Pillows are made for us to sleep comfortably. But did you know that years ago, pillows were made from wood and stone? It was after this that the Greeks invented soft pillows from different materials which we are using up to this date.
From sleeping at any time of the day to traveling as well as home decoration and design, there is truly a special connection between pillows and humans.
In this post, we shall look at the different types of pillows and categorize them in terms of make and function. If you are into pillow shopping for whatever reason, read on.
In this article:
- Types of Pillows
- Pillow Materials
- Pillow sizes
- Pillow Loft
- Pillow shapes
- Pillows for Sleeping Conditions
- Pillows and Sleeping Positions
- Frequently Asked Questions About Pillow Types
Types of Pillows
At best, pillows have encroached the intimate corners of our bedrooms and our lives in general. Considering that pillows are used for different purposes, here are the most common types of pillows that you should be aware of.
1. Down Pillow
This type of pillow is probably the softest pillow out there as it is made out of goose, duck or swan feathers. But aside from the inherent softness, they are also durable and moldable, making them a good choice for good and neck support.
Being lightweight and cushiony, they are also perfect for traveling. Just make sure that you do not have allergies since it is purely made with feathers. Nonetheless, this is the best pillow for side and stomach sleepers.
2. Down Alternative Pillow
When looking for a cheaper pillow choice compared to down pillow, down alternative pillows can be of great choice too. These are the synthetic version of down pillows, filled with polyester instead of pure animal feathers.
Though not moldable, it’s still worth the buy because it is affordable, easy to clean and hypoallergenic. These are best used by back and side sleepers.
3. Feather Pillow
Just like down pillows, this one is very soft and fluffy. It is also considered as a good alternative to down pillows. The upside of this one is that it offers unfiltered support without losing shape.
If you are a back or side sleeper, this is one of the best pillow choices for you. A word of caution again for those who have allergic reactions to feathers.
4. Microbead Pillow
This type is made from synthetic material called uniform polymer particles. They are most of the time likened to the buckwheat pillow because of the level of softness and comfort that they give.
If you are looking for a synthetic pillow alternative, this is probably the best as it is moldable and very breathable.
It is also well-loved for their firm support. The only downside to this pillow is that it is not that durable. This type of pillow is best for back sleepers although some stomach sleepers might also like this type.
5. Innerspring Pillow
This type of pillow has a core steel spring covered with a memory foam layer. This is best used in support for the neck and head. In some cases, the steel spring feature of this type of pillow is encased in a polyester material.
Although pricey, it is very ergonomic, thanks to the spring core which allows for greater airflow, maintaining coolness for the sleeper. It is also recommended for all types of sleepers.
6. Kapok pillow
This one is another down pillow alternative. Like the down pillow, they are also very soft and lightweight. The name kapok is taken from the name of the seedpod coming from the Ceiba tree in which it is made from.
This makes this pillow one of the most eco-friendly choices in this list. Another upside is that they are good for people with allergies.
On the downside, this pillow type is not recognized in the market for two reasons: one is that they are very expensive to produce and second, it is flammable.
7. Hypoallergenic pillow
For sleepers who are suffering from allergies, asthma and are skin sensitive, this one is still the best pillow choice out there. It does not trap dirt or dust so it is a real comfort when you sleep on it.
They are covered with hypoallergenic materials which also block mite dust and the allergic reaction from your pet’s fur.
Most importantly, hypoallergenic pillows are inexpensive. The only challenge here is whether they are indeed, hypoallergenic or not since the label hypoallergenic has been used as a massive selling point for all pillows even if they are not. Research for brands that have really established this selling point.
8. Tempur-pedic pillow
This type of pillow is known for mitigating chronic neck pain. It is made of NASA grade material called tempur, drawing from the astronaut cushion of the 90s during their rocket launch.
The main upside of this one is that it can adjust to any sleeper’s shape, weight and automatically shifts temperature.
Most importantly, it is certified by the CertiPUR-US which means that it does not have any chemical content. It comes with different sizes and shapes, holding specific neck and back contours in any sleeping position.
Not only is it helpful for chronic neck pain but is also said to correct neck deformity and poor posture. It is, however, expensive.
9. Water Pillow
Unlike other types of pillows, this one is not known by many. Water pillows are adjustable pillows which adjust depending on the amount of water added to it. When purchasing one, make sure that you are very careful as it is prone to water leaks.
The main upside of this one is that it is very consistent and is not vulnerable to sagging or lumping (but when it does, just add more water. Also, this one hypoallergenic which can as it only, literally, contains just water.
10. Poly-fill Pillow
As the name suggests, poly-fill pillows contain polyester as its main material. As such, it is hypoallergenic. It is also sometimes called a microfiber pillow and is a known alternative to down pillows.
Some of its other advantages would be being affordable, availability in the market and easy to wash and maintain.
