Updated March 12, 2021Sleeping with the wrong pillow can cause back and neck pain and headaches. Since there is a wide variety of pillows with different shapes, firmnesses, sizes, and materials, it can be tricky to find the best one. Understanding your sleep preferences and needs will help you choose the best pillow for better sleep.This article explores which pillows are best for each sleep position, what you should look for in a pillow, and the different materials available to you.Best Pillows of 2021PillowHighlightPriceAmerisleep Comfort ClassicBio-Pur® memory foam is engineered to alleviate pressure and keep you cool.$90Amerisleep FlexAdjustable fill suited for any sleeping style.$75Amerisleep Dual ComfortYour choice of low or mid-loft, soft and firm sides.$130-$150Zoma PillowShredded memory foam allows you to mold the pillow to fit your sleep needs.$75Vaya PillowVaya Foam Blend resists flattening, molding itself to your head, neck, and shoulders.$60Coop Home Goods Original PillowUsers can adjust the pillow’s firmness by adding or removing filling through the zippered cover.$110Beckham Hotel Collection Gel PillowSateen cotton cover resists mold, dust mites, and mildew.$34Avocado Green PillowKapok and latex filling offer a balance of support and conformability to relieve pressure and pain.$79Zen Chi Buckwheat PillowBuckwheat hull filling is adjustable and moldable, so you can customize it to fit your sleep needs.$80Purple® PillowLatex core offers support while Purple’s® comfort grid conforms closely and prevents heat retention.$1591. Amerisleep Comfort ClassicThe Amerisleep Comfort Classic pillow has a solid memory foam core designed to reduce pressure points and eliminate tossing and turning. The cushion is 6 inches thick, which is excellent for back and side sleepers.The cover is removable and breathable to promote a cool night’s sleep. It’s also machine-washable.The eco-friendly Bio-Pur® memory foam filling is breathable, preventing overheating. The material gives way to pressure and contours to the neck and head, promoting spinal alignment while alleviating tension and pressure points.Bio-Pur® is CertiPUR-US® certified, so the foam is free of ozone depleters, PBDE flame retardants, formaldehyde, heavy metals, harsh chemicals, and low in VOCs.The Comfort Classic Pillow is more breathable and responsive than other solid memory foam pillows because it has air channels built throughout the foam, encouraging air circulation and allowing hot air to escape.The Amerisleep Comfort Classic comes with a 10-year warranty and free shipping.2. Amerisleep FlexThe Amerisleep Flex Pillow doesn’t contain a block of Bio-Pur® foam like the company’s other pillow models. Instead, the Flex Pillow is filled with hundreds of MicroFlex cushions that you can shape as you please. You can fluff up the pillow for a higher loft or flatten it down for a lower loft.The shredded fill promotes breathability for a cooler pillow. Air can slip through the soft cover and around the MicroFlex cushions, removing collected moisture and heat.It’s also easy to clean the Amerisleep Flex Pillow, thanks to its shredded fill. Pillows with a solid core of memory foam can’t be machine washed because the tumblers might break apart the foam. However, you can throw a pillow like the Amerisleep Flex into your washer, running it through a delicate cycle with cold water.Amerisleep recommends the Flex Pillow for combination sleepers. However, its design ensures that the pillow should feel comfortable and supportive in any sleep position.3. Amerisleep Dual ComfortThe Amerisleep Dual Comfort has a similar design to the original Comfort Classic. It contains a block of Bio-Pur® foam that has a different feel on each side. Simply reverse the pillow to change the mix of softness and support it offers.The soft side is well-suited for back sleepers, allowing your head and neck to sink into a cushy surface. The firm side maintains a side sleepers’ neck alignment, gently lifting the cervical spine and keeping it in line with your back.Remember, Amerisleep’s Bio-Pur® foam is a breathable and responsive material, adapting quickly to your movements and remaining cool throughout the night.Every Amerisleep pillow includes a 10-year warranty.4. Zoma PillowThe Zoma Pillow is filled with MicroCushion™ Technology. The pillow has a 6-inch loft—a great option for side sleepers who need a higher loft for correct spinal alignment.The polyester-spandex cover maximizes the pillow’s breathability.The shredded memory foam fill makes the pillow moldable, so you can change its shape and loft by moving the material around. The shredded fill also promotes airflow, deterring heat retention.The Zoma pillow’s MicroCushion™ filling is CertiPUR-US® certified, so it’s less likely to off-gas when first unpackaged.Zoma offers a 10-year warranty and free shipping with the purchase of the Zoma Pillow.5. Vaya PillowOne of our favorite affordable pillows would have to be the Vaya Pillow. Vaya’s focus is on providing you pure comfort without asking you to break your budget.The Vaya Foam Blend filling the pillow is CertiPUR-US® certified, so it’s free of toxic chemicals. There are also minimal chances that you’ll have to deal with a funky “new pillow” smell.The foam blend is quick to snap back to its original shape and resists flattening, promoting a long-lasting pillow. Vaya is so confident in their pillow’s durability that the company offers a 10-year warranty. It’s not uncommon for a budget pillow to have a warranty no more than 5 years long, so Vaya’s generous warranty suggests quite a bit of faith in their product.6. Coop Home Goods Original PillowThe Coop Home Goods Original Pillow is a top seller on Amazon and features a shredded memory foam filling and a zippered cover.The bamboo cover is cool to the touch and breathable. You can clean the quilted pillowcase by placing it in the washing machine.The memory foam filling allows the pillow to contour to the neck, offering firm support and tension relief. The foam is CertiPUR-US® and GREENGUARD Gold certified, making it free of harmful chemicals.The inner liner is lightweight and has a zipper on the side, allowing you to add or remove the filling, making the pillow adjustable and compatible for side, stomach, and back sleepers.The Coop Home Goods Original Pillow comes with a 5-year warranty and a 100-night trial period.7. Beckham Hotel Collection Gel PillowThe Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow comes in a set of two. It’s a comfortable, plushy pillow suitable for all sleepers.The 100% sateen cotton cover promotes air circulation to keep you cool. The fabric resists mold, dust mites, and mildew and is allergen and chemical-free.The polyester gel fiber is super plush to mimic real down. The gel wicks away heat, keeping the sleeper cool throughout the night.The Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow is machine washable and comes with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.8. Avocado Green PillowThe Avocado Green Pillow is vegan and made in the USA. It’s very thick, making it compatible with side sleepers, although you can mold the pillow to fit back sleeping needs.The GOTS certified cotton cover increases airflow and wicks away moisture.The pillow filling is a combination of GOLS certified latex and GOTS certified kapok fiber. The latex provides support and kills bacteria on contact, while the kapok fibers feel plush. Kapok fiber is hypoallergenic, biodegradable, and non-toxic.The Avocado Green Pillow comes with a 1-year warranty, a 100-night sleep trial, free shipping, and free returns.9. Zen Chi Buckwheat Hull PillowThe Zen Chi Buckwheat Hull Pillow is filled with organic buckwheat stuffed inside an organic cotton cover. The buckwheat filling promotes airflow, making it great for hot sleepers.The Zen Chi Pillow is adjustable and moldable, so you can remove, add, and shift the buckwheat hulls to fit your comfort needs. The pillow’s adjustable qualities appeal to many sleep styles.Buckwheat fill is very supportive and conforming. The hulls are small, so they can adapt to your body’s movements; however, the hulls rub against each other and produce noise—this may cause sleep disruptions.Unfortunately, we were unable to find a warranty, although if you buy this pillow through Amazon, the Zen Chi pillow comes with a 30-day return policy, allowing you to test the pillow and decide if you like it.10. Purple® Harmony PillowThe Purple® Harmony Pillow is made of a latex core and Purple’s® innovative 360° Purple Grid™ Hex, which provides just the right amount of support and pressure relief. This pillow comes in two heights: 6.5 inches and 7.5 inches.The nylon and spandex cover wicks moisture away from the sleeper and increases air circulation. The cover is also machine washable, although you have to lay it flat to dry.While this cooling pillow doesn’t have an adjustable loft, the grid design offers neck support by giving in to pressure and conforming to relieve muscle tension. The pillow’s grid design also encourages air circulation.All Purple® pillows come with a 100-night sleep trial, a 1-year warranty, free shipping, and free returns.What Characteristics Should I Look For In A Pillow?When you look for a new pillow, there are a few qualities you should keep in mind if you want to choose the right pillow.Firmness: People who need more support, such as side sleepers, tend to choose firmer pillows. A medium pillow maintains spinal alignment and prevents the shoulders from becoming numb.Loft: Loft describes the height or thickness of a pillow. Depending on your sleep style and personal preferences, you may need a lower or higher loft. Side and back sleepers prefer medium to high lofts, while stomach sleepers need a thin or low-loft pillow.Material: If you sleep hot or prefer a pillow with more firmness, you will want a pillow made with firm materials or cooling technologies.A cover made of cotton, eucalyptus, or bamboo can keep you cool by increasing air circulation or wicking heat away from the body.The pillow’s filling can also wick away heat. Memory foam and latex filling are firm and supportive, although a hot sleeper may consider a gel memory foam or aerated latex pillow to keep cool. A hot sleeper can sleep comfortably with a feather or down pillow because these materials promote air circulation.Size: Some people don’t need a large pillow to sleep comfortably. Restless sleepers may need a larger pillow, so the pillow stays under their head instead of slipping out from under it.You may also consider how the pillow looks when sitting on your bed. A queen bed will need a standard or queen-size pillow to cover the width of the mattress and look aesthetically pleasing.Warranty: Some pillows come with warranties that ensure the company will replace or repair the cushion in the case of a defect. If you’re buying a high-end pillow, we suggest looking for a warranty lasting about 2 years. Always read the fine print as some companies only warrant the pillow’s cover for a couple of months to a year.Budget: The average cost of a pillow varies greatly depending on its filling. We suggest looking into the average cost of the pillow filling you want before setting a budget, as it will help you understand how much a quality pillow costs.Buckwheat pillows cost around $100 for a queen size.High-end down pillows cost around $70 to 100 for a queen size.A down alternative pillow costs around $20 to $30 for a queen size.Feather pillows average at $25 to $50 for a queen size.The average latex pillow costs between $40 and $60 for a queen size.Memory foam pillows average is between $50 and $60 for a queen size.Polyester pillows cost between $10 and $15 for a queen size.Pillows by Sleep StylesDepending on how you sleep, you will want a certain level of firmness, pressure relief, responsiveness, and loft. Learning about your sleep position’s benefits and disadvantages can help you choose a great pillow.Back SleepersBack sleeping isn’t a common sleep position, although it’s one of the healthiest since the spine rests in a neutral position. Back sleepers need a balance of loft and firmness, so their neck aligns with their spine and preserves the spine’s natural curvature. Choosing a pillow medium loft will prevent neck and shoulder pain.Side SleepersSide sleeping can lead to pressure points. Side sleepers have large gaps form between the neck, head, and mattress. A side sleeper’s hips can also rotate, causing the spine to twist. Both alignment issues can cause chronic pain if not corrected.A firm pillow with a loft between 4 and 6 inches will keep the neck aligned with the rest of the spine. Contouring pillows are recommended to side sleepers because they offer two sides with different lofts, allowing the sleeper to choose the most comfortable height.Side sleepers should avoid softer pillows as the head could sink too much, causing discomfort.A side sleeper also needs a pillow between their knees to prevent the hips from twisting. A knee pillow is a solid block of memory foam that fits between the knees or thighs. This pillow keeps the hips aligned with the rest of the spine and alleviates hip and lower back pain.Stomach SleepersStomach sleepers typically sleep with their necks turned to the side, and their arms bent up by their shoulders. This position overextends the spine and twists the