Most people don’t think too much about their choice of pillow unless they sleep badly or suffer from pain (usually neck or back pain), but the right pillow can make a big impact on your quality of sleep, your health and your well being.
Choosing the right pillow is the first step. There’s no single pillow that’s great for everyone. We are all different shapes and sizes and have different sleeping styles and so need to choose a pillow which is suited to each of us. Trouble is, there’s loads of different pillow types, where do you begin?
Don’t worry, here’s a handy pillow reference guide to help you to narrow down the options, you’ll be sleeping better in no time:
Step 1. What is your sleeping style?
Probably the most important factor in choosing the right pillow. This determines the required pillow support level (thickness) to adequately support your head and align your neck with your spine.
Do you mostly:
Sleep on your front? You are a tummy sleeper
Sleep on your back? You are a back sleeper
Choose a medium to deep thickness pillow, a memory foam pillow, or two pillows with a softer one on top.
See our best high-fill down pillow here , the highest scoring memory foam pillows here, or the best medium synthetic pillow here.
Sleep on your side? You are a side sleeper
Choose a medium-high thickness pillow. If you are a side sleeper, we would also recommend pillows which you should try putting between your knees (especially for women). You might find this unusual, but a soft, mouldable pillow such as this one here helps to align your upper hip properly, taking the pressure off and making you very comfortable.
For side sleepers, see our review of an excellent high-fill down pillow here, all the best memory foam pillows or a great medium-high density synthetic pillow here.
A mixture of all or some of these? You are a mixed sleeper
Choose a medium thickness pillow to cater for all your different sleeping positions during the night. Alternatively, we’d recommend two softer pillows (such as down pillows or feather pillows) which you can squish up when you’re sleeping on your side, or flatten down when you turn on to your front. This seems to keep our more restless sleepers happy during the night.
Step 2. Do you suffer from allergies?
Most quality down or feather pillows have usually had their fillings processed in order to remove allergy-causing particles (dander), they would also normally feature a highly-containing case to keep everything in. I’m actually allergic to feathers but I don’t have any problems with most good quality down pillows. If you suffer badly from allergies or if you’re not sure then stick with hypo-allergenic synthetic pillow fillings.
- Generally not suffer from allergies and are not allergic to feathers – Choosing any pillow filling would be fine
- Have a known allergy to feathers, suffer from asthma or have other significant allergies – Stick with synthetic fillings such as polyester (Hollowfibre, Microfibre) or memory foam pillows. Many pillows are now treated and marketed as anti-allergy pillows. Read more about them here.
Step 3. How much do you want to spend?
We’ve reviewed pillows from £2.50 to £150 each and like most things, you get what you pay for. I love a bargain but will always avoid very cheap pillows because they never last, they loose their support and shape and will reduce your sleep quality. Likewise, at the top end, very expensive pillows are not a lot better than some other pillows at half the price.
Which are you:
- I want to keep costs down (£20 or less) – Go for a well made synthetic pillow from a good brand
- I’m happy to spend a little more if it means a better quality pillow (£20 to £50) – Choose a top-end synthetic pillow, luxurious down pillow or memory foam
- I want the best pillow I can get (£50+) – Choose the best quality and most luxurious down pillow
Step 4. Do you suffer from sleep problems?
Lastly, there’s a wide choice of pillows designed to help people overcome particular sleep problems.
Do any of these affect your quality of sleep? Click on the head word for reviews of those pillows.
- Snoring pillows– Consider using an anti-snoring pillow. It can work for some.
- Sleep apnea pillows – There are pillows designed to help relieve sleep apnea symptoms
- Neck pain pillows – There’s a wide range of orthopaedic pillows designed to offer special neck support for neck pain and cervical spondylosis sufferers
- Back pain pillows – Look for a pillow which is specifically designed to help with spine alignment, or a body pillow / v-shaped pillow.
- Pregnancy pillows – Choose a pillow designed with special support designed for 2nd and 3rd trimester pregnant women