The 10 Best Pillows for Every Type of Sleeper, According to Our Tests
A pillow is one of the most personal and important purchases you can make when it comes to getting a restful night's sleep, but finding the right one can be a challenge. To narrow down the field, we tested 31 pillows in our Lab, evaluating them on quality, breathability, effectiveness, durability, and overall value. Although picking a pillow is highly subjective and it's impossible to declare one pillow the best for every type of person, we can assess each pillow's more objective features and make recommendations based on your sleeping position and preferences.
We also spoke to Natalie D. Dautovich, Ph.D., who serves as the Environmental Fellow at the National Sleep Foundation, about the importance of choosing the right pillow: "When your body is properly supported with the right pillow, you're more likely to sleep continuously, and this allows your brain and body enough time in each phase of sleep."
Our top pick, the Slumber Cloud Core Down-Alternative Pillow, has the soft, cloud-like feel of a traditional down pillow while still providing ample support and maintaining its shape. It also features temperature-regulating technology designed to absorb heat away from your skin, keeping you cool and comfortable throughout the night.
Keep reading for the best pillows for every sleeper, backed by hours of testing in our Lab. You'll also find tips for buying and using pillows depending on your needs and preferences.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall Pillow: Slumber Cloud Core Down-Alternative Pillow
- Best Budget Pillow: Linenspa Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
- Best Splurge Pillow: Saatva Latex Pillow
- Best Pillow for Side Sleepers: Casper Foam Pillow with Snow Technology
- Best Pillow for Stomach Sleepers: L.L. Bean Down-Alternative Damask Pillow
- Best Pillow for Back Sleepers: Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow
- Best Cooling Pillow: Beckham Hotel Collection Pillow
- Best Memory Foam Pillow: Snuggle-Pedic Adjustable Memory Foam Pillow
- Best Down Pillow: Puredown Goose Feather Pillow
- Best Organic Pillow: Avocado Green Pillow
Our top pick is the Slumber Cloud Core Down-Alternative Pillow because it provides the soft, cloud-like feel of a traditional down pillow while retaining its shape and providing support. Plus, its temperature-regularting technology helps to absorb heat away from your skin, keeping you cool throughout the night.
Our budget pick is the Linenspa Shredded Memory Foam Pillow, which comes in a set of two for less than half the price of the Slumber Cloud pillow. It features a moldable, shredded memory foam fill that's easy to adjust based on your sleeping position.
Our Testing Process
We tested 31 pillows in our Lab over two days. Every sleeper is different, which is why our testers reflect the varying sizes, sleeping positions, and preferences out there.
First, we evaluated the quality based on the material and construction of both the pillow and cover. We also took note of whether there was an obvious odor coming from the pillow. Next, we placed each pillow inside a standard pillowcase to see how well it fit and whether the pillow's cover was visible through the pillowcase. For pillows with an adjustable filling, we tested how easy it was to add or remove fill material.
To test the temperature and breathability of each pillow, testers used an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature both before and after laying on it for 15 minutes. For cooling pillows, we tested whether each pillow offered a cool-to-the-touch sensation.
The real test of each pillow was its effectiveness at matching its proposed firmness and support. For pillows designated for all sleeping positions or those with no specified sleeping style, we used the pillow for five minutes in each major sleeping position—back, side, and stomach—and recorded how comfortable it was to sleep in each. For pillows designated for a specific sleeping position, we tested it in the specified sleeping style, noting whether it was comfortable and helped us to maintain a neutral spine position.
After those tests, we measured the dimensions of each pillow before and after washing it according to the manufacturer's instructions to assess its durability, in addition to any change in consistency or firmness.
Finally, testers received the price of each pillow, and were asked to score its overall value based on the cost relative to its performance in our testing.
How to Shop for Pillows Like a Pro
Firmness and Loft
Your desired firmness and loft (aka the pillow's height) is going to come down to how you sleep. What's most important is that your pillow keeps your neck aligned with your spine in a neutral position, rather than tilting it at an angle.
"A great pillow allows you to rest comfortably in your natural sleeping position, and supports your head and neck in a neutral alignment (centered over your shoulders)," says Dautovich. "The wrong pillow can worsen discomforts like neck or shoulder pain, headaches, and allergy symptoms like sneezing and congestion."
Here are some general guidelines based on your preferred sleeping position:
- Back Sleepers: Look for a pillow with a medium loft and firmness, in order to keep your neck aligned with your spine without craning it forward.
- Stomach Sleepers: Look for a softer, thinner pillow. A pillow that is too high will prop the head up at an angle and cause neck pain. "Stomach sleepers tend to like a very thin pillow, which can be used under the head, chest, or stomach," says Dautovich.
- Side Sleepers: A side sleeper will require the most height and firmness in order to fill the gap between the neck and the mattress.
- Combination Sleepers: If you switch positions throughout the night, finding comfort can be a bit more difficult. A medium-firm pillow is generally best for back and side sleepers, while those who often sleep on their stomach may want a softer pillow with a lower loft.
Pillows can be filled with a number of materials, from down to memory foam. Here's a quick guide to the different types of pillow fillings:
Down: A down pillow contains the soft, quill-less feathers from the underbelly of a goose or duck. These pillows are durable, breathable, and soft, and contour to the shape of your head and neck. However, they tend to be more expensive and don't maintain their shape well. You'll need to regularly fluff them to ensure they don't get too compressed.
