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Home / Best Pillows of 2022 / Best Soft Pillows

Best Soft Pillows

Daniel Noyed

Written by

Daniel Noyed, Certified Sleep Coach

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Methodology

We personally test every pillow featured in our reviews and guides to provide accurate, data-driven recommendations. Learn More

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After recent tests, we’ve updated our list to include the Layla Kapok Pillow as our best pick for neck pain and the Down & Feather Snuggle Soft Goose Down Pillow as our best luxury pick.

We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Products or services advertised on this page may be offered by an entity that is affiliated with us. Learn more about our process here

You spend a significant amount of time sleeping on your pillow each night. It is important to spend those hours on a comfortable and supportive pillow—one that does not leave you waking in pain or discomfort.

For many sleepers, a soft pillow seems like the most obvious choice for comfort. Soft pillows may be especially appealing for stomach sleepers, or those who simply prefer a plusher feel.

If you are considering a soft pillow, there are many options on the market. We’ve narrowed down some of our favorites to aid in your search. We’ll take an in-depth look at each pillow and discuss how to find the best soft pillow for you.

Best Soft Pillows

Product Details

Best Overall

Cozy Earth Silk Pillow

Cozy Earth Silk Pillow
Price: $279 - Standard $329 - King
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • People who experience back pain
  • Eco-conscious shoppers
Highlights:
  • Mulberry silk fill feels plush
  • Cover is breathable and moisture-wicking
  • Medium loft level provides neck support
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

SleepFoundation.org Exclusive Discount - Get 30% off sitewide at Cozy Earth with code SF30

People who experience back pain often benefit most from a pillow that is both soft and supportive. The Cozy Earth Silk Pillow has a medium soft feel that keeps your neck at a comfortable angle and evenly supports your spine without causing uncomfortable pressure points. Though this pillow has an above-average sticker price, shoppers who value high-quality materials and eco-friendly manufacturing will want to consider this model.

The Silk Pillow has a viscose from bamboo cover that feels exceptionally soft and cool to the touch. Air circulates easily between the cover and core, which helps ensure you don’t overheat. The fill is made from 100% long-strand mulberry silk that easily molds into your preferred shape and feels plush.

People with sensitive skin will likely appreciate Cozy Earth’s attention to premium materials. The bamboo used is sustainably harvested and the silk is AAA grade. The pillow’s cover can be washed in your home machine though spot cleaning is recommended to ensure its longevity.

Cozy Earth offers shoppers a generous 100-night sleep trial as well as a 10-year warranty that protects against pilling and discoloration. Shoppers who live in the contiguous U.S. enjoy free shipping.

Best Value

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow
Price: $99 - Queen $119 - King
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • Back sleepers who prefer medium-profile pillows
  • Those who prefer to purchase sustainably made products
Highlights:
  • Down alternative clusters encased in a cotton shell create a luxuriously plush feel
  • Eco-friendly design incorporates natural and plant-based materials
  • Pillow is fully machine-washable for easy cleaning
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

The most comfortable pillow for any given person largely depends on their sleep position. Back sleepers often prefer a mid-range profile that provides adequate plushness and support without elevating the head too much. For this reason, the Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow is a good option for those who favor the back position. Down alternative fill cradles the head, but the pillow is thin enough to maintain even alignment and prevent neck strain.

As its name implies, the pillow’s fill is derived from plant matter and does not contain any synthetic components. The shell is composed of natural cotton with a silky-smooth feel. These elements make the pillow a good choice for shoppers who prefer to invest in eco-friendly products. The cotton is highly breathable and the fill won’t retain too much heat, so the pillow is also suitable for hot sleepers.

Queen and king sizes are available. The pillow can be laundered in any household machine for quick and easy care. Wash with similar colors in cold water on a gentle cycle, then tumble dry on low heat. You can also use your dryer to fluff up the pillow and recover its full shape, as the fill may flatten over time.

