How to Choose a Pillow

Be honest. Have you ever really taken a moment to think about your pillow? Your answer is probably no. Well, you are not alone. While a mattress is usually the hero of your sleep journey and gets all the attention, your pillow becomes a mere sidekick who is mainly ignored and doesn’t get the credit it deserves. But, it’s time for us to change that. 

While a mattress is imperative to good sleep, your pillow is equally important. When it comes to achieving the best rest of your life, you need a pillow that correctly supports your neck to ensure you wake up fresh and relaxed each morning. 

So, if your pillow is deflated, worn out or causes aches and pains, it is time to bring home a new one. So, how to choose a pillow? Don’t worry. This pillow buying guide will disclose all the information you need to select the best pillow for your sleeping needs and achieve optimal comfort. 

How to Choose the Right Pillow

Pillow Fill 

When it comes to choosing the right pillow, you must look at the types of pillows to understand which one suits your needs. Some of the most popular pillows fill include; 

Down Pillow Stuffing: One of the advantages of choosing down pillows is they are pure white and incredibly soft. Filled with an undercoating of feathers, they are oh-so-fluffy. These pillows are very moldable and can offer you the proper comfort. When you take care of these pillows properly, they can last for several years. However, they can be a bit more expensive when compared to other pillows and usually retain heat in summers, making it too hot. Also, make sure you are not allergic before you go ahead with this option. 

Feather Pillow: Feather pillows have a conventional stuffing that provides support without sagging, and feather filling is excellent if you are looking for optimal comfort. However, many feather pillows include a tiny amount of down, so those sensitive should check the pillow’s composition before buying.

Polyester Fiberfill: Polyester fiberfill pillows, also known as polyfills, are a popular low-cost pillow option. Because poly-fill pillows are composed of affordable pillow stuffing, they are easy to clean and maintain and can also help curb allergies when compared to the feather option. However, they tend to absorb heat and become lumpy rapidly. Hence, they are not very durable. 

Cotton Pillow: Cotton pillows are losing out to newer synthetic materials like memory foam. But cotton pillows have their own set of benefits, especially for those sensitive to synthetics. Cotton pillows are very easy to clean and can regulate heat. Cotton pillows are affordable and organic options are available too for people with allergies. 

Gel Pillow: Gel pillows are said to keep individuals extraordinarily cool at night. Many gel pillows are mixed with another substance, such as foam or latex, to provide the cooling effects of gel with the softness of another material. These are the big pillows and can be moulded to the contours of the sleeper.

Memory Foam: Made of polyurethane and a mixture of other compounds, these pillows provide a fluffy and comfortable option. These pillows easily conform to the shape of your head and help maintain spinal alignment, making them the best type of pillow. 

Latex Pillows: If you are looking for perfect pillow firmness, latex is a great choice. With a firm foam to offer the right support, they are environmentally friendly and provide great support. 

Buckwheat Hull Pillow Fills: Made from outer shells of buckwheat seeds, these pillows are great when it comes to regulating the temperature. They promote seamless airflow and offer a thicker option. These pillows are durable, natural, and offer excellent breathability. However, it can feel a little stiff for some. 

Kapok Pillow Fill: Made from the flowers of the Kapok trees found in Mexico, they are 100% organic. However, they are not very easily available and can be a little expensive. Nevertheless, these pillows are great, light, and super comfortable. 

Wool Fills: These traditional fills are extremely breathable and are warm, soft, and super fluffy. In fact, if you are someone who suffers from allergies, this can be a great option. Lastly, these pillows are environmentally friendly. 


Before you buy a pillow, you must also take your weight and shoulder-width into consideration. If your shoulders are wide, going for a higher pillow can be more comfortable. But, if you are a little on the heavier side, a low pillow may be the best choice as you are more likely to sink in. 


Smaller pillows have less volume. So, when it comes to buying a pillow, go for at least 20 inches by 26 inches as it is more comfortable. However, the size of your pillow must correlate with your height and weight. You can also see if king or queen sizes are better for you. 


The fabric of your pillow is also extremely important. Today, you will find pillows with a variety of fabrics, such as natural, silk, satin, synthetic and more. You need a fabric that reduces any friction between your facial skin and the cover while enabling proper airflow for comfortable sleep. Cotton and silk are great options. 



A high-quality pillow means less maintenance and more durability, while choosing a cheaper quality will have the opposite effect. However, even if you choose a premium pillow, taking proper care is incredibly important to maintain its hygiene. 


Breathability is an important factor when it comes to choosing your pillow. When the fabric and the material used offers seamless airflow, heat doesn’t get retained, ensuring you are able to sleep comfortably and sweat-free.

How to Choose the Right Pillow for Back Sleepers?


Sleeping on your back is one of the common sleep positions. So, if you are a back sleeper, you need to find a perfect pillow that is medium loft and medium-firm and pillows that conform to the pressure that’s exerted, like memory foam. Opting for a medium loft helps provide relief from any neck pressure and offers a nice cushiony feel that ensures any pains and sprains are kept away. At the same time, a medium-firm pillow offers the right support and spinal alignment to back sleepers. 

Back sleepers must opt for pillows that conform to the pressure you put as it makes sure that your head is nestled comfortably with proper neck alignment. Now, this is not mandatory but can be considered as the first step when it comes to buying a new pillow. 


The next step to choosing the bed pillow that’s perfect for you is to figure out what you want. These include; 

Support: Today, you will find pillows that are customized to match your sleep requirements. Right from adjusting the loft and fitness to the fabric of the pillow, you can decide what you want. 

There are also pillows that offer additional fills, which means you can simply unzip the pillow and take care of the internal stuffing by adding or removing it according to your comfort. This is extremely helpful if you are a combination sleeper, which means you tend to switch sides and don’t maintain one single position. 

