Best Pillow Buying Guide - Consumer Reports (2023)

Fluffy, white, rectangular, soft. Many pillows may look roughly the same, but they vary greatly in how supportive they are. A great pillow for someone who sleeps on their back can be a terrible one for someone who sleeps on their side. And if your pillow doesn't give your head and neck the right amount of support, it can lead to restlessness and strain, leading to abad night's sleep.

Consumer Reports regularly adds modelsour pillow reviews, with a recent update adding pillows from Amazon, Avocado, Serta, Sleep Number and other brands. We looked at how good pillows from the same manufacturer compare (Check out our opinion on MyPillow Classic vs. MyPillow Premium) and some testedadjustable cushionsto see if they are worth the price. To learn more about our top rated pillows, read our reviews of thebest pillows from our tests.

So how can you determine which pillow is right for you? And should replacing your pillow be on your to-do list? Read on to learn the factors to consider, the differences in pillow fillings, and the different brands you'll see in stores and online.

How we test pillows

Consumer Reports uses 13 tests to rate pillows, including some that involve human subjects. (Check out our full pillow reviews here.) “We blend scientific data with human input to capture the more subjective aspects of a pillow,” says Chris Regan, who oversees pillow testing at CR.

Ratings from both sets of data form a pillow's total score. Our tests evaluate a pillow's supportive power, how breathable its material is, and its resilience or ability to hold its shape. For our support tests, we use test subjects and record the angle at which the head is positioned on the pillow to see how well the pillow supports the head and neck of people of different sizes - petite, average sized and tall or tall - whether they sleep on their side or back.

We have our subjects lie on a pressure mat that we place on top of a pillow on a medium-firm queen mattress so we can analyze approximately 1,600 pressure points; We notice areas where the pillow might be too soft or too firm and where it doesn't support the head.

In our endurance tests, we place an evenly distributed load of 225 pounds on the pillow in a 98.6°F room to mimic body heat and leave it on for 96 hours. These parameters allow us to speed up use so we can see if a pillow is holding up over time. We measure how well each pillow returns to its original shape and firmness.

In our usage and liking tests, we ask a panel of testers to rate the pillows based on a number of criteria, such as: B. whether the pillow adapts well to the head and whether the cover is comfortable. In our permeability test, we use a moisture sensor to measure how breathable a pillow is - some pillows trap moisture between you and the pillow, potentially resulting in an uncomfortable sleep.

Decide what you need

Your answers to these questions will help you find the best pillow for you.

What position do you sleep in?To give your neck and head the support you need, you want a pillow that doesn't tilt your head up or down too much. If you are a back sleeper you may need a flatter pillow than a side sleeper. Stomach sleepers should use a thin pillow so that it doesn't push the neck too high. You want your spine and neck to remain at as neutral an angle as possible, which relieves stress on both, says Dr. Joel Press, chief physiologist at the Specialty Surgery Hospital in New York City. If you tend to alternate between sleeping on your back and lying on your side throughout the night, choose a pillow's firmness based on thatposition in which you fall asleep.

What kind of mattress do you have?You may not think to ask this question, but it is important. If you have a firmer mattress, you want a fuller pillow. If you have a softer mattress, you'll want a thinner pillow. This applies regardless of whether you sleep on your side or on your back. That's because a softer mattress tends to sink your body, so there's less space between your head and the mattress, says Regan. Firmer mattresses keep you from sinking in as much, leaving a bigger gap between the mattress and your neck that needs to be filled.

Are you allergic to certain materials?Some people may be allergic to latex or buckwheat - both of which are fillings that you can find in pillows on the market. According to a study in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, some people may have an allergy to dust mites, which live in synthetic pillow fillings such as polyester fibers rather than down. The use of down and feathers in pillows is regulated, and both are cleaned to ensure they're free of bird allergens like feather dust and mites, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Check the label carefully for the pillow's filling to make sure there is nothing you may be allergic to. Even if you see claims of hypoallergenic materials on a pillow's packaging or label, be careful: there are no federal standards for the term "hypoallergenic." One material that does not usually cause an allergic reaction is synthetic latex. However, according to AAFA, it can release volatile organic compounds or chemicals like formaldehyde and harbor dust mites.

If you are allergic to dust mites and not to the pillow material,You may want to consider purchasing a pillow protector.

Do you sleep hot or cool?If you tend to sweat while you sleep, you want a pillow that breathes and dissipates heat. In our tests, shredded foam or polyester pillows tend to stay cool better than solid foam pillows. And don't fall for pillows with a "cool" gel layer: "Although they may initially make you feel cool, we find with the pillows we test that this property can lock in heat and moisture," says Regan.

