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Your Ultimate Guide to Buying the Best Pillow

July 15, 2022

Your Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Pillow

Like a supportive mattress, your pillow plays an important role in keeping you comfortable during your night's rest. Your choice of bed pillows can be the key to better sleep quality as they offer comfort on a specialised level. Your pillow's main responsibility is to support your shoulders, head, and neck during sleep. Many times, it can be used to prop up other parts of your body to increase your comfort in a certain sleep position. This means that the right pillow doesn't only have to be cosy but appropriate for its use as well.

But there are hundreds or thousands of pillows out there. How do I choose the best one?

It can be very challenging to choose the perfect pillow that fits your sleeping needs and preferences, especially when you have to consider many factors like the fill material, size, thickness, pressure relief, and other important considerations.

Read on to this extensive guide to have an in-depth knowledge of different pillow types, their pros, cons, and other features to help you make an informed bed pillow buying decision.

When is the Best Time to Change Your Pillows?

When is the Best Time to Change Your Pillows

Experts recommend changing the pillows every 2 years within regular conditions to ensure that what you use is guaranteed to be supportive, clean, and free from harmful elements like dust mites, bacteria, dead skin cells, and other allergens.

Here are some indications that you need to upgrade your pillows:

  • You wake up with shoulder or neck pain

  • There are noticeable bumps and lumps on your pillow

  • Your pillow has visible stains and moulds

  • You experience allergic reactions

  • You can not fluff your pillow anymore

  • Your pillow doesn't support your sleeping position

  • Your pillow is too lofty or too low for your preference

  • Your pillow is over two years old

Below is the list of pillow lifespans within general conditions:

Pillow Type

Average Lifespan

Down Pillow

1-3 years

Feather Pillow

18 months to 3 years

Memory Foam Pillow

3 to 5 years

Latex Pillow

3 to 5 years

Down Alternative Pillow

18 months to 2 years

Polyester 6 months to 2 years
Cotton  18 months to 3 years

 

Pillow lifespans depend on the quality of materials and how often they are used. For example, a high-end memory foam pillow can last up to five years, but a budget pillow may only last for one to two years. To help you determine if it's time to change your pillows, here are some simple tests you can do at home.

The Press Test

Press your pillow and wait for it to return. If it returns within seconds, it still has the right responsiveness to support your sleep.

The Fold Test

Fold your pillow in half and wait for it to return to its original shape. Like the press test, if it comes back to its whole shape within seconds, you don't have to change it yet. If the entire pillow stays folded, it's time to look for a better sleep solution.

The Saddlebag Test

Lay the sleeper pillow across your arm. A pillow that is too old or low in quality will plop on your arm. This is a sign that you need an upgrade.

 

Your Comprehensive Pillow Buying Guide

Fill Material

Fill Material

Natural Fill Pillows

  1. Down Pillow
    Down pillows are manufactured from soft fibres sourced from geese or ducks. The soft down fill material comes from the underbelly of the mentioned animals and is used to create a quill-free pillow. Without these quills, there will be no hard objects that may poke you during sleep. This will help you enjoy a softer and airier down pillow.

    Pillow shoppers love the soft, cloudy feel of down pillows; they're ideal for stomach and combination sleepers or those who toss and turn a lot during sleep. A down pillow is also insulating, bringing warmth during colder nights while remaining breathable.

    However, because of its soft, cloudy feel, which we really love, a down pillow will need constant fluffing to retain its optimum shape. This fill material may also trigger allergies. If you are an allergy sufferer, you may opt for an alternative down pillow that is made from synthetic materials that mimic the light and airy feel of down.

  1. Feather Pillow
    Many use the term "feather pillows" interchangeably with "down pillows," but feather pillows are actually sourced from another part of the duck or goose. While the down pillow fill is sourced from the soft underbelly of ducks, swans, and geese, as the name describes, the feather fill material is sourced from the animals' feathers.

    Compared to a down pillow, this plush pillow provides a higher loft, which is ideal for side sleepers. However, since feather pillows are sourced from animal feathers, they come with quills that may poke the sleeper.

  1. Cotton Pillow
    Another classic pillow fill, cotton, is a light and breathable pillow material for a cosy sleep. While many push through modern synthetic alternatives, many sleepers still opt for cotton pillows, especially those who suffer from allergic reactions when exposed to synthetic elements.

    Cotton pillows are lofty and very supportive, especially for side sleepers.

