A proper night’s sleep is almost wholly dependent on your overall sleep comfort. This has much to do with what choices you’ve made in your mattress sleep surfaces, but if you still aren’t sleeping as well as you feel you should, consider what type of pillows you’re using.
Your pillow is much more important to restful sleep than you realize, and picking the best option for your sleep preference should be given some serious thought. Below are the top firm pillow reviews of our hand-picked choices, each of which we spent multiple nights in various sleep positions. We’ve slept with, cuddled with, napped upon, bunched up, and lounged around with the following firm picks to give you our best rundown of each product to recommend to you!
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Avocado Green Pillow
Amazon Basics Down Alternative Bed Pillows
Coop Home Bamboo Cooling Pillow
Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow
Ontel Miracle Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
MyPillow Premium Pillow
Our Top Firm Pillow Picks
1. Editor’s Choice – Avocado Green Pillow
- Filling: 70% latex, 30% Kapok
- Loft: Medium
- Density: Firm
Avocado is a leader when it comes to naturally sourced bedding materials, and their adjustable Green Pillow is a superior pick if you want complete control over the firmness and comfort of your pillow choice. Filled with latex and Kapok, you can take out or leave in as much fill as you want for personalized support. The 100% organic cotton casing is cooling, breathable and very plush to give you optimal comfort while you snooze away.
- Adjustable for all sleep positions
- Organic cotton case is breathable and plush
- Soft, smooth and cooling
- The whole pillow can’t be washed
- May be a little messy when removing the fill
2. Runner Up – Amazon Basics Down Alternative Bed Pillows
- Filling: Down Alternative
- Loft: medium thin
- Density: Extra Firm
Amazon Basics has been offering their customers high-quality items on budget prices for years now, and this includes their line of Down Alternative Bed Pillows with a choice between firm and soft density. Available in both standard and king-sized options, you won’t regret purchasing these pillows once you sink into their cushiony softness that cradles the head and neck, which will prevent waking up with pesky aches and pains.
Stuffed with down alternative, these pillows come with an outer shell made from a polyester microfiber blend that provides airflow throughout the night. You won’t have to worry about sleeping hot when it comes to these beauties and they can be machine-washed when needed. The down alternative provides plush comfort to those who suffer from allergies and need a cleaner fill to rest their heads on.
- Available in two different sizes – standard and king
- Smooth and soft sleeping surface
- Fair price for two pillows
- Are vacuum-sealed so they need about 24 hours to decompress before use
- No option to add or remove stuffing to suit your needs
- Some customers complaints of strong off-gassing smell
3. Best Adjustable – Coop Home Goods Adjustable Loft Bamboo Cooling Pillow
- Filling: Shredded memory foam and poly fiber blend
- Loft: Adjustable
- Density: Customizable
The Coop Home Goods Adjustable Loft Bamboo Cooling Pillow is filled with a shredded memory foam and has a natural fiber, bamboo casing that influences an adjustable, cooling sleep. The malleability of this pillow is unparalleled, making it an excellent pillow for anyone who loves the ability to shape their pillow for comfort and support purposes. The pillow is fully adjustable, meaning you can remove or add as much filling as you want to soften the experience, or create a firmer profile. You could stuff it even further for extra firmness, although it does have a nice, plush comfort and fairly high profile to begin with.
- Fully adjustable to all sleep positions
- Great for heavier bodies
- Slight offgassing
- May become lumpy overtime
4. Best Breathable – Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow
- Filling: Memory foam
- Loft: Adjustable
- Density: Firm
If you’ve been on the hunt for a firm pillow to meet your specific needs, The Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow is worth your attention. The comfort and adjustability far outweigh any cons the pillow may have. Plus, the 100-night sleep trial (with hassle-free returns!) is a deal you don’t want to pass up.
The Sleep Judge Team was impressed with our overall sleep experiences with this pillow and can recommend it wholeheartedly. The construction and materials are of the highest possible standard in the industry, and the customer service is top notch. Nest’s commitment to customer care and eco-friendly material only elevates the product further. You won’t be disappointed by this breathable pillow on any level.
- Fully adjustable
- Provides excellent neck support
- Sleeps cool
- Pillow is not washable
- Filling adjustment can be messy
- Slight off-gassing upon opening
5. Best for Allergy Sufferers – Ontel Miracle Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
- Filling: Memory foam
- Loft: 7 inches
- Density: Firm
As a back and side sleeping option, this pillow works extremely well. While it may not be the greatest stomach sleeping choice, that’s the only negative thing that can be said about the Original Miracle Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow. Everything else lives up to the hype. For a pillow that isn’t fully adjustable, this is a very versatile option for different body types and sizes. The case is thick and plush, but it’s also breathable. The shredded memory foam and polyfill blend provide a malleable surface with ample support and soft contouring.
