Best Pillows Updated November 2020
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Pillow
Buying a pillow can be difficult because there are so many different factors to consider. Here we break down the most important factors we found through hours of research and product analysis.
While pillows have long come with pre-determined levels of fill, some pillows are now adjustable, allowing consumers to change the loft of the pillow by removing or adding fill material or layers of padding. We consider this a must-have feature for all future pillow buys, which is why all our top recommendations are adjustable.
Adjustability is important because everyone has different needs. Consumers have unique body types and sleep positions, and it doesn't make sense to buy one-size pillows when clothing comes in a variety of sizes. Adjustable pillows are the tailored fit of pillows, providing bespoke levels of comfort based on each individual consumer's preferences. Without having a custom fit, pillows can be too flat or too tall, and this can cause trouble sleeping or even physical pain.
Adjustable pillows can use different layers or loose fill material to achieve their goal. The pillows with loose fill material, such as shredded memory foam or polyfiber pillows, work best because of the ability to micro-adjust. Pillows with different layers may also have layers that slide around during the middle of the night, resulting in unwanted movement and a pillow that is no longer correctly adjusted.
Pillows have been made with all sorts of materials throughout history, starting with wood and stone. Eventually, people started using softer materials, and soft pillows became a status symbol for those who could afford them. Down and hay were both popular, with down being the gold standard for its softness. Now, modern materials have largely taken over, and we see a range of materials including memory foam, polyfiber (often referred to as down alternative), down and feathers, latex, buckwheat husks and kapock fur.
The downside to down and down alternative pillows is that they can go flat and require frequent fluffing. Many consumers report not having enough support in their pillow. On the other hand, memory foam pillows can sometimes be too firm. To get the perfect combination of softness and structure, many pillow companies now mix memory foam and polyester. We found these pillows to provide the most comfortable support relative to other materials, and all our top recommendations are made of shredded memory foam combined with polyester fiber, with the exception of the last pick, which is only made of shredded memory foam.
Today, memory foam has become the standard for pillow support while down alternative is the standard for soft pillows. Combining both into a single pillow provides an incredible sleep experience.
Pillows can come in all sorts of shapes now. Some are contoured to fit the neck and head. Others wrap around or use gussets to provide elevation. Despite all the new shapes available, we believe the original rectangular pillow shape is still the best.
Pillows with specific contours are designed to hold the sleeper in specific positions. This doesn't work if people move around at night. Even for people who don't usually toss and turn while sleeping, a pillow should still be able to support small movements. Contoured pillows with a very specific shape can also be unsuitable for anyone that doesn't have the same body size and shape that the pillow was intended for.
The other consideration is that the traditional rectangular pillow shape will easily fit in a pillow case and look attractive on a bed. Though this may be a smaller consideration, we believe the ability to use any pillow case over a pillow can be important for people who value aesthetics. With all of the considerations in place, we are confident in recommending the Saybrook pillow to the vast majority of consumers.