The Ultimate Pillow Guide: The 6 Best Pillows for All Sleepers

If you’ve spent your entire life on a pillow passed down to you by your parents, or on the first pillow that caught your eye at your local home good store, you’re not alone. Every night, plenty of people lay their heads on pillows that aren’t the right fit for them, and it’s costing them. You might have briefly, in the past, looked at some premium quality pillows and immediately shied away. After all, you’ve spent your whole life on a $7 pillow, how much better could a pillow that costs ten times that be?

To understate wildly, much, much better. Miles better.

You don’t know how much your pillow is costing you valuable resting time until you compare it to something that was made for you. However, you’re still a pillow novice, so let allow us to assist. Here at The Manual, our sleep content has been helping both sleep amateurs and experts alike choose the best of the basics like pillows and mattresses, but we’ve also been helping sleepers find the perfect sheets for their bed and even highlighted some of our favorite sleep masks.

So, allow us to introduce you to the best pillows out there.

However, pillows aren’t just one size fits all. If you’re a side sleeper, you want a highly lofted pillow to make up for the space between your neck and mattress. If you’re a stomach sleeper, however, you want the lowest loft possible so you’re not pinching your neck as you fall asleep. Then again, not every stomach sleeper wants an incredibly flat pillow. Some stomach sleepers prefer the springiness of latex, while some side sleepers like the cloud-like softness of down. It’s all about finding the pillow that’s right for you.

Without further ado, let’s get to pillow talk.

For Side Sleepers: TEMPUR-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling Pillow – $169

best pillows tempur cloud pillow

To those of you afraid of expensive pillows, we’re throwing you into the deep end with an incredibly enticing one. The TEMPUR-Cloud is perfect for side sleepers because it’ll keep you cool, even if you’re the type of person who heats up to sun core-level temperatures at night. Tempur-Pedic is known for its variety of cooling memory foam mattresses, but the TEMPUR-Cloud is made with TEMPUR-Breeze Gel, so it’s supportive yet soft. This pillow is perfect for side sleepers because it keeps the side of your face from overheating as you sink in for a cozy night’s rest.

For Stomach Sleepers: Elite Rest Firm Memory Foam Pillow – $40

As a rule of thumb, stomach sleepers should avoid memory foam. Most memory foam pillows aren’t soft enough, will prevent your head from getting close enough to the mattress to align your spine, and the loft will injure your neck. But rules are meant to be broken, right? This memory foam pillow is low, soft and cozy enough for stomach sleepers to get their money’s worth. At just 2.5 inches of loft, you’d be hard pressed to find a memory foam pillow with lower loft.

For Back Sleepers: The Purple Pillow – $99

best pillow for back sleepers purple 1500x1000

Without the cover, the Purple Pillow is weird looking to be sure. However, this alien pillow has been keeping customers restful since 2016 when it was introduced on Kickstarter. Designed with a gridden polymer to give you a nice, even cushion all the way around the pillow, it’s perfect for back sleepers. It’s soft and squishy, so you won’t be craning your neck forward all night, but it’s also supportive and lifting, so you won’t tilt your head backward and wake up the neighbors with your snores. The Purple Pillow is unique from top to bottom, even down to its hefty weight of 10 pounds.

Best Memory Foam Pillow: Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow – $80

best pillow for back sleepers coop home goods 1500x1000

The Eden memory foam pillow by Coop Home Goods is a great choice if you love memory foam. Memory foam is known for its ability to soften impacts, so your head will stay in whatever position you fall asleep in all night. You won’t feel jostled around every time your partner shifts positions. It’s a great investment, too, because it’s made for all types of sleepers. How, might you ask? The inner pillow zips shut, so you can add or remove the shredded memory foam stuffing at will. That means, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t have a preference for back, side or stomach, you can fluff this pillow up on side sleeping nights and remove the filling on stomach sleeping nights.

Best Latex Pillow: Malouf Z Latex Pillow – $115

Sorry, folks with latex allergies, but latex is a great material for pillows, especially if you’re a side sleeper. Not only is natural latex sustainable, so you’ll have peace of mind sleeping on it, latex is springy, comfortable and sleeps cool if done right. Malouf Z’s latex pillow has a super high loft, so back and stomach sleepers probably shouldn’t attempt this one, but with holes punched through it and such a high loft, it’s an ideal choice for broad-shouldered side sleepers or for folks who need to feel the space between their ear and mattress. For the folks who seem to fold over every pillow they’ve ever owned, here’s your answer.

