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Many people associate pillows with softness. But some sleepers want or need more than plushness from their pillows. For side sleepers or those who just want a pillow with a bit more support, a firm pillow can promote proper spinal alignment and provide comfort.
We’ll compare and contrast some of the best firm pillows on the market and explain how to choose a firm pillow that meets your unique needs.
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The Saatva Memory Foam Pillow is a thoughtfully constructed model that combines firmness and comfort. The pillow also sleeps cooler than the average foam model, thanks to several design components aimed at reducing heat retention.
The pillow has a dual chamber design that includes two layers of memory foam. The outer chamber is composed of solid memory foam infused with graphite intended to wick moisture away from the head and neck, while the inner chamber is filled with shredded memory foam. The shredded foam is infused with gel that is engineered to further cool down the pillow. The entire pillow is encased in an organic cotton cover, which has natural breathable qualities. The various cooling features should appeal to hot sleepers who prefer the feel of foam but don’t enjoy the heat retention that normally comes with it.
With a medium feel and 8-inch loft, this model is on the thicker side for pillows. The memory foam provides generous contouring in the head and neck, making the pillow best suited for back and side sleepers. The close contouring is also a good fit for sleepers who experience neck pain during sleep. Shoppers can choose between a queen or king size, and the cover is machine-washable.
Saatva provides free shipping within the contiguous U.S. Customers may try out pillows for 45 days and are eligible for free refunds within this time period. Pillows are backed by a 1-year warranty.
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The Brooklinen Down Pillow uses Canadian white goose down encased in a 400 thread count, 100% cotton sateen cover to create a pillow that manages to be plush yet supportive. Made in Canada near the source of its white goose down, the Brooklinen Down Pillow has a 6-inch loft and features durable, double-stitched edges. This pillow’s solid construction, high-quality materials, and relatively low price tag make the Brooklinen an excellent choice for sleepers looking for a firm down pillow.
The full shape and supportive feel of the Brooklinen Down Pillow works well for side sleepers of all sizes. The pillow also comes in plush and mid-plush firmness options for those who prefer more cushioning. However, back and stomach sleepers may find that the combination of the pillow’s higher loft and dense construction is not ideal.
The Brooklinen Down Pillow is lightweight and has good moldability and shape retention. It also sleeps fairly cool.
Brooklinen recommends spot cleaning or dry cleaning the pillow, since it doesn’t have a removable outer cover.
This pillow comes in standard and king sizes, and it is protected by a 365-day return policy, one of the longest in the industry. The Brooklinen Down Pillow also comes with Brooklinen’s 1-year limited warranty.
Best for Neck Pain
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The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is an extra firm memory foam pillow featuring a solid core made from Tempur-Pedic’s specially formulated blend of memory foam. The pillow also features a 100% polyester knit outer cover that is removable and machine-washable.
The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow uses the company’s original memory foam pillow design, which is known for its excellent contouring. Tempur-Pedic memory foam, combined with a unique ergonomic design,contours to the shape of your head and neck, relieving pressure and offering excellent support and making this pillow a great choice for those with neck pain.
The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow comes in three sizes to suit a wide range of body types and sleep positions. However, our sleep testers found that the extra firm feel is best suited to sleepers who weigh more than 130 pounds. Sleepers who weigh under 130 pounds may find the pillow doesn’t provide enough cushioning.
Overall, the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is highly durable and holds its shape well while still being quite moldable. It’s easy to clean and doesn’t overheat during the night, despite its high-contouring memory foam construction.
The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow comes in three nonstandard sizes, so be sure to check the company’s website for pillow dimensions before ordering. Like all Tempur-Pedic sleep accessories, this pillow ships for free and is protected by a 5-year limited warranty. However, Tempur-Pedic does not allow returns for the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow.
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The Parachute Down Pillow epitomizes the luxurious material composition and high-quality design that has come to define this brand. Clusters of premium European white down make up the fill, and a fill power of 750 creates an exceptionally plush and lofty feel. A shell made of smooth cotton sateen encases the fill and can provide relief for people with sensitive skin who find cotton percale and other fabrics too coarse.
The pillow is sold in three firmness levels. Parachute recommends the firm feel for side sleepers because it offers the highest loft – a key to comfortable sleep for people who primarily use this position. The medium feel is better suited to back sleepers, while the soft feel has a low profile to make stomach sleepers more comfortable. There are slight pricing differences between the three firmness options.
