The 10 Best Pillows for All Sleeping Positions

Elva Mankin

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

From Popular Mechanics

As more studies release startling numbers, such as one in three American adults not getting enough sleep, the more sleep technology continues to advance. Products like sleep-tracking smartwatches and even smart beds may make it seem like you have to spend thousands to improve the quality of your Zs; however, upgrading your pillows may actually be the most underrated, relatively inexpensive method. After all, we typically spend at least one third of our time with our head on one.

According to one study by the National Sleep Foundation, only 60 percent of respondents believed that their pillows had an impact on their ability to get quality sleep, while one in four reported that they never or rarely got a good night’s sleep in the past month. The respondents also averaged using two pillows, which indicates that many may use multiple worn out pillows, instead of just one quality pillow. Myriad factors influence our sleeping habits, so regardless of when you last bought your pillow, it may be time to consider a new one that works better with your sleeping style and preferences.

Check out quick reviews below of our top five pillows, then scroll deeper for more helpful buying info and full reviews of those models, plus other high-ranking options.

Which Pillow to Buy, According to Your Sleep Position(s)

The way you sleep is the most important factor to consider when determining which pillow to get. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the population is made up mostly of side sleepers, with only eight percent of people sleeping on their backs and seven percent on their stomachs. Though in reality, most people likely move throughout the night, so we took this into account when selecting pillows for a variety of positions.

We consulted Micheal Breus, Ph.D., also known as the Sleep Doctor, and a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, for his tips on choosing the best pillow to optimize your sleep. He advises that “the thickness or thinness of your pillow should enable you to sleep with your head, neck, and shoulders aligned with your spine, as well as provide you comfort.” Generally, side sleepers will require firmer pillows with depths of four to six inches to fill in the gap between their shoulder and head.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, stomach sleepers want soft, thinner pillows to prevent pushing their head back. Back sleepers may need somewhere in between, but still something relatively flat and soft. “If you have neck pain and sleep on your back, look for a pillow that provides additional support while maintaining the softness that’s comfortable for you,” recommends Dr. Breus.

Some companies do label their pillows as good for side, back, stomach, or all sleeping positions. But because there are no industry standards for these claims, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the types of pillow fillings, too.

Types of Pillow Fillings

While there are a few more filling options like cotton, latex, and wool, we’ve chosen the above materials due to their popularity and availability for most people. Pillows may also have additional features you’ll want to consider beyond their filling and firmness. For instance, fabrics like bamboo are better for cooling to regulate your temperature if you sleep hot, and pillows with gussets (side panels that add to the thickness) tend to provide more support for side sleepers.

When to Replace Your Pillows

Many experts recommend replacing your pillows every one or two years, but there’s no need to throw away a perfectly good pillow if it still works for you. Plus, many lower quality pillows may lose their support in less time than that. Instead, you should consider getting new pillows if your old ones lack support and cause you to wake up with a sore neck. Dr. Breus recommends doing a test by folding your pillow in half. If you place a pillow with natural filling across your arm, it should maintain its shape instead of hanging down. With synthetic pillows, if it doesn’t spring back into shape after folding it in half and applying a light weight on top of it like a shoe or book, then it’s time for a new one.

“Like your mattress, your pillow is an investment in high-quality sleep, which pays dividends across your waking life,” says Dr. Breus. So it’s worth upgrading your pillows whenever necessary and taking care of them to lengthen their life. As much as half of an old pillow’s weight may be attributed to dust mites, dead skin cells, and mold and mildew. Tossing your pillows in the wash, if they’re machine washable, can help reshape them and prevent the build up of dust, stains, and smells.

How We Selected and Rated These Pillows

We researched reviews from 10 expert sources such as Good Housekeeping, Wirecutter, and The Spruce, as well as 34,000 ratings from people who have bought and used the pillows. Our Consumer Score represents the percentage of consumers who rated the pillow at least four out of five stars on retail and review sites like Amazon, Target, and the manufacturers’ websites.

—HIGHEST RATED—

Coop Home Goods The Original

Consumer Score: 87% gave it 4 stars or more
This shredded memory foam pillow can be adjusted to fit all sleeping preferences.

Size options: Queen, king | Firmness: Medium firm | Fill type: Memory foam and microfiber | Cover material: 60% polyester, 40% bamboo-derived rayon

While the best pillows are highly specific to certain types of sleeping preferences, Coop Home Goods’s The Original pillow can actually adapt to many sleepers. Its shredded memory foam and microfiber fill offers medium support that’s a great balance between the firmness of solid memory foam and the plushness of down. If you unzip the cover and liner, you can easily adjust the amount of filling to reach the right height for you. And the Original comes with half a pound of extra filling if you want to plump it up, which can also be used to extend the life of the pillow down the road, though no storage bag is included. In addition to a 100-night sleep trial and free consultation to help you find the right amount of fill for the pillow, Coop Home Goods offers an impressive five-year warranty, so perhaps you can forget that ideal-but-somewhat-unrealistic rule about purchasing new pillows every year.

