If you think that buying a new pillow is easy, you’re in for a treat. One of the items that most people can’t possibly sleep without actually has a complex buying process that has to take into account a variety of different factors that will determine why one pillow is more suitable for you than another. So, what does this pillow research process imply and what are the things that you should know about before ordering a new pillow for yourself?

You’d think that just because a pillow is a lower investment compared to something as huge and as expensive as a mattress, their role in support you and bringing you to comfort is less significant. Pillows offer support for your head, neck, and shoulders, all of which could end up sore in the morning if you’re not wise about the pillow you invest in.

Types of Pillows

As you probably know by now, pillows aren’t made from a single type of material, and the sooner you can understand the traits, the pros, and the cons of each material, the faster you’ll come to realize what are the differences between these products and which are most suited to your needs.

Feather pillows

Long before the days of memory foam, people used to sleep on feather pillows. These pillows are filled with duck or geese feathers. They are lightweight and soft, but also very easy to bend to your own will. They aren’t as heat-absorbing as other types of pillows, which makes them more suitable for people who sleep hot.

For the most part, feather pillows have quite a long lifespan compared to pillows made from other types of material. If we were to compare them to down pillows, they are also less expensive, but they do cost more when compared to polyester pillows, for example.

Probably the biggest drawback of sleeping on feather pillows is the fact that their quills can be rather sharp, which causes them to penetrate the outer cover and eventually cause discomfort. A pillow filled with feathers is also more likely to be noisier and they have a specific odor that you don’t encounter in pillows with a different type of fill. You will often find yourself fluffing up the pillows and shaking them in order to evenly distribute the feathers inside the pillow.

Down pillows

Unlike feathers, down is the soft plumage that’s found underneath the feather you encounter on the bodies of ducks and geese. Down pillows need to contain at least 75 percent down fill. Much like feather pillows, those made with down are soft and lightweight. Their softness makes it easy for the sleeper to tuck part of the pillow underneath the neck, making them a comfortable and more supportive choice for sleepers. With an above-average lifespan and a short break-in period, down pillows have become quite a popular product.

There are, however, a few disadvantages in sleeping on down pillows. They tend to be way more expensive compared to pillows made from other materials. Since they are mostly available in a low or medium loft, they aren’t that comfortable for people who have large or heavy heads, as the fill tends to compress quite a lot under heavy pressure. Much like feather pillows, down pillows also require that you shake them quite often in order to make sure they maintain their fluffiness.

Down alternative pillows

Down alternative pillows are a less expensive option that could still provide your head and neck with the right amount of support. Because they are not filled with natural down, but instead have polyester fibers inside them, down alternative pillows are a cheaper alternative. If you are allergic to natural down, these are the next best thing.

But there are a couple of drawbacks to sleeping on down alternative pillows, such as the fact that they are not durable in the long term. They might not be the most popular option in terms of comfort, and they do tend to create lumps of filling, which means they require shaking and fluffing.

Buckwheat pillows

These pillows are filled with either hulls or the husk-like outer shell that you would normally see in buckwheat kernels. Because they offer a great deal of support but are also more expensive to produce, their price point is quite high compared to pillows that are made from other types of material. They are really good for people who need to relieve pain and pressure point. They also tend to sleep cooler.

Because of their fill, these pillows tend to be quite heavy, so if you try to reposition them during the night, you’ll find it rather difficult. The filling also causes the pillows to be firmer than usual, do those who want extra cushioning are much better off making a different choice.

Memory foam pillows

Memory foam pillows are the hype right now. Made from viscoelastic polyurethane foam, these pillows absorb the heat that your body produces and uses that to mold to the shape of your head. It’s basically like having your own custom-made pillow, only it takes a little bit of break-in for that to happen.

The inner part of a memory foam pillow is most likely filled with shredded memory foam, but there are also models that have a single foam section. Because foam is so easy to work with, you can find these pillows in all three loft options. These pillows are known for their capacity of being able to provide a good balance between support and firmness and are some of the best choices for people who are looking for pressure point relief.

These pillows are super easy to come across both online and offline, and there are plenty of manufacturers that make and sell them all across the globe. They are great for both side and back sleepers, and they produce virtually zero noise.

Probably the biggest drawback of these products is the off-gassing. A lot of people claim that foam tends to have a very specific, chemical-like smell, but that usually goes away if you leave the pillow in a well-ventilated room.

