- Sleep Help
- Sleep Guides
- How Sleep Works
- Sleep Resources
Buying a new pillow is trickier than it sounds. This is particularly true for sleepers with chronic pain and other conditions that require comfortable, supportive cushioning for the head, neck, and shoulders. And while the average pillow will not need to be replaced for two to three years, expected lifespans vary significantly by pillow type.
There are several other factors to weigh when selecting a new pillow. One important consideration is loft, or thickness; buyers should use their weight, head size, shoulder width, and sleep position to determine which loft is best for them. Another variable is material composition of the fill and cover, as pillows today are made from a wide range of materials. Additional criteria include heat retention, pressure relief, moldability, and price-point.
Read on to learn more about how to choose the right pillow. Below you will find our picks for the best pillows sold today. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner experiences, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
Our Editor’s Pick is the Original Casper Pillow. Instead of down, it features a polyester interior encased in a breathable cotton cover with a crisp percale weave. We found the Casper Pillow offered the same deep, plush feeling of the best down pillows with hypoallergenic materials. The Original Casper has a pillow-in-pillow design. The inner pillow’s crimped microfiber fill interior provides support for the head and neck, while softer fibers in the outer pillow create cushion. The pillow’s 2-inch gussets keep the fill evenly distributed to avoid shifting during the night, ensuring you stay comfortably supported all night long.
Easy washing further extends this pillow’s durability. Simply unzip the cover, and you can remove the inner pillow to wash both in your machine washer and dryer. The design is naturally resistant to clumps, and the Original Casper pillow readily maintains its shape with regular fluffing.
The Original Casper pillow comes in two sizes: Standard and King, and a single “Medium Soft” firmness, making it better for those who prefer a plusher feel.Casper pillows are backed by a generous 100-night sleep trial, 1-year warranty, and free shipping and returns throughout the contiguous U.S. and Canada.
The Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow is our pick for Best Down Alternative Pillow. Down pillows are the premium take on the traditional feather pillow, famous for it’s deep, plus feeling but it is not a great choice for all sleepers. Down alternative pillows use hypoallergenic materials to achieve the same plush sleep experience with a lightweight design. The Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow uses a 100% shaved microfiber filling in place of down.
With Brooklinen, sleepers don’t have to worry that their down pillow will be too plush, though. Brooklinen offers their Down Alternative Pillow in three firmness levels: a soft Plush, a medium Mid-Plush, and a true Firm. The pillow is filled with fluffy down clusters and feathers, enclosed within a 100% cotton Sateen shell. Brooklinen creates the different firmness options by adjusting the ratio of clusters to feathers (firmer options have a more robust feather core). While the Plush is the most squeezable of the three options, all of the pillows can be molded and shaped to meet comfort needs.
While you can machine wash and dry the Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow on a low, gentle setting, Brooklinen recommends spot cleaning to maintain the texture of the fill. With regular fluffing, the pillow will retain its shape well and last for years.
Their Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow is backed by a lifetime warranty and the longest sleep trial of any of the pillows on our list, at 365 days. It’s available in both standard and king sizes.
Famous for supplying pillows to the world’s leading hotel brands, Pacific Coast knows how to make a crowd-pleasing pillow. Their Double DownAround Pillow comes in three firmness levels (‘Soft’, ‘Medium’, and ‘Firm’) and three sizes (standard, queen, and king), so sleepers can find a pillow that matches both their sleep and bedding preferences.
The Double DownAround Pillow features a pillow-in-pillow construction, with an inner pillow of their proprietary Resilia feathers (so-called for their resilience) and an outer pillow of octuple-washed Hyperclean down with 550 fill power. Together, these pillows create an allergy-free, cushiony sleep experience that’s supportive for the long-term. Depending on the selected firmness level, the pillow also features a gusset that ranges from 1 to 2 inches. The pillow’s down interior makes it highly moldable, so sleepers can shape the pillow to support their neck and shoulders, regardless of their sleep position.
The “Hyperclean” fill of the Double DownAround pillow, paired with its 100% cotton cover, produce no odor and gives the pillow some breathability. The pillow is also completely machine washable and dryable.
