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Lauren Fountain

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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.

The Best Down Pillows

Product Details

Hullo Pillow

Hullo Pillow
Fill:
Buckwheat
Firmness:
Firm
Hullo Pillow
Highlights:

A quintessential buckwheat pillow, the Hullo delivers firm support, easy adjustability, and excellent thermoregulation.

Who it's best for:
  • Those who prefer firm support and gentle contouring from their pillow
  • Sleepers who prefer pillows with adjustable loft
  • Hot sleepers

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.

PineTales Cotton - Designer Buckwheat Pillow

PineTales Cotton - Designer Buckwheat Pillow
Fill:
Buckwheat hulls
Firmness:
Firm
PineTales Cotton - Designer Buckwheat Pillow
Highlights:

Sleep soundly on the ComfySleep Buckwheat Pillow, which is filled with chemical-free hulls and housed in a durable twill cover.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who prefer a plush feel with added support for their down pillow
  • Hot sleepers
  • Shoppers looking for a down pillow with above-average durability

The Designer Buckwheat Pillow from PineTales is a high-quality handmade model. The pillow is filled with hulls that are organically grown without any pesticides, making it an environmentally friendly option for shoppers. The hulls are also heat-treated during production to make them less appetizing for insects. The pillow is available in two sizes. In addition to a standard option, you can select a smaller “Japanese” size inspired by traditional sobakawa pillows.

The quilted outer cover and inner lining are made of unbleached cotton that offers exceptional breathability. This model sleeps very cool, even compared to other buckwheat pillows, and it will be ideal for people who tend to overheat in bed. Both cover components are completely machine washable, as well – you’ll just need to remove the hulls first. PineTales also sells rayon from bamboo pillowcases for those who prefer extra cooling. If you need to replenish your hull supply, the company offers bulk shipments in 1, 3, 5, and 10 pounds.

Although the pillow’s price-point is a bit steep compared to similarly constructed models, the quality of materials and construction ensures long-term value for owners. You can also test out the pillow for up to 45 nights before deciding whether to keep or return it. If you aren’t satisfied with the buckwheat pillow, consider the Designer Millet Pillow from PineTales instead; millet hulls offer a slightly softer feel and better moldability than buckwheat hulls.

ComfyComfy ComfySleep Buckwheat Pillow

ComfyComfy ComfySleep Buckwheat Pillow
Fill:
Buckwheat hulls
Firmness:
Firm
ComfyComfy ComfySleep Buckwheat Pillow
Highlights:

Filled with a mix of buckwheat hulls and lush wool batting, the Sachi Organics Rejuvenation Pillow offers unparalleled cushioning and breathability.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who want a very firm feel for their pillow
  • Shoppers who are unsure which pillow size is best for them
  • Those who prefer to buy U.S.-made products

Durability is a hallmark of most buckwheat pillows due to their long-lasting hulls. The ComfySleep Buckwheat Pillow is a standout due in part to its cover, which is made from 12-ounce organic cotton in a sturdy twill weave that offers more long-term strength than percale or sateen. You can also include a Pima cotton pillowcase with your purchase for only $10 if you’d like some added protection.

The hulls in this pillow are grown in the U.S. without chemicals or fumigants, giving the pillow an eco-friendly edge over some of its competitors. The cotton for the cover is also domestically grown. For sizing, you can choose from five options. These include three smaller sizes inspired by traditional sobakawa styles, as well as standard and queen sizes more familiar to western sleepers. Depending on the size you choose, the pillow may weigh anywhere from 4 to 10 pounds when filled to capacity.

The ComfySleep Buckwheat Pillow’s sticker price is on par with other buckwheat models, even with the pillowcase added. Extra hulls are sold in 2- and 10-pound bulk shipments. Standard shipping is free for all orders, or you can select expedited shipping for an extra charge. ComfyComfy also offers full refunds on returns made within 60 days of the original purchase.

Sachi Organics Rejuvenation Pillow

Sachi Organics Rejuvenation Pillow
Fill:
Buckwheat hulls and natural wool batting
Firmness:
Firm
Sachi Organics Rejuvenation Pillow
Highlights:

Luxuriously crafted and ethically produced, the Montreux Pillow features a high feather content to ensure added support for the head and neck.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who enjoy the feel of a buckwheat pillow with light padding for the head and neck
  • Hot sleepers
  • Eco-conscious shoppers

The vast majority of buckwheat pillows sold today are exclusively filled with buckwheat hulls. What makes the Sachi Organics Rejuvenation Pillow so unique is its proprietary blend of hulls and natural wool batting. Both the batting and the hulls can be added or removed to adjust the pillow’s loft and support levels. The wool makes up about 25 to 30 percent of the pillow’s loft, while hulls comprise the rest. Sachi sells the wool and hulls in bulk, so you can experiment with different fill ratios.

Thanks to the pillow’s chambered design, you’ll feel more cushioning from the wool while still receiving strong support from the hulls. In addition to making the pillow feel a bit softer, the wool is naturally breathable and moisture-wicking. Sachi Organics sells other types of soft, sustainably sourced pillow fill in bulk, including kapok fibers and cotton. If you aren’t satisfied with the wool, considering trying one of the alternate fill materials instead. The pillow offers a loft of up to 4.5 inches.

