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Pillows come in different shapes, sizes, and levels of firmness, with a range of filling materials.

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When choosing a pillow, it can help to consider a person’s preferred sleeping position, any allergies, and any pain they experience during sleep.

This article explores the types of pillows, lists some options, and provides general tips for improving sleep quality.

Pillows can contain various materials, and what works for one person may not for another. A pillow may comprise the below materials.

Microfiber

Microfiber pillows contain fine strands of synthetic material such as polyester or nylon. These may be a more affordable option and are easy to take care of at home, but they may need replacing every few years.

Microfiber pillows come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. However, they are not the most breathable type and may not be suitable for people who get too warm during sleep.

Feather down

Down is a filling consisting of feathers. Down pillows are durable, but they flatten over time, and a person needs to re-fluff or reshape them regularly.

While down pillows may repel dust mites, they also require professional cleaning, which can be expensive.

Additionally, down pillows are not suitable for individuals following vegan lifestyles, and they may not be right for people with allergies.

Memory foam

This synthetic foam aims to conform to the shape of the body. Memory foam pillows may benefit people with neck pain or discomfort at pressure points.

However, memory foam can retain heat, so it may not suit individuals who become too hot during sleep.

Wool and cotton

Pillows comprising wool or cotton may regulate heat. However, they may be an attractive environment for dust mites.

Additionally, wool and cotton lose their shape more quickly than other types, so they may need regular reshaping.

Latex

Latex foam consists of rubber tree sap and is one of the more expensive pillow materials. The feel of this material is similar to memory foam, but latex foam is less likely to retain heat when a person sleeps.

Latex foam is also a durable material and holds its shape for a long time.

People may wish to consider the size of the pillow they prefer to purchase. The following table provides the measurements a person can expect when buying different pillow sizes.

Measurement (in)
Standard20 x 26
Queen20 x 30
King20 x 36

Some companies may offer pillows with slightly different measurements. Therefore, individuals should check the size of their pillows before purchasing any pillowcases.

In general, a good pillow provides comfort and relief for pressure points while supporting the head and neck. In contrast, an unsuitable pillow loses its shape quickly and does not provide comfort or support throughout a person’s sleep.

When shopping for a pillow, people may wish to consider the following:

  • Sleep position: Side sleepers may benefit from a box pillow with elevated edges to support the neck, while back sleepers may prefer one featuring tapered edges to reduce head elevation.
  • Neck support: Anyone who experiences neck pain should look for a pillow that provides extra neck support.
  • Snoring: A pillow that elevates the head more may help reduce snoring.
  • Cooling technology: An individual who regularly overheats during sleep may prefer a pillow consisting of natural fibers, such as wool or cotton, or one that contains cooling materials, such as copper fibers.
  • Allergies: People with allergies should look for pillows with hypoallergenic certifications.

Another important factor of pillows is price, which can vary significantly among these products. With this in mind, researching and shopping around is key.

Below are some suitable pillows that a person may find comfortable.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow

The Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow features an ergonomic design that contours to the body. The manufacturer says it supports and helps align the neck and shoulders.

The pillow comprises hypoallergenic materials, including slow spring-back, open-cell foam. This reportedly offers enhanced comfort, adapts to movement, and helps dissipate heat.

The pillow is suitable for back or side sleepers.

Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow

The Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow consists of shaved microfibers designed to mimic the feel of feather down. It may be more suitable for people with allergies and those following vegan lifestyles.

The company has designed the plush version of this pillow for individuals who sleep on their stomachs. The pillow reportedly keeps the neck and spine in alignment during sleep. It also comes in medium and firm varieties.

Layla Kapok Pillow

The Layla Kapok Pillow may suit people who sleep on their side. The filling consists of natural kapok fibers and open-cell memory foam. This helps the pillow conform to the shape of a person’s head and neck.

People can also adjust the amount of filling by unzipping the pillow and removing or adding material.

The covering contains copper fibers that help draw away heat from the body during sleep.

Parachute Down Pillow

The Parachute Down Pillow consists of European down material. It also comes in three levels of preferred support.

The makers recommend “soft” for stomach sleepers, “medium” for back sleepers, and “firm” for side sleepers.

Coop Home Goods Adjustable Loft Pillow

The Coop Home Goods Adjustable Loft Pillow is reportedly suitable for all sleeping positions. A person can fill it as much or as little as needed.

The filling consists of hypoallergenic shredded memory foam. The cover comprises bamboo-derived rayon with CertiPUR-US and UL GREENGUARD Gold certification, meaning its construction involved no harmful chemicals.

Smart Nora Anti-Snore Pillow Insert

Snoring occurs when muscles in the throat relax during sleep, blocking the airways. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), a pillow that elevates the head may help reduce snoring.

The Smart Nora Anti-Snore Pillow Insert is not a pillow but an insert that goes beneath a regular pillow. It connects to a device that inflates or deflates the insert according to the extent of the snoring, continually adjusting the head’s elevation to keep the airways open.

The NSF offers the following recommendations for improved sleep:

  • Follow a regular schedule by going to sleep and waking up at consistent times each day.
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine, which may involve:
    • listening to music
    • reading a book
    • taking a bath
  • Keep the bedroom cool — a person’s body temperature naturally decreases to encourage sleep, so a bedroom temperature of 60–67°F (15.5–19.4°C) is ideal.
  • Keep noise to a minimum.
  • Keep the bedroom as dark as possible.
  • Avoid eating 2–3 hours before bed.
  • Use supportive, comfortable mattresses and pillows.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Cut down on stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.

Below are some frequently asked questions about pillows.

Is a firm pillow better than a softer pillow?

A person should purchase a pillow that has the firmness they find most beneficial. Some people may prefer the extra support to the neck and shoulders that a firmer pillow offers, while others may find a softer pillow leads to better sleep.

However, pillows lose their shape and firmness after extended use. With this in mind, individuals should purchase a new pillow if their current one no longer gives them the support they need.

Should a pillow be a certain height?

Just like a pillow’s firmness, pillow height is a matter of personal preference. However, back and front sleepers may wish to buy a flatter pillow to reduce neck and shoulder strain from elevating the head. In contrast, side sleepers might prefer higher pillows that align the head with the rest of the body.

Can pillows stop snoring?

The NSF states that a raised or thicker pillow may ease snoring. When people sleep on their backs, the airways narrow due to gravity. Therefore, a higher pillow position could help keep the airways open during sleep.

Learn more about snoring home remedies.

However, some people may have sleep apnea, where a person’s breathing pauses during sleep. If an individual believes they have this condition, they should speak with a doctor to discuss treatment options.

The best type of pillow for a person depends on a range of factors, such as sleeping position, snoring, pain, and any allergies.

Finding a pillow that provides optimal support may improve sleep quality, which may improve overall health and well-being.