These days, we all spend so much time seeking out the right mattress. There are so many styles and designs that with a little effort, the perfect mattress for your perfect night’s sleep can be uncovered. But what about pillows? All too often, shoppers will spend hours researching the perfect mattress, and then buy the first pillow they see. This is a huge mistake. Just like mattresses, there are dozens of different types of pillows out there that are each designed to suit specific sleep needs. Which one is right for you? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think!
Certain pillows will suit certain sleepers perfectly, while causing problems for others. The trick is taking the time to figure out which pillow was made with your sleep style in mind. Here at The Sleep Judge, we’ve made it our personal mission to figure out which pillow is best for which sleeper. We’ve done the research, tried them all, and come up with the following list of the best pillows on the market.
Our Top Pillow Picks And Reviews
1. Editor’s Choice – The Purple Pillow with Adjustable Boosters
- Filling: Hyper-elastic Polymer
- Comfort: Medium-firm
- Comfort Positions: Back-Side adjustability
- Warranty: 100 night sleep trial
The Purple Pillow is a unique design unlike anything else currently on the market. Instead of a traditional filling, it uses a hyper-elastic polymer to provide unparalleled support and contouring. It not only flexes to your weight and compression, the open-celled design allows for consistent airflow and breathability to keep you at an ideal body temperature.
In addition, this is a completely adjustable pillow. It includes an air pillow that you can use within the unique casing to help raise the loft of your pillow to fit your personal preference. This design takes a very different approach than other, more traditional designs, but it has become an increasingly popular pick due to the support it lends to sleepers suffering from neck and back pain.
- Excellent airflow
- Fully adjustable
- No fluffing required
- Somewhat heavy
- Affected by ambient temperature
2. Runner Up – Layla Copper Infused Down Adjustable Pillow
- Filling: Kapok and shredded memory foam
- Comfort: Soft/Plush
- Comfort Positions: Back and side sleepers
- Warranty: 5 years prorated, 120-night trial
Natural Kapok fibers and shredded memory foam help create a plush, shapeable down feel to this soft yet supportive pillow. Kapok is a soft fiber found within the seed pods of a Kapok tree. It’s considered the softest natural fiber to be found, and is considered the best material to blend for a customizable feel. The Layla Pillow uses it to provide a light, soft and airy sleep surface.
The cover is a thick, quilted poly blend that’s infused with copper threads for added coolness and microbial protection. Copper promotes blood flow and healing due to the production of positive ions. Plus, the pillow is machine washable and dryable, making it a convenient choice.
- Sleeps cool
- Copper infusion may promote health
- Very soft and contouring
- Slight off-gassing
- May be too firm for stomach sleepers
3. Best Cooling – Slumber Cloud Core Down Alternative Pillow
- Filling: Polyfill
- Comfort: Variable
- Comfort Positions: Side and back sleepers
- Warranty: 60 Day Trial Period, 180 Day Warranty
The Slumber Cloud Core line is highly breathable and comfortable for more than one sleep style, but many of their choices are considered a bit soft for many people. This pillow is remarkably adjustable and comfortable. With so many options, it’s almost impossible to find one that won’t work for you. It’s also a top cooling choice due to its ability to properly regulate heat throughout the night in a variety of ambient temperature situations. The Outlast fabric that helps pull heat from your body and keeps it from retaining near your skin is effective and helps provide a consistently comfortable sleep. The 180-day warranty also makes it a good choice, as you’re able to give the pillow a trial run (for 60 days) and decide if it’s a good fit for you.
This is an excellent option for anyone who sleeps hot, as it provides a consistent cooling sensation during the night depending on your ambient room climate. It’s also impressive that the pillow is available in so many sizes and fill choices. This ensures that the pillow can meet many differing needs regarding comfort and proper spinal alignment.
- Well made
- Sleeps cool
- Excellent customer service
- Overall very soft pillows
- Loft may rise around your face
- Firm choice may be too firm for some
4. Best Thin Pillow – Super Plush Sleep Restoration Gel-Fiber
- Filling: 100% polyester
- Comfort: Soft/medium-thin
- Comfort Positions: Back and combo sleepers
- Warranty: 30-day satisfaction
As its name suggests, this is a super plush pillow that provides excellent give to your weight, but still provides underlying support to keep your head from bottoming out. It’s also filled with a gel-infused poly fiber fill that helps draw heat from your body and dissipates it for a cooling sensation.
