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Best pillows 2021: Top rated pillows for side sleepers, back sleepers, and others

Best pillows 2021: Top rated pillows for side sleepers, back sleepers, and others
(Image credit: Getty)

The best pillows for sleep are designed to offer premium comfort and proper support for your neck, head and shoulders, but finding the right pillow for you can be tricky, simply because there are so many all claiming to be the best. So how do you sort the wood for the trees? Our guide will help. The American Sleep Association (ASA) suggests our pillows needs change as we get older or if our body weight changes, so this is something you should set aside some time to get right.

Much like shopping for the best mattress online, it pays to buy the right pillow for your posture needs and the position you sleep in. The best pillows for side sleepers, for example, tend to be deeper, offering plenty of support for your head and shoulders to plug that gap between them when you lie on your side. Stomach sleepers usually do better with shallow bed pillows, while back sleepers are better suited to firm pillows.

To find out if you have the best pillow for your sleep position, simply rest your head on the pillow as if you were going to sleep. If your neck tilts in any direction, you’re out of alignment so choose another pillow for sleep. On a similar note, if you’re looking for a new pillow because you’re experiencing neck tension, you may also be interested in our guide to the best handheld massagers, which offer targeted relief before sleep. 

As with the best cooling mattresses, some sleep pillows are designed with breathable materials that dissipate heat. So if you sleep hot, the best pillow for you is one that doesn’t need flipping over because it stays cool throughout the night. You could also bring your in-bed temperature down further with one of our best bed toppers infused with cooling layers.

Once you have found the best pillow for a good night’s sleep, you can get even more restful slumber by relaxing your mind before bedtime – try one of our best meditation apps or sound machines for white noise. And for a more natural way to wake up, why not check out our recommendations for the best sunrise alarm clocks too.

7 best pillows for sleep

1. The Purple Harmony Pillow: Best pillow for sleeping overall

Best pillow: The Purple Harmony pillow

(Image credit: Purple)

The Purple Harmony Pillow

The best pillow for staying cool and comfortable throughout the night


Available sizes: Standard (6.5"), Tall (7.5") | Machine washable: Yes | Filling: Talalay Latex Core | Hypoallergenic: Yes | Trial period: 100 nights

Reasons to Buy

Your choice of height
Stays cool all-night long
Adapts its shape to your head

Reasons to Avoid


When Purple released its first mattress, which often features in the best Purple mattress deals, it became known as ‘the bed that broke the internet’. Well, Purple also makes pillows, and the Purple Harmony Pillow (RRP $159) is their best yet. It shares similar 360-degree Purple Grid technology as the mattresses but here it’s called Purple Grid Hex. This involved testing over 50 prototype material combinations to create a pillows that offers a magic balance of softness, coolness and responsiveness.  

No Pressure Support helps the bed pillow adapt quickly to your head and neck for more personalized support as soon as you lay down. The best part is how the pillow keeps its shape over the course of a night, so you won’t wake up and feel as though you’ve been sleeping on a pancake. 

Pillows that get hot in the night are a real pain and can cause many of us to wake up to flip the pillow, desperately searching for a soothing cool spot to help us drift off to sleep again. There’ll be no such nonsense here, as the Purple Harmony Pillow uses the brand’s Cool to the Core airflow design to keep the temperature down. The cover is also moisture-wicking, adding to the breathability factor.

You can buy Purple’s premium pillow in a 6.5-inch height, which they suggest for back sleepers, or a 7.5-inch height if you’re a side sleeper. You’ll get a one-year limited warranty, plus a 100-night No Pressure guarantee so that you can triple-check that you and your new pillow are meant to be. 

2. Tempur-Cloud: Best pillow for neck pain

Best pillow: Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud Pillow for neck support and minimizing neck pain

(Image credit: Tempur-Pedic)

Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud Original Bed Pillow

Get quick relief with this pillow for neck support and back comfort


Machine washable: Cover only | Filling: Foam-solid | Hypoallergenic: No | Trial period: 30 nights

Reasons to Buy

Firm back and neck support
Three-year warranty

Reasons to Avoid

No returns accepted
Takes time to get used to

Some back and neck stiffness can be minimized through a combination of choosing a better sleeping position and one of the best pillows for neck pain. While it’s true that some causes of neck pain, such as general wear and tear that comes with older age, can’t be solved so easily, there are definitely things you can in-bed (and during the day – hello, yoga) to minimize it. You could even try using one of the best sound machines to play soothing sleep sounds to help distract your mind, or download one of the best meditation apps to learn how to relax before sleep.

