We’ve all heard the old colloquialism “you spend a third of your life in bed”. I believe that it’s important to consider not only the time we spend sleeping, but also the effect that rest has on our daily lives. If you’ve ever stayed over at the in-laws and found yourself having to sleep on the couch or a stuffy old air mattress, you know first hand just how poor quality sleep can negatively impact your focus and attention the following day.
The American Automobile Association did a study to determine the effects of sleep deprivation on driving ability. The study found that motorists who were not well rested performed worse than motorists who had consumed alcohol. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to invest in ourselves and ensure that we are able to make the most of our resting hours.
Purchasing a high quality pillow is the easiest and cheapest way to improve our quality of sleep. This can also address frustrating neck and back issues that continue to distract us from our daily responsibilities. Sadly, selecting a pillow is not as simple as picking the most expensive one off the shelf.
I have prepared this guide to help you understand your choices, and make an informed decision as to how to purchase the best pillow for your individual needs.
Do you sleep on your side, or on your back? Do you tend to move around and change sleeping positions during the night? Do you have neck and back pain? Do you suffer from allergies?
These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before you select the best pillow type for your needs. The shape, size, and stuffing material used in a high-quality pillow is specifically designed for different purposes. Having a clear idea of how you sleep will help you pick the correct one on the first try.
Some people are adaptable and will be happy with any pillow on our list. For those of us that can be hard to please, there are fortunately many different choices available.
#1 Synthetic Pillows
These pillows are by far the most popular product available as they suit the needs of the majority of consumers. They are very inexpensive to purchase and there is a large selection of sizes and styles available. Those of us who suffer from allergies will take solace in the fact that their synthetic material is resistant to the natural organisms that can cling to and feed off the stuffing of other pillow types.
The best synthetic pillows are designed to be easy to fold or stretch. Even if you tend to toss and turn in your sleep, these pillows can be adapted, easily, to your sleeping position. This means that even when you are half-asleep, you’ll still be able to maneuver the pillow into the desired position.
There are, sadly, some drawbacks to synthetic pillows. They tend to have a shorter lifespan, and may need to be replaced every few years. Although easy to adjust, this means that the stuffing may become shifted to one side or the other which may cause some discomfort for the user.
My Recommendation: Serta Perfect Sleeper
These are the best pillows for individuals looking for an inexpensive, light and adaptable product. They are more durable than many competing brands, and are excellent at dissipating heat in humid climates.
Many people find that synthetic pillows are the easiest to adjust to, since they feel very much like the pillow you have at home. With the Serta Perfect Sleeper, you’ll notice the improvements immediately without any awkward adjustment period.
#2 Gel Pillows
This is essentially a hybrid product which combines two very different materials to address some of the issues with synthetic pillows. By adding a layer of gel to the inside of the pillow, this adds some extra rigidity and prevents the filling from clumping or shifting.
Individuals who would like a slightly firmer feeling will find an excellent balance with the gel hybrid pillow as it combines the superior airflow and cooling of a synthetic pillow with the support of a memory foam pillow.
Anyone who catches themselves flipping their pillow over at night to get to the cool side will love a Gel pillow. There are very few options on the market with the superior cooling power of gel, making this one of the best options for your needs.
My Recommendation: Super Plush Gel-Fiber Filled Pillows
This amazon bestseller is popular for a reason. Sold in packs of two, these are the best pillows for individuals who want the superior airflow and hypoallergenic qualities of synthetic material while retaining the support and stability of a memory foam pillow. Due to their synthetic production methods, this is the most affordable pillow for those needing extra support.
#3 Down Pillows
Many consumers prefer to have a natural product, and down products are by far the best pillows in this category. Down is made, traditionally, from the fuzzy part or “vane” of feathers. Not only is it extremely soft, but it is an excellent conductor of airflow.
If you are the type of person who likes to flip their pillow over to get to the cool side, down pillows will keep your head cooler for a longer period of time allowing you to get a more comfortable rest. Because down pillows are a premium product made from naturally occurring material, they tend to last a very long time.
Often they last beyond 10 years with proper cleaning. In exchange for being extremely soft and luxurious, these pillows are quite squishy and may not offer the back and neck support required for individuals with postural issues or pain.
Due to their modest height, these pillows are ideal for consumers who sleep on their back or remain still while asleep. Since they are made from natural products, these pillows tend to be more expensive and are not as easy to clean.
My Recommendation: Premium 100% White Goose Down Pillow
These are the best pillows for the discerning individual looking for the most luxuriously soft pillow on the market. Unlike cheap knockoffs that use chicken feathers, this pillow uses only white goose vane which is known for being extremely soft, light and airy.
Are you a deep sleeper who has trouble waking up in the morning? A pillow like this can help increase the restfulness of your sleep, allowing you to wake up feeling energetic and ready to begin your day.
