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The least believable part of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? She doesn’t complain about the pillows. The size of the beds barely matters! Which bear’s pillows are the best pillows for sleeping? (Also: Shouldn’t the bears be wearing pants?)
When you’re in a hotel or at a friend’s house, you’ll have thoughts on the pillow before you think about the mattress or sheets. Everyone’s got a preference, and that preference is impossible to articulate. Pillows can be wrong or right for 50 reasons. Not soft enough. Too soft. Not supportive. Too supportive. (No one said the complaints had to make sense.)
There’s no such thing as a perfect pillow for everyone. There are personal factors to consider: firmness, size, and material matter most, and that’s already enough variables to think about. The rest will have to boil down to “head feel,” which is like hand feel for fabrics or mouthfeel for food, and just as weird.
And then you get to preference. What type of pillow do you even want? Do you like those soft hotel pillows where your head sinks like sand, or do you like firm, thin memory foam where your spine is supported and aligned all night? Some of it depends on your body type. If you’ve got shoulders like Dwight Howard and you’re a side sleeper, you’ll need some loft—or else gravity will cause your head to slowly fall off. (Pro tip: Most people sleep in a combination of ways at night, though if you really want to pick one, go with the one you wake up in.)
The best pillows for most people do share some common traits. They strike a balance between sinking-in comfort and support. (I won’t say cloudlike, because that’s not how clouds work and we are adults here.) They use materials that best reflect what you need as a stomach, side, or back sleeper, and those materials don’t run hot. And the very best? They come with either adjustable features (removable shredded foam!) or a 30-/100-day guarantee. Ideally both. Because no amount of research can beat trying one out at home.
The Best Pillow for Most People
Coop Home “Eden” shredded memory foam pillow
If you don’t come into the pillow search with a laundry list of demands, then it’s likely that the Coop Home Goods “Eden” pillow will work great for you: It balances even support and sinking in just the right amount for perfect, comfortable sleeping. And it’ll be comfortable for most people whether they sleep on their back, side, or stomach—or, if they’re like many people, all three. Shredded memory foam pillows are the new standard for good general pillows: As with a bean bag, the smaller pieces of foam make the pillow easier to mold around your weird head and provide perfectly even support. Compared to a big block of memory foam, it also stays cooler and is easier to adjust until things are just right. Plus, it makes it hypoallergenic, no feathers here! The Coop Home includes a little sandwich bag of extra foam, and it’s easy to add more (or remove foam) until you have the perfect loft. The adjustability is ideal, especially if you’re still trying to figure out what your actual ideal sleep position is. The adjustable pillow’s outer cover, made of bamboo and polyester, keeps the pillow cool, negating the one big downside of most memory foam pillows. At this price on Amazon, and with a 100-day guarantee and a five-year warranty, it’s a no-brainer pillow to buy right now.
The Best Pillow for Stomach Sleepers
Casper’s down alternative pillow has an inner and an outer core, both filled with a polyester fiber that’s plush and lets your head sink in (the inner core is slightly more dense to provide support). This setup works pretty well, and the polyester fiber inside stays evenly distributed throughout the night—no refluffing needed. You can think of it as the slightly less cushiony version of the Coop Home pillow. If you don’t know anything about your sleep preferences and your current pillow is one you’ve had since high school, then it’s likely you’ll love this Casper one. (And you have 100 days to find out for yourself.)
The Best Pillow for Side Sleepers
Tulo pillow (medium firmness)
Tulo makes three pillows of different firmness levels, but all are a block of foam. This medium pillow is perfect for someone who wants a firm pillow, but maybe doesn’t want to go all the way down the firmness rabbit hole. (I’m sure some sleep guru out there is just sleeping on a bed of sheetrock, and their neck pain and back pain has been erased forever.) The foam is really dense and stays cooler than you’d expect, thanks to a light cover. The density is ideal for side sleeping, since it’ll offer you all the neck support you actually need.
The Best Luxe Pillow
Some people want huge, fluffy, soft pillows, and who am I to stop them? This Saatva pillow is just like one of those large, glorious hotel pillows—wide and luxurious and what you’d imagine kings and queens slept on. It’s got an inner core of shredded latex and an outer core made up of synthetic fiber that actually feels something like the best down pillow, without the allergens. If you’re a stomach sleeper, this will be your dream. (And you’ve got 45 days to test.)