According to Spine Health, matching your pillow height to your sleeping position is a must, and if you’re a stomach or back sleeper who is experiencing neck pain, the Tempur-Cloud Pillow is worth looking at. This pressure-relief bed pillow is made by Tempur-Pedic, a leader in pillows and mattresses created to provide postural relief.

The Tempur-Cloud is made up of a continual piece of foam, with a removable polyester knit cover that can be washed. A word of warning: firmer pillows like this one do take some getting used to, so it may be a couple of weeks or longer before you’re used to it, especially if you have a history of sleeping with softer pillows. However, for better neck support it’s worth persevering here, as it could provide you with the relief you need, and to help you stop tossing and turning, searching for a comfier neck cradle. 

Back sleepers who normally sleep well on firm pillows will adore the Tempur-Cloud, and how it consistently delivers brilliant spine and neck support but without feeling like you’re sleeping on a slab of rock.

3. Casper Pillow: Best pillow for sleeping in any position

Best pillow: Casper Pillow is one of the top pillows that are cool for people who sleep hot

(Image credit: Casper)

Casper Pillow

Could this be the best pillow ever? If you sleep hot, it might well be


Available sizes: Standard and King | Machine washable: Yes | Filling: Microfiber | Hypoallergenic: No | Trial period: 100 nights

Reasons to Buy

Stays cool during the night
Comfy and supportive
100-night return policy

Reasons to Avoid

Expensive compared to others

If you’re looking for a great alternative to a traditional down pillow, then the Casper Pillow is the answer, with our testers feeling it delivered the perfect balance of support and softness.

The Casper Pillow is filled with microfiber, so it’s a firm, fluffy bed pillow that’s easy to clean too. We rate this sleep pillow pretty high for comfort, even though it’s relatively soft and light. We certainly didn’t feel it moving around much, and because it’s made of microfiber it stayed much cooler than other pillows in this guide. No flipping to find a cool spot!

There is one niggle with the Casper Pillow, though: it tends to go flat after a while. Ok so it’s not a huge deal, and most pillows suffer from this, but for the price we’d have liked it to hold its shape longer. That said, we popped it in the washing machine and fluffed it before drying, and were pleased as punch to discover the pillow had bounced back to its original shape. Did you catch that this bed pillow is completely machine washable? Yeah, we love that too.

If you're looking for a new mattress and like the Casper brand, we'd also recommend taking a look at our guide to the best Casper mattress deals.

4. Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow: Best pillow for sheer value

Best pillow: Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow for back sleepers offer good posture support

(Image credit: Beckham Hotel)

Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow

Feels and supports like a down pillow, but costs way, way less


Available sizes: Standard, Queen and King | Machine washable: Yes | Filling: Gel-filled fiber | Hypoallergenic: Yes | Trial period: 30 days

Reasons to Buy

Good for back sleepers
Great value for a duo set

Reasons to Avoid

No warranty

The Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow feels just like the fluffy, full down pillows you often find in plush hotel rooms. But the hypoallergenic filling means it’s suitable for allergy sufferers, and it’s much cooler than traditional down pillows too. That’s good news for those of you who are considered hot sleepers.

We love how snuggly this bed pillow is, and the fact that you can get two of them for such a reasonable price only increases their attractiveness. But hey, can you actually sleep well using this pillow? Well, it depends on your sleep style and if you’re looking for any back or neck support, and if you have any existing sleep health issues. 

The reason we mention that is because one of our testers uses a CPAP machine to help with his sleep apnea. He found this pillow to be comfortable and supportive for his back sleeper style, and crucially it didn’t interfere with the CPAP machine. 

Our stomach sleeper wasn’t so fond of the Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow because of just how dense and fluffy it is, which made them feel like they were suffocating a bit. While there’s no warranty on this bed pillow, you do get a 30-day window to try it out and return it if you don’t like it.