The smooth, luxurious feel to the pillow is due to it being 100% polyester, and the low thread count of the cotton case ensures good airflow, as well as the proper use of gel technology. Because of this combination, the pillow isn’t washable and should only be dry cleaned. Air fluffing is considered OK, as long as low heat or no heat is used in a tumble dry. Perfect for back sleepers, the soft contouring cradles the head and allows for excellent neck support. Because of how thin it compresses, it may also be great for stomach sleepers, although most ideal for larger, more broad shouldered bodies.
- Very cooling
- Keeps its shape well
- Soft comfort with good neck and head support
- Too soft for side sleepers
- Loft might be too high for stomach sleepers
5. Best Back and Neck Support – The Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow
- Filling: Shredded Memory Foam polyfill blend
- Comfort: Soft/Adjustable
- Comfort Positions: All
- Warranty: 30 Day Trial Period, 2 Year Warranty
This fully adjustable pillow is filled with a shredded memory foam and soft polyfill blend to allow for complete customization. By removing or adding the fill, you can adjust the loft and softness level to create an individualized sleep experience. The pillow is also highly malleable and shapes easily for your specific comfort needs. The shredded memory foam provides contouring comfort, while the material blend keeps your head feeling as if it’s resting on a soft cloud.
The casing is a natural eucalyptus wood pulp fiber blend that’s thick and stretchy. It’s strong, moisture wicking and breathable to allow for flow through the pillow along the many air pockets provided by the shredded memory foam. It’s a spot-clean only pillow but is highly dirt-resistant and wipes clean easily. Back and neck discomfort may be somewhat alleviated by the adjustability of this pillow. The customization of comfort, along with the soft, manipulative fill is popular for all sleep positions and can be used as a support pillow, as well for the back or hips.
- Fully adjustable
- Excellent body support and contouring
- Sleeps cool
- Not easily washable
- Slight off-gassing
6. Customer’s Choice – Leesa Premium Foam Pillow
- Filling: Polyfill blend
- Comfort: Soft/medium
- Comfort Positions: All (but especially back sleepers)
- Warranty: 30 Day Trial Period, 3 Year Warranty
The amazing feel of the patented Avena poly foam provides soft and supportive comfort that’s definitely an asset to a restful sleep. With the ability to help meet a variety of sleep positions, the Leesa Pillow is well worth considering. A protective washable cover, effective cooling design and easy comfort help define the assets of this product and make it a popular product. With a company who stands by its products with satisfaction guarantees, you can be rest assured that the quality and materials used in the Leesa Pillow are top notch.
There may be no such thing as a true one-size-fits-all pillow, but Leesa at least stands behind its products to provide returns for anyone who doesn’t fall for their product. Body size and shape are going to be the biggest influence on overall comfort when using this pillow, and sleep position is an important factor as well. Even though back sleepers will find little fault with the Leesa pillow, side and stomach sleepers should take advantage of the trial offer before fully committing.
- Instant response foam comfort
- Provides great neck support
- Easy, hassle free returns
- Not thick enough for broad shoulders
- King size dimensions don’t fit king bed well
7. Best Classic – I Love My Pillow Classic Traditional Pillow
- Filling: Memory Foam
- Comfort: Soft/medium
- Comfort Positions: Side and back
- Warranty: 3 years
The I Love My Pillow Classic Traditional Pillow is incredibly responsive with immediate bounce back. The memory foam construction is remarkably light and soft, quickly bouncing back after compression. It has a true plush feel in every sense of the word. Broad shoulder body types will most likely use this as a back sleeping option, while more narrow-bodies might consider it a perfect fit for side sleeping. The pillow also facilitates sleep at a comfortable temperature, offers excellent shaping and is just plain comfortable.
This is a great pillow that definitely stands up to the hype the company makes about it. It’s not a one size fits all by any means, and those details do need to be taken into consideration prior to purchase. The compression may be a bit much for heavier side sleepers, as it may not provide the height needed for broad shoulders. The pillow works best for narrow bodies, and its compression also lends itself well to back and stomach sleepers.
