How to Choose the Right Pillow

by Véronique Raymond
Published: Last Updated on

Sleep is incredibly important for both your physical and mental well-being. Considering we spend up to one-third of our lives asleep, the right pillow goes a long way. There are numerous factors to consider when deciding which pillow is right for you, and the sheer number of options out there can make the search pretty challenging.

Luckily, we’ve rounded up the best advice available on how to choose a pillow to help you make the best choice possible. Let’s get started.


Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Pillow

How do I sleep?

There are pillows designed for back sleepers, side sleepers, stomach sleepers, and combination sleepers to help you get the right support in the right areas. Before anything, you need to know what your sleep position is. If you don’t know, make note of which position you wake up in most mornings as this is most likely your body’s preferred position. Knowing this will help you pick the best pillow for you.

Do I Have Sensitivities or Allergies?

If you have an allergy to dust or are sensitive to another common allergen, you may need to narrow your search to hypoallergenic pillows or organic pillows that use more natural materials and fillings. Some people are also sensitive to VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, and those people may want to avoid certain types of latex pillows and memory foam pillows.

How Much Can I/Do I Want To Spend?

Deciding on a budget early on is essential. The cost of pillows varies greatly according to size, filling, and extra features like cooling. Your budget will largely determine the type of pillow you can afford as many new pillows use advanced technology and enriched materials that make them much more expensive than standard pillows.

What’s My Mattress Like?

Though it may seem odd at first, you need to purchase a pillow with your mattress in mind. Your bed and pillow must work together to support your entire body and keep you comfortable, so they need to be compatible with each other. If you have a softer mattress, you’ll want a thinner pillow since your head won’t be raised as high off the bed. With a firmer mattress, your body doesn’t sink in as much, so you’ll need a thicker pillow that can fill in the cap between your head and the mattress.

how to choose pillow

Features to Consider

When buying a new pillow, there are many characteristics you’ll need to consider if you’re to successfully find the perfect pillow for a good night’s sleep. Since the features of bed pillows vary greatly by type, brand, and materials used, you should take your time weighing what’s most important to you.


Whether you’re a hot sleeper or not, temperature regulation is a key factor. Certain materials are more breathable than others, and certain fills will retain heat more than others. Some pillows will have additional materials in the cover or fill that help keep the pillow cool. For example, memory foam is known for trapping heat, but some memory foam pillows may be aerated for breathability or have cooling gel added to reduce heat retention. If you’re a hot sleeper, you’ll want to prioritize a cooling pillow since the pillow feels cool against your face and will prevent overheating.


The type of filling your pillow has makes a huge impact on its comfort and support levels. The typical fillings in pillows include cotton, polyester, memory foam, latex, down/feathers, buckwheat hull, or another type of organic fill. All filling types will be comfortable since that is their whole purpose, but each fill will have different levels of support, malleability, heat retention, and cost. Latex and memory foam are long-lasting compared to other fill types, but removable fills like shredded memory foam or feathers make the pillow height-adjustable and customizable.

how to choose pillow


The firmness of a pillow plays a significant role in ensuring your head and neck get the proper support they need while you sleep. For side sleeping, a firmer pillow is usually more comfortable. For stomach sleeping, a softer, more malleable pillow is usually the right choice. Depending on your sleep habits, you may need to try a few different pillows to figure out which firmness is most comfortable for you. The main choices are firm, medium-firm, and soft, though there are many in-between firmness levels as well.


The pillow size is an underestimated feature most of the time. Though most people match their pillow size to their bed size (king bed with king-sized pillows, queen pillows on a queen mattress, etc.), this is not a rule you have to follow. Choosing an alternative pillow size can make your sleep that much more comfortable. For instance, using a king-size pillow as a hot sleeper provides more surface area for you to enjoy a cool spot.


Receiving the right support from your pillow is essential for proper alignment of the spine. The wrong pillow can cause neck stiffness, back pain, and interrupted sleep. The ideal pillow will keep your head and neck in a neutral position that allows you to be fully relaxed without feeling any strain on the back or neck. Supportive pillows like solid memory foam or contoured latex provide a consistently relaxed sleep posture that allows for a deeper, more restful sleep.

The right level of support also reduces strain on pressure points all along the body. Believe it or not, an unsupportive pillow can cause pain down the lower back and even down the legs if the spine is not aligned properly. A soft pillow can still be supportive for a stomach sleeper, but it will most likely cause neck pain in side sleepers and back sleepers due to their sleeping style and the different pressures on the body.


When choosing a pillow, you should consider how easy it will be to clean and take care of. Some pillows keep their shape very well and require little fluffing while others may need to be fluffed during the night if they’re softer and a little too malleable. The ease of cleaning the pillow is also an important factor. Some pillows can be machine washed and dried while others may only be spot cleaned with little water. Buckwheat pillows, for instance, can’t get wet at all or the filling will need to be replaced. On the other hand, a polyester pillow can be tossed into the washing machine whenever needed. Some pillow materials and fills are naturally resistant to dust mites and other allergens, so they’ll require fewer washes throughout the year.

Cover Material

The pillow cover material is as important as the pillow fill. Most covers are machine washable, but some may include an inner liner that holds the filling while the cover is being washed. Most pricier pillows like memory foam and latex will include a high-quality cover, but cheaper pillows like feather pillows will have only a basic liner holding the fill. Though it ultimately comes down to personal preference about which cover material feels best, a material like organic cotton or bamboo will be naturally cooling, soft and cozy, and healthy for the skin.


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