Types Of Pillows: Sleeping Position, Design, Size, Fill Material

The type of pillow you sleep on is just as important as your mattress. If it’s too low, too high, too soft or too firm, you won’t sleep comfortably.

It can also cause neck and back pain.

So it’s important to know what kind of pillow works best for you (and some people sleep without a pillow). It will depend on your sleeping position, whether you sleep hot or cold, allergies and sensitivities and personal comfort preferences.

To help you get started, here are some common types of pillows and who they are best for.

According to sleeping position

Back sleeper pillows

Sleeping on your back is the best position for your neck and spine. Your body is in its most natural shape, preventing strain and pressure on any particular point.

A good back sleeper pillow has moderate loft (height) that neither raises your head too high nor pushes it too low.

It keeps your head and neck in alignment with the rest of the body.

Stomach sleeper pillows

This is the least recommended sleeping position. It puts pressure on your spine and makes it hard to put your head and neck in a natural position.

If you have to sleep on your stomach, look for a thin pillow that keeps your head flush with your body. In fact, some stomach sleepers find it more comfortable to sleep without a pillow.

Side sleeper pillows

When sleeping on your side, you need to raise your head to align with your body. A moderate to thick pillow is the best one.

Some specialized side sleeper pillows come with a notch cut out to accommodate the shoulder and ensure perfect alignment.

According to fill material

Memory foam pillows

Memory foam contours really well to your head and neck, making memory foam pillows comfortable for most types of sleepers.

The only downside of memory foam pillows is that they tend to retain heat.

Some pillows use shredded memory foam to create a softer and more conforming feel.

Latex foam pillows

If you want a firmer pillow that sleeps cool, a latex foam pillow is your best bet.

Latex foam pillows are springier than memory foam ones and tend to last longer.

The foam can be a single piece or shredded to provide more contouring and enhanced breathability.

Natural fill pillows

These are stuffed with down, feathers or both. They are extra-soft and feel really plush.

Because they tend to have a lower loft, down and feather pillows are great for stomach sleepers.

Be careful if you are allergic to these materials. Look for pillows labelled as allergy-free. They can still cause a reaction but the risk is very low.

Synthetic fill pillows

If you find a pillow with a ‘down alternative’ fill, that’s a synthetic pillow. These pillows try to replicate the softness of down/feather pillows using synthetic materials.

They are cheaper but are usually not worth it. They don’t conform well to your head and neck and they don’t last long either.

Only go for a synthetic fill pillow if you’d love the feel of a down pillow but you are allergic to down or feathers.

Buckwheat pillows

These are made from all-natural husks from the hulls of buckwheat seeds. These pillows are completely natural and great for allergy sufferers.

But they tend to be a bit too hard.

According to design and size

Cervical pillows

These are pillows with a raised area specifically for neck support. The pillow conforms better to your head and neck and provides better overall support.

Body pillows

A body pillow is longer than your standard pillow. It’s meant to stretch from your head to legs, providing support to different areas of the body.

Body pillows are great for side sleepers and expectant mothers.

Wedge pillows

You can use a wedge-shaped pillow to support your torso (great for pregnant mothers), to elevate your legs for better circulation or you can just lean on it when sitting up in bed.

Standard size pillows (Standard, Queen and King)

There are three common pillow sizes.

  • Standard: 51 by 66cm
  • Queen: 51 by 76cm
  • King: 51 by 92cm

There’s also the European Square that measures 66 by 66cm though it’s mostly uses as a decorative pillow.

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