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Best pillows


Written by David Rubin

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Breus

Expert Tested

It’s easy to focus solely on a mattress when upgrading your sleep space, but pillows also play an important role in providing comfort and support. Like mattresses, pillows come in a variety of styles, shapes, sizes, and materials. Finding a model compatible with your sleep style can lead to better sleep quality.

We’ll discuss how a pillow’s loft, firmness, and materials influence the feel and performance of a pillow. We’ll also cover how sleep position, body type, and health factors affect a pillow’s performance so you can find an ideal pillow based on your needs and preferences.

opening quote icon There are many factors to consider when choosing a pillow, but you’ll ultimately want a pillow that feels comfortable and keeps your head, neck, and spine in healthy alignment. I recommend considering a pillow’s materials, loft, and firmness to determine if it’s a good fit for your sleep position and personal preferences. opening quote icon
Dr. Michael Breus, Clinical Psychologist, Sleep Medicine Expert and Combination Sleeper

On this page:

Sleep Doctor’s picks  |  Sleep Doctor’s testing  |  Sleep Doctor’s shopping guide

Presidents’ Day Bedding Sales Are Here!

Presidents’ Day is a great time to purchase a new pillow. Many leading brands offer major sales and discounts throughout the month of February. Check out our list of Presidents’ Day mattress sales for details about the biggest deals.

Best Adjustable

Sleep Is the Foundation Shredded Memory Foam Pillow photo of the Sleep Is the Foundation Shredded Memory Foam Pillow photo of the Sleep Is the Foundation Shredded Memory Foam Pillow


  • Fill Material: Shredded memory foam (gel-infused)

  • Firmness: Adjustable (Soft to Medium)

  • Price: $96


  • Shredded foam creates a plush, adaptive surface for the head and neck
  • Fill can be added or removed to adjust the firmness and loft
  • Breathable cover promotes air circulation to help you stay cool

Ideal For

  • Hot sleepers
  • People who switch between different sleep positions during the night
  • Those with frequent neck or shoulder pain

If you’re in the market for a comfortable, adjustable pillow made from high-quality materials, Sleep Is the Foundation’s Shredded Memory Foam Pillow checks all of the important boxes. Customizable loft is an additional perk if you’re unsure about your ideal pillow thickness, and adding or removing the fill also adjusts how soft or firm it feels.

How Does It Feel?

The shredded memory foam fill is squishy and adaptive, molding to your head and neck to deliver deep cushioning and alleviate sore spots. You can add or remove the foam to customize how thick and firm the pillow feels. More fill makes the pillow feel exceptionally cloud-like, while removing the fill creates a firmer surface with extra support. 

A cover made of viscose derived from bamboo encases the fill. This material is highly breathable, helping to offset bothersome heat retention, and has moisture-wicking properties to keep you cool and dry during the night. You can remove and machine-wash the cover whenever a cleaning is needed. Extra fill is included with your purchase, and you can purchase additional fill in bulk if you need to replenish your supply.

Why We Like It

Our testing team experimented with several different loft levels. We ultimately determined that the ideal profile for any given person depends on their primary sleep position. Side sleepers on our team felt most comfortable with the pillow at full or nearly full volume, back sleepers preferred a mid-range loft, and stomach sleepers only needed about 25% to 35% of the fill. If you’re a combination sleeper, we recommend keeping the extra fill close to your bed — this allows you to easily adjust the pillow whenever you change positions.

We were impressed with the Shredded Memory Foam Pillow’s thermoregulating properties. Although the foam retains some heat, the breathable cover promotes airflow to maintain a comfortable temperature and help you stay cool. Moldability is another strong point. The shredded foam has an adaptive quality, so you’ll notice deep contouring around your head and neck. We also awarded the pillow high marks for ease of care since the cover is fully machine-washable.

Standard and king sizes are available. The Shredded Memory Foam Pillow is exclusively sold through If you’re an Amazon Prime member, your order includes free expedited shipping. Returns are permitted within 30 nights of delivery.

What our tester thinks
opening quote icon “As a combination sleeper, customizability is an important quality for pillows I use, so the Sleep Is the Foundation Shredded Memory Foam meets my needs. I also enjoy how soft and adaptive this pillow feels — there’s a nice cradling effect that helps pressure from building up in my neck and shoulders.” opening quote icon
David Rubin, Certified Sleep Science Coach, Director of Product Testing and Side Sleeper

Most Comfortable

Brooklinen Down Pillow

product image of the Brooklinen Down Pillow
product image of the Brooklinen Down Pillow


  • Fill Material: Canadian white down clusters or down/feather blend

  • Firmness: Plush, mid-plush, firm

  • Price: $109


  • Plush fill creates a cloud-like surface for the head and neck
  • Available in three designs to accommodate different sleep positions and firmness preferences
  • All orders include a 365-night sleep trial

Ideal For

  • People who prefer exceptionally soft pillows
  • Those who normally find down/feather pillows lacking in support
  • Bundle shoppers

If you’re looking for a hotel-style pillow with exceptionally plush fill, the Brooklinen Down Pillow should meet your needs. Three density options are available, each with a unique down-to-feather ratio to accommodate different sleep positions. All designs include a soft, breathable cotton sateen shell for added comfort.