5. Sleep Number ComfortFit: Best pillow for stomach sleepers

Best pillow: Sleep Number ComfortFit Bed Pillow

(Image credit: Sleep Number)

Sleep Number ComfortFit Bed Pillow

It's good for providing ample neck support, too


Available sizes: Standard and King | Machine washable: No | Filling: Foam | Hypoallergenic: Yes | Trial period: 30 days

Reasons to Buy

Available in three different versions
Includes a one-year warranty

Reasons to Avoid

Not machine washable

Sleep Number is a big player in the world of pillows, mattresses and bedding, so it knows a thing or two about how to design the best pillow, which it has done with the versatile ComfortFit Pillow. This sumptuous offering has a walloping 6,000 5-star reviews, averaging 4.7 out of 5 on the Sleep Number site, and proved to be a winner for us during testing.

The Sleep Number ComfortFit Pillow comes in three different shapes: Classic, which is tailor-made for stomach and back sleepers, and the one we’ve featured here; Curved, which is neatly contoured to provide better support for side sleepers and back sleepers; and Ultimate, which you can customize to suit your favorite sleeping position. 

The filling is a clever mix of memory foam pieces and premium down-alternative fibers to create a pillow that’s comfortable and able to hold its shape well. The filling is also hypoallergenic, so a good choice for allergy sufferers. 

We’ve been using the ComfortFit Classic for three months and it still holds its shape. What’s it like to sleep on? Pretty heavenly, really. Imagine your head sinking into a softly cushioned cloud, yet still supported enough to not cause any weird spinal alignment or neck or shoulder pain. 

The Classic comes in two sizes: standard and king size. The only thing we don’t like about it is the fact that you can’t wash the pillow. Yes you can wash the Lyocell blend cover, but the pillow itself should only be spot-cleaned with a damp cloth as needed. Speaking of that Lyocell cover, it’s wonderfully breathable, so worth a look if you sleep hot and are always turning your pillow over to find a new cool spot.

6. Nest Bedding The Easy Breather: Best pillow for hot sleepers

Best pillow: Nest Bedding The Easy Breather has a removable fill so you can make it just right for your sleep style

(Image credit: Nest Bedding)

Nest Bedding The Easy Breather Bed Pillow

A unique ‘pocked’ design enables this pillow to keep its cool in bed


Available sizes: Junior, Side Sleeper, Standard, Queen, King | Machine washable: No | Filling: Foam-shredded | Hypoallergenic: No | Trial period: 100 nights

Reasons to Buy

Lifetime warranty
Filling can be removed
Pocked exterior design

Reasons to Avoid

Not machine washable

The Easy Breather by Nest Bedding is filled with shredded CertiPUR-US foam and fiber packed tightly to deliver noticeable support. Before you run away screaming at the sound of a dense, tightly packed pillow, know that you can actually remove some of the filling. Phew. Why might you want to do that? Well, if a pillow is too high, too full, it may cause your neck to be too elevated, leading to neck ‘kinking’, which means pain and stiffness come morning. 

The pillow also features a unique ‘pocked’ texture on the outside, created to stop the pillow from overheating while you snooze away. Even more reassuring is how you can get your hands on The Easy Breather for a 100-night trial period. This is a generous trial offer and one we fully welcome, as it can take weeks to get fully used to a new pillow, even the very best pillows for sleeping that sound like a slum-dunk on paper. 

This bed pillow isn’t machine washable and doesn’t include a cover that can be removed for washing, so we recommend a good pillowcase cover to keep The Easy Breather as free as possible from oils, grime and dead skin build-up. If it does get dirty, Nest Bedding suggests a touch of spot cleaning. It comes in five different sizes: junior, standard, side sleeper, queen and king.

7. Bluestone Contour: Best pillow for pregnancy use

Best pillow: Bluestone Contour Pregnancy Pillow offers full body support

(Image credit: Bluestone)

Bluestone Contour U Pregnancy Pillow

The best pillow to give your entire body support and comfort


Available sizes: Full body | Machine washable: Cover only | Filling: Polyester fiber | Hypoallergenic: Yes | Trial period: No

Reasons to Buy

Relieves pressure
Full body support

Reasons to Avoid

Awkward shape
Takes up a lot of room

We asked two expectant mothers to try out the Bluestone Contour U full body maternity pillow, and both, who had been using a different maternity pillow, enjoyed enhanced support from this pregnancy pillow. 