- Sleeps cool
- Holds head and neck in a proper spinal alignment
- Good customer service
- May take some time to adapt to
- May be too firm for some positions
8. Best for Stomach and Back Sleepers – Bluewave Bedding Ultra Slim Gel-Infused
- Filling: Memory Foam
- Comfort: Firm/Thin
- Comfort Positions: Stomach/Back
- Warranty: 30 Day
The memory foam in this Bluewave pillow is infused with a heat drawing gel to help provide a cooler night’s sleep. With only a 2.5 inch profile, this is a full 2 to 3 inches thinner than most similar products on the market. The thin loft makes it a popular stomach support pillow as it keeps your head only slightly above the surface of the mattress without bottoming out.
The soft, breathable bamboo blended cover is washable and naturally hypoallergenic to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. This protects the shaped pillow that boasts both a rounded and flat side to provide further comfort choices, as well as excellent pressure relief. This is a pillow made specifically for stomach sleepers, as well as many back sleepers looking for proper head and neck placement throughout the night. The memory foam contours perfectly to your weight and keeps from bottoming out.
- Good for back and stomach sleepers
- Good for side sleepers that prop their arm beneath their head
- Sleeps cool
- May be too firm
- Not good for combo or side sleepers
The Sleep Judge Pillow Buyers Guide
Back and Neck Alignment
How well your head and neck are supported each night is directly related to your spinal health. Poor positioning can lead to body aches and pains due to muscle strain, and often leads to restless and interrupted sleep. This disruption can affect both your mental and physical health rather quickly, and can have detrimental effects on your well-being over time.
Quality choices, combined with the correct pillow type, can help support cervical spine health – the gateway between your brain and central nervous system. Your whole body is dependent on this process, and if you compromise it night after night with poor product choices, much more than just your sleep may become interrupted.
Sleep Position vs. Comfort
How we sleep naturally determines which sort of mattress and pillow combination we need to support our bodies. Many people purchase pillows solely on what they THINK they need, not what’s best for support, just because it feels soft or looks thick and supportive. These aren’t ideal determining factors when choosing one that works best for your body type. When starting out, you first need to understand your sleep position and what it requires to be properly supported.
— Back Sleep Position Needs
Sleeping on your back requires your neck and head to be kept in alignment with your spine. A thin yet supportive pillow that holds your head level with your shoulders – and fills the space between your head and shoulders – is exactly what you should be searching for. If your head is lifted too high or is allowed to fall back, the strain will be caused along your shoulders and through your neck. Back and joint pain may also be a result if you don’t have the correct pillow to properly support you.
— Stomach Sleep Position Needs
This is the least optimal position to sleep in, but one can’t help what position they fall into naturally. Since your head and neck will always be out of alignment due to turning your head to one side or another, it’s important to support what you can to reduce strain on your spine. Sleeping with your head flat upon the mattress is truly your best bet, but most people need a little extra padding. A thin, soft pillow that allows your head to rest as flat as possible is what you should be looking for.
— Side Sleep Position Needs
This is the most common sleep position and is what most manufacturers and bedding stores offer for sale. When you sleep on your side, you’re placing strain on your entire spinal column. A thicker, supportive pillow needs to hold your head between your shoulders, but also fill in the larger gap left by your neck. Gusseted, thicker choices of various materials will work best for this position.
Pillows are made with a variety of different materials that influence their quality and durability over time, as well as personal comfort preferences. Many times materials are chosen specifically to provide differing comfort levels, or to support specific claims such as cooling effects.
What your pillow is filled with has much to do with how soft or firm a surface it creates. Many times it also supports good ventilation, cooling or even allergen relief.
• Poly Fill
Polyfill is a synthetic polyester fiber that creates a faux down feel and added support due to how durable it is when under pressure. Typically, it’s machine washable and dryable without compromising its quality.
• Down & Feather Blends
Down and feather blends are a traditional bedding fill and are popular due to how well it shapes and molds to your weight, all while providing a soft feel and underlying support. A good down and feather blend can last for many years and is considered high quality.
• Memory Foam
Memory foam provides contouring comfort and usually a firmer support for thin pillow choices. It also can be shredded to allow for adjustability, contouring and proper support.
Kapok is a natural fiber that’s extremely soft and airy, and it’s often used with other materials, such as shredded memory foam, to achieve a soft yet supportive balance.