Need an adjustable pillow?A relatively new concept, adjustable pillows allow you to make changes to the filling and tailor it to your comfort level - making it less likely that you'll be dissatisfied with a pillow shortly after you buy it. They tend to do better than other pillows in our tests because they can be adjusted to suit your needs. The manufacturer usually includes a guide with instructions for each sleep style. Our guide tells you how to do itCustomize an adjustable pillow to your liking.

Best Pillow Buying Guide - Consumer Reports (1)

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(Video) Consumer Reports: Choosing the best pillow

The main types of pillows in our reviews

Consumer Reports is currently testing polyester and memory foam pillows, as well as latex and kapok pillows.

Best Pillow Buying Guide - Consumer Reports (2)

Polyester pillow

Often referred to as polyester fiber or fill, this is the most common type of pillow you will see on the market and is usually the cheapest. Polyester pillows usually have a filling that looks like cotton. In our testing, they don't hold their shape well - so you might end up replacing this type of pillow more often than other types.

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Best Pillow Buying Guide - Consumer Reports (3)


This is the same material (polyurethane) that many mattresses are made of. Memory foam pillows can be made from a solid layer of this foam or cut up pieces of it. Pillows with memory foam filling tend to be denser than polyester pillows and tend to mold to the shape of your head. In our testing, we found that memory foam pillows may not be as breathable as other pillows, meaning they can get your head a little hot at night.

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Other common pillow fillings

Natural latex is made from tree resin. There is also synthetic latex. Pillows made from both can contain a single layer of latex or parts of it. Based on CR testing of natural and synthetic latex foam in mattresses, latex responds differently to the body than memory foam - it feels more resilient and returns to shape faster after compression.

down or feathers
Down pillows are typically made from goose or duck down. Down is rated by "fill power," which measures the amount of space an ounce of down occupies. The higher the number, the longer it stays firm, although down generally makes a soft pillow that's easy to flatten out. Feather pillows are usually firmer and may not retain as much heat, although the feathers can puncture. So you should test how well the pillow keeps its shape before you buy it.

Buckwheat is a herbal pillow filling made from small, dry seeds. Some people like how a buckwheat pillow conforms to the head and neck, but others may find these pillows too noisy (the seeds rustle when you move) or too stiff.

water filled
These pillows usually have a detachable pouch that you can fill with water to the desired firmness. The outer shell is often made of cotton or polyester. Some sleepers like the pillows to conform to their heads. However, some users have reported water leaking from the pillow's water chamber.

(Video) Consumer Reports: Best pillows for better sleep

i get
This organic fiber from the tropical kapok tree is a silky material that offers a softer, lighter and vegan alternative to down. Its natural wax coating inhibits moisture absorption, making it ideal for people who sweat during their sleep. It also appeals to eco-conscious shoppers, as the kapok filling is harvested from seedpods that fall to the ground - meaning no trees are cut down to collect the fibers.

pillow care

Most pillows in our tests are machine washable, typically on the cold setting. However, before washing, be sure to check the manufacturer's cleaning instructions on your pillow. Some materials, such as B. Foam sheets should not be machine washed.

If your pillow isn't made out of a single piece of foam, fluffing it up every day will help keep it in shape. Check the label on the pillow - some manufacturers recommend putting a pillow in the dryer for a few minutes to fluff the pillow as often as needed.

The AAFA recommends washing pillows in hot water once a month (if the manufacturer allows it) to kill dust mites.

Keep reading our complete guideHow to wash a pillow by type of material.

Pillow shopping tips

Whether you go to a store or order online, once you get your hands on the pillow, here's how to do it.

Run the squeeze test.Just because a pillow's label says it's "firm" or that it's suitable for side or back sleepers doesn't mean it's the right support for you. Go one step further and do your own strength test. If you're in a store, place the pillow on a flat surface and use your palm to compress it to about half its original thickness. The more pressure you have to apply, the firmer the pillow will be. Do the same test at home and try the pillow on your bed.

fluff is.Pillows with fillers inside instead of, say, a single piece of foam can lose their shape and lead to uncomfortable sleep. So after you've tested a pillow's firmness, shake it up to see if it will return to its original shape and thickness. Make sure the filling is evenly distributed over the pillow.

Consider how breathable it is.Most pillows let air through, but the denser the pillow, the less breathable it is. If you tend to sleep warm, look for a pillow with fillings that allow air to circulate, such as cotton. B. polyester filling, feathers or pieces of foam.