Latex pillows

Extracted from rubber sap tree, latex is an eco-friendly material that’s used to make quality pillows. Latex is a material known for its durability, but also for being naturally cooling. Latex pillows offer a good amount of support and have a unique and dense consistency. They don’t make any noise and barely absorb any body heat.

However, they are a little bit bouncy because that’s one of the latex’s natural characteristics. They also tend to have a little bit of off-gassing, with a very specific rubber-like smell.

Polyester pillows

These pillows are filled with polyester fiber and are generally found in medium and high loft versions. They are popular for being the cheapest option, which makes them quite popular amongst people who don’t want to spend too much money on a pillow or perhaps want some extras for their guest bedrooms. Being hypoallergenic, they are a better alternative to down pillows, which are known to trigger allergies. They don’t require too much fluffing.

However, this type of pillow isn’t that durable and doesn’t always provide the same level of support that a memory pillow does, for instance. They also tend to make a little bit of noise when compressed.

Water pillows

Just as the name suggests, these pillows are filled with water. Because you have the ability to add and remove water, you can basically customize the loft and the firmness of the pillow. That means that you get to sleep on a pillow that’s really conforming and supportive. There is this inner pouch inside the pillow that will carry the water, which means that the pillow itself will stay relatively cool.

However, a water pillow is considerably heavier compared to other pillows. Also, if you’ve never owned this pillow before, you might have a tough time knowing just how to adjust the loft.

Qualities of a Good Pillow

We’re not going to lie, finding the best pillow for you is probably going to take some time and a lot of experimenting. It’s true that there is a line of advice you can follow, but there’s only so much internet advice can do for you. In the end, you’re still going to have to put your head down and see what fits best.

The main rule that you have to keep in mind when looking for a good pillow is keeping your spine aligned. Of course, I like a fluffy pillow as much as the next person, but if your head and neck are not in the right position when you fall asleep, you’ll eventually end up having a sore neck and probably some shoulder pain to go along with it. When you’re lying down, your upper back and your neck should be in a straight line. This means that your head needs to be fully supported and the pillow needs to be tucked into the neck, while also supporting the shoulders to some extent.

If you happen to fall asleep on a bunch of pillows, your spine will be curved upwards. There will be skin creases on the upper side of your neck. On the other hand, if the pillow is too thin, your spine ends up being curved downwards and the underside of the neck will have creases, especially if you’re a side sleeper.

Sizes

Pillows are available pretty much in all shapes and sizes and manufacturers often let their imagination run wild when they create new pillow models. Even so, there are some industry standards that you might want to consider when you’re out pillow shopping. These standards are indicators that will give you hints on whether the pillow size you’re looking at matches your needs.

Standard

The standard type of pillow is probably the most common type of all because they can easily fit pretty much every bed size. Due to their format, they are perfect for average-sized people. A standard pillow generally measures 20 x 26 inches and should have no trouble fitting inside a Queen-size pillowcase.

Super Standard

This pillow is a bit longer than the standard one, measuring 20 x 28 inches. They are suitable for people who tend to switch sleeping positions a lot during the night since the added length will make sure there’s always some pillow between their heads and the actual mattress. A super standard pillow is great for single and Twin beds and they should fit snugly into standard and Queen pillowcases.

Queen

The Queen pillow is the second most popular size, although it bears a lot of similarities with the standard model. The pillow measures 20 x 30 inches and while it does git in standard sized pillowcases, using a special Queen case allows the pillow to properly expand under the weight of your head.

King

King pillows generally measure 20 x 36 inches and they are preferred by people who sleep on King-sized bed or have larger body types. They are mostly recommended for people who often suffer from joint and muscle pain.

European

These types of pillow have a square shape and measure 26 x 26 inches. They are usually used as decorative pillows, but there are people who like to take advantage of their cushioning and use them as back support, especially on sofas and recliners.

Body

Body pillows are narrower and a lot longer, measuring 20 x 54 inches. They are extremely versatile in their nature and are often used to induce a better sleeping position. They are commonly placed along headboards, but people also use them to relieve pressure points.

Travel

Because a travel pillow needs to be more compact in size, these typically measure 12 x 16 inches. They are very popular among toddlers, aside from being used when actually traveling.

Wedge

This is a very particular type of pillow. It’s best suited for providing body support in a multitude of situations. People normally associate wedge pillows with pain alleviation, because its shape helps elevate different parts of the body, for better support. They can be placed underneath one’s head, to elevate the upper side of the body so people can better read or sit in bed to watch TV. They are also placed at the back side of the knees, to help alleviate leg pain. People also use them to elevate the foot area, which helps improve circulation.

