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Nature’s Pillows Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow Review

Updated August 6, 2019

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A good night’s rest is an important part of your overall health, and your approach to the sleep products you depend on is integral to how well you sleep. There are many options available that make many claims surrounding your sleep comforts, and through hours of research you may be able to narrow down the exact needs you have in a product- but here at The Sleep Judge we’ve decided to make this step a bit easier for you by providing detailed reviews of our own experiences with some of the more popular brands.

The Nature’s Pillows company has a long standing reputation in the sleep industry due to their introduction of a Traditional Sobakawa Buckwheat pillow to the general public. More recently they have expanded their offer to include a Sobakawa Cloud version, that uses an entirely different manner of construction to provide a similar surface comfort feel. We have acquired a pillow for ourselves to determine if the claims surrounding this product are what they claim to be.

Nature’s Pillows Sobakawa Cloud Pillow Specs

 Case material: Poly/Spandex Blend

 Comfort: Back and side

 Adjustable: no

 Warranty: through 3rd party seller

Breakdown of the Nature’s Pillow Company

In 1994 Nature’s Pillows presented a traditional style Japanese Buckwheat pillow to the general public using an ‘as seen on tv’ platform. This type of pillow became very popular, very quickly as the claims they made surrounding headache relief, head and neck support, as well as snoring reduction seemed to hold up to the hype. Over 25 years later, this introduction to the sleep industry has influenced many more companies to create similar versions, and the company is still providing their original design to the public, as well as more modern versions.

The Sobakawa Cloud Pillow

The Sobakawa Cloud pillow is based off the concept of the original buckwheat hull filled pillow design that made the company popular, but to update this version, different materials and construction were used in the process. The Cloud version is filled with ‘air-micro beads’, otherwise known as polystyrene foam beads, and are sewn into a smooth, polyester casing. The pillow is also more ergonomically shaped to better fit a wider variety of head and neck sizes and shapes.

Pros

  • Conforms well to head and neck
  • Easily shaped
  • Works well for alternative uses

Cons

  • Noisy
  • Very strong off-gassing
  • Beads eventually compress

Unpacking

Although the pillow came in a very informative branded box, it was placed within a more non-descript brown shipping box from the warehouse retailer it was sold through. The pillow was also sealed within a plastic bag within the box, and well packed to keep it from shifting or bunching up. When first opened it had a very strong chemical smell from being wrapped in plastic and within the box.

First Impressions

Honestly I felt as if I had just unwrapped a large travel pillow as the materials and fill are both reminiscent of the U-shaped micro-bead pillows popular with flight travel. It also makes the plastic rustling noise these poly beads make as they rub against each other.

Honestly these were not bothersome as I was interested to see the comfort of the whole pillow. But what just about ended this pillow in the trash was how strong the chemical smell was at first, and how it still lingered even after it dissipated- especially when you placed your head close to it. I looked up other various ways to help air this pillow out since placing it in the dryer it out of the question due to the poly beads. I finally just allowed it to sit out in an airy spot in the yard for a few days and didn’t use it for a few weeks until I couldn’t’ smell it anymore.

Features & Benefit Claims

It is really important that you don’t confuse the name of this pillow with a true Sobakawa pillow. Sobakawa actually means Buckwheat in Japanese so it could be easily assumed that this is a buckwheat pillow, despite the company never claiming it is so and making it clear in the description. Rather, the company claims to provide a similar feel of a true Sobakawa (which they also manufacture and we give a hearty two thumbs up to), but with an alternative construction.

• Ergonomic Shape

One side is flat, with the other curved inwards to better accommodate differing body shapes. At first I thought the middle quilted size would keep me from being able to properly move the beads around inside to the way I wanted them, but there is a movement of beads through this quilting. The inner indent allows for you to better rest your head and support your neck. You can flip the pillow to use either way depending on how much support you need.

• Polystyrene Foam Bead Filling

Polystyrene beads are not styrofoam, although they are very similar in nature. These are actually made from EPS resin and are ‘puffed’ to create a bead that is 30 to 35 times the original size. These types of pillows are not adjustable because the foam is full of static and literally stick to everything. Because of this, they are very messy as well.

I found them to be rather noisy in nature, and although it doesn’t take much to get used to, initially they make a much more noticeable rustling sound than natural buckwheat hulls. I did find them to move in a somewhat similar nature, and provide a similar feel to buckwheat hulls, but overall it was a slightly ‘softer’ effect. They moved easily within the casing and held a decent shape if you pressed into it. Plus they responded well to pressure.

• Size

This is not a traditional size pillow by any means, and the dimensions of 18 1/2″L x 12 1/2″W x 2 3/4″H is actually plenty large to hold your head and neck in place through the night. Traditional Sobakawa pillows are approximately this size since a larger size truly isn’t needed. I found larger sized pillows that follow this design have too much material and it takes quite a bit of effort to get it shaped quite right. The smaller sizes adjust easily and adjust better in my opinion, making this pillow size just right.

• Weight

Unlike the heft of a buckwheat pillow, these are very light weight in nature and this particular pillow only weighs 1.15 pounds in total. This helps make it much more versatile and easy to travel with. It also packs well, so if it is a favorite you can take it with you from place to place with very little problem.

• Comfort

Made for back and side sleeping comfort, this pillow is designed to fill the spaces between you head and shoulders, and cradle your head. It also may work well for stomach sleepers depending on body size and personal preferences.

