Popular Types of Pillows for Beds

pile of different pillows

 Anna Petrova Ilieva-Alikaj/Getty Images

While there’s a perfect pillow out there for everyone, there is no one pillow that is best for everybody. Fortunately, there are many choices available in pillow style and fill. Sleep is best with pillows that keep the head properly aligned with the spine without putting too much pressure on the shoulders or upper body. One of the following choices should be just right for those looking to buy a new bed pillow.

  • 01 of 08

    Memory Foam

    memory foam pillow

    Photo from Amazon 

    Developed by NASA to protect astronauts during space travel, memory foam molds itself to head contours for the ultimate in support. This makes it a good choice for anyone with neck pain, upper body stiffness, and body aches or shoulder trouble.

    What you’ll love: Memory foam gives excellent cushioning and support for side or back sleepers. It’s hypoallergenic, so suitable for those with allergies as well. Ventilated memory foam keeps sleepers cool and comfortable since it isn’t quite as firm as more traditional foam.

    Potential concerns: Memory foam can be hot, and some people find it too firm for comfort. It’s also heavy, and sometimes has an unpleasant odor for the first few days. While memory foam is naturally hypoallergenic, it is not machine washable.

  • 02 of 08

    Goose Down

    goose down pillow

    Photo from Amazon

    Soft and cloud-like, real goose down pillows are a luxurious treat for those who enjoy a moldable, lightweight pillow that adjusts to any sleeping position. While duck feather fill is less expensive than goose down, you run the danger of being poked by a quill popping through the pillowcase. But there’s no worry about that with a true down pillow.

    What you’ll love: Down pillows are very light and very soft. They are warm but not hot, and there is no rustling sound like you’ll often find with feather pillows. Down is excellent for stomach sleepers or anyone who prefers less loft and firmness in their pillow.

    Potential concerns: If you are allergic to down or feathers, this obviously isn’t the pillow for you. Down doesn’t give a lot of support, so might not be comfortable for back or side sleepers, or those with neck or upper extremity pain. Down is also one of the most expensive types of pillow fills, and may be challenging to wash or require dry cleaning.

  • 03 of 08

    Polyester

    polyester pillow

    Photo from Amazon 

    The most common synthetic fill for pillows, polyester is soft and cuddly. However, it does not give excessive support. It’s inexpensive and machine-washable, however, so a good choice for children or teens.

    What you’ll love: Polyester-fill pillows are very comfy when used as a backrest while reading in bed. The support is moderate, making these a good choice for back sleepers.

    Potential concerns: Those who like firm support will do better with a different type of pillow. Polyester fabric fill tends to flatten out over time and sometimes becomes lumpy.

  • 04 of 08

    Latex

    latex pillow

     Photo from Amazon

    More than any other pillow fill, people either love latex, or they hate it. Natural latex is made from the rubber tree and is naturally antimicrobial. The support is firm, yet cushiony, and latex is moldable yet without the “sinking in” sensation of memory foam. The best word to describe a latex pillow is “bouncy.”

    What you’ll love: Latex is very supportive and holds its loft without flattening or squishing around one's face. It’s a good choice for those with aches and pains in the upper body, and it doesn’t hold body heat the way memory foam often does. Latex is very durable, and it will last longer than most other pillow types.

    Potential concerns: Some people don’t like the bouncy feel of latex or find it too hard. Latex is one of the more expensive pillow fills and tends to have an odor for the first few days. It’s also very heavy and not machine washable.

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  • 05 of 08

    Shredded Memory Foam

    shredded memory foam pillow

     Photo from Amazon

    The new kid on the block, shredded memory foam provides the firm support of solid memory foam. It is far more breathable, adjustable, and moldable than traditional foam.

    What you’ll love: Shredded memory foam can thin or fluff to just the right loft for the sleeper's sleeping comfort, so it’s perfect no matter which sleep position its user prefers. It’s not hot like traditional foam, and it’s hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant, and unlike traditional memory foam, it can be machine-washed.

    Potential concerns: Shredded memory foam is wonderful for just about everyone, but be aware that it can have an odor for the first day or two, and it is often flat or lumpy when first purchased, but it fluffs right up once removed from the packaging.

  • 06 of 08

    Buckwheat Hulls

    buckwheat pillow

    Photo from Amazon 

    Very popular in Asia, a buckwheat hull pillow feels like a beanbag. It can be adjusted pillow to any loft or firmness that the user likes, making it suitable for any sleeping position. These pillows give firm support and are excellent for people with neck, shoulder or upper back pain.

    What you’ll love: Buckwheat hull pillows are the ultimate in adjustability because it can be fluffed or smoothed to the user's preference. The user can even remove or add hulls to adjust the loft and firmness further. The hulls don’t hold heat, and the pillow doesn’t rise up around the sleeper's face the way that down often does.

    Potential concerns: Buckwheat hull pillows are very heavy and the hulls make a crinkling sound with movement, which some people find soothing and others consider annoying. The hulls tend to break down over time, making the pillow less supportive. Also, it isn't machine washable.

  • 07 of 08

    Contour

    contour pillow

    Photo from Amazon

    Not a type of pillow fill, but a shape, contour pillows are often recommended by chiropractors for patients with neck and back pain. The “hills and valley” design helps properly align the spine while sleeping and relieves pressure on the neck.

    What you’ll love: Because the two “hills” of the pillow are different heights, the sleeper can choose the one that best fits his or her neck. Contour pillows provide firm support, but they aren’t excessively hard, so most people find them comfortable.

    Potential concerns: Contour pillows are only for back or side sleepers, so this isn’t the pillow for sleepers who prefer sleeping on their stomach. Some people can’t adjust to the design of the pillow or don’t find it comfortable. It’s sometimes hard to find pillowcases for contour pillows, as well.

  • 08 of 08

    Toddler-Size

    toddler pillow

    Photo from Amazon 

    Little heads need comfy pillows, too. A toddler or preschooler will happily drift off to the land of nod with a pillow just the right size for a toddler bed and his or her head.

    What you’ll love: Standard-size pillows are typically around 20 inches x 26 inches, but the toddler size is a scaled-down 13 inches x 18 inches. It’s machine washable and hypoallergenic, so no worries about spills or sniffles. It is perfect for daycare, trips to Grandma’s, or naps in the car. It's even recommended for adults as potential travel pillows.

    Potential concerns: It’s not always easy to find toddler-size pillowcases, but they can generally be found in the nursery area of stores like Target or Walmart, or online at Amazon.