Pillow Buying Guide: How to Buy the Best Pillow for You

The wrong pillow can cause neck pain, cramps in your shoulder muscles, a lot of tossing and turning, and an overall bad night of sleep.

Most of us keep our pillows for a lot longer than we should, using our arms to prop up unsupportive pillows or ignoring those sweat stains we see when putting on pillowcases.

But finding a good pillow is just as important as finding the best mattresses when you're trying to get a good night's sleep.

That's why we wrote this guide. At Slumberland, we help our customers get a better night's sleep, which includes helping them find the right pillow. To help you better understand your options, and narrow down your search for the best pillow for you, this post covers:

If you're ready to get a new pillow you can visit our online store or come and see us in person. When you stop by a Slumberland showroom, our staff of sleep specialists is ready to answer any questions you have.

How Do You Know it's Time for a New Pillow?

Some experts recommend that you change a pillow every one or two years, but those numbers aren't set in stone. Instead, it's better to know the signs that your pillow is ready to be replaced.

Here are a few signs it's time for a new pillow:

  • You frequently wake up with neck pain
  • You get cramps in your shoulder muscles
  • You notice an uptick in allergies that occur mostly at night or in the morning
  • Your pillow (beneath the pillowcase) is stained
  • Your pillow is lumpy
  • When you fold your pillow in half, it doesn’t spring back to its original shape
  • You’re sleeping hot

Just like a mattress, the right pillow is comfortable, supportive, and breathable (so it won’t trap heat). If you’re waking up in pain or can’t sleep well at night because you’re constantly moving your pillow to get the best angle, then it’s time for a new pillow.

Find the Best Pillow for Your Sleeping Position

Knowing your sleeping position is important because that helps decide which pillow loft you should get.

There are four sleeping positions:

  1. Side sleeping
  2. Back sleeping
  3. Stomach sleeping
  4. Combination sleeping

What changes based on your sleeping position is what pillow loft and pillow firmness you should get.

Pillow loft is the height of the pillow. Most of the time, pillow heights are classified as:

  • High loft — A high loft is generally any pillow that is 5.5 inches tall (or even taller). We recommend high loft pillows for side sleepers because that extra height is great for keeping your head parallel to the mattress and filling the gap between your head and the mattress. FYI: If you sleep on your side, check out our post (with product recommendations) on finding the best mattress for side sleepers.

  • Medium loft — A medium loft is for side sleepers and combo sleepers, and will usually be somewhere between 3.5 inches to 5.5 inches in loft.
  • Low loft — A low loft pillow is great for stomach sleepers and back sleepers because it won’t prop your head up (which puts your neck at an awkward angle). Low loft pillows will be shorter than 3.5 inches.

But keep in mind that everything above is just the general rule. Other factors — like your body type — can make a big difference. If you sleep on your side but have a smaller body frame, a medium loft might be more comfortable than a high loft.

Pillow Types and Firmness Levels

There are several different types of pillows available, including, but not limited to:

  • Down pillows — Like the PureCare Sub-0 pillow, down pillows are comfortable and cool. Sometimes down can be unsupportive because the down is hard to keep into a supportive shape. To eliminate that problem, the PureCare down pillow uses premium construction to keep those feathers together, while still giving you the freedom to scrunch up and re-shape your pillow.

  • Down alternative pillows — Made with either polyester fibers or cotton fibers, down alternative pillows do their best to mimic the qualities of down fill pillows. That means these pillows are trying to be as soft and pliable as down, at a much lower price point.
  • Latex pillows — Latex pillows use either natural or synthetic latex layers of foam. Natural latex will cost more, but will also be more durable. Synthetic latex is more affordable — and more common — but doesn’t hold up as long. Out of all the pillows on our list, latex pillows will be the firmest option. Just like latex mattresses, latex pillows won’t have a lot of “give.” When you push into a latex pillow, it’s going to be more sturdy than if you pushed into a feather or memory foam pillow.
  • Adjustable pillows — Adjustable pillows are pillows that you can literally change the loft of by opening them out and taking out some of their core. Usually, this means an adjustable pillow that is full of shredded foam that can be easily removed. Still, adjustable pillows can be a hassle, as you’d ideally get a pillow that adapts to you, not one you have to constantly de-fill and re-fill to get just right. That’s why we prefer memory foam pillows — memory foam is highly adaptive, so it responds to your weight and body shape.
  • Feather pillows — Pillows made of feathers (often goose feathers) can be very comfortable and even feel luxurious, but they also flatten quickly over time and don’t offer a lot of neck support.
  • Memory foam pillows — Memory foam contours to your weight and shape. It also retains its shape over time. Just like memory foam mattresses, memory foam pillows generally score really well at giving you pressure relief and support.

Pillow Sizes

If you type “pillow sizes” in Google, you’ll find a list of up to 25 different sizes. But most people only need to know three sizes.

  1. King size — 20 x 36 in
  2. Queen size — 20 x 30 in
  3. Standard size — 20 x 26 in

A king-size pillow is longer, which fits because a king-size mattress is the widest mattress size. While you can use any size pillow with any mattress, bed sheet sets will come with pillowcases to match (so a king bed sheet set will come with king pillowcases).

There are also specialty pillows that don’t fit neatly into these dimensions, including:

  • Wedge pillows — Imagine a wedge of cheese. That’s what these pillows look like. They are used to prop you up (either your legs or chest) while you’re sleeping. They’re commonly recommended to people with sleep apnea, lower back pain, or upper respiratory illnesses. But if you’re suffering from one of those things, we recommend that you start using an adjustable bed frame.
  • Body pillows — Generally between 48 and 58 inches long, body pillows are much longer than the standard pillow. Body pillows are a great comfort item and are used by side sleepers as a way to keep their knees apart or lift their shoulders off their mattress.

  • Contour pillows — Contour pillows look a bit like a wave. One end is higher than the other. Let’s say one end is 4.5 inches tall, then the other end can be as short as 3 inches. This creates a dip or contour where your head will rest.

Finding the Perfect Pillow at Slumberland

A Slumberland, we carry several different pillows designed to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Here are some of our favorites.

Healthy Sleep Queen Cool-Tech Pillow

Cool Tech High Profile Pillow

The Healthy Sleep Cool-Tech Pillow is available in a high loft, medium loft, or low loft. This means no matter your sleeping position, you can find one that works for you. This pillow is designed to help keep you cool by using temperature regulating pockets. Plus, the fabric you’ll sleep in comfort when you have the Cool-Tech Black high profile pillow. Cool-Tech technology and temperature-regulating pockets cool you as you sleep.


Tempur-Pedic PRObreeze Neck Pillow

TempurBreeze Neck Pillow

This is a neck pillow, sometimes called a contour pillow. It’s perfect for both back and side sleepers because it comes in a medium profile height. And like most Tempur-Pedic mattresses, it has a cool-to-couch cover that’s machine washable. If you need a cooling pillow, this or another PRObreeze pillow is the way to go.


Fabrictech Bamboo Pillow

Fabrictech Bamboo Pillow

The Fabrictech Bamboo Pillow is available as a medium, a firm, and a soft. Each firmness uses a bamboo cover. Bamboo is naturally soft and breathable, making it perfect for a pillow.

The Fabrictech pillow’s core is made of memory foam which cushions and support your neck, shoulders, and head.

These are just some of the pillows we offer. To see our completed selection, browse our pillow category online, or visit one of our Sleep Solutions departments. We can make a personal recommendation based on your body type, specific needs, and sleep position.