Bolster

Also known as a roll pillow, the bolster is mostly used for decorating the bed, but can also be a sleeping companion for people who like to rest on their sides. They were initially designed to provide leg and neck support. Side sleepers often used a bolster pillow placed right between the knees, for some extra comfort.

Pillows & Loft

You might have noticed that some pillows are taller and fluffier than others. In more specialized terms, this is known as “loft” and the loft of the pillow is a decisive shopping factor that comes in direct contact with several other sleeping habits that you might have.

When you read online or come across the concept of pillow loft, you should know that pillows thinner than three inches are considered to be of a low loft, those that measure between three and five inches in thickness are of a medium loft, and high loft pillows are thicker than five inches. Just like in the case of mattresses, pillows that have an average loft are the ones preferred by most sleepers.

As you can expect, choosing the proper pillow loft is another subjective matter, as there are a variety of factors that you first have to analyze prior to actually buying a pillow:

  • One of the very first things to consider is your favorite sleeping position. People who like to sleep on their backs are much better off using medium-loft pillows, as these are the best at juggling with thickness and softness, making sure your head is elevated at just the right angle. People who like to sleep on the side will have this little gap between their head and the pillow, which is why they are best paired with pillows that have a medium-to-high loft. Stomach sleepers are a real special category, mostly because they will put a strain on their neck no matter what pillow they choose. If possible, people who prefer this position should not even use a pillow, but if they really want one, low-loft pillows are the way to go.
  • The weight of your body will also have a say in what pillow loft to choose. Lightweight sleepers, for example, will barely compress the mattress as they lie on top of it, which means that they are much better off using high-loft pillows to fill in the extra space. Heavy people (as in those who weigh over 230 pounds) will compress the mattress further, which makes it better for them to use low or medium-loft pillows. People that weigh between 130 and 230 pounds mostly prefer medium-loft pillows.
  • The side of your head and shoulders is another important consideration. The basic rule here is that the bigger your head is, the more support it requires, which means that the right pillow is also of an increased loft. Consequently, people with smaller heads could use smaller pillows. Shoulders are also important because they could be responsible for creating more space between the head and the pillow, especially if you’re a side sleeper.
  • The position of the pillow that you prefer will also have a say in what pillow loft is best for you. For example, if you like to sleep with your entire pillow tucked underneath your head, you are much between off using a low or medium-loft pillow. If your head only rests on part of the pillow, you might want to get one with slightly more loft, so that you can still feel your head supported when you sleep.
  • Choosing the right pillow is also something that depends on the type of mattress that you normally sleep on. That’s because the weight of your body and the construction of the mattress might cause you to sink into the surface of the bed, or might make you sleep on top of it. For example, people who sleep on soft mattresses would benefit from a pillow with a low loft. Those who have a firmer mattress, like one made from innerspring, will stay on top of the bed and are best paired with medium or high-loft pillows.

Pillow & Sleeping Style

If you would be out right now shopping for a new mattress, you’d focus on finding comfort, support, and contouring. With pillows, you pretty much have to follow the same pattern. A good mattress will make sure that your spine is properly aligned. A good pillow should do the same. A common mistake that people make is choosing a pillow because it looks good. That’s not what you should be looking for. The most important factor is helping you achieve the right sleeping posture.

Back Sleepers

As a lot of physicians will tell you, sleeping on your back is best for your body. This position keeps the spine aligned if your mattress has the right level of firmness and cushioning. People who like to sleep on their back will need a thin pillow, as this keeps their head aligned with the shoulders. If the pillow is way too thin, your head will fall back and put pressure on your neck and the upper side of your body. Alternatively, a pillow that’s too high will put a strain on your lower back area.

Back sleepers are best matches with memory foam pillows (either regular or shredded) or medium-firm latex pillows. Memory foam has this amazing capacity of taking the shape of your body. If you generally feel hot at night, you can opt for a memory foam pillow that has a layer of gel on top or is infused with gel. Shredded foam memory pillows have the benefit of allowing the sleeper to remove some of the fillings, in case the pillow is over-stuffed. In fact, this is one feature that makes shredded foam pillows suitable for all kinds of sleeping positions. By opting for a medium-firm latex pillow, you can benefit from the contouring provided by memory foam and the cooling properties of latex.