Gel layers and gel-infused poly-fiber are popular additions to pillow fillings due to their conductive properties. These properties aim to draw heat from surfaces that are warmer than they are, creating a cooling sensation.
Pillow covers, although often covered by pillowcases, are important to the overall integrity of the product. These material choices determine the quality of an overall pillow due to their workmanship and attention to detail.
• Thread Count
The thread count of a case is important as it can influence how well a pillow breathes. Contrary to popular belief, a low thread count is a desirable choice, as this means the material is woven more loosely to allow for airflow (without compromising the quality of the fabric materials). Good airflow allows for a cooler nights sleep.
Bamboo is a natural moisture wicking, breathable fiber that’s often blended with polyester to allow for a plush surface that breathes well. It’s often seen with shredded memory foam pillows.
Cotton is by far one of the most common and popular choices because of how well it naturally breathes and wicks away moisture. It can be woven into various surface textures for differing comfort preferences.
Although synthetic in nature, polyester blends well with a variety of natural fibers to provide durability and breathability when woven loosely enough.
Loft is determined by how thick a pillow is when laying on a flat surface. This is often typically misunderstood, as many people mistakenly believe that a high loft results in a firm pillow, and vice versa. This isn’t always true, and in actuality, the filling and the amount of filling in a pillow better determine both loft and comfort level more than anything else.
There is a generally accepted standard size in the industry to ensure that your pillowcase sizes match up with your pillow size. In general, you can expect to see 3 common sizes: standard, queen and king sizes that measure 20×26, 20×30, and 20×36 inches, respectively. Some companies may deviate from this slightly, but for the most part, those changes are slight and will fit your existing or future pillowcase sizes without any issue.
What to Consider When Choosing a Pillow
As mentioned, there are many variables you need to consider when looking for a new pillow. Below are a few questions you can ask yourself when looking at pillow options:
What is your sleep position?
- Before choosing, you need to consider your sleep position and buy according to your body’s alignment needs. As described above, a back and stomach sleeper needs a much thinner, possibly softer, pillow choice.
Do you have any allergies?
- Occasionally, some people may have some issues surrounding allergens with more natural products. Although very detailed material care is included with each product, care should be taken to ensure you’re getting a product that doesn’t create any issues.
Do you sleep warm?
- Some construction includes specific materials that are more conducive to a cooler night’s sleep. If you sleep warm, looking into natural fibers, low thread-counts and gel materials are definitely worth your time.
Although there truly are many excellent pillow choices to meet the variable needs of your sleep positions and preferences, our top picks highlight the best of the best that we’ve personally reviewed. Whether you need a pillow that’s more thin or thick, or prefer soft or firm, hopefully we’ve given you a selection to get you started in your search for the perfect nighttime comfort.
- Understanding Bed Pillow Sizes and Dimensions
- How Many Pillows Should You Sleep With?
- Is It Better to Sleep Without a Pillow?
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I replace my pillow? Can I wash my pillow?
Most pillows only last between 18 months to 3 years on average, before their filling and material begin to wear due to continued use and compression. Although some may last longer, a good rule of thumb is to test your pillow life regularly starting after 18 months of regular use, and see if you should be replacing it. To do this, you can fold your pillow in half and see if it ‘bounces’ back to shape. If not, then you may want to consider replacing it. While some pillows can be machine washable, it's best to carefully read the cleaning instructions on the label to advise what's the safest washing method for yours. Materials such as memory foam are not machine washable, and doing this may damage the material and shorten the pillow's lifespan dramatically.
Which pillow is best for side sleepers?
As mentioned above, thicker and more supportive pillows are ideal for side sleepers as they hold your head firmly between your shoulders, but also leave no gaps between the head and neck. Gusseted and more durable pillows will be the best option for this sleeping position.
Which pillow is best for sleepers with neck pain?
The ideal pillow for neck pain is one that's made of a firm, durable material to give your neck the support yet soft pressure-relief it needs, such as memory foam, latex or a feather fill.
What is the best pillow to have?
Pillows are certainly not a one-size-fits-all product, as the best one for you will depend on your natural sleeping position and comfort needs, which may not be the best for other sleepers. For an all-round reliable and supportive pillow that's sure to meet many sleeper's needs, our pick is the popular Purple Pillow with Adjustable Boosters.