Both sizes of the pillow are affordably priced. Sweet Zzz offers free ground delivery throughout the contiguous U.S. and reasonable shipping rates for Canadian customers. Each purchase comes with a sleep trial that spans 50 nights and includes free returns. Those who decide to keep their Plant-Based Pillow also receive a 1-year warranty against structural and workmanship defects.

Most Comfortable

Brooklinen Down Pillow - Plush

Brooklinen Down Pillow - Plush
Price: $79 - Standard $99 - King
Who it's best for:
  • Stomach sleepers
  • Those interested in natural down on a tighter budget
  • Sleepers who prefer a soft and moldable pillow
Highlights:
  • Sustainably sourced down
  • Treated with antimicrobials
  • 365-night sleep trial and 1-year warranty
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

New Brooklinen Customers can use code HOLIDAY15 to get 15% off their orders

Filled entirely with down clusters, the Brooklinen Plush Down Pillow has a plush feel that allows sleepers to sink in, providing optimal spinal alignment for stomach sleepers. Brooklinen also offers Mid-Plush and Firm versions of this pillow, which blend the down with feathers for a firmer feel and higher loft. The Brooklinen Down Pillow is available in standard or king size.

The Brooklinen Down Pillow carries OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification, indicating it has been tested for harmful substances. It is also treated with antimicrobials intended to remove common allergens.

The cover is made with long-staple cotton in a smooth sateen weave with a 400 thread count. This provides a durable and breathable sleep surface, and double stitching around the edges helps keep the down contained. The down used in the filling is acquired from ethically run Canadian farms.

Brooklinen offers a 365-night sleep trial, as well as a 1-year warranty after the sleep trial is up.

Sijo FluffBase Eucalyptus Pillow

Best Cooling

Sijo FluffBase Eucalyptus Pillow

Sijo FluffBase Eucalyptus Pillow
Price: $60 - Standard/Queen $80 - King
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who enjoy the feel of down but prefer animal-free sourcing
  • Hot sleepers
  • Back and side sleepers
Highlights:
  • Cover and fill are composed of Tencel lyocell fibers
  • Medium soft feel mimics down
  • Tencel fabric promotes cooling
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

The FluffBase Eucalyptus Pillow from Sijo is made with materials that promote cooling throughout the night, even in warmer climates. The price-point is lower than pillows with similar quality and design, making this a strong pick for shoppers on a budget.

Both the shell and fill of this pillow are composed of Tencel lyocell fibers derived from eucalyptus trees and a blend of other wood sources. The result is a medium soft feel that mimics the plushness of down, making this ideal for sleepers who enjoy down pillows but prefer products that are not sourced from animals. Back and side sleepers who enjoy softer pillows should find this model comfortable, though stomach sleepers may prefer a pillow with less loft.

The pillow is available in a standard/queen and king size. The cover is removable, and Sijo recommends washing the cover and core separately. You may machine wash at home on a gentle cycle in cold water, then tumble dry on a low setting.

Sijo provides free shipping on orders over $65. Shoppers who return the pillow within 30 days may receive a full refund, as long as the pillow is undamaged and free of stains.

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Best for Side Sleepers

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
Price: $125
Who it's best for:
  • Side sleepers
  • Shoppers who want multiple loft levels
  • Hot sleepers
Highlights:
  • Fill level can be customized
  • U-shape construction helps maintain spinal alignment
  • Latex and polyester fill sleeps cool
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

SleepFoundation readers get 20% off. Discount automatically applied to cart.

As the name implies, the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow is a great match for people who prefer sleeping on their sides. The pillow’s U-shape design curves slightly at the bottom to promote spinal alignment and keep neck pain at bay. This pillow also has a highly versatile fill that can be adjusted to suit each sleeper’s specific preferences.

You can add and remove this pillow’s 75% latex and 25% polyester fill as needed, allowing you to customize the loft level. Side sleepers should use the most fill, as they typically prefer a pillow with fairly high loft levels. Back and stomach sleepers who find this pillow’s shape comfortable can remove fill to lower the loft to a more suitable height. Shoppers who want a firmer, taller pillow can purchase additional fill directly from Eli & Elm.

Hot sleepers will also want to consider this model, thanks to its temperature-neutral fill and breathable cover material. The latex and polyester don’t retain much body heat when compared to other pressure-relieving materials like memory foam. The polyester, organic cotton, and spandex blend cover is washable and shoppers can opt to add on a pillowcase that easily fits this model’s unique shape.

Each purchase of the Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow includes a 5-year warranty that covers material and manufacturing defects. Shoppers within the contiguous U.S. enjoy free shipping and 45-day returns.

Saatva Down Alternative Pillow

Best for Combination Sleepers

Saatva Down Alternative Pillow

Saatva Down Alternative Pillow
Price: $105 - Queen $125 - King
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Those who prefer a moldable pillow
  • Allergy sufferers
Highlights:
  • Animal-free construction with fluffy down alternative fill
  • Organic cotton cover
  • 45-night sleep trial
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

The Saatva Down Alternative Pillow has a medium firmness that supports a wide range of sleeping positions and body types, making it a great option for combination sleepers. For those interested in a pillow to cuddle with or reshape for varying sleep positions, the Saatva Down Alternative Pillow offers good moldability. This pillow is offered in a queen or king size.

The cover is made of breathable organic cotton with decorative satin piping. Microdenier fibers and polyester memory clusters are made to mimic the feel of natural down, with the microfiber adding loft and the polyester memory clusters providing a slightly firmer base. This down alternative blend is designed to give the pillow the feel of a softer down pillow, while still supporting the head and neck. There are no animal products included in the pillow, and it is designed to be resistant to allergens.

The Saatva Down Alternative is made in the U.S. and ships free to anywhere in the lower 48 states. Saatva provides a 45-night sleep trial.

Layla Kapok Pillow

Best for Neck Pain

Layla Kapok Pillow

Layla Kapok Pillow
Price: $109 - Queen $129 - King
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers with neck pain
  • Hot sleepers
  • People who prefer molding their pillow
Highlights:
  • Adjustable loft
  • Cooling copper-infused polyester and viscose blend cover
  • Shredded memory foam and Kapok fiber fill contours to the head and neck to relieve pressure
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

Sleepers with neck pain often benefit from a pillow with adaptive fill material to cradle the head and relieve pressure. The Layla Kapok Pillow features shredded memory foam and Kapok fiberfill that contour to the head and neck, while an adjustable loft allows you to customize your support needs. Most of our testers found a comfortable option thanks to the adjustability.

A polyester and viscose blend shell infused with copper fibers encases the pillow. Viscose is a naturally breathable material, and the copper infusion is engineered to conduct and dissipate heat to keep you cool. The shredded fill design also encourages steady airflow through the pillow while staying quite moldable, perfect if you prefer to snuggle a pillow at night.

You can choose between queen and king sizes. Layla ships free to customers living in the contiguous U.S. Pillow purchases come with a 120-night sleep trial, during which you can return it for a full refund. The Layla Kapok Pillow is backed by a 5-year warranty.

Down & Feather Snuggle Soft Goose Down Pillow

Best Luxury

Down & Feather Snuggle Soft Goose Down Pillow

Down & Feather Snuggle Soft Goose Down Pillow
Price: Standard - $492 Queen - $517 King - $626 Euro - $573
Who it's best for:
  • People who like the plush feel of a down pillow
  • Those seeking a wider pillow size and firmness range
  • Animal-conscious shoppers
Highlights:
  • Durable and breathable long-staple Egyptian cotton cover
  • 850-fill power Hungarian goose down cradles the head and neck
  • 10-year warranty
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Down & Feather Company pillows

Down & Feather Co. specializes in high-end, responsibly sourced down bedding products for animal-conscious shoppers who enjoy the feeling of down. The Down & Feather Snuggle Soft Goose Down Pillow features 100% Hungarian goose down that boasts a Responsible Down Standard certification, ensuring the down was sourced ethically with animal welfare in mind.