#4 Feather Pillows
Down pillows are quite expensive due to the labor intensive process of separating a feathers vane from its stem. Feather pillows address this problem by treating the feather instead of separating it. By pulverizing it, they are able to make the stem soft and malleable. Due to this process, feather pillows are often a very inexpensive way to receive all the benefits of a Down pillow. The only additional drawback is that the stems of the feathers can occasionally poke out from the pillow. This, however, lessens with time.
My Recommendation: Puredown Feather and Down Pillow
These are the best pillows for individuals who want all of the benefits of a down pillow at a reduced cost. When paired with the proper pillow protector, these products will last a very long time while remaining incredibly soft and light. What people love about this pillow is it’s familiarity. Using one feels natural, and easy.
Although the feathers inside hold their shape well and adapt to the shape of your head, it’s easy to adjust the pillow to suit your own specific tastes.
#5 Memory Foam Pillows
Hands down, these are the best pillows for those of us who suffer from neck and back problems. Memory foam is a unique polyurethane material that responds to both pressure and temperature. This means that as you lay down on it, the warmth and weight of your body will cause the pillow to soften. (Check Out The Best Memory Foam Pillows Here)
This makes it one of the few products that is soft where you touch it while remaining supportive throughout. Because this is a solid product, it will not bunch of up fold like other pillows. Do you have a hard time with tossing and turning in your sleep? Do you find it difficult to find a comfortable position? These pillows help you find a pleasant, neutral position and gently hold you in place.
These unique features do come with a few drawbacks though, as memory foam pillows tend to be expensive when compared with competing products. Due to their solid nature, they are also not quite as breathable as some types and are therefore not suited for very hot climates.
#6 Latex Pillows
These products offer many of the advantages of memory foam pillows and also address some of the drawbacks. They offer the same level of support as their counterparts. The material, however, is much airier and breathable making it a good choice for a warm, humid climate.
They are a little more fixed than memory foam pillows, though. Make sure that you select one that is the correct width and height for your sleeping style. While this does make it a little more complicated to pick the right one, there are advantages to having a firm pillow that is designed specifically for your sleeping style.
At night, they’ll hold your head in a specific position, helping you to maintain good posture. This reduces strain on your muscles and bones, allowing you to finally put an end to a sore back and neck.
My Recommendation: Classic Brands Caress Plush Latex Pillow
These are easily the best pillows for anyone who needs strong back and neck support but lives in a humid climate. These are by far the most breathable latex pillows I’ve tried. Many manufacturers have tried to find ways to make a solid foam pillow allow airflow, but none have come close to this method.
With several perforations along the top, it maintains good contact with your head without any airlock. At over 4.5” thick, these will be comfortable for any side sleeper even if they have broad shoulders, making it more adaptable than most latex pillows.
#7 Micro Bead Pillows
If you have ever used a neck pillow for sleeping on an airplane, then you already know about the benefits of these products. Micro beads are surprisingly soft and malleable, and offer good neck and back support while remaining extremely soft. Micro beads are very resistant to allergens, and do not require as much cleaning.
Unlike Memory Foam and Latex products, these are the only pillows that remain supportive while also adapting quickly to the users sleep position. Individuals who like to move around in their sleep with minimal interruption will love these pillows. They can be difficult to clean and tend to wear out faster than other types of pillows.
My Recommendation: Remedy Microbead Pillow
This unique offering from Remedy is the best pillow for anyone who suffers from neck and back pain, but tends to be an active sleeper. The combination of spandex and micro beads make this pillow incredibly soft, yet supportive. Unlike latex or memory foam pillows, this unit is extremely malleable and will adapt instantly to even the most awkward of sleep positions.
We’d recommend this pillow to anyone who’s suffered from a serious neck or back injury, or who is dealing with a lot of pain. Sometimes, trying to force yourself into a specific sleeping position does more harm than good. In that case, you’ll amaze yourself when you try out this Microbead pillow and see how easily it conforms to your body.
Just like mattresses, pillows come in many shapes and sizes. Pillows are divided up into four categories. Standard, Queen, King and Euro size. For most of us, a standard size 20” x 26” pillow is ideal. They’re comfortable, we’re used to them, and we’ve just never realized that it could be any other way.
But if you tend to move your pillow around in your sleep, or wake up with it at an awkward angle, a larger option could be better. It will allow you to move in your sleep, and still support your head. But sometimes comfort isn’t the only factor, and we want to select a pillow that not only feels good, but looks good too.
- Standard Size Pillow. These pillows measure 20” x 26”. Two of them fit comfortably across a full or queen size bed, with a little room in between. If you tend to sleep on your side or at an angle, having a bit of space between pillows allows you some room to adjust the pillow position without disturbing your partner.
- Queen Size Pillow. Measuring 20” x 30”, this small size increase allows two of these pillows to fit evenly across a full or queen size bed. This small visual tweak has a huge impact on the look of your bed by giving off a much cleaner appearance. Because the change in size is only lengthwise, you can still use your standard pillowcases, minimizing your investment should you choose to upgrade.
