Pillow Types for Different Sleepers: The Ultimate Guide

“Experience The Ultimate Bliss of Sound Sleep with the Right Type of Pillow”

Pillows have a great impact on overall sleep quality. However, people often overlook this value and go for generic pillows.

While standard pillows are supportive, innovative (specially crafted) pillows provide ultimate comfort and relieve several chronic issues like snoring, neck pain and other sleep conditions.

The perfect pillow type depends on individual preferences (based on sleeping position and material). Because, it has to provide comfort and support to the head, spine, neck and relieve the pressure.

In this ultimate guide for pillow types – we have provided detailed information on 14 different types of pillows. We have also provided suggestions on the best pillow type for different sleeping positions.

Different Pillow Types (Based on Material)

Different Pillow TypesWhen it comes to pillow filling, there are various materials used which impact the degree of firmness or softness level. Also, the filling material may alleviate cooling or warming needs or allergies. Scroll down to know what are those different materials used for pillow filling along with their pros and cons.

1. Memory Foam:

Memory FoamMemory foam pillow filling is comfortable, pain-relieving, and provides support to the head, neck, and back. It quickly responds to your movement and cradles curves. It is made of polyurethane or visco-elastic, which are created with chemicals and thus gives an off-gassing smell. Because of its density and regaining strength, they are suitable for dealing with sleeping issues like snoring, apnea and others. Apart from properly aligning the neck and spine, there are several other benefits of memory foam pillows.

The drawback is that it causes breathability issues and maybe firm for stomach sleepers. There are several brands that provide memory foam pillows. We recommend reading our buying guide to know which memory foam pillow is suitable for you.

2. Shredded Memory Foam:

Shredded Memory FoamIt is an innovative version of a memory foam pillow. They are moldable, flexible, soft and let you adjust it to your sleeping position. With its similar bounce and responsiveness (same as memory foam), this pillow provides excellent support and firmness that makes it suit perfectly for back/side sleepers rather than stomach sleepers. May require regular fluffing and has off-gassing potential as its drawbacks. A block memory foam pillow is another version of memory foam, which is firm, solid, highly supportive, and won’t clump.

3. Cotton:

CottonCotton fill is quite common in bedding and pillows. It is soft, breathable, easy to maintain, affordable and naturally hypoallergenic. The main drawback is losing its firmness over time and getting flat and hard. Thereby won’t contour to the head and neck easily. All you need is to clean & fluff it regularly to extend its life. But cotton getting older makes it more prone to sweat absorption and mildew build-up.

4. Latex:

LatexLatex filling material is soft, durable, supportive, and breathable. It is resistant to mold, dust mites, and mildew that let you have a sound and hygienic sleep. Make sure to check pillows to know they are labelled as 100% natural latex and free from polyurethane. A few manufacturers may blend it with polyurethane foam/synthetic latex.

They are eco-friendly and relieves your pressure points. They won’t sink in the middle and are ideal to use for anyone suffering from upper body aches and pains or discomfort in the neck or shoulder area. The only drawback is that it is not suitable for people with latex allergy. In that case, try memory foam pillows.

5. Down:

DownDown filling material is a soft grouping of fibres, which is termed as undercoating of a bird (duck, goose or swan). Although, it is hypoallergenic material but avoid using if you’re allergic to geese or ducks. They are durable and require regular fluffing. The pillow provides a cooling effect by allowing airflow through it.

With its insulating quality, this warm and cozy pillow is the perfect option for cold nights. Most down pillows are filled with feathers but make sure to check out its ratio. With proper care and maintenance, they can last for up to 20 years. These pillows are ideal for people who prefer to sleep on their stomachs and looking for a fluffy pillow to support their stomach.

The drawback of this material is that it is expensive, may have an allergic reaction and is a bit difficult to clean.

6. Down Alternative (Synthetic):

Down AlternativeMany people are allergic to animal feathers. If you are one of those people, you can go with down alternative pillows. This type of pillow is made with a synthetic filling like polyester or polyfill as it is a hypoallergenic material. It is the best alternative to down. It is not as durable, plush or warm but inexpensive, easy to maintain and responsive when compared with down.

7. Feather:

FeatherThese pillows are another alternative to down pillows in terms of costs. These pillows are affordable and are made from the topcoats of duck and geese. The animal feathers alone can be very rigid sometimes. In those cases, the pillows are mixed with down and animal feathers to make them softer.

The feather may get clumped together and needs frequent readjustment. Furthermore, there are chances of feathers poking through the fabric. In certain cases, they also emit a strange smell when dampened.

8. Buckwheat:

BuckwheatThese are similar to microbeads in their texture and feel. The buckwheat hulls are durable, soft, breathable, supportive, hypoallergenic, and conform to the head & neck to align the spine properly. The drawback is that they tend to be noisier and have a crunchy feel when they rub against each other.

9. Innerspring:

InnerspringThe innerspring pillow has a core steel spring as an inner layer and covered with either memory foam layer or polyester as an outer layer. They are ergonomically comfortable and provide an extra head and neck support. Its spring core will permit proper airflow to make your stay/sleep cool. They are expensive due to their complex construction and it is highly responding to any sleeping position.

10. Gel:

GelThis gel pillow is filled with gel and thereby keeps your pillow cool, firm, and consistent. The gel filling will prevent the pillow from flattening but it can be reshaped or moulded as per your comfort. Also, one can find memory foam pillows with a layer of gel around them. Won’t require regular fluffing, shaking and provides a cool sleeping surface, relieves your pressure and is hypo-allergenic. The main drawback is that it is not suitable for side sleepers.