The 850-fill power down expertly cradles the head and neck to relieve pressure buildup. The pillow shell is made entirely from long-staple Egyptian cotton, a cotton variety touted for its exceptional durability, breathability, and softness. Satin cording and double stitching along the shell’s perimeter ensure feathers won’t poke through or escape throughout the night.

You can choose between four firmness levels: soft, medium, firm, and extra firm. Back and stomach sleepers on our team enjoyed the softer options, which kept them on an even plane. Meanwhile, our side sleepers found the firmer models kept their spines aligned and prevented their shoulders from sinking too deeply.

Four sizes are available, including a square-shaped Euro size. Down & Feather Co. ships free on all orders over $150, which covers every size and firmness option for the pillow. Purchases are backed by a 30-night trial and a 10-year warranty.

EverPillow

Best Customizable

EverPillow

EverPillow
Price: $50 - $89
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers seeking a highly customizable pillow
  • Hot sleepers
  • People who prefer pillows made from natural materials
Highlights:
  • Five fill options in standard and curved designs
  • Breathable organic cotton cover
  • 100-day trial and 1-year warranty
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

The EverPillow is a highly customizable pillow that’s offered in standard and curved designs with five fill options: latex, kapok and silk, kapok and latex, latex/poly/Tencel, and poly/Tencel. If you prefer a softer pillow, we recommend opting for either the latex/poly/Tencel fill or the poly/Tencel fill.

The poly/Tencel option is one of the softest pillows we’ve tested. It cushions the head and neck to relieve pressure buildup. If you need a bit more support, the latex/poly/Tencel option has a medium feel that lifts the head without sacrificing plushness. All models have a breathable organic cotton cover with a zipper to prevent the loose fill from escaping. You can adjust the fill as needed to achieve your desired loft, and you can request extra material for free within 18 months of purchase.

All models measure 5 inches thick when filled. Depending on the design option you choose, the softer pillow models benefit different sleeper types. We found the standard size best for back sleepers, keeping their heads, necks, and shoulders aligned with the rest of their bodies. Meanwhile, the curved option performed best among our side sleepers, helping to align the head and neck with the rest of the spine.

The EverPillow ships free to all customers living in the contiguous U.S. The company offers a 100-day trial to test different fills to find the most comfortable option for your needs. A 1-year warranty backs your EverPillow purchase.

Cushion Lab Deep Sleep Pillow

Best Extra-Soft

Cushion Lab Deep Sleep Pillow

Cushion Lab Deep Sleep Pillow
Price: $135 - Standard
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • People who prefer pillows that provide deep cushioning
  • Those who frequently experience neck or shoulder discomfort
Highlights:
  • Ultra-plush memory foam provides a cloud-like surface for the head and neck
  • Cooling nylon-blend cover feels exceptionally smooth
  • Inner lining composed of eco-friendly recycled polyester
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

If you prefer pillows that are exceptionally plush and adaptive, the Cushion Lab Deep Sleep Pillow is a safe bet. This is one of the softest memory foam pillows our team has tested. The solid foam core cradles your head and neck, creating a cloud-like feel. Since the foam’s base has a higher density than the top, the pillow also provides decent overall support.

We recommend the Deep Sleep to anyone who often wakes up feeling stiff or sore around their neck and shoulders. Our tests also show the pillow should be comfortable for side and back sleepers. With a 5-inch profile, side sleepers receive the lift they need for proper spinal alignment, while back sleepers can lie comfortably without their neck feeling excessively elevated. Stomach sleepers may find the pillow too thick.

Another notable component of the pillow is its cover, which is made from a stretchy blend of nylon and spandex. Nylon offers better cooling than polyester or cotton, and delivers luxurious smoothness that feels gentle on your skin. You can remove and machine wash the pillow whenever it needs to be cleaned. The inner lining is made of recycled polyester.

Cushion Lab offers free ground shipping throughout the contiguous U.S. You may return the Deep Sleep Pillow for a full refund within 30 days of your purchase if you aren’t satisfied, but you’ll be responsible for return shipping.

How to Choose a Soft Pillow

Many bedding companies market their pillows as “soft” or “like sleeping on a cloud” because it sounds enticing and comfortable. However, no pillow is a universal fit, and the best model for you depends on your sleeping style, your personal preference, and other factors.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Soft Pillow

With so many pillow choices on the market today, it is helpful to focus on a few key elements of a pillow to determine which is the right fit for you.

Sleeping Position
Your sleeping position affects how far your head is from the mattress, and therefore what type of pillow you need to keep the head, neck, and spine aligned. Side sleepers generally need a firmer, higher pillow in order to fill the space between the shoulder and the head. Back sleepers tend to prefer a medium loft, medium firm pillow that keeps the neck supported without exaggerating the angle of the head. For stomach sleepers, a softer pillow with a low loft is usually best.

Loft
The loft of a pillow refers to its height when lying flat. Pillow loft is generally categorized as low (less than 3 inches), medium (3 to 5 inches), or high (more than 5 inches). Keep in mind that the pillow usually compresses once your head is laid on the pillow. Thus, pillow loft should be considered in conjunction with pillow firmness, bearing in mind that softer pillows compress more.

Support
A supportive pillow helps keep the head and neck in alignment with the rest of the spine. This allows the shoulders and neck to relax, reducing the chances of soreness in the morning. Typically, firmer pillows are considered more supportive, since they keep the head from sinking. However, the level of support is a product of several factors, and you may find a softer pillow more appropriate depending on your sleeping style.

Firmness Level
Pillow firmness refers to the feel of the pillow and how much your head sinks in. The firmness level varies according to the type and density of the materials in the pillow. Most pillows can be categorized as soft (or plush), medium soft, medium, medium firm, or firm.

Pressure Relief
Pressure relief is tied to firmness, as a pillow that is too hard may cause pressure points if sleepers stay in one position for too long. This is especially relevant for side sleepers, whose ears make prolonged contact with the pillow and may be more sensitive than other areas. Soft pillows or materials that conform closely generally provide better pressure relief.

Shape
Most pillows are rectangular, but some pillows feature unique shapes that are specially designed for certain sleep positions. Many ergonomic pillows, for example, have a structure of curves and dips to support specific areas of the head, neck, and shoulders. Pillows for side sleepers may also have a cut-out section for the shoulders, whereas wedge-shaped pillows are popular with people who want to elevate their upper body.

Price
Pillows come in a wide range of prices, from tens to hundreds of dollars. Pricing is predominantly determined by a pillow’s materials and construction. For example, pillows with organic certifications or those made from premium materials are generally more expensive than synthetic options. Shoppers may also pay more for complex or proprietary designs.

Quality Materials
The quality of materials used in a pillow directly affects its longevity, comfort, and price-point. Cheaply made pillows may be quicker to flatten or become bunchy. Natural materials or denser foams may represent a larger investment at first, but the investment can pay off in the long run if the pillow is more durable.

Moldability
Many sleepers prefer a huggable pillow that can be squashed into different positions while sleeping, or folded in half to make a backrest when reading in bed. Soft pillows tend to have good moldability, though some feature gussets or other designs meant to help them keep their original shape.

Temperature Regulation
Pillows made with breathable materials can help reduce heat buildup and provide a more comfortable sleep surface. To stay cool, both the fill and the cover should allow room for airflow. Materials such as wool, cotton, and latex are naturally breathable. By contrast, materials such as down or memory foam may trap more heat. Manufacturers sometimes use an aerated design, phase change material, or other techniques to promote temperature neutrality.

Who is Best Suited to a Soft Pillow?