A down-and-feather combo pillow will feature both down feathers and feathers from the back and wings of a bird, which contain quills. Down-and-feather pillows will be less expensive than 100-percent down pillows, but they're also more prone to flattening and the quills may poke through the cover.
Down-Alternative: This is a synthetic fill made to mimic the softness of a real down pillow. They're less expensive than real down pillows, and make a great alternative to those with sensitivities to down products and those who want to avoid any animal-sourced materials. Down-alternative pillows are also usually machine-washable, unlike down pillows.
Solid Memory Foam: If you prefer a pillow with more structure and support that won't lose its shape overnight, a solid memory foam pillow is a great choice. These pillows provide the support needed to keep your neck and spine in alignment, particularly for side and back sleepers.
Shredded Memory Foam: This filling is made with loose chunks of memory foam that can be adjusted to fit your preferences. Oftentimes, you can add, remove, or reposition the memory foam to create a pillow with the right loft and firmness for your needs. Compared to solid memory foam, shredded memory foam tends to be more breathable, too. These pillows make a great choice for combination sleepers who need a pillow that can be customized to their unique sleeping style. Keep in mind that memory foam pillows are usually not machine-washable.
Latex: Available in both synthetic and natural forms, latex is similar to memory foam but bounces back quicker and is usually a bit softer. Like memory foam, latex is available in either solid or shredded material.
If you tend to sleep hot, breathability is an important factor when it comes to choosing a pillow. Down pillows tend to be the most breathable, while shredded memory foam is more breathable than solid foam. Look for a breathable cover material too, such as cotton. Some pillows even feature a cooling gel layer that helps to prevent the pillow from absorbing heat, providing a cooling sensation, or cooling technology that absorbs heat away from the skin.
Consider whether your pillow can be washed—some are machine-washable, while others must be spot treated, handwashed, or dry cleaned. Oftentimes, pillows have machine-washable covers only. If that's the case, consider adding a pillow protector to increase the longevity of your pillow.
Choosing a pillow is personal. Even if you've done all your research and considered all the factors, sometimes a pillow is just not right for your sleeping style and environment. That is why the return policy on a pillow is so important. Many pillows come with trial periods ranging from 30 days to up to a year, so you can try it in your own bed before committing.
More Pillows to Consider
Amazon Basics Down-Alternative Pillow: This set of two pillows is a less expensive alternative to our best overall pick, as the pillows feature a down-alternative fill that combines fullness, comfort, and support. Plus, it comes in a set of two, so you can fully outfit your bed for less.
Rest Haven Shredded Memory Foam Bed Pillow: Although it's not advertised as cooling, this inexpensive pillow remained cool to the touch, and testers were shocked to find this set of two comes at such a low price.
Coop Home Goods Original Pillow: Made from a blend of shredded memory foam and microfiber, this pillow can easily adjust to your sleep position and is great for combination sleepers. Plus, it comes with a bag of additional stuffing for side or back sleepers, or those with neck pain who require extra support. However, the fill is not washable like some of the other shredded memory foam pillows on our list (but the cover is).
Questions You Might Ask
Which pillows are best for neck pain?
To alleviate neck pain, make sure you are sleeping on a pillow that's right for your sleeping position. In other words, whichever pillow you choose should keep your neck and spine in alignment. Generally, side and back sleepers will require more height and firmness to achieve this, while a pillow that's too lofty or firm can cause increased neck pain in stomach sleepers. "A pillow that is responsive yet supportive, a medium-firm variety, can help to support your neck if you're experiencing pain," says Dautovich.
When should you replace your pillow?
It is generally recommended that you replace your pillows every one to two years. Overtime, a pillow can become lumpy, develop stains and odors, collect allergens, and begin to lose some of its loft, all of which can affect your sleep. If you notice stains and odors, allergy symptoms, or increased neck pain, these can be a sign that it's time to replace your pillows. In general, down-alternative pillows have the shortest lifespan, while memory foam and latex last the longest.
How should you care for a pillow so that it lasts as long as possible?
Be sure to default to the care label when it comes time to clean your pillows. If your pillows are machine-washable, try to wash two to three times a year to eliminate allergens and odors. If your pillows are not machine-washable, spot clean stains or hand wash pillows with mild detergent and lay flat to dry. Dautovich also suggests airing out your pillow monthly in sunlight to help it stay fresh.
Take Our Word for It
This article was written by Melanie Fincher, associate commerce editor for Real Simple with nearly three years of experience writing product reviews and lifestyle content. To compile this list, we tested 31 pillows in our Lab and evaluated them based on their quality, breathability, effectiveness, durability, and value. We also spoke to Natalie D. Dautovich, Ph.D., who serves as the Environmental Fellow at the National Sleep Foundation, for expert tips on how to choose the right pillow for your sleeping style.
What Is Real Simple Selects?
Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn't an option. If that's the case, we test the product just like we test anything we buy, but we also disclose that we received it for free to be as transparent with you as possible.
Love our recommendations? Check out more products that have earned the Real Simple Selects, from humidifiers to cordless vacuums.