They are also often compared to cotton pillows in terms of softness but when it comes to support and breathability, cotton pillows have a stronger suit.
As what we already know, pillows also differ when it comes to the materials used to make them. Here are some of the most common pillow materials out there.
1. Cotton Pillow
Although the current market has relegated cotton pillows to a lower, less enticing status, they are still preferred by most because they are comfortable, hypoallergenic, lightweight, odorless, breathable and are good for all types of sleepers.
They do not mold with the shape of the head unlike others but it is very low-maintenance compared to other pillow types.
2. Latex Pillow
This one is high in demand based on its overall popularity and good feedback from users. It offers good head and neck support because of its softness and comfort.
They are sold either in solid or shredded form. They are well-loved for their durability, breathability, and moldability.
It is also made of biodegradable materials. Just make sure that when you buy one, it is not infused with polyurethane foam because this material is considered toxic. Nonetheless, they are still recommended for side and back sleepers.
3. Memory Foam Pillow
This type of pillow is the most in demand in the market because it works for all types of sleepers. It contours your body, hence, making it a good choice for all sleeping positions.
Memory foam pillow is moldable making your head and neck comfortable in any position. This pillow is best for side, back, and stomach sleepers.
4. Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
This type of pillow is very unique since the shredded memory foam filling can be added or removed depending on the sleepers’ preference. Its best feature is that it does not clump.
It is also moldable and is customizable and very easy to clean. Shredded memory foam pillow is best suitable for back and side sleepers.
5. Wool Pillow
Just like the down, this type is naturally made with wool as its material. Wool is highly breathable and considered special as it can serve as a stand-alone or a blended fill. But due to lack of wool supply, there is a rare chance that it is found in markets. Its availability always depends on wool supply.
This type of material is made from petroleum. It is mostly used in pillow making since it is strong, durable, long-lasting and can be blended with cotton and other natural fibers to add strength and softness to the material used.
7. Eucalyptus Fiber
This material is likened to the bamboo pillow. As the name suggests, materials used are made out from eucalyptus plants which can be broken down into fibers and is used to blend with other natural or synthetic fibers to form a breathable, soft surface comfort.
Another material that can be used in making pillows is Copper. It is supposed to release positive ions which can aid in blood flow.
Copper promotes better healing and body recovery, thus, the benefit it provides to sleepers when used especially when woven in fabrics would be fine filaments. It can be very pricey but has so much benefit to the body.
9. Bamboo Pillow
This type has gained and is gaining more popularity because of its antimicrobial properties and moisture-absorbing abilities.
Bamboo Pillows, though not all, are made out of a shredded foam interior with a bamboo viscose shell. Hence making the sleeper feel the comfort that shredded memory foam pillow can give plus the cooling properties of the bamboo.
Although difficult to clean and is heavy weight, it is still in demand for another of its advantages is that it is hypoallergenic which is a must buy for people who have strong allergic reactions. Bamboo pillows are best for back sleepers.
10. Polyester pillow
Also referred as poly-fill, this type of pillow is always found in the market and purchased by market goers because of its cheap price. Best known for its affordability but easy to get lumpy and its heat absorbing ability.
Although it has hypoallergenic properties, this type of pillow does not last long because of the cheaper materials used. Polyester Pillow is best for back, stomach and side sleepers.
11. Buckwheat Pillow
This type of pillow has been popular in Asia ever since and is starting to be known all over North America. This type is known for it is filled with buckwheat shells which have a firm but still breathable output.
One major disadvantage using this pillow is that buckwheat can be noisy when moving around, thus, sometimes can cause the sleeper to feel uncomfortable. So, if you are sensitive to noise, this might not be the best choice for you. Nonetheless, buckwheat pillows are best for back and stomach sleepers.
12. Gel Pillow
More than the comfort it gives, this type is known for their ability to keep sleepers’ cool at night. From its name, it is actually made of gel combined with another material (e.g. foam or latex) in order to bring out its cooling benefits of the gel to the softness of another material.
The gel material is also known for its hypoallergenic properties, is firm and can hold shapes well. Just like the memory foam, it can also be molded to fit the contours of the sleeper. This is best purchased by stomach and back sleepers.
Of course, the pillow size is also something to be considered. The level of comfort and the general usability of a pillow is determined by the pillow size. The following would be the standard pillow sizes that you would see in the market.
Standard sized pillows are approximately 20’’ x 26’’ in size. This pillow size is best for sleepers who do not change positions all through the night.
Recommended for side sleeper, back sleeper, or stomach sleeper. However, if you are one that does move frequently in a night sleep, this type of pillow size is not recommended for you.
Its advantages also include its ability to be placed anywhere easily and, in a bed, since it is in standard size. Another is that it is accessible for use. Standard pillow size also can be an added back support while reading.