The Pacific Coast Double DownAround Pillow is backed by a 30-night sleep trial, and an extensive 3-year warranty (although the pillow should last as long as 4). Orders over $99 ship free.
The Brooklyn Bedding Ventilated Memory Foam Pillow wraps a quality memory foam interior within a plush knit cover. This pillow delivers the characteristic hug that memory foam aficionados love. The moldable memory foam responds to the pressure of the sleeper’s head and neck, conforming to provide support as they sink into the pillow’s surface.
One common complaint sleepers have with memory foam is the material’s tendency to retain heat. Brooklyn Bedding addresses this with pin core ventilation, which promotes air flow and helps keep the pillow cool.
The Brooklyn Bedding Ventilated Memory Foam Pillow has a ‘Firm’ feel, and comes in both queen and king sizes. One sneaky feature we love about this pillow’s design is its rounded edges, which mimic the look of traditional feather pillows and fit easier into pillowcases.
The knit cover of the Brooklyn Bedding Ventilated Memory Foam Pillow is washable, but the insert itself is not. Fortunately, memory foam is naturally bacteria- and dust-resistant, so with occasional spot cleaning, the pillow should stay clean and comfortable.
Brooklyn Bedding pillows are backed by a 30-night sleep trial and 10-year warranty. The company offers free shipping and returns for customers throughout the contiguous U.S.
The Avocado Pillow offers superb pressure relief for the head and neck, with a design that allows sleepers to customize the loft and firmness to their preferences. The pillow has a ‘Medium-Soft’ feel out-of-the-box, but sleepers can unzip and either remove or add the Kapok fill to soften or firm up the pillow.
The Avocado Pillow also rates well among environmentally-conscious sleepers. The pillow’s eco-friendly construction is totally vegan and non-toxic, with certifications from Greenguard and Vegan Action. The pillow is organic from fill to cover, with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOLS) organic certified shredded latex, ultra-soft Kapok fill, and a cotton cover. The pillow is made by hand in Los Angeles, California.
Thanks to its organic construction, the Avocado Pillow is extremely breathable, and built to last significantly longer than the average pillow. The shredded latex provides contour, while the Kapok fibers soften the surface, so the pillow feels comfortable rather than dense. The Avocado Pillow also sleeps extremely quiet.
The Avocado Pillow can be machine-washed on the cool setting, although spot cleaning is recommended. It can be air-dried, or fluffed in a machine dryer on cool. The pillow is available in standard, queen, and king sizes. Avocado offers free shipping and returns, a 1-year warranty, and 100-night sleep trial.
Wool pillows offer a distinct sleep experience. They’re soft, durable, and extremely breathable. Wool naturally wicks away moisture, regulating the pillow’s surface temperature and providing sleepers with a cool night’s sleep year round.
The PlushBeds Wool Pillow is no different. Where it stands out among wool pillows, though, is its environmentally-conscious and cruelty-free construction. None of their sheep have been subjected to dipping, mulesing, or other shearing practices that are inhumane and expose the animals to herbicides. The wool itself is also treated sensitively throughout production, and never bleached or chemically treated. As a result, the PlushBeds Wool Pillow is a good fit for eco-minded shoppers and sleepers with sensitive skin alike. The wool’s moisture-wicking abilities make the pillow resistant to mold and dust mites, increasing both its longevity and hypoallergenic potential.
The PlushBeds Wool Pillow is available in standard, queen, and king sizes. Its firmness and loft are both adjustable. Sleepers can unzip the cotton cover and remove the wool fill to better support their head and relieve any neck pain.
PlushBeds offers free shipping to the contiguous U.S. Because each pillow is made by hand, the company does not accept returns or provide a sleep trial.
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.
Pillow size often comes down to personal preference, as well as mattress size.
The table below looks at the dimensions for these pillow and pillowcase sizes.
|Pillow Size||Common Pillow Dimensions||Common Pillowcase Size/Dimensions|
|Standard||20W" x 26L"||Standard (20-21W” x 30-32L")|
|Super Standard||20W" x 28L"||Standard (20-21W” x 30-32L")|
|Queen||20W" x 30L"||Standard (20-21W” x 30-32L") 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||54W" x 20L" 48W" x 20L"||Body (dimensions vary)|
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:
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:
The following table looks at suitable loft options for different sleepers, based on the criteria described above. Please note that the ratings below represent average customer experiences. In order to find the right pillow for you, we suggest testing out pillows with different lofts.
|Sleep Position||Sleeper Group||Low Loft (Less than 3″)||Medium Loft (3″ to 5″)||High Loft (More than 5″)|
|Side||Less than 130 lbs.||Poor||Good||Very Good|
|130 to 230 lbs.||Poor||Very Good||Good|
|More than 230 lbs.||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||Less than 130 lbs.||Fair||Good||Very Good|
|130 to 230 lbs.||Good||Very Good||Good|
|More than 230 lbs.||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||Less than 130 lbs.||Good||Very Good||Fair|
|130 to 230 lbs.||Good||Good||Poor|
|More than 230 lbs.||Good||Fair||Poor|
|Large/heavy head||Good||Very Good||Fair|
|Average head size||Very Good||Good||Fair|
|Broad shoulders||Good||Very Good||Fair|
|Average shoulder width||Very Good||Good||Fair|
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Like water beds, water pillows are filled with water. These pillows offer sleepers to fully customize their loft by adding or removing water to the pillow’s inner pouch.
The data table below compares the various qualities of all pillow types discussed above.
|Criteria||Buckwheat Pillows||Down Pillows||Down Alternative Pillows||Feather Pillows||Latex Pillows||Memory Foam Pillows||Natural/Organic Pillows||Polyester/Polyfoam Pillows||Water Pillows|
|Average Price Range||$50 to $75||$70 to $100||$20 to $30||$25 to $50||$40 to $60||$50 to $60||$150+||$10 to $15||$40 to $70|
|Durability||Very Good||Very Good||Fair||Very Good||Very Good||Good||Good||Poor||Fair to Good|
|Support||Very Good||Fair to Good||Fair||Fair to Good||Very Good||Very Good||Very Good||Fair||Good to Very Good|
|Odor Potential||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Very Good||Poor to Fair||Fair||Poor to Fair||Good||Very Good||Very Good|
|Temperature Neutrality||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||Good to Very Good|
|Weight/Ease of Adjustment||Poor to Fair||Very Good||Very Good||Good||Poor to Fair||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Fair|
|Maintenance||Good||Fair||Fair||Poor to Fair||Good||Good||Fair to Good||Poor to Fair||Fair|
Some pillows are better than others for particular health conditions, like chronic pain or allergies. Like your mattress, your pillow can either alleviate, or add to, your discomfort. If you have one of the following health conditions, keep an eye out for pillows that can improve your sleep quality:
Just like a mattress, it takes time to get used to sleeping on a new pillow. Some manufacturers include a sleep trial precisely for this reason. Shoppers can purchase the pillow and return it either completely for free, or less the cost of shipping. If you’re trying out a new type of a pillow, or not sure you’ll like it for some other reason, make sure the manufacturer offers a trial period of at least 30 nights. That’s sufficient time for you to decide.
Pillow warranties are also something to brush up on before you buy. These typically only cover manufacturer defects, but can last anywhere from one year to a lifetime.
Regular care and cleaning can extend your pillow’s lifespan. Longer lifespans are beneficial for all sleepers, but being able to easily clean your pillow is especially important for sleepers with allergies.
Review the pillow’s care instructions. Down and feather pillows need to be fluffed to maintain their shape and loft. As for washing, most pillowcases are machine-washable, but the pillow insert may not be. Some can be machine washed and dried, while others need to be cleaned only on a low setting, in a front-loading washer, or air-dried. Other pillows are dry clean or spot clean only.
Most pillows need replacing every few years. Is it time for you to replace your pillow? Look for the following signs:
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:
For determining pillow loft:
For selecting the pillow type:
Other questions to consider:
For more information about choosing the right pillow, please visit the following guides on Tuck.com.