A quality pillow does more than prop up your head; it provides ergonomic support for your entire body, whatever your preferred sleep position may be. When shopping for a new pillow, however, do keep your sleep position―back, stomach, or side―in mind, as it’s a determining factor in the ideal level of firmness. The best bed pillows are crafted to maintain their firmness night after night. You’ll also find a range of materials on the market, so you can choose a pillow that’s comfortable and even hypoallergenic for easy breathing. Read on for the factors and features to consider while shopping and to learn what makes the following pillows high-quality recommendations.
- BEST OVERALL: Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow (2-Pack)
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: SUMITU Bed Pillows, 2 Pack
- UPGRADE PICK: Lincove Classic Goose Down Luxury Sleeping Pillow
- BEST MEMORY FOAM: Milemont Memory Foam Pillow
- BEST HYPOALLERGENIC: JOLLYVOGUE Bed Pillows 2 Pack
- BEST FOR KIDS: Little Sleepy Head Youth Pillow
- BEST ORGANIC: PineTales 14″ x 20″ Basic Organic Buckwheat Pillow
- BEST BODY PILLOW: PharMeDoc Pregnancy Pillow
- BEST WEDGE: Brentwood Home Zuma Therapeutic Wedge Pillow
Types of Bed Pillows
Pillows come in a variety of materials, offering different firmness levels for all kinds of sleepers. Various materials may also be hypoallergenic, organic, and therapeutic for neck and back issues. Here are the most popular pillow materials, along with their pros and cons.
- Memory foam pillows contour to your face and neck, offering the most customized sleeping experience of all pillow types. This makes them a solid choice for achieving spinal alignment and relieving neck and shoulder pain while you sleep. Even the best memory foam pillows retain some heat, however, so it may not be the best choice for folks who tend to sleep hot. What’s more, some memory foam also emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and may be treated with flame retardants, which carry various health risks. Brands should state whether their memory foam is certified against certain toxins and chemicals. Look for the CertiPUR-US label.
- Down pillows are filled with the natural undercoat of geese, making them soft, plush, and luxurious. The best down pillow will be durable and retain its shape and plumpness. Down pillows’ firmness is gauged by “fill power,” which measures the fluffiness or density of the down filling. Look for a fill power between 600 and 800, which is soft without letting your head sink. Folks with allergies should ensure they’re not sensitive to down before purchasing a down pillow.
- Feather pillows, made of goose and duck feathers, are less expensive than down, but provide a similar feel and softness level. Unlike down, however, feathers have quills that can poke through the pillow casing and leak out over time. Feather pillows may not be suitable for people with allergies or breathing problems.
- Polyester pillows offer medium firmness. These workhorse pillows are affordable, durable, typically machine washable, and quick-drying. On the downside, poly filling can lose its plumpness and get lumpy or flat over time.
- Latex pillows are a good alternative to feather and down pillows, as well as polyester. The inner core can be either molded (like memory foam) or shredded (for a more feather-like feel). Look for organic latex pillows filled with naturally derived materials if you’re worried about toxins, flame retardants, or VOCs. Latex pillows can also be gel-filled, offering a firm, cooling core surrounded by softer, feathery material.
- Buckwheat pillows, popular in Japan, are making a splash in other countries too. These firm, highly supportive pillows are filled with all-natural (and often organic) buckwheat hulls. Users can add or remove hulls to achieve the desired firmness.
What to Consider when Choosing the Best Bed Pillows
Pillow size and thickness matters for overall comfort and wellbeing. You will also want to assess any respiratory, muscle, or neck issues, as well as your preferred sleeping style.
Human beings have four main styles of sleeping: side, belly, back, or fetal/combination.
- Only 8 percent of people sleep on their backs, according to the National Sleep Foundation, yet this position tends to put less stress on internal organs and helps encourage proper alignment to stave off neck and shoulder pain. Those who wish to encourage back-sleeping should use a flatter pillow.
- Belly-sleepers (7 percent of adults) are also best with a relatively flat pillow.
- For side-sleepers (15 percent of adults), a slightly thicker pillow is preferred to prop up your chin and keep your spine in proper alignment.
- Sleeping in the fetal position or a variety of poses during the night is what 41 percent of us do. These sleepers should choose a pillow that contours and adapts to their position throughout the night.
