The Ultimate Guide to Buying Pillows for Your Best Sleep Ever
The right pillow is key to a good night's sleep. Whether you prefer yours firm or soft, pillows provide a comfortable spot to rest and support your head and neck throughout the night. But with so many pillow options on the market, it can be difficult to know what's best for your needs. Pillows differ by firmness level, fill material, breathability, size, and more, and the best fit will depend on your sleeping style and bed setup. Refer to our buying guide below to learn more about the various types of pillows available and how to choose a pillow that will help you sleep soundly and comfortably all night.
Best Pillows for Different Sleep Positions
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a pillow is your sleep position. The goal is to keep your head and neck aligned straight while you sleep, so resting your head on your pillow shouldn't cause it to tilt up or down. If you sleep on your side, choose a high, firm pillow. Back-sleepers will need a slightly lower pillow, and stomach sleepers should go even lower.
The firmness of your mattress is another factor to consider when buying bed pillows. If you have a softer mattress that allows your body to sink in more, a thinner pillow will help keep your neck in line. A firmer mattress might require a fuller pillow.
Types of Pillow Materials
Pillows can be stuffed with a variety of filler materials that range from firm to fluffy. Here's what to expect from some of the most popular pillow types.
Made with goose or duck down, these pillows provide a soft, fluffy cushion that can be easily reshaped. They are typically more expensive and long-lasting than other pillows but tend to flatten over time. Most down-filled items can be machine-washed, but you'll need a large front-loading machine to do it at home.
A synthetic substitute for real down, these pillows are generally less expensive but have a similar plush feel. Down-alternative pillows also tend to retain less heat than regular down, making them a good choice for hot sleepers.
Latex foam or shredded latex pillows are popular for their soft, springy feel and ability to retain their shape. This material also regulates temperature well, but it's not a good choice for anyone with a latex allergy.
One of the most common pillow materials, polyester fill offers gentle support and a variety of firmness levels. These pillows are usually the least expensive option, but they tend to lose their shape more quickly.
Memory Foam Pillows
These pillows can contain a solid block of foam or shredded foam pieces. Memory foam pillows tend to feel firm and conform to the shape of your head while you sleep, but they have a reputation for running hot during the night.
Recommended Size and Number of Pillows
Pillows are both a functional and decorative element, so choosing the right size and number of pillows for your bed is also important. Designer Sara Gilbane bases her pillow formulas on bed size. For a king, she layers king-sized pillows behind standards, behind three square Euros, and a patterned lumbar pillow in front. For a queen, stack two layers of standard pillows behind a pair of Euros and a lumbar pillow. And for a twin, try a single king, one standard pillow, and a lumbar or Euro. If you prefer fewer pillows, simply choose a few in the size that corresponds with your mattress.
When to Replace Pillows
Pillows can last for several years with proper care, but if your pillow feels lumpy or no longer retains its original shape, it's likely time for a replacement. You should also ditch your pillow if it's making you sneeze or causing any neck or shoulder pain. To extend the lifespan of your pillows, invest in a few pillow protectors ($5, The Company Store) and be sure to wash them about every four months.