Soft pillows are favored by much of the population. For stomach and back sleepers, a soft pillow allows the head to settle down closer to the mattress for optimal spinal alignment. For side sleepers, a soft pillow helps reduce pressure points at the ears. Due to their malleability, soft pillows are also popular with people who like to snuggle or scrunch their pillow into different shapes. A small, soft pillow tucked under the legs or lumbar spine may help relieve pressure in the lower back.

A pillow’s firmness level impacts both pressure relief and support. Sleeping on a pillow that is too firm may be uncomfortable, or even cause pressure points where the head touches the pillow.

However, sleepers should take into account that a softer pillow compresses more when laying on it. This means that side sleepers and those who weigh more than 230 pounds may need to buy a higher pillow to make up for the plush sinking effect. Side and stomach sleepers should also be aware that an overly soft pillow may restrict breathing if it allows the face to sink down too far.

It’s impossible to choose a pillow based on firmness alone, as the loft also plays a very important role. You may also need to consider how plush your mattress is, how much your head weighs, whether you have any special pain points to consider, and your own personal preference.

What Types of Pillows Are There?

Pillows can be constructed from a variety of different materials, each of which come with their own unique feel, level of support, and price-point. Some pillows also combine two or more materials to capitalize on the benefits of each one.

Polyfoam: Polyfoam, or polyurethane foam, is a synthetic material that offers moderate contouring. Polyfoam pillows are usually on the firmer side. They may be aerated with pincore holes to increase airflow, shredded to increase contouring, or blended with other materials to add a sturdier core. Polyfoam pillows are usually quite economical, though they may not last as long as other types.

Memory Foam: Memory foam is also known as viscoelastic polyfoam, a name that accurately captures the material’s ability to contour around the sleeper’s body and then slowly regain its shape when pressure is lifted. The enhanced contouring gives it a softer feel than polyfoam, especially if the memory foam is shredded. Memory foam pillows tend to trap heat, an issue which some manufacturers try to solve by adding gel infusions or phase change material.

Down: Down refers to the soft, light feathers of a goose or duck that lay beneath the coarser outer feathers. A down pillow typically starts out fluffy and then compresses considerably when you lay on it. Down is moldable and durable, but it tends to be expensive and it may trigger allergies. Shoppers interested in animal welfare may want to look for ethically sourced and cruelty-free down.

Down Alternative: Down alternative pillows attempt to provide the same soft, fluffy feel of a down pillow without the use of animal products. Typically made with polyester fibers, down alternative is less expensive than down. Like down, down alternative tends to sink in as weight is applied, which is helpful for pressure relief but which may not provide the support of a foam or latex pillow.

Latex: Made from the sap of the rubber tree or synthesized from chemicals, latex is a durable material that provides a moderate level of contouring and firm support. Latex is naturally breathable, and latex pillows may be aerated with additional holes for increased airflow. Latex is generally firm and comes pre-molded, making it difficult to reshape if needed. However, some latex pillows are made with shredded latex, which is more moldable.

Feather: Feather pillows aren’t quite as fluffy as down pillows, but they tend to be more affordable. Sleepers can also purchase blended feather and down pillows. As with down pillows, feather pillows offer good moldability, and they allow sleepers to sink in quite far. They are quite durable, but with repeated use, they may start to flatten and need to be re-fluffed. Feather pillows may trigger allergies, and they require a bit more effort to keep clean.

Buckwheat: Buckwheat pillows, made from buckwheat hulls that lock together to form a firm, supportive feel, are becoming increasingly popular. Most buckwheat pillows are customizable and allow the user to adjust the loft by adding or removing buckwheat hulls. Buckwheat pillows are very durable and offer great airflow for hot sleepers. However, buckwheat pillows offer minimal pressure relief and may not be a suitable choice for someone who prefers a soft pillow.

Wool: Wool is a durable natural fiber collected from lamb or sheep. Wool fibers have a crimped shape that makes them quite resilient and springy. The fibers also excel at wicking moisture, helping sleepers stay cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold. Wool is more often added as extra padding, but wool itself typically has a medium firm feel with moderate contouring.