How Does It Feel?

The “Plush” pillow intended for stomach sleepers is the softest option. Containing pure down clusters, this pillow compresses deeply to provide adequate support without elevating the neck too much. Back sleepers should feel most comfortable on the “Mid-Plush” down-and-feather pillow, which provides a bit of loft to keep the head and neck in alignment with the rest of the spine. If you’re a side sleeper, we recommend the “Firm” design, which also contains a blend of down and feathers. This is the densest and most supportive option, ensuring plenty of cushioning between your head and downward-facing shoulder.

All three designs feel relatively soft, and the cotton sateen shell adds to this quality. The cotton is also exceptionally breathable. Pure down fill makes the Plush pillow feel especially cloud-like, whereas the two firmer designs are more supportive due to feathers in their base chambers. The pillow should only be spot cleaned if stains occur and dry cleaned a couple times per year — machine-washing can cause permanent damage. For this reason, you should consider investing in a pillowcase or protector for easier care.

Why We Like It

Versatility is one of the Brooklinen Down Pillow’s defining qualities. Each density has a distinct feel, allowing you to choose from three designs based on your sleep position and firmness preferences. Temperature control is another strong point. Down naturally absorbs heat, so pillows containing this material often feel overly warm, but the breathable cotton sateen cover effectively offsets heat retention to help you stay comfortable. And since down is highly moldable, the pillow is great for snuggling or tucking between your legs.

Shoppers who purchase multiple pillows receive a discount of up to 15% on their purchase. Brooklinen offers free ground delivery for all Down Pillow orders in the contiguous U.S. and competitive shipping rates for customers in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. The company’s 365-night sleep trial is one of the lengthiest available among online bedding sellers. If you choose to keep the pillow after the trial ends, you’ll receive an additional year of warranty coverage.

What our tester thinks
opening quote icon “The Brooklinen Down Pillow is plush and inviting, creating an ultrasoft cradle for your head and neck, but you can opt for a more supportive design if you’re a side or back sleeper. I also appreciate how cool the pillow feels — the cotton sateen shell ensures minimal heat retention compared to other down-filled models we’ve tested.” opening quote icon
Alison Deshong, Staff Writer, Product Testing Team and Stomach Sleeper

Best Value

SweetNight Original Pillow



  • Fill Material: 90% Shredded Gel Memory Foam, 10% Shredded Comfort Foam

  • Firmness: Medium Soft

  • Price: $78


  • Fill consists of a plush yet supportive shredded foam blend
  • Adjustable design allows you to customize the firmness and loft
  • Knit cover is soft and breathable

Ideal For

  • Hot sleepers
  • People who frequently wake up with soreness in their neck and shoulders
  • Side and back sleepers

SweetNight’s Original Pillow is a great option if you’re looking for a versatile pillow. The pillow provides pressure relief and an adjustable design, making it suitable for side and back sleepers who sleep hot and experience neck or shoulder pain.

How Does It Feel?

Available in standard, queen, and king sizes, the pillow uses fill consisting of shredded, gel-infused memory foam blended with shredded polyfoam. Our testers reported that this combination created a plush yet supportive surface for the head and neck with even contouring around these areas.

You can unzip the cover to add or remove the fill and adjust the pillow’s loft and feel. We recommend a thicker, fuller loft for side sleepers. Back sleepers may need to remove some of the initial fill to lower the loft and sleep comfortably. Each order includes a bag of additional fill.

Why We Like It

A Tencel-blend cover is both breathable and moisture wicking, making the pillow a good option for hot sleepers, people who sweat in their sleep, and those who live in exceptionally warm or humid places. The shell can be removed and machine-washed, though SweetNight suggests hand-washing the fabric to extend its lifespan.

The Original Pillow comes at an affordable price-point, and SweetNight offers free shipping throughout the contiguous U.S., though certain remote regions will be charged an extra delivery fee. The sleep trial runs for 30 nights, during which you can decide whether to return the pillow or keep it. Those who choose the latter receive a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty.

What our tester thinks
opening quote icon “The SweetNight Original Pillow is one of the more versatile models we've tested. You can remove or add shredded fill until you find the loft and firmness that works best for you, regardless of your sleep position.” opening quote icon
David Rubin, Certified Sleep Science Coach, Director of Product Testing and Side Sleeper

Best Luxury

Saatva Latex Pillow

product image of the Saatva Latex Pillow
product image of the Saatva Latex Pillow


  • Fill Material: Shredded Talalay latex and down alternative

  • Firmness: Medium soft

  • Price: $165


  • Soft and breathable organic cotton cover
  • Talalay latex for a soft and springy feel
  • Loft adjusts between 2 and 8 inches

Ideal For

  • Side and back sleepers
  • People under 230 pounds
  • Those sensitive to off-gassing odors

Saatva is best known for its luxury mattresses, but the company also produces high-performing pillows. We recommend the Saatva Latex Pillow for side and back sleepers looking for a pillow with an adjustable loft and a medium soft feel. It offers solid support while also keeping you at a comfortable temperature.