The seams are detailed with thick double-stitch piping to prevent tears and escaping fill, so the pillow should hold up well over time. Although the pillow can be dry-cleaned, you may also wash and dry it in your household machines for quick and easy care. Simply machine-wash on a cool, delicate cycle and tumble dry on low heat with wool dryer balls. Standard and king sizes are available.
Given the high-end construction, the Down Pillow is very reasonably priced in all sizes and firmness levels. Shipping is also free of charge for customers in all 50 states. All orders come with a 60-night trial period that includes free returns. Those who keep their pillow after the trial period ends also receive a 3-year warranty against structural defects.
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The Buffy Cloud Pillow is constructed from premium, earth-friendly materials, yet the approachable price-point for all sizes makes it a good option for shoppers on a budget. The fill consists of recycled, BPA-free PET fibers that mimic the feel of authentic down without posing a risk to people with down allergies or using animal-based components. The shell is made of lyocell derived from plastic bottles. These materials should appeal to shoppers who value sustainability in the products they purchase.
The Cloud Pillow is also suitable for hot sleepers. Lyocell is a breathable material with moisture-wicking properties to keep you cool and dry on humid nights, and the fill shouldn’t absorb too much heat. Although the pillow should only be dry-cleaned and never machine-washed, Buffy recommends using a protector to safeguard the pillow against spills and contaminants.
Three firmness options are available. The firm pillow contains 34 to 54 ounces of fill, depending on the size, and its thick loft creates a very supportive surface for the head and neck. Side and back sleepers will likely prefer this firmness level. For stomach sleepers, the soft or medium pillows may be more comfortable. There is no pricing difference between the three firmness options.
In addition to carrying an affordable price-point, the Cloud Pillow qualifies for free shipping to all 50 states. The pillow comes with a 30-night trial period, and Buffy will not bill your credit card until seven nights have elapsed.
Best for Side Sleepers
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The Avocado Molded Latex Pillow is one of the best firm pillows for side sleepers and back sleepers. Designed with a solid core of molded latex, this pillow provides 5 inches of loft and a sturdy base of support that keeps the head and neck aligned with the rest of the spine. While the Avocado Molded Latex Pillow is ideal for side and back sleepers who enjoy a firm pillow, stomach sleepers may find this pillow too firm for their liking.
The Avocado Molded Latex Pillow features a core made from charcoal-infused latex. The solid core provides very good shape retention and durability while still allowing for moldability. Like memory foam, latex offers contouring comfort, but it maintains better temperature regulation than traditional memory foam. The latex charcoal infusion is highly breathable, making this one of the coolest firm pillows that we tested. The pillow also features a soft cotton cover that you can remove for machine washing.
Aside from its excellent performance as a firm pillow, the Avocado Molded Latex Pillow is also a great choice for eco-conscious shoppers. The pillow’s cotton cover is made from 100% GOTS organic certified fabric, and the latex core has received a GREENGUARD Gold certification, meaning it produces a low level of off-gassing.
The Avocado Molded Latex Pillow is available in three sizes: standard, queen, and king. The pillow is manufactured in the United States. Avocado shoppers receive free shipping through the company’s website, and each pillow comes with a 100-night home sleep trial, free returns, and 1-year limited warranty
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Down alternative fill for pillows is not normally associated with a firm feel, but this model from Boll & Branch is a notable exception. The pillow is available in three firmness levels, including an exceptionally firm, densely packed design that should provide optimal support for people with persistent stiffness or soreness in their neck and shoulders.
A shell made of organic cotton encases the fill. The fabric is highly breathable and the down alternative fibers shouldn’t retain too much heat, so the pillow is a great option for hot sleepers. The PrimaLoft fill is purely synthetic, making the pillow appealing to people who choose not to buy animal products, and it won’t trigger symptoms for people who are allergic to down. Piping along the seams also makes the pillow resistant to rips and tears that allow fill to escape.
The entire pillow is fully machine washable, making it easy to keep clean – though multiple drying cycles may be needed. Buyers can also add a pillow protector to their purchase for a small surcharge. Standard and king sizes are available.
Although the firm version of the Down Alternative Pillow costs the most among all three firmness levels, its price-point is still quite affordable and budget-friendly. Boll & Branch offers free shipping throughout the U.S. orders and reasonable flat rates for Canadian customers. All orders come with a 30-night trial period.
Some sleepers enjoy the supportive, sturdy feel of a firm pillow. But finding the best firm pillow for you means considering more than just its comfort rating.
To find the right pillow, you’ll need to take into account a wide range of factors, such as sleep position, loft, and support.
Sleep position refers to sleeping on your back, your side, your stomach, or a combination of those three. Your preferred sleep position has a significant impact on how much pressure you exert on your pillow and what parts of your head and neck have contact with it. That’s why it’s important to consider your favorite sleep position when choosing a firm pillow. For example, side sleepers tend to need firm support, while stomach sleepers usually prefer a softer pillow.
Loft describes the thickness of a pillow. Together, loft and firmness are two of the most crucial factors that determine a pillow’s relative comfort. Pillows typically have either a low loft (less than 3 inches thick), a medium loft (3 to 5 inches thick), or a high loft (more than 5 inches thick). When choosing a loft, remember that your pillow’s loft will compress when you lie down. However, the firmer your pillow is, the less it compresses under your weight.
Support refers to how well a pillow can bear the weight of your head without flattening. This is an important quality for maintaining proper spinal alignment and avoiding neck pain. Generally, firm pillows offer more support.
Pillow manufacturers typically rate their pillows on a scale of soft to firm. Pillow firmness indicates how well a pillow maintains its shape when bearing weight. The right firmness level for you will depend on your body weight, preferred sleep position, and personal preferences.
This metric describes how well a pillow contours to the shape of your head, neck, and shoulders. Firmer pillows generally offer less pressure relief. However, certain materials, especially memory foam and latex, provide a good balance between firm support and pressure relief.
Most firm pillows are rectangles available in common sizes: standard, queen, and king. Some brands also offer nonstandard firm pillows shaped ergonomically to provide better neck support. Extra long body pillows are another nonstandard but fairly popular pillow shape.
Pillows vary widely in quality, construction, and price. Firm pillows tend to be more dense and durable, often containing materials like latex, buckwheat, or memory foam. As a result, expect to pay more than the average price for a high-quality firm pillow.
Higher-quality materials means better performance and durability. To get the most from your firm pillow, choose the highest quality material that fits within your budget.
If you change positions frequently during the night or often use your pillow as a support bolster, it’s important to find a pillow that’s moldable. This means you can easily manipulate the pillow’s shape to suit your needs. Firm pillows aren’t always moldable, especially those with a solid foam core. Shredded foam fill, down, and down alternative provide a good balance between firm support and moldability.
Temperature regulation refers to how well a pillow disperses your body heat and stays cool as you sleep. This factor may be particularly important to those who sleep hot or live in a warm climate. Because firm pillows tend to be denser, they may also be more likely to retain heat. If you’re a hot sleeper, consider a latex or buckwheat-based firm pillow. These materials are known to provide firm support and help keep sleepers cool.
A firm pillow offers ample support with less compressibility than a softer pillow. Certain types of sleepers may be more inclined to enjoy the feel of a firm pillow.
A firm pillow isn’t for everyone, though. In fact, for certain types of sleepers, a firm pillow may do more harm than good.
Pillows come in a wide range of materials. A pillow’s outer cover is typically made from cotton, polyester, or a blend of the two. However, the interior fill material has a much greater impact on a pillow’s overall comfort level and performance.
You can find this is a type of synthetic foam in both mattresses and pillows. Polyfoam formulations vary significantly in terms of density, firmness, and quality. Polyfoam pillows typically feature shredded polyfoam fill, but solid core designs may be better suited to a sleeper looking for a firm pillow. Pillows made with polyfoam also tend to be less expensive than pillows made from memory foam.
Known for their responsiveness, high point elasticity, and significant contouring, memory foam pillows may feature either shredded foam fill or a solid foam core. Available in medium soft to medium firm, solid core memory foam pillows provide an excellent balance between pressure relief and firm support.
Down is an animal product derived from the underside of goose or duck feathers. This material is incredibly soft and insulating, which is why you’ll often find it in products like comforters. As a fill material for pillows, down is highly malleable and durable. However, because down is so lightweight, finding firm, down-based pillows can be difficult.