I would consider it a shapeable firm support, as it holds the shape of your head well, doesn’t provide any give once you get settled, but also doesn’t create any pressure points. It isn’t anything like memory foam, however and will hold its shape until you move it.

• Poly/Spandex Cover

The foam beads themselves are encased within a polyester case that provides a slightly ergonomic shape with a quilted indent for your head. It also comes with a poly/spandex cover to protect your pillow. These are cool to the touch, and seem to promote airflow. Personally I prefer a thicker cotton casing as it doesn’t have the possibility of snagging and also doesn’t attract dirt as much.

It also has a plastic zipper sewn into the top part of the pillow to provide a little flap for easy access. Although the zipper does not have a pull, it does move easily back and forth. It’s also well sewn into the case.

• Promotes Airflow

The many air pockets created between the beads, and the overall lack of compression they undergo when in use, promotes a free flow of air through the pillow. This is helpful to anyone who sleep warm or likes a cooler sleep surface. Although I am not a warm sleeper, I did find this to be a cooler option compared to other types of pillows. I didn’t notice any heat retention at all.

• Machine Washable Case

You absolutely cannot wash the pillow due to the type of filling, but the case is machine washable, and it is suggested you hang it to dry. This is a nice option to keep your pillow clean and fresh. The polyester and spandex blend serves as an excellent barrier between you and the actual pillow, plus if you use a separate pillow case you also ensure no moisture, dirt, or oils make it through the the actual pillow itself.

Consumer Reviews

This really is a love it or hate it type product, with most consumers either appreciate the comfort and construction, or writing it off altogether. For the most part it stands up to its claims of holding your head and neck in place, and being versatile and malleable. People state this creates a comfortable situation, and also love how easy it is to transport. It also is incredibly popular for it’s more alternative features, such as being used to support the back or legs.

The noise, the smell, and it being too thin are amongst the top complaints made against it. Also, the name is somewhat misleading if you simply see Sobakawa and do not read the description of the pillow itself. It suggests a true buckwheat pillow rather than an alternative- and one that is seriously inferior at that.

My Trial Experiences

I’ll state here that this really wasn’t the pillow for me- at least not to lay my head down upon. I couldn’t get past the initial chemical smell easily, as I felt it lingered, no matter how faint. It was also noisy to me, and whereas I find the natural rustling of buckwheat hulls somewhat comforting, the whole feel of this pillow was very synthetic to me. I also seriously kept questioning why a company that produced such a comfortable traditional buckwheat version would even consider a pillow that comes across as more of a cheap knockoff. Despite that I can describe what details I did notice about it, as well as what use do very much like it for.

— Stomach Trial

I am naturally a stomach sleeper, and seriously couldn’t find much fault with the size or shape of the pillow. Some people claim it is too thin overall, and this actually lends itself to a more comfortable stomach sleeping position as the thinner the better. I was able to successfully get my head in a comfortable position, and never felt as if there was too much pressure exerted against my temple, ear, or jaw. This wasn’t the best for my size over a longer period of time, however, and would be even better for larger bodied sleepers with broader shoulders.

— Back Trial

It was obvious from the start why back sleepers might enjoy this pillow. No matter which side you turn it to (flat or curved), you are able to get the beads up under your neck, and a nice indentation where your head belongs. Back sleepers need a thinner surface and this provides a thin, supportive feel overall. I found it a good choice, and could appreciate the comfort even if I couldn’t get used to the noise it made.

— Side Trial

Although many consumers like it as a side sleeping choice, and I could recognize how well you can shape it under your neck- I have to agree with some of the comments that mention its thinness. Whereas there are plenty of beads to support your head and neck when sleeping on your side, you really need to adjust tit to fit just right. And honestly, this much not work too well for many people much larger than myself (and I am fairly slight overall).

— Alternate Uses

I may be able to objectively describe comfort despite the fact I was not overall impressed with the pillow, I do want to describe what makes this pillow a winner. The lightness and easy shaping really does make this pillow more versatile than a buckwheat pillow. I have looked for years for a true lumbar support in my office chair, and more so in the car when driving long distances. This pillow is it. In all honesty I would purchase this pillow simply for this support alone as it shapes amazingly to the curve of your back without creating too much pressure.

Conclusion

Don’t rule Nature’s Pillows Sobakawa Cloud Pillow completely. It isn’t a shoddy make, does provide overall quality, synthetic materials, and has a decent rating overall by consumers who use it regularly. Even I would invest in it for alternative uses, and I can absolutely see it coming in handy in the vehicle on longer road trips to nap upon as well. It travels well, and versatile, and is unique altogether.

This pillow may have its uses for many people, but the benefits of a true Sobakawa Pillow support far outweigh them and also provides a much more durable, natural, long lasting product to boot. For a quick travel alternative, or amazing lumbar support, this is an excellent choice- and it does truly hold your head and neck well through the night, but it varies greatly in comfort depending on body shape and size.

The off-gassing, synthetic feel to the beads, and the synthetic casing (in white no doubt) all provide the impression of a pillow that truly isn’t made to last. If you want a more affordable copy of a buckwheat pillow, and aren’t expecting it to last seriously long, then this might be worth considering.

Don’t buy it though if you are looking for a true buckwheat pillow and believe this to be a good alternative. Although it lends itself to decent head and neck support, it is nothing compared to a true Sobakawa Pillow. If you have any questions or comments about this product we would love to hear from you below.

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