliver enhanced support and pressure relief.
Temperature neutrality is a major strength of these pillows. The hulls promote steady airflow throughout the interior and do not trap body heat like other fill materials (such as foam). Most buckwheat pillows have breathable cover materials, as well.
Buckwheat pillows offer adjustable loft, strong support, and great overall durability. However, many people find these pillows excessively firm; we recommend trying out a buckwheat pillow as part of a sleep trial before finalizing your purchase to ensure it won’t feel too stiff for your head and neck.
Pros and cons for buckwheat pillows include the following:
Anyone who wants exceptional firmness and strong support for their head and neck is very well suited to a buckwheat pillow. Since these pillows have adjustable loft, you’ll be able to customize how thick your pillow feels on a nightly basis. Other sleepers who are or are not well suited to buckwheat pillows include the following:
Who is not suited:
Most buckwheat pillow brands offer a selection of sizes, including western and traditional options. At the same time, buckwheat pillows are not as widely sold as most pillow types and you may be limited to a small number of sellers based on your budget. Sizes for buckwheat pillows include the following:
How much do buckwheat pillows cost?
The average buckwheat pillow costs $50 to $150 in a standard or queen size, making these models somewhat expensive compared to other pillow types. Most brands also offer hulls in bulk for about $5 to $15 per pound.
How do I clean a buckwheat pillow?
To clean a buckwheat pillow, first you must completely empty the hulls; we recommend placing them in a sturdy container such as a plastic bucket or bin. For most models, the cover will be made of cotton, rayon from bamboo, or other machine washable fabrics, making it easy to clean at home. Never attempt to wash the hulls.
Where can I buy a buckwheat pillow?
Buckwheat pillows are somewhat rare but their increasing popularity has led to wider availability in North America. If you’re looking for a traditional size, consider buying the pillow from a company that is based in Japan; some domestic brands offer these sizes, but they are not as common.
How long do buckwheat pillows last?
With proper care and maintenance, buckwheat pillows can last a very long time. Cover deterioration is typically the biggest issue with longevity. As the fabric wears out over time, you may need to replace the cover. The hulls are quite durable and buckwheat pillow brands usually offer extra hulls in bulk.
Are buckwheat pillows adjustable?
Buckwheat pillows are completely adjustable for loft and support. Simply add or remove the hulls to change how thick the pillow is. However, most buckwheat pillows are very firm regardless of how many hulls you use, so their feel cannot be adjusted.
Do buckwheat pillows have an odor?
The hulls may emit a distinct, earthy odor when the pillow is new. Over time the hulls will lose their smell but it may take a week or longer for the odors to completely dissipate.
Is buckwheat environmentally friendly?
Buckwheat pillows can be constructed entirely with natural, plant-based components, making them very eco-friendly compared to pillow types that require synthetic materials. Many buckwheat pillows are organic, meaning the buckwheat plants are grown and harvested without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The cotton used to assemble the cover may be certified as organic if it meets certain criteria, as well.
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At SleepFoundation.org, we conduct extensive first-person experience tests on all but a select few products. This hands-on approach allows us to provide accurate, data-driven recommendations for mattresses, pillows, sheets, and other sleep essentials.
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