16 Types of Pillows for Every Type of Sleeper

8 min read
8 min read

Pillows have supposedly been around since 7000 BCE and were made of stone making them understandably uncomfortable. Today, various types of pillows are available in the market, and getting the right pillow depends on many factors, such as their shapes, sizes, and sleeping positions. 

A perfect pillow improves your sleep quality; however, a bad pillow will impact your sleep and lead to health issues such as back, neck, and shoulders pain. Our detailed article will serve as a perfect pillow handbook for selecting your next pillow.

Different Types of Pillows

Depending on the type of pillow stuffing there are different types of pillows.

  • Down Pillow

Down pillows are composed of the fluffy fibres of birds such as ducks or swans. Down fillings are popularly known as the best pillow filling. Some down pillows come with feathers and hence are also known as feather down pillows. Down pillows are one of the best pillows for stomach sleepers due to their soft nature.

Pros

  • High moldability 
  • It easily conforms to the shape of the head
  • High durability
  • Refill option of down to prevent sagging

Cons

  • Heating issues in summer
  • Allergic reaction for some sleepers
  • Difficult to clean and maintain

Best For- Stomach sleepers because of their softness

  • Down Alternative Pillow

Down alternative pillows are almost similar to down pillows, and the only difference is that polyester is used in place of the soft and fibrous down. Down alternative pillow is one of the best types of pillow for side sleepers

Pros

  • High durability 
  • Easy to clean
  • No allergic reactions

Cons

  • Poor insulation
  • Can develop lumps
  • Less moldability

Best For- Back and side sleepers, thanks to the down alternative pillows’ soft and fluffy nature.

  • Feather Pillow

Feather pillows are composed of soft feathers from the wings of birds. They are readily available in the market. They are good at holding shape and are an affordable option. 

Pros

  • Cheaper than other pillows
  • Holds shape
  • Easily moldable
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Difficult to clean
  • May lose loft 

Best For- Back and side sleepers, thanks to the high loft nature of feather pillows.

  • Cotton Pillow

Cotton pillows are made of the most popular fabric, viz cotton. These pillows are the best pillow material for people who are prone to allergies to synthetic fabrics or materials.

Pros

  • Light fabric
  • No allergic reactions
  • No foul smell

Cons

  • Continue cleaning, and maintenance is required
  • Can develop lumps
  • Do not conform to the shape of the head

Best For- All types of sleepers, thanks to the versatility of cotton pillows.

  • Latex Pillow

Latex pillows are made up of natural latex extracted from rubber trees. They provide excellent support to the head and neck. They also offer a soft and comfortable feeling to the sleeper.

Pros

  • High durability
  • High moldability
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • Foul smell
  • Expensive
  • Hyperallergic

Best For- Sleepers who prefer back and side sleeping, thanks to the back support they provide.

  • Memory Foam Pillow

Memory foam pillows are the best type of pillows and are made up of polyurethane and other chemicals. They conform easily to the shape of the head and neck and are suitable for all types of sleepers. Memory foam is one of the best pillows for side sleepers as they provide good pressure relief.

Pros

  • Conforms to the body easily
  • Excellent pressure relief
  • Doesn’t develop clumps

Cons

  • Retains body heat in some cases
  • Poor breathability in few cases

Best For- All types of sleepers, thanks to the body contouring nature of memory foam pillows.

  • Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

A shredded memory foam pillow allows the sleepers to add or remove the foam according to their preferences. It is a good pillow for all types of sleepers.

Pros

  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Doesn’t develop clumps
  • High moldability

Cons

  • Off-gassing issues in some cases
  • Wears out with ageing

Best For- All types of sleepers, particularly for back and side sleepers.

  • Gel Infused Pillow

A gel-infused pillow consists of a material infused with the gel, typically a memory foam.

Pros

  • Provides cooling sensation
  • Consistent firmness
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons

  • Much heavier
  • Expensive compared to other pillows

Best For- Stomach sleepers, thanks to the extra firmness in a gel-infused pillow.

  • Innerspring Pillow

The underlying layers of innerspring pillows are steel springs, and the outer layers are polyester or memory foam. They provide extra head and neck support to sleepers.

Pros

  • Good airflow
  • Provides cooling sensation

Cons

  • Challenging to move due to inner steel structure
  • Expensive

Best For- Back sleepers, sleepers with side and stomach sleeping positions may find it too hard to sleep on.