Water: A less common type of pillow is the water pillow, which is typically constructed with a water chamber surrounded by padding. Users may be able to customize the loft and firmness by adding or removing water. Water pillows tend to provide good support and cooling. However, when the water pouch is full, the pillow becomes quite heavy and there is a small potential for leakage.

Pillow covers also come in a variety of materials, such as cotton, polyester, or Tencel. Cotton and Tencel are soft and breathable, while polyester is inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to care for. Pillow covers may also be made with blended materials, often featuring stretchy materials such as spandex.

Pillow Firmness and Sleeping Position

A pillow’s job is to support your head at a comfortable height to keep the head, neck, and spine aligned. As sleeping position dictates how far your head is from the mattress, your preferred sleeping position also affects how firm your pillow needs to be. Within the requirements of each sleeping position, individual sleepers may also have their own preferences.

Side Sleepers and Pillow Firmness

Side sleepers typically prefer a medium to firm pillow. Sleeping on your side puts more pressure on the shoulders and creates a sizable gap between the shoulder and head. The pillow must be firm enough to support the neck and take pressure off the shoulders. That said, a pillow that is too firm may cause pressure buildup where the head touches the pillow. Materials like memory foam or latex tend to provide the best balance of pressure relief and support. Gusseted down or down alternative pillows may also hold up better than non-gusseted models.

Back Sleepers and Pillow Firmness

Back sleepers tend to prefer a medium to firm pillow that keeps the head at a neutral angle. Back sleeping doesn’t tend to cause much pressure buildup, as only the back of the head makes contact with the pillow. These sleepers can choose from a wide range of moderately contouring pillow materials, including down, latex, memory foam, polyfoam, and wool.

Stomach Sleepers and Pillow Firmness

Softer pillows are usually better for stomach sleepers, who are prone to pressure buildup from twisting the neck to one side. This pressure is typically less severe with a flatter pillow, as a higher pillow can add extra strain by tilting the head backwards. A pillow made of down, down alternative, or shredded memory foam allows the head to sink in while offering a soft surface for the face. Moldable pillows may also be preferred by stomach sleepers who hug their pillow while they sleep.

What is Pillow Loft?

Pillow loft refers to the height, or thickness, of a pillow when it is resting on a flat surface. Low loft is typically defined as less than 3 inches, medium loft as between 3 and 5 inches, and high loft as more than 5 inches. When considering pillow loft, it helps to remember that most pillows compress when you lay on them. The ideal loft depends on several factors:

  • Sleep Position: Side sleepers typically require a pillow with a high loft to keep the head and neck aligned. Back sleepers need a pillow with a medium loft to raise the head just slightly, and stomach sleepers need very little loft to keep the neck at a comfortable angle. Combination sleepers can choose an intermediate loft, or look for a pillow with an ergonomic design.
  • Head Size: Sleepers with a heavier or larger head may require a pillow with a higher initial loft, as these individuals experience more compression when laying on the pillow. Children or those with smaller, lightweight heads may opt for a medium or low-loft pillow, as they don’t sink in as far.
  • Body Weight: Body weight affects how far the sleeper sinks into the pillow and the mattress. Sleepers over 230 pounds sink into the mattress more, causing the pillow to feel comparatively higher as a result. For these sleepers, a lower pillow may be appropriate. Those who weigh less than 130 pounds stay more on top of the mattress, and may require a higher pillow to lift the head and keep the spine aligned.
  • Mattress Firmness: Similar to body weight, mattress firmness affects the extent to which a person sinks into the mattress versus laying on top of it. A soft mattress allows for deeper sinking. By contrast, a firm mattress allows the sleeper to sleep higher on the bed, potentially requiring a higher pillow.

What Pillow Sizes Are Available?

The most common pillow sizes are standard, queen, and king. However, you may also find specialty sizes such as super standard pillows or body pillows. While sizing is fairly standardized, different brands may vary by a few inches, so it’s good policy to check the dimensions before ordering to make sure the pillow fits your pillowcase and your bed. Note that the depth of the pillow doesn’t typically vary, just the width.

