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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.

Product Details

Saatva Down Alternative Pillow

Best Overall

Saatva Down Alternative Pillow

Brand Logo


$105 – $125


Down Alternative


  • Who it’s best for

    1. Side and back sleepers
    2. Those who prefer a moldable pillow
    3. Allergy sufferers
  • Highlights

    1. Animal-free construction with fluffy down alternative fill
    2. Organic cotton cover
    3. 45-night sleep trial

Sleep Foundation Special Offer

Use this link for the most current Saatva discounts

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.

Best Value

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow

Brand Logo


$135 – $150


Plant-based down alternative fibers


  • Who it’s best for

    1. Hot sleepers
    2. Back sleepers who prefer medium-profile pillows
    3. Those who prefer to purchase sustainably made products
  • Highlights

    1. Down alternative clusters encased in a cotton shell create a luxuriously plush feel
    2. Eco-friendly design incorporates natural and plant-based materials
    3. Pillow is fully machine-washable for easy cleaning

Sleep Foundation Special Offer

Use this link for the most current Sweet Zzz discounts

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

Brand Logo


$109 – $149


Canadian white down clusters or down/feather blend


Plush, Mid-Plush, Firm
  • Who it’s best for

    1. Stomach sleepers
    2. Those interested in natural down on a tighter budget
    3. Sleepers who prefer a soft and moldable pillow
  • Highlights

    1. Sustainably sourced down
    2. Treated with antimicrobials
    3. 365-night sleep trial and 1-year warranty

Sleep Foundation Special Offer

Use this link for the most current Brooklinen discounts

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.

Best Hotel-Style

FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow – Soft Fluff

Brand Logo


$89 – Standard $119 – King


100% white duck feathers (inner chamber), 100% 600 fill power white duck down (outer chamber)


  • Who it’s best for

    1. Stomach and back sleepers
    2. Sleepers who enjoy snuggling and squishing their pillows
    3. Shoppers concerned about animal welfare
  • Highlights

    1. Two-layer design balances plushness and support
    2. 100% cotton shell and pillow protector
    3. RDS certification ensures cruelty-free production

Sleep Foundation Special Offer

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

The FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow epitomizes the soft, fluffy feel that’s synonymous with down pillows. Available in two firmness levels, we found the softer option offered the quality and comfort that you’d expect from a luxury hotel pillow.

The pillow is designed with two layers. The inner layer is composed of dense feathers that generate support and give the pillow its shape, while the outer layer is made with fluffier down that gives the pillow its plush, billowy feel. We found the soft model of the FluffCo Down & Feather was best suited to stomach and back sleepers, who typically feel most comfortable on pillows that compress deeply and have a low or medium loft.

The shell is composed of breathable 100% cotton, and the pillow also comes with a zippered cotton pillow protector. Attractive gray cording lines the pillow’s perimeter. The down has Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certification to ensure animals were not treated cruelly during production.

You can choose between a standard or king size. Shipping is free for orders over $75, and you may return the pillow within 30 nights.

A picture of the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow in Sleep Foundation's test lab.

Best for Side Sleepers

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Brand Logo




75% Latex and 25% Polyester Fiber


Medium, Adjustable
  • Who it’s best for

    1. Side sleepers
    2. Shoppers who want multiple loft levels
    3. Hot sleepers
  • Highlights

    1. Fill level can be customized
    2. U-shape construction helps maintain spinal alignment
    3. Latex and polyester fill sleeps cool

Sleep Foundation Special Offer

20% off

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.

Best Luxury

Cozy Earth Silk Pillow

Brand Logo


$279 – $329


Long-Strand Mulberry Silk


Medium Soft
  • Who it’s best for

    1. Hot sleepers
    2. People who experience back pain
    3. Eco-conscious shoppers
  • Highlights

    1. Mulberry silk fill feels plush
    2. Cover is breathable and moisture-wicking
    3. Medium loft level provides neck support

Sleep Foundation Special Offer

Get 35% off sitewide with code: SLEEPFOUNDATION

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.

Product page photo of the Polysleep Pillow

Best Temperature Regulating

Polysleep Pillow

Brand Logo




Polyfoam (4 layers)


  • Who it’s best for

    1. People who normally sleep hot on foam pillows
    2. Sleepers intrigued by the idea of an adjustable pillow
    3. Those with persistent neck pain
  • Highlights

    1. Adjustable design lets you customize the loft anywhere from 2 to 9 inches
    2. Polyfoam core layers cushion the head and neck without too much sink
    3. Mesh side panels promote airflow to help reduce heat retention

Sleep Foundation Special Offer

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

While solid foam pillows are known for deep cushioning and above-average pressure relief, many people find they absorb heat and sleep uncomfortably warm. The Polysleep Pillow mitigates this issue with side panels made of open mesh, which promotes air circulation throughout the interior, and the cover is composed of pure cotton for added cooling and breathability. 

