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Everyone needs a pillow, but which kind is best for your neck, back, and overall well-being?
If you’re unsure, we want to help you make that determination. After all, the pillow you select can influence everything from the amount of sleep you get at night to your quality of life during the day.
Here at BestReviews, we strive to provide honest, impartial product reviews that enhance the lives of our readers. To that end, we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We buy products off of store shelves, conduct our own in-house tests, consult experts, and analyze customer feedback in order to provide honest recommendations you can trust.
Our product matrix above features some of our top-choice pillows, but if you need more information on how to choose the right one, please continue reading this guide for more information.
If you have a health issue that affects your sleep, it's worth doing your research to see if a particular pillow might help.
Pillows don't last forever, but quality pillows can last a decent amount of time. That said, it's important to know when it's time to replace a pillow.
People lose an average of one pint of sweat per night. Some of that sweat inevitably seeps into your pillow. A discolored pillow is an indicator that it's probably harboring a fair amount of bacteria. If your pillow is discolored, it's time to get a new one
If your pillow has flattened and won’t plump back up, or if you can feel lumps in the filling, throw it out and get a new one.
Waking up with back or neck pain can be a sign that your spine isn't properly aligned while you sleep. Your pillow is a likely culprit. If you wake up with back or neck pain, it’s time to get a new pillow.
Many people with allergies or asthma find feather and down pillows give them breathing issues. That said, they generally have a longer shelf-life than most synthetic pillows.
If you wake up with a wheeze or nasal congestion, it's time to get a new pillow. Barring any other health issues, these signs point to a possible allergic reaction to the dust mites living in your pillow.
Now that you know when to get a new pillow, you might be wondering why it's so important to choose the right one.
The pillow you use affects your spinal alignment when you’re snoozing. Consider the fact that most people spend roughly one third of their lives asleep. It follows, then, that your nighttime posture affects your wellbeing during the day.
Choosing the correct pillow will help keep your spine in proper alignment when you sleep. The result: more hours of uninterrupted rest and fewer, if any, back and neck aches in the morning. (This is assuming that you don’t have any other issues, of course.)
Pillows come with a variety of fillings. Here, we review some of the most common fillings so you can decide which is best for you:
The Iso-Cool Memory Foam Pillow includes phase-change material (PCM) beads in its filling. These beads react to their surrounding temperature in an “opposite” manner. During times of high heat, they absorb heat. In colder temperatures, they release heat. Bed materials that include PCM are designed with temperature-related user comfort in mind.
Some people think that pillow firmness should be all about personal preference. But really, the degree of firmness that’s best for you depends on how you sleep. Take these guidelines into account when choosing between a soft, medium, or firm pillow:
Pillows flatten and attract bacteria over time. Whether you notice problems or not, it’s wise to replace them regularly.
If you want your pillow’s outer covering to be soft and luxurious, look for a product with a high thread count. The Serta Perfect Sleeper has a decent 300 thread count that yields good quality without breaking the bank.
That said, most people focus more on the thread count of their pillowcase than the thread count of the pillow inside it. It may be more practical to spend your money on bedding with a high thread count than pillows with a high thread count.
The different degrees of pillow firmness are designed to keep your neck properly aligned based on how you sleep.
The majority of pillows are sold in one of three sizes: standard (20 by 26 inches), queen (20 by 30 inches). and king (20 by 36 inches). The right size for you depends on the size of your bed.
Some pillows are sold in non-standard sizes. Finding pillowcases for these products could prove to be more difficult.
There's no right or wrong price to pay for a pillow. You’ll find a product out there for every budget.
Some of the most expensive memory foam or down pillows can cost in excess of $60 for just one pillow. On the other end of the spectrum, you can find packs of two pillows for less than $10.
If you’re looking for a middle-of-the-road solution, $30 will get you a very respectable two-pack of pillows that should keep you comfortable and your spine well-aligned.
When it comes to pillows, you tend to get what you pay for in terms of comfort and durability. That said, you needn’t go to the very top of the line to get a decent one.
These are some of the most frequently asked questions in the world of pillows:
Q. What is the best pillow filling?
A. There isn't a single best pillow filling; what works for you depends on your needs and preferences. If you're not sure what your preferred filling is, it can take some trial and error to get it right. If in doubt, hollowfiber pillows are generally comfortable, affordable all-rounders. However, they won't necessarily be right for everyone.
Q. How often should you replace your pillow?
A. There's no hard and fast answer to this question. If your pillows are stained or lumpy, or you wake up with a sore back or neck, it's probably time to get some new pillows. Even if you don’t note these problems, it’s smart to replace hollowfiber pillows every six months to a year. High-quality memory foam pillows should be replaced every three to four years.
Q. Should you get an antimicrobial pillow?
A. While they’re not essential, antimicrobial pillows reduce the amount of bacteria and other nasties that build up in your pillow. If you have a compromised immune system or are particularly concerned about bacteria, an antimicrobial pillow affords you some peace of mind.
Q. Are there any specialist pillows to help with specific issues?
A. Yes. If you suffer a particular issue or condition, certain pillows could be more suitable for you. For instance, if you suffer from sleep apnea or acid reflux, you can get a wedge pillow to help you maintain a near-upright position during sleep. If you experience severe neck pain, you may wish to consider an orthopedic pillow for neck support.