Shopping for the perfect pillow: Here’s everything you need to know

Struggling to get a good night's sleep? It may be time to update your pillow.


Pillows are an important part of your bedding as they help to keep your neck and spine properly aligned as you sleep. However, pillows are not a one-type-suits-all affair. We take a look at which type of pillow suits your individual sleep style to help you get a good, comfortable night's snooze.

Which pillow is best for you?

Choosing the right pillow should ultimately be based on what is comfortable for you. However, there are things that you should consider before you shop. According to The University of Rochester's Medical Centre, each sleeping position puts a different type of strain on your posture that a certain type of pillow can help to alleviate:

Stack of pillows Image: Getty Images

Side sleepers. When sleeping on your side, you need to ensure that your spine is properly supported. A firm to extra-firm pillow made from materials such as latex and foam will help to ensure that your spine remains at a consistent height while you sleep.

Tummy sleepers. Sleeping on your front can put your spine out of position, putting pressure on your back. A soft, flat pillow will help this by supporting your head and neck without elevating them too far.

Back sleepers. The main concern for back sleepers is pressure on the neck. A medium to firm pillow made from foam is your best bet to stop your head and neck from being thrown too far forwards while sleeping in this position.

Combination sleepers. If you have a tendency to sleep in multiple positions, consider either a soft to medium pillow or one that is a little lower in the middle than it is on the sides. That way you can use the low, middle section when sleeping on your front or back and the firmer parts when you're on your side.

The difference between pillow types

Pillows come in a range of materials, with different types suiting different people. In order to choose the right one for you, it's best to compare them before you start shopping:

Polyester. As mentioned earlier, polyester pillows are great for front sleepers as they are easily flattened. They can be machine-washed unlike natural fill pillows, and they also dry relatively quickly. They do tend to form lumps more quickly than some other materials, though, meaning that you may have to replace them more frequently.

Memory foam. Memory foam moulds to the body in order to support and relieve discomfort in the neck and back. They can also be made to measure and are a great option for those suffering from allergies or asthma. As they retain your head and body shape, it can be hard to swap positions with them, so restless sleepers may want to give them a miss.

Latex. Latex pillows have quite a lot of bounce and spring to them and are considered a cooler and lighter alternative to memory foam. They are incredibly durable, hypoallergenic and shape themselves to your head and neck.

Feathers and down. Down pillows are made from natural fibres and are both soft and easy to shape. They are also breathable and regulate temperature well, making them a great choice if you tend to run a little hot.

Cotton. Another hypoallergenic option, cotton pillows are free from synthetic materials and are much more breathable than synthetics, making them cooler against the skin. They are also machine-washable, but hold a lot of moisture, taking them longer to dry than polyester. Washing cotton pillows can also slightly alter the shape and feel of them.

Wool. Natural, breathable and hypoallergenic, wool pillows act as a natural insulator to keep your body at a constant temperature. They do have a tendency to flatten over time, though and don't contour to body curvature well.

Why you might want to consider a hypoallergenic pillow

Another consideration when choosing the right pillow for you is whether you suffer from allergies or asthma. If you do, you may want to choose a hypoallergenic pillow to minimise your allergy risk.

Pillows can harbor dust mites and allergens that can trigger conditions like asthma and hay fever, meaning that sufferers should choose a pillow that deters dust mites and offers a good level of breathability. Latex and wool are both anti-bacterial and naturally dust-mite resistant, making them great choices. Cotton too is naturally hypoallergenic, making it another option for sufferers.

Those with allergies can also lessen their symptoms by covering their pillow with a dust-mite pillow cover and washing their pillows regularly.

How often should you replace your pillow?

According to Sheridan, you should replace your pillows every 18 months to 2 years to ensure they stay fresh and clean. If you're not quite sure if your pillow needs replacing, try folding it in half and see if it springs back to shape. If it stays folded or takes its time bouncing back, it's time to replace it.

Remember that the eventual wear of the pillow isn't the only reason to replace it, though. Over time dirt, oils and dead skin cells also build up on your pillow. While you can take measures to avoid this, such as washing your pillows or investing in pillow protectors, it's still best to replace them at least every two years.

How to take care of your pillow

Once you've found your perfect pillow, you'll want to keep it in great condition to get maximum wear from it. Most pillows do come with their own set of care instructions, but here are some handy hints to keep yours pristine:

  • Fluff up your pillows daily to keep them fresh and help them retain their shape.
  • You should always wash your pillows as per its care instructions. However, if a water temperature is not stated, wash them in warm water as it is more effective than cold for preventing the build-up of allergens.
  • Place your pillows in direct sunlight and allow them to air to keep them hygienic and fresh.
  • Consider investing in a pillow protector to keep your pillows fresh and stain free and to help them last longer.

Benefits of sleeping with a pillow

Our neck, back and shoulders often encounter quite a bit of strain throughout the day. Without proper support and comfort for our head, this strain can become further aggravated when we sleep resulting in pain, muscle knots and frequent headaches. The right pillow can prevent this by providing a consistent level of support so that your muscles can relax while you sleep.

Pillows can also be used in other ways to increase personal comfort levels while sleeping too. For instance, side sleepers may find that placing a small pillow under the back of their knees will reduce stress on the spine and support the natural curve of the lower back.

Top sites to shop for pillows online

Shop our top pillow picks:

Therapillo™ Flexible Support Memory Fibre Medium Profile Pillow
Therapillo™ Flexible Support Memory Fibre Medium Profile Pillow


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Images: Getty

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