neck uncomfortably, eliminating the spine’s natural curvature and causing muscular and skeletal strain.Stomach sleepers need a thin and firm pillow to prevent their necks from bending backward. A thick pillow may lead to lower back pain.Types of PillowsEveryone’s sleep needs are different, so one pillow may help you sleep better than another. Head pillows fit under the head to support the head and neck; other pillows are used to support the lower back and knees to improve spinal alignment.Standard Pillow SizesPillow manufacturers make pillows in seven standard sizes, so it’s easier to find pillowcases that fit. These seven standard pillow sizes accommodate varying personal preferences to offer more comfort.Standard: 20 inches by 26 inchesSuper Standard: 20 inches by 28 inchesQueen Size: 20 inches by 30 inchesKing Size: 20 inches by 36 inchesBody: 54 inches by 20 inches or 48 inches by 20 inchesToddler or Crib-Sized: 14 inches by 20 inchesEuropean: 26 inches by 26 inches, 24 inches by 24 inches, 22 inches by 22 inches, 20 inches by 20 inches, 18 inches by 18 inches, or 16 inches by 16 inchesStandard, super standard, and queen size pillows fit on most mattresses. European pillows are often used as decoration or throw pillows. You can place them on your couch and mattress.BolsterBolster pillows are long and semi-circle shaped, so one side is rounded and the other flat. You can place this pillow under the knees when you sleep on your back or side, or you can use it to prop up another pillow to reinforce spinal alignment. Bolster pillows reduce pain, increase blood circulation, and relieve pressure.WedgeA wedge pillow is shaped like a triangle and engineered to elevate the shoulders, neck, and head or the knees. It’s excellent for watching TV or reading in bed.Using a wedge pillow may also reduce the risk of acid reflux during sleep. Some people use a wedge pillow under the knees to alleviate pressure in the lower back and increase blood circulation.EuropeanEuropean pillows are square-shaped and mostly used for decoration. You can use them to prop yourself up as you’re reading or watching TV.LumbarLumbar pillows improve spinal alignment and relieve back pain by supporting the lower back. They are rectangular and thick; however, if a lumbar pillow is too tall, it can cause discomfort. Make sure the lumbar pillow is tall enough to fit comfortably between the mattress and the lower back.ContouredContoured pillows, or orthopedic pillows, support the muscles in your neck, promoting natural support without increasing strain or pressure. A contoured pillow has a thick side and thin side, allowing you to choose which side fits most comfortably under your neck and head.These pillows are ideal for side and back sleepers. Stomach sleepers should not use contoured pillows as they are too thick and can cause chronic pain.NeckA neck pillow relieves muscle tension in the neck and shoulders by giving firm support. It also promotes natural spinal alignment and alleviates pressure points in the shoulders.A common neck pillow is “U” shaped. It sits around the neck and relieves pressure as a user naps in a sitting position. Another neck pillow is cylinder shaped and used while laying down. Both neck pillows relieve neck and shoulder tension while promoting spinal alignment.Neck pillows only support the neck and shoulders, so you may need an additional pillow to support your head.BodyBody pillows are typically 60 inches long, but they can be longer. They come in I, C, J, or L shapes and are meant to prevent hip, shoulder, or neck pain. Side sleepers use this pillow to support their heads and hips to reduce pressure points and promote spinal alignment.PregnancyPregnancy pillows are a subcategory of body pillows and often shaped like a “U.” They are designed to support the belly, relieve discomfort, and eliminate tossing and turning. To properly use a pregnancy pillow, place it between your knees, rest your stomach on top of the pillow, and put your head on the curve.Pillow FillsOnce you know the size and shape of your new pillow, consider which pillow filling fits your sleep needs.Memory FoamMemory foam is an elastic polyfoam known for its ability to mold to the body and alleviate pressure. The best memory foam pillows are supportive and pain-relieving and come in varying thicknesses too.Some memory foam pillows can retain heat; however, materials like gel or charcoal infused into the memory foam can pull heat from you and keep you cool.Shredded Memory FoamShredded memory foam pillows are supportive, softer, and conforming. Some shredded memory foam pillows you can add and remove filling to adjust the firmness and support; other shredded memory foam pillows you can mold to give more support where you need it. Shredded memory foam pillows are cooling because air can circulate freely through the material, as opposed to a solid piece of foam.DownDown describes the soft feathers taken from the underbellies of geese or ducks. The material’s fluffiness produces a light, plushy pillow that maintains its loft and resists sagging. Because these pillows are softer, they aren’t the best for side sleepers.Down AlternativeDown alternative pillows, or synthetic pillows, have the same feel as true down, but aren’t as expensive. Alternative down filling is hypoallergenic and breathable.FeatherFeathers produce a firm pillow and are more affordable than down; however, feather pillows need fluffing to maintain their shape. Feather quills can also poke through the cover, causing irritations. Some companies sell featherproof protective covers that prevent feathers from poking through the material and irritating your skin.Polyester FiberfillPolyester fiberfill is the most affordable pillow option. It’s lightweight and soft like down, but the filling can clump together and cause discomfort. Often, harsh chemicals are used to make polyester fiberfill. We suggest looking for a CertiPUR-US® certification to ensure the product is safe.LatexLatex pillow fill can be shredded or come as a solid piece of foam. The material is more responsive than memory foam, but just as conforming.We recommend choosing a natural latex pillow to avoid chemical additives.Synthetic latex is made with a chemical compound to mimic latex-like qualities, so the material can contain harmful additives.Natural latex is more expensive than synthetic latex and memory foam; however, latex is less likely to sag and has a longer lifespan.Buckwheat HullsBuckwheat hulls are the outer shells of buckwheat seeds. Buckwheat hulls are very breathable and malleable; however, buckwheat hulls can make noise when you lay on them and change positions, disrupting sleep.MicrobeadMicrobeads are small synthetic balls made from several chemicals. They are comfortable, breathable, and moldable.Microbeads have an off-gassing odor when first removed from the package. They can flatten quickly, as well; however, microbeads are hypoallergenic and a good option for allergy-sufferers.KapokKapok fibers are a natural filling harvested from the kapok tree’s hard-shelled pods. The kapok fiber is fluffy like cotton. Pillows made with kapok filling are chemical-free and completely natural.WoolWool is a natural fiber sheared off of sheep and has been used in pillows, mattresses, blankets, and other bedding throughout history. It’s fibers can clump together and lose consistent support.CottonCotton is also a natural fiber. It’s breathable and doesn’t off-gas; however, cotton-fill pillows don’t have a long lifespan as they tend to clump and flatten.WaterWater pillows cushion your head and neck, alleviating tension in the neck muscles and ligaments. Water pillows are customizable, so you can change the firmness by adding or taking out water.Combating Discomfort with a Good PillowA high-quality pillow can alleviate insomnia, aches and pains, sleep apnea, and other medical conditions by enhancing your sleep experience.Sleep ApneaSleep apnea occurs when breathing stops and starts repetitively during sleep.Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): When the muscles and soft tissue in the back of the throat collapse, blocking your airway.Central sleep apnea (CSA): When the brain fails to signal the lungs, preventing you from breathing.Complex sleep apnea: A combination of OSA and CSA.You may alleviate sleep apnea symptoms by sleeping with your head and chest elevated above your hips—this prevents the airways from closing. A wedge pillow and an adjustable pillow can support your upper body.For those with severe sleep apnea, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine keeps your airways open, although CPAP face masks can cause discomfort.Neck PainChronic neck pain sufferers need a supportive pillow that relieves pressure and promotes spinal alignment. We suggest latex or memory foam pillows as they are the most supportive pillow materials.HeadachesFrequent headaches may indicate your neck is misaligned. Using a supportive pillow can align your neck and head with your spine, allowing your muscles, tendons, and ligaments to relax and possibly preventing headaches.AllergiesA pillow made without hypoallergenic materials can collect dust and dust mites, contributing to allergic reactions. Finding a hypoallergenic pillow prevents respiratory system irritations, allowing a sleeper to sleep peacefully.SnoringSnoring is the result of blocked nasal or air passages.We suggest placing a pillow behind your back to prop up your upper body while you sleep. Adjustable beds and wedge pillows can make it more comfortable for you to sleep and open up your airways.Some adjustable beds have a snore feature, allowing someone to raise their snoring partner’s head and open their airways. Adjustable beds are expensive—those with a limited budget can receive similar benefits from a wedge pillow, instead.Pillow MaintenanceLike mattresses, you need to wash your pillow to ensure the quality holds up over time. There are many ways to clean pillows; however, if you wash your pillow incorrectly, the material could become damaged.We encourage you to follow the care label attached to your pillow. If you don’t have access to the manufacturer’s care instructions, you can find reliable guidelines online.Consider the pillow’s filling—memory foam and latex pillows are cleaned very differently from feather, down, and synthetic pillows. Memory foam is very delicate when wet and, therefore, isn’t machine washable. Memory foam also needs to dry quickly or the material will mold. Latex isn’t machine washable and needs to dry quickly, as well.Loose-fill pillows can usually go in a washing machine; however, you’ll want to use lukewarm or cold water to prevent the cover from shrinking. Tumble drying loose-fill pillows with two dryer balls will speed up the drying process while fluffing the pillows.When to Get A New PillowEvery product has a limited lifespan; the more frequently you use your pillows, the quicker the material will deteriorate, lose support, and become dirty.Some materials have longer lifespans than others.Loose-fill pillows need replacing once every 6 months.You should replace a solid memory foam pillow every 12 to 36 months.Buckwheat and shredded memory foam pillows need their filling replaced once every 6 months.Replace latex pillows once every 2 years.Signs indicating when you should retire your pillow earlier are as follows:Lumps form in the filling.It doesn’t maintain its shape.You wake up with headaches, neck pain, or back pain.Your allergy symptoms worsen, especially after sleeping.FAQsWhat is the best pillow for neck pain?The best pillow will alleviate neck strain, promote spinal alignment, and offer support to the neck and shoulders. Depending on your sleep position, the loft and firmness or the pillow will change. If you want a firmer pillow with a high loft, we suggest a latex or memory foam filling.How do I choose the right pillow size?If you have a twin bed, a standard or queen-size pillow will fit on the mattress. If you have a king-size bed, consider getting a king-size pillow.What is the best memory foam pillow?The best memory foam pillow has enough loft to support your neck without causing soreness or pain. Side and back sleepers need a firm pillow with a medium to high loft. We don’t recommend memory foam pillows to stomach sleepers because they need a thin and soft pillow to maintain spinal alignment.What kinds of pillows do hotels use?Hotels usually use down, down alternative, or feather pillows because they’re soft, they can mold to most sleep needs, and they’re not super expensive to replace. Plus, these pillows can be washed much more easily than foam pillows, so they’re less likely to be germy.ConclusionYou have to understand your sleep needs to find your perfect pillow. Ask yourself what firmness, material, size, and loft you need to get a good night’s sleep. Plenty of high-quality, affordable pillows have different features to boost your sleep quality.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. CommentsLeave a comment Noah Lopata April 28, 2020 at 11:52 pm ReplyThe Purple Harmony Pillow is very comfortable! I like that it doesn’t seem to get too hot on warm nights and it doesn’t freeze on cold ones. It really helps me sleep – I fall asleep when I use this pillow much easier than when I don’t. Leave a comment Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.