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Pillows come in different shapes, sizes, and levels of firmness, with a range of filling materials.
When choosing a pillow, it can help to take into account the preferred sleeping position, any allergies, and any pain during the night.
Below, we explore the types of pillow, list some options, and provide general tips for improving the quality of sleep.
Pillows can contain various materials, and what works for one person may not for another. A pillow may be made of:
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 become hot during the night.
Down is a filling made from feathers. Down pillows are durable, but they flatten over time, and a person needs to re-fluff or reshape their down pillows regularly.
While down pillows may repel dust mites, they also require professional cleaning, which can be expensive.
Also, down pillows are not suitable for people with vegan lifestyles, and they may not be suitable for people with allergies.
This synthetic foam is designed to conform to the shape of the body. Memory foam pillows may be beneficial for people with neck pain or discomfort at pressure points.
However, memory foam can retain heat, so it may not be suitable for people who become overheated during the night.
Wool and cotton
Pillows made from wool or cotton may regulate heat. They may, however, be an attractive environment for dust mites.
Wool and cotton also lose their shape more quickly than other types, so they may need regular reshaping.
Latex foam is made from rubber tree sap and is one of the more expensive pillow materials. The feel is similar to that of memory foam, but latex foam is less likely to retain heat during the night.
Latex foam is a durable material and holds its shape for a long time.
In general, a good pillow provides comfort and relief for pressure points while supporting the head and neck. A bad pillow loses its shape quickly and does not provide comfort or support throughout the night.
When shopping for a pillow, a person should 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 with 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: A person who regularly overheats during the night may prefer a pillow made from natural fibers such as wool or cotton or one that contains cooling material, such as copper fibers.
- Allergies: Anyone with allergies should look for pillows with hypoallergenic certification.
Price is also an important factor, and the prices of pillows can vary significantly. Researching and shopping around are key.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.
Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow
This has an ergonomic design that contours to the body. The manufacturers say that it supports and helps align the neck and shoulders.
The pillow is made from hypoallergenic materials, including slow spring- back, open-cell foam. The makers say that this provides enhanced comfort, adapts to movement, and helps dissipate heat.
The pillow is suitable for back- or side-sleepers.
Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow
This is made from shaved microfibers designed to mimic the feel of feather down. It may be more suitable for people with allergies and people with vegan lifestyles.
The plush version of this pillow is designed for people who sleep on their stomachs, and the makers say that it keeps the neck and spine in alignment during sleep.
This pillow also comes in medium and firm varieties.
Layla Kapok Pillow
This is designed for people who sleep on their sides. The fill consists of natural kapok fibers and open-cell memory foam. It conforms to the shape of the head and neck.
A person can 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
This is made from European down, and a person can choose their preferred level of support.
The makers recommend “soft” for stomach-sleepers, “medium” for back-sleepers, and “firm” for side-sleepers.
Coop Home Goods Adjustable Loft Pillow
This is designed to suit 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 is made from bamboo-derived rayon that has CertiPUR-US and UL GREENGUARD Gold certification, signaling that no harmful chemicals were used in the manufacturing.
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.
This product 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 snoring, continually adjusting the head’s elevation to keep the airways open.
- Have a regular schedule, going to sleep and waking up at the same times each day.
- Have a relaxing bedtime routine, which may involve:
- listening to music
- reading a book
- taking a bath
- Keep the bedroom cool. Body temperature naturally decreases to encourage sleep, and a bedroom temperature of 60–67°F is ideal.
- Reduce noise to a minimum.
- Keep the bedroom as dark as possible.
- Avoid eating 2–3 hours before bed.
- Have supportive, comfortable mattresses and pillows.
- Exercise regularly.
- Cut down on stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.
The best type of pillow for each 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, in turn, improve overall health and well-being.