How Does It Feel?

The Latex Pillow is designed to reinforce proper neck and spine alignment using a responsive Talalay latex core. The shredded latex is supportive yet moldable, resulting in a medium soft feel. You can adjust the pillow’s loft, or height, from 2 to 8 inches, thanks to a removable layer of microdenier fibers. The optional padding has a fluffy feel similar to down, and the adjustability allows the pillow to support a variety of sleep styles.

Why We Like It

We found that the pillow’s loft and feel performs especially well for side, back, and combination sleepers. However, stomach sleepers may find that the Latex Pillow’s thickness elevates the neck too much. Additionally, people over 230 pounds might require a firmer model that provides better support for their upper bodies.

Our testing showed that the pillow regulates temperature well, especially compared to memory foam designs. Latex is more breathable than most types of foam, and the organic cotton cover helps wick away heat and moisture. Latex naturally resists mold, mildew, and dust mites, which may benefit people with allergies. The removable and machine-washable cover also makes it easier to reduce allergens.

The pillow has gussets on the side to help with shape retention. Shoppers can choose between queen and king sizes. Sateen pillowcases are available as an optional add-on. Saatva ships the Latex Pillow free of charge to the contiguous U.S. A 45-day sleep trial and a 1-year warranty is also included.

What our tester thinks
opening quote icon “The Saatva Latex Pillow excelled in many categories during our tests, from temperature neutrality to pressure relief. The adjustable loft makes it a versatile pick for all types of sleepers.” opening quote icon
David Rubin, Certified Sleep Science Coach, Director of Product Testing and Side Sleeper

Best for Back Pain

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow
Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow


  • Fill Material: Plant-based down alternative fibers

  • Firmness: Medium

  • Price: $135


  • Plant-based down alternative fill cushions the head and sleeps cool
  • Available in two profiles to accommodate different sleep positions
  • Fully machine-washable for quick, convenient care

Ideal For

  • People who are allergic to down
  • Hot sleepers
  • Consumers who prefer not to use products with animal-based materials

The right pillow can alleviate aches and pains — and by the same token, the wrong pillow can worsen your discomfort. Choosing a pillow based on your sleep position is key. With the Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow, you can choose between 5-inch and 7-inch profiles. Both feature designs with a plush outer chamber and supportive core. Our testing shows the latter is thick enough to promote even alignment for side sleepers, while the former should provide adequate cushioning for back and stomach sleepers without causing neck strain.

How Does It Feel?

Down alternative fill derived from botanical matter nicely mimics the plushness and lightness of real down without triggering allergy symptoms, retaining excess heat, or relying on materials sourced from animals. This fill also makes the pillow highly moldable and perfect for snuggling or tucking between your knees for extra lower back support. A natural cotton cover encases the fill. The fabric is exceptionally smooth and ideal for people with sensitive skin.

Why We Like It

Multiple loft options ensure the Plant-Based Pillow is versatile and capable of accommodating most sleepers regardless of their preferred position. We also enjoyed how well the pillow maintains its shape. Many down alternative models we’ve tested tend to flatten when compressed, but the chambered design creates a solid foundation for the head and neck. Other qualities we appreciate include above-average temperature control and easy care.

Standard and king sizes are available. You may launder the pillow in your household machines as long as they are large enough to accommodate it. Wash in cold water with like colors on a gentle cycle, then tumble dry on low heat. Do not iron or steam the pillow, as this can cause permanent damage.

The Plant-Based Pillow is competitively priced and ground delivery is free of charge for customers in the contiguous U.S. Sweet Zzz also ships to Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada, though additional fees apply. Each order includes a 50-night trial period. After that, the pillow is backed by a one-year warranty that covers manufacturing defects.

What our tester thinks
opening quote icon “I love how soft and moldable the Plant-Based Pillow is, but it doesn’t trap heat like a lot of the real down pillows I’ve tried. I’m a side sleeper, so the high-loft model provides gentle cradling for my head and good neck support to help reduce the potential for pain and soreness.” opening quote icon
Garen Glazier, Staff Writer, Product Testing Team and Side Sleeper

Best Cooling

Cozy Earth Silk Pillow

product image of the Cozy Earth Silk Pillow
product image of the Cozy Earth Silk Pillow


  • Fill Material: Long-Strand Mulberry Silk

  • Firmness: Medium Soft

  • Price: $299


  • Breathable bamboo-derived viscose cover
  • Mulberry silk fill has a supple and airy feel
  • An easily moldable design

Ideal For

  • Sleepers who tend to sweat at night
  • Shoppers who value sustainable materials
  • People who prefer snuggling with their pillows at night

The Cozy Earth Silk Pillow is intended for sleepers who enjoy contouring from their pillow but still want to feel supported. The mulberry silk fill is airy and malleable, resulting in a medium soft feel. Despite being highly moldable, the pillow is designed to resist clumping.

