Choosing the right pillow for you is vital for your long-term health. A supportive, comfortable pillow promotes a good night’s sleep and will help to ensure the health of your neck and spine. It’ll also save you from discomfort and stiff muscles when you wake up in the morning. Even the best bed may not seem comfortable when paired with the wrong pillow, so it’s a decision worth taking the time to get right.

Finding the right pillow isn’t always simple, however. Pillows vary by material, firmness, size, price, and convenience. Trying to balance these factors for your lifestyle can be tough and the wide amount of choice on the market can create some real analysis paralysis.

In this guide, we look at what makes a good pillow, how to choose the right one for you. We also give you our pick of 2019’s best pillows.

Our Top Picks: Summary

Best Overall: Coop Home Goods Eden
Best for Side Sleepers: Helix Pillow
Best for Stomach Sleepers: Saatva Pillow
Best for Back Sleepers: Purple Pillow
Best Cooling: Bear Pillow
Best Down Pillow: Brooklinen Down Pillow
Best Memory Foam Pillow: Layla Pillow

The Best Pillows: Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Coop Home Goods Eden
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Coop Home Goods Eden

Quality gel-infused foam and a winner with sleepers.

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$69.99 USD

Why We Picked It

The Coop Home Goods Eden pillow is made of shredded, gel-infused memory foam and is available in three sizes: Queen, King, and Standard. It comes with a stretchy liner and comfortable, breathable outer case.

As a shredded foam pillow, the Eden pillow can be adjusted easily by simply removing some of the contents. The pillow is machine-washable (even though it’s made of memory foam), hypoallergenic, and comes with a 5-year warranty.

The Eden pillow is popular with customers, holding a 4.5 star rating on Amazon with over 1,700 reviews at the time of writing. There’s a 100-night sleep trial that will let you try out your pillow and returns are free. We choose it as our best for its quality, gel-infused foam, generous sleep trial, and popularity with customers.

Keep in Mind

Some off-gassing may occur while the pillow is new, but this will dissipate with use.

In a Nutshell

  • Three size options
  • Adjustable
  • 100-night sleep trial
Best for Side Sleepers: Helix Pillow
Helix Pillow

Supportive comfort for side sleepers.

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Why We Picked It

The Helix pillow features a blend of shredded memory foam and down alternative. It’s available in Standard and King sizes, and two options: the standard pillow and an ultra-cool version.

The Helix is the perfect companion for side-sleepers thanks to its supportive yet comfortable design, along with its adjustable loft. By removing one or two of the support insert layers, you can find the height of the pillow that works for you, ensuring your head and neck remain in alignment with your spine.

The Helix comes with a 100-night sleep trial and a 3-year warranty. As a memory foam pillow, it should be spot-cleaned and not machine washed.

Keep in Mind

The complex, luxury construction puts it at a higher price point than similar pillows.

In a Nutshell

  • Adjustable
  • Shredded memory foam and down alternative
  • Not machine washable
Best for Stomach Sleepers: Saatva Pillow
Saatva Pillow

Excellent neck and spine support for stomach sleepers.

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Why We Picked It

The Saatva pillow is a hybrid pillow with a down-alternative microdenier fiber surrounding a core of shredded Talalay latex. This creates a blend of comfort and support, allowing your head to sink into the down alternative until it reaches the supportive inner core. It’s available in Queen and King sizes.

The pillow’s outer cover is organic cotton with gusseted sides for long-lasting shape. The cover can be unzipped to wash.

The latex element of this pillow provides excellent support for the neck and spine, making it suitable for a variety of sleepers, but particularly those looking for just a little extra support from their soft pillow. The pillow comes with a 45-night trial.

Keep in Mind

May be too soft for some sleepers, who may opt for more supportive options.

In a Nutshell

  • Down-alternative and shredded Talalay latex
  • Adjustable
  • 45-night trial period
Best for Back Sleepers: Purple Pillow
Purple Pillow

Adjustable and washable support with a unique design.

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Why We Picked It

The Purple Pillow polymer grid offers conforming support to the head and neck, creating a contour effect similar to memory foam. The pillow’s structure allows for passive cooling that outperforms memory foam for temperature regulation.

Back sleepers will get the biggest benefit out of the Purple Pillow, as it will reshape to support the head, neck, and upper shoulders.

The Purple Pillow uses a unique, proprietary Hyper-Elastic Polymer® structured in a grid shape for its design. This offers an alternative to typical pillow materials like memory foam, latex, or down.

The Purple Pillow is adjustable without adding or removing material and is fully machine washable, so it offers a unique level of convenience compared with similar products.

Keep in Mind

While supportive, it may be too firm for some sleepers.

In a Nutshell

  • Proprietary polymer construction
  • Adjustable without adding or removing material
  • Sleeps cool
Best Cooling: Bear Pillow
Bear Pillow

A cool sleep that suits most sleepers.

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Why We Picked It

Memory foam pillows can often sleep much hotter than desired, but the Bear Pillow is an excellent option for a cooler night’s sleep. The Bear is made from Loft-X polyfoam with dual mesh side panels at both ends to maintain airflow. It’s also layered with Bear’s “double ice” fabric that will remain cool throughout the night.