Our first momma-to-be mentioned how the pillow juts out in the perfect way, delivering targeted support and relief to her lower back while side sleeping. Our second told us that this pillow took pressure off her legs and belly. Both compared sleeping on the Contour U to getting a big, full body hug. Sounds good to us.

The biggest complaint we heard is that this pregnancy pillow is, quite simply, enormous. Even in a king size bed it took up so much space, one of our expected father’s had very little room to squeeze in for a snooze himself, so it’s definitely something to keep in mind if you have a small bed. 

Oh, and the pillow cover is also made of a scratchy material that annoyed one of our testers, so you may have to look at a special Bluestone pillow cover that’s more skin-friendly. 

Today's cheapest prices on the best pillows

Best pillows FAQ

How often should you change your pillow?

If you’re still sleeping on a pillow you bought two years ago, now is the time to think about buying the best pillow for your current postural needs and sleep style. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recommends replacing bed pillows every 18 months or so. 

This is because the filling in your pillow can become flat and unsupportive, putting unwanted strain on your neck – yes, more neck pain. It’s not just about comfort either, as the material in some pillows can retain body oils and dust mites, making them pretty unhygienic after a while. 

Best pillows: top bed pillows

(Image credit: ShutterStock)

How to clean your pillow

If you want to avoid dust mites, buy an anti-allergy pillow. These have seen both the filling and casing treated to resist and combat the development of dust mites. Other pillows can be labelled as hypoallergenic, which, while they’re not designed to stop the development of dust mites, does mean the material and filling isn’t made of a known potential allergen such as feathers, wool or latex. 

If the thought of dust mites makes you uncomfortable, the good news is that they can be killed off if you wash your pillow at 140-degrees Fahrenheit. Not all pillows can be washed (though some supplied pillow covers might be), so this is worth checking before you buy.

What are the best pillows made of?

If you’ve bought a cheap pillow from a local department store, it’s probably made of synthetic polyester. While they’re worth looking at if you’re on a very tight budget, they tend to flatten out quickly and absorb heat easily, making them an absolute annoyance for hot sleepers. 

Next up you have feather and down pillows. A traditional and popular choice, these pillows tend to be very soft and luxurious, moulding to suit your neck. They do tend to clump and will need to be plumped regularly and they need to be professionally cleaned. If you suffer from allergies, these should be avoided.

Memory foam has become very popular in recent years, with this style of pillow contouring to your individual shape, while they’re also hypoallergenic. Memory foam pillows can be quite firm, so tend to be popular choices for those suffering with neck pain. They do retain heat, which can be an issue and they can be pretty heavy as well.

Then there’s microfiber. While some incredibly cheap pillows use a form of microfiber filling, this is a completely different proposition to the latest premium microfiber pillows. These aim to be soft and fluffy like down and feather pillows, but provide the support of memory foam. They’re also good at dissipating heat and don’t trap perspiration, though you do pay a premium for this luxury.

Many pillow companies offer decent trial periods, and this is something that can be really worthwhile as according to the ASA, it takes a minimum of two weeks for someone to become accustomed to their new pillow, and at least a month before a pillow is properly broken in.

Not as popular as other fillings is latex. These have a similar feel to memory foam pillows, but they stay cooler for longer, while they can hold their shape very well. Durable and naturally hypoallergenic, they can be pretty heavy and expensive.

Which type of pillow do I need?

How hard or soft your pillow should be comes down to personal preference, whether you’re experiencing any back or neck pain issues, and how you prefer to sleep: on your stomach, back, side or a mixture. Through our testing we’ve found that most side sleepers tend to prefer thicker, softer pillows with a high loft to fill the gap between their neck and shoulders, while back sleepers like pillows that are more firm but thinner. 

When narrowing down the best pillow for you, we recommend choosing one that properly fills the gap between the bed and your head so that you don’t have to keep moving it around throughout the night. As mentioned above, it should also fill the space around your neck and shoulders to give you enough support to help keep your back aligned.

If you’re looking for a new bed as well as a pillow, we’d also recommend checking out the best Saatva mattress discounts for a touch of sleep luxury for less.