If you’ve been intrigued by or have been hearing about bamboo pillows, the Original Miracle Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow is one you may want to consider taking a closer look at. The soft polyfill and shredded memory foam creates a pillow you can shape to best fit your head and neck for personalized comfort. Combined with the antimicrobial and hypoallergenic properties of the thick bamboo fiber casing, this is a pillow many allergy sufferers choose for nighttime relief from symptoms.
- Very adjustable
- Supportive of neck and versatile
- Can be compressed for travel
- Not ideal for stomach sleepers
6. Best Cooling – MyPillow Premium Pillow
- Filling: Shredded poly foam
- Loft: 6 inches
- Density: Firm
The MyPillow Premium Pillow is the most recent design that upgrades the original Classic version that can now only be purchased in brick and mortar stores. The Premium includes a gusseted sidewall for easier fill manipulation, washable and dryable durabilities, and a guarantee that your pillow will never go flat with proper care and consistent fluffing. Shredded foam filling provides malleability, and a cotton casing helps increase proper air flow to provide a cooler night’s sleep. Plus when ordering, you can take advantage of their color-coded system and helpful online guide to determine which custom size fits best for you.
The MyPillow Premium is a comfortable and supportive pillow that will suit a variety of sleep needs. Whether you use it under your head, knees or hips, the shredded foam will provide the contouring you need. There’s a reason why MyPillow has become such a popular company!
- Custom-fit comfort guide
- Contours well
- Washes and drys without breaking down
Back and Neck Alignment
Ideally, your back and neck should be in proper, supportive alignment throughout the night, no matter what position you sleep in. Your spine is supported through correct posture during the day, but many of us forget that this is just as important while we sleep.
Your spine encases your central nervous system which plays a vital role in your overall health, and helps keep you balanced and upright, as well as serves as the main passageway of the messages your brain sends to the rest of your body. Poor alignment doesn’t just result in back pain and achy muscles, it often results in increases in insomnia, anxiety, depression and headaches – just to name a few.
Sleep Position vs. Pillow Comfort
Many of you may already be aware that your mattress firmness is directly related to your sleep comfort, and this varies depending on if you are a back, side or stomach sleeper. Your sleep needs are also unique to your body weight, height and shape, but the general rule of thumb is that side sleepers usually need a more plush, softer surface in order to help cradle hips and shoulders, and allow the spine to stay straight throughout the night.
Back and stomach sleepers need firmer support to help uplift hips and shoulders to keep them from sinking and creating tension on the soft tissues of the back, and pulling the spine out of alignment.
But what you may be unaware of is that even with the correct mattress, your posture may be being affected by your pillow choices.
Side Sleep Position Needs
A side sleeper allows for a gap to occur between their shoulders and head, and this space should be properly supported in order to allow the soft tissues to relax, and let the spine fall naturally into position.
Firm pillows with wide gusset help fill this space to cradle your head, and allow your neck to rest comfortably on the material beneath. Side sleepers also often create pressure upon your knees, and a pillow placed between your knees can help alleviate this pressure, and help keep your spine aligned.
Back Sleep Position Needs
Back sleepers benefit from a thinner, firm pillow that supports your neck. Ideally, you want a pillow that has an extra loft in the bottom third of the pillow to allow your neck to rest upon. A memory foam pillow is often a popular pick for back sleepers as it helps create a cradle for the weight of the head while correctly supporting the space between the head and shoulders.
Avoid super thick pillows that will lift the head too far forward when resting on it. A pillow placed under your knees can also help align the spine and keep pressure off your lower back.
Stomach Sleep Position Needs
Sleeping on your stomach creates the most stress on your back and usually always has some degree of alignment issue, since your head will always be turned to one side or the other through the night. Therefore, it’s important to control how much strain is being put on your neck as much as possible.
A thin pillow, or no pillow at all, is ideal to help keep your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. Placing a pillow under your hips may also help keep your hips from sinking and placing strain along your lower back. Stomach sleepers may also benefit from a body pillow if sleeping with a pillow of some sort is a comfort must.
Why Would You Want a Firm Pillow?
