Have you ever gone shopping for a pillow only to discover that you have too many options that it all becomes very confusing?
Shopping for pillows can be overwhelming because there are so many different types of pillows available. Some of the most common examples include:
- Memory foam
- Shredded memory foam
- Water pillow
- Body pillow, etc.
In short, the beddings market is saturated! But it doesn’t mean you can’t shop for the best pillows for your needs.
Did you know that there is no single type of pillow that will work for everybody? That is the reason why there are so many choices.
The pillows in the market today are usually categorised by the type of material used to fill them. The quality of the pillowcase fabric is an important feature of the pillow, but the pillow’s utility is defined by the material used to fill it.
Keep in mind that each pillow filling type will usually appeal to a unique group of shoppers.
Let’s look at a summary of the different pillow types and their features. Chiefly to give you a sense of what you might expect when you go home and sleep on it.
1. Memory Foam Pillows
The memory foam pillows are manufactured using polyurethane and other chemicals. Unfortunately, they’ve been said to emit a very strong chemical odour.
The fact that these pillows produce volatile organic compounds when one is sleeping has been well documented. This off-gassing property has also been seen in foam mattresses. Several industry studies have indicated that memory foam pillows can be toxic.
Irrespective of the toxicity, memory foam pillows are popular with users because they have a magical way of retaining the shape. People have been impressed by the way the pillow feels against their skin.
Recently, some sneaky marketers have tried to rebrand memory foam pillows as bamboo pillows. Unfortunately, there is no bamboo in memory foam pillows.
In view of this, before you buy this type of pillows, make sure you have read and understood the fine print. The only bamboo on the memory foam pillows is the rayon fabric that is used to cover them. Don't be tricked to buy these pillows thinking that they are eco-friendly.
Pros of Memory Foam Pillows:
- Do not clump
- Don’t require regular fluffing
- Offer the best head and neck support in comparison to their competitors
Cons of Memory Foam Pillows:
- Could emit a bad chemical odour
- May have an off-gassing property
- Aren’t mouldable and malleable
- Loft can’t be easily adjusted
- Sleeping on them can be uncomfortable during hot nights. The pillows build up the body heat and also retains it.
Only suitable for back sleepers. They maintain their shape and there is no way a stomach or a side sleeper can adjust the pillow lower or higher to suit their sleeping position.
2. Polyester Fill Pillows
Polyester fill pillows are also referred to as poly-fil. However, their trademark name is fiberfill. It is one of the economical pillow filler options.
Fiberfill will usually flatten out after it has been used for some time. And isn’t as durable as the other types of pillows.
Pros of polyester pillows:
- Easy to clean
Cons of polyester pillows:
- Loses elasticity after a short period of use
- Not as durable compared to other types of pillow fills
Only suitable for back and side sleepers (stomach sleepers can use the polyester filled pillow if it is not very thick)
3. Goose Down Pillows
A fill that has been made out of a bird’s inner plumage is called down. The bottom fluffy part of a bird feather is harnessed to create the fill material used on goose down pillows.
Down can hold its loft (fluffiness) for up to three times longer than all the other synthetic alternatives available. It is also very soft. The down considered to be of best quality is the Hungarian goose down, also popularly referred to as the European white goes down. This down is usually pure white and is larger than all the other types of down.
An authentic down pillow will contain down only. It will not have any other part of a bird’s feathers. Usually, you will find pillows in the market that feature both the feather and down fill.
While feathers are economical when looking for material to add to the volume of the pillow, the quills will soon start to stick out through the pillow’s cover and poke on your face as you sleep.
Therefore, it is recommended that you only buy pillows made of the highest-quality down because they are more durable.
You will soon realise that good quality down holds up better compared to its synthetic competitors. It usually wears out after serving you for about 4 years.
Pros of Down Pillows:
- Easily moulded - A down pillow will maintain its shape of a long period of time, offering your head and neck good support
- Light and soft - Down pillows are usually very light and soft
- Accommodates all sleeping positions - Down pillows work well side sleeper, stomach sleepers, and back sleepers, among others.
Cons of Down Pillows:
- Require regular fluffing so that they can maintain the loft
- Complicated to wash
- Not too many options to have a firm down pillow
- Quality down pillows are very expensive
4. Feather Pillows
“Fine feathers make fine birds” French Proverb
Feather pillows are made up of feather quills filler material. These pillows are inexpensive compared to the down pillows. However, if not properly maintained, the quills will start to come out and may poke your face.
