How to Choose a Pillow: Complete Pillow Buying Guide

How to Choose a Pillow: Complete Pillow Buying Guide

Written by Mehran Uzair

Last Updated on Jun 13, 2022

In this article:

    Buying a mattress is one of the biggest investments you will make in your life to improve your sleep quality. While having the perfect mattress in place is an excellent way to start when it comes to sleeping better, if your pillow isn't up to par, you may still be tossing and turning. A good pillow will help keep your head and neck in alignment with the rest of your body,  allowing you to wake up pain-free. Hence, it deserves the same amount of attention. If you've been wondering how to pick a pillow for better sleep, this detailed guide can help you figure out what to look for and how to buy a pillow that’s most comfortable for you.

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    How to Choose the Right Pillow

    Not sure how to know what pillow is right for you? A good pillow depends on your specific needs affected by the filling used, fabric, weight, and sleeping position. So, dive deep into our pillow buying guide and pick the best one based on your needs. 

    Fill/ Pillow Material

    Pillow stuffing influences how a pillow feels and whether or not it is comfortable for you. Every filling has a distinct feel. That means you'll need to try a specific type of stuffing before deciding whether it's good for you. 

    Remember, you’ll be spending at least a few hundred hours on this pillow throughout its life.

    Below are some of the most popularly-used fillings.

    •  Cotton

    Cotton is the most widely used material as stuffing in pillows. It is an all-natural, eco-friendly, breathable option that is also quite easy on the pocket. Additionally, cotton is available in blends to help create the perfect airflow and softness for you.

    • Wool

    Wool is a natural insulator that can keep you cool or warm depending on weather conditions. Generally, it is used in more specialized blends for its comfort properties. You’ll find wool filling in luxury pillows as they offer some great benefits like being easily washable and sustainable. However, they tend to flatten out with use. 

    • Buckwheat

    Buckwheat hulls are a popular fill-in for buckwheat pillows because they create a solid but surprising contoured sleep surface. It provides both support and pressure point comfort, making them ideal for back and side sleepers. It comes from Asia and has gained popularity among those looking for treatment for neck problems. Microbeads are often used to replicate this sensation.

    • Foams

    The most common fillings are polyfoam, latex foam, and memory foam. Regular foams provide a solid basis and are commonly combined with other materials to create a unique look. Memory and latex foams are frequently used as a stand-alone to make use of their contouring properties. It's also commonly used in adjustable cushions as a shredded mix. On the other hand, washing foam isn't always a good idea.

    • Polyfill

    Polyfill or synthetic polyester fibre has many uses and can be utilized as soft and firm pillow surfaces based on the amount of filling you use. These thin, durable threads do not crush easily and are machine washable and dryable, making them an excellent choice for long-lasting use. Polyfill is also a popular choice to mix with other decisions for comfort preferences.

    • Microbeads Pillow Stuffing

    Microbead is another synthetic substance that isn't widely available. It's less expensive but a mimic of buckwheat pillow stuffing, as we mentioned earlier. Because the microbeads inside the pillow allow better air circulation, they are more breathable. They're also a more moldable option than a lot of other options.

    However, the negative outweighs the positive. Microbead pillows aren't environmentally conscientious, and they tend to become lumpy and flatten out over time. Still, if you're looking for a ventilated cushion with a buckwheat-like feel, this is an excellent option to explore.

    • Cooling Gel

    The Cool Gel layers regulate your temperature throughout the night to feel refreshed in the morning. This property allows the surface of your pillow to feel more relaxed and is helpful to people with warmer sleep.


    Memory foam or latex pillow will be heavier, while a down or synthetic pillow will be lighter. If you like to move your pillow with you as you rest, a more lightweight pillow may be a better choice. The fill weight is more about your personal preference.

    But do you know, it isn’t just the pillow-weight that matters? Your body and shoulder weight also affect the size and height of the pillow that’s ideal for you. 

    For instance, if your shoulders are broad, you need higher pillows. And if you are bulky, you need a lower pillow as you are more likely to sink into the mattress. 


    For most people, a standard-size pillow is sufficient. But if you prefer a king-size pillow, that’s fine, provided you can keep your sleep posture in alignment. A king-size pillow fits better on a king-size bed too. 

    You need to take care of one thing, i.e., your pillow cover and pillowcase fit properly.

    For instance, don’t stuff a giant pillow into an undersized cover or let a standard-size pillow swim in an extra-large pillowcase.


    Even though you’ll cover your pillow with a pillowcase, you want it to be breathable and durable.

    Make sure you use natural fabrics to cover your pillows. Decorative pillow covers look great but you should remove them before sleeping.

     Here are a few commonly-used fabrics:

    • Poly-Threads

    Poly fibers are durable, long-lasting, and strong. Although synthetic, Poly-threads can replicate the feel of many other materials and are often blended with natural fibres to increase strength and durability.

    • Bamboo

    Bamboo is a highly sustainable and naturally hypoallergenic material to help with allergen reduction. 

    Found in many blends, the fibre from the plants is very soft, cushion-like, and highly breathable.

    • Cotton

    Cotton is the most widely used material for pillow construction. It is natural and breathable.

    Apart from its high quality, it is also affordable. You can also use it in blends to create airflow and softness.


    A pillow made with high-quality material will last longer and help you sleep better. Once you’ve decided on the type of pillow you prefer, do your research and read reviews to choose the right pillow for sleeping. You can buy some of the most comfortable pillows here. Since you’ll be sending hundreds of hours on your pillow, make sure you buy the best quality under your budget.


