Sealy Firm Down Alternative Pillow Review
Your pillow choices are just as important to your overall health as your mattress is. Many people have errored at some point in their life concerning mattress comfort and how it affects their sleep quality, but few people are aware of how their pillow plays into this overall comfort equation.
Your sleep posture should always be an important part of your decision making process surrounding the purchase of both a mattress and pillow combination, and the Sealy company has you covered on both parts.
Their Firm Down Alternative Pillow is made specifically for side sleepers and is constructed to provide the perfect loft for head contouring and neck support.
The Sleep Judge recently purchased this pillow in order to try it out in a variety of sleep positions, and provide honest feedback based on personal experiences.
Table of Contents
- Hypoallergenic Polyester Filling
- High Loft
- Gusseted Sidewall
- 300 Thread-Count
- Machine Washable
Loft (Pillow Height): ~ 7 inches
Firmness Level: medium firm (6)
Durability: Machine washable (10)
Side Neck Support: Very Good (8)
Back Neck Support: Okay (5)
The Sealy company was founded in 1881 in the town of Sealy, TX when its founder began selling cotton filled mattresses to his neighbors. Through its long history, Sealy has seen some major changes and mergers with other popular sleep industry names, but the name has always been retained and stands as a trusted brand worldwide.
The Sealy Firm Down Alternative Pillow provides a plush, yet supportive pillow comfort that uses a polyfill that helps support your neck while you sleep due to a polyester fill that mimics a high loft, responsive, down feather filling.
Your head and neck posture are important to your sleep posture, and finding a pillow that keeps your spine aligned, but also lets your neck rest properly, is important to long term spinal health. This pillow is created to address these issues and is worth taking a closer look at to see if it is the right pick for you.
- Excellent neck and head support
- Firm support with a plush, contouring feel
- Responsive fill
- Machine washable
- Lifts head for back sleeper
- Firm feel after loft compression
- Filing may breakdown over time
This particular pillow is available in a standard, 20 x 26 inch pillow size, and a king size, measuring 20 x 36 inches. Larger pillow sizes are good for both larger beds to help create a proper bed to pillow size ration, as well as sleepers who have a wider shoulder span for added spinal support. These larger pillows do require a larger, king-sized pillow case however, and will not fit in a standard pillow case.
The standard pillow is by far the more popular size and fits a wide array of beds and sleepers alike. Most pillow sizes are chosen in accordance to your bed size, but be aware that a king sized pillow may be too large for most average sized people to sleep with comfortably.
I found that the standard pillow was rather large already due to the filling type and loft combination. It fit snugly in a standard pillowcase and to take full advantage of it I would suggest at least a queen size pillowcase to allow for filling redistribution once you place weight upon it.
Each pillow is filled with a polyester fill that is created to mimic the loftiness (explained below) and responsiveness of a down feather pillow. Down pillows occasionally can cause issues with allergies, and so down alternative has become a more popular, and more budget friendly, filling. The 20 ounces of fill that is used within each pillow lends a lightweight, plush feel that easy conforms to your shape and weight without sacrificing the firm, compressed support you will feel when laying upon it.
The filling also redistributes well to fill the gap between your head and shoulders to allow your neck a proper rest. I found this to be true, and loved that even though the pillow felt plush, was able to allow me head to sink into the pillow without ‘enveloping’ my head, and still allow a firm feel. This filling also kept pressure points from occurring which can occasionally be a problem with certain firm material construction. This is important to me as I sleep with my earrings in and I expect my ear to be able to rest against a surface without pressing the backing into my head.
The loft of a pillow explains how high it sits when laying flat upon a surface. This is related both to what kind of filling is used, and how much of it is within the pillow. This particular pillow has a high, almost overfilled, loft that creates the plush feel you encounter initially, but which settles well under your bodyweight.
This pillow has about a 7 inch loft that plumps back up very easily, even after washing (yes! It’s washable!). The filling can be maneuvered a bit within for plumping purposes, but for the most part stays evenly distributed. This high loft combined with a firmer feel is what works well for side-sleepers.
I am an average sized woman, and so although comfortable, it did take some slight adjusting for me to find the best comfort with this type of filling. The height of it, and its ability to ‘spring’ back into shape, provided a very comfortable surface.
Part of the reason why this pillow is able to have such a high loft is due to its double stitched, 2 inch sateen cotton gusset. This allows the pillow to take on a boxier shape and keep the filling where it needs to be: under your head and neck, and allow for it to keep a firm feel while still allowing the plush contouring. Without these gussets the filling would less evenly distribute and not provide the support you need.
The double stitched and corded edges ensure that the pressure of the filling against the seams keeps everything in place without any bulging, as well as providing good shaping to the pillow. I found this shape provided the perfect structure for side sleeping- compressing well if I placed any of my shoulder weight upon the sides when getting comfortable.
Although many people associate a high thread count with quality, its really the material being used that determines how good a fabric is. Made with a 100% cotton covering with sateen sidewalls, the looser, 300 thread-count weave allows for better airflow which is associated with a cooler sleep due to breathability, as well as the ability to better dissipate body heat and moisture.
You may not get the heavier, softer feel of a closer weave, it is suggested you always use pillows with a protector of some sort as well as a pillowcase so you won’t be coming in contact with the pillow surface itself anyway.
Even though we may do it, not all pillows should be laundered. The Sealy Down Alternative Pillow has both the proper materials and supportive construction to allow for both washing and drying. As with most other bulky materials, you should wash the pillows in tandem to keep from pushing your machines out of balance.
I had to give this a ‘spin’ so to say, and will admit I was a bit worried that these pillows weren’t going to fluff back up after being thoroughly soaked. They did however, and dried rather quickly on a low dry, tumble cycle.
Like most items that depend upon personal comfort preferences, these pillows read as an absolute love – with many buyers purchasing multiples in order to have more in case the company charges the the design – or a pass at all cost. Most buyers appreciated the plush loft that translated easily into a supportive, firm, and comfortable sleeping surface. Lack of pressure points and neck support were top on the list of likes, as well as how easily it retained its shape.
Complaints mentioned how they felt this was hardly a firm support, which in comparison to other types of materials, such as a memory foam, the compression of this pillow would seem more soft that firm. I have to note here though that you cannot compare firmness levels well amongst such drastically different materials. Both compress and distribute materials under weight differently, and preferences surrounding such varying material types can be drastic.
I’m an average sized woman and am pretty short in stature as well. Although I prefer to sleep on my stomach, I also sleep on both sides, as well as my back at times. I was able to try this pillow out over the course of a few weeks and also had some side sleepers of varying height and weight try them out as well to see if their experiences matched mine.
As an almost exclusive stomach sleeper it was immediately obvious this pillow was not made for this position. Stomach sleepers need a very responsive, firm pillow with a low loft to keep the head in alignment with the spine. Even though this pillow is responsive to applied weight, the loft keeps it from being considered thin, and the height your head rests at is much too high for a healthy, or comfortable sleep.
The side sleeping trial was definitely ideal. The pillow is made to be for side sleepers and it fits all the requirements needed for a comfortable sleep. A responsive, plush-like sink that reduces pressure points, combined with a firm and stable head support allows for proper neck comfort and good spinal health. The filling does not surround your head or face at all either, but rather comfortably adjusts away from the weight of your head due to the gusseted sides.
I also found that it was very comfortable to change positions from side to side with this pillow, although it did require a little bit of adjusting to help redistribute the filling. I think it’s important to mention as well that you shouldn’t be resting your shoulders upon your pillow edge either. This collapses the edge of the pillow and takes away from the support your neck should be receiving. With a pillow such as this is also may raise your upper body slightly and put pressure upon your upper and lower back as your soft tissues attempt to compensate for the stress you place upon your spine.
My trial ‘buddies’ also found this pillow to be a preferable choice to their current pillows. Their body types differed from me in both height and weight, with one being much taller and slightly heavier, and one being a bit shorter and much heavier than myself. Exclusively side sleeper, both commented on the pillow being much more preferable to their current pillows and wanted to know exactly how to find this particular pillow for a possible future purchase. Their sleep results agreed with my personal trial.
Although I like a pillow that can be used in combination sleeping positions, unfortunately this pillow is not a great choice for lightweight back sleepers either. The loft and firmness places our head at too high an angle for proper comfort and spinal alignment. Sleeping with your head raised at too high an angle will cause pressure point across your shoulders, and well as put pressure upon your lower back and hips.
I was initially comfortable when using it to sleep on my back due to the loft, but it only took about 10 minutes to start to feel the strain upon my neck and shoulders. With a heavier sleeper this may make a decent choice for a back sleeper, but not so much for someone of my stature.
Pillows can also be used in other ways to help aide in healthy sleep positions and to alleviate joint pressure. When sleeping on your stomach a pillow can be placed under your hips to compensate for lower back pressure. As a lighter weight woman, I found this pillow to be too lofty for me, but for a heavier body this would most likely be a great choice. It cradles the hips well and keeps pressure points at bay. I was wishing it had been of a slightly lower loft in order to take advantage of this use (since I’m not about to gain weight!).
Sleeping with a pillow under your knees while on your back is also another great way to help keep pressure off your lower back. Again, I found this to be too lofty for the job, and think it probably wouldn’t work well for even heavier sleepers.
Side sleepers often find the pressure knees can cause against one another can become uncomfortable. It is suggested to sleep with a pillow between your knees to help alleviate this joint pressure, and for certain people this pillow may work very well when used in this manner. It was lofty for me, but not horribly, so taller, or heavier people may find it to be perfect for the job.
As a firm pillow choice I’m rating the Sealy Down Alternative Pillow as a 4.7. More than one person found this pillow to be a comfortable alternative to their current pillow, with the loftiness of the polyester filling being a favorable alternative to actual down. Although the pillow appearance is of a plush, overstuffed comfort, it conforms well to weight without sacrificing support. The loft of the pillow does suggest this is not a firm choice, but I do beg to differ as I found it a decent medium-firm comfort as did sleepers who weight significantly more than myself.
Furthermore, it washed and dried well, and plumped back up accordingly. The filling does take a little bit of adjusting with movement, and I can see that over time it may begin to either flatten or compress unevenly, which was a complaint of other online reviewers- despite the suggestion that you replace pillows every 18 months to 3 years with proper care. My experiences place this as a quality choice for side sleepers and one you should definitely consider.
Your sleep health doesn’t stop with just a comfortable, supportive mattress. Pillow choices are a crucial part of proper sleep posture, and making sure to choose the correct support for your sleep position should be approached with care. The Sealy Firm Alternative Down Pillow is an excellent choice for side sleepers of all shapes and sizes, and provides the head and neck support needed for comfort. It also may make a decent pillow for heavier bodied back sleepers.
The construction is well executed with a pillow that should stand up to continual use and care, and the fact that it is washable and can be dried without sacrificing comfort is a good perk. Even though it is pretty specific to side use, it is a position that requires a dependable product for a healthy sleep, and this pillow is a good choice to place on your list of sleep needs.