Some sleepers enjoy the cozy feeling of a down pillow but want to avoid an animal-based product that could aggravate their allergies. Down alternative represents an excellent compromise. Most pillows labeled as down alternative contain polyester fibers that mimic the plush, lightweight feel of down. They are usually soft to medium firm.
Latex is a material similar in feel to foam. It can be either natural or synthetic, but most bedding companies use natural latex in their mattresses and pillows. Firm latex pillows are typically made with a solid core of latex, which is known for its durability, moderate contouring, and shape retention.
Unlike down pillows, which use the fluffy, close-to-the-skin plumage of geese and ducks, feather pillows are made using feathers from other parts of the birds. Feather pillows are typically lower loft and highly durable. However, they require frequent fluffing to avoid flattening. Soft to medium feather pillows are a good option for stomach sleepers looking for a low loft pillow. Just be careful of the pointy quills that can sometimes poke through a feather pillow’s outer cover.
If you’re looking for an extra firm pillow, buckwheat is an excellent choice. Made from the hulls of buckwheat kernels, buckwheat pillows are dense and heavy, offering a high level of firm support. Despite their heft, buckwheat pillows remain fairly breathable and sleep cool. You can often find buckwheat pillows with an adjustable design that allows you to remove or add additional fill to customize the loft of your pillow.
Wool is a fibrous material most commonly made from sheep. As a bedding material, wool is warm and soft, yet also naturally breathable. Wool is not a widely popular pillow material, but it is possible to find soft to medium firm wool pillows. A common complaint for wool pillows is a noticeable odor.
Water pillows contain a reservoir that you can fill with water to adjust the loft of your pillow. While some water pillows are entirely water-based, others have a core of down, polyester fiber, or memory foam with a thinner outer pouch for water. Water pillows can be anywhere from soft to medium firm.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to finding the best type of pillow. Your preferred sleep position, as well as your subjective preferences, dictate what is the best firm pillow for you.
Side sleepers tend to prefer firmer pillows that provide adequate contouring. A pillow with medium firm or firm support will help keep the head and neck aligned with the spine, preventing neck pain in the morning. A pillow that’s too soft may provide initial comfort but is more likely to lose loft throughout the night and disrupt the alignment between your head, neck, and back.
Additionally, contouring helps cradle the head and neck to avoid the painful pressure points that can sometimes occur with overly firm sleep surfaces. Firm solid core memory foam or latex pillows typically have the best range of features for side sleepers.
Back sleepers don’t usually have trouble achieving optimal spinal alignment. A medium firm pillow provides just the right amount of cushion and support to keep back sleepers comfortable.
Many brands provide a moderate firmness option for their most popular pillow models. But not everyone’s head or body is the same size, and different back sleepers require different levels of loft or thickness. Back sleepers should consider looking for a medium firm pillow with an adjustable loft.
Stomach sleepers tend to sleep most comfortably on softer, flatter pillows. Soft pillows provide a good cushion between you and your mattress while ensuring that your neck is supported at a comfortable angle. Even a medium or medium firm pillow may lift your head up too high and create painful misalignment between your neck and the rest of your spine.
Stomach sleeping is the least common sleep position for adults, and many popular pillow models aren’t designed with the needs of stomach sleepers in mind. As a result, finding the right pillow can be tricky. Stomach sleepers should look for pillows that are soft or plush, with down or down alternative fills. In addition to the firmness, a thinner pillow with a lower loft could be a good fit. Alternatively, look for an adjustable loft pillow that allows you to remove some of the interior fill to create a flatter pillow.
Pillow loft describes the height or thickness of a pillow. Loft is typically divided into three categories, based on a pillow’s thickness:
Loft can have a significant impact on comfort, particularly when combined with other factors like sleep position and body weight.
Your preferred sleep position is the most significant factor to consider when choosing the right pillow thickness. To maintain proper spinal alignment, you’ll need to find a pillow that’s the right height for your sleep position. Generally, side sleepers prefer a pillow with high loft, back sleepers prefer a pillow with medium loft, and stomach sleepers prefer a pillow with low or medium loft. If you’re a combination sleeper, consider using a pillow that’s highly moldable to accommodate your varied sleep positions.
Your pillow’s loft will change when you lie down, and the weight of your head compresses the fill. The amount of compression depends on the size of your head, which means a sleeper with a larger head requires a higher loft pillow that can support their weight. On the other hand, a sleeper with a smaller head might be more comfortable with a pillow that has a low to medium loft.