2. Super Standard
This size is slightly longer than that of the standard which measures 20’’ x 28’’ in size. Unlike the standard which is advisable for people who are not moving while asleep, this size is best for sleepers who move or roll all through the night.
This size fits in single and twin sized beds for children and may be used in both standard and queen size pillowcases.
3. Toddler-Sized Pillow
This measures 13’’ x 18’’. This is best for toddlers or children. They give an excellent level of comfort to anyone who uses them. These are light weight and are made preferably for small hands.
When travelling with children, it is advisable to take it with you as this will make them at ease while on the road. Also, as it can be carried by toddlers, they can also bring it with them somewhere they think they might need comfort.
4. Queen-sized pillow
Queen sized pillow is measured 20’’ x 30’’ but can be measured differently depending on the brand. It is longer than the standard size and is highly beneficial for restless sleepers such as those in a night shift or any person who needs rest after a super tiring day.
Best used with a king-sized bed since it can fit two pieces across while having a little space in between. If you have a partner, two standard sizes and two queen sizes can fit a queen sized bed which will give you so much comfortability all through your sleeping time.
5. King-sized pillow
King pillows are measured 20” x 36”. These are the longest size of pillow which offers additional body support and joint or muscle pain when used. Best used for a king-sized pillow as you can put two king sized pillows across at the head of the bed and feel the comfort it gives.
These pillows are recommended for sleepers who can toss and turn during their sleep. Also, this pillow can be used as an added support when sitting up in bed or binge-watching your favorite movie at your homes. As the name suggests, ‘KING’ also provides a king level of comfort which can accommodate the sleeping needs of a man and woman.
This pillow size is described as square pillows which measured 26 x 26 inches and are known to be more decorative in nature than useful. When purchasing a pillow, choose the size depending on your need.
European sized pillows are excellent for cushioning joints and just like others, best as a back support. This is best used for the sofa or anywhere else which makes your space more beautiful as it is known for its decorative function.
Pregnancy pillows have gained popularity nowadays since these have been made available online. This type of pillow comes with a variety of shapes, sizes and a variety of benefits you can choose from.
There are those types that are made mainly to soothe stomach ache, back ache, stiff neck or any other more that pregnant women feel uncomfortable while pregnant.
The price varies according to the size but when purchasing one, as it is with different size and shape, make sure to choose the ones you can benefit from not just on your pregnancy journey. Look for the best for its given price.
8. Roll or Bolster
Best for neck and leg support but is now popular as a decorative one. It is equally beneficial with those other types, but this one can be both beneficial in the decorative side and comfortable side.
Roll or Bolster supports the neck, head and back especially when you are lying on your beds. Spinal alignment can also be aided using this type when placed under your knees and when lying on your back as well.
As have been mentioned, this one measures at 12” x 16” and they nicely fit into travel-sized pillowcases. As the name suits, this size is fit for travelling by car or plane and is often used by sensitive travelers such as children and adults who can not tolerate long hours in a bus, car or a plane ride.
It provides protection against neck strain and ease tiredness when travelling. Travel pillow size comes in a convenient size, so it is very handy and perfect for travelling.
Loft simply refers to the height or thickness a pillow can be measured at when resting on a flat surface. Having the perfect pillow loft can provide rest and comfort to sleepers which makes them a good night sleep and a healthy morning. If not, a lot of discomfort will follow; pain, and breathing difficulties including snoring.
In selecting the proper pillow loft, there are some factors to consider which include sleeping position, head size and weight, overall body size and weight, shoulder width (side sleep), pillow placement, and mattress firmness.
If you want to make sure if you have the perfect pillow loft, measure each of the listed factors to consider above which will guide you throughout.
Pillows can also come with different shapes. The shape or contour of the pillow depends on the level of comfortability that you need. Since pillow shapes are very customizable, you can veer off from the traditional shapes.
There are five major pillow shapes, however. We have the square pillows, round pillows, rectangle pillows, bolster pillows and the novelty shaped pillows.
1. Body Pillow
Body Pillows come from different shapes. It can be in a U, L, J, C-shape but mostly rectangular that measures 29 x 54 inches. This is a long pillow that can accommodate almost every part of your body.
Different body pillow shapes also come with different comforts. When using the body pillow of U and C shape, it provides both back and front support that makes you have your balance. This is best when you shift in bed regularly.
Also, body pillows can be used as a long head pillow, support at your back, put in between your knees or anywhere else. This can cater to almost all your body parts but gives different comfort. When purchasing one, make sure that you have a queen or king size bed because you might get separated from your partner if you have smaller beds.
Body pillows are high in price and are very difficult to clean and wash for their size. Also, it is very rare in the market, rarer in terms of finding different covers.