  • Standard: Measuring 20 inches by 26 inches, the standard pillow is the most common pillow size and it can be used for most sleep positions. One standard pillow fits across a twin mattress, and two standard pillows fill most of the width of a full or queen mattress, while still leaving some space for the sleeper to tuck their arms around either end.
  • Super Standard: Super standard pillows are slightly longer than standard pillows, at 20 inches by 28 inches. This size may be a good fit for restless sleepers or those who enjoy a slightly longer pillow. Though it’s suitable for most beds, this size is less common and may be difficult to find.
  • Queen: Queen pillows are about 4 inches longer than a standard, measuring 20 inches by 30 inches. They are designed to be used with queen mattresses, though they can also be used with a twin mattress. Queen pillows give sleepers a little more room to play with and because they are so common, they are easy to find and easy to match with pillowcases.
  • King: King pillows measure 20 inches by 36 inches. They are beneficial for restless sleepers or those who like to curl up with their pillow. A king pillow is a little too long to fit comfortably on a twin mattress, though it can be used by a single sleeper on a full mattress. Likewise, two king pillows don’t fit on a queen mattress, but they fit perfectly across a king or California king mattress.
  • Body Pillow: Body pillows are extra-long pillows designed to provide support for different areas of the body. Sleepers can hug the pillow between the knees to level out the hips, or experiment with other positions. Body pillows are frequently used by side sleepers and pregnant women. The standard dimensions are 20 inches by 54 inches, though it’s not uncommon to find variations.

Frequently Asked Questions About Soft Pillows

We discuss some further questions regarding pricing, care and maintenance, and how to identify the best soft pillow for your needs.

How much do soft pillows cost?

A standard size soft pillow can range in price from $30 to $180 or more, but the average price lies between $75 and $100. Many factors determine how a pillow is priced, notably the quality of the materials and the design. Softer pillows may cost less than firmer equivalents because they contain less fill, meaning the manufacturing cost is not as high.

How often should I replace my pillow?

The general standard is to replace a pillow after 1 to 2 years, though this timeline can vary depending on the materials. Soft pillows may wear down sooner than firmer models, as they undergo more compression. Keeping your pillow well-maintained and regularly cleaning it may help extend its lifespan. You’ll know it’s time to replace your pillow when it starts to provide less support and you find yourself waking up sore.

Are soft pillows good for you?

Soft pillows can provide pressure relief, but the benefits of a soft pillow depend on the sleeper. Soft pillows tend to be most comfortable for stomach sleepers and some back sleepers. Most side sleepers need a firmer pillow with a higher loft, though there are exceptions to this rule. If you are currently using a soft pillow, there may be no reason to change unless it causes you pain or discomfort.

Can a pillow be too soft?

The ideal pillow firmness doesn’t exist, but your pillow may be too soft if you are waking up with aches and pains. Side sleepers and those over 230 pounds should be especially careful to choose a pillow that is not too soft, as these sleepers require more support. A pillow that allows excessive sinking may also restrict breathing for stomach sleepers who lay with their face pressed against the pillow.

How soft should a pillow be?

The best pillow should be soft enough to relieve pressure points, but firm enough to support the head and neck. Each sleep position may benefit from different levels of softness. Side sleepers and back sleepers usually prefer a medium to firm pillow to keep the head from dipping out of alignment. Stomach sleepers do well with a thin, soft pillow that limits neck strain. Body weight may also play a role, with sleepers under 130 pounds tending towards softer pillows. Beyond these general criteria, your own personal preference may influence which pillow you end up choosing.

Still have questions?

Our product experts have extensive experience testing just about every sleep product on the market. Send an email to [email protected] or call us at (877) 672-8966 with your questions and we’ll help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

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About Our Editorial Team

author
Daniel Noyed

Certified Sleep Coach

Danny is a Certified Sleep Science Coach with an in-depth knowledge of sleep health. He has tested hundreds of mattresses and sleep products.