Some people may think that all pillows are created equal, but the truth is that there’s a tremendous range of materials that can be used to make a pillow, and these materials directly influence how that pillow will feel.
The Best Bed Pillows for 2021
This guide will help you understand why good pillow matters, what your pillow options are, and which are the best pillows of 2021.
Our Top Picks
Best Memory Foam: Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow
Why We Like it
- Loft level can be easily adjusted by removing some shredded foam
- Cover of bamboo-derived rayon and polyester boosts breathability
- An inner liner that helps with moldability and airflow
- 100-night satisfaction guarantee
The Coop Home Goods Adjustable Memory Foam pillow is one of the most popular pillows sold online thanks to its quality of design and performance, especially at its price point.
It is made with a cover that is a blend of rayon and polyester that, along with an inner liner, keeps the pillow breathable. The shredded memory foam contours to your head and is malleable, and at the same time, the material can be easily removed for those who want less loft (such as stomach sleepers).
Best Down Alternative: Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow
Why We Like it
- Carefully designed to mimic the soft feeling of down
- Hypoallergenic polyfill
- Available in three firmness levels
- Full-year sleep trial
The Brooklinen Down Alternative pillow has polyester fill (polyfill) that has fibers shaved in a way to as closely resemble the feeling of down as possible. This material is hypoallergenic, soft, light, and lofty. A 400 thread count cotton shell provides added softness and breathability, and double-stitched edges hold the material tightly inside the pillow.
Brooklinen offers this in a Plush, Mid-Plush, and Firm option to best suit your preferences and your sleeping position. The Plush fits best for stomach sleepers, Mid-Plush for back sleepers, and Firm for side sleepers.
Brooklinen is a well-regarded bedding company and offers a 365-night sleep trial that lets you return this pillow anytime within a year if you aren’t satisfied with its performance.
Best Down: Kassatex European White Goose Down Pillow
Why We Like it
- High-loft fill with European white goose down
- Fill power of 650
- Three firmness levels to choose from
- Sustainably washed to reduce allergens
- 60-day sleep trial
The down pillows from Kassatex are made with high-quality European white goose down that is carefully washed and treated — using eco-friendly bluesign soaps — to reduce allergen exposure. This material is exceptionally soft and lofty with a fill power of 650. A cotton shell with a thread count of 350 supplements the softness and adds breathability.
The pillow is available in Soft, Medium, and Firm options that can suit sleepers in any position. The moldability of down makes these pillows extremely useful for people who like to adjust a pillow in real time.
Kassatex offers free shipping and provides a 60-day no-risk sleep trial to test this pillow out in your own home.
Best Foam: the Tuft & Needle Pillow
Why We Like it
- Employs soft and contouring Adaptive Foam
- Durable, reliable material doesn’t require fluffing
- Soft cover is removable and machine-washable
- 100-night sleep trial and 3-year warranty
The Tuft & Needle pillow is made with the same proprietary foam, Adaptive Foam, that the company uses in the comfort layers of its mattresses. This foam is inviting and conforming but without giving out or losing its shape. As a result, the pillow can effectively cushion your head and keep your neck and spine in alignment.
The Adaptive Foam is aerated for extra breathability, and the soft cover stays cool to the touch. As one piece of foam, you never need to fluff the pillow, and it is built to hold its shape for the long-term.
Tuft & Needle ships the pillow for free, provides a 100-night sleep trial and backs the product with a 3-year limited warranty.
Best Innovative: the Purple Pillow
Why We Like it
- Smart Comfort Grid provides exceptional responsiveness to support your head and neck
- Extra edge support to ensure your neck is well-cushioned
- Ultra-soft cover is removable and washable
- 100-night sleep trial
The Purple Pillow utilizes the same hyper-elastic polymer, referred to as the Smart Comfort Grid, that powers the acclaimed Purple mattress. This material is composed of open squares that compress when weight is applied and then rapidly bounce back when the weight is removed. This allows the pillow to contour perfectly to your head, and the reinforced edges make sure your neck is well-cushioned as well.
A huge benefit of the Purple Pillow is the ventilation allowed by the Smart Comfort Grid. Combined with the breathable cover, this pillow is a top choice for people who sleep hot and need their pillow to stay cool.
Purple offers a 1-year limited warranty as well as a 100-night trial during which you can test out the pillow with an option to return it if it isn’t right for you.
Best Latex: Malouf Z Talalay Latex Pillow
Why We Like it
- Cover from polyester and rayon increases breathability
- Aerated latex improves airflow and prevents overheating
- High-end Talalay latex for excellent performance
- Offered in Plush or Firm options for comfort
- Offered in Low or High loft
The Malouf Z pillow employs high-quality Talalay latex to offer a different feel in a pillow. Talalay latex is known for being both responsive and soft at the same time, allowing it to provide comfort and support to your neck and head.
Customers can choose between two options for firmness (Plush and Firm) and two options for loft (Low or High), meaning that there are versions of this pillow that can work for sleepers in any position.
The aerated latex is breathable, keeping the pillow cool even in summer months.
Best Buckwheat: Hullo Pillow
Why We Like it
- Buckwheat hulls are malleable and breathable for coolness and support
- Zippered cover allows you to adjust the amount of buckwheat fill
- Soft and smooth organic cotton shell with twill weave
- 60-night sleep trial
The Hullo pillow features a fill made with thousands of buckwheat hulls, a long-standing pillow material in Asia, to provide a comfortable and supportive pillow with a unique feel.
This pillow is both malleable and adjustable. It is malleable because the hulls can be reshaped and molded to fit your needs in real-time. It is also adjustable because the cover has a hidden zipper that lets you remove hulls if you want a lower loft level.
An added bonus of buckwheat is that it does not retain heat and permits plenty of airflow to keep your head cool all through the night.
Hullo ships the pillow for free and provides a 60-night satisfaction guarantee that lets you get a full refund if you find that the pillow doesn’t work for you.
Pillow Buying Guide
Before choosing the right pillow, there are a handful of factors to take into account including the pillow size, loft, and composition.
In general, pillows are sold in 6 different sizes, as shown below:
|Standard||20” x 26”|
|Super Standard||20” x 28”|
|Queen||20” x 30”|
|King||20” x 36”|
|Body||54” x 20”|
|Toddler||14″ x 20″|
- Standard: what most people are used to and compatible with virtually all pillowcases.
- Super Standard: less common but ideal for people who want added width compared with a standard.
- Queen: a larger size and a better fit for a larger bed as 2 queen pillows stretch across a queen bed.
- King: designed for king beds as 2 king pillows stretch across a king bed.
- Body: very long and intended to be used to support the body such as for pregnant women or people with back pain.
- Toddler: extra small for little sleepers.
Read Next – Best Pillow For Back Sleepers
Pillow Loft – Determining Your Needs
A key component of determining whether you’ll get what you need out of a pillow is its level of loft.
Loft is the thickness of the pillow when it is flat on your bed. Some pillows have a stable loft level while others can have their loft adjusted either by molding the pillow or by adding or removing some of the interior material.
Several factors influence the proper loft level for your pillows. These factors are described in the sections below.
Your choice of the sleeping position directly influences how your neck is aligned in relation to the mattress and thus the appropriate amount of loft.
The most common position is side sleeping, and people on their side generally need higher loft to keep the head in line with the shoulders. An adjustable loft pillow or one that is moldable to change the amount of loft can also be very useful for side sleepers so that they can make minor modifications to get the right height.
Stomach sleepers need a much lower loft pillow because they are lying flat and flush with the mattress. A pillow that is too tall can cause unnatural arching or bending of the neck in a stomach sleeper, so a lower loft pillow (including adjustable pillows) serve these sleepers best.
Back sleepers, who are also flush with the mattress, generally do not want too much loft in a pillow because of how it can cause craning of the neck.
The larger someone’s head is, typically the more loft that they will need since they will tend to put more pressure on the pillow. Additional loft, then, helps to prevent the pillow from compressing too much.
Body Shape and Size
People who have a bigger frame and who have a higher weight (generally 200 pounds or more) are more likely to sink into a mattress, which means that they need a pillow with lower loft.
If they use a high loft pillow but their body sinks into the bed, then there will be an exaggerated bending or elongation of the neck, which can potentially lead to aches and pains. On the flip side, a lighter person who won’t sink into the bed much at all will probably be better served by a higher loft pillow.
The firmness of the Mattress
As a general rule, the firmer your mattress, the higher the loft that you want because you will be less prone to sinking into the bed. People who have very plush mattresses should err toward a lower loft pillow or a pillow that has an adjustable loft level.
This matters mostly for side sleepers. For side sleepers with very broad or wide shoulders, a higher loft is usually necessary since the space between the mattress and the head is higher.
Placement of the Pillow
There are different ways to rest your head on a pillow. Some people put their head entirely on the pillow while others only put part of their head on the pillow.
The level of loft that you need can depend, then, on how exactly you are placing the pillow under your head and how that affects the angle of your neck.
Pillow Types and Materials
To help determine the type of pillow that you want, it’s important to know about all of the various materials that can be used to fill a pillow.
