Based on 40,523 verified customer experiences from 22 unique sources
Like mattresses, pillows play a pivotal role in overall sleep quality. The ‘right’ pillow can help ensure a comfortable night’s rest, while the ‘wrong’ pillow can lead to added strain and pressure in the neck and shoulders. However, finding a pillow that’s right for you can be trickier than it sounds.
Pillow shoppers must consider several factors when deciding which product to purchase. Material composition is one important consideration, considering the wide selection available today. These include polyester, cotton, down, foam, latex, and buckwheat pillows, as well as natural and organic options. Finding the right loft (or thickness) is also crucial, and often comes down to the sleeper’s body type and comfort preferences. And with six pillow sizes commonly sold, determining the proper length and width also requires some product research.
This comprehensive guide will explore the pros and cons of different pillow types, lofts, and sizes. All ratings have been generated from authentic customer experiences with different pillow products. Read on to learn more about which pillow is the best fit for you.
First, let’s discuss common pillow sizes. Most pillows sold today come in one or more of the following six sizes: Standard, Super Standard, Queen, King, Euro, or Body Pillow. Additionally, there are corresponding pillowcase sizes; generally speaking, the pillowcase is one to two inches wider and two to four inches longer than the pillow itself.
The table below looks at the dimensions for these pillow and pillowcase sizes.
|Pillow Size||Dimensions||Pillow Case Size and Dimensions|
|Standard||20W” x 26L”||Standard (20-21W” x 30-32″L)|
|Super Standard||20W” x 28L”||Standard (20-21W” x 30-32″L)|
|Queen||20W” x 30L”||Standard (20-21W” x 30-32″L)|
Queen (20-22W” x 30-34L”)
|King||20W” x 36L”||King (20-21W” x 36-41″L)|
|Euro||26W” x 26L”|
24W” x 24L”
22W” x 22L”
20W” x 20L”
18W” x 18L”
16W” x 16L”
|Euro (dimensions vary)|
|Body Pillow||54W” x 20L”|
48W” x 20L”
|Body pillow (dimensions vary)|
Pillow size often comes down to personal preference, as well as mattress size.
- Standard is the most common size for pillows sold today. With the exception of smaller Euro sizes, Standard-size pillows are typically the shortest and most compact options. They also tend to be the least expensive. One Standard pillow is usually sufficient for Twin- or Full-size mattresses, while two Standard pillows will be sufficient for most Queen- and King-size mattresses.
- Super Standard pillows are a slightly longer option for sleepers who find Standard-size pillows to be too compact.
- Queen pillows provide extra room on both sides of the head, making this size suitable for people who toss and turn or shift positions during the night.
- Like Queen-size pillows, King pillows offer extra room on both sides of the head make this size suitable for people that toss and turn. They can also serve as back rests for people who are sitting up in bed.
- Euro pillows come in a wide range of different dimensions, but as a general rule, they are always square-shaped. Their size is most suitable as backrests or headrests for people who read in bed. In Europe, these are widely used as primary sleep pillows as well.
- Body Pillows are designed for sleepers who prefer to snuggle or hold onto their pillow while sleeping. They are popular with side-sleepers, as well as pregnant women.
Loft refers to the height, or thickness, of a pillow, and is linked to how supportive and comfortable the pillow will feel for different sleepers. Loft is generally categorized using the following three categories:
- Low loft pillows are less than three inches thick.
- Medium loft pillows fall between three and five inches thick.
- High loft pillows are more than five inches thick.
Most sleepers will not feel comfortable on pillows with exceptionally low or exceptionally high lofts, but this will come down to personal preferences. The following factors can be used to determine the proper pillow loft for different sleepers:
- Sleep position: Back-sleepers tend to enjoy medium-loft pillows the most because they provide a balance of softness and thickness. Side-sleepers, on the other hand, typically have extra space between their head and the pillow due to their position. As a result, they usually feel the most comfortable on pillows that are medium- or high-loft. Stomach-sleepers may not require a pillow at all, since there is not as much space between their head and the surface of the bed; low- to medium-loft pillows are usually sufficient for stomach-sleepers that prefer extra cushioning.
