Buying Guide to Pillows

Go Back To Guides

One of the best things you can do to ensure a good night’s sleep is to pick a pillow that suits you. Taking a few minutes with this guide to find the pillow you really need can help you get hours of great sleep every week.  How’s that for sweet dreams?

Pillow

What position do you sleep in? Knowing this will help determine the right level of support.

I sleep on my The best support is
Back Medium support. This will support the natural curvature of the upper spine, providing support under the head, neck, and shoulders.
Side Firmer support, in something that contours and cradles the head, neck, and shoulders. Pillows that have been designed for side sleepers sometimes have a gusset that makes the sides of the pillow seem rectangular.
Stomach Soft support that doesn't turn the head unnaturally to either side is best.

How do you like your pillow to feel? This will help you decide the best type of fill for you.

I want the pillow to Consider a Good to know:
Conform to my head like a soft cloud. Natural fill Down or down-feather blends are the best choice for you, but if you'd prefer a less expensive option, a poly-cluster fill could be a good choice.
Give me a little bit of resistance, but still feel pretty soft. Synthetic fill Synthetics are soft, but generally feel a little more firm than down.
Feel extremely supportive and maybe a little dense. Memory-foam fill These provide significant support, though they soften a bit with use. Many people who have had discomfort from a lack of support opt for memory-foam pillows.

Are you worried about allergies?

Some people think they can't use down if they have allergies, but there are certain downs that have been specially cleaned to remove common allergens. If you're still concerned, opt for a fill that's synthetic—poly-cluster can be a great substitute for down, but any synthetic option can be considered hypoallergenic.

What size bed do you have?

This will help you determine how many pillows you need.

Bed Minimum # of Pillows needed
Twin or Twin XL One standard pillow
Double or Queen Two standard, or queen-size pillows
King or California King Three standard or queen-size pillows, or two king pillows

Pillow choice is very personal and your pillow can make a huge impact on the quality of your sleep. Pillows generally differ in:

Support

A pillow's support type describes how sturdily the pillow holds your head. The right level of support from a pillow depends on how your head is angled during the night—so it's tied to the position in which you sleep.

Support Type What It Does Usually Recommended for
Soft Doesn't alter the position of the neck and upper spine People who sleep on their stomach
Medium Supports the natural curvature of the upper spine, providing support under the head, neck and shoulders People who sleep on their back
Firm Contours and cradles the neck, providing an even sleeping surface People who sleep on their side

Fill Type

Fill-type describes the pillow's "stuffing." Fill materials can impact the way a pillow conforms to your head, how squishy or resistant it feels, and how you will need to care for it.

Fill Type What It Is Good to Know
Natural Feather, down, or a combination of both Down and feathers are considered best for conforming to your head and neck. Fill power describes the fill’s "loft" or fluffiness: The higher the number, the loftier and more durable the pillow. Some down pillows are treated to make them even more hypoallergenic. Well cared for, a natural fill pillow can last for a decade.
Synthetic Man-made fill, usually polyester Generally the most affordable type pillow, synthetics-filled pillows are hypoallergenic, but aren't as long lasting as pillows with other fills. Synthetic pillows last only two to three years.
Poly-cluster A type of synthetic fill in which polyester clusters are coated with silicone to feel and move like down. Another hypoallergenic option, poly-cluster fill offers most of the softness and comfort of a down pillow at a lower cost. Poly-cluster pillows will not last as long as a down pillow, but should be useful for several years.
Memory Foam Pillow Dense, sponge-like pillows that mold around the head and neck for extra support. Memory-foam pillows offer firm support. These are sometimes a good fit for people who may have had head or neck pain in the past. This type of pillow lasts about two years.

Cover

Although you'll put a pillowcase on it, a pillow's protector still matters. It will extend the life of your pillow. Better pillows will have a quality fabric cover with a high thread count (the number of threads per square inch of fabric): Higher thread count covers will be softer, but more importantly, will keep the fill from getting out and impurities from getting in. Some pillow covers are additionally treated with fabric protection that makes the fabric stain- and water-repellent, as well as anti-microbial resistant.

Size Measures Pillowcase Size You'll need at least
Standard 20 inches by 26 inches Standard One for a twin bed

Two for full or queen beds

Three for king or California-king

Queen 20 inches by 30 inches Standard Two on a double or queen bed
King 20 inches by 36 inches King-size pillowcase Two on a king or California king bed
European 26 inches by 26 inches Euro Sham Decorative, so it's up to your imagination.
Body 20 inches by 50 inches Body pillowcase One per person
Travel 12 inches by 16 inches Travel-size pillowcase One per person

Check the tag before you remove it, but most pillows are machine washable—even down. Here's what you need to know:

  • Read the tag instructions to see if you can wash or must dry clean.
  • Wash it: On the gentle cycle with a gentle detergent.
  • Make sure the detergent's out: Add a rinse cycle, or wash the pillows again without soap.
  • Dry it on a low setting: This will take three to four hours. Toss it in with a tennis ball to get it fluffy—you can spritz the tennis ball with a favorite scent if you'd like.
  • Be sure to dry the pillows completely. Otherwise, they can develop mold. How do you know it's dry? If the pillow is fluffy and there are no lumps—it's dry.