Types of Pillows & How to Pick the Perfect Pillow for You

When it comes to quality sleep, we cannot help talking about pillows.

Sometimes you wonder why you can hardly fall asleep, feel achy, uncomfortable, etc. The main reason is likely to be your unsuitable pillows.

There are many types of pillows, made from a range of materials (some now even containing CBD oil!). Today, let’s learn about types of pillows and find out which of them are appropriate for you to solve problems relating to sleep.

And here we go!

Types of pillows

In fact, people can divide pillows into dozens of categories depending on various criteria. Therefore, to make things simpler so you can understand more easily, we will only categorize the most popular types of pillows according to their materials.

1. Down

Down is a group of soft fibers located nearest to the skin of a bird (can be called the “undercoating”) and mainly close to its chest.

Manufacturers often fetch down from a duck, swan or goose. High-end down is often from Hungarian geese or European White geese.

From a central point, clusters of down fan out to trap air and bring about insulation (this also keeps the birds warm).

Because a number of down pillows contain feathers as well, you need to examine the proportion of down to feather carefully.


  • Soft and natural.
  • Lightweight.
  • Appropriate for people who sleep on their stomachs.
  • Heatproof.
  • Long-lasting.


  • Might cause allergies.
  • Expensive.
  • Tricky to clean.
  • Require fluffing to maintain the loft.

2. Down Alternative (Synthetic)

modern bio-polymeric filler for down jacket on a background of dark blue cloth

Down alternative pillows are made from artificial materials such as polyester to mimic real down pillows. 

In fact, they are hypoallergenic but much cheaper than the natural material.

They are also a good choice for those concerned with the unethical process of plucking natural down from species of birds.


  • Effortless to care for.
  • Cheap.
  • Hypoallergenic.
  • Soft and lightweight.


  • Not insulate as well as natural downs.

3. Kapok Fiber

Kapok fibers are the seed pod fluff of Ceiba trees in rainforests. Owing to their buoyant nature, these fibers can be used to fill pillows. 

They are light, soft, and feel like down but are hypoallergenic. However, they may require to be fluffed occasionally and have a decent loft to keep their shape.


  • Buoyant, soft, and light.
  • Naturally hypoallergenic and mold resistant.
  • Environment-friendly (biodegradable).


  • Require fluffing.
  • Catch fire easily.
  • Rather high-priced.

4. Microbead Pillow

If you love ultra-soft cushioning, microbead pillows are for you. As we can infer from its name, these pillows are loaded with soft, tiny synthetic beads that can easily contour to your shoulders, neck, and head. 

Since they are very breathable and shapeable, they are very common and fit all sleeping positions.


  • Suit any sleeping positions.
  • Very light and soft.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Conform to your body at ease.
  • Hypoallergenic.


  • There might be a plastic-like odor initially.

5. Bamboo Pillow

Today, bamboo pillows are in trend.

Most experts praise them for being hypoallergenic, antibacterial, fungus-resistant, repellent to body smells, and keeping users’ skin cool and dry.

There are both cheap and costly options, but all of them are soft and eco-friendly.


  • Adapting to all temperatures, bamboo pillows can be used in all seasons.
  • Repel bacteria, mold, and bad odors.
  • Contour your neck and head, suitable for all sleeping positions.


  • May emit an intense chemical smell that fades out slowly.
  • A little heavy.
  • Failing to dry your bamboo pillow rightly can create bad odors.

6. Polyester

Polyester is the most popular artificial fill for pillows thanks to its softness. 

In spite of just giving average support, this type of pillow is budget-friendly and machine-washable.


  • Soft and comfortable. 
  • Moderately supportive, suitable for back sleepers.
  • Inexpensive.


  • Not preferable for people who like firmness.
  • Gradually become flat or lumpy over time.

7. Memory Foam

Memory foam (or visco-elastic) pillows have polyurethane and chemicals in their components, so sometimes they might emit an uncomfortable smell.

They are very common since their density and responsiveness contour the neck and head of users to fit the pillow while they are lying.

Apart from keeping your neck and spine in alignment, these pillows also recover their normal shapes very fast after you take your head off.

In fact, when it comes to memory foam pillows, there are various shapes and models for different functions.

For example, wedge-shaped memory foam pillows can also tackle health-related sleep matters such as GERD or acid reflux.


  • No clumping.
  • Durable.
  • Come in plenty of shapes and sizes to offer a variety of functions and fit many people.


  • Might generate bad odors.
  • Solid models can cause breathability problems.
  • Not soft enough for people sleeping on their stomachs.

8. Shredded Memory Foam

Like memory foam, shredded memory foam delivers solid support, but it is dramatically more moldable, breathable, customizable.


  • Can be adjusted to the proper loft for optimal comfort no matter what position you lie. 
  • Cool and hypoallergenic. 
  • Dust mite resistant. 
  • Machine-washable.


  • Might smell uncomfortable.
  • Gradually flatten out and need fluffing.
  • Excessive firmness.
  • Hardly dry.

9. Latex

Latex is a kind of rubber extracted from the Hevea-Brasiliensis tree. It is soft, supportive, and quite durable.

Except for products labeled “Made from 100% natural latex”, others will contain polyurethane in their components.