How Does It Feel?

The bamboo-derived viscose shell helps draw out heat and moisture, making this pillow a good fit for those prone to sweating or hot flashes. The naturally breathable material has a silky-soft feel, and our tests showed that it kept the surface cooler than many synthetic materials. The fabric is also tested by the manufacturer during production to make sure it doesn’t contain pesticides and other harmful contaminants.

Why We Like It

With its silky feel and moldable design, the Cozy Earth Silk Pillow is ideal for sleepers looking for a balance of support and fluffiness. The supple design is well suited to side and combination sleepers who like to fold their pillow in half. Its moderate loft and medium soft feel are also fitting for stomach and back sleepers who don’t need as much height.

Cozy Earth recommends spot cleaning or dry cleaning the pillow as needed. It can also be machine-washed on the rinse cycle and then tumble dried on a low setting. Following proper care guidelines will help extend the pillow’s lifespan, and the pillow’s specialized weave is designed to help with this by minimizing pilling and premature wear.

The Cozy Earth Silk Pillow comes in standard and king sizes. Shipping is free to all 50 states, and you have 100 nights to test out the pillow. A generous 10-year warranty covers manufacturing defects, including atypical clumping. However, not using a pillowcase voids the extended warranty.

What our tester thinks
opening quote icon “The Cozy Earth Silk Pillow was a big favorite with testers who enjoy molding and squishing their pillow. The bamboo-derived shell also makes for a cool, silky feel.” opening quote icon
Garen Glazier, Staff Writer, Product Testing Team and Side Sleeper

Best for Side Sleepers

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

product image of the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
product image of the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow


  • Fill Material: 75% Latex and 25% Polyester Fiber

  • Firmness: Medium, Adjustable

  • Price: $131


  • U-shaped design tailored to side sleepers
  • Adjustable latex and polyester filling
  • Above-average durability

Ideal For

  • Side sleepers
  • Those who like to fold their pillows in half
  • People with neck pain

The Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow offers good neck support with the option to adjust the fill as needed, making it our recommendation for side sleepers who experience neck pain. 

How Does It Feel?

As the name suggests, the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow is designed to support neck and spinal alignment for side sleepers of any weight category. Its ergonomic U-shape contours the head to reduce neck strain, and the zippered cover allows you to fine-tune the loft by adding or removing fill.

The pillow’s interior is made of latex noodles and polyester fibers, making the pillow both firm and responsive. Latex adds structure and breathability, while the polyester provides a fluffier feel similar to down. Heavier side sleepers or those who prefer extra loft can purchase additional fill.

Why We Like It

The Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow comes with OEKO-TEX certification, which confirms that certain harmful chemicals are not used during the manufacturing process. Latex is also known for its durability, so the pillow should resist premature wear when used properly.

The cover is removable and can be washed in a standard household washing machine to minimize allergen triggers. We found the soft and stretchy cotton-polyester blend to be quite breathable, keeping our testers dry and comfortable.

The Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow comes in one size. Your purchase includes free shipping to the contiguous U.S., with the exception of California. Returns are possible within 45 days of delivery. The company stands behind the model with a 5-year warranty.

What our tester thinks
opening quote icon “The Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow earned high marks from the side sleepers on our team. The unique shape and gentle pressure relief helped keep the head, neck, and spine properly aligned during our tests.” opening quote icon
David Rubin, Certified Sleep Science Coach, Director of Product Testing and Side Sleeper

Best for Neck Pain

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow

stock photo of the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow
stock photo of the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow


  • Fill Material: Solid Memory Foam

  • Firmness: Extra Firm

  • Price: $129


  • Ergonomic design targets pressure points on the head and neck
  • Adaptive TEMPUR memory foam supports spinal alignment
  • Available in small, medium, large, and travel sizes

Ideal For

  • Sleepers with chronic neck and shoulder pain
  • Shoppers seeking a wider range of sizes
  • Side and back sleepers

Waking up with a stiff and sore neck can point to a lackluster pillow. The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is engineered to alleviate and prevent neck pain by encouraging proper spinal alignment. Made from high-density memory foam, the ergonomic design cradles the head while raising the neck at a slight angle. This combination helps maintain the spine’s natural curvature for back and side sleepers.

How Does It Feel?

The pillow’s polyester knit cover is designed to be hypoallergenic and can be washed in standard household machines. The soft fabric encases TEMPUR foam, a specialized type of memory foam designed to hold its shape under weight and pressure. Our testers found that, despite its density, the foam closely conforms to the head and neck to help alleviate tension.

Why We Like It

Shoppers can choose between four sizes, including a smaller travel option. During our tests, we found that side sleepers generally preferred models with higher lofts, while back sleepers preferred lower lofts. The width between your neck and shoulders can also help determine the best size for you. Frequent air travelers with neck pain might also want to consider the travel model.

