The Best Pillows to Cradle Your Sleepy Little Head
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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 “headfeel,” which is like handfeel 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 in like quicksand, 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 trial period that gives you some leeway to test them out before committing. Ideally both. Because no amount of research can beat trying one out at home. Here, our top picks for the best pillows for just about everyone.
The Best Pillow for Most People
If you don’t come into your 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 just the right amount of sinkage for comfortable sleeping. And it’ll be accommodating for most people whether they sleep on their back, side, or stomach—or, if they’re like many people, prone to doing all three at various points in the night. 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 baggie of extra foam, and it’s easy to add more (or remove foam) until you’ve achieved the perfect amount of height. The adjustable loft is ideal, especially if you’re still trying to figure out what your actual ideal sleep position is in the first place. 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 need to fluff it back up. 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
True to the Tempur-Pedic name, this ergonomic hunk of a neck pillow is made from the sleep brand’s signature cushioning, pressure-relieving Tempur foam. Unlike most pillows that provide a uniform sleep surface, this one has dedicated curves—one larger and one smaller—that prop up your head and neck when you’re side sleeping, or sleeping on your back (with the option to toggle between the two if you need extra height). The shorter end feels like you’re comfortably drifting off to sleep on a carved-out nook or shelf for your head, which is pretty delightful when you’re side sleeping and helps with alignment. Our tester recommends the taller end for slightly more elevation when sleeping on your back, and a little digestion aid if you like to snack at night. Despite the deliciously soft and foamy surface you might associate with Tempur-Pedic, you’ll find that it’s a very supportive pillow, with a firmness to it that ensures your head doesn’t sink in the way it might with a fluffier pillow. As a plus, the Tempur-Neck also comes with a removable and washable cover if you need to pop that sucker off for a wash, along with a five-year warranty.
The Best Luxe Pillow
Some people want huge, fluffy, soft pillows, and who am we 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 Budget-Friendly Pillow
Perhaps you are scrolling through this list and are stunned to discover that most modern pillows cost upwards of $100. Where are the pillows of my youth? you are bellowing right now. The basic, affordable, non-memory-foam kind? Right here, as a matter of fact. At just $40 for a set of two, these Beckham Hotel Collection pillows (no relation to David, Posh, and/or any of their unfairly-good-looking children) might seem too good a deal to actually deliver. And yet, nearly 128,000 five-star Amazon reviews cannot be wrong! Here’s what those reviewers—and GQ’s own reviewer, who loved his initial set of two enough that he shelled out for another pair—fell in love with: They’re soft and comfortable, but still firm enough to not lose their shape; packed with a cooling down alternative that won’t cause your allergies to act up; and just the right height to sleep with one alone or stacked, depending on your preference. If you’re looking for a simple, no-fuss pillow—either for your own bed or to dress up your guest room with—this is the ticket.
The Best Organic Pillow
Birch’s Organic Pillow is ideal for those who care about quality sourcing, and are willing to shell out a little more for some thoughtful fabrication details. It uses an all-natural crushed talalay latex core that comes wrapped in organic wool from New Zealand, one of the best of the best wool suppliers. The temperature-regulating wool gives this pillow a breathable and moisture-wicking exterior, while the organic, eco-friendly production aims to give you a more high-quality, hypoallergenic surface to sleep on (kind of crucial if you want to get through the night).
While most other pillows seem to breeze past the design of the pillow cover, Birch clearly took the time to get it right. The cover uses organic cotton which has a luxurious peachy handfeel that’s so soft, it feels wrong to cover it up. Most importantly, the pillow is dense and super supportive, a bit on the firmer side. For our tester, it was easily the most comfortable pillow he’s tried. Because they’re made-to-order, you’ll have to wait a bit longer to get it shipped to you, but the uptick in quality is undoubtedly worth the delay.
The Best Weird Modern Pillow
This Purple gel pillow is a glorious, 10-pound hunk of ventilated purple polyester made up of tiny triangles. Its space-age design 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 keeps your head aloft with less sinkage involved. 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 we still put goddamn bird parts in our pillows?
10 Other Pillows We Like
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