The Ultimate Guide to Buying Pillows for Your Best Sleep Ever

Find the best pillows based on your sleeping style and personal preferences.

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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.

Bed with knit throw blanket and striped pillows
Kim Cornelison

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.

navy pink white bedroom blue pattern quilt
David Tsay

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.

Down Pillows

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.

Down-Alternative Pillows

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 Pillows

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.

Polyester Pillows

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.

room shot of bedroom with blue patterned wallpaper and headboard
Annie Schlechter

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.

Best Pillow for Side Sleepers

blue u-shaped foam pillow
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

This pillow features cooling foam and a shoulder notch that's specifically designed for side sleepers. It molds around your head and neck to offer medium-firm support. A layer of gel captures heat to keep you cool throughout the night.

Buy It: Malouf Z Zoned Shoulder Cutout Gel Dough Pillow ($85-$100, Pottery Barn)

Best Pillow for Back Sleepers

white pillow with quilted cover against yellow backdrop
Courtesy of Target

This pillow from Coop is noted for its medium-firm density and adjustability. It comes with extra memory foam filler, so you can remove foam for a lower height or add more if needed. You can also shift the foam around to achieve your desired shape or accommodate different sleeping positions.

Buy It: Coop Home Goods The Original - Adjustable Memory Foam Pillow ($60-$65, Target)

Best Pillow for Stomach Sleepers

pillow with zippered cover and multiple inserts
Courtesy of Sleep Number

A thinner option, this pillow from Sleep Number's PlushComfort line has three layers of inserts you can remove for less loft. The down-alternative fill provides a plush feel and gentle support. One to two inserts are recommended for those who sleep on their stomachs.

Buy It: PlushComfort Pillow, Ultimate ($80-$100, Sleep Number)

Best Down Pillow

oblong down pillow
Courtesy of IKEA

Down is a fluffable, punchable, zhooshable choice for those who like their sleeping temperature even and cool. The IKEA Gulkavle pillow comes in high or low sizes to fit multiple sleeping positions. The cotton cover helps air circulate and wicks away moisture.

Buy It: Gulkavle Pillow, High ($60-$70, IKEA)

Best Latex Pillow

woman sleeping on latex pillows
Courtesy of Avocado

The Avocado Green pillow combines ribbons of latex foam with kapok tree fiber, which provides a soft, fluffy feel. Made from certified organic materials, it's a more environmentally friendly choice than other synthetic options. The zippered cover allows you to remove or rearrange fill to suit your preferences.

Buy It: Avocado Green Pillow ($89-$109, Avocado)

Best Memory Foam Pillow

white pillow with textured cover
Courtesy of Tuft & Needle

A foam core gives this Tuft & Needle pillow a squishy shape while delivering versatile support for a variety of sleeping styles. The soft material is designed to bounce back and retain its shape over time. A combination of open-cell foam, graphite, and cooling gel helps regulate temperature throughout the night.

Buy It: Original Foam Pillow ($68-$90, Tuft & Needle)

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