  1. Latex Pillow
    Like their mattress counterparts, latex pillows are highly in demand due to the optimum support they provide. They are highly durable, malleable, and efficient for those who want a more innovative sleep solution without using synthetic materials. However, you should look out for synthetic pillows if you aim to go for a natural material.

    Latex pillows can be filled with either solid latex or shredded latex foam.

  1. Buckwheat Pillow
    Buckwheat or Sobakawa pillows are filled with buckwheat shells that give a firmer and breathable pillow feel. These pillows are claimed to be very efficient in terms of easing pressure and strain due to their malleable and non-shifting properties. However, with all the advantages of this firm pillow, it's important to know that some sleepers may be sensitive to the fill material. 

  1. Kapok Pillow
    A kapok pillow is another soft and silky pillow made from kapok seed pods. A kapok pillow offers a cruelty-free, soft, feather-like feel, which many use as alternative to a feather or down pillow.

  1. Wool Pillow
    Wool is an excellent material for temperature regulation. Wool pillows are known for providing a comfortable sleeping temperature without the sticky and sweaty sleep sensation.

Synthetic Fill Pillows

  1. Down Alternative Pillow
    A down alternative pillow is made of synthetic materials, usually of polyester fibres, that mimic the feel of a natural down pillow. Many shoppers love down alternative pillows due to their lower price points and hypoallergenic properties. If you're looking for a hypoallergenic and ethically sourced pillow that mimics the feel of an authentic down pillow, a down alternative pillow is a good choice. However, if you love the insulation of a down pillow, its synthetic counterpart may not provide the same warmth.

  1. Memory Foam Pillow
    Memory foam offers a different level of comfort for many sleep positions. Like latex, memory foam pillows are rising in popularity because of their excellent contouring support.

    When bought, a memory foam pillow will initially provide a firmer sleep base but will soften using your body heat to contour your head, neck, and shoulders. This cradling comfort provides the optimum support and pressure relief that many pillow shoppers look for in a supportive pillow.
    Memory foam pillows can be made from one solid piece of memory foam or an adjustable fill of shredded foam.

  1. Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
    As mentioned above, memory foam pillows can be filled with either solid memory foam or shredded foam. This allows the sleepers to create a personalised pillow loft and firmness based on their preferences, while still enjoying the cradle of the memory foam material.

    If you love the firmness of a memory foam pillow, you'll enjoy a full foam variety. If you like to adjust its firmness, opt for a shredded memory foam pillow where you can add or remove the fill material on your own.

  1. Cooling Gel Pillow
    Although memory foam pillows are highly popular and loved by many pillow shoppers, others do not benefit as much with regard to the material's ability to retain body heat during rest.

    If you're looking for a more breathable memory foam alternative, you may opt for a cooling gel pillow. Gel pillows are typically made with cooling gel material combined with memory foam or latex. This allows better breathability while retaining the memory foam firmness and comfort of the fill material.

  1. Microbead Pillow
    Microbead pillows are made from synthetic polymer particles that offer almost the same feel as buckwheat pillows. These microbeads are usually used for travel pillows which are great for preventing strain and stiff neck during long travels.

 

Pillow Size

Pillow Size
Measurements in inches
Measurements in cm

Standard Pillow

20 x 26 in

51 x 66 cm

Super Standard Pillow

20 x 28 in

51 x 71 cm

Queen Pillow

20 x 30 in

51 x 76 cm

King Pillow

20 x 36 in

51 x 92 cm

Body Pillow

20 x 54 in

51 x 137 cm

 

Standard Size Pillow

Standard Size Pillow

A standard size sleeper pillow measures 20 x 26 inches. This is a modest size that many sleepers prefer. A standard pillow is ideal for a single sleeper who does not toss and turn as much. If you're sleeping on a single size mattress, a standard pillow can help you make the most of your bed space.

 

Super Standard Pillow

Super Standard Pillow

A super standard pillow measures 20 x 28 inches, which is two inches wider than a standard pillow. This size of pillow offers more space for tossing and turning while still fitting into a compact bed size.

 

Queen Size Pillow

Queen Size Pillow

A queen size pillow features a dimension of 20 x 30 inches, four inches longer than a super-standard variety. This size is suitable for combination or restless sleepers. Two queen size pillows can snugly fit into a queen mattress.

 

King Size Pillow

King Size Pillow

A king size pillow is 10 inches longer than a standard pillow. This pillow can fill a single mattress. It measures 20 x 36 inches. This extra length is perfect for restless sleepers who need more space to comfortably change sleeping positions. With its big size, a king pillow can also provide snug lumbar support when sitting on the bed.

