Best Bed Pillows of 2018
Supportive bed pillows can help you get a good night's sleep without pain or stiffness. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best bed pillows for your specific needs.
Is Your Pillow Up to Fluff? How to Find the Perfect Bed Pillow
A comfortable pillow that cradles your head and cushions your neck and upper shoulders is one of life's little pleasures. The right pillow helps you drift off faster, sleep more soundly, and wake up feeling refreshed, without aches, pains, or stiffness in your upper body.
But choosing that perfect pillow can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many choices: memory foam, polyester, down—how can you decide which one is right for you? That's where we step in. At BestReviews, we want to be your trusted source for unbiased product information. As a matter of principle, we do not accept manufacturer perks or free products. We do our own research, check with experts, and listen to thoughtful comments from people who already own the product in question.
If you're ready to purchase a new pillow now, take a look at the three we recommend in the matrix above. All are excellent picks. But if you'd like to find out more about different types of pillows—and why one type might suit you better than another—read on. Then get ready for that good night's sleep you've been dreaming of.
The Stuff of Pillows: What's Inside?
What differentiates one type of pillow from another is the material used as fill. You'll find a wide range of pillow fills on the shelves of any bed-and-bath store or website. Although there isn't one best pillow fill for everyone, choosing the one that is best for you is crucial. The following are the most common pillow fills.
Memory Foam: NASA first developed memory foam to cushion astronauts during rocket flight. This space-age material is heavy and dense, inducing a pleasant "sinking-in" feeling as it molds to your contours. Memory foam is very supportive and is especially good for those with upper-body pain. On the downside, it's hot, heavy, and too firm for some people's liking.
Shredded Memory Foam: The new kid on the block, shredded memory foam is a fill made from regular memory foam that has been shredded into small pieces. This means you can squish and adjust the pillow to just the right configuration for your head and neck. The nature of the shred also makes the fill a little less hot. Shredded memory foam is very supportive and comfortable, but it's heavy and tends to be lumpy.
Down: Light as a feather, down has a "sleeping-on-a-cloud" feel that some people love. A quality down pillow contains down, not feathers; feathers are not as soft and billowy as down. Down pillows aren't especially supportive, but they are easy to squish to the loft you like best. Quality down is generally quite expensive.
Buckwheat Hulls: More popular in Asia than the U.S., pillows filled with buckwheat hulls are a lot like beanbags. You can squish and conform the pillow to any shape and loft you prefer, and you can remove or add more hulls until the pillow's supportiveness is perfect for your head and neck. Buckwheat hulls don't hold on to body heat, so they make a great fill for those who "sleep hot." There are negatives, however; buckwheat hull-filled pillows are very heavy, and the slight rustling sound of the shifting hulls bothers some people.
Latex: Natural latex, which comes from rubber trees, creates a pillow that is best described as "bouncy." It molds to your contours and provides good support, but some people consider it too firm. Latex is naturally antimicrobial, but it tends to be quite heavy, and latex pillows are generally expensive.
Polyester: Polyester is what usually fills bargain pillows, although there are certainly some polyester-filled pillows that are supportive and comfortable. Polyester fill is not as firm as memory foam and not as soft as down, so it provides a good compromise between the two. It's machine-washable, which is not true of many other pillow fills. On the downside, polyester can be hot, and it tends to become lumpy as it ages.
Which Pillow Is Best for Your Sleep Position?
Your favorite sleeping position is another important consideration when selecting a new pillow. Most likely, you change position at least a few times throughout the night but tend to feel best either on your back, your side, or your stomach.
If you sleep primarily on your back, you need a medium-firm pillow with just enough loft to hold your head in alignment with your spine. If your head drops back or cranes forward, you're likely to wake up with aches and pains. The best fill choices for back sleepers are polyester, buckwheat hulls, and shredded memory foam.
If you sleep primarily on your side—which is how the majority of people sleep—you need a medium-firm to firm pillow with enough loft to completely fill the gap between your neck and the mattress. As long as it's supportive enough, any choice of fill is suitable. Interestingly, the side-sleep position is the position that puts the least strain on your spine.
If you sleep primarily on your stomach, look for a soft pillow with little loft or a pillow that is very squishy. Down pillows and buckwheat hull pillows are both good choices for stomach sleepers. Notably, sleeping on your stomach is the worst sleep position for your spine. But many people favor this position when they first go to bed.
Bed Pillow FAQ
Q. What type of pillow fill is best?
A. There is not one "best" pillow fill; the right choice depends on your preferences, sleep position, and any specific issues you might have such as headaches, neck stiffness, or upper-body pain. Each type of pillow fill has its own pros and cons, and each is suitable for a wide range of sleepers.
Q. How will I know when I need a new pillow?
A. Typically, pillows are ready for a replacement every few years, but you'll know it's time to buy a new pillow if your current pillow:
● has lost its shape.
● is sunken or creased through the middle.
● is not providing proper support for your head and neck.
● is heavily stained or has an odor and cannot be washed.
● is torn or damaged.
Other clues telling you it's time for a new pillow include morning headaches, backaches, and shoulder pain.
Q. What about pillows with specialty shapes, such as contour pillows and cervical pillows?
A. There are quite a few specialty pillows on the market. Most are aimed at relieving neck pain and spinal misalignment. Chiropractors often sell these types of pillows in their offices.
Two of the most common specialty pillows are contour pillows and cervical pillows.
● Contour pillows are shaped like a rounded letter "M." Typically, one outer curve is higher than the other, so you can select the side that best fits the hollow of your neck while your head rests in the "valley" in the pillow's middle. Contour pillows are usually made of firm memory foam.
● Cervical pillows are similar to contour pillows, but they are raised on all four sides with a central hollow for your head. Chiropractors often recommend cervical pillows to patients with neck pain or backaches. Polyester is the usual fill, and most cervical pillows provide medium-firm support.