- Pillow position: Some people prefer to sleep with their head completely under their head. These sleepers typically feel the most comfort and support from a low- to medium-loft pillow. Those who sleep with pillows partially underneath their heads may require higher loft to compensate for areas of the head that are not supported.
- Body weight: People with above-average weights (more than 230 pounds) compress mattresses to a greater extent, resulting in less space between their head and the sleep surface. They tend to prefer low- to medium-loft pillows. Lightweight sleepers (less than 130 pounds) do not compress mattresses as much, and often require high-loft pillows to fill the extra space. Those with average weights (130 to 230 pounds) usually feel most comfortable with medium-loft pillows.
- Body type: Several body type factors can be used to find the right pillow loft. Head size is one of these considerations; those with larger and/or heavier heads often prefer high-loft pillows because they provide extra comfort and support, while those with smaller and/or lighter heads does not require as much loft. Shoulder width is also important, since wide shoulders create extra space between the sleeper’s head and the pillow, requiring extra loft.
- Mattress type: Some mattresses (such as foam and latex models) are designed to sink deeply beneath the sleeper’s body. For these mattresses, low-loft pillows are usually sufficient. For innersprings and other mattresses that do not sink as much, a medium- to high-loft pillow may be necessary to provide adequate comfort and support. In addition to mattress type, mattress firmness may also play a role in determining the right loft.
The following table looks at suitable loft options for different sleepers, based on the criteria described above.
|Sleep Position||Criteria||Low Loft (Less than 3 in.)||Medium Loft (3 to 5 in.)||High Loft (More than 5 in.)|
|Side Sleeping||Below-average Weight||Poor||Good||Very Good|
|Average Weight||Poor||Very Good||Good|
|Above-average Weight||Fair||Very Good||Good|
|Large/Heavy Head||Poor||Fair||Very Good|
|Average Head Size||Fair||Very Good||Very Good|
|Small/Light Head||Fair||Very Good||Good|
|Broad Shoulders||Poor||Good||Very Good|
|Average Shoulder Width||Fair||Very Good||Very Good|
|Narrow Shoulders||Fair||Very Good||Good|
|Back Sleeping||Below-average Weight||Fair||Good||Very Good|
|Average Weight||Good||Very Good||Good|
|Above-average Weight||Very Good||Good||Fair|
|Large/Heavy Head||Fair||Good||Very Good|
|Average Head Size||Good||Very Good||Good|
|Small/Light Head||Very Good||Good||Fair|
|Broad Shoulders||Fair||Very Good||Very Good|
|Average Shoulder Width||Good||Very Good||Good|
|Narrow Shoulders||Very Good||Good||Good|
|Stomach Sleeping||Below-average Weight||Good||Very Good||Fair|
|Large/Heavy Head||Good||Very Good||Fair|
|Average Head||Very Good||Good||Fair|
|Broad Shoulders||Good||Very Good||Fair|
|Average Shoulder Width||Very Good||Good||Fair|
Please note that the ratings above represent average customer experiences. In order to find the right pillow for you, we suggest testing out pillows with different lofts.
Pillows by Type
Now that we have discussed pillow sizes and loft options, let’s look at types of pillows that are sold today. The most common pillow types include the following (listed in alphabetical order):
- Buckwheat: Buckwheat pillows are filled with hulls, or the husk-like outer shell found around buckwheat kernels. Most are designed to contain between five and 10 pounds of buckwheat hull.
- Buckwheat pillows offer above-average support.
- Many buckwheat pillow manufacturers offer customizable fill capacities to accommodate different sleepers.
- Buckwheat pillows have been linked to pain and pressure relief.
- Buckwheat pillows do not absorb as much body heat as other pillow types.
- Buckwheat pillows often have above-average price-points, with some costing upward of $100 per pillow.
- The above-average firmness of buckwheat pillows may not be suitable for certain sleepers that require extra cushioning, such as side-sleepers and those who weigh less than 130 pounds.
- Because they tend to weigh more than other pillows (five to 10 pounds on average), buckwheat pillows may be more difficult to maneuver and reposition during the night.