  • Soft and elastic
  • Durable yet biodegradable
  • Can keep shape well
  • Supportive and responsive


  • Can be mixed with polyurethane foam and have a lower quality
  • Might cause allergy to some people
  • A bit heavy
  • Lack of breathability

10. Feather

Feathers filled in pillows are usually taken from backs and wings of ducks or geese.

The strong points of feather pillows are that they are soft and fluffy but still have good firmness and can retain the original shape well.


  • Well-structured and soft
  • Retain original shape well if fluffed
  • Lightweight


  • Might make some users allergic and most feel hot
  • Require fluffing to avoid becoming flat
  • Quills can poke out of the pillow cover and irritate users.

11. Water

Simple as its name, this kind of pillow is filled with 100% water!

It is easy to find out that water pillows are cool and will never lose their shapes.


  • Highly consistent
  • Hypoallergenic.
  • Conform to your head and neck.
  • Users can easily increase or reduce the amount of water as desired.
  • No fluffing involved.


  • Water leakage is annoying.
  • Prone to be too stiff for those who sleep on their stomachs.

12. Gel

Gel pillows are filled with gel and are just as cool, firm, and consistent as water pillows. However, the gel component can be re-shaped to add more comfort.

Many kinds of pillows, such as memory foam pillows, can come with a gel layer around them to have the advantages of two materials at the same time.


  • Easy to maintain
  • Deliver cool feeling
  • Relieve pressure
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Easily combine with various fillings to have more benefits


  • Feel unnatural

13. Cotton

Cotton is absorbent, firm, and hypoallergenic. However, as it is prone to be compressed and become stiffer as well as absorb sweat over time, it is not a popular filling.


  • Hypoallergenic.
  • Breathable and absorbent.


  • Require frequent cleaning.
  • Cannot keep shape well.
  • Hardly contour to your neck and head.

14. Wool

As a natural fiber fetched from sheep, wool is fluffy and good at regulating body temperature. A wool pillow might become hardened because of compression over time, but it can still be supportive.


  • Can regulate body temperature.
  • Renewable and eco-friendly.
  • Naturally resistant to dust mite, bacteria, and fire.


  • Dry clean only
  • Can absorb bad odors

15. Buckwheat

Buckwheat hulls make pillows not only hypoallergenic and breathable but also conform to your neck and head to keep your spine in alignment.

They are more and more common, although they are a bit noisy.


  • Supportive and moldable.
  • Hypoallergenic.
  • Incredibly breathable.
  • Organic material.


  • Rather heavy.
  • It is a bit crunchy and noisy when the hulls rub against each other.
  • Not suitable for stomach sleepers.

How to Pick the Perfect Pillow for You

Your suitable pillow must deliver proper support and keep your spine aligned. Thus, let’s rely on the below tips to find out the right one for yourself.

1. Material: If you are prone to be allergic, always examine the packaging to see what materials are used and whether you have any trouble with them.

Also, consider whether you love the firmness of memory foam or the floppiness of feathers or anything else.

2. Size: Think about the dimensions of your bed as well as your body size to determine what thickness, width, or length is most convenient.

Since your neck curves forward naturally to support your head, you had better keep the same curve while you are sleeping.

Therefore, too high pillows are likely to make your neck bend unnaturally and cause strains on your shoulders and neck if you are a sideways or back sleeper.

3. Temperature: Some kinds of materials such as memory-foam, if in high density, can retain your body heat. Hence, they can make your hot and uncomfortable, even pour sweat like rain during hot months.

4. Preferred Sleep Position:

  • In case you are a back sleeper, you should use a moderately soft and low pillow to support your neck and keep your head at the same level as your upper back and spine.
  • If you sleep on sideways, your perfect pillow should mold to your neck shape and elevate your head high enough to remain your spine in alignment.
  • Provided that you sleep on your stomach, you should put a slim and flat pillow beneath your head and one below your hips.


1. I always sleep on a side, can you suggest some good kinds of pillows for me?

Your preferable options should be a high and firm pillow to alleviate the space between your neck and shoulder while you are lying.

For filler material, we recommend memory foam and latex. You can know you are sleeping on the right pillow by trying lying on it and feel the alignment of your shoulder and neck.

2. Sometimes I sleep on my side, but sometimes I sleep on my back. What is the perfect type of pillow for me?

A medium-high pillow made filled with memory foam, or latex may be great for you. Try lying on your sides and back with such kinds of pillows in the stores to see which is more suitable.

3. I feel my ears painful after sleep. Is there any kind of pillow to solve that problem?

Perhaps you are putting too much pressure on your ears when you are lying on them. You should use a soft pillow such as a memory foam pillow to reduce the stress or special pillows with a hole in the center for people with painful ears.

4. I often sleep on my stomach, and I have some neck problems, what kind of pillow is suitable for me?

Since sleeping on the stomach creates a vast amount of pressure on the back, you should try to change your sleep position.

Still, unless you can change, you had better opt for a slim flat pillow.

5. If I sleep in all positions, what type of pillow should I buy?

A polyfill or memory foam pillow of medium size is the most versatile choice, so we suggest it for all-position sleepers.

Wrapping Up

So as we have discovered, the world of pillows is bigger than most of us think. Therefore, don’t rush to a decision or limit yourself with merely several selections.

Spend some time to research types of pillows you can buy and ensure that your future pillows suit your particular requirements and preferences.

It is a good idea to possess more than one kind of pillow on your bed, too.

Comment below to tell us your opinions or ask us if you have any questions.

Thanks for reading!