The characteristics and performance of a pillow will change based on this material, and in this section, we’ll give you an overview of what to expect from each.
Read Next – Best Memory Foam Pillow Reviews
This material, commonly used in mattresses as well, is known for its compression and ability to contour to pressure. In a pillow, this makes it especially attractive as it can give the kind of support your head needs depending on the weight of your head and how you rest it on the pillow.
There are generally three types of memory foam pillows:
- Shredded: in these, the pillow is filled with many small pieces of foam. This makes the pillow more moldable while retaining its supportiveness. In many cases, a shredded foam pillow will be adjustable, meaning that you can add or remove pieces of foam to change the loft of the pillow. In general, the flexibility of these pillows makes them viable for sleepers in most positions. Shredded foam does not retain as much heat as a block of memory foam, helping the pillow stay cool in the night.
- Molded: this type of pillow is one single piece of foam, and for this reason, it tends to have a higher and more consistent loft. It still will compress to accommodate your head and neck, but it is not moldable like a shredded foam pillow. It also tends to retain more heat.
- Noodle Foam: these pillows have a noodle or wave shape meaning that they look like a long cylinder. These allow you to have a great deal of flexibility in adjusting their shape, but their unconventional size can make them difficult for many people to use as a primary pillow.
Latex pillows are made with latex rubber that is known for having qualities of both responsiveness and resilience. This resilience means that you are less inclined to feel that your head is sinking into the pillow, but it can still compress to give support.
These pillows tend to be durable and have a higher loft but generally have limited ability to be re-shaped.
Most latex pillows are molded and made of one piece of latex, but there are some pillows that are made with shredded latex. As with memory foam, shredded latex has more moldability and retains less heat.
Read Next – Best Latex Mattress Reviews
Polyfoam is a broad category of foam products that is distinct from memory foam. Polyfoam can be manufactured to have a wide range of different characteristics including some types of polyfoam that takes on characteristics of memory foam.
These pillows tend to be lower cost than memory foam and usually do not have quite as much sink. They can be a viable option for sleepers in any position depending on the loft level of the pillow and whether it is adjustable.
Down pillows are made with feathers from ducks or geese and specifically with the down feathers, which are from the underside of the plumage.
These pillows are known for being soft, light, and easily molded. While they have a greater loft, they tend to compress a lot and can be adjusted to take on different forms.
Many side sleepers and some back and stomach sleepers like down pillows, but others may find it tedious to keep reshaping them. They also tend to be more expensive, and some people have allergies to down.
Down alternative pillows are designed to have a performance and feeling akin to down but without using actual down feathers.
To accomplish this, pillow makers usually employ synthetic fabrics that are much cheaper and do not have issues with provoking allergies.
Overall, they capture much of the moldability and lightness of down that works well for sleepers who want to be able to adjust their pillow into many different shapes through the night. However, down alternative pillows usually do not last as long as true down and may not be quite as soft.
Thousands of small buckwheat husks are used to make buckwheat pillows. While each of these husks feels hard, when they are combined in a pillow, they offer a surface that both supportive and firm.
The husks can be pushed around to make the pillow moldable and usable for sleepers in most positions. The nature of the filling also makes these pillows naturally breathable and unlikely to retain heat. This combination of features leads sleepers of all positions to be able to benefit from buckwheat pillows.
The only downsides are that they can be expensive and can also be noisy at night from the movement of the husks. For this reason, they may not be the best choice for people who are easily disturbed by noise while sleeping.
The firmer loft level may be an issue for some stomach and back sleepers, depending on the amount of filling.
A low-cost option, cotton pillows are stuffed with this ubiquitous textile. Cotton tends to be fluffy and moldable, but it has limited ability to offer real support and tailored contouring that comes from many other pillow types.
Cotton also absorbs heat and is poor at moisture-wicking, so people who are concerned about temperature may find cotton to be problematic.
In general, a thin cotton pillow is most likely to work for a back or stomach sleeper who needs less overall support than for a side sleeper who puts more pressure on the head and neck.
Read Next – Best Pillow For Side Sleepers
The Best Pillows 2021 (UPDATED GUIDE)
Coop Home Goods - Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow - Cross-Cut Memory Foam Fill - Lulltra Washable Cover from Bamboo Derived Rayon - CertiPUR-US/GREENGUARD Gold Certified - Queen
4 used from $45.97
Tuft & Needle Foam Pillow, Standard, White & Queen Mattress Protector - Waterproof - Liquid-Proof - Quiet - Protects Against Dust Mites and Allergens - Fitted Sheet Style - Vinyl Free
$144.50 out of stock