It is advisable you spend some extra money and buy the real down pillows instead of investing in feather pillows that you will keep replacing every now and then.
Unlike the down, feather pillows will naturally begin to align with each other as you sleep on the pillow over time. This alignment makes the pillow flat and uncomfortable after some time. To mitigate this problem, manufacturers usually add some down clusters to the feathers filler to slow down that degeneration.
Pros of Feather Pillows:
- Light and soft just like the down
Cons of Feather Pillows:
- May give off some unpleasant and lingering odour
- Require regular fluffing to maintain the loft due to the fact that the quills start flattening immediately after you start sleeping on them
- Tough to clean
The pillows are only suitable for back and side sleepers.
5. Shredded Memory Foam Pillows
As the name suggests, the shredded memory foam pillows are just memory foams that have been turned into tiny chunks that form a filler for the pillows.
The individual chunk in the foam moves around the pillow independently thus making it mouldable. You can shape the shredded foam fill of the pillow into whichever shape you find suitable.
Most people who have tested the shredded memory foam pillows have found them superior compared to the traditional foam memory pillows.
Pros of Shredded Memory Foam Pillows:
- Do not clump
- Do not require regular fluffing
- Offers good head and neck support
- Allow more room for breathability compared to the more solid memory foam pillow
Cons of Shredded Memory Foam Pillows:
- Too soft for stomach sleepers
- May have an off-gassing property just like the memory foam pillows
- Can be uncomfortable to sleep on during hot nights because they build up and retain your body heat
Only suitable for back and side sleepers. Stomach sleepers will have a hard time due to the foam pushing upwards to the face making these type of pillows uncomfortable.
6. Buckwheat Pillows
Most people have come to prefer buckwheat pillows because they are all-natural and old-fashioned. The Buckwheat pillow filler does not release any form of gas.
Pros of Buckwheat Pillows:
- Offers superior neck and head support
- Promote airflow and are more breathable compared to their competitors
- Last longer
- Mouldable and malleable thus hold their shape to offer better support for your head, shoulders and neck
- Made of natural and compostable materials
- Suitable for all kind of sleepers including the back, stomach, and side sleepers
Cons of Buckwheat Pillows:
- Makes a rustling noise when moved or shifted by the user
- Are a little bit too heavy since a 20 by 26-inch pillow can weigh as much as 3.6 kilograms
- Are a little bit too firm for some people
7. Microbead Pillows
The microbead pillows are filled with a material called uniform polymer particles. As the name suggests, the particles look like little white beads.
The uniform polymer particles are a synthetic alternative to the Buckwheat pillows but they share a lot of similar characteristics. For example, they both allow airflow and they are somewhat malleable.
Amongst the microbead pillows, is one known as Sobakawa Cloud Pillow. The name “Sobakawa” can be used interchangeably with Buckwheat irrespective of the fact that this pillow does not have any Buckwheat particles.
Most of the users who have reviewed the Sobakawa Cloud Pillow complain that it flattens after prolonged use and that it is too firm.
Pros of Microbead Pillows:
- Breathable hence keeps cool as you sleep at night
- Malleable: holds its shape and loft thus offers good head, neck, and shoulder support
Cons of Microbead Pillows:
- May have an off-gassing property
- No varieties of microbead pillows available i.e. most of these pillows are either medium firm or medium loft
- May not be as durable as the others
Only suitable for back sleepers. They don’t have the loft adjustability to make them suitable for all types of sleeping positions.
8. Latex Pillows
Latex pillows give great support for your head and neck while retaining the soft feel that can only be found with cotton or wool fill.
The latex pillows are breathable and therefore maintain a cool surface to rest your tired head.
The latex pillows have started to rival down pillows in popularity because they are impressive in how they allow you to rest throughout the night.
Pros of Latex Pillows:
- Offer awesome support
- Are semi-breathable so you stay cool throughout the night
Cons of Latex Pillows:
- Could emit some mild rubbery odour
- Are not mouldable hence no matter how hard you try to mould them, they will spring back to their original shape
- A little bit too heavy and dense to be considered cuddly
Only suitable for back and side sleepers. They are not recommended for stomach sleepers because they have a higher loft than the average pillow.
9. Water Pillows
With water pillows, the filler material is water. A water pillow is simply a plastic reservoir that is wrapped using a polyester foam or fibre fill.