The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is non-returnable, but a 5-year warranty protects customers from manufacturing defects. Shipping is free for residents in the contiguous U.S.

What our tester thinks
opening quote icon “Like all products from Tempur-Pedic, the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow cushions you where you most need cushioning without giving up support. Not all pillows can balance support and cradling as well as this model.” opening quote icon
Garen Glazier, Staff Writer, Product Testing Team and Side Sleeper

Best Feather

Pacific Coast Feather Best Pillow

product image of the Pacific Coast Feather Best Pillow
product image of the Pacific Coast Feather Best Pillow


  • Fill Material: Hyperclean Resilia feather fill

  • Firmness: Soft

  • Price: $64


  • Resilia feathers are washed at least eight times to remove allergens
  • Brushed cotton shell is soft and breathable
  • Below-average pricing for a feather pillow

Ideal For

  • Sleepers who prefer very plush surfaces for their head and neck
  • Those who might be allergic to feathers
  • Shoppers with tight budgets

Pacific Coast’s Feather Best Pillow is a high-quality option at an affordable price. Our testing team recommends this pillow for sleepers on a budget who prefer a plush yet supportive surface and want to avoid allergens.

How Does It Feel?

Feather pillows provide very plush surfaces for sleepers who prefer a softer pillow. Our testers reported that the fill, which consists of Resilia feathers, did a good job of cushioning the head and neck while also offering more support than down. A crisp cotton shell completes the hotel-style design.

Why We Like It

The feathers are washed at least eight times during production. This process is intended to remove contaminants that can trigger symptoms for people with feather allergies. Pacific Coast backs each purchase with an allergy-free warranty, giving you the option to return the pillow if you experience symptoms of any kind.

Thick piping trims the stitches to keep the fabric intact and prevent rips and tears that might allow fill to escape. You can wash and dry the entire pillow in any household machine, making it easy and convenient to clean. The Feather Best Pillow comes in standard/queen and king sizes.

On top of its low price-point, the Feather Best Pillow has reasonable flat-rate shipping fees. Pacific Coast offers a 30-night trial period and a 3-year standard warranty in addition to the allergy-free warranty.

What our tester thinks
opening quote icon “We've tested a lot of feather pillows, but the Pacific Coast Feather Best Pillow stands apart with a luxuriously fluffy feel at a reasonable price-point.” opening quote icon
Alison Deshong, Staff Writer, Product Testing Team and Stomach Sleeper

Best for Combination Sleepers

Layla Kapok Pillow

product image of the Layla Kapok Pillow
product image of the Layla Kapok Pillow


  • Fill Material: Shredded memory foam and kapok tree fiber blend

  • Firmness: Medium Soft

  • Price: $109


  • Memory foam and kapok fibers for balanced support
  • Copper infusions in the cover are intended to remove excess heat
  • Adjustable loft to fit different sleep styles

Ideal For

  • People who tend to sleep hot
  • Eco-conscious shoppers
  • Those who enjoy a balance of plushness and support

Many pillows are either very dense or impossibly soft, but the Layla Kapok Pillow is designed to balance support with fluffiness. An adjustable loft also makes the pillow a great choice for many sleeper types.

How Does It Feel?

Shredded memory foam is blended with soft kapok fibers for a medium soft feel that contours to the head and neck to relieve pressure. The removable polyester-viscose blend cover has a soft, quilted hexagonal pattern. Viscose is a naturally breathable and moisture-wicking fabric, so you should keep cool and dry throughout the night. The fabric also contains copper fibers engineered to dissipate excess heat. The cover can also be machine-washed to reduce bacterial buildup.

Why We Like It

The pillow comes with a surplus of fill, which can be added to benefit larger people or side sleepers who require greater support. However, stomach and back sleepers may want to remove some of the fill, as these sleepers typically enjoy a flatter pillow. Our testers found the pillow to be exceptionally moldable, which many side sleepers appreciate. This allows you to move around the fill to get support exactly where you need it. Unlike some memory foam models, we found that the pillow has very good temperature control thanks to the breathable cover and airflow through the shredded fil.

The Kapok Pillow is available in queen and king sizes, and it comes with free FedEx ground shipping for customers in the contiguous U.S. Layla also provides a 120-night trial and a 5-year warranty.

What our tester thinks
opening quote icon “We recommend the Layla Kapok Pillow for anyone who loves the deep contouring of foam but finds it too hot. This model runs cooler than other foam pillows we've tested, thanks to the blend of kapok fibers and the shredded design.” opening quote icon
Alison Deshong, Staff Writer, Product Testing Team and Stomach Sleeper

Why You Should Trust Us

Our team of sleep experts includes a wide range of sleep positions and body weights so we can determine the best pillows for every type of sleeper. We rigorously test countless models, making assessments based on important performance criteria, such as pressure relief, breathability, and firmness level. This allows us to help you determine the best pillow model for you.

What Are the Different Pillow Types?

Considering how much sleep preferences vary, it’s not surprising that pillows come in a variety of styles. Materials and construction methods determine key performance features like contouring, loft, and support.