11. Wool:

WoolWool is a soft, fluffy, eco-friendly and breathable natural fiber fill. This pillow stuffing will regulate body temperature and let you sleep warm. This antimicrobial material is dust mite resistant and natural fire retardant. It provides excellent support to your head and neck. They are expensive and need regular dry cleaning, as they absorb odors.

12. Microbeads:

MicrobeadsA microbead pillow is made with various polystyrene beads and most of us found the microbeads in U shaped travel pillows. It has a squishier feel than shredded foam pieces and provides proper support while sleeping upright. These are cool, durable and breathable but not eco-friendly and may rip the pillow and beads spills all over.

13. Kapok Fiber:

Kapok FiberThis Kapok is a seedpod fluff from a rainforest tree called Ceiba. This naturally buoyant fiber is soft, lofty, lightweight, eco-friendly, and hypoallergenic, which is suitable for people dealing with allergies. The only drawback is that they are expensive, need to be fluffed regularly, and highly-flammable.

14. Water:

WaterWater pillow comes with water as its filling. It helps to maintain its consistency irrespective of pressure applied to it (adjustable). It is hypoallergenic and can be adjusted for proper height and firmness to conform to the head, neck, & shoulder. The drawback is that it causes trouble and ruins the mattress & sleep if any leaks happen.

Pillows for Various Sleeping Conditions:

Pillows for Various Sleeping ConditionsUsing a precise pillow will reduce symptoms of various health conditions like back pain, acid reflux, neck pain, and sleep apnea. Here are some special pillows to be used for curing sleeping conditions.

1. Wedge:

With its orthopaedic features, this wedge pillow is ideal for back sleepers. It has a slant shape which elevates your upper body and thus let you sleep at an incline to support your back, lessens the pressure on the lumbar spine, and improves the blood flow.

It is made with memory foam or polyfoam that eases you from the symptoms of GERD, acid reflux, and OSA. It is available in various sizes. So, you can choose anyone based on your preferences. For more information on which wedge pillow is suitable for your, we recommend reading our buying guide.

2. Cervical:

A cervical pillow is an anatomically shaped pillow, which is designed to support the cervical spine and heal your shoulder and neck pain. With its divot on the neck area, it holds the head & neck in place. It is useful for people who don’t want to tilt their head while sleeping. Thus, it minimizes the neck’s stiffness or strain, muscle spasm, & hypolordosis. Comes in different heights to support the spinal alignment.

3. Bolster:

Bolster pillows or rolled pillows are not meant for decorative purposes yet offers the best support for the neck, back, and legs. One can use this long, narrow, and cylindrical shaped pillow under the neck (or) under or between the knees for a healthy spinal alignment. It will relieve your pressure and pain in the lumbar spine, arms, back, and neck.

4. Contour:

Contour pillow comes in a wavy shape by having an arch above the head and another one under the neck area. Most chiropractors suggest this pillow for side and back sleepers, because they encourage a neutral spine, provide best neck support, and also reduce the stiffness on your neck and shoulder.

5. Sleep Apnea:

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes breathing pauses during sleeping. If you’re using a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) for obstructive sleep apnea, then using this sleep apnea pillow along with CPAP will relieve your problem quickly. This pillow is made with foam material or polyester fill.

It accommodates your CPAP machine’s cords and tubes with its cut-outs and a high loft that won’t make you sleep with a head flat. As sleeping flat will obstruct your airways, which in turn worsens your symptoms of sleep apnea.

6. Snoring:

A contour pillow made of water, buckwheat or memory foam will support the neck and head to prevent obstruction in air passages while sleeping. Also, this anti-snoring pillow will let you adjust its height and make you feel comfortable if used in conjunction with a CPAP machine.

7. Allergies:

Not all pillows let you sleep comfortably. However, pillows made with goose feathers or down will set to sneeze and water the user’s eyes. Whereas, the pillows made with memory foam, synthetic or latex material won’t cause any allergic reactions. So, prefer to choose a pillow with a hypoallergenic feature, that is made with poly-cluster fill.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. When to replace the pillow?

Ans: One should replace their pillows for once every year or two. Even with regular cleaning, fluffing and washing, they may get sagged or lose their firmness upon frequent usage. Replace your old one with a new one whenever you find signs like bad odor, yellow stains or discolouration, having lumps or not holding its shape properly.

2. Which one is a better way to sleep – with the head elevated or flat?

Ans: It depends on your sleeping positions and health issues. Laying with the head flat will align your spine and it is fine for healthy sleepers. In case, if you suffer from any respiratory issues, lumbar spine pain, acid reflux, OSA or snoring, then sleeping flat will obstruct your airways and aggravates their symptoms. So, use an adjustable or wedge pillow to elevate your head and upper body.

3. Are wedge pillows travel friendly?

Ans: Most people prefer to carry their pillow while travelling. Wedge pillows in smaller sizes are suitable for travelling.  Large wedge pillows may not be convenient to carry while travelling. So, purchase a travel-friendly bag for your pillow and use it everywhere to get a sound and comfortable sleep.

Final Words:

Sleeping on a quality and right pillow with proper size, shape and fill helps you have sound sleep without any stiffness or soreness when you wake up. We hope the above information will help you in selecting the right type of pillow for your sleeping style and needs.

Still having any queries regarding pillow type selection, feel free to write to us in the below comments section. We will reply to you as soon as possible.