Bed Pillows: A Complete Buyer's Guide
Where you rest your head at night is important. Bed pillows are long considered a staple for a comfortable night’s sleep in many cultures. Pillows, in some form or another, have been around for thousands of years. Support of the head and neck during sleep has been linked to better, deeper, and more REM sleep. Today, pillows can be used for support, comfort, or decoration.
Pillows may be a mainstay in the ideal sleeping environment, but for anyone in the market for a new pillow, there are a lot of factors to consider. We’ve compiled the ultimate guide with some of the top things to look out for when it comes to finding the right pillow. Here at Mellanni, we’re about to launch our very own bed pillow and we’re really excited about it. So let’s take a look at all of the things that make up the simple, yet highly effective part of a goodnight’s sleep: the pillow.
Types of Pillows
Pillows come in all different shapes, sizes, and can be filled with a variety of materials. Not all pillows are intended for sleeping, with a large selection of pillows used for decoration or show. Pillows come with different levels of firmness, different weights, and there are even different pillow “heights”. Here we’ve broken down some of the vital factors that set different pillows apart.
There are essentially an infinite number of shapes a pillow can come in, from heart-shaped pillows to pillows with the likeness of Disney characters. That said, the most common shapes for a pillow are square, rectangular, and cylindrical. Euro or decorative pillows are usually square-shaped, although they can also be round. Pillows for sleeping are generally rectangular and come in several sizes -- standard, queen, and king. Body pillows can come in a U-shape, C-shape, or J-shape, but are typically a rectangular shape.
A standard pillow measures 20 x 26 inches. A standard pillow is perfect for a twin bed or an XL twin bed. Standard pillows are also commonly used with full and queen size beds. On a full or queen bed, two standard pillows are generally used -- one on each side of the bed.
At 20 x 30 inches, queen size pillows are not much larger than standard pillows. Queen size and standard pillows can generally be used interchangeably but will fill out the pillowcase more or less, depending on which one is used.
A king-size pillow measures 20 x 36 inches. King-size pillows are generally used on a king bed or a California king bed.
Euro pillows are often overstuffed square pillows used for decoration. While they can vary in size, Euro pillows are usually around 26 by 26 inches. Twin beds are typically adorned with one Euro pillow, while full, queen, and king beds have two.
Body pillows are popular for pregnant people, those with chronic back pain, or for those that like an extra pillow to snuggle with throughout the night. Body pillows also vary in size, but often come in at 54 x 20 inches.
A decorative pillow, throw pillow, or cushion is usually a square decorative pillow used on the bed, sofa, or chairs. Decorative pillows are usually smaller in size than euro pillows but can vary significantly in exact dimensions.
Filling is what you’ll find inside a pillow. Pillow filling is usually what determines firmness, breathability, durability, and how easy a pillow is to care for. From natural pillows to synthetic options, we’ve broken down several different fillings available on the market.
Down is a well-known material used in both pillows and comforters. Down refers to the very fine, fluffy underlayer of feathers found on ducks, geese, and other waterbirds. Down creates a soft pillow that is typically airy, breathable, and lightweight. Down pillows can be very luxurious but are often high maintenance in terms of proper care. Allergy sufferers may also find that a down pillow triggers an allergic reaction.
Down Alternative Pillows
Down alternative is manufactured using polyester fibers which mimic the airy and fluffy feeling of natural down. Down alternative is great if you are looking for a pillow that has the same firmness and breathability as down, but at a more attainable price and with easier care instructions. Down alternative polyester is a perfect hypoallergenic option for those with down allergies and is a great vegan choice.
Memory Foam Pillows
Memory foam is a synthetic fill made from polyurethane. Memory foam receives its name from the contouring effect of the material as it interacts with body heat. Solid memory foam pillows are made from solid blocks of foam which are cut into the shape of a standard pillow or sculpted to have pre-defined contours to fit the natural curvature of the neck. Memory foam makes for a very firm pillow, however, a major downside to a memory foam pillow is breathability. Memory foam tends to retain heat and is not a good option for hot sleepers. Memory foam is also treated with harsh chemicals and the smell of the material is another common complaint about this fill type.
Shredded Foam Pillows
Shredded foam filling can be made from polyurethane or other foam-like materials, including latex or viscoelastic. Shredded foam is a shredded form of solid foam that is then used as pillow filling. A shredded foam pillow can be more breathable than your typical memory foam pillow, but is often treated with the same harsh chemicals and can give off an unpleasant odor.
A latex pillow filling is generally squishy, like a foam filling. Latex filling can be solid or shredded. A latex pillow is generally very firm and provides good support for the upper spine, head, and neck. That said, latex pillows can be very dangerous for anyone with a latex allergy -- even when using pillow covers and pillowcases, anyone with latex allergies should avoid latex fillings.
Buckwheat is a natural pillow filling using the hulls of buckwheat seeds. Buckwheat filling usually produces pillows that feel firm and provide good neck support. Buckwheat is an airy and breathable material but compared to other pillows is often incredibly loud when moved. A buckwheat pillow is probably not a great option for those that move around a lot in their sleep. Buckwheat pillows can also be difficult to care for.
Water-filled pillows, while not particularly common, are an option available on the market. Water-filled pillows utilize a removable water bag which can be filled and emptied depending on the desired firmness level. A water-filled pillow, similar to a foam pillow, tends to cradle the head and neck. The downside to water-filled pillows is their tendency to leak, which could very well lead to disturbances in a night’s sleep.
Pillow loft refers to the height of a pillow when you are sleeping on it. With pillows, you will find either low or medium loft. Low loft pillows are lower in height and can be useful for stomach sleepers or those that snore (more on that later). Medium loft is the norm for most sleepers. Loft is also related to fill power, with a higher fill power creating a pillow with a higher loft.