- King Size Pillow. This type of pillow is designed to fit evenly across your king mattress. Because this pillow is so long, you will need to purchase the correct king size pillow case. If you want the clean, filled out look but you have a king mattress, this is your best choice.
- Euro Size Pillow. Generally these are not used for sleeping, as they measure a whopping 26” x 26”. The square shape makes them extremely attractive as a decoration item. They can also be used while sitting up in bed to read or use your laptop. Just like the King size pillow, these require their own special pillow case known as a “euro sham”.
Properly washing and protecting your pillows is a vital part of ensuring their longevity, as well as keeping them fresh and clean. Pillows should be washed at least once every six months. Be sure to refer to the tag for proper cleaning instructions for your specific pillow.
For the majority of them, they can be washed in a home washing machine and dryer. Ensure that you use a fluid detergent; powders can build up within a pillow and may leave unwanted residue. Use the longest cycle available on your washing machine. Ideally pillows should go through two rinse cycles. Set the heat dial to hot, this is an important factor in destroying any bacteria that may be present.
Before machine drying, make sure you shake out the pillow and evenly distribute the filling throughout. If the filling is bunched or clumped together, this can impede drying and leave unwanted moisture inside. Pillows should be machine dried alone without any other laundry.
Drying pillows in loads of two can help ensure that the weight is evenly distributed throughout the dryer and prevent it from hopping or wobbling around. Once the dry cycle is completed, carefully check the pillow for moisture.
Leaving moisture inside the pillow creates an environment suitable for mold and mildew and should be avoided at all costs. Some dryers make take a couple cycles to completely dry a pillow, so in many circumstances it’s better to be safe than sorry.
As for daily pillow maintenance, ensuring you have all of the proper pillow accessories is vital. Be sure to use a pillow protector. No, I am not talking about pillow cases here. A pillow cover is a non-porous, zippered case that goes in between the pillow case and the pillow itself. This cover protects the pillow from hair, skin and oils that can build up inside the pillow. Pillow cases can be selected based on your own design and comfort needs, as the protector covers most of the hygienic factors. Be sure to wash your pillow cases every two weeks, and the covers every month.
As I mentioned, pillow protectors are a vital part of keeping your pillows clean and hygienic. Selecting a good pillow protector can also have extra benefits depending on the climate and type of pillow you have. But which one is right for you? Our top choices cover the entire spectrum of benefits these products offer.
#1 Standard Pillow Protectors
If you are looking primarily to prevent natural byproducts from building up within the pillow, a simple protector may be all you need. If you do not suffer from any allergens and use your pillow in a cool, dry environment this should be the only product you require.
#2 Hypoallergenic Pillow Protectors
These pillow protectors offer the additional protection needed for individuals who are prone to suffering from allergy symptoms. They generally offer a higher thread count and a tighter zipper which prevents dust mites, pollen and other natural organisms from building up within the pillow. During the spring and summer, these pillow covers should be washed more frequently than standard pillow covers. Ideally, machine wash and dry them once every two weeks to maintain their hypoallergenic qualities.
My Recommendation: Allersoft 100% Cotton Bed Bug, Dust Mite & Allergy Control Pillow Protector
This economical pillow protector is made by a company known for its highly effective allergy mitigation products. If you find yourself stuffed up and unable to sleep at night, this inexpensive solution can drastically improve the quality of your sleep. By using a high thread count fabric that zips up to seal, Allersoft has created an environment where allergens cannot enter. It still feels soft and breathable, but the fully enclosed design provides a level of protection that you can’t often find in an affordable protector.
#3 Anti-Microbial Pillow Protectors
In the same way that hypoallergenic pillow protectors prevent natural organisms from building up, these pillow protectors are treated to deal with odor causing bacteria. These pillow protectors are vital in hot climates to address the additional moisture in the air and on your skin that your pillows can be exposed to.
My Recommendation: Levinsohn Fresh Ideas Anti-Microbial Pillow Protector
This brand name product is the best pillow protector for anyone who lives in a humid environment. When the air is warm and humid, your skin can release plenty of moisture in an attempt to keep you cool. This pillow protector offer a barrier between your pillow case and the pillow itself, ensuring that you don’t have to wash the pillow very often.
This protector is also great for those who suffer from allergies. With natural pillows, such as down of feather, irritants can get inside. Unlike your pillow itself, it is extremely easy to remove and clean, making the process of keeping your pillows fresh in the hot summer a breeze.
Wrap Up. If you are sick of waking up exhausted, maybe refrain from reaching for that third cup of coffee and instead look at ways that you can improve your quality of sleep. Even though it can seem daunting at first, taking the time to select and purchase a high quality pillow and the appropriate accessories can be a lifelong investment that drastically improves your quality of life.
Waking up with additional alertness and confidence has benefits that extend way beyond the bedroom. A good nights’ sleep helps to improve your performance at work, social ability and mood in a way that no product on the market can come close to.