How to Buy a Pillow

You deserve a good night's sleep, and choosing the right pillow can help get you there. Whether it's filled with down or created with memory foam, a comfortable pillow can complement the perfect mattress. All it takes is diagnosing your sleeping position, choosing a support level and picking a fill type to provide better rest during the night.

Selecting the right fill type comes down to personal preference. Select a down-feather pillow if you want something soft and fluffy. If you prefer a little firmness, go with a synthetic fill. If you want more support, choose a memory foam pillow. It will prevent your head from shifting or drooping at awkward angles.

If you sleep on your back, choose a pillow with medium support. It will aid in your spine's natural curvature and also provide support under your head, neck and shoulders. Side sleepers require firm support and a pillow that contours and cradles their head and neck. If you're a stomach sleeper, choose a soft pillow to prevent your head from turning unnaturally to either side.

  • Sleeping position
  • Support
  • Fill
  • Bed size

When you're ready to purchase a new pillow, you should keep these four things in mind:


Choose the Right Pillow Size and Shape

  • Standard-sized pillows measure 20 inches wide and 26 inches long. They fit well on both twin and twin XL beds.
  • Queen-sized pillows have the same width but measure 30 inches in length. Use these pillows on double and queen beds.
  • King-sized pillows measure 20 inches wide by 36 inches long. It would take three standard-sized pillows to replace two king-sized pillows on a California king bed.
  • Body pillows measure 50 inches in length or more. When lying on your side, use a body pillow to elevate your top leg. It will take the weight off your hips and provide greater comfort.
  • Lumbar pillows have a cylindrical shape and vary in length. Though they're mostly used in office chairs, you can also place them beneath your back as you lie down.
  • Contour pillows mimic the natural curve in your neck and help with sleep apnea.

It's normal to choose a pillow that's in direct proportion to your bed size. For a twin bed, most people select one standard-sized pillow. For a queen bed, having two standard- or queen-sized pillows works best. The larger your bed size, the more pillows you will need.


Pay Attention to the Thread Count

A pillow with a 300 thread count will not feel as comfortable as a pillow with a 500 thread count; however, you'll pay a lesser amount for the lower count. Pillows with 800 or 1,000 thread counts provide a luxurious sleeping experience but come with a high price tag.

A pillow's thread count refers to the number of vertical and horizontal threads it has in every square inch. To put it simply, the more threads your pillow has, the more luxurious and durable it will be. As with fill types, pillows come with many different thread counts, each one relating to a pillow's overall cost.


Choose Your Pillow Filler

The saying goes, "It's what's inside that counts," which couldn't be more true when referring to pillows. It's the inside filler that provides the support for your head and neck, taking the weight off your shoulders during the night. Pillows come with many different fillers, including duck feathers, but synthetic fills created with polyester are the most common today.

Down pillows are very soft and cost more than polyester fills. They're also combined with goose feathers to provide more weight and firmness. Without added feathers, the down would be too soft and light to use on its own as a pillow.

Memory foam pillows don't lose shape as quickly as other pillows do. In fact, they conform to your head and neck and provide greater support during the night. Foam pillows range in price but have become a popular replacement to traditional feather- and polyester-filled pillows. In addition, foam pillows come in different types to suit your exact comfort level:

Polyester fills are less expensive compared to other fills and provide a firm yet comfortable springiness. However, synthetic-filled pillows don't conform to your head or last as long compared to more expensive fills.

Other Types:
  • Latex foam pillows are hypoallergenic and provide firm neck support.
  • Gel foam pillows have gel beads for keeping the pillow cooler during the night.


Make Your Choice

It doesn't matter if you have the most comfortable mattress in the world. If you're using the wrong pillow, you're not getting the restful night's sleep that you deserve. Having the right pillow changes everything and means the difference between waking up refreshed and feeling a crick in your neck. A pillow should support your head and neck whether you sleep on your back or your side. If the pillow looks flat and doesn't have the same fluffiness as it once did, it's time to let it go and find a suitable replacement.