Pillow firmness usually has to do with the type of material used to fill a pillow. A firm pillow generally provides more support for the neck, while a soft pillow is more comfortable for the head. Memory foam, latex, and buckwheat generally create the firmest pillows, although down and down alternatives can also provide a sufficiently firm pillow, especially when extra-filled.
The Best Pillow
At the end of the day, deciding which is the best type of pillow is a personal choice. Research indicates that some types of pillows may benefit certain sleeping styles to help obtain a fantastic night’s sleep. That said, there are a few other things to consider when thinking about the ideal pillow.
Reason for Use
Pillows are commonly a tool we use for sleeping, but a pillow can have other uses too. Decorative and/or Euro pillows on the bed are a great way to tie the room together. King-size pillows, even on smaller beds, can be useful if you like to read or watch television in bed. Body pillows are a great option for added spine support and to prop between your legs or pelvis in order to sleep with better posture.
Type of Sleeper
Our preferred sleep position influences our sleeping style and sleep preferences. Some of us tend to sleep on our back, some on our side, some on our stomachs, and some of us take up many different sleeping positions throughout the night. Let’s explore different types of pillow options for different sleep positions.
Sleeping on your back can be good for spinal alignment. Back sleepers tend to sleep best with pillows that are not too soft but not too firm in order to support the head without straining the neck and spine. Medium loft pillows tend to work great for back sleepers. For those that snore or have sleep apnea, back sleeping can exasperate the issue. Transitioning from back sleeping to side sleeping may be recommended: a body pillow, along with a normal pillow, may help with this transition.
Stomach sleeping tends to be less common and is not always the favored sleeping position due to the potential to leave marks on skin or contribute to facial acne. Stomach sleepers tend to favor a soft, thinner pillow. Stomach sleepers may prefer a pillow with a low loft.
Side sleepers are one of the most common types of sleepers. Side sleepers generally opt for a slightly firmer pillow to help support the head and neck. Pillows for side sleepers can be of either low or medium loft. For avid side sleepers, a body pillow may also be a good addition to your sleep environment to help keep the spine aligned.
Sleepers with Neck Pain
Neck pain is an unfortunate but also common adversary to refreshing sleep. Sleepers that experience neck pain should opt for a pillow with medium to firm support. Medium loft pillows are the best option for those experiencing neck pain.
For those living in warmer climates or those that tend to run hot during sleep, a breathable pillow is essential for feeling comfortable throughout the night. Avoid heat-retaining materials such as memory foam or latex. Having a pillow that is easy to care for is often recommended for hot sleepers to ensure pillows can be easily washed to avoid a build-up of sweat and skin particles.
Sleepers that Snore
Snoring can happen for a multitude of reasons, although back sleeping can perpetuate the issue. Switching from back sleeping to side sleeping can help alleviate snoring. For avid back sleepers that struggle with snoring, a low loft pillow can help keep the head from tipping forward.
Quality of Materials
When looking at different pillows on the market, it’s important to look at the quality of materials. Pillows made with high-quality materials are likely to be more breathable, last longer, and keep their original shape through multiple washes.
Investing in a pillow protector can help keep sweat, drool, and other debris from damaging bed pillows. That said, regular washing is important for good pillow hygiene, longevity, and to help avoid dust mites. Be sure to consider washing and care instructions when pillow shopping. Important factors to think about is if washing will cause the pillow to shrink or lose form. Natural pillows such as those filled with down and buckwheat tend to be more high maintenance. Synthetic pillows tend to be easier to care for.
Type of Mattress
Our sleeping surface is also a huge factor in being comfortable in bed. The type of mattress we have may play into our pillow choice. We want to maintain an even sleeping surface between our mattress and our pillow. A firmer mattress may call for a fuller bed pillow in order to help maintain a horizontal line of the head, neck, and spine.
Allergies can be a nightmare when it comes to a good night’s sleep, not to mention some allergies can be life-threatening. While a down pillow is a fluffy and luxurious option, down allergies are quite common and can cause midnight sniffles and sneezes. Down alternatives, such as virgin-grade polyester fiber, are a good hypoallergenic option in place of down. Latex should be entirely avoided if anyone in the family has a latex allergy. Dust mites can irritate allergies and aren’t just found in the linen closet: be sure to keep your pillow clean to avoid allergy discomfort caused by dust mites living in your pillow.
Sometimes the best way to decide which pillow is right for you is to try them yourself. Since the perfect pillow can depend on personal preferences, it’s worth opting for a purchase that can be returned if it doesn’t work for you.
More About Mellanni’s Bed Pillow
We know that finding the right pillow depends on a lot of factors and we’ve taken all of that into account while crafting our bed pillow. We set out to create a pillow with good support, that can accommodate the full spectrum of sleep positions, and that is truly like resting your head on a cloud. While there’s no such thing as the perfect bed pillow for everyone, we think we’ve come close with our wonderfully versatile and comfortable pillow. Designed with a fantastic night’s sleep in mind, here are some specs you can look forward to:
Made with 100% virgin-grade polyester fiber filling, the best down alternative, our pillow is extremely fluffy, soft, and breathable. It’s also hypoallergenic, vegan, and easy to care for.
Our pillow is extra-filled to provide additional firmness, which helps support the spine and keep the neck aligned. Soft, yet firm this pillow is great for every type of sleeper.
Made with the highest-quality craftsmanship and materials, this pillow is easy to care for and will keep its shape with every wash. Just throw it in the washing machine with cold water and air-dry or tumble dry on low. It’s really easy maintenance for such a luxurious pillow!
It comes with Mellanni’s Lifetime Promise. We think you will love this pillow, but if you’re not satisfied, it can be returned without hassle.
We hope this ultimate guide has helped navigate the world of pillows. Sweet dreams and happy sleeping!