A proper night’s sleep is almost wholly dependent upon your overall sleep comfort. This has much to do with what choices you have made in your mattress sleep surfaces, but if you still aren’t sleeping as well as you feel you should, consider what pillows you are using.
Your pillow is much more important to restful sleep than you realize, and picking the best option for your sleep preference should be considered. Below are the firm pillow reviews of our hand-picked choices, each of which we spent multiple nights within various sleep positions.
Our Top Firm Pillow Picks
We have slept with, cuddled with, napped upon, bunched up, and lounged around with these following firm picks to give you our best rundown of each product to suggest to you.
1. Beautyrest Extra Firm Pillow
Another high loft, almost overstuffed pillow choice, the Beautyrest extra firm pillow provides plush softness with contouring head and neck support. The 2 inch high gussets are reinforced to provide proper shaping as the fill distributes with weight addition, and helps hold your head in softness while providing restful neck support.
Created for side and back sleepers, these pillows are covered with a 400 thread count pima cotton and provide decent breathability. Although lower thread counts have better airflow, no complaints surround sleeping hot or retaining moisture. The poly fill also plumps up well after each use.
Perfect for side sleepers, this pillow does provide soft comfort without sacrificing firmness or support, and is a favorite for sleepers in need of good neck support. Back sleepers may find them too firm and too high a loft for proper head contouring, which lifts the neck out of alignment can causes stress along the soft tissues of the upper back and shoulders.
- High, contouring loft
- Firm support
- Excellent neck support
- May be too ‘springy’
- May be too firm for back sleepers
2. 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 a year 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 will not regret purchasing these pillows once you sink down into their cushiony softness that cradles the head and neck to 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 cushiony comfort to those who suffer from allergies and needs a cleaner fill to rest their head 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.
- Customers complained of a strong off-gassing smell.
3. Bedsure Memory Foam Contour Firm Pillow
- Filling: Memory Foam
- Loft: Thin
- Density: Medium Firm
This non-traditional, memory foam pillow provides shaping and contouring for back and side sleepers who need the proper neck support for true muscle relaxation. The memory foam shaping allows for the pillow to be used two different ways to work as an uplifting neck rest with space to cradle your head in alignment with the rest of your spine.
The density of the foam does take a bit of time to truly conform and soften under your body heat, but holds its shape well once you have found a comfortable position. This therapeutic design is made specifically to allow for maximum neck relaxation, as many muscle and soft tissue tension is caused by improper neck support through the night.
A good pillow choice for side and back sleepers, this is a great pillow alternative for anyone looking for more neck cradling support. It is truly a very firm, low loft material and does take a little time for true contouring. The pillow is also smaller, and is designed for sleepers who move very little through the night, or not at all.
- Memory foam molds to head and neck
- Contouring design for spinal support
- Protective cover
- Very Firm
- Takes time to soften and conform
- Small size
4. Sealy Firm Density Down Alternative Pillow
- Filling: Alternative poly down
- Loft: High
- Density: Firm
This high loft, firm density pillow provides an overfilled look and boasts 2 inch high gussets to accommodate the firm down alternative poly fill. Although at first glance this choice looks very plush, the materials conform extremely well to support and cradle the weight of your head while distributing materials to allow your neck to rest comfortably.
The 300 thread count cotton cover provides great airflow to keep moisture from building up and the thick gusset is double stitched to keep from pulling as fill redistributes under applied weight. Although the down alternative has less of a down feel, and more of a plush cotton feel, it does distribute nicely like down does and plumps back up after use.
Created for side and back sleepers, this pillow is a great choice for side sleepers of all shape and size, but may be to firm and thick for most back sleepers. Although it is very supportive, especially within a reclined position upon your back, it is a very high loft when laid flat.
- High loft provides contouring
- Very Breathable
- Supports neck well
- Plush firm, not hard firm feel
- Not a true alternative down feather feel
5. BAMBOO Grand Adjustable Firm Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
- Filling: Shredded memory foam
- Loft: Medium
- Density: Firm
Shredded memory foam provides foam contouring while allowing for a more adjustable feel to the pillow loftness. A zippered cover allows for the removal and addition of shredded memory foam to adjust the overall loft and firmness to meet the needs of all sleep positions.
Natural bamboo fibers are breathable and vent air well for a comfortable and cool sleep surface, plus the design allows for it to be removed and washed. Bamboo is also naturally dust mite resistant, making it a good solution for those sensitive to allergens.
The Bamboo pillow is a good choice for any type of sleeper if they are willing to work with the adjustments that may be needed for personal comfort. The firmness is ideal for back and side sleepers, but stomach sleepers who require a pillow may find this an ideal choice with the removal of some of the loft for a thinner pillow choice.
- Adjustable to different sleep positions
- Created for cervical support
- Removable fill for comfort
- Foam may settle and require redistribution
- May be too firm
6. Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow
- Filling: Memory foam
- Loft: Adjustable
- Density: Firm
If you have 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 standards in the industry, and the customer service is top notch as well. Nest’s commitment to customer care and eco-friendly material only elevates the product further. You will not be disappointed by this 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
7. Original Miracle Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
- Filling: Memory foam
- Loft: 7 inches
- Density: Firm
As a back and side sleeping option, this pillow works extremely well. But it may not always 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 is not truly adjustable, this is a very versatile option for multiple sleep positions as well as 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
- Offgassing upon opening
- May be too firm for some
8. 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 plumping.
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 fit sizing is 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 that you need. There’s a reason why MyPillow has become such a popular company. They know what they are doing!
- Custom-fit comfort guide
- Contours well
- Washes and drys without breaking down
- Regular plumping required
- Fill can be felt through the casing
A Firm Pillow Buyers Guide
Back and Neck Alignment
Ideally, your back and neck should be in proper, supportive alignment through the night, no matter what position you sleep in. Your spine is supported through correct posture through the day, but many of us forget that as we sleep this is just as important.
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- 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 more firm 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 upon 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 to thick of a pillow that will lift the head too far forward when laying upon 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 upon your back and usually always has some degree of alignment issue since your head will often 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 a back sleeper preferred choice.
Pillow loft refers to how high it sits when laying flat. A pillow with a 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.
Sealy High Loft
Just because a high loft pillow looks thicker and more solid, this doesn’t mean it doesn’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 what 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 a body pillow, 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 that maintain loft for longer periods of time.
Pillows are not a one size fits all, and knowing the differences, and 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 are larger and have a high loft in order to keep from compressing the materials.
What to Consider When Choosing a Firm Pillow
What is 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 isn’t going to provide the correct comfort.
Do you know the difference between a high and low loft?
If you have never paid attention to pillow loft before now, 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 that have materials that compress and have been stored too long that way may not provide the support you need. And with use pillows can also collect allergies and oils from your skin. A pillow protector is always a good idea.
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 spine in alignment.
Of the choices we’ve offered, our top pick is the Beautyrest Extra Firm Pillow which offers a plush, extremely high loft choice that contours comfortably to your head while holding it in support through the night. More importantly is how the fill distributes to comfortably support your neck to allow a true rest which moves with you through the night.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best firm pillow?
Beautyrest Extra Firm pillow is our top choice. Contouring the head and neck for support, this extra firm pillow comes with a high loft. It’s a favourite for side sleepers as it’s plush and soft yet manages not to sacrifice the firmness they need for spinal alignment and restful sleep. The 400-thread count pima cotton case is quite breathable and another thing that works well for this pillow. As is the fact that it can be machine washed. Simply throw in two pillows at one time for balance and it won’t get lumpy when the cycle completes. Beautyrest offers a 5-year warranty on the pillow.
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.