How to Choose a Pillow That’s Right for You

A sleeping pillow that combines a cloud-like softness with comfortable support is the stuff dreams are made of. The right pillow cradles your neck and head so you sleep soundly and wake up feeling refreshed. It’s essential for getting the deep, satisfying rest your body needs every night.

However, there are many different types of pillows on the market. It can seem like an almost-impossible task to find the ideal one for you. It’s a bit of a Goldilocks effort—you want a pillow that’s not too firm, not too soft, but just right. There are several factors to consider, as well as your personal preferences. You’ll be better equipped to find the perfect pillow when you know what to look for. 

Pillow Talk—Some Terms You Should Know

Before we get into how to find the best bed pillows, here is some terminology you may come across during your search:

  • Loft
  • This refers to the height of the pillow. The higher the pillow, the more loft there is.

  • Filling/batting/stuffing
  • The material inside a pillow.

  • Airflow
  • The pillow’s ability to draw heat away from the head and dissipate it to help you maintain a cooler temperature. This kind of breathability is important for people who tend to sleep hot.

  • Density
  • The firmness of a pillow. Dense pillows tend to be more firm than those made of softer materials.

  • Standard
  • One of the most common pillow sizes. (The others are queen and king--but you don’t necessarily need a larger pillow if you have a larger bed. Pick a pillow sized to your body, not the mattress.)

    It’s What’s Inside That Counts—How To Pick a Pillow Filling

    The material inside a pillow can make a big difference in comfort and feel. Each type of stuffing has certain pros and cons.

  • Down/Feather
  • The plush pillows you fell in love with during your last stay at that five-star luxury resort? They were probably filled with down fibers or feathers from a goose, duck or similar bird.

    Pros: Incredible softness, natural materials, good airflow, durable

    Cons: They can be too soft for some people, may be more expensive than other pillow types (but inexpensive down feather pillows may not hold up over time)

  • Memory Foam
  • Some people prefer this type of pillow because it conforms to the shape of the head or neck for a customized fit. The foam inside the pillow can be one solid piece or shredded. Shredded memory foam can have a better airflow, but it may clump and not last as long as solid foam.

    Pros: Support for the head and neck, holds its shape, hypoallergenic, may prevent aches and pains

    Cons: Tends to be harder or denser than other pillows (especially in cooler temperatures), reduced airflow, off-gassing odors in some memory foam pillows, costly compared to some other pillows

  • Latex
  • Latex is similar to memory foam but a little more lightweight for people who find memory foam too dense. 

    Pros: Offers support, keeps its shape, better breathability than memory foam, antimicrobial and allergen resistant

    Cons: Heavier than a down pillow, expensive, the synthetic variety may have a slight odor that wears off over time. 

  • Gel
  • Gel fibers act like memory foam and latex to provide shape and support, but the gel is also a coolant to keep you from getting too warm.

    Pros: Supportive, cooler and softer than memory foam or latex

    Cons: Less durable than foam or latex

  • Down Alternative
  • These pillows mimic the feel of down using synthetic materials.

    Pros: More affordable than traditional down, allergy friendly

    Cons: Typically not as soft or comfortable as real down pillows

  • Polyfill
  • Different types of polyester are used as filling in these traditional pillows.

    Pros: Inexpensive compared to other pillows, hypoallergenic

    Cons: Low breathability and durability, tendency to flatten and form lumps, resulting in a loss of support over time. 

    Sweet Dreams—The Best Pillows for All Sleeping Positions

    Do you doze off on your stomach or roll from side to side throughout the night? Your sleeping position will also determine what pillow is best for you

  • Side
  • Side sleepers’ pillows need to offer crucial support. Otherwise, the shoulders bear all the weight during sleep, which can lead to pain in the upper back and neck. The loft is also important. Too high and it will strain the neck; too low and a side sleeper may end up lying down with an arm under the pillow, which can cause discomfort. 

  • Back
  • A balanced loft is important here, too. You want a pillow that cradles the neck and head to keep the spine in a natural alignment, which means the loft should be a medium height, neither too low or too high. Some people opt for a wedge-shaped pillow or they place a smaller pillow under their knees

  • Stomach
  • The ideal stomach sleeper pillow is fairly flat to prevent neck pain that can be caused by a too-high pillow. A pillow with good airflow is also desirable because the face rests right on the pillow in this position. 

  • Multiple positions
  • Not limited to one sleeping position? Stick to the middle ground for a pillow that can accommodate you however you sleep. 

    Sleep On It—Other Things to Consider

    When narrowing your choices down to figure out what kind of pillow do you need, make sure to think about:

    • The size of your body and head 
    • Care instructions for your pillow (some can be machine washed; others should be hand washed)
    • How well your current pillow worked (Did it wear out quickly, form lumps or cause pain)
    • If you want a specialty pillow, such as one with an L- or S-shape
    • Your budget

    If shopping for a pillow has left your head spinning, visit Elegant Strand. We offer a collection of the best types of down pillows designed for superior comfort and performance. Our unique Italian “double pillow” construction boasts a core of the finest goose feathers surrounded by sumptuous down for unparalleled softness. Shop Elegant Strand and rest easy, knowing you’ll find the pillow of your dreams.

    white sleeping pillow with elegant strand logo