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Bed Pillows Buying Guide

Because they perform a key role supporting your head and neck, bed pillows are as important as your mattress for ensuring a good night’s sleep.

Types of Bed Pillows

Types of Bed Pillows

Although her methods got her into trouble in the familiar children’s fable, Goldilocks had the right idea. She tried out the different beds of the three bears until she found one that suited her best. When it comes to choosing bed pillows, tap your inner Goldilocks and give the pillows a brief test. But first research the various pillow types to narrow down your choices.

Down-Filled

The soft, insulating feathers next to the body of geese and waterfowl provide excellent fill for duvets, ski jackets, and pillows. Often an expensive investment, down-filled pillows are desired for their uncommon softness, cloudlike loft, and insulating properties. Less-expensive options blend other feathers with the down. With the right care, a down pillow lasts a decade or more.

Down-Alternative

For many people, down and feathers trigger an allergic reaction. So manufacturers responded with hypoallergenic synthetic and natural fibers that mimic the loft and airiness of down.

Fiberfill

Packed with polyester foam or synthetic threads, this pillow type suits sleepers who want the support of a dense pillow or who suffer from allergies. The fiberfill may be in one large piece; several thin, stacked layers; or in small crumbled bits.

Memory Foam

A spongy substance, memory foam molds to the contours of your head and neck. It forms the densest and heaviest pillow available and offers a sleeping surface specifically designed for you.

Down-Foam Blends

Some pillows capture the lofty properties of down and the supportive nature of synthetic fibers by combining both fill types in one pillow.

Eco-Friendly Fill

To purchase a “green” pillow, look for labeling that indicates the pillow contains organic cotton, wool, latex, hemp, or fibers made from recycled materials. These different fills create soft fluffy pillows, but each type incorporates different characteristics and feels different.

Position-Specific

Some pillows are specifically designed for stomach, back, or side sleepers. They offer a position-specific soft, medium, or firm density and may be specially shaped to comfort your body in a certain position.

Therapeutic

If you have a medical ailment, such as neck or jaw pain, or if you snore, a therapeutic pillow may offer a remedy or support.

Product Features

Product Features

After learning about the different pillow types, bone up on their features so you make wise pillow shopping decisions.

Down-Filled

To corral loose bits of down and feathers that tend to poke through fabric, down pillows are constructed with a thick fabric case and may even have an extra inner case.

Down-Alternative

These pillows contain fibers that mimic down. If they hold a blend of different fibers, the label should indicate the ingredients.

Fiberfill

A pillow filled with synthetic threads or foam pieces feels denser and heavier than a down-filled pillow.

Memory Foam

Memory-foam pillows require special covers that fit the shape of the pillow. The removable cover is washable because the foam insert cannot be laundered.

Down-Foam Blends

Typically, these pillows include an inner chamber containing synthetic fill surrounded by an outer chamber containing down. Some pillows contain an inner wall that separates two halves—one side filled with down and the other with synthetic fill.

Eco-Friendly Fill

The various types of fills that constitute a “green” pillow have different characteristics. Latex, which comes from the rubber tree, gives off a slight odor, for example. Cotton fibers tend to mat together quickly. Other pillows hold recycled plastic inserts. To determine if a pillow and its features appeal to you, you need to try it.

Position-Specific

A good rule of thumb is that soft pillows are best for people who spend most of the night sleeping on their stomachs, medium-firm pillows are good for back sleepers, and firm pillows are best for side sleepers because they prop up the head and keep it aligned with the spine.

Therapeutic

These pillows look like ordinary pillows or take on special shapes. The ailment they claim to help is loudly proclaimed on the packaging: “Eliminates snoring!” or “Cures neck aches!” for example.

Purchase Considerations

Purchase Considerations

Keep the following tips in mind before you purchase your next pillow. Then after you purchase a pillow, put it on your bed and lie on it. (For hygienic reasons, keep the packaging in place.) Start in your favorite sleeping position—side, back or stomach. Try other positions if you tend to shift during the night. After a few moments, you’ll know whether the pillow provides a welcome place to rest your head. Finally, consider buying a pillow from a company that offers warranty protection or a satisfaction guarantee, in case the pillow doesn’t hold up over time.

Down-Filled

Each down-filled pillow actually contains a down-and-feather blend, which should be indicated by a ratio on the packaging. A higher down content is more desirable and therefore costs more. Down-filled pillows require specific laundering methods (some are dry-clean only), so follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully.

Down-Alternative

If you have allergies and veer toward this pillow type, carefully study the label to accurately identify the fill or fill blend. You don’t want to choose this option only to discover that the down alternative also gives you problems.

Fiberfill

These pillows sell for a wide range of prices, which may appear confusing. The fill quality and case makeup determine the cost. Pick a fill that offers the desired softness. The case should be made of a supple-yet-durable fabric with neatly sewn edges. Extra finishing details, such as welting or overstitching, add sturdiness.

Memory Foam

Because of their dense foam core, these pillows heat up with your body heat and stay warm through the night. If that’s uncomfortable for you, look for a pillow with a cooling component, such as a breathable case.

Down-Foam Blends

Whether you buy a pillow with an inner wall dividing a down half from a synthetic half or a pillow with an inner synthetic core surrounded by down depends largely on the way the pillow feels under your head and neck. Note the laundering instructions when you purchase the pillow, because it needs to be treated as both a down- and synthetic-filled pillow.

Eco-Friendly Fill

Just because a pillow purports to be “all-natural” or “organic,” doesn’t always mean as much as it should. Buy the pillow from a reputable source of eco-friendly products to ensure the pillow meets the desired standards.

Position-Specific

You don’t need to buy a pillow designed for side sleepers if you are just as comfortable on another type. In other words, your decision should hinge not on a label but on the support and comfort a pillow provides.

Therapeutic

Talk to your medical professional about your physical ailment and ask he or she recommends a certain type of pillow. Some cervical conditions require wedge pillows, for example. Some pregnant women benefit from H-shape pillows that fit between their knees. If you need to purchase a therapeutic pillow, shop a reputable retailer or medical supply store.

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