 

Body Size Pillow

Body Size Pillow

As its name describes, a body size pillow, is big enough to support the body during sleep. With a dimension of 20 x 54 in, it is twice as big as a standard size pillow. This specialty pillow can be cuddled during rest to support your posture while keeping your head, body, and knees comfortable during sleep.

 

Read more about pillow sizes here.

Pillow Firmness

Body Size Pillow

Like mattresses, pillows also come in various firmness levels. While pillow softness is subjective, gauging your pillow softness can help you find your ideal pillow feel.

Generally, pillow firmness is categorised into five levels:

  • Soft

  • Medium

  • Medium

  • Medium firm

  • Firm

A soft pillow has the most "give," whereas a medium-firm to firm pillow supports your head and neck while you sleep. We will discuss the relevance of pillow firmness later in this article.

 

Pillow Loftiness

Pillow Loftiness

What is the difference between pillow loft and firmness? While pillow firmness describes the feel of the sleep solution, pillow loft pertains to the height of the pillow. Pillows are generally categorised into two loft levels:

The High Loft Pillow is a taller pillow that supports the proper alignment of the cervical spine. Side sleepers will benefit from this pillow loft as it aids in conforming to the natural shape of the head, neck, and shoulders during rest. Some back sleepers may prefer a high loft pillow.

The Low Loft Pillow is beneficial for many back and stomach sleepers. This offers neutral support to the spine. This allows stomach sleepers to sleep comfortably without straining their necks.

 

Your Sleeping Position

Your Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position is one of the heaviest determining factors to consider when shopping for a pillow. The size of the pillow, firmness, loft, and materials can be greatly influenced by your sleeping position.

Back Sleepers

Back Sleepers

Let's look at back sleepers as the Goldilocks who need the middle ground for firmness and loftiness in the pillow. The medium loft and medium firm pillows are particularly beneficial.

Sleeping on your back is considered the healthiest sleeping position in terms of ensuring your spinal health. A medium soft to medium firm pillow will help you achieve this proper spine alignment. This will keep your head and neck well-supported without the unnecessary push back that can strain your neck afterwards.

But why not give a back sleeper a cloudy pillow? Some back sleepers may enjoy the comfort of a soft pillow. However, if it is too soft, it may lose its shape and support once pressure is applied when you lie down.

In terms of loftiness, back sleepers will enjoy a medium loft pillow. A pillow that is too high might strain the neck during sleep and may not support the proper alignment of the spine. Ultimately, back sleepers will benefit from a pillow material that is adaptive to their pressure points.

Side Sleepers

Side Sleepers

Did you know that most people prefer sleeping on their side? According to studies, nearly 75% of people are side sleepers and mostly do this in a fetal position.

While the keyword for back sleepers is "medium," side sleepers prefer "high loft" and "firm" pillows. If you are a side sleeper, a high loft pillow will allow your head to stay in its proper alignment without straining your neck and shoulders. To support this, the pillow must also be firm enough to support proper spine alignment.

For a side sleeper with broader shoulders, a pillow type that can be fluffed to be loftier is beneficial to maintaining comfort without exerting all the pressure on the shoulders.

Stomach Sleepers

Stomach Sleepers

While most people are side sleepers, only 7% of the population are stomach sleepers. While it's a rare sleeping position, it's very important to consider the right pillow for stomach sleepers.

Compared to back and side sleepers, stomach sleepers tend to exert more pressure on the back during sleep. This is therefore considered an unhealthy position to be in when resting. Imagine the strain you are giving your back and neck, especially when sleeping with your head facing the side. However, if you find stomach sleeping the most comfortable position, go for a low loft pillow to prevent your neck and back from creating an arch that can ruin your sleep posture. A soft pillow will also allow your head to sink, maintaining the most neutral spinal alignment possible.

Combination Sleepers

Combination Sleepers

For sleepers who change positions frequently, the best pillows are those that can be easily adjusted. Shredded memory foam or latex foam pillows are beneficial for combination sleepers.

 

Sleeping Position

Pillow Loft

Pillow Firmness

Back Sleepers

Medium loft

Medium firm

Side Sleepers

High loft

Medium firm to firm

Stomach Sleepers

Low loft

Soft to medium soft

Combination Sleepers

Medium loft

Medium to medium firm

 

Sleeping Conditions

Aside from your sleep position, your sleep condition may also affect your pillow choice.

The Best Pillows for Hot Sleepers

The Best Pillows for Hot Sleepers

We really love the adaptable feel of a memory foam pillow, especially when addressing backaches. However, since memory foam uses heat to provide the right contour, it may not be as advantageous for hot sleepers. If you sleep hot or sweat a lot at night, choose a shredded memory foam pillow that can give you a more breathable sleep solution. A cooling gel memory foam pillow can improve the foam pillow's breathability. It can also improve the memory foam firmness and responsiveness.

If you are looking for a naturally breathable pillow, opt for a latex foam pillow, which comes with an open-cell structure.

Another pillow type to avoid if you are a hot sleeper is a down pillow, which promotes insulation. A down alternative pillow may provide you with a more breathable solution. Feather pillows also trap less heat than down pillows.

 

The Best Pillows for Restless Sleepers

The Best Pillows for Restless Sleepers

Do you toss and turn a lot? A latex foam pillow offers a light and springy feel that allows you to change sleep positions with ease. In terms of loftiness, a medium-to-low loft pillow will allow you to toss and turn without the feeling of being stuck. In this case, a memory foam pillow might not give you a comfortable sleeping base since it does not respond to movements as fast as a latex foam pillow.

 

The Best Pillows for Back Pain

The Best Pillows for Back Pain

Addressing back pain can be based on your preferred sleep position. Like what we discussed earlier, back sleepers will benefit from medium pillows with the right height and firmness. A pillow or bolster under your knees can also help in alleviating the pain. Orthopedic pillows are also excellent at targeting the pain while maintaining your spine alignment.

Side sleepers, on the other hand, will need a firm and lofty pillow. A body pillow can also help in alleviating back pain for side sleepers. Stomach sleepers may benefit from the support of a body pillow too. If sleeping on a compact bed, a smaller standard pillow placed under the belly can help to create a neutral spine alignment for stomach sleepers. A low pillow will also help in addressing neck pain when sleeping on the stomach.

In terms of materials, the conforming comfort and proper support of latex and memory foam pillows will ensure that the neck and spine are properly supported during sleep. This will help reduce pressure in the back.

 

Best Pillows for Neck Pain

Best Pillows for Neck Pain

Medium to medium firm pillows are mostly ideal for neck pain. However, this depends on your sleeping style. If you are a side sleeper, go for a pillow that is at least 3 to 4 inches tall to prevent your neck from being bent or strained as your head aligns with your shoulders. If you are a stomach sleeper, get a thinner pillow to avoid putting pressure on your neck, especially when you face the side.

Aside from the standard pillow firmness levels, you can opt for specialised pillows that are designed to alleviate neck pain. A good pillow for neck pain is a contour pillow that lets your head sink while targeting the pressure points in your neck.

 

Best Pillows for Pregnancy

Best Pillows for Pregnancy

Sleeping during pregnancy can be challenging, especially when you reach the second trimester when the uterus becomes larger. This is the time when hip and back pains are most commonly experienced. Ensuring adequate blood circulation is also crucial during pregnancy. In this regard, pregnant women are advised to sleep on their sides to maintain healthy blood circulation for both the mother and the child.

Pregnancy pillows are designed to support side sleeping during pregnancy. These specialised pillows help in maintaining a healthy sleep posture while keeping the side sleeper from changing into a back or stomach position. These can also be helpful during postpartum, when sleeping on the back or stomach is not yet comfortable. A body pillow can help a pregnant woman sleep on her side while also supporting her neck, body, and legs. A smaller bolster can also be placed between the legs to reduce the pressure during sleep. In the third trimester, a wedge pillow can provide additional comfort and may help prevent potential heart burns and discomfort. However, this may not support the recommended side sleeping that well. For healthy side lying, adding another pillow to elevate your existing one may help.

Note that your pillow needs may change as your body changes during pregnancy. It's good to look for a comfortable choice as you go through the changes. We recommend using an adjustable pillow during these changes so you can personalise the loftiness of your fill material based on your current needs.

 

Best Pillows for Sleepers with Sleep Apnea

Best Pillows for Sleepers with Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where breathing stops and continues during sleep. Common indications of this condition include snoring and restlessness even after sleeping. This can be harmful to the sleeper.

Specialty pillows, like the wedge pillow, help in providing better elevation that can prevent the symptoms, including snoring.

When dealing with sleep apnea, be sure to consult with a doctor to help you figure out the right solution for your sleeping needs.