In addition to standard models, there are also a number of specialty pillows designed to address the specific needs of different types of sleepers.

Fill and Materials

Fill and materials determine a pillow’s comfort and support. Each pillow type has its pros and cons, and some are better suited to certain body types and sleep styles than others.

Down and Down Alternative

Natural down consists of the fine feathers of ducks and geese and is used in a variety of bedding products. Down pillows are usually soft, breathable, and durable. However, they may aggravate allergies or asthma.

Down alternative simulates the fluffiness and malleability of natural down using polyester or other fibers. This option is suitable for vegans and those with allergies, but they tend to be less durable than natural down pillows.


Some people use feather and down interchangeably, but there’s actually a distinction between the two. Down is the soft plumage of ducks and geese, while feathers are somewhat coarser. Feather pillows typically contain a combination of feather and down for a more balanced feel.

Similar to down, feather pillows are lightweight, moldable, and breathable. They often appeal to people living in warm or humid climates because they resist heat buildup. Stomach sleepers can also benefit from their lower loft.

However, feather quills can sometimes poke through the pillow’s lining. Additionally, they tend to make more rustling noises than other pillow types. 

Memory Foam

Memory foam pillows are valued for their durability and shape retention. Most consist of either solid, shredded, or cut memory foam, each resulting in a different feel. Solid designs tend to be firmer and have higher lofts. Ergonomic models commonly use solid memory foam because of its density and support. Shredded or cut pillows are often combined with other materials like microfiber clusters to create a fluffier feel.

Because memory foam tends to retain heat, this kind of pillow isn’t always the best match for people who sleep hot. However, many manufacturers use gel infusions or other cooling technologies engineered to improve temperature control.

While memory foam pillows often have higher price-points, they do tend to be more durable. That said, they also produce more off-gassing odors than natural materials like down or cotton. This is common for memory foam products, and off-gassing is generally considered harmless. However, the odor can be unpleasant if you’re particularly sensitive to smell.


Natural or synthetic latex pillows offer moderate to high contouring without trapping too much heat. Similar to memory foam, latex cores can be either solid or shredded. The feel of the pillow also depends on the type of latex used. For example, Talalay latex has a springer feel, while Dunlop offers denser support.

Latex pillows are a good option for those who like the higher density and loft of memory foam but don’t want to risk overheating. However, the higher price-points of latex pillows may be cost-prohibitive for some shoppers.


Shoppers who prefer natural materials may want to consider cotton pillows, which are generally soft and breathable. Cotton fibers naturally wick away heat and moisture, which can help those with night sweats or hot flashes.

Cotton pillows tend to be fluffier than latex or foam models. As a result, they may lose their shape or flatten more readily. However, they can be a good fit for stomach sleepers or anyone who prefers a lower loft pillow. 


Filled with buckwheat hulls, these pillows have a grainy texture that contours to the sleeper. Buckwheat pillows typically deliver above-average pressure relief since they closely cradle the neck and head. They don’t trap a lot of heat, and they’re often considered a more eco-friendly alternative to other pillow types.

Buckwheat pillows may not be cushiony enough for some sleepers, though, and they tend to have higher price-points.

Specialty Pillows

Shoppers can also find a range of speciality pillows to accommodate various needs. 


Neck Pillow

Also known as cervical pillows, these models are designed to support proper head and neck alignment. Most have a divot in the middle to elevate the neck and cradle the head. They are commonly made from dense and supportive materials like memory foam and latex. Neck pillows can alleviate pressure points by promoting better sleep posture.

Body Pillow

These large pillows are at least 48 inches long and are meant to be cuddled. Most are elongated rectangles or horseshoe-shaped. Firmness and contouring depend on the materials, but many use shredded memory foam or down alternative clusters. Some models are intended to alleviate pressure points by encouraging better spine alignment. Other sleepers simply find it comforting to hug a large pillow.

Wedge Pillow

This triangle-shaped pillow is designed to alleviate certain health and orthopedic conditions by elevating body parts. Placing the pillow below the knees can improve leg circulation and speed the recovery process for sports injuries. Wedge pillows can also sometimes help with snoring, sleep apnea, and congestion-related allergies when used as a head pillow. Additionally, some people use wedges as bolsters when sitting up in bed to read or watch TV.

Knee Pillow

These compact pillows are meant to align the spine and ease tension. Side sleepers can use them between the knees to reduce pressure on the legs and hips, while back sleepers can encourage a straighter spine by placing the pillow underneath the knees. Knee pillows are typically made from sturdy memory foam that resists sagging. Hourglass-shaped pillows are geared toward side sleepers, while wedges are more fitting for back sleepers.

Pregnancy Pillow

A pregnancy pillow is designed to make sleep more comfortable for a pregnant person’s changing body. The extra weight gained during pregnancy can put pressure on various muscles and joints, resulting in painful pressure points. A pregnancy pillow is typically an elongated C- or U-shape that contours the entire body. Placing the lower section of the pillow between the legs can help reduce pressure on the knees and spine.  