Side Sleepers

While it’s not the most recommended sleeping position, it is the most popular one of all. If stomach and back sleepers can use the same type of mattress and similar pillows, with side sleepers it’s a whole different story. Sleeping on the side puts a strain on your entire column, which means that you may need some help in keeping it aligned. The best pillow for side sleepers should be thick enough as to make sure the head is held even between the shoulders. It’s also important for the pillow to fill the gap between your head and shoulders, so there won’t be any pressure on the neck.

Amongst the best pillows for side sleepers are those made from firm memory foam. Since the material already has a reputation for providing neck and shoulder support, you’re almost guaranteed to get the proper spinal alignment. You need a memory pillow that’s firm because the extra loft will prevent your head from collapsing into your shoulder. Another good choice is the latex foam pillow combo. Sometimes, memory foam can give you that sinking in feeling, so if you want to get rid of it, latex foam is the next best thing. Due to its properties, it can aid side sleeper in keeping a straight neck and it can prevent the shoulder from sinking into the mattress too much.

Stomach Sleepers

About 16% of all sleepers prefer to lie face down on the mattress. While this is the least recommended sleeping position, it’s also more common than back-sleeping. Stomach sleepers will often force their spine to bend inwards towards the mattress. Even more, because you can’t exactly lie face down because you wouldn’t be able to breathe if you did, you will have to turn your head either left or right, at basically a ninety degrees angle. This puts a tremendous amount of strain on your neck. Stomach sleepers often wake up with neck pain because they end up sleeping this way.

A good pillow in this situation should be thin enough as to prevent your head from being raised too much over your shoulders. Down pillows should work just fine because they are super soft. The important thing to consider here is the loft because you want your head as close to the mattress as possible and down pillows can be flattened to reach the desired thickness. Shredded foam memory pillows can also do the trick. Because you can remove as much filling as you want, you should be able to customize the thickness of the thickness of the pillow, but still, enjoy its softness.

A Quick Look at the Best Pillows

Buying a pillow is almost as complicated as buying a new mattress. Granted, there might be more mattress options out there than pillow options, but the greatest brands in the bedding industry have now expanded their line of products because they believe that the reputation of their mattresses will automatically

Avocado Pillow

When it comes to latex pillow, the Avocado is basically as good as they get. With its medium-soft feel, this pillow offers plenty of support as it gives you the chance to adjust the loft to match your own personal preference. It’s considered to be an organic pillow because it’s made with Kapok fill, has a vegan construction, and pretty much the required certifications to prove it. Because it’s made from latex, the construction of this pillow makes it more durable, but also really comfortable. It can be machine washed and it comes with 100 nights of free sleep trial.

Original Casper Pillow

Casper Sleep Pillow
$55.58
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You might have noticed that some of the best pillows are made by the same brands that manufacture the best mattresses. That’s because these people do have the resources and the know-how to handle making really supportive and well-constructed items. The Original Casper pillow is a medium-soft product that’s made with a polyester interior. It’s a durable pillow with a removable cover, which makes it pretty easy to wash. IT comes with a full year warranty and 100 nights of free sleep trial.

Boll & Branch Pillow

When it comes to down pillows, Boll & Branch means business. Their pillow is made with down-proof organic cotton so that you will find comfort and softness sleeping even without using a pillowcase. It features a three-chamber construction that fell both luxurious and very well-designed. The down inside it has been washed with certified detergent in order to make sure that it can be as hypoallergenic and safe to use as possible.

Layla Pillow

Layla Sleep Pillows (King)
$119.00
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From mattresses to pillows, the Layla is totally a brand that you can trust for your bedding-related needs. Made from a combination of memory foam fill and Kapok fibers, this pillow feels truly comfortable and supportive. The cover is made from a blend of polyester and viscose, with special addition of copper fibers to make it feel cooler. Because of its superior contouring, the pillow manages to cradle the head and the neck so that you can feel comfortable resting in your favorite sleeping position.

Brooklinen Pillow

When it comes to down alternative pillows, this Brooklinen product is about as good as it gets. You get to choose between three firmness levels, which are basically the same pillow with more or less loft. It’s a pillow that filled with hypoallergenic materials that are designed to mimic the experience and comfort that you get when sleeping on a natural down pillow, only without the risk of any allergies. The Brooklinen pillow comes with an entire year of free sleep trial and a lifetime warranty.

Other pillows to consider:

Conclusion

There is an entire science behind finding the right pillow for you to sleep on. Considering the fact that a mattress is meant to support your body, you can think of the pillow as support for your head and neck. Without a pillow or by sleeping on the wrong one, you can actually out a lot of strain on your neck and shoulders, not to mention the fact that your head would not be resting on a comfortable surface.

Further read: