What Pillow Material Is Right for You?

Different types of pillow material have different benefits. Learn what's best for you.

What Pillow Material Is Right for You?

We spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, so having the right pillow is important. Pillows, along with offering a soft place to lay our heads at night, play a pivotal role in neck and back support. In a world where many of us spend hours with our necks in strained and still positions (desk jobs, long commutes, staring at cell phone screens), choosing the right pillow can come as a huge relief to your body.

So where does one begin? While pillow shapes and sizes can be important factors in choosing a pillow, the topmost consideration should actually be given to what the pillow is made of. Pillows come in a variety of materials, ranging from bamboo and buckwheat to memory foam and down. If you’re having trouble deciding what type of pillow to purchase, here’s a breakdown of the five most common pillow materials that can help in your decision-making.

Memory Foam Pillows

Memory foam is one of the most popular pillow types around, and with good reason! Originally discovered by NASA, memory foam reacts to the weight and heat of your body, molding itself around your head and neck. For this reason, memory foam pillows offer a huge amount of physical support to the body, helping to keep the head and neck aligned with the spine.

Memory foam pillows do tend to firmer and heavier than other pillow types, making them harder to travel with and a bit of a problem for those who prefer a softer material. They also tend to be on the pricier end of the spectrum because of their quality. You can purchase memory foam pillows that are made up of one piece of material or shredded memory foam pieces if you want more ventilation.

Bamboo Pillows

When one thinks of pillows, bamboo might not be the first material that comes to mind. However, bamboo pillows do exist, and they are a top choice for those looking for a breathable, hypoallergenic experience. To make a bamboo pillow, the plant is processed and its fibers woven into the final product.

Along with being naturally antimicrobial, meaning that bacteria have a harder time staying attached to its surface, bamboo pillows are also one of the better options when it comes to maintaining a cool temperature. Bamboo is naturally absorbent, and it also offers better micro-venting, so you can rest assured that your pillow will never get too warm.

Down Pillows

Down pillows are another popular choice when it comes to purchasing a pillow. Made from the down of geese and ducks, these pillows can come in a range of densities, making the selection process highly individualized. Down pillows are easy to travel with and provide a good amount of support for the head and neck. They also do well in regulating temperatures.

However, down is a material that will break down over time, and while you can certainly fluff a down pillow when it begins to flatten, eventually they will need to be replaced after too much use. Furthermore, down pillows are not great for warmer climates, as when sweat or liquid is absorbed into them, this quickens the break down of the down material.

Feather Pillows

Feather pillows are one of the most affordable pillow types, making them accessible and easy to find. Because of their lightness, they can be molded, folded, and pressed into all sorts of shapes, which can come in handy if you’re a sleeper with unique support needs.

Feather pillows are also easy to wash, and temperature-wise, they stay cool. One major downside of feather pillows is that they can poke you from time to time, as feather ends push through the fabric. Feather pillows also tend to be flatter than down pillows, not offering as much support.

Buckwheat Pillows

Buckwheat pillows have a large user base in eastern Asia, but they are beginning to grow in popularity in the western world as well. Filled with outer shells of buckwheat seeds, these pillows work similarly to memory foam, easily molding to the head and neck. They also offer a good amount of breathability and air flow.

Because of their material, buckwheat pillows make noise when moved, so if you’re a light sleeper, this may not be the pillow for you. They are also difficult to clean, and if not dried out properly, the shells can rot, leaving you with an unpleasant smell. However, buckwheat pillows are both physically supportive and eco-friendly, making them a good choice for many consumers.

What's the Final Say?

When it comes to choosing a pillow, it’s an individual decision. Depending on your climate, your sleep patterns, and your anatomy, different materials can provide unique benefits to provide you with the best sleep possible.

Resources: Pillow Picker, The Sleep Judge, Tuck