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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.
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The TEMPUR-Cloud Pro Pillow is constructed with Tempur-Pedic’s proprietary memory foam, designed to cradle the head and neck for close-contouring pressure relief.
With three different options to choose from, the TEMPUR-Cloud Pro is designed to suit the needs of most sleepers. The Lo option is designed for stomach sleepers, offering a soft feel with a low loft. The Mid option is intended for back sleepers, with a medium soft feel and medium loft. The Hi option is designed with side sleepers in mind, offering a medium feel and high loft with a gusset for added support.
Each model features a slightly different fill. The TEMPUR-Cloud ProLo Pillow has a core made with softer TEMPUR Micro-Cushions, wrapped in a thin layer of memory foam on either side. The TEMPUR-Cloud ProMid Pillow has a thicker layer of memory foam on one side for firmer support. The TEMPUR-Cloud ProHi Pillow is made with a solid piece of memory foam. Although they get progressively firmer, all three options are on the softer side compared to other pillows.
Each of these options is available in a queen or king size. The pillow has a breathable knit cover that can be removed for washing. Tempur-Pedic offers free ground shipping for all bedding accessories, including pillows. The pillow includes a 5-year limited warranty.
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The Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow from Cushion Lab is an adaptable model with an approachable price-point, especially when considering its features and materials. The shredded high-density memory foam fill feels plush and supportive. A wide range of sleepers should find this model comfortable and affordable.
Sleepers can adjust the fill level by unzipping the cover and removing or adding fill within the pillow’s core. Side sleepers will prefer a high loft, while back and stomach sleepers will find a lower loft level helps maintain proper spinal alignment. The included adjustment guideline can help users determine their perfect fill level.
While memory foam often traps body heat, sleepers will find this model’s shredded fill allows air to circulate better than a solid piece of memory foam would. The breathable polyester and bamboo-derived cover fabric also help combat heat retention. You can purchase this pillow in three sizes, each of which include a storage bag.
The removable cover is washable while the shredded memory foam fill should not be laundered. Cushion Lab backs the Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow with a 1-year warranty that covers material and workmanship defects. Free shipping is available to shoppers within the contiguous U.S. and sleepers have up to 30 days after purchase to return their pillow for a full refund.
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The Boll & Branch Down Pillow comes in three firmness options: soft, medium firm, and firm. The soft option is the most affordable, as it contains less down for a fluffier feel. Each pillow is sold in standard or king size.
The soft pillow has a lightweight and moldable construction with moderate contouring. Down compresses quite a bit under pressure, so although the pillow has a relatively high loft, it’s also suitable for back or stomach sleepers. Boll & Branch sews the down into three chambers to help the pillow keep its shape.
The cover is made of soft, breathable organic cotton that is densely woven to prevent the down from poking out. Boll & Branch uses responsibly sourced down from American farms that is certified by the International Down Standard. The down in this pillow is also triple-washed to ensure cleanliness and improve the life of the loft.
Piping and an embroidered logo add an elegant touch to the pillow. Boll & Branch offers free ground shipping to the U.S., as well as a 30-night sleep trial.
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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.
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The Saatva Down Alternative Pillow has a medium firmness that best supports back sleepers and side sleepers under 130 pounds. 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.
Best for Side Sleepers
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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.
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GhostBed is well-known for creating innovative products that have a wide appeal and the GhostPillow Faux Down is no exception. Featuring cooling technologies like microfiber gel clusters and a breathable cover, hot sleepers and those in warm climates will want to consider this model.
This pillow gets its medium soft firmness level from microfiber gel fill that’s designed to mimic down’s plush feel. Sleepers who like to hug and shape their pillow will find this model comfortable. The fill gently cradles your head and neck, helping to keep your spine properly aligned. The 7-inch loft is suitable for side and back sleepers. Stomach sleepers may prefer a pillow with less loft.
A dual-layered cover works to combat heat retention and protect the pillow’s core. The inner cover is 100% cotton velour that breathes easily and promotes airflow, while the outer cover is crafted from proprietary Ghost Ice material that’s designed to feel cool to the touch. The cover zips off easily and can be laundered in your home washing machine.
GhostBed offers shoppers a lengthy 101-night sleep trial and a 5-year warranty that protects against structural defects and faulty workmanship. Free shipping is available to shoppers in the contiguous U.S.
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Handmade in the U.S., the Birch Organic Pillow features a latex core wrapped in wool padding and a breathable cotton cover. The cotton and wool are certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and the wool is ethically sourced from New Zealand.
Birch uses natural Talalay latex, which has a buoyant, springy feel. Together with the wool, this gives the pillow a medium firmness that provides excellent support for any sleeping position, particularly for sleepers under 230 pounds.
The wool is naturally flame retardant and wicks away moisture to help maintain a comfortable temperature all year long. The natural Talalay latex is breathable, hypoallergenic, and tested for chemical emissions by OEKO-TEX and the eco-INSTITUT. All the materials used to make the pillow are known for their durability, meaning the pillow should have a long lifespan if properly cared for.
The Birch Organic Pillow has a below-average price point considering its organic latex and wool construction. Birch offers a 100-night trial period, free shipping, and a 1-year limited warranty. The pillow is available in standard and king sizes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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:
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.
We discuss some further questions regarding pricing, care and maintenance, and how to identify the best soft pillow for your needs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
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