What Are the Different Pillow Sizes?

Common pillow sizes tend to have similar dimensions. However, decorative and other specialty pillows come in a range of shapes and sizes.

Dimensions (Width x Length)


20” x 26”

This is the smallest of the common pillow sizes and arguably the most versatile. A twin bed comfortably fits one standard pillow, while larger beds can hold two. Standard pillows work with any sleep position, though people who frequently toss and turn may prefer a larger size.


20” x 30”

The extra length on a queen pillow gives you more room to sprawl out. People who only use one pillow might appreciate the added surface area. One queen pillow fits nicely on a twin bed, while two pillows work well on all other bed sizes.


20” x 36”

King pillows are the same width as standard and queen sizes but are longer than both. A king pillow takes up most of a twin bed’s width but can still fit. Two king pillows can sometimes feel cramped on full or queen beds. The more generous size can add extra support when you’re sitting up in bed. However, king size pillowcases aren’t always easy to find, so you may have fewer designs to choose from.


26” x 26”, 24” x 24”, 22” x 22”, 20” x 20”, 18” x 18”, 16” x 16″

These square-shaped pillows are available in a variety of sizes. The design is widely used in Europe as a standard sleeping pillow, but less so in the U.S. Some people use them only as decorative pillows.


20″ x 48″, 20″ x 54″

While dimensions vary for body pillows, most are at least 48 inches long. The rectangular designs are more compact than U-shaped models, which are meant to match most of the length of a person’s body. As such, they aren’t always practical for people who share small beds.

How Much Do Pillows Cost?

Pillows range anywhere from $10 to upwards of $200, so you should be able to find a model that fits your budget. Materials and craftsmanship tend to have the most impact on price, but pillow type, size, and brand can also influence price-points.

  • Size: Price generally increases with size. That said, a luxury pillow model could be three times the cost of a mid-range model of the same size. Custom sizes or specialty models tend to be pricier because they are less common.
  • Type: Not all pillow types require the same construction or craftsmanship. Handcrafted, ergonomic, or more complex designs typically command higher price-points than standard pillows.
  • Material: Material type and quality heavily influence pricing. Down, latex, and memory foam tend to drive up cost, while polyester and polyfoam models are usually more economical. Natural and organic materials can also increase price-points.
  • Brand: While many shoppers are willing to spend more for brand recognition, an affordable generic model is sometimes comparable to well-known brand products that cost more. Be sure to compare different brands and models to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

How to Choose a Pillow

As with mattresses, there isn’t a perfect pillow that satisfies every sleeper. Preferences vary widely when it comes to pillow type, loft, and firmness. The best model for you also depends on factors like body type, sleep position, and health conditions. And because not everyone has the same budget, pricing is also a consideration. 

What Should You Consider?

Shoppers should consider a variety of factors when choosing a pillow, including body type, sleep position, and health concerns.

Your Body Type

Body weight, size, and head shape all affect the way a pillow feels and performs. Sleepers under 130 pounds usually enjoy a plusher model that offers more cushioning. However, a thinner design can still feel supportive for sleepers in this weight category.

People between 130 and 230 pounds are the most versatile and can enjoy a range of lofts and firmness levels. Sleepers over 230 pounds cause pillows to compress more, so they typically require a firmer model to support that level of pressure.

Weight aside, some people simply have broader shoulders, making anything smaller than a queen or king pillow feel cramped. People with larger heads sink into their pillows more, so they usually prefer higher lofts for additional support. 

Your Sleeping Position

Sleep position is a huge factor when it comes to pillow compatibility. Side sleepers tend to do best with a high loft pillow that keeps their head on the same plane as their neck and shoulders. A low to medium loft design can help maintain a straighter spine for back sleepers. Stomach sleepers usually require a thin pillow to keep their head from straining upwards.

Your Health Needs

A number of pillows are designed to address various health needs. Pillows that elevate the head and upper body can alleviate snoring, acid reflux, and allergies caused by nasal congestion.

Ergonomic models like wedge, knee, and body pillows can give relief to those with aches and pains by promoting proper spinal alignment. Pillows with cooling features can benefit anyone who sleeps hot. And people with allergies might want to consider a model that’s been treated to resist the growth of bacteria, dust, mold, and other allergy triggers. 

Your Budget

While higher-quality pillows tend to have higher price-points, there are options to fit just about any budget. Still, a smaller budget will somewhat limit choices, potentially excluding pricier models like latex, memory foam, or down.

Many companies offer free shipping, which can help with budgeting, but it’s always wise to check for price minimums and other exclusions. 

What to Look for in a Pillow

Certain pillow qualities have a bigger impact on comfort and support than others.

Type and Material

The type and quality of materials used determines the feel and function of a pillow. Down, cotton, and microfiber clusters yield a fluffier pillow, while memory foam and latex models have more structure.

Pillows made with synthetic materials are sometimes less breathable and durable than their natural counterparts. If you have allergies, you should approach latex and down models with caution. 