    As we mentioned about different materials and fibres, you need to use the anti-allergic and breathable ones. Go for the ones that don’t hold heat, particularly when you are looking for foam pillows. Pillows with lower thread counts create better breathability. 

    Now that you know what makes a good pillow, make sure you consider the most suitable one based on your sleeping position.

    How to Choose the Right Pillow for Back Sleepers?

    Although back sleeping isn’t the most popular position, it has multiple benefits. The best type of pillow for back sleepers is the one that:

    • Promotes spinal alignment; 

    • Has a higher loft than pillows for stomach sleepers and a lower loft than pillows for side sleepers;

    • Has thinner and more contoured pillows.

    Your mattress firmness: If you sleep on a soft mattress, you might discover that a low pillow loft or no pillow at all is enough to keep you neutrally aligned. On the other hand, a firm mattress may necessitate the usage of a pillow to support your neck.

    If you don’t have a supportive mattress that keeps your lower body in alignment, you can consider supporting an additional pillow under your knee and lower back. Btw you seriously need one! Click here to buy our Luxury Hybrid Mattress.

    How to Choose the Right Pillow for Side Sleepers?

    Although side sleepers have a highly healthy sleeping posture, it's essential to firmly support the body’s curves and weight.

    More supportive pillows are generally worth considering in a side sleeping posture because of the distance between the shoulders and head to support the neck.

    When sleeping on your side, your shoulder takes the brunt of the support, which is why you need:

    • A mattress with a softer shoulder section
    • A low, medium, or high pillow loft

    A firmer cushion can be pleasant and supportive enough to sleep peacefully for many side sleepers, but this varies from sleeper to sleeper.

    Depending on the width of your shoulders and how hefty you are, any pillow loft can be a good fit. The wider your shoulders, the taller your cushion should be. Similarly, the heavier you are, the lower your cushion should be. Anything from foam to a heavy-duty down replacement can be used as a firm substance.

    How to Choose the Right Pillow for Stomach Sleepers?

    Even though physicians advise against sleeping on one's stomach due to the risk of short and long-term spine disorders, many people find it to be a comfortable position.

    Many stomach sleepers either support their shoulders and upper torso or sleep in a gently hybridized stomach and side position to relieve stress on the lower back. Thin, soft cushions can also assist the body in this case.

    As a stomach sleeper, you should be using a pillow to help your body prevent neck strains and low back pressure. If you sleep in this position frequently, it's better to move your pillow closer to your chest to reduce neck bend.

    Here's what to look for in a pillow for stomach sleepers:

    • Feather or down pillows with a soft and compressible substance that provides a comfortable feel without being overly stiff. 
    • A lower loft pillow beneath your stomach and pelvis keeps your body in a neutral position, and your spine maintains its natural curvature.

    The firmness of your mattress matters a lot. If you have a soft bed that you tend to sink into, prefer to avoid using a cushion altogether, as whatever pillow you use will prop your head up awkwardly. Nevertheless, a low loft pillow is helpful if you don't feel yourself sinking into your mattress material because your body is unlikely to sink into a firm mattress.

    When Should You Replace Your Pillows?

    While high-quality pillows will last longer than low-quality ones, on average, you should replace your pillows every 18 years. Generally, memory foam lasts up to 3 years; synthetic pillows have a shorter lifespan. 

    Sleeping on a worn-out pillow or one that’s 5-6 yrs old wouldn’t give you the comfort you deserve, and thus, you need to replace it at least after three years. 

    If you're not sure whether your pillow still has life in it, try the following tests:

    To begin, remove the pillowcase and examine your pillow. 

    • Are there any stains on it? 
    • Is it ripped? 
    • Is there a stench? 

    These are all symptoms that your pillow needs to be replaced. Dead skin cells, dust, and fungus-type organisms can add up to half the weight of a pillow over time, in turn triggering allergies, interfering with your breathing while sleeping, and emitting a smell that makes it difficult to sleep correctly.

    If your pillow passes the above tests, it's time to put it through the next test:

    Make a half-fold with your pillow. If your pillow remains folded rather than springing back to its usual shape, it’s dead. You can do this test over your arm with natural fill cushions or keep an object after folding if it’s a synthetic pillow.

    How Does Your Mattress Matters for Choosing a Pillow?

    Your mattress and pillow both play a vital role in determining your sleep quality.

    You need to make sure both are compatible with each other and your body for the best results.

    If you use a firm mattress, a softer pillow may be better because the pillow is lying on a firm surface and needs to adapt to the pressure of the weight of your head in your starting sleep position.

    Whereas, if you have had a softer mattress, a firmer pillow may be better to keep your head and neck aligned.

    The ideal pillow for you would depend upon your sleeping position and other factors like filling, fabric, size, weight, and breathability. Make sure you choose your pillow considering all the mentioned factors. But as a general rule of thumb, you should replace your pillow every 18 months.

    Disclaimer: This website does not offer medical advice nor professional medical services; rather, it is provided solely for educational, informational, and/or entertainment purposes. Individuals seeking medical advice should consult a licensed physician. The information provided should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition, disease, or injury. When you have a medical condition, you should always talk to licensed doctor or other certified medical professional. You should never delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment based on the contents of this website. Call 911 or immediately go to the nearest emergency room if you think you may have a medical emergency. The contents of this website are provided "as-is", Dreamcloud Sleep and its parent, subsidiaries, affiliates, employees, contributors disclaim any warranty of the information contained herein. Please contact to report any errors, omissions, misinformation, or abuse.
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