2. Horseshoe Pillow
Unknown to many, this is the proper name of the neck pillow used when travelling by car, plain, train or bus. They are small in size and wrap around your neck to keep it straight when you sleep during travels.
It is a very accessible pillow as it is available even in major convenience stores on pit stops. The price of this pillow depends on the materials used but it is generally budget friendly.
Pillows for Sleeping Conditions
Aside from the comfort it gives, did you know that pillows are also made to help alleviate conditions of the body? Thus, here are the different types of pillows according to your needs.
This is made from a firm filling like foam so that it can maintain its shape under the weight of the body. It is specifically made for those sleepers who are suffering from acid reflux and breathing problems to help them ease their conditions at night.
This can be purchased online. Wedge pillows are used to make you in an upright position. Which can help alleviate your condition.
Rounded pillows as it is mostly known. This pillow aids neck and shoulder pain.
Cervical pillows are small and specifically made to hold your head and neck to prevent them from turning over. This minimizes the pain in the neck and ease pain in the shoulder muscles.
This type of pillow is firmer when it comes to design and material used and is best supported to the head and neck.
This is highly recommended among back sleepers which help to keep the neck properly aligned with the spine. Can be costly when bought but provides so much benefit specially for proper body alignment.
Mostly referred to as rolled pillows, they are not only used for decorative means but also gives excellent neck and leg support or wherever you may want to place it on your body.
Placing a bolster under your knees while sleeping on the back will help your hips curve your back, which relieves pressure and tight muscles. They are also beneficial to people with shoulder and hip problems. This is cheaper than other pillows used for sleeping conditions.
5. Sleep Apnea
This is a sleeping disorder which can lead to a serious problem (if not prevented right away). Sleep apnea causes high blood pressure and heart problems.
If you have this kind of condition, your breathing might stop regularly which can cause snoring and tiredness. Studies say that adult men are prone to sleep apnea especially those who are overweight.
Pillows and Sleeping Positions
People love to sleep. During these times, we get all the sleep we could get as long as we have time for it as people are now busier than ever.
Some tend to not sleep at all but others are lucky enough to have hours of sleep in a day. If you are wondering of the different sleeping positions that might provide you comfort, read through.
Back sleeping position is considered the most ideal among sleepers. Though this type of sleeping position is not advisable for people who have problems with snoring or with sleep apnea.
Now, this is the best sleeping position recommended as it is considered and keeps the spine in position. Also, this position is believed to reduce wrinkles because it protects the facial skin.
The side sleeping position requires a pillow that cradles and contours the neck. When sleeping on the side, there is a high chance of joint low back pain reduction as well as helps prevent from causing chronic problems.
Another is that it can minimize your snoring and prevent you from having Sleep Apnea. For side sleepers, the use of pillows made with natural fills or memory foam fills is best suggested.
Although considered bad for the health as it can affect your neck and back which can lead you to lack sleep. For this type of sleeping position, as the name suggests, this is for people who sleep on their stomachs.
Stomach sleepers, although not all, experience pain. Having pain in the body which disallows you to have less time sleeping. Thus, pillows who have synthetic fills are recommended in this type of position.
Combination sleepers are fond of changing sleeping position can be inside, back or in stomach position. These types of sleepers do not commit to a single position during their sleep. Hence,the need to know their special needs for sleeping. Selecting the best mattress for this type is highly encouraged.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pillow Types
When would you know if a pillow needs changing?
You can hold on the pillow for as long as you want but there are certain indicators that would tell you if you really need changing.
- It already smells off.
- It already has noticeable lumps.
- If you have worsening acne, pillows need to be changed.
- It has become too flat to fold.
- It is causing allergic rhinitis and allergies in general.
- It is very stained.
- Re-fluffing the pillow has become required.
- You often wake up tired.
What is the softest type of pillow?
The softest, gentlest pillow would be the down pillow. The reason for this is that it is directly made from birds’ undercoats.
Only the most supple and softest undercoats are taken for the ultimate luxurious feel. The softest of all down pillows would be the European goose down pillow having a fill of 600 and up.
Should you sleep with a bolster?
This type of pillow is said to be stiffer than the typical pillow. It offers a firm support for the body so yes, you can sleep with a bolster pillow.
The best position for a bolster pillow would be under the knees or on the back of the hips. It has the ability to support the curve of the back, relieving pressure as well as tight muscles. It also helps in soothing back aches.
More than the comfort pillow provides are the different types, sizes, shapes and sleeping positions we must know to keep our bodies from certain conditions.
Pillows make sleeping so much better so it is but proper that you choose the right type of pillow for you. At the end of the day, your preference and the needs met must be the prime consideration when it comes to pillow types.
Given what we have covered here, you are already on your way to making the right choice for the best pillow type for you. With all things considered, you should not deprive yourself from the best sleep of your life.