Overall body weight should also play a role in your choice of pillow loft. Sleepers who weigh over 230 pounds exert greater pressure on their mattresses and may sink into their sleep surface more deeply. If you experience greater sinkage, your head rests closer to the surface of the mattress, and you won’t require significant loft to keep your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine. The reverse is true for sleepers who weigh less than 130 pounds.
Like body weight, the firmness of your mattress also dictates how deeply you sink into it. A soft mattress causes sleepers to sink more deeply, while a firm mattress prevents significant sinking. Less sinkage keeps your body higher up, which means you may need a higher loft pillow to maintain proper spinal alignment through the head and neck.
Pillow sizes are generally standardized across manufacturers.
One of the most common pillow sizes, a standard pillow measures 20 inches wide by 26 inches long, making it a good choice for most sleep positions. One standard pillow fits nicely on a twin mattress, while two can fit side by side on a full or queen mattress.
A super standard pillow is slightly longer than a standard pillow, typically measuring 20 inches wide by 28 inches long. Despite being slightly larger than a standard pillow, it still fits nicely on a twin or full mattress.
Designed for queen-sized mattresses, queen pillows are 20 inches wide by 30 inches long and can fit in a standard pillowcase. The added length is ideal for active sleepers as well as side sleepers who roll over often throughout the night.
A king pillow measures 20 inches wide by 36 inches long. Made for sleepers with a king or California king mattress, a king pillow also works well for back sleepers with broad shoulders or sleepers looking for a more compact version of a body pillow.
Not all sleep brands offer the body pillow size, but it’s still quite popular. Body pillows typically measure 20 inches wide by at least 48 inches long, and some body pillows can be up to 72 inches in length. When placed between the legs, this style of pillow can improve spinal alignment for side sleepers. Body pillows can also help pregnant women support their backs, hips, and stomachs.
A high-quality firm pillow can range from $50 to $120, with an average price of around $80.
While an average pillow typically costs between $50 and $70, firm pillows are often more expensive, due to the higher cost of the materials used to make them. However, you can still find a high-quality firm pillow for $50 or less, especially if you take advantage of sales and promotions.
A good rule of thumb is to replace your pillow every 1 to 2 years. That said, firm pillows tend to be denser and sturdier, so they may last longer than a softer pillow.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for signs that your pillow is ready for retirement. The most obvious sign is when it no longer provides enough support, and you find yourself struggling with neck pain or needing to fluff and reposition your pillow throughout the night.
A firm pillow can play an important role in boosting sleep quality, depending on the sleeper.
Side sleepers tend to require extra support to keep their head and neck in alignment with the rest of their spine. Sleepers who weigh over 230 pounds also need extra support because their weight is more likely to significantly compress the loft of their pillow. For these sleepers, a firm pillow is usually a safe bet for a good night’s sleep.
Depending on your needs and preferences, yes, a pillow can be too firm. The key to finding the best pillow for you is identifying the right firmness. A pillow that’s too firm lacks cushioning and may cause painful pressure points where your head or face touches the pillow. Additionally, a pillow that’s too firm can cause misalignment between your neck and spine.
Try to find the best firm pillow for your preferred sleep position and body weight. For example, sleepers who weigh less than 130 pounds require less support than heavier sleepers and therefore tend to do best with soft to medium pillows, depending on their other preferences.
There’s no single correct firmness that can satisfy every sleeper. To determine how firm your pillow should be, you’ll need to take into account your body weight, sleep position, and personal preferences.
In general, the higher your body weight, the firmer you’ll want your pillow to be. Sleepers who weigh over 230 pounds tend to compress their pillows more than sleepers who weigh less. A firm pillow is less likely to compress too much and throw the neck and spine out of alignment. In contrast, sleepers who weigh 130 pounds or less require less support and tend to prefer soft to medium pillows.
Your favorite sleep position also informs how firm your pillow should be. Sleeping on your side creates a large gap between the neck and bed, which means your head requires more support. Back sleepers typically prefer medium firm pillows, and stomach sleepers typically do well with a softer pillow.
Lastly, don’t forget to consider your personal preferences. While the above advice is a good place to start, some sleepers gravitate toward firmer or softer pillows simply because they find them more comfortable.
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