  • Bamboo Pillow

The underlying layers of bamboo pillows are shredded foam, and the outer layers are made up of bamboo viscose shells. They show excellent moisture-absorbing properties.

Pros

  • Antimicrobial properties
  • Provides cooling sensation
  • Less prone to allergic reactions

Cons

  • Difficult to clean and maintain
  • May lead to chemical off-gassing

Best For- Back sleepers, sleepers with side and stomach sleeping positions may find it too hard to sleep on.

  • Polyester Pillow

The polyester fiberfill pillows are synthetic pillows made of polyester fillings. They absorb the heat quite quickly.

Pros

  • Affordable option
  • Lighter than other pillows
  • Less prone to allergic reactions

Cons

  • Poor breathability
  • Poor durability

Best For- All types of sleepers, thanks to the versatile nature of polyester pillows.

  • Buckwheat Pillow

Buckwheat pillows are made from fillings of buckwheat shells. These pillows show excellent breathability but may produce noise when you move while sleeping.

Pros

  • High moldability
  • High  durability
  • Provides cooling 

Cons

  • Extra firmness may not be comfortable for some sleepers
  • Produces sound when the sleeper moves

Best For- Sleepers who prefer back and side sleeping positions.

  • Microbead Pillow

Microbead pillows are composed of uniform polymer particles. These pillows are an artificial alternative to buckwheat pillows.

Pros

  • Conforms easily to the head shape
  • High  moldability
  • High breathability

Cons

  • Retains heat
  • Chemical off-gassing
  • Poor longevity

Best For- Back sleepers, thanks to the firm support that microbead pillows offer.

  • Wool Pillow

Wool pillows are warm, soft, and comfortable. They are completely natural and hypoallergenic. Wool pillows are suitable for both the winter and summer seasons.

Pros

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Environment friendly
  • Good heat resistant properties

Cons

  • May develop lumps
  • It doesn’t hold shape

Best For- All types of sleepers, especially those who love to sleep warm.

  • Kapok Pillow

Kapok pillows are made from flowers from a tree in Mexico. These pillows are completely natural and suitable for people prone to allergies. 

Pros

  • Completely non-toxic
  • Lightweight
  • Environmentally friendly

Cons

  • Flammable
  • Less moldable

Best For-  All types of sleepers, especially for people who want a natural pillow option.

  • Water Pillow

A water pillow is not a standard pillow option. These pillows are filled with water depending on the sleeper’s preference. These pillows do not face sagging and lumping issues.

Pros

  • Doesn’t develop lumps
  • Hypoallergenic
  • No requirement of fluffing

Cons

  • May leak at times
  • It doesn’t contour to the shape of the head

Best For-  People who are looking for an adjustable pillow and have no other option

Pillow Sizes

The table below specifies the most common pillow sizes available in the market. 

Pillow Type
Pillow Size
Standard
20 by 26 inches
Super Standard
20 by 28 inches
Queen
20 by 30 inches
King
20 by 36 inches
European
26 by 26 inches
Travel
12 by 16 inches

Standard 

The dimensions of a standard pillow are 20 inches by 26 inches. These pillows easily fit in standard and queen size pillowcases.

Super Standard

The dimensions of a super standard pillow are 20 inches by 28 inches. These pillows are slightly larger than traditional pillows for people who tend to move during sleep.

Queen

The dimensions of a queen pillow are 20 inches by 30 inches and are the most common type of pillows. These pillows fit tightly in a standard pillowcase and are a good fit in queen pillowcases. Two queen pillows can accommodate a full bed.

King

The dimensions of a King pillow are 20 inches by 36 inches and are the largest pillow size. These pillows fit tightly in a queen pillowcase and are a good fit in king-size pillow covers.

European

European pillows, also known as decorative pillows, measure 26 inches by 26 inches. These pillows are not sleeping pillows and are primarily used for decorative purposes and can be used for extra support on the lower back.

Travel

The dimensions of a Travel pillow are 12 inches by 16 inches and are the smallest sized pillows. These pillows are easy to carry while traveling in a car or a plane.

Pillow Shapes

There are various types of pillow shapes available in the market. Let’s understand the different pillow shapes available in the market.

Body 

Most of the body pillows are rectangular pillows with dimensions 20 by 54 inches. Body pillows are available in other shapes, such as U, L, J, and C type body pillows. You can use body pillows as long pillows for bed or lengthwise between the knees and the limbs for good spinal alignment.