The pillow includes a removable and washable cover and the pillow is hypoallergenic. The pillow comes in Queen and King sizes.

The Bear is suitable for most sleepers as it sits in the middle firmness range, so it can support side and back sleepers without being too firm for stomach sleepers. The pillow comes with a 100-night trial period and a 2-year warranty.

Keep in Mind

Not adjustable, but suitable for a wide range of sleepers.

In a Nutshell

  • Sleeps cool
  • Mesh panels for airflow
  • 100-night trial period
Best Down Pillow: Brooklinen Down Pillow
Brooklinen Down Pillow

A luxury down choice with plenty of options.

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Why We Picked It

The Brooklinen Down pillow is a luxury natural pillow that comes in Standard and King sizes with Plush, Mid-Plush, and Firm support options. This customizability makes it suitable for a wide variety of sleepers. The pillow is enclosed with a 100% cotton casing and the down used is ethically sourced.

The firmest two of the Brooklinen’s three options also include a feather core. The pillows are treated with Ultra Fresh Antimicrobial to kill bacteria.

This pillow has over 800 reviews on Brooklinen’s website, with a rating of 4.5 stars. The pillow comes with a very generous 365-day return policy and a lifetime guarantee.

Keep in Mind

Choosing the right firmness option for your sleeping style is vital, so consider what type of sleeper you are before making a purchase.

In a Nutshell

  • Ethically-sourced down
  • Three firmness options
  • Generous return policy and warranty
Best Memory Foam Pillow: Layla Pillow
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Layla Pillow

Quality adjustable memory foam from a trusted name.

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$99.00 USD

Why We Picked It

The Layla Pillow is a shredded memory foam pillow available in Standard/Queen and King sizes. The memory foam is copper-infused, which gives it anti-bacterial properties and may help to promote a good night’s sleep through the release of copper ions. It also helps to carry heat away from the body, so this pillow sleeps cooler than some memory foam alternatives.

The Layla Pillow is also adjustable. By removing some of the shredded foam material, you can easily tailor the sleep experience to your needs. The cover is made of Kapok fibers, which tends to be airier than alternative materials like cotton and wool.

The Layla Pillow comes with a 120-night sleep trial and a 5-year warranty. Layla recommends to spot-wash the pillow and running it through a machine may void this warranty.

With its quality materials, smart, adjustable design, and the Layla brand name, this is our pick for the best memory foam pillow.

Keep in Mind

Copper infusion and quality materials mean this pillow is more expensive than some competitors.

In a Nutshell

  • Copper-infused memory foam
  • Adjustable
  • Cooler than many other competitor pillows

How We Chose

To select our top pillows, we take a close look at several key categories that will define your sleep experience. These include its support and construction, but also other aspects, like the price or return policies. The categories we look at are:

Support

The ultimate purpose of a pillow is to provide support for the head and neck as we sleep. It’s also important that the pillow can offer comfort at the same time. A supportive pillow without the right level of comfort can feel too hard or resistant, defeating its purpose.

Construction

There are many types of pillow, including down, memory foam, and latex. These all have their pros and cons and appeal to different types of sleepers. We looked at the pillow’s construction to give you the most complete idea of whether this is the right pillow for you.

Price

For sleepers on a budget, choosing a pillow that offers the right amount of support and comfort isn’t always easy. We take a look at the cost to let you know whether the pillow offers good value for money and to help you decide whether it’s a luxury you can afford.

Customer Satisfaction

There’s no series of tests that can guarantee the performance of a pillow in a live environment. We look at the customer satisfaction scores of each pillow, as these give the clearest picture of how well the pillow performs in day-to-day use. Customer satisfaction scores can also highlight any recurring issues, such as poor durability.

Return Policy

Things don’t always work out, no matter how much you find out about your pillow in advance. The sleep test is the only one that matters. If you find your pillow isn’t for you, whether in the short or long term, then you’ll want a return policy that means you won’t lose out. We take a look at the return policy for each pillow so you’ll have some peace of mind while you’re in the honeymoon period with your new pillow.

Types of Pillow Materials

There are numerous pillow materials, all with their pros and cons. Below, we look at some of the most popular and explore who may get the most out of them.

Memory Foam

Memory foam is a synthetic material that conforms to sources of pressure and heat. Shredded memory foam is memory foam broken up into loose material, which can offer similar levels of comfort while allowing better temperature regulation. Memory foam is highly comfortable but can sleep too hot for some.

Down

Down is a traditional pillow material made from the insulating down of ducks or geese. Down is light, comfortable, and soft. It provides good support and can be fluffed back into shape when it sags, at least in its early years.

While down is a natural, comfortable material, it’s not suitable for many allergy sufferers or asthmatic sleepers. Eco-conscious sleepers may also need to shop for humanely sourced down pillows, if they’re prepared to use them at all.

Many down pillows may also contain feathers, as these reduce the cost of the pillow at the expense of some comfort.

Down Alternative

Polyester microfiber has been used as a down alternative for decades. It’s lightweight, cheap, and cruelty-free, though it is a synthetic material. Down alternative represents a popular middle-ground between traditional materials like cotton and down and the expense of luxury materials like memory foam and latex.

However, polyester microfiber can sleep hot and it’s not hypoallergenic, so it may not be suitable for allergy sufferers or small children.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat is an alternative pillow material made from the outer shells of buckwheat seeds. Its popularity as a modern pillow material is rising thanks to its eco-friendly nature and versatility. Buckwheat naturally settles around points of pressure, creating a moldable but supportive sleeping surface.

One big drawback of buckwheat is that it rustles as it moves—so it’s not likely to be popular with light sleepers, particularly side sleepers who’ll sleep with one ear against the pillow.

Latex

Like latex mattresses, latex pillows have gained traction in recent years, though they’ve been around for a long time. Latex can be synthetic or naturally-sourced, but both types offer the same supportive experience. Latex can be rigid compared to many alternatives, as it has a similar solid internal structure to memory foam but lacks memory foam’s conforming properties.

On the other hand, latex sleeps much cooler than memory foam, despite popular misconceptions.

Polyfoam

Polyfoam is an inexpensive alternative to other synthetic foams and it often makes up the top layer of innerspring mattresses. It doesn’t offer the level of luxury available from other synthetic foams, but its low cost relative to other materials ensures it remains popular.

Polyfoam has a lower density than memory foam, so it doesn’t sleep as hot. However, it tends to have a relatively short lifespan.

Cotton

Cotton is another traditional pillow material. Like down, it’s light and fluffy, though avoids potential animal cruelty issues. Cotton tends to wick moisture and heat away from the body, so it sleeps cool. Cotton is also more washable than many pillow materials, along with being naturally hypoallergenic, which makes it a popular choice for children.

How to Decide What Type of Pillow to Buy

Choosing a pillow is more than just a technical choice. It’s also a personal one. Here are a few things you should bear in mind when choosing the right pillow for you:

  • Sleep Position: The three main sleep positions are side, back, and stomach. Each sleep position places different stresses on the body, so you’ll need to take this into account to choose the right pillow for you. In general, side sleepers need higher loft, back sleepers may prefer thinner pillows, and stomach sleepers may choose a softer pillow.
  • Pillow Height (Loft): Your sleeping position will typically determine the height you’ll want out of your pillow, as we’ve mentioned, but it’s also important to consider your personal preferences. Some people prefer to sleep with their head closer to the mattress than others.
  • Body Size: Most people will aim to match their pillow to the size of their bed, but if you’re a larger sleeper, you may want to break from that habit. Choosing a larger pillow can give you more space when you sleep, increasing your chances of a comfortable and sound night’s sleep.
  • Pillow Position: Most people keep their pillow at the head of the bed, but others have more unusual habits. Sleepers who tend to curl up may drag their pillow with them. Some may choose not to have their pillow under their head at all and may choose to keep it behind or between the knees. Some may opt for a body pillow.
  • Sleep temperature: Anyone who sleeps hot will know how oppressive bedding can sometimes be. If that sounds like you, then you need to think carefully about your pillow’s material. Some materials sleep hotter than others, with memory foam, in particular, often singled out for its heat retention. Choosing other materials or memory foam options with enhanced cooling may be vital to your comfort levels.
  • Mattress Firmness: Your pillow isn’t an isolated part of your sleep experience. You’ll need to also think about the kind of mattress you have. If you have a softer mattress, you’ll likely want a pillow with a lower loft, as you’ll otherwise it may throw out the alignment between your neck and spine.

Common Pillow Sizes

You may notice that there are multiple sizes available when you shop for a pillow. In many cases, it’s appropriate to match your pillow size to your bed, but that’s not the only consideration. Below, we look at the various sizes available and who will typically use which size:

  • Standard: As the name says, Standard is the most common pillow size and is suitable for most people. This is typically 20 in × 26 in.
  • Queen: There are various names for the Queen size, including Super Standard or Standard/Queen. This size is a slight upgrade on the Standard, for sleepers who want just a little extra room. Larger or more mobile sleepers may opt for a Queen size pillow, which usually measures 20 in x 30 in.
  • King: King pillows are large and best suited to king-sized beds or perhaps single sleepers who want more room to move. They typically measure 20 in × 36 in.
  • Body: Body pillows don’t fit into the usual sizing scheme of pillows per se, as they no longer perform the same function. As the name suggests, a body pillow is designed to run roughly the length of a body. Some are larger still, designed to double back on themselves to create a “cradle” for the body. They’re typically used to provide support and comfort above and beyond the standard pillow sizes.
  • Toddler: Toddler pillows are kid-sized pillows better suited to small sleepers, who can feel overwhelmed by adult pillows. They often feature child-safe properties, such as anti-allergy filling.

Related Resources

If you’ve found this guide helpful, be sure to check out some of our other in-depth resources and guides:

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Daniel James