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Memory foam pillows conform to the head and neck, offering supportive sleep that changes with a person’s sleep position.
People choose memory foam products for a variety of reasons. For example, some individuals like the soft cushioning that memory foam offers.
There is no conclusive scientific evidence that memory foam improves a person’s health or presents any specific health risks.
Benefits of memory foam
According to some research, memory foam and other pillow materials that offer support and contour to the body may reduce pain and promote sleep comfort.
Memory foam feels soft but conforms to the body, offering a sleep surface that can feel both plush and supportive. People who want neck and head support but do not want to feel like they are sleeping on a hard surface may prefer it.
A 2020 study suggests that latex or memory foam pillows may offer additional neck support and improve sleep quality.
Moreover, a very small 2019 study compared people undergoing chiropractic treatment with those receiving chiropractic and sleeping with a memory foam pillow. The study authors found that the second group saw more significant improvements in neck pain.
Possible health risks
Some advocates argue that memory foam may contain volatile organic compounds. These chemicals may be harmful to a person’s health, increasing their risk of cancer and leading to some other health issues.
There is no conclusive scientific evidence that memory foam is dangerous. However, people who worry about toxic chemicals may want to choose a pillow that is certified as being free of such chemicals.
Memory foam pillows sometimes feel hot, especially to people who sweat in their sleep.
Before a person buys a memory foam pillow, it may be helpful to review the materials it uses.
Memory foam is made from polyurethane and other chemicals that affect its weight and density. This material gives memory foam its ability to conform to a person’s shape and then rebound when the person moves.
Memory foam has limited airflow because it is a dense material. Therefore, some memory foam pillows may retain more heat than pillows using other materials. However, some manufacturers offer memory foam pillows that they have designed to be cooler.
Moreover, some memory foam pillows contain internal cooling gel, which could be suitable for people who tend to get hot during sleep.
Memory foam can also be shredded before it is used in pillows, which may improve airflow.
Individuals may wish to purchase a memory foam pillow with a CertiPUR-US designation. The nonprofit organization that runs the CertiPUR-USprogram uses independent certified laboratories to analyze foams and certify that they are not made with and do not contain dangerous materials.
People can choose to shop for memory foam pillows online or in store.
Individuals may prefer to shop online for convenience and the possibility to view a wider variety of products at once. However, a person should consider checking warranty and returns policies in case the product does not meet their expectations when it arrives.
A person may prefer to shop in store so they can feel how firm and supportive a pillow is before buying it. They may also find it easier to work out which pillow size they prefer. However, those living in rural areas may have a smaller range of stores and products to choose from.
Some things to look for when shopping for a memory foam pillow include:
- Toxic chemical certifications: Some memory foam pillows have earned the CertiPUR-US designation, which indicates they are free from many harmful chemicals.
- Support: The size and shape of a pillow and the amount of foam it contains can affect how supportive it is. People who want more support might choose a thicker, wider pillow.
- Cover and materials: Some people prefer organic or washable covers. Check to ensure the cover is removable and safe to wash before buying.
- Price: Less expensive memory foam pillows may be a better option for those who are unsure whether they like memory foam. However, these pillows might not last as long and may not carry organic or CertiPUR-US certifications.
- Warranty and in-home trial: Especially for more expensive pillows, a warranty or an in-home trial can help a person save money if the pillow is not a good fit for their needs.
Individuals may also wish to consider the position they sleep in and whether they feel too hot or cold when sleeping.
How we choose products
Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:
- Size: MNT chooses products that come in various sizes.
- Price: MNT chooses products that are suitable for a range of budgets.
- Warranties and returns policies: MNT includes products that carry warranties and clear returns policies.
Below is a list of four products a person may wish to consider.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.
TEMPUR-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling Pillow
Best for cooling
The TEMPUR-Cloud pillow is cooler than traditional foam options. It contains internal cooling gel, which will help prevent overheating. This may suit people prone to sleeping hot or experiencing night sweats.
This pillow comes with a 5-year warranty. The removable cotton cover is machine washable, and the pillow offers medium-firm support.
Leesa Premium Foam Pillow
Best for different sleeping positions
Leesa memory foam pillow offers firm support, feels soft, and molds to a person’s body.
The cover is washable and breathable, and the foam contains cooling chambers to prevent overheating.
Reviewers say that the pillow works well for all sleeping positions, including for people who switch positions throughout the night.
Buyers get a 30-day in-home trial and a 3-year warranty.
Ikea Ergonomic Pillow
Best for lower budgets
An ideal choice for sleepers on a budget, this pillow features a slight curve to support the neck and head.
The solid foam core offers firm support suitable for side sleepers with neck pain.
Some reviewers note that the pillow is too small for a standard pillowcase.
Coop Home Goods Adjustable Original Pillow
Best for eco-conscious customers
This pillow uses shredded foam, offering the support of traditional foam but in an adjustable form. Simply remove foam for a lower, less supportive pillow.
The pillow boasts a CertiPUR certification. It comes with a 100-night home trial and a 5-year warranty.
Reviewers say that shredded foam does not retain heat as much as traditional memory foam does.
Some options to consider instead of memory foam pillows include:
- Adjustable pillows: Adjustable pillows come with removable inserts, often containing different materials, to adapt to a person’s comfort level.
- Down pillows: Down pillows offer plush support, and individuals can fluff or move the pillows to adjust their level of support and the height of the pillow. Learn more about down pillows here.
- Hybrid pillows: Some pillows use a combination of memory foam and other fillers, such as gel or down. These pillows offer high support but may feel plusher or offer cooling benefits.
A memory foam pillow is not a medical device and will not treat any underlying medical condition.
A person should consult a doctor if they:
Below, we answer some of the most common questions about memory pillows.
Are memory foam pillows bad for your neck?
A memory foam pillow that is the right height for a person’s size and style of sleeping can be beneficial for the neck.
Are memory foam pillows good for side sleepers?
In order to enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep, a side sleeper needs a pillow that can keep their head and neck in a neutral alignment. This can mean a thicker pillow, particularly for people with broader shoulders.
Some side sleepers may find the firmness of a memory foam pillow very helpful.
How long does it take to get used to a memory foam pillow?
Memory foam pillows gradually mold around an individual’s body. They might seem very firm, especially when a person first puts their head on the pillow and if they sleep in a cold room.
However, since memory foam responds to heat and pressure, a memory foam pillow will adapt to a person’s body as they lie on it.
Some individuals may want to soften up their pillows more quickly each night with an electric blanket or a heating pad or by applying pressure. Typically, people get used to them after a few weeks of sleeping on them.
A memory foam pillow offers an alternative to traditional pillows, molding to a person’s body and preferred sleeping position.
As with most pillows, it helps to try the pillow first and compare how a person feels after using it a few times.