Coolness: An important quality that you must look for in your pillow, especially as a back sleeper, is its cooling properties. There are pillows that come with cooling gels and pillows that offer smooth airflow. But, if you tend to feel uncomfortably hot while asleep and are looking for optimal cooling options then pillows with cool yarn can be your best bet. In fact, there are also brands that offer extremely cool fabrics that you should explore. 

Bounciness: Finally, you must analyse the kind of support you are looking for from your pillow. While some folks love to sink in, some don’t. For instance, if you want something bouncy and light, latex pillows are the best option. However, if you are looking for a pillow that conforms to pressure, go for memory foam. 

Try to analyze what you like about your current pillow and what you don’t to understand your requirements better. Taking all these factors into consideration will help you choose the best pillow for yourself! 

How to Choose the Right Pillow for Side Sleepers?


As a side sleeper, you need a pillow that will help you keep your spine neutral and aid a more healthy posture. Therefore, opting for a high loft and firm support is the best option here. You can also opt for fluffy pillows like wool, kapok, and down. 

When you opt for a high loft, especially if you are tall, it will keep the alignment of your spine neutral and provide relief from shoulder pressure. This also prevents the body weight from falling on your shoulders to help you achieve the proper rest you need. 

Now, a firm pillow will ensure that your head and neck are aligned with the spine. Whereas, when it comes to a soft pillow, you tend to sink in, which disrupts the alignments and leads to a stiff neck in the morning. 

Finally, choosing a fluffy pillow is a great option as long as they are high to prevent unnecessary pressure on the shoulders. A cozy pillow offers great comfort, and if you are someone who likes to keep an arm beneath the pillow as you sleep, this is a great option for you. 


Sweat Free: As a side sleeper, you not only need a pillow that keeps you cool, but also something that’s designed to get rid of any moisture. You must also take any health care issues into consideration. For instance, if you have night sweats, an absorbent fabric that’s easy to maintain is great for you. Because you don’t want a soaked pillow that can hinder your sleep. 

Natural: When you sleep on your side, your skin comes in direct contact with the fabric of your mattress. This is especially bad for people with sensitive skin as it can cause breakouts. So, you must opt for a natural and organic material, such as organic cotton, natural latex, and more. 

Breathability: Memory foam is an extremely popular choice amongst side sleepers. But some memory foams are not good at temperature regulation, and this is where the shredded memory foam pillows come in. These pillows offer the same sinking feeling as a normal memory foam pillow, but this option is more breathable and enables easy airflow. 

If you are a combination sleeper, which means you tend to slip in and out of various sleep positions, then go for a pillow with adjustable fills or pillows designed for combination sleepers. 

How to Choose the Right Pillow for Stomach Sleepers?


So, how to pick a pillow for a stomach sleeper? Well, while it can be a little tricky, it is not an impossible chore. So, what to look for in a pillow? Take a look. While sleeping on your stomach is not the healthiest position, at least having the right pillow can help you out. 

Since it becomes important to maintain your spine alignment while asleep, you need a low loft pillow. This also helps you avoid craning your neck while you are asleep. Ultimately your pillow should support the curvature of your spine. 

Next, you should opt for soft pillows as it provides a good cushiony feel between you and the mattress. But choosing a firm pillow lifts your neck more than necessary, causing pain and discomfort. 

You must choose pillows with down or feather fills as they are more compressible and adapt to your shape so that you can sleep comfortably. Make sure the pillow thickness is not too high. 


Pillowcase: Since your face is in direct contact with the pillowcase, you must make sure the fabric is hypoallergenic, and you can care for it regularly. 

Natural: Choose a pillow with no animal products or chemicals. Choose more natural pillows, like the poly gel fibre. 

When Should You Replace Your Pillows?

Every 1 to 2 years, it is suggested that you replace your pillows. This will ensure you use a pillow that offers the proper support; it is clean and free of any allergens. However, if you care for your pillow stringently,  you can prolong its durability and avoid buying pillows frequently. But, when to buy a pillow? Well, it should be replaced if; 

  • It is causing aches and sprains
  • It is giving out a foul smell 
  • The pillow has become too lumpy 
  • The pillow has become sagged or flattened 
  • It is not able to offer the support it once used to

How Does Your Mattress Matters for Choosing a Pillow?

While a new pillow can help you sleep well, you must also investigate your mattress while you are at it. If your mattress isn’t right for you or isn’t able to offer the right support, just opting for a new pillow will not solve the purpose. However, you can always go for mattress toppers if investing in a new mattress is not ideal as of now. These toppers can help you get the rest you deserve when paired with the right pillow. 

A pillow is an important component that helps you sleep well. Make sure you choose the right one according to your requirements and sleep style to enjoy proper sleep. 

In order to choose the best pillow for neck pain, you must choose something that is medium-loft and offers medium-firmness. 

The average pillow height should be 4 to 6 inches. 

The average thickness of your pillow should be between 3 to 6 inches. 

The best pillow depends on your sleep style and requirements. For instance, for a back sleeper, a firm pillow is great while a soft pillow is perfect for a stomach sleeper. 

Analyze your sleep position and your sleep requirements as mentioned in the article above. It will help you find the right pillow. 

If your pillow offers you great comfort and doesn’t cause any pain or sprain, it is a good pillow. 

Was this article helpful?

Related reading

Fact-Checking: Our Process

The Mattressguides editorial team is dedicated to providing content that meets the highest standards for accuracy and objectivity. Our editors and medical experts rigorously evaluate every article and guide to ensure the information is factual, up-to-date, and free of bias.

The Mattressguides fact-checking guidelines are as follows: