How do I choose the right pillow?

Pillows 101

Sleeping Positions 

There are three main sleeping positions—on the back, on the stomach, and on the side. The pillow is important in each sleeping position since each position needs a different level of the neck and head support.

  •  On back: Those who sleep on their backs need a pillow that will support the head, neck, shoulders, and spine. Your cervical spine has a natural curve and the pillow should conform to that curve for maximum support and relaxation.  
  • On the side: If you sleep on either of your sides, use a pillow that supports your head in line with your neck. You should maintain a horizontal posture so that the weight is naturally distributed without exerting undue pressure on your neck or shoulders. The pillow should fill the spaces between your ear and mattress. If your head or neck is tilted, and is not aligned with the rest of the spine and leads to neck or back pain.  
  • On stomach: This sleeping position is not recommended because it puts too much pressure on the spine, especially during the corrective stage of your care. 

Back or side sleepers need a firmer pillow. Pillow firmness depends upon the density of a pillow filling—the more the filling, the firmer the pillow. To test the firmness of a pillow, put it on a flat surface and bend it in half. If it folds easily, it is soft. If you need to put some force into folding a pillow in half, it probably has a good amount of support.

Types of Fillers 

The fillers used in the pillow determine its firmness. These play an important role as they perform functions like taking shape as per weight distribution, heat exchange between body and pillow material, and temperature monitoring. Here are some popular filler options. 


  • Cotton and wool pillows: These are traditionally used in most of the pillows but must be replaced often since they deform quickly. 
  • Feather and down: Feather and down pillows have been used across the ages and are still popular. Down is more expensive. It is soft, easy to shape or mold onto your head and body, and locks in temperature.  
  • Natural Latex: Talalay latex is a naturally derived and renewable resource from the milk of the rubber tree and is produced using a solvent-free process.  
  • Buckwheat: These are a breather for those who are allergic to down. Buckwheat pillows are filled with little buckwheat husks. They are variable and adjustable and allow your head and neck to be comfortable. Technically, a buckwheat pillow would benefit all sleeping styles because of its adjustability. These can also be cooled or heated for additional benefits to reduce pain.

Not Recommended:

  • Polyester: Polyester is comfortable and less expensive depending on the quality. It does not fluff up the way down will. This is a petroleum-based product and not recommended. 
  • Memory foam: Memory foam is made from polyurethane, but has a different cell structure than other foams. This structure makes it less ‘springy’ and slower to recover.  Because of this, it will melt away from your neck which means that it’s not actually supporting your spine.  

Favorite Pillows

Side sleepers: (click link)

Back and side sleepers: (click link)

Feather pillows that are soft enough to be “rolled” under the neck or folded in half for extra support while you’re on your side.

Reading in bed:  

Consider a large wedge pillow like this one and pile pillows high enough on your lap to support your book at a comfortable level for your neck (avoid extended periods of looking down).  

For children:

A very lightweight down or cotton pillow that doesn’t cause your child’s head to be pushed forward while they sleep.