Water pillows are popular because they offer unchanging and solid support. The water pillows are surprisingly effective in how they give you a good night sleep.
Pros of Water Pillows:
- Support - As long as you have properly filled the water into the polyester wrapping, water pillows will give your head elevated support throughout the night
- Pain relief - A Johns Hopkins University study has revealed evidence of the benefits of using a water pillow in releasing neck and head pains
- Easily adjustable - This is a big one because it is very hard to find a pillow that is easily adjustable especially on its thickness or thinness. As long as you know how to refill the water into the polyester material, you can easily adjust the size of the water pillow
Cons of Water Pillows:
- Not mouldable - Water cannot be turned or shaped. However much you try to mould the pillow, it will always spring back to its original shape. In short, water will take the shape of the material you put it into.
- Wrapped in too soft fibre fill - Some of the water pillows will be covered with a fibre fill that is too soft. The soft fill may awkwardly push upward into the side of your face while you sleep.
- The potential for leaks - There's nothing as annoying as sleeping on a flat pillow that has leaked water onto your mattress. The mattress will be wet and the pillow will be flat.
Water pillows are best suited for only back sleepers. However, side sleepers might use them as well if the loft is adjustable to their preference.
Here’s an interesting pillow showing you how to get started with a water pillow.
10. Kapok Pillows
Kapok is a tropical tree that is native to Mexico. It is also referred to as Ceiba Pentandra. When the tree flowers, it produces some fluffy cotton like material that contains hundreds of seeds. This material is light brown in colour and soft. This has led it to be called the silk cotton.
The peculiar qualities of the Kapok tree have made it popular as a fill material in life preservers, pillows, and upholstery. Although its use has declined since the polyester and polyurethane foams were introduced, it has recently started experiencing a revival due to its all-natural characteristics.
Pros of Kapok Pillows:
- The materials used as filler in the pillow are all natural and free from toxicity
- Unlike the feathers and down pillows which are extracted from animals, the Kapok materials are naturally harvested from plants
- The material in Kapok pillows is biodegradable and compostable
The pillow is suitable for all sleeping positions. Since the pillowcases come with a zippered opening, you can add or remove the fill as you find suitable for your sleeping position.
Cons of Kapok Pillows:
- Can be highly flammable
- Can develop lumps that are not comfortable to sleep on. (Just like the polyester foam pillows)
- Mouldable and does not hold its shape for long
11. Wool Pillows
Wool has breathable and insulating characteristics that make it suitable for use in different products.
For thousands of years, wool has been used to make products such as clothing, carpets, upholstery, blankets, and other insulating materials.
However, wool has not been used extensively as a filler material in pillows because it has a tendency to clump into balls making the pillow inconsistent and lumpy.
Pros of Wool Pillows:
- Non-toxic; wool comes from sheep
- Breathable; can absorb large amounts of moisture vapour and allow it to evaporate
Cons of Wool Pillows:
- Can produce foul odours in humid environments
- Becomes lumpy and uncomfortable after frequent use
- Not mouldable and cannot hold its shape like the buckwheat and down pillows
- Some people consider using wool inhumane
13. Cotton Pillows
Cotton is a popular material for making all manner of clothing. You would think that cotton filled pillows are popular. Unfortunately, new synthetic pillow memory foams and polyfill have changed the market for cotton. Cotton has been relegated to a distant third in the pillow filling market.
This notwithstanding, a cotton pillow is preferable because it is safe and it is a better alternative to petroleum-based filling materials which have the potential to be toxic.
Pros of Cotton Pillows:
- They are safe. Cotton has no known toxic materials like those found in other foam pillows
- It is odour free
- It breathable, thus providing a cooling effect unlike other types of pillows
- It is cruelty-free unlike wool and down pillows
- It is biodegradable and compostable, hence environment-friendly
It can be used for all sleeping positions since it has a zippered opening where one can add filler material as he sees fit
Cons of Cotton Pillows:
- Upon use, it flattens and clumps
- It is not mouldable and thus can’t hold shape
- Unlike other types of pillows, it can’t give effective support to the head and neck
This guide has a lot of information to process, but it is important to know the quality of the pillow you buy. Remember that you will spend approximately 8 hours every day lying on that pillow. By choosing the right pillow, you are guaranteeing your guests and yourself a good night sleep.
Photo Courtesy: Pixabay