The Most Popular Types of Bed Pillows

While there’s a perfect pillow out there for everyone, there is no one pillow that is best for everybody, thus the many choices available in pillow style and fill. You’ll sleep best with the one that keeps your head properly aligned with your spine, yet doesn’t put too much pressure on your shoulders or upper body. One of the following choices should be just right.

  • 01 of 08

    Memory Foam

    Memory foam pillow.
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    Developed by NASA to protect astronauts during space travel, memory foam molds itself to your contours for the ultimate in support. This makes it a good choice for anyone with neck pain, upper body stiffness and achiness, 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 you cool and comfortable, and 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.
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    Soft and cloudlike, 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 pillow fills, and some require dry cleaning.

  • 03 of 08


    Polyester fill pillow.
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    The most common synthetic fill for pillows, polyester is soft and cuddly, but 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: If you like firm support, you’ll do better with a different type of pillow. Polyester fill tends to flatten out over time, and sometimes becomes lumpy.

  • 04 of 08


    Latex pillow.
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    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 your 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 your latex pillow will last longer than most other 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 is not machine washable.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Shredded Memory Foam

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

    What you’ll love: You can thin or fluff shredded memory foam to just the right loft for your sleeping comfort, so it’s perfect no matter which sleep position you prefer. It’s not hot like traditional foam, and it’s hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant. And unlike traditional memory foam, you can machine-wash shredded foam pillows.

    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 fluffs right up once removed from the packaging.

  • 06 of 08

    Buckwheat Hulls

    Buckwheat hull pillow.
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    Very popular in Asia, a buckwheat hull pillow feels like a beanbag. You can adjust the pillow to any loft or firmness that you like, 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 – just fluff or smooth to your preference. You can remove or add hulls to adjust the loft and firmness even further, if desired. The hulls don’t hold heat, and the pillow doesn’t rise up around your 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. Nor is the pillow machine washable.

  • 07 of 08


    Contour pillow
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    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, you can choose the one that best fits your neck. Contour pillows provide firm support, but 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 you if you prefer sleeping on your 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 pillow.
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    Little heads need comfy pillows, too. Your toddler or preschooler will happily drift off to the land of nod with a pillow just the right size for a toddler bed and a toddler head.

    What you’ll love: Standard-size pillows are typically around 20”x26”, but the toddler size is a scaled-down 13”x18”. It’s machine washable and hypoallergenic, so no worries about spills or sniffles. And not only is it perfect for daycare, trips to Grandma’s or naps in the car, YOU might want one of your own for travel.

    Potential concerns: It’s not always easy to find toddler-size pillowcases, but you’ll generally find them in the nursery area of stores like Target or Walmart, or online at