- Down: The term ‘down’ refers to the plumage (but not the feathers) of ducks or geese. In order to be considered a ‘down pillow’, the pillow must contain at least 75% down and no more than 25% feather fill.
- Down pillows are exceptionally lightweight and malleable beneath the sleeper’s head and neck, resulting in higher levels of overall comfort.
- Down pillows absorb some body heat but not as much as other pillow types, which can elevate comfort during colder times of the year.
- The break-in period for most down pillows is relatively short, while the lifespan is often above-average.
- Down pillows are among the most expensive pillows sold today, with high-end models selling for as much as $200 or more.
- Down pillows are typically low- to medium-loft, which may make them less suitable for sleepers with large/heavy heads or broad shoulders, as well as some side-sleepers.
- Due to their fill structure, down pillows may need to be shaken or fluffed out on a regular basis in order to ensure proper comfort and support.
- Down carries an allergy risk for some sleepers, and the material may emit an unpleasant smell.
- Down alternative: Most ‘down alternative’ pillows are made from polyester fibers designed to mimic the soft, lightweight qualities of genuine down. As a result, most sleepers note close similarities in comfort and support between genuine and faux down.
- Down alternative pillows are usually much cheaper than genuine down pillows.
- Faux down may be more suitable for sleepers that experience down allergies.
- Down alternative pillows generally provide the same softness and malleability as their genuine down counterparts, and have short break-in periods.
- Down alternative pillows are not as durable as genuine down pillows.
- A significant number of sleepers report increased pain and pressure after a few years of using down alternative pillows.
- Like genuine down pillows, down alternative pillows can become misshapen somewhat easily and often require fluffing or shaking to maintain a full, comfortable shape.
- Feather: Not to be confused with down pillows, which are primarily made from goose or duck plumage, feather pillows (as the name suggests) are almost entirely made of goose or duck feathers. In most cases, down will comprise less than 10% of a feather pillow — and many do not contain any down whatsoever. Most feather pillows are classified as low- to medium-loft.
- Like down pillows, feather pillows are relatively soft, lightweight, and malleable.
- Feather pillows absorb less heat compared to other pillow types.
- In terms of durability, most feather pillows have lifespans that are significantly longer than other pillow types.
- Feather pillows tend to be much cheaper than down pillows, though their price-point may be higher than other pillow types (such as down alternative or polyester).
- Unlike down, feathers have sharp quills at their base that may poke through the outer cover, resulting in discomfort and above-average noise due to crunching.
- Feather pillows often produce an unpleasant odor that is normally not found in down pillows.
- Shaking or fluffing is often required to maintain a uniform shape in feather pillows, and their relatively low loft may not be suitable for certain sleepers.
- Latex: Latex is a natural substance that is extracted from the sap of rubber trees and whipped into a frothy material that conforms closely. They provide support and alleviate pressure to roughly the same extent as memory foam pillows. Most latex pillows are medium- to high-loft, and are available in different firmness ratings.
- Latex has been linked to above-average pain and pressure relief, and most owners claim latex pillows offer good support.
- Unlike other pillow types (such as down, feather, or shredded memory foam), latex maintains a consistently uniform shape, and these pillows do not require much fluffing or shaking.
- Latex pillows are virtually silent when bearing weight, and absorb minimal levels of body heat.
- Latex pillows tend to be somewhat expensive; the average model costs between $40 and $60.
- Latex pillows can be relatively dense and somewhat bouncy, and may not be suitable for sleepers who prefer a lighter, more stable pillow surface.
- Latex pillows have been linked to unpleasant rubber-like smells, as well.
- Memory Foam: Memory foam (also known as viscoelastic polyurethane foam) is designed to conform deeply and create a cradle-shaped impression around the sleeper’s head, neck and shoulders. Two types of memory foam pillows are available. The first type is filled with shredded foam fibers, while the second type consists of a single section of foam. Memory foam pillows may be available in low-, medium- or high-loft designs.
- Memory foam offers a good balance of firmness and support for most sleepers, and these pillows have been linked to pain and pressure relief.
- Memory foam pillows are suitable for most side- and back-sleepers, as well as sleepers with different weights and body types, and are widely available to online and brick-and-mortar shoppers.