Best Down Pillow: East Coast Bedding’s Goose Down Pillow – $280

Yeah, yeah, we get it; this is a pricey pillow. But how much money would you spend to get an incredible night’s rest for the next ten years (because, yes, well-kept down pillows can last for a decade!). East Coast Bedding’s soft, cloud-like down pillow is perfect for the stomach and back sleeper who loves to sink in at night and feel cradled as they fall asleep. You just might have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. These pillows comes in packs of two, so go ahead and share with your partner or your high class dog. Or, hey, use one for your head and stuff a pillow between your knees. It’s your pillow. Side sleepers might like the idea of sleeping on a down pillow more than the practice, however; down doesn’t offer quite enough support to keep your head from tilting downward and hurting your neck.

How to Choose the Right Pillow for You

Have you fallen in love with a pillow yet? Don’t get too ahead of yourself; save yourself time and money by slowing down and doing your homework before splurging on the most expensive (or least expensive) pillow you can find. After all, just because a pillow is pricey doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Here are a few things to consider when you’re looking into your next pillow.

Loft

Loft is the pillow’s height. Essentially, as a pillow lays flat, it’s the distance between the tallest point of the pillow and the top of your mattress. As a guideline, side sleepers should be using pillows with the highest loft, stomach sleepers with the lowest loft, and back sleepers fall somewhere in the middle. But loft isn’t the only thing to look at, because loft doesn’t equate to firmness. For example, most down pillows might seem loftier than most memory foam pillows fresh out of the box, but as soon as you lay your head on a soft down pillow, you’re going to sink right in. The key is keeping your spine in alignment, so if the crown of your head is tilted, your spine is, too.

Pillow Size

This one’s easy. If you have a king size bed, get a king size pillow. If you can’t remember what size your mattress is, well, first, it’s probably time to get a new mattress (we can help!). Second, just grab your old pillow and a tape measure. A 20-by-26-inch pillow is standard, 20-by-30 inches is queen, and 20-by-36 inches is a king size pillow. Don’t forget to snag at least two pillows or one half of your bed will feel a little naked.

If you’re a broad-shouldered person, though, you might want to go a size up. Don’t be afraid to go home with a king size pillow for your queen size bed; your bedroom, your rules.

Pros and Cons of Pillow Materials

OK, you’ve got a taste for pillows now and you’re ready to start digging for the perfect one for you. But material is a huge part of the sleep experience, after all, and you don’t want something you’re simply uncomfortable on.

Latex

Pros:

  • Environmentally friendly. Usually. If having an environmentally friendly pillow is something you care about, make sure the one you’re buying is 100% latex rather than a blend.
  • Sleeps cool. When made right, latex can keep you cool. For extra coolness, buy a pillow with holes punched in it.
  • Supportive. Latex is springy and stays firm.
  • Reduce back pain and neck stiffness. Most back pain derives from when you sink in too far; latex prevents that.
  • Retains shape well. It’ll bounce back for even heavy sleepers.

Cons:

  • They’re firm. Too firm for some, especially stomach sleepers.
  • Latex is smelly. If you’ve ever bought a memory foam pillow, you know what we’re talking about. Air it out a few days and it’ll be fine.
  • Adjustment period required. Latex pillows have a unique feel; they’re not going to give you that hotel pillow softness, so give yourself some time to adjust.
  • Common allergen. Don’t risk anaphylaxis, just buy a different pillow if you’re allergic to latex.

Memory Foam

Pros:

  • Highly supportive. Side sleepers will love memory foam pillows as they’ll keep you supported all night.
  • Hypoallergenic. No hives here.
  • Retains shape well.
  • Can curb snoring. Memory foam contours to your head and neck without letting you sink in, so you won’t tilt your head backward and snore.

Cons:

  • Sleeps hot. Memory foam is not a breathable material, so you might get a little warm.
  • Too firm for stomach sleepers. Stomach sleepers, do you feel like you’re floating in air? It’s your pillow… and it’s not a good thing. Switch to a lower lofted pillow.
  • Off-gas. Just like their latex brethren, memory foam pillows can smell fresh out of the box. Give your pillow some space.
  • Pricey. Memory foam pillows can be pricey, but they’re worth it when you find the right one.

Down

Pros:

  • Cloud-like softness. Ever feel jealous of how cozy swaddled babies must be? Down pillows can do that. For your head.
  • Chemical-free. Breathe easy!
  • Long-lasting. Down pillows, if treated right, will last longer than most other pillow materials, so get cozy.

Cons:

  • Down comes from where? Down is the soft under layer of a bird’s feathers. And no, harvesting down is not as easy as shearing wool.
  • Hard to clean. Don’t even think about throwing your brand new, $150 down pillow in your apartment washing machine. Unless you want to be picking down feathers out of your other clothes and washing machine for months, of course.
  • Pricey. Down is luxurious both in quality and in price.

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