The quality of your pillows is just as important as the quality of your mattress. Snoozing on a luxe, perfectly plush mattress while laying your head on slices of cardboard that you call pillows can have a large impact on your quality of sleep. According to Amanda Kruel, VP of innovation merchandising at Mattress Firm, “Choosing the right pillow is crucial to a good night’s rest. They take up 25 percent of our mattresses and fill the gap between us and our sleep surface. If you don’t choose a pillow that matches your sleeping position, you can ruin your alignment and, in turn, ruin your sleep.”
While it may seem like the fluffiest, softest pillow will get the job done (because who doesn’t want to sleep on a bed of clouds?), your best pillow choice will heavily depend on your preferred sleeping position. “A good pillow supports your head and neck to maintain spinal alignment. The optimal pillow will differ depending on whether you sleep on your side, back, or stomach, and whether you switch positions a lot during the night,” explains Dr. Janet Kennedy, clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor.
Kennedy further explains that, just like the saying “cool like the other side of the pillow” denotes, heat regulation is another important factor to consider. “The temperature of the head regulates core body temperature. The body needs to be cool to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get good-quality sleep. Overheating can affect sleep profoundly,” she says.
To help you find a pillow that will let you kiss those counting sheep good-bye, we spoke with Kruel, Kennedy, and three other experts about what to look for and the pillows they recommend.
Best overall | Best (less expensive) overall | Best pillow for side sleepers | Best for neck support | Best plush pillow | Best medium-support pillow | Best organic pillow | Best pillow for stomach sleepers | Best down pillow| Best down-alternative pillow | Best memory foam pillow | Best pillow for combination sleepers | Best pregnancy body pillow | Best pillow for back sleepers | Best adjustable pillow
What we’re looking for
Fill type: From shredded latex and memory foam to down and down-alternative, the type of fill inside your pillow directly translates to how supportive it is and can impact the longevity of the pillow and your overall comfort. While there are several handfuls of pillow fill types out there, polyester fiberfill, memory foam, latex, and feather fill are among the most common. Less common pillow fillings can include buckwheat hull, plant-based materials, and kapok (a silky, bouncy fiber that comes from the seed pods of the kapok tree).
You can narrow down your pillow-fill options based on factors like your sleeping position, health concerns, and personal choice. For example, if you want a pillow that is eco-friendly or vegan, a memory foam or feather-filled pillow might be a pass, but a plant-based or organic-fiber pillow could be right up your alley. For snoozers who are navigating pain management, responsive memory foam or latex that can provide consistent support will be a better choice over softer down or down-alternative pillows.
No matter your preferred fill, the experts we spoke to agree that you should never skimp on quality materials. “There is nothing worse than your head hanging off at a weird angle because the pillow is too thin! Also for something you place your head on for [eight] hours, it is important that there are no toxic chemicals emitted from it, as you’d be breathing that in for a third of your day,” explains Sofia Axelrod, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and author of How Babies Sleep: The Gentle, Science-Based Method to Help Your Baby Sleep. Dr. Dennis Colonello, celebrity and professional-athlete chiropractor at Peak Wellness in Beverly Hills and all33 co-founder, echoes those thoughts. “I am not a fan of petroleum-based pillows like memory foam fill for individuals who have auto-immune disorders or sensitive immune systems, as these materials can outgas,” he says.
The type of filling you choose also plays a role in the overall maintenance of your pillow. Materials like down feathers and memory foam typically can’t be tossed in the wash. Many pillows come with a removable and machine washable cover, while some fiberfill pillows can be fully washed and dried with the rest of your laundry. Alanna McGinn, founder and CEO of Good Night Sleep Site, shares the gross fact that pillows can double in weight after about two years thanks to the buildup of allergens and dust mites, so thinking about how often you’re willing to replace your pillow and how you might be able to clean it is important.
Loft: The loft of your pillow, basically a fancy way to say height, should parallel your preferred sleeping position. “The loft of a pillow refers to its height when laying flat — a pillow with a low loft is a thinner pillow, while a pillow with a high loft will be thicker,” explains Colonello. “Depending on your normal sleeping position, you’ll want a specific loft in order to be most comfortable.”
The basic rule of thumb for pillow loft is that side sleepers should use a fluffier pillow with a high loft that brings their head up into alignment with their neck and spine. Back sleepers should opt for a medium loft pillow to “reduce the gap between the mattress and the bottom of your head where the spine starts,” explains Kruel. And stomach sleepers do best with “thin-profile pillows, meaning full and fluffy is not a good choice to help get the best sleep possible,” adds Kruel.
Firmness and support: Just like with a mattress, a pillow can range from soft to firm. While some people would rather sleep on a bed of meringue, others might feel more comfortable resting their head on a stack of bricks stuffed into an organic pillowcase. Aside from actual comfort, the firmness of your pillow should match your sleeping position to ensure the right amount of support for your head and neck. “Back sleepers should use a very firm pillow or wedge to elevate the top half of the body. If your preference is to sleep on your stomach, you will want to seek out a soft pillow. By using a softer pillow, your head will be closer to the mattress, keeping the integrity of your neck’s natural alignment,” Colonello tells us.
Coop Home Goods Adjustable Loft Pillow
Shredded memory foam fill | Adjustable loft | Adjustable firmness | Machine washable cover
The Coop Home pillow has shredded memory foam fill inside a removable and machine washable cover, and you can adjust the amount of fill to suit your sleeping style. According to Colonello, the height of your pillow as it relates to your preferred sleeping position is a critical factor. Side sleepers can use the bonus bag of filling included with the pillow to create a higher loft, while back and belly sleepers can remove some of the fill to lower their head into the ideal alignment. The pillow is available in queen and king sizes and touts CertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold certifications, ensuring the memory foam cradling your head is made of quality, rigorously tested materials.
Eli & Elm Organic-Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
75% latex, 25% polyester fiberfill | Adjustable loft | Adjustable firmness | Machine washable cover
A majority of people prefer to sleep on their side, and Colonello recommends the Eli & Elm side-sleeper pillow for this position. “This pillow is over $100 but has a unique cutout that promotes better spinal alignment,” he says. The cutout leaves your neck stress-free while your head is completely supported for a comfortable night’s rest, and like the Coop Home pillow, above, you can open the cover and add or remove fill, which “allows customization of the loft of the pillow, making it firmer or less firm.” (Eli & Elm also sells a special pillowcase that will fit the cutout perfectly, and which you can bundle with the pillow at the time of purchase.)
From $130at Amazon
From $125at Eli & Elm
Casper Original Pillow
Polyester microfiber fill | Mid-loft or low loft | Medium firm | Machine washable cover
Both Colonello and Kennedy agree that the right pillow for neck support has to be firm and supportive yet cushioned and responsive. While that may sound contradictory, the Casper pillow boasts a pillow-within-a-pillow design that creates a cushioned exterior and a firm and sturdy interior. A two-inch gusset around the perimeter of the pillow adds extra support and keeps the microfiber fill evenly distributed to avoid annoying bunching. Casper sells the pillow in both standard and king sizes, and you can buy a single pillow or save a few bucks per pillow by purchasing a two-pack.
Saatva Natural Latex Pillow
Shredded latex fill | High loft | Soft | Machine washable cover
Some of us are just suckers for a pillow that rivals a cloud, like this one by Saatva. Filled with extra-plush hypoallergenic shredded latex, the Saatva latex pillow is Colonello’s runner-up for a lofty side-sleeper pillow. I’ve been sleeping on this pillow for the last two months and find that the weighty latex fill is uniquely supportive and buoyant. It keeps its shape throughout the night, even when I’m using it as a body pillow to support my torso, knees, and hips. As soon as my partner and I get into bed for the night, I call dibs on this one. A bonus: The natural latex doesn’t trap heat like traditional foam, and the material is naturally dust mite– and mildew resistant.
From $165at Saatva
Layla Kapok Pillow
Kapok fiber and shredded memory foam fill | Adjustable loft | Adjustable firmness | Machine washable cover
If plush pillows are too plush and firm pillows are too firm, the Layla kapok foam pillow will appeal to those with Goldilocks tendencies, as it falls toward the middle of the firmness scale. Filled with memory foam and kapok — a natural silklike, moisture-wicking fiber found in the seed pods of the kapok tree — this pillow is cushiony enough to contour around your head but reactive enough to not fall flat over time. Aside from masquerading as marshmallow fluff, the kapok fibers are more breathable than cotton and wool, so you don’t have to compromise temp regulation for comfort.
From $109at Amazon
From $109at Layla Sleep
Avocado Green Pillow
Kapok fiber, organic latex, and organic cotton | Adjustable loft | Adjustable firmness | Machine washable cover
From the organic latex and kapok filling to the organic jersey lining to the machine washable organic cotton cover, this pillow checks all of the organic boxes (it’s vegan too). Avocado says the pillow has a medium-plush feel, though you can also adjust the amount of fill inside to customize the loft and firmness to your liking. The pillow is available in standard, queen, and king sizes.
From $109at Avocado Mattress
Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow
Single piece of perforated latex fill | Low loft or high loft | Medium-firm | Machine washable cover
“People who sleep on their stomachs need a thinner pillow to support the head without wrenching the neck. Stomach sleeping is pretty hard on the neck and low back,” Kennedy tells us. The Talalay latex pillow by Brooklyn Bedding comes in two different lofts — low and high — and the low-loft version is flat enough for you to sleep on your belly with a neutral spine to avoid nursing a strained neck all day. McGinn suggests a pillow on the softer side for stomach sleepers, and the naturally sourced, hypoallergenic, and responsive Talalay latex foam fits the bill. It’s available in queen and king sizes.
From $89at Brooklyn Bedding
Parachute Down Pillow
85% down, 15% down + feather fibers fill | Medium loft | Soft, medium, or firm | Dry-clean only
Want to take your sleep space to a whole new luxurious level? Get yourself some down pillows, which are known for their cotton candy–like softness. Parachute’s down pillows are filled with European white down, and you can choose from three firmness levels to accommodate the way you like to siesta (note that the pillows get more expensive as you go up in firmness because they contain more fill). Soft and airy, the down filling creates a supersoft yet supportive feel. Parachute’s down pillows are available in standard and king sizes. The brand recommends this classic down pillow if you are a back or stomach sleeper and also sells a specific model that is designed for side sleepers (though with no choice of firmness level).
From $79at Zola
From $159at Parachute
Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow
Microfiber fill | Medium loft | Soft | Spot-clean or dry-clean only
If you are vegan, allergic to down, or just don’t like the idea of sleeping on a feather-stuffed pillow, down-alternative pillows provide the same luxe level of comfort but with synthetic materials. Brooklinen’s down-alternative pillows are hypoallergenic and made of recycled plastic bottles. With a plush feel designed to accommodate a variety of sleep styles, the pillow comes in standard, king, and a square Euro size and can be spot-cleaned or dry-cleaned as needed.
From $65at Brooklinen
Tuft & Needle Original Foam Pillow (Standard)
Single piece of foam fill | Medium loft | Medium firmness | Machine washable cover
Memory foam pillows are a popular choice for both back and side sleepers. “They help you stay comfortable because they mold to your individual shape and allow your shoulder, neck, and head to rest in a natural position,” explains McGinn, who also notes that memory foam is hypoallergenic and “provides support to individuals suffering from neck, upper-back pain, or degenerative conditions.” Tuft & Needle’s pillow has a layered construction with a core of springy, adaptive foam covered by heat-wicking graphite and a removable machine washable cover. It is available in two sizes, standard and king.
From $90at Amazon
Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud Pillow
Single piece of memory foam fill | Medium loft | Medium firmness | Machine washable cover
If you’re a combination sleeper who tends to move from your side to your stomach to your back all within a single night of sleep, Tempur-Pedic’s Tempur-Cloud pillow is a favorite of Colonello’s for its simple, responsive, single-piece construction that is covered with a removable hypoallergenic cover. Made of the same memory foam as the brand’s well-known mattresses, the pillow conforms and adapts to your head’s shape to evenly distribute weight to avoid putting too much stress on your neck, back, or shoulders no matter how you choose to sleep.
Leachco Snoogle Pregnancy Pillow
65% polyester, 35% cotton fill | Medium loft | Medium firmness | Machine washable cover
Sleeping while growing a human can be fraught. The Snoogle pillow’s C shape allows you to customize your snuggle experience, whether you need extra cushioning around your upper body, back, hips, knees, or feet. But even though this pillow is marketed for use during pregnancy, it can be used by anyone who wants full head and body support while they sleep. You can also remove the cover and toss it in the wash to keep it fresh.
Purple Harmony Pillow
now 20% off
Hyper-elastic polymer, latex, polyester knit | Low, medium, or high loft | Medium firmness | Machine washable cover
If sleeping on your back is your go-to position, you’re in for some good news: McGinn says that sleeping on your back is the best position for spine support. Made from the same grid construction as Purple’s mattresses, the Purple Harmony pillow’s latex core is wrapped in a breathable mesh material that makes the pillow supportive but not overly firm. As a warm sleeper, I noticed when testing the Harmony pillow that I slept cooler on this one versus others that either didn’t cool me down or just stoked my body heat. It comes in three different lofts, but for back sleepers, we recommend opting for the low-loft version so you can avoid lifting your head too high.
From $143at Purple
From $179at Mattress Firm
Marlow Pillow - 2
Chopped memory-foam and microfiber fill blend | Adjustable loft | Adjustable firmness | Spot clean
For people who shift from their back to their side to their stomach throughout the night, an easily adjustable pillow can help them find comfort in every position. Available in standard and king sizes, the Marlow pillow’s firmness and loft can be adjusted by unzipping one or both sides of the pillow: For a plusher feel, unzip both sides. For a medium-firm feel, unzip one side. And for a firmer feel, keep both sides of the pillow zipped. The pillow is at its higher loft when both sides are unzipped and at the lowest when both sides are closed up. The zipper takes the place of removing and replacing filling, and I found that the quick adjustment really made a difference in how comfortable I slept since I could make my pillow firmer or softer depending on my needs. The gel-infused chopped memory foam is supportive and cooling, and the down-alternative poly fill is soft and comfortable.
From $130at Marlow
• Dr. Dennis Colonello, celebrity and professional-athlete chiropractor at Peak Wellness
• Alanna McGinn, founder and CEO of Good Night Sleep Site
• Sofia Axelrod, neuroscientist and author of How Babies Sleep: The Gentle, Science-Based Method to Help Your Baby Sleep
• Amanda Kruel, VP of innovation merchandising at Mattress Firm
• Dr. Janet Kennedy, clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor
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