Pillow Reviews: An Industry Expert Gives You The Inside Scoop On the Best Pillows On The Web
I Reviewed Over 90 Pillows, And Settled On Just A Handful Of Options.
After 20+ years in the bedding industry inventing and building mattresses, I’ve watched pillow technology follow neck to neck with new advances in mattress design.
There wasn’t much to choose from a few years back, but now, there are dozens of highly sophisticated pillows for virtually every kind of sleeper. Pillows are high tech, hypoallergenic, all natural, even copper infused.
I’ve designed my own lines of pillows, including specialty neck pillows and body pillows, and I know the business inside and out. Trust me, there’s a lot of terrible “MyPillow” options out there, but below you’ll find some awesome option that will make you doze off real fast.
I’m going to hash out the basics, the bullet points, and tell you where to buy my choices for the best pillows you can have shipped factory direct, to your door.
Not all pillows are created equal, and though we are all familiar with the old school fluffy dog eared rectangular pillow that your head collapses into, not many of us realize that, for one thing, pillows should be replaced frequently…like every year.
Neck and head support are probably more important than body support, and a comfortable pillow provides deeper, more restorative and energizing sleep.
Considering we spend at least a third of our lives in bed, the other two thirds being largely dependent upon our time at rest, the lowly pillow is actually an extremely important purchase and should be given serious consideration.
I know this personally from having sleep issues for decades, and although I have tried dozens of pillows through the years, I ultimately discovered that my body really only likes one or two of them to maintain my well oiled machine.
“Patients come to me in pain, and I know their pillow isn’t keeping their neck aligned with their spine,” says Dr. Darren Pollack, chiropractor and medical director of DASHA Wellness & Spa. “Overtime, this wear-and-tear can cause muscle stiffness, tendonitis, nerve pain, herniated discs, and more.”
If you’re shopping for a pillow, whether online or in brick and mortar stores, here are some helpful tips on how to make a good pillow choice.
1. Recognize when it might be time for a replacement.
Pillows simply don’t last forever, so keep an eye out for lumps and sagging, but more than that, stains, smells, and signs of extreme use. A pillow filled with shredded fill material or fiber will generally last only a couple of years, slowly mashing down until it takes on the consistency of a sleeping bag. A polyurethane foam pillow will compress and become less “sumptuous” feeling.
Natural latex pillows will almost never need replacing because of failure of the material, however ALL pillows will collect dust mite egg casings, particulate matter, bodily fluids, and allergens within two years.
2. Get to know the materials.
“Down pillows tend to be the fluffiest, but a combination of down with feather will be less expensive,” says Sachs. Also, down pillows are probably the worst pillow you could own. Offering little or no support, they are notorious for bottoming out, require constant “repoofing” and are antiquated at best.
Memory foam, latex, and gel foam hybrid foam pillows offer support and yielding and many are computer designed based on data that includes head and neck placement, dynamic sleep data, and are even zoned in specific layers, sculpted to contour anatomy very specifically.
Advanced fibers and fill techniques have resulted in pillows that instantly “repoof” and will not permanently sag or sink.
3. Consider how you sleep.
A pillow’s material can tend to determine how supportive it is, but its thickness makes a significant difference, too. This especially applies to foam pillows in general. If you are a back sleeper with sleep apnea, for example, you need a low profile pillow to keep your neck aligned with your spine to keep an open air way, rather than having your head cocked forward, making breathing difficult.
Side sleepers can function well with something a bit loftier and slightly thicker, though we recommend considering as low a pillow as you can tolerate. A 4-5″ tall pillow is generally considered the ideal for proper spine alignment. For GERD or other digestive issues, don’t rely on pillows to give you any relief.
Consider a wedge for the underside of your mattress instead, that will elevate the head end of your bed about 10 degrees.
“In general, side sleepers need a thicker pillow, stomach sleepers need a thinner pillow, and a back sleeper will fall somewhere in between, often much lower” says Natalie Dautovich, Ph.D., an environmental scholar at the National Sleep Foundation.
But it’s very possible you’re an exception to these guidelines. “It’s all about the position of your neck,” says Dr. Pollack. “It should align with your spine in a neutral position as you sleep.”
One final consideration…do you use a pillow for head support, or for between your legs support? For between your leg support, or body pillow support, there are specific products made for these applications.
While you can use a low profile foam pillows such as memory foam or latex for between the knees, often a body pillow is make using fill material like Fibrefill, down, or other synthetic and natural blends, and can be long, tubular shaped pillows. Our selection of the 10 Best Pillows below, focuses on head pillows.
4. Note how you’ll need to care for it.
“Before purchasing a pillow, check the care label to make sure you’re willing to wash it as recommended,” says Sachs. “Most are machine washable, but some are dry clean only, have front-loading machine restrictions, or only allow spot-treating. Your pillow will last longer if you wash it two to four times a year, and if you use a pillow protector to keep it clean and safe from wear.”
And absolutely, and we cannot stress this enough here at MBG, use a washable pillow protector for any pillow that cannot be washed. Today’s space age materials are breathable, don’t crinkle or make noise, and allow the pillow to actively ventilate, keeping it dry and fresh.
Also, liquids cannot pass through these barrier type materials due to the osmotic nature of the film. Air can move in and out, but liquids can not.
5. Test it out before you commit.
Just like you would when you buy a mattress, you should rest your head on a pillow to see if it’s right for you. If you can, try it out for at least 10 minutes in the store, but if that’s not possible, test it at home before removing the plastic wrap. If you feel your neck tipping forward or backward, or have any other discomfort, return it.
If you buy a pillow online, it’ll come with a money back trial, so you can test it out for a good week, and then keep it or return it. Give a pillow a solid seven day trial, though as your body will need to adjust to it, just like a mattress.
6. You might not need the same type of pillow forever.
Health-related changes (like weight fluctuation, new aches and pains, or other changes in your body as you age) affect the type of support you need, says Dautovich. So if the type of pillow you’ve used for years is no longer comfortable, it’s time to consider something new.
If you stick with the rule of thumb regarding changing your pillow every couple of years, you will likely find newer and better pillows to choose from as time goes on and your body and sleep hygiene changes.
Understanding Pillow Sizes
One important tip: Most pillows these days are sold in what is called Standard, Queen, and King sizes. These sizes typically reflect the size of the mattress that they will fit neatly with, two of them side by side. I often order pillows in king if I want to use them as a body pillow, and queen if I tend to move them around a lot.
Base your selection on what you are going to do with the pillow. If they stay in one spot all night, then you can go king, which are generally in the 32-34″ long range. If you intend to keep your pillow moving or even change position once or twice during the night, a queen might be a better option. They run typically around 28″ long or so.
For travel, or if you just prefer a smaller pillows, some of the vendors I recommend below offer a standard size, which can vary.
I reviewed dozens of pillows…here’s my shortlist of the best
I’ve reviewed the entire mattress line with Nolah as well as the pillows. Honestly, there’s nothing quite like them.
You can adjust the firmness and feel of them, creating individualized comfort by removing or adding specialized shredded foam from an interior compartment.
An outer layer of responsive cushioning gives added neck and head support. With a bamboo blend cover, it’s the ultimate adaptable and cooling pillow. Love them.
Owners review the hell out of them and give them as gifts to family, friends, and business associates. They’re like the Harry & David Pears of the pillow world.
I tested this pillow for a week and loved it. Won’t mash down, you don’t sink into it, and it isn’t mushy. And it stills cool- I never had to flip them over.
I also used it as a body pillow between my knees and it sort of melted into place. Pure gel memory foam core keeps the pillow from collapsing overnight, and the plush, cushy outside means you’ll never have to fluff it.
Designed especially for side sleepers, you won’t wake up with a sore neck or shoulders.
Pillows can collect allergens, viral and bacterial particles, and need routine replacement.
The core foam of The Nectar Copper Pillow is made of memory foam specifically designed to cradle your head and support your neck.
Plus, the copper fibers woven into the fabric exterior is both cooling and has anti-microbial properties to keep it feeling fresh. I developed several copper mattresses in my career, but never pillows.
Sleeping on a cooling copper-infused memory foam pillow can be amazing for your health. Copper has so many properties that can improve your sleep from keeping you cool to keeping you fresh.
Research has shown that copper can help to fight odors, and help eliminate harmful germs in your pillow.
These pillows have a very low profile which I liked since I have neck issues and primarily sleep on my back and sides. Well worth it. Free shipping $125-135 each depending upon size. Go on, treat yourself!
I designed natural latex mattresses and pillows for years. Natural latex is antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, and resists dust mites, too.
The Saatva Latex Organic pillow cover is made from100% organic cotton sateen. It’s soft, breathable, and wicks away moisture for cooler sleep. Gusseted sides (the edge has a panel) helps to ventilate hot air away from the pillow.
The pillow itself has an outer section that is 100% organic cotton fiber. It’s hypoallergenic and breathable to give you cooler, more restful sleep.
Hypoallergenic shredded natural latex core. I read reviews on this pillow and found that chiropractors and orthopedists recommend it for ultimate head and neck support. Natural latex is responsive, hypoallergenic, dust mite and mildew resistant, and more breathable than synthetic foams.
I like the bouncier, loftier feel, and enjoyed tucking it alongside as a body pillow, and it’s great for propping up if you need to get a little work done, or for binge watching. Worth the $165-185 price for queen vs king size.
The Puffy Body Pillow is my top choice for a body pillow, and I found it addictive and amazing. It supports your body and conforms to you immediately.
It shows up at your door enclosed in an easy zip 100% super soft bamboo cover that can be washed and dried at home, and keeps your pillow clean and sanitized.
The inside of this 20″ wide x 54″ long serpentine body pillow is filled with both blue gel cooling memory foam and specialized HD foam to give you a supportive but melt in, cloud like sensation.
The memory foam used in the Puffy Body Pillow is CertiPUR-US® certified, which means it has been independently tested to ensure it is chemical-free. I noticed that there is no weird chemical smell immediately after unboxing. One of my favorites.
I basically call this the “anti-clumping” video, because the design keeps the material inside evenly distributed, and you don’t have to constantly shake it out.
The Silk & Snow Pillow is designed with an outer shell made of soft down-like strands of microfiber fill and an adjustable inner memory foam core.
The advanced design of the microfibers are air blown but evenly shaped like little boxes, leaving the pillow feeling down-like and fluffy, while also allowing it to be resistant to clumping.
The company describes the pillow as having a down like feel, but without the geese. You can also remove some of the filler, to change the feel of the pillow.
It arrives intentionally overstuffed, so that you can remove as much as you like to tweak the pillow for use as an all around pillow, neck, or even a smaller body pillow.
Available in King size, 36″long, machine wash outer shell.
Malouf is a company we love. Their pillows receive phenomenal reviews, and they are always integrating healthy, therapeutic components. Doughy memory foam is infused with bamboo charcoal to regulate odor, humidity, and temperature.
Offers unique shoulder recess designed specifically for side sleepers, ZONED TECHNOLOGY cradles head and supports neck. Charcoal infused for cool comfort. TENCEL breathable covering.
Certi-Pur safe foam. NEVER develops that pesky head smell, either.