Finding the best pillow for your sleep style can feel pretty impossible at times. And we’ve all been there, lured in by promises of snuggly comfort and magical support, but the reality can be different after just a few nights’ sleep. We’ve been through our fair share of bed pillows over the years, so we know a thing or two about the top rated pillows for sleep.
In a nutshell, the best pillows deliver noticeable comfort and support without losing shape. They cradle your head, neck and shoulders in the correct way, and how they do that is dependent on your sleep style. What’s that? Basically, whether you’re a side sleeper, stomach sleeper or you prefer to sleep on your back. As with finding the best mattress, knowing your dominant sleep style is vital to choosing the right pillow.
When testing a bed pillow, pay attention to how your head and neck feel when you’re lying down. Are they in alignment? There’s a clear way to tell: if your neck tilts in any direction when your head is on the pillow, you’re out of alignment. Don’t worry though, as some of the world’s biggest sleep brands are behind the best pillows, so you have ample choice. Plenty are available on a trial basis too.
Side sleepers usually do well with a firmer, thicker pillow that slots in to fill the gap between the head and shoulders. Stomach sleepers usually prefer a thinner pillow that keeps the head and neck aligned, and doesn’t make them feel like they’re suffocating. The best pillow for back sleepers is often a mix, as long as your chosen pillow doesn’t push your neck forward during sleep. Ouch!
According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), your pillow needs change as you get older and naturally require more support, so if you’ve had the same pillow for a long time and are experiencing neck and back pain, now is the time to try something new. To relax your body for sleep, take a look at the best handheld massagers, while the best meditation apps calm your mind.
1. The Purple Harmony Pillow: Best pillow overall
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 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. If staying cool during sleep is your biggest challenge, check out our best cooling mattress guide.
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 firmness
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.
- Read our Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud review
3. Sleep Number ComfortFit: Best pillow for stomach sleepers
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.
4. Casper Pillow: Best pillow for all sleep positions
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.
- Read our Casper Pillow Original review
5. Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow: Best pillow for sheer value
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.
- Read our Beckham Collection Gel Pillow review
6. Nest Bedding The Easy Breather: Best pillow for hot sleepers
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
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.
- Read our Bluestone Contour U review
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.
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.