We’ve been sleeping on this pillow for over six months in a variety of positions, so combined with its 20,000 four- or five-star reviews online, we’re confident that it’s a great option for most people. Those who primarily sleep on their backs may prefer Coop Home Goods’s Eden pillow with a gusseted edge for more support as well as its cooling gel-infused memory foam. Many may scoff at buying a $60 pillow, but this option really is a great value that will last much longer than cheap alternatives and provides many of the same—or more—luxury features as pricier options. For instance, this one includes a super soft cover as well as an inner liner for easy washing.

—COOLING—

Tempur-Pedic Cloud Breeze Dual-Cooling

Consumer Score: 83% gave it 4 stars or more
Tempur-Pedic’s solid, dense memory foam is coated with a gel layer to keep you cool.

Size options: Queen, king | Firmness: Firm | Fill type: Tempur memory foam | Cover material: Cotton

Unlike shredded memory foam pillows like Coop Home Goods’s, this Tempur-Pedic is created with a single medium-firm slab. Because its foam cannot be adjusted, it’s generally too thick for stomach sleepers, but it will work for most side and back sleepers who prefer a firmer surface. Many Amazon reviewers wrote that it’s very heavy and dense like Tempur-Pedic’s mattresses, but may get a bit softer with use. If you’re a hot sleeper, you’ll appreciate how Tempur-Pedic adds a gel layer to each side of the pillow to help with cooling, but keep in mind that your pillowcase may mitigate this effect depending on its material. Though this pillow is the most expensive on this list, it also comes with a five-year limited warranty to ensure you get good use out of it. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t offer a return policy, which could dissuade those new to Tempur-Pedic products from investing in such a pricey pillow.

—DOWN—

Parachute Home Down Pillow

Consumer Score: 84% gave it 4 stars or more
Down lovers will appreciate this pillow’s luxuriously soft, but still supportive, feel.

Size options: Standard, king | Firmness: Soft, medium, or firm | Fill type: European white down and feather fibers | Cover material: Cotton sateen

Parachute Home claims the filling for this pillow is Responsible Down Standard certified, meaning it’s sustainably and ethically sourced, as well as Oeko-Tex certified, thus free of harmful chemicals or synthetics. Though down is generally softer than memory foam, we like that you can still select from three different firmness options. Plus, its lightweight filling provides better air circulation than most dense foam pillows. This product may be pricier than alternatives, but Parachute’s luxury bedding can make your bedroom feel more like a five-star hotel, and it comes with a three-year warranty. According to The Spruce’s review, this pillow “encompasses everything a down pillow should be: plush, soft, and supportive” without any feathers clumping or poking out.

—DOWN ALTERNATIVE—

Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow

Consumer Score: 83% gave it 4 stars or more
Opt for this vegan, allergen-free polyfill Brooklinen pillow in place of real down.

Size options: Standard, king | Firmness: Plush, mid-plush, firm | Fill type: Polyfill | Cover material: Cotton sateen

A great alternative to real down, this vegan, allergen-free Brooklinen pillow has polyester filling that recreates the feeling of sinking into lightweight feathers. Like Parachute, Brooklinen offers three firmness options in addition to the standard or king sizes. The company recommends plush for stomach sleepers, firm for side sleepers, and mid-plush for those who want a balance of soft support. However, many reviewers on their website found the plush option to be firm enough, and the firm pillow to be too hard, though that may soften with use. Brooklinen also allows you to return or exchange its products for up to a year, so you have time to find the right fit for you.

—BEST VALUE—

Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

Consumer Score: 74% gave it 4 stars or more
An affordable, quality shredded memory foam pillow that you can adjust to your liking.

Size options: Standard, queen, king, body | Firmness: Adjustable | Fill type: Shredded memory foam | Cover material: Bamboo

Xtreme Comforts’s pillow offers similar features at a slightly less expensive cost than the Coop Home Goods model. You can remove its shredded memory foam to find the right amount of support, though it doesn’t come with any extra to add like Coop Home Goods offers. Its bamboo cover is fairly cool, and it’s dust mite-resistant and fully machine washable. As one of Wirecutter’s top picks after years of testing, its reviewers wrote that “most of our back- and side-sleepers, as well as a few stomach-sleepers, have liked it over the years.” Some experienced issues with the pillow arriving with a chemical smell, though Xtreme Comforts offers a one-year return policy if this remains an issue for you.

More Options to Consider

Zoey Sleep

Consumer Score: 85% give it 4 stars or more
A memory foam and down alternative blend that’s easy to adjust to your liking.

Size options: Standard and king | Firmness: Adjustable | Fill type: Shredded memory foam and down alternative blend | Cover material: Lyocell

It may sound easiest to just go with a pillow made out of foam scrap from the same big-name brand as your memory foam mattress, but there are also new companies that specialize in foam pillows worth considering—such as Zoey Sleep. Though similar in price and features to Coop Home Goods’s adjustable pillow, Zoey Sleep’s proprietary filling has a bit more fiber blend than memory foam chunks, so it feels softer and a bit less lumpy—comparable to a down alternative pillow, but with more support and less deflating. If you’re new to memory foam pillows or just prefer the feeling of down, the Zoey Sleep pillow might just be the shredded foam option that converts you.

In addition to being adjustable, the Zoey Sleep includes a storage bag for any extra foam that you remove from the pillow, and the bag is even labeled with lines that indicate how far to fill it up according to how soft or firm you like your pillows. While many pillows are adjustable, this option makes it truly easy to determine how much fill you need and to store extra foam to plump up the pillow in the future. The fuzzy fill will cling onto your clothing and bedding when you do adjust, but it’s more likely you’ll get the height and plumpness right the first time. This pillow also includes all of the luxury features we’d expect for its reasonable $60 price tag, including an inner cover and machine-washable outer cover, a 100-night sleep trial, and a five-year warranty.

Leesa Cooling Pillow

Consumer Score: 82% gave it 4 stars or more
A solid memory foam pillow made from the same stuff in Leesa’s popular mattresses.

Size options: Standard/queen, king | Firmness: Medium firm | Fill type: Solid memory foam | Cover material: Polyester-Lycra blend

Leesa, maker of U.S.-manufactured memory foam and hybrid mattresses, also offers a premium pillow made from a single piece of that same memory foam. Its soft knit washable cover is also made from the same breathable polyester-Lycra blend. Because the pillow is solid memory foam instead of a shredded fill, it’ll retain its shape without requiring flipping and fluffing. While you can’t adjust the foam core, this pillow’s five-inch loft is suitable for most sleepers and very bouncy, though some Amazon reviewers claimed it’s responsive to a fault, since the foam may hold the head up too high for back sleepers. Fortunately, Leesa offers a 30-night return policy, as well as a three-year warranty. The company also donates every one in ten pillows and mattresses sold.

The Casper Pillow

Consumer Score: 82% gave it 4 stars or more
The original Casper pillow isn’t made of memory foam, but rather a fluffy microfiber down alternative.

Size options: Standard, king | Firmness: Medium | Fill type: Polyester microfiber | Cover material: Cotton

Though Casper is known for its memory foam mattresses, its original pillow is actually a down alternative pillow made from microfiber filling. With a two-inch gusset, it delivers great support for side-sleepers but isn’t as firm as some memory foam options. The pillow actually features an inner pillow and an outer one, which you can separate when machine washing. Some reviewers expected it to be more firm, like their Casper memory foam mattresses, so keep in mind that the microfiber filling is designed to be soft, though plush enough to support. Because of its softness and thickness, it may work well for sleepers who alternate between their stomaches and sides throughout the night.

Zen Chi Buckwheat Hull Pillow

Consumer Score: 79% gave it 4 stars or more
This buckwheat pillow may be small and thin, but it’s also breathable and molds to your desired shape.

Size options: Twin, standard, queen, king | Firmness: Firm | Fill type: Organic buckwheat | Cover material: Cotton

Made from buckwheat hulls, this pillow provides a moldable and breathable surface that’s great for hot sleepers. You can add or remove hulls, though it’s still a bit flatter and harder than traditional pillows, so it may be more suited to those who sleep on their stomachs. Even if you don’t adjust the amount of filling, buckwheat is also more moldable than other materials. The standard “Japanese” size is just 14 by 20 inches, which may feel too small for many accustomed to standard 20 by 26-inch pillows. (Zen Chi does offer queen and king options.)

The Purple Pillow

Consumer Score: 63% give it 4 stars or more
Like the innovative Purple mattress, this pillow support your head with a breathable polymer grid.

Size options: Standard 16 x 24 in. | Fill type: Hyper-Elastic Polymer Purple Grid | Cover material: Polyester, viscose, spandex

One of the most interesting mattresses we tested, Purple’s has a standout design with its polymer grid that provides the support of memory foam with extra breathability to stay cool. The company uses this same engineering in its Pillow, which is similarly heavy at 10 pounds. While it may take you longer to get used to the unique materials, many sleepers swear by its neck support, cooling cover, and the fact that you’ll never have to fluff up this pillow for it to retain its shape the way you do with memory foam and alternative blends. However, you should keep in mind that this pillow is only three-inches tall, so it works best for back-sleepers as you cannot adjust it higher or lower.

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