Height or Loft

A pillow’s relative thickness is critical for support and proper spine alignment. Each sleep position has different loft needs in order to reinforce good sleep posture. Body weight and frame also influence loft preferences.

Low loft pillows are typically less than 3 inches thick. Medium loft designs are between 3 and 5 inches, while high loft pillows are taller.

Sleeping Position
What Pillow Loft Do You Need?

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers usually need a high loft pillow that keeps the head and neck on the same level. If you’re a side sleeper who constantly folds their pillow in half, you might benefit from a higher loft model.

Back Sleepers

A medium loft pillow that doesn’t keep the head raised at an awkward angle is best for back sleepers. Those with larger heads should avoid very soft pillows, which could cause the head to sink excessively.

Stomach Sleepers

This position needs the thinnest pillow of all in order to prevent an unnatural C-curve in the spine. Some stomach sleepers forgo a pillow altogether.

Combination Sleepers

Since combination sleepers alternate between different loft needs, an adjustable model that lets you add or remove fill can be helpful. A malleable, medium loft pillow may work best since they can be folded in half when switching to side sleeping.


Firmness indicates a pillow’s feel and relative support. Softer pillows allow the head and shoulders to sink more than firmer models.

Sleeping Position
What Firmness Do You Need?

Side Sleepers

A moderately firm pillow gives side sleepers an ideal balance of conforming and support. One that is too firm might not alleviate tension at the neck and shoulders. A very soft model can misalign the spine by allowing the head to sink too low.

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers typically do best with a medium firm pillow that doesn’t flatten excessively under weight. However, a very firm model could prop the head upwards too much, resulting in poor spine alignment.

Stomach Sleepers

Most stomach sleepers enjoy a soft to medium firm pillow that helps keep the head and neck on the same level. Extra firm designs are best avoided, as they tend to raise the head at an unnatural angle.

Combination Sleepers

A medium firm pillow that is also moldable is usually the safest bet for combination sleepers. An extremely soft or firm model is less likely to adapt to every position equally well.

Special Features

Some pillows boast special features to enhance comfort. If you tend to overheat at night, you might want to consider pillows with gel infusions, open-cell foam, copper fibers, and other cooling technologies. If you have allergies or asthma, you may benefit from pillows with antimicrobial treatments. Materials like latex and cotton can also help, as they naturally resist allergen triggers.

Adjustable designs allow you to modify the loft of your pillow by changing the amount of fill. These pillows are good for people who like to experiment with different heights and feels.

Get the Most Out of Your Pillow

It’s important to take good care of your pillow and use it correctly in order to get the best performance out of it.

Support Your Sleep Position

Support refers to how well a pillow keeps the head and neck in optimal alignment. Good sleep posture is key to avoiding aches and pains the next morning. Material type, loft, and firmness all influence relative support.

Different body types have varying support needs. Heavier sleepers generally require more supportive pillows to keep a pillow from flattening too much.

Where you place a pillow to promote good posture is also important. The best option for you depends on your sleep position.

Sleeping Position
Where to Place Your Pillow


Between the knees. This helps straighten the spine while alleviating pressure points on the knees and hips


Under the knees or lumbar area. This reduces strain on the lower back and helps maintain the spine’s natural curve.


Under the hips or ribcage. This raises the hips and stomach, which minimizes pressure along the spine.

Read the Care Instructions

Every pillow has different care guidelines based on its materials and construction. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prolong your pillow’s lifespan.

Some covers are removable and machine-washable, while others should only be spot treated. You may also be able to wash the core, but this often shortens a pillow’s lifespan. 

Know When to Replace Your Pillow

How long a pillow lasts will vary based on material quality, craftsmanship, and use. Most pillows hold up for several years but start losing their shape and loft beyond this time frame. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for indicators that your pillow needs to be replaced.

  • Irregular clumping or deep impressions: If a pillow’s fill starts to clump or bunch, then you’re probably not getting the uniform support you need. Memory foam pillows with deep indentations or impressions are likely past their prime.
  • Your pillow smells: If you notice unpleasant odors despite regular cleaning, it’s time for a new pillow.
  • You have aches and pains in the morning: Waking up with a stiff neck or shoulders can indicate a pillow that is no longer offering you optimal support.
  • You’ve changed your sleep style: If you’ve switched your sleep position, you may need a new pillow with a different firmness level or loft. 

Boost Your Pillow’s Lifespan

You can extend your pillow’s life by regularly washing pillowcases and, if applicable, the cover. Protectors can also safeguard against bacteria, mold, and mildew, which can degrade a pillow at a faster rate.

Above all, the best method for increasing your pillow’s lifespan is to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines.

About The Author

David Rubin

Certified Sleep Science Coach, Director of Product Testing

David is a Certified Sleep Science Coach with a lifelong passion for well-being and health optimization. His interest in sleep developed with the arrival of his son, when sleep suddenly became a precious commodity.

  • POSITION: Side sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Hot Sleeper

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