As mentioned, thicker, firmer pillows are the best choice for side sleepers to help support the neck and head. Medium-firm to extra-firm choices are the most popular for side comfort, whereas a thinner medium firm with a firm down or down alternative, or memory foam that conforms to the neck is the preferred choice for back sleepers.
Pillow loft refers to how high it sits when laying flat. A pillow with high loft with be a thicker pillow, whereas a pillow with low loft will be more on the thin side. A high lift pillow also often looks a bit more rounded out and have a gusset, or panel along the sides to make the pillow a bit more rectangular in shape.
Just because a high loft pillow looks thicker and more solid, this doesn’t mean it won’t cradle your head and neck in all the right places. The same goes for a thinner pillow. A low loft doesn’t mean a flat, lifeless pillow with no support. The best way to determine which loft is right for you is to take into account your sleeping position. High loft pillows are popular with side sleepers and for use as body pillows, whereas lower lofts provide better comfort for many back and stomach sleepers.
Higher quality materials also maintain their loft for much longer. Down feather pillow and buckwheat husk are some of the higher-end fillings used to maintain loft for longer periods of time.
Pillows aren’t just one-size-fits-all, and knowing the differences, as well as your needs, can help you determine the best comfort for you. The standard, most common pillow size is 20×26 inches, but a super standard, queen, and king size are 20×28, 30, and 36 inches respectively. Standard sizes are the best for sleeping in any position, with the larger sizes occasionally being more popular with side sleepers to help fill in the spaces between your head and shoulder and provide more support.
Be sure to purchase pillowcases that fit your pillows, especially if they’re larger and have a high loft in order to keep from compressing the materials.
What to Consider When Choosing a Firm Pillow
What’s your sleep position?
Knowing your sleep position is the first step in choosing the correct pillow. It doesn’t matter if you think you like a fluffy, large pillow – if it doesn’t suit your sleep style, it won’t provide the correct comfort.
Do you know the difference between a high and low loft?
If you’ve never paid attention to pillow loft and are unsure of the differences between the two, you may want to visit a sleep store that will allow you to check it out. High loft pillows are incredibly comforting for certain positions and use, but may not work well for an entire night’s sleep. Pay attention to your neck support and how straight your neck is in relation to your spine when resting in your normal sleep posture.
Test your pillow age every 18 months to 2 years
Even when purchasing a new pillow, you should test out your pillow life by folding it in half to check its spring back. Pillows made of materials that compress and have been stored that way for too long may not provide the support you need. And with long-term use, pillows can also collect allergies and oils from your skin. A pillow protector is always a good idea to prevent premature wear and tear.
As far as firm pillow choices go, these are our favorites currently offered on the market to provide both comfort and versatility where needed. Firm pillows are typically created to meet the needs of side and back sleepers, with higher loft options created specifically for the unique neck support side sleepers need to keep their spines in ideal alignment.
July 30, 2021: Our previous #1, 3, 4 and 5 picks – Beautyrest Extra Firm Pillow for Back and Side Sleepers; BedSure Memory Foam Firm Contouring Pillow; Sealy Firm Down Alternative Pillow; Bamboo Grand Adjustable Firm Shredded Memory Foam Pillow – have each been removed due to unavailability, replaced with the popular Avocado Green Pillow and Coop Home Bamboo Cooling Pillow.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are firm pillows better?
That’s an answer specific to each individual. Side sleepers find firm pillows better as it helps achieve spinal alignment by filling in the gap between the shoulders and head. Back sleepers too find firm pillows that are thin to be comforting. Memory foam is particularly popular for this sleeping position. Whereas, stomach sleepers find softer pillows better as the plush surface cradles the neck. In addition to sleep position, body weight, height, and shape also determine the level of comfort you can gain from a pillow and what firmness level will be best suited for you.
Can a pillow be too firm?
Yes. Based on what pillow and quality you choose, it could turn out to be too firm for you. In this case, the pillow can lead to neck pain. If you’re a stomach sleeper, you’ll probably find that even medium-firm pillows are simply too firm and causing you discomfort. This is because when you sleep on your stomach, your posture hyperextends your neck backwards. A firm pillow makes the situation worse by extending back it even further. On the other hand, if you’re a back sleeper, an extra firm pillow will hyperextend your neck forward.
Why do side sleepers need firm pillows?
As a side sleeper, you place extra stress on your neck because of the gap between the head and shoulders. A firm pillow fills this gap and supports your neck, releasing pressure and allowing the tissues to relax. Thus, you’re able to sleep comfortably as your body maintains spinal alignment. A lofty firm pillow in particular is an exceptional choice for side sleepers.