The Slumbr Pillow Buying Guide What makes the best pillows for sleeping?

Have you ever been kept up tossing and turning from sleeping on a flattened hunk of feathers? Or woken up in a sweat after an evening on memory foam? A pillow can be the difference between a night of clock- watching and one of blissful slumber.

So what is the best pillow for sleep? Frankly, it all depends. Pillows are exceptionally personal, and sleepers usually have preferences about what feels good under their head.

Science, meanwhile, has never designated a one-size-fits-all recommendation for the best pillow for sleep. Sleep specialists often generalize recommendations based on sleep position but ultimately just tell you to sleep on whatever feels good to you.

At Slumbr, we've found that most people have a general sense of what works for their body but could use some guidance to ultimately hone in on the best pillows for sleeping that work with their preferences and sleep style. Rest assured, Slumbr can help in our Pillow Buying Guide.

Ever wonder why it's so hard to find a good pillow?

Find out why here
pillow picture
But first, how often should you replace your pillows?

Is it REALLY necessary to change your pillow every 6 months - 1 year, as is commonly believed? There are 2 reasons why you might change your pillow more often:

pillow Loup

Accumulation of dust mites, dirt and oils: Over time, your pillow will collect dirt, oil and dust mites that feed on dead skin cells. If you don't use a pillow protector or can't wash your pillows, sleep specialists advise throwing away your pillows more often.

pillow scrunched

Loss of support: Over time, your pillow will collect dirt, oil and dust mites that feed on dead skin cells. If you don't use a pillow protector or can't wash your pillows, sleep specialists advise throwing away your pillows more often.

Slumbr believes you can extend the life of your pillows by years when you:

  • Choose pillows with longer-lasting fills, such as down, buckwheat or latex
  • Always use a dust mite-proof, washable pillow protector on all your pillows

So how do I pick the perfect pillow for me?

pillow sleeping positions

Key comfort rule: Your pillow should provide neutral support. Your pillow should provide enough support without throwing your head and neck out of proper (neutral) alignment. You don't want your neck craning back or your chin pushed too far forward. Imagine that there is a straight line between your head, neck and spine.

Your primary sleep position determines how thick and high your pillow should be to maintain neutral support. Although many sleep in multiple positions throughout the night, in general, most people tend to settle into a primary sleep position for the majority of the evening.

  • side sleeper Side sleeper recommendation: A higher-profile, thicker pillow that lifts your head to align with your neck.
  • stomach sleeper Stomach sleeper recommendation: A thinner, low-profile pillow so your head doesn't get pushed up and back too far.
  • back sleeper Back sleeper recommendation: A medium-profile pillow to maintain a level chin that's not pushed too far forward.
  • all positions If you sleep in all three positions quite evenly, you usually can't go wrong with a medium thickness pillow.

But sleep position is just the beginning consideration for comfort. There are a number of other subjective factors that make your pillow right for you.

Subjective Factors

Firmness and compressibility Pillow firmness preferences are highly subjective, and many sleepers we know have strong opinions on what works for them. There is no definitive rule for which firmness level promotes better sleep. Let your past pillow experiences guide your gut on what kind of feel you'll enjoy more.

Firmness defines how solid and unyielding a pillow is when your head lays on it. Pillows of all fill types can be thick or thin, but the firmness really depends on how compressible (ie having give when squished) that fill can be.

Keep in mind that a pillow may have a surface that has some give and squish, but still firmly maintains its elevation. Latex and foam are like this. Other fills, like buckwheat, generally have little give to what some specific pillow sellers espouse. However, if you have chronic neck, shoulder or back pain, we do recommend a firmer option.

Scrunchy Pillows

Moldability/scrunchability Some sleepers like to manipulate the fill of their pillow under their head or neck for personalized support.

  • Down and feather pillows are very scrunchable and shiftable. The upside is they're easy to maneuver throughout the night as you switch positions. The downside is they can flatten out as the fill disperses under the head. A high-quality version with strong loft properties and abundant fill can prevent this from happening.

  • Buckwheat pillow hulls can mold and shift around the contours of your head, but will "lock" into place for very stable, individual support.

  • Latex and memory foam pillows may compress and have some give, but ultimately, these fills do not shift or maneuver.

Hypoallergenic For those with respiratory allergies or asthma, consider a pillow fill that resists allergens. However, if you've ever had a respiratory issue with a pillow, chances are you're actually reacting to dust mites that have accumulated in the pillow (vs the fill itself). Therefore we recommend encasing your pillow in a protector and washing it often.

Natural vs. synthetic Some people consider it important to sleep on a pillow made of all-natural materials, from the tick covering to the fill. While synthetic fills are generally considered safe, some people prefer a natural-origin pillow out of health and environmental concerns.


Breathability Often sleepers desire a cool pillow, or at least one that doesn't retain heat. Memory foam pillows are known to sleep "warm" for instance. Many traditional pillow types are naturally breathable, allowing airflow to move through the pillow. Buckwheat pillows are considered to be the most naturally breathable out there.

Another factor to consider is how long your pillow should last to support you through daily use, as well as how easy it is to wash or freshen up. In the case of polyester pillows, washing too frequently can cause them to lump and break down. Higher quality fill pillows in general should keep their support and consistent feel over time, usually for many years.

Sourcing and origin For some, it's important that their pillows are made domestically. Others prefer to know that their pillows were sustainably sourced. In some cases, the origin of the fill does impact the quality of the fill. For example, European-origin down in general tends to be longer-lasting, loftier and higher-quality, given the climate and breeding conditions where the birds were raised.

Pillow Size

Size Sleepers typically find a standard-sized pillow to be just fine for comfort and support. This is the size we recommend most people get for their primary pillow. Some people prefer larger queen or king sized pillows and like having a large surface area to lay their head on. This is usually about personal preference and not a dictate on which size is better for your body type.

Secondary usage Plenty sleep with multiple pillows behind their head or under other parts of their body. Side sleepers may enjoy a pillow between their knees to relieve pressure on their hips and spine. Back sleepers may use a pillow placed under their knees to alleviate lower back stress. Typically, a thinner, softer pillow, like Slumbr's Virgo, is ideal as secondary support.

Pillow Guide
We believe that by paying a little more for a higher-quality pillow, the math always works out. You get a pillow that feels better and lasts longer.
And the improved sleep you get is priceless.

No matter what, a great pillow is worth the investment for optimal sleep wellness.

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