Check the coverage.A well-made cover will help a pillow last longer. Look for clean stitches, straight seams and piping that reduce wear on edges. Some pillows have zippers, making it easy to adjust the filling and clean the cover. A tightly woven cover protects the filling.

LBe aware of return policies and trial periods.Not every pillow manufacturer or retailer offers returns or trial periods, although some do. For example, MyPillow offers a 60-day refund policy. See what the rule is on a pillow before you buy it.

pillow brands

Allied Home is the bedding division of Allied Feather + Down. It manufactures pillows filled with down, feathers and polyester. Pillows in its synthetic line range from $5 to $12, and the feather-filled pillows range from $8 to $19. Down pillow prices range from $19 to $60 depending on the fill quality.

Amazon Basics launched its pillow products in 2017. These pillows are made with polyester filling and range in price from $16 to $47.

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Avocado is a mattress startup that uses natural and organic materials in its bedding. The brand's pillow fillings include kapok fiber filling and GOLS organic certified latex, and range in price from $49 to $99.

Beckham Luxury Linens cushions are primarily sold through the brand's website and on Amazon. Fillings include gel foam, memory foam, and polyester. Prices range from $36 to $60 for a set of two pillows.

Casper pillows are available on the company's website and at select Target stores. The mattress-in-a-box maker offers three types of pillows: a down pillow, a foam pillow, and a polyester pillow. Casper offers a 30-night sleep trial for his pillows. Prices range from $65 to $179 per pillow.

This bedding company sells pillows through its website, Amazon, and through independent chiropractic offices. It offers a variety of pillow sizes and shapes, and most are filled with chunky memory foam and polyester filling. Coop Home Goods is offering a 100-night trial with free shipping and free returns. Standard bed pillow prices at Coop Home Goods range from $72 to $96 per pillow.

The Swedish company opened its first store in the United States in 1975. Its pillows are typically made of polyester, down, memory foam, or foam. Prices range from just over $2 to $90.

Made by Design cushions are only sold at Target. This brand offers pillows of various sizes with cotton blend, polyester, feather and foam fillings. For those unsure about their purchase, be careful: items that are opened or damaged may not qualify for a refund or exchange, so you could be stuck with these cushions. Prices range from $6 to $35 per pillow.

Mainstays is a private label of Walmart. The pillows are typically filled with polyester fibers. Walmart offers refunds for pillows within 90 days of purchase, provided you have the receipt. Prices for these pillows start at just over $2 and go up to $8 per pillow.

Founded by a married couple, Malouf started making cushions in 2005. It offers pillows with latex, memory foam, and polyester fillings ranging in price from $40 to $190 in stores and online.

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Member's Mark Hotel Premier Collection is the house brand of Sam's Club. Its pillows are filled with high-quality down alternative fill polyester and are only available in queen and king sizes. At Sam's Club you can return pillows with a receipt. Prices range from $17 per pillow for queen to $20 for king.

You'll recognize MyPillow as a popular infomercial brand. MyPillows consist of a patented foam filling and are available in stationary stores and online. The company offers a 60-day refund policy. Prices range from $40 to $80 per pillow.

The Purple Pillow line was launched in 2016 to complement Purple's mattress and bedding offerings. The company currently offers four pillows ranging in price from $49 to $159. Purple pillow fillings can be made from Purple's proprietary Purple Grid silicone and synthetic fibers, latex, or polyester fiberballs.

Sealy, one of the largest mattress manufacturers, produces a few lines of pillows. Sealy pillows are sold at major retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl's, as well as sleep specialty stores. The pillows are available with memory foam, down alternatives, cotton, polyester and gel foam fillings. The return policy depends on the retailer. Prices range from $8 to $70 per pillow.

Serta is another of the biggest mattress brands. His pillows are available at mass-market chains like Sears, sleep specialty chains, and furniture stores, and range in price from $30 to $129.

Sleep Number by Select Comfort is best known for adjustable air beds with DualAir technology, which allows users to adjust the level of firmness on each side of the bed. However, the brand's pillows don't have adjustable air pockets and are instead made of polyester filling or a combination of foam and polyester. His pillows are priced from $50 to $250.

Tempur-Pedic pillows are sold in Tempur-Pedic stores and online, as well as in specialty stores. These pillows are made from a single layer of foam or multiple layers of memory and gel foam. There is no right of return for cushions unless the product is damaged at the time of delivery or there is a product defect. Tempur-Pedic pillow prices range from $50 to $270 per pillow.

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