The Best Weird Modern Pillow
This Purple gel pillow is a glorious hunk of ventilated purple polyester made up of tiny triangles that weighs ten pounds. But it makes every other pillow look absolutely old-school (though it looks just like a normal pillow when you have the pillowcase on). It evenly distributes the weight you put on it, never bends out of shape or needs to be fluffed, and sleeps cool thanks to the built-in air holes all over. Talk about airflow! No overheating here! It doesn’t feel like a conventional pillow—more like a gel memory foam pillow that’s less firm and feels less like your head is in sinking sand. Sure, it’s a weird-looking heavy hunk of breathable purple polyester—but then again, most pillows are feather pillows. Isn’t it kind of weird that it’s 2021 and we’re putting goddamn bird parts in our pillows?
Nine Other Pillows We Like
Nest Bedding Easy Breather pillow
Like the pillow from Coop Home, the Easy Breather is filled with a shredded foam material. If it has too much loft for your taste, you can easily pull some out. That makes it a pretty good pillow for anyone, but especially good for side sleepers. Unlike the Coop Home pillow, or the cheaper customizable Xtreme Comforts bed pillow, the Nest Bedding pillow cover is made with Tencel. Tencel tends to be a little bit better for breathability than traditional cotton or bamboo fabric, which might explain why the Easy Breather performs like a cooling pillow without any of the weird cooling gels some companies try to sell. If you’re looking for a slight performance upgrade to the Coop Home, the Nest Bedding pillow is a great option.
Brooklinen mid-plush down pillow
Brooklinen makes a lot of the best gear we’ve tested for getting a good night’s sleep, including excellent sheets and down comforters. The company makes three different pillows that offer varying levels of support, from plush to firm. Among the three, the most versatile is its mid-plush option, which is supportive enough for side sleepers, but still plush enough for someone who sleeps on their stomach. It gets this unique medium firmness level from its hybrid construction, which includes an inner layer of long feathers and an outer layer of down clusters. The center-most layer is more densely packed, providing support, while the more loose outer layer gets you that soothing sink. But ultimately, depending on your personal preference, any one of Brooklinen’s three new pillows is a decent choice.
Parachute Down Pillow
If you’re a stomach sleeper, this pillow is an excellent upgrade over the Casper medium pillow. Because it’s filled with down, it has a bit more loft and a more luxe feel, but it isn’t oversized like the Saatva pillow. That means it’ll look a lot less out of place in your bedroom that is not an actual hotel.
Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
Despite its pretty awful name, the Xtreme Comforts pillow offers a lot of the same advantages as our favorite pillow. It’s also made with shredded memory foam that you can remove or add depending on how much loft you need. That means it also sleeps cooler than a regular memory foam pillow. Plus, the Xtreme Comforts pillow is a bit cheaper than the one from Coop Home. We found the Coop pillow a bit less lumpy and a bit more comfortable, but if you want the same shredded foam for cheaper, the Xtreme Comforts is a great option.
The Leesa pillow is often sold in a set with the purchase of one of its mattresses, but you can buy it alone. Like the Tulo, it sets out to be of a “medium” thickness—not too soft, not really hard, but ends up feeling on the softer side. This is lovely if you want your head to sink into your pillow a bit more. The Tulo might be slightly more supportive, but the Leesa is more cloudlike. Because the Tulo breathes a little bit better and is a tad cheaper, it is probably a better buy for most people. But if you want something that is similar but a little softer (or you get a set of Leesa pillows for free with one of its excellent mattresses), you’ll likely be happy with a set of Leesa pillows.
DreamCloud memory foam pillow
Memory foam pillows are probably best for side sleepers, thanks to their supportive density. Usually, these pillows lack loft. This is not a problem for the DreamCloud pillow, which is extremely thick. It’s the kind of pillow that’s perfect for those with Michael Phelps shoulders. If you aren’t broad shouldered, your head will likely fall into the center of the bottom of the pillow, which might not be great for your neck. But if you are, its foam filling offers and cooling exterior makes it a great alternative to the Coop Home Goods pillow.
Leesa Hybrid pillow
Leesa’s hybrid pillow is an odd duck. It’s adjustable, like the Coop Home goods, but it is not symmetrical. One side is smooth. The other-side is quilted with twelve raised sections, sort of like miniature microfiber pillows on top of the pillow. This is great for the kind of person who is constantly flipping their pillow, looking for the solution to your sleep on the other side. The company says the side with twelve raised bumps (pillows in miniature) is ideal for hot sleepers, since air can flow in between your head and parts of the pillow. We found that other pillows cool just as well, but if you’re looking for something to shake up you sleep routine, this pillow is a great option.
Nectar Lush pillow
Nectar Sleep’s Lush pillow is extremely plush, with a lot of loft. It’s the perfect thickness for back and stomach sleepers. Its cotton cover is similar in feel to a sateen sheet, but a little bit more slippery than our favorite sateen sets. When we tested it, it was so slippery that our normal pillow cases actually slid off during the night. If your favorite sheet set has pillowcases that you fill from the center, rather than the sides, then this is not a problem.