Sachi Organics backs the pillow with a 30-night sleep trial and issues full refunds on all returns within this period. In addition to buying it online, you can purchase the Sachi Organics Rejuvenation Pillow at one of the company’s dedicated showrooms or brick-and-mortar sleep health stores across the country.

What Is a Buckwheat Pillow?

Known as sobakawa in their home country of Japan, buckwheat pillows are filled with hulls, the hard outer casings of buckwheat seeds. Hulls can be added to or removed from the interior to adjust the loft, or thickness. This makes buckwheat pillows highly customizable and suitable for both side and back sleeping, though the hulls maintain a very firm feel regardless of the fill volume.

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.

How to Choose a Buckwheat Pillow

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.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Buckwheat Pillow

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.

Loft
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.

Support
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.

Firmness Level
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.

Pressure Relief 
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.

Shape
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.

Price
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.

Quality Materials 
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.

Moldability
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 Regulation
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.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Buckwheat Pillows?

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:

Pros Cons
  • Buckwheat pillows can be adjusted for loft by adding or removing hulls from the interior. These pillows are ideal for anyone who prefers a thicker pillow one night and less loft the next.
  • The hulls are quite durable, ensuring a longer-than-average lifespan for buckwheat pillows. Most brands sell extra hulls in bulk, as well.
  • Buckwheat pillows offer unparalleled support thanks to their adjustability and the natural firmness of their hull fill.
  • The hulls promote consistent airflow to maintain a comfortable core temperature, making these pillows ideal for hot sleepers. Most buckwheat pillows are also encased in breathable cotton or rayon from bamboo covers, too.
  • The most common complaint about buckwheat pillows is that they feel too firm. Unlike the pillow’s loft, you won’t be able to adjust the firmness by adding or removing hulls.
  • Odor potential is high for new buckwheat pillows; the hulls carry a distinct, earthy smell that may persist for several days after you unpack the pillow.
  • Buckwheat pillows also have high noise potential. The hulls produce a rustling sound as they mold to the head and neck, and some sleepers find this disruptive.
  • Compared to other pillow types, buckwheat pillows are a bit pricey. The average standard and queen size models cost between $50 and $150.

Who Is Best Suited to a Buckwheat Pillow?

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:

  • Side Sleepers: By molding to the head and neck while maintaining strong support, a lofty buckwheat pillow can promote spinal alignment for side sleepers. Flatter pillows can negatively affect spinal alignment, so side sleepers typically feel more pressure when using them. The best buckwheat pillow for neck pain will support your head and neck without sinking too much, ensuring even alignment.
  • Back Sleepers: Back sleepers tend to feel most comfortable on buckwheat pillows with medium loft. This ensures their head and neck lie on an even plane with the rest of their body, which can cut down on pressure points and prevent pain from developing around the shoulders.
  • Those with Allergies: Some people have buckwheat allergies but this condition is fairly rare. Buckwheat pillows can also serve as comfortable alternatives for people with allergies to latex, down, feathers, and other pillow fill materials.
  • Hot Sleepers: Buckwheat pillows sleep exceptionally cool. The hulls will not absorb and trap body heat like foam or down, and air circulates freely throughout the interior. Most of these pillows also include covers made from breathable fabrics.

Who is not suited:

  • Those Who Prefer Plush Pillows: Even when the hull fill is supplemented with softer materials such as wool or cotton batting, buckwheat pillows generally feel quite firm. This is considered their most polarizing characteristic. Many people love the exceptional firmness and support, but others simply find the pillows uncomfortable and excessively stiff.
  • Stomach Sleepers: Most stomach sleepers prefer low to medium loft for their pillow. If the pillow is too thick, it can force the head and neck to rest at an uncomfortable angle. Stomach sleepers typically prefer a plusher feel, as well. Some stomach sleepers find buckwheat pillows quite comfortable, but they are in the minority.
  • Light Sleepers: The pillow will produce a soft rustling sound as the hulls contour to the head and neck. This can disrupt sleep for people who awaken easily due to noise.

Which Buckwheat Pillow Sizes Are Available?

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:

  • Standard: A standard rectangular pillow typically measures 20 inches wide by 26 inches long, though there is some variability from brand to brand. One of the most popular pillow sizes, the standard is ideal for people who mostly remain still while sleeping and don’t toss, turn, or change positions too often.
  • Super Standard: A super standard measures 20 inches wide by 28 inches long. This size is best suited to people who enjoy the standard size but want a couple extra inches of space, but super standards are not particularly common.
  • Queen: A queen size pillow usually measures 20 inches wide by 30 inches long. Queens, like standards and kings, are quite popular and widely available. This size is a good “middle of the road” option if you find standards too narrow and kings too wide.
  • King: Most king size pillows measure 20 inches wide by 36 inches long. This size is optimal for people who toss and turn or change sleep positions rather frequently. If you share your mattress with someone, you will need a wider bed to accommodate two king size pillows.
  • Body: Buckwheat body pillows are quite rare but they are available through certain sellers. Since the hulls mold closely, these pillows are actually quite conducive to side sleeping and snuggling with a pillow. However, buckwheat body pillows are very heavy and can weigh more than 20 pounds when full to capacity.
  • Specialty: In keeping with the traditional sobakawa design, many buckwheat pillow brands offer “Japanese” or “personal” sizes that are a bit smaller than the standard. They can be used for sleeping if you don’t need much width, and they also work well as knee and leg bolsters.

Frequently Asked Questions About Buckwheat Pillows

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.