If you’ve spent your whole life on a hand-me-down pillow, or on the first cheap pillow that caught your eye at your local housewares store, you’re not alone. Every night, thousands of people lay their heads on pillows that are the wrong fit for them, and it’s costing them.
You might have briefly, in the past, considered some premium-quality pillows such as memory foam pillows, latex pillows, or down pillows, and immediately shied away. After all, you’ve spent your whole life on a $7 pillow, how much better could a pillow that costs 10 times that be? To understate it wildly — much, much better. Many miles better. Without further ado, let’s get to pillow talk.
At a glance:
- Best for side sleepers:
- Best for stomach sleepers:
- Best for back sleepers:
- Best memory foam pillow:
- Best latex pillow:
- Best down pillow:
- Best adjustable pillow: Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow
- Best organic pillow: Avocado Green Pillow
- Best hybrid pillow: Leesa Hybrid Pillow
Best for side sleepers: Tempur-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling Pillow
To those of you afraid of expensive pillows, we’re throwing you into the deep end with an incredibly enticing one. The Tempur-Cloud is perfect for side sleepers because it’ll keep you cool, even if you’re the type of person who heats up to sun core-level temperatures at night. Tempur-Pedic is known for its variety of cooling memory foam mattresses, but the Tempur-Cloud is made with Tempur-Breeze Gel, so it’s supportive yet soft. This pillow is perfect for side sleepers, and keeps warm sleepers from overheating as you sink in for a cozy night’s rest.
- Size: Queen
- Filling: Memory foam with a gel layer on each side
- Who is it for? Side sleepers and hot sleepers
Best for stomach sleepers: Elite Rest Firm Memory Foam Pillow
As a rule of thumb, stomach sleepers should avoid memory foam. Most memory foam pillows aren’t soft enough, they’ll prevent your head from getting close enough to the mattress to align your spine, and the loft will injure your neck. But rules are meant to be broken, right? This memory foam pillow is low, soft, and cozy enough for stomach sleepers to get their money’s worth. At just 2.5 inches of loft, you’d be hard-pressed to find a memory foam pillow with lower loft.
- Size: Ultra-slim
- Filling: Memory foam
- Who is it for? Stomach sleepers, or anyone with shoulder pain
Best for back sleepers: The Purple Pillow
Without the cover, the Purple Pillow is a bit odd-looking to be sure. However, this alien pillow has been keeping customers rested since 2016 when it was introduced on Kickstarter. Designed with a polymer grid to give you a nice, even cushion all the way around the pillow, it’s perfect for back sleepers.
It’s soft and squishy, so you won’t be craning your neck forward all night, but it’s also supportive and lifting, so you won’t tilt your head backward and wake up the neighbors with your snores. The Purple Pillow is unique from top to bottom, even down to its hefty weight of 10 pounds.
- Size: Standard
- Filling: The “Purple Grid,” i.e. hyper-elastic polymer Purple Grid with polyethylene copolymer powder coating and polyurethane foam
- Who is it for? Back sleepers
Best memory foam pillow: Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow
The Eden memory foam pillow by Coop Home Goods is a great choice if you love memory foam. Memory foam is known for its ability to soften impacts, so your head will stay in whatever position you fall asleep in all night. You won’t feel jostled around every time your partner shifts positions. It’s a great investment, too, because it’s made for all types of sleepers.
How, might you ask? The inner pillow zips shut, so you can add or remove the shredded memory foam stuffing at will. That means, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t have a preference for back, side, or stomach, you can fluff this pillow up on side sleeping nights and remove the filling on stomach sleeping nights.
- Size: Queen
- Filling: Shredded memory foam
- Who is it for? All sleep positions
Best latex pillow: Malouf Z Latex Pillow – $100
Latex is a great material for pillows, especially if you’re a side sleeper. Not only is natural latex sustainable, so you’ll have peace of mind sleeping on it, but it is also springy, comfortable, and sleeps cool if done right. Malouf Z’s latex pillow has a super high loft, so back and stomach sleepers probably shouldn’t attempt this one, but with holes punched through it and such a high loft, it’s an ideal choice for broad-shouldered side sleepers or for folks who need to feel the space between their ear and mattress. For the folks who seem to fold over every pillow they’ve ever owned, here’s your answer.
- Size: King
- Filling: Hypoallergenic Talalay latex filling made of gel-coated microfibers
- Who is it for? Side sleepers and those with broad shoulders in need of sleep support
Best down pillow: East Coast Bedding’s Goose Down Pillow
Yes, we know; this is a pricey pillow. But how much money would you spend to get an incredible night’s rest for the next 10 years (well-kept down pillows can last for a decade!). East Coast Bedding’s soft, cloud-like down pillow is perfect for the stomach and back sleeper who loves to sink in at night and feel cradled as they fall asleep. You just might have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.
These pillows come in packs of two, so go ahead and share with your partner or your high-class dog. Or, hey, use one for your head and stuff a pillow between your knees. It’s your pillow. Side sleepers might like the idea of sleeping on a down pillow more than the practice, however; down doesn’t offer quite enough support to keep your head from tilting downward and hurting your neck.
- Size: King
- Filling: European 800 Fill Power White Goose Down
- Who is it for? Stomach and back sleepers, and those who don’t mind spending a little more on a down pillow
Best adjustable pillow: Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow
These cushy pillows offer an eco-friendly Tencel cover filled with enough shredded foam fill to feel overstuffed upon arrival – then you can open them up and remove as much as you wish according to your own comfort level. The adjustable Easy Breather Pillow is available in 5 sizes, including standard, queen, king, side sleeper, and junior.
Want something even more natural? Check out the new American-made Easy Breather Natural Pillow, which features the same adjustability in addition to its organic cotton cover and natural shredded latex fill. It’s also available in the same 5 sizes. Both varieties are $100.00 on the Nest Bedding site.
- Size: Standard
- Filling: Shredded memory foam
- Who is it for? Those in need of neck support, side sleepers, and combination sleepers
Best organic pillow: Avocado Green Pillow
Certified organic from its cover to its fills, the Avocado Green Pillow is impressive. Not only is the growing process for the cotton they use organic, but their entire manufacturing process is as well. Excellent for all sleep position preferences, especially back sleepers, as well as all body types, these pillows are remarkably comfortable. They also meet the highest environmental testing standards with GREENGUARD Gold Certification.
What’s more? Avocado products are certified vegan, carbon-negative in production and shipping, certified formaldehyde-free, and MADE SAFE certified (MADE SAFE screens products for carcinogens, behavioral toxins, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, and more). Rest assured, you can feel good about sleeping on this pillow.
- Size: Standard
- Filling: Organic certified latex rubber and plant fiber from the kapok tree
- Who is it for? Those concerned with health and safety standards, as well as green products
Best hybrid pillow: Leesa Hybrid Pillow
The Leesa Hybrid leads the rest with the innovative features of this pillow. From the removable insert which separates the cooling gel layer and the cozy, down-like quilted layer to the chilling fibers stitched throughout, the Leesa Hybrid pillows bring the best of both worlds. Hot sleepers have optimal cooling options while the other side sleeps cushy with polyester microfiber quilted filling. Pick your side and enjoy customized slumber all night long. Available in standard and king sizes.
- Size: Standard
- Filling: Polyester microfiber
- Who is it for? Great for hot sleepers, side and back sleepers, and those with neck pain
What pillow is for you?
You don’t know how much your pillow is costing you valuable resting time until you compare it to something that was made for you. Pillows aren’t just one size fits all. If you’re a side sleeper, you want a highly lofted pillow to make up for the space between your neck and mattress. If you’re a stomach sleeper, however, you want the lowest loft possible so you’re not pinching your neck as you fall asleep. Then again, not every stomach sleeper wants an incredibly flat pillow. Some stomach sleepers prefer the springiness of latex, while some side sleepers like the cloud-like softness of down. It’s all about finding the pillow that’s right for you.
How to choose the right pillow for you
Have you fallen in love with a pillow yet? Don’t get too ahead of yourself; save yourself time and money by slowing down and doing your homework before splurging on the most expensive (or least expensive) pillow you can find. After all, just because a pillow is pricey doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Here are a few things to consider when you’re looking into your next pillow.