 

Best Pillows for Allergy Sufferers

Best Pillows for Allergy Sufferers

Hypoallergenic vs. Anti-Allergy Pillows

Hypoallergenic pillows are pillows with materials and structures that are safe for people with allergies. These contain components that are less likely to trigger allergies while in use. Anti-allergy pillows, on the other hand, are treated to keep elements and allergens from coming into contact with the pillow.

The best way to protect allergy and asthma sufferers from their symptoms is to get rid of dust mites. This means changing your pillows at the right time and cleaning your pillow covers regularly.

It's also very important to check the pillow materials before making your purchase. For example, there are some sleepers who are allergic to down or feather pillows. In this case, you may check into synthetic alternatives that are treated with anti-dust mite, anti-bacterial, and hypoallergenic properties. If looking for natural solutions, opt for a latex pillow with natural anti- dust mite properties.

If you are suffering from eczema, you should prioritise natural pillows, which are breathable and dust mite resistant.

 

Other Considerations

Breathability

Breathability

Nights can be very uncomfortable, especially in our scorching climate. Our bodies are supposed to cool down as we go deeper into sleep. But when the air is humid, the ideal temperature isn't reached, causing you to toss and turn more often. For hot sleepers who sweat a lot during sleep, finding the right position can be more challenging. Having a sleeping pillow that is breathable enough is important to ensure a cool and restorative sleep.

If you sleep hot, a latex pillow is a great choice to provide you with a cooler rest. It has a natural open cell structure that allows air to circulate in the pillow. Compared to memory foam, a latex pillow does not trap heat to contour into your body. If you love the comfort of a memory foam pillow, opt for a memory foam with gel layers, which can improve the breathability of the material. Pillows with breathable covers like cotton also provide exceptional breathability. What we love about cotton is that it is also efficient in terms of absorbing sweat.

Your Mattress

Your Mattress

Our mattress choice is one of our biggest concerns when creating an ideal sleeping sanctuary. Just like our pillows, our mattress choice is also based on many factors. Guess what? The mattress can also affect what type of pillow is best for your needs.

Generally, if you have a firm mattress, your pillow should be in the thin range to better support your sleeping posture. If your mattress is firmer, a soft and lofty pillow can help you balance the feel of your mattress.

Sourcing

Sourcing

Many shoppers prefer to use ethically sourced materials for their pillows. To make sure your pillow materials are ethically sourced, look for brands with certifications for to human and environmental safety.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can My Sleeping Position Affect My Pillow Choice?

Can My Sleeping Position Affect My Pillow Choice

Your sleep position is one of the most crucial factors you should consider when shopping for a pillow. Your sleeping position can affect your posture and respiration during sleep. Getting the best pillow that supports your preferred sleep position is vital to ensuring that your spine is in a neutral position during rest. This also helps you ensure that your breathing and blood circulation are supported. Having a neutral spine alignment during sleep is vital to prevent back aches and soreness that you may acquire during sleep.

Sleeping on your side with a bad pillow may lead to soreness or neck pain since your body will naturally fill the gap between your neck and shoulders when you rest. To prevent this and other serious back pains, opt for a lofty pillow to keep your spine in a neutral position without bending your neck.

For back sleepers, go for a low or medium loft pillow to elevate your head high enough without straining your muscles. A pillow that follows the contour of your head and neck is also an ideal choice to target your specific pressure points.

If you find stomach sleeping the most comfortable, choose a low loft (thin) pillow that will keep your spine in a neutral position as much as possible. An additional pillow under your stomach may help you maintain better posture when sleeping on your back.

When sleeping, make sure that your spine is aligned with your head, neck, and shoulders, to ensure that you will not put more pressure on your body. Avoid any bends or twists in your spine as much as possible.

 

How Do I Know if the Pillow is Right for Me?

How Do I Know if the Pillow is Right for Me

You will know that you are using the best pillow if it allows your body to be in neutral alignment. It also supports your curves and alleviates your pressure points. Looking deeper into the broad guidelines above will help you shortlist your options. Of course, your personal preference will play a huge role in choosing the best pillow.

 

How Do I Take Care of My New Pillow?

How Do I Take Care of My New Pillow

To make sure that you have a comfortable and safe sleep, aside from changing your pillows every two years, you should also keep a clean sleep hygiene. Use a pillow protector to avoid spills, sweat, oils, and other body fluids from getting into contact with your pillow. You may wash this pillow cover along with your pillowcases and other bedding accessories on a regular basis. Fluffing your pillow regularly can also help you maintain the ideal pillow loft longer.


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