Body Type and Temperature Preference
Head size and body weight are both key factors in determining which material and style of pillow is best for you. As a general rule, those with a larger head should sleep on a larger pillow. Those with a higher body mass should have a firmer pillow for adequate support.
Body temperature is key to determining your ideal pillow material. If you tend to feel cold during the night, choose memory foam, down, or feathers. If you tend to feel overly warm in bed, choose latex, polyester, or buckwheat, and look for 100 percent cotton pillow casings. There are also cooling pillows, which may be best for hot sleepers.
There are three basic size options for bed pillows: standard, queen, and king. Standard pillows are designed for twin and full mattresses. Queen and king work best with queen and king mattresses, respectively. There are also body pillows, which offer full-body support for side-sleepers and may be especially helpful for pregnant women.
Pillow thickness is measured in “loft.” Low loft pillows are about 4.5-inches high. Medium to high loft pillows range between 6- and 7-inches high. In general, lower pillows are better for neck and back health, while higher pillows can help folks who have trouble breathing at night.
Our Top Picks
There’s a pillow for everyone, but which is the best pillow for you? The selections below―which focus on sleep styles and pillow shape, including rectangular, body, and wedge―are all crafted from quality materials.
Beckham’s gel-filled, latex fiber, hypoallergenic pillow is designed to suit many sleep types and comfort levels. Thanks to its no-shift construction, the pillow stays where you position it, whether you sleep on your back, side, or stomach. It’s dust mite, mold, and mildew resistant, as well as allergen- and chemical-free, so a solid choice if you have asthma, allergies, or other breathing issues.
Plush, down-like fibers provide enough loft to support your neck, while the gel’s cooling properties can keep sweaty sleep at bay. The pillow, available in king and queen size, is machine washable for easy care, and the casing is made of fade- and stain-resistant 100 percent cotton.
Don’t want to lose sleep over the price of your pillow? The high-quality polyester fiber filling in these affordable Sumitu pillows gives firm support, and was developed to avoid going flat or getting lumpy. The durable pillows will keep their shape for years, so not only are they priced right, they’ll last.
The pillows are made from allergy-proof fabric and stuffed with hypoallergenic fiberfill, which offers complete barrier protection against dust, pollen, pet dander, and other household allergens. They’re machine washable and fade- and stain-resistant, with a 100 percent cotton casing that’s soft and breathable. Sumitu two-packs are available in standard, queen, and king sizes.
If you’re ready to sleep with luxury, this Lincove pillow is worth considering. It’s filled with all-natural, 100 percent goose down and is extremely soft and dry, helping regulate body temperature. The casing is 100 percent cotton sateen, with a sumptuous 600 thread count for ultra smoothness and breathability. The outer case is also washable, though you should follow care instructions for freshening the down filling.
Thanks to a fill power of 800, Lincove pillows are soft yet firm―making them one of the best down pillows for many sleep styles. These posh pillows are available in standard, queen, and king sizes, as well as three comfort levels: soft, medium, and firm. Each pillow comes in a custom storage case for travel and moving, keeping your pillows fresh and clean over time.
Memory foam gives added support that can help ease spine, neck, or shoulder pain. The Milemont pillow’s memory foam, a combination of 65 percent polyester and 35 percent tencel (a form of rayon), features a calibrated core to provide the right balance of support and comfort in various sleep positions. The ergonomic design contours to your body and retains the shape after regular use.
Choose from standard or queen size, both of which are roughly equal in cost to polyester-filled pillows. Expect some “fresh-foam” odor upon unpacking, which the company says will dissipate within hours, and rest assured that Milemont’s memory foam is also CertiPUR-US certified against harmful toxins and chemical additives. The pillowcase is machine washable (tumble dry on low), but the foam core is not.
JollyVogue’s superior pillows are polyester filled to be durable, comfortable, and hypoallergenic, so they’re a solid choice for folks with allergies, asthma, or other breathing troubles. Since the pillows (which come in a set of two) can also be machine washed and tumble dried, it’s easy to keep them free of dust, dander, and dandruff. The outer case is microfiber, which is smooth and soft, even for sensitive skin.
The polyester fiber filling is of medium firmness. Choose between standard, queen, and king sizes. The pillows are vacuum sealed in packaging, so allow at least 24 hours for them to expand to their full plumpness. Fluff regularly to maintain their shape and fullness.
These 16 inches by 22 inches pillows are designed for children age 5 and up The manufacturer understands that proper head and neck alignment is especially crucial for growing bodies, and developed these youth pillows to be 4 to 5 inches in height before compression. That’s the same height as the company’s toddler pillows, so if your little one finds this pillow too low, the Little Sleepy Head will send you extra fluff. This style is 100 percent hypoallergenic, chemical-free, and has a 200-thread count. The shell is made of organic cotton and the filling has a down-like feel. The whole pillow is machine washable.
Japanese buckwheat pillows, called Sobakawa in the Far East, are becoming popular in the States too. The all-natural buckwheat seed filling is springy yet firm and offers serious support for your head and neck. PineTales organic buckwheat pillow is filled with 100 percent U.S.-grown buckwheat hulls. While the pillows is uniquely suited to those who prefer firmer headrests, its durable casing unzips to let you add or subtract hulls to adjust the firmness level.
The pillow is also embedded with moisture control fibers to reduce the discomfort caused by drool and night sweats. It’s available in Japanese sizes of 14 inches by 20 inches, standard 20 inches by 26 inches, French linen Japanese 14 inches by 20 inches, and Cylindrical 17 inches by 6 inches. The case is washable, but not the filling.
While this body pillow may be geared to expectant mothers, its design may alleviate pain and strain for most sleepers. This U-shaped body pillow, which measures 53 by 31 by 7 inches, supports the whole body during sleep and features a detachable extension that can be used as a smaller body pillow. For those who suffer from fibromyalgia, gastric reflux, sciatica, and other conditions that affect sleep, this body pillow may provide some relief.
Thanks to the double-stitched seams, this pillow won’t rip when subjected to pressure, which is a concern with some body pillows. The knit cotton jersey cover is removable and machine washable. The pillow is available in a number of colors and styles, including pink, gray, light blue, light pink, gray/star pattern, light gray, star pattern with bag, gray pillow only (no detachable extension), and organic cotton.
Wedge pillows have a low, triangular shape, and help prop up your head during sleep. This design can promote more comfortable breathing in bed, so it’s ideal for those who struggle with sleep apnea, snoring, allergies, and other respiratory ailments. The wedge shape also aids digestion by positioning the torso correctly for a positive anti-reflux position. A wedge pillow can also elevate legs and increase circulation overnight.
The gradual slope can reduce neck and shoulder pain to provide a healthy posture, whether you lie down or sit up in bed to read, work on a computer, or watch TV. These benefits are made possible thanks to a CertiPUR-US memory foam core, which is certified to be free of harmful toxins and chemicals. The pillow comes in two heights—7 and 10 inches—and features a super-soft stretch-knit bamboo cover that’s removable and machine washable.
The Advantages of Owning the Best Pillows
While most people prefer to sleep with at least one pillow, they’re best advised to choose one that’s the right material, firmness, shape, size, and style. Most importantly, pillows should be comfortable and suited to your unique sleep position to boost spinal, neck, and back health by keeping bones in alignment. By propping your head at a slight angle, pillows can help alleviate respiratory issues like nose blockages, apnea, and snoring. A non-toxic, hypoallergenic pillow may also help those with breathing issues. By choosing a pillow that meets your needs, you’re likely to have a more restful night’s sleep.
A quality pillow can last several years, retaining its shape and firmness level, but it’s important to change out your pillows at regular intervals because over time, pillows can retain allergens, microbes, and dander.
- Pillows prop up your head, keeping nasal passages clear at night.
- Pillows keep your spine aligned and promote neck and back health.
- Pillows keep you comfortable, enhancing sleep quality and daily energy levels.
FAQs About Bed Pillows
If you still want more info about purchasing and caring for your bed pillow, check out the answers to these common questions.
Q: Can I wash my bed pillow?
Yes, if it’s polyester or latex filled. Feather, down, memory foam, and buckwheat pillows can be aired out and cared for according to brand instructions, but typically not machine washed. You can, however, wash the outer linings if they are removable.
Q: How often should bed pillows be replaced?
Every year or two (or more), depending on use. Higher quality pillows, stuffed with down for example, typically last longer than cheaper, poly filled pillows.
Q: What bed pillow is best for sleeping?
It depends on your sleep style. In general, a low to medium height pillow with medium firmness is versatile and comfortable for most sleepers.