A fully adjustable design allows you to customize how thick and soft the pillow feels. Your purchase includes four polyfoam inserts measuring between 0.75 and 1.25 inches apiece. We recommend experimenting with the sequence and number of layers you use to achieve your ideal loft. The more inserts you use, the plusher and more adaptive the pillow will feel. Side sleepers on our team preferred three to four inserts, back sleepers felt most comfortable with two to three, and stomach sleepers found they only needed one. 

Standard and king sizes are available. The cover is fully machine-washable. After removing all foam inserts, simply wash the cover on a gentle cycle and tumble dry on low heat. Standard ground shipping is free of charge to shoppers in Canadian provinces and the contiguous U.S., but those in Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut, Alaska, and Hawaii must pay a delivery fee. Polysleep accepts returns within 30 nights. Those who choose to keep their pillow after the trial period ends also receive a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Best Extra-Soft

Sijo FluffBase Eucalyptus Pillow

Brand Logo


$60 – $80


Tencel down alternative fibers


Medium Soft
  • Who it’s best for

    1. Sleepers who enjoy the feel of down but prefer animal-free sourcing
    2. Hot sleepers
    3. Back and side sleepers
  • Highlights

    1. Cover and fill are composed of Tencel lyocell fibers
    2. Medium soft feel mimics down
    3. Tencel fabric promotes cooling

Sleep Foundation Special 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.

Best for Neck Pain

Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow

Brand Logo


$99 – $149


Shredded memory foam


Firm to Medium Firm
  • Who it’s best for

    1. Those looking for an adjustable pillow
    2. Hot sleepers
    3. Value seekers
  • Highlights

    1. You can customize the loft by adding or removing the fill
    2. Cooling cover woven with special fibers that dissipate heat on contact
    3. Foam and fiber fill offers plush cushioning and contouring

Sleep Foundation Special Offer

Get an additional 10% off the Easy Breather and Easy Breather Natural Pillows with code SF10.

Your ideal pillow loft largely depends on which position you primarily use. If you’re a combination sleeper who utilizes two or all three positions during the course of a single night, then a pillow with adjustable loft might be just the ticket. The Nest Bedding Easy Breather is both breathable and affordably priced — two qualities that set it apart from most adjustable foam pillows on the market today.

The fill consists of a proprietary blend with 70% shredded memory foam and 30% down alternative fibers. You’ll notice deep cushioning and contouring from the foam, while the fibers ensure an exceptionally plush feel reminiscent of real down. An inner pouch contains the fill. To change the loft, simply unzip the pouch and remove as needed. You can also add fill to increase the volume, and Nest Bedding sells additional fill if you’d like to replenish your supply.

Our hands-on tests show each sleeper type prefers a different loft level. Side sleepers on our team felt most comfortable with the pillow at full or near-full capacity. Those who use the side position typically need extra padding to keep the head aloft and promote proper alignment. Our back sleepers preferred the pillow’s volume at 50% to 75%, while stomach sleepers who normally use a pillow found 50% volume or less ideal. 

The cover is composed of stretch-knit polyester woven with phase change material engineered to absorb and dissipate body heat on contact. This offsets some of the foam’s heat-retaining properties to maintain a cool, comfortable surface at all times. The cover can be removed and laundered in any household machine.

Nest Bedding offers free ground shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S., and reasonable flat-rate delivery to customers in Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada. The company permits returns and exchanges within 30 days of receipt. If you’re satisfied with the Easy Breather after the trial concludes, it’s also backed by a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Best Customizable


Brand Logo


$50 – $89


Poly/Tencel Latex/Poly/Tencel Kapok/Latex Kapok/Silk Latex


Soft, Medium, Medium Firm, Firm
  • Who it’s best for

    1. Sleepers seeking a highly customizable pillow
    2. Hot sleepers
    3. People who prefer pillows made from natural materials
  • Highlights

    1. Five fill options in standard and curved designs
    2. Breathable organic cotton cover
    3. 100-day trial and 1-year warranty

Sleep Foundation Special 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“Side sleepers tend to need a high-loft pillow for support and to fill the space beneath the head and neck to promote proper spinal alignment. Keep your head and neck in alignment at around 30 degrees with the help of a good pillow so your airway stays open during the night, allowing air to flow from your nose to your lungs without obstruction.”

Sarah Silverman, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist and holistic sleep wellness consultant who treats patients in New York and Florida.

  • 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.

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

Frequently Asked Questions About Soft Pillows

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?

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