- Memory foam pillows produce little to no noise,.
- Off-gassing odors are associated with memory foam; expect unpleasant smells to linger for at least one to two days after the pillow has been removed from its packaging.
- Memory foam pillows also have high price-points compared to other pillow types; the average shredded or one-piece memory foam pillow costs between $50 and $60.
- Natural and organic: The terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ refer to pillows made entirely from natural fibers with no synthetic or petrochemical components. Examples include pillows made of natural or organic cotton, organic wool, or silk. Pillows made entirely of natural or organic latex also fall under this category.
- Natural and organic fibers tend to offer exceptional softness that is hard to find in synthetic materials, and the result is a pillow that is more comfortable and supportive than most.
- Natural fibers are highly breathable.
- In most cases, natural and organic pillows absorb much less heat than pillows made of polyester or foam.
- Natural and organic pillows are usually very expensive, and shoppers should expect to pay at least $100 to $150; some models cost more than $500.
- Natural and organic pillows are not as widely available as other pillow types.
- Polyester: Polyester pillows (as the name implies) are entirely filled with polyester fibers. Most are medium- to high-loft, though some low-loft polyester options are also available.
- Polyester pillows are typically the cheapest option, with the average model priced between $10 and $15. They are also widely available.
- The polyester fibers used in pillows are hypoallergenic, which make them suitable for sleepers who are allergic to other pillow materials (such as latex or down).
- Polyester pillows produce little to no odor.
- Polyester pillows are easier to maintain, and require less fluffing or shaking.
- Polyester pillows are not particularly durable, and many owners claim the pillow becomes flat or misshapen after minimal use.
- Polyester pillows are associated with less pain and pressure relief, and they may also absorb high levels of body heat.
- Many polyester pillow owners report above-average noise when they are bearing weight.
Pillow Type Comparison
The data table below compares the various qualities of all pillow types discussed above.
|Criteria||Buckwheat||Down||Down Alternative||Feather||Latex||Memory Foam||Natural and Organic||Polyester|
|Average Price||$50 to $75||$70 to $100||$20 to $30||$25 to $50||$40 to $60||$50 to $60||$150+||$10 to $15|
|Durability||Very Good||Very Good||Fair||Very Good||Very Good||Good||Good||Poor|
|Support||Very Good||Fair to Good||Fair||Fair to Good||Very Good||Very Good||Very Good||Fair|
|Firmness||Fair to Good||Good||Fair to Good||Fair||Good||Good||Good||Good|
|Odor||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Very Good||Poor to Fair||Fair||Poor to Fair||Good||Very Good|
|Body Heat Retention||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good|
|Lightweight||Poor to Fair||Very Good||Very Good||Good||Poor to Fair||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good|
|Maintenance||Good||Fair||Fair||Poor to Fair||Good||Good||Fair to Good||Poor to Fair|
In order to find a pillow that matches your sleep preferences, be sure to take the following considerations into account:
- For choosing the pillow size:
- How large is your current mattress?
- Do you prefer pillows that are compact, long, or somewhere in between?
- Do you sleep with your head completely or partially on the pillow?
- Do you tend to toss and turn or shift positions during the night?
- Do you sit up in bed to read, work, or watch television?
- For determining pillow loft:
- Do you sleep on your back, stomach, or side?
- What is your bodyweight?
- Is your head large and/or heavy, small and/or light, or average-sized?
- Are your shoulders broad, narrow, or average-sized?
- What type of mattress do you sleep on?
- How firm is your current mattress?
- Do you sleep with your head entirely or partially on the pillow?
- For selecting the pillow type:
- What is your pillow-shopping budget?
- Do you require pillows that will perform for a certain length of time?
- Do you experience above-average pain in your neck or shoulders?
- Do you require a pillow that alleviates pressure?
- What firmness rating do you prefer?
- Are you allergic to any materials used in pillows, such as latex or down?
- Do you tend to sleep hot?
- Are you willing to hand wash your pillows or have them dry-cleaned, or would you rather have a pillow that is machine washable?
- Do you require customizable loft?