Loft is the pillow’s height. Essentially, as a pillow lays flat, it’s the distance between the tallest point of the pillow and the top of your mattress. As a guideline, side sleepers should be using pillows with the highest loft, stomach sleepers with the lowest loft, and back sleepers fall somewhere in the middle. But loft isn’t the only thing to look at, because loft doesn’t equate to firmness. For example, most down pillows might seem loftier than most memory foam pillows fresh out of the box, but as soon as you lay your head on a soft down pillow, you’re going to sink right in. The key is keeping your spine in alignment, so if the crown of your head is tilted, your spine is, too.
This one’s easy. If you have a king-size bed, get a king-size pillow. If you can’t remember what size your mattress is, well, first, it’s probably time to get a new mattress (we can help!). Second, just grab your old pillow and a tape measure. A 20-by-26-inch pillow is standard, 20-by-30 inches is queen, and 20-by-36 inches is a king-size pillow. Don’t forget to snag at least two pillows or one half of your bed will feel a little naked.
If you’re a broad-shouldered person, though, you might want to go a size up. Don’t be afraid to go home with a king-size pillow for your queen size bed; your bedroom, your rules.
Pros and cons of pillow materials
OK, you’ve got a taste for pillows now and you’re ready to start digging for the perfect one for you. But material is a huge part of the sleep experience, after all, and you don’t want something you’re simply uncomfortable on.
- Environmentally friendly. If having an environmentally friendly pillow is something you care about, make sure the one you’re buying is 100% latex rather than a blend.
- Sleeps cool. When made right, latex can keep you cool. For extra coolness, buy a pillow with holes punched in it.
- Supportive. Latex is springy and stays firm.
- Reduce back pain and neck stiffness. Most back pain derives from when you sink in too far; latex prevents that.
- Retains shape well. It’ll bounce back for even heavy sleepers.
- They’re firm. Too firm for some, especially stomach sleepers.
- Latex is smelly. If you’ve ever bought a memory foam pillow, you know what we’re talking about. Air it out a few days and it’ll be fine.
- Adjustment period required. Latex pillows have a unique feel; they’re not going to give you that hotel pillow softness, so give yourself some time to adjust.
- Common allergen. Don’t risk anaphylaxis, just buy a different pillow if you’re allergic to latex.
- Highly supportive. Side sleepers will love memory foam pillows as they’ll keep you supported all night.
- Hypoallergenic. No hives here.
- Retains shape well.
- Can curb snoring. Memory foam contours to your head and neck without letting you sink in, so you won’t tilt your head backward and snore.
- Sleeps hot. Memory foam is not a breathable material, so you might get a little warm.
- Too firm for stomach sleepers. Stomach sleepers, do you feel like you’re floating in air? It’s your pillow… and it’s not a good thing. Switch to a lower lofted pillow.
- Off-gas. Just like their latex brethren, memory foam pillows can smell fresh out of the box. Give your pillow some space for a little while.
- Pricey. Memory foam pillows can be pricey, but they’re worth it when you find the right one.
- Cloud-like softness. Ever feel jealous of how cozy swaddled babies must be? Down pillows can do that for your head.
- Chemical-free. Breathe easy!
- Long-lasting. Down pillows, if treated right, will last longer than most other pillow materials, so get cozy.
- Down comes from where? Down is the soft underlayer of a bird’s feathers. And no, harvesting down is not as easy as shearing wool.
- Hard to clean. Don’t even think about throwing your brand new, $150 down pillow in your apartment washing machine. Unless you want to be picking down feathers out of your other clothes and washing machine for months, of course.
- Pricey. Down is luxurious both in quality and in price.
Looking for more great stuff? Find more on our sleep hub.
- The 10 best pillows for side sleepers in need of support in 2020
- The stuff of dreams: The best pillow filling for every type of sleeper
- The 8 best down pillows for your ultimate comfort in 2020
- These are the best cheap mattress sales for November 2020
- How to choose the right pillow no matter what position you sleep in