Body pillows fit easily to a queen or king-size bed. Body pillows may not be a good option for sleeping with partners as they may not be sufficient for two people.

Horseshoe

Horseshoe-shaped pillows are U-shaped and are used as a neck pillow while traveling in a car or a plane. They provide good support to the neck while traveling and prevent the neck from bending.

Pillows for Different Sleeping Problems

A good pillow can help you alleviate various health conditions such as back pain, sleep apnea and acid reflux.

Wedge

Wedge pillows are triangular and are available in many sizes. They help in reducing back pain, improving blood flow, and reduces pressure on the spine.

You can use wedge pillows to raise the upper body. You can also place them below your limbs for spinal alignment. Pregnant women can also set a wedge pillow to raise their stomachs and reduce the pain, if any.

Cervical

Cervical pillows are known to reduce neck and shoulder pain. These pillows hold your neck and head in a straight position and avoid any twisting during sleep.

Contour

Contour pillows have one vault under the neck and the other over the head. These pillows are excellent for side and back sleepers. Contour pillows reduce neck stiffness, improve spine alignment, and provides neck support.

Bolster

Bolter pillows are also known as rolled pillows. They are used to provide support to the legs or neck while in a sitting or lying position. Rounded pillows promote healthy spinal alignment, relieve pressure from the neck and lower back.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea pillows have cutouts on either side that allow people to use specific machines to cure certain diseases. For example, if you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea and use CPAP machines, you can use a sleep apnea pillow to place the tubes and cords of CPAP machines.

Pillows and Sleeping Positions

The sleeping position plays a significant role in deciding the firmness and the loft you need for perfect spine alignment.

Back Sleepers

Sleepers who prefer back sleeping positions need medium loft pillows. The loft needs to be between 4 to 5 inches. A medium-firm pillow allows the back sleepers to have their back, neck, and spine perfectly aligned.

Side Sleepers

Sleepers who prefer side sleeping positions need high loft pillows as their heads are away from the mattress. The loft needs to be between 5 to 7 inches. Medium-firm pillows are best for side sleepers as they support their head and align their back, neck, and spine perfectly.

Stomach Sleepers

Sleepers who prefer stomach sleeping positions medium loft pillows as their heads are near to the mattress. The loft needs to be less than 3 inches. Firm pillows are best for stomach sleepers as they can easily lay face down without any neck stiffness.

Combo Sleepers

Combination sleepers sleep in two or more sleeping positions. There is no specific firmness or loft for these sleepers. Hence, combination sleepers should try adjustable pillow types whose firmness and loft are moldable.

How to Choose a Pillow

You may consider the following factors before buying a new pillow.

  • Fill type – whether you are hypoallergenic or you want a natural pillow
  • Weight – whether you want a light or heavyweight pillow
  • Size– what size pillow do you want
  • Fabric– what type of pillow material do you want
  • Quality– whether you want a high-quality pillow or you are okay with a low-quality rough pillow.

The Final Word

Getting the right pillow improves the quality of your sleep. With so many options in the market claiming to be perfect, don’t rush yourself while choosing the right pillow. Research thoroughly and then decide which pillow fulfills your sleeping requirements. Hopefully, our detailed guide has answered all of your questions related to pillows.

Happy Sleeping!

You should replace a pillow every 2 to 3 years.

Depending on the quality, the cost of pillows can vary between $10 to $1000.

Hotels mostly use down, down alternatives, feathers, and memory foam pillows.

Depending on the sleeping position, you can sleep either with a higher or lower pillow. Side sleepers usually require higher loft pillows.

No, your pillow should be under your head and at the edge of your shoulders.

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Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by healh experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

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www.sleepauthority.com is brought to you by Resident. Our company sells Nectar, DreamCloud, Awara, Level Sleep, and Home Well Designed. While we intend for this site to be an educational and useful resource for consumers interested in sleep-related topics, we also promote our family of brands – brands that we believe in – on this website. Where we have commissioned independent research and/or articles to support our content, we will state as such in the sub-heading of the article. Where we compare our brands and products against others, we will provide the review criteria as well as state our basis for choosing the “best” or “top” product in a link accompanying the comparison. Our aim is to assist consumers in choosing the best solution for getting restful and comfortable sleep and it is our belief that there is a Resident product that meets any sleeper’s needs.

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians