How to Select a Pillow

9 February 2022

Most people don’t think much about their bed pillows until they wake up one morning and feel as though they have been sleeping on sawdust for the last week, or their bedroom floor is littered with feathers from the holes in the pillow ticking.  The selection of a pillow can be key to a good or bad night’s sleep.

A good pillow provides both comfort and support.  It keeps your head, neck, neck and shoulders in alignment without being propped at an angle that causes twisting or crunching, it will affect the quality of your sleep as well as discomfort.

Choosing a new pillow is a very personal journey.  There are some guidelines to help you choose but in the end, it will come down to what is most comfortable.


There are a number of materials that can be used to fill the pillow.  They are classified by fill power.  A number of 600 or higher signifies a higher quality fill but not necessarily add to its longevity.  Here are some of the more common ones:

  • Down – These are made from goose or duck feathers plus some additives, even if they say “all down”. If you have an allergy to down it usually stems from the fact that the feathers have not been sufficiently cleaned.  There are some advertised as “hypodown” that have been cleaned more thoroughly.  Down pillows are going to be on the expensive side.
  • Synthetic – These will also be soft, but not like down. They tend to flatten more easily and will need to be replaced sooner.
  • Latex – These pillows will hold their shape but if you like to squish your pillow, this won’t respond very well. They are resistant to mold and dust mites.
  • Memory Foam – This is a synthetic that will adapt to the shape of your head, neck, and shoulders. They are popular with those folks who have pain or discomfort in those areas.  Memory foam retains heat and if your head sweats anyway, this can be unsatisfactory.   It can also mean that your sweat will discolor the foam and lead to odors.

Sleeping Position

During the night we all change positions, sometimes more frequently than others.  While you want a pillow that will work for you in multiple positions, try to choose the one that works for the way you most generally sleep.

  • Side – Generally this will call for a thicker, firmer pillow that spans the distance from the ear to the outside shoulder.
  • Stomach – These people will do well with no pillow at all or one that is very soft. Actually using a pillow under the stomach or groin area will help align the spine and prevent back pain.
  • Back – Usually a softer pillow but still provides enough support to keep things in alignment.

If your pillow is stained from sweat, is torn, or has developed an odor, you should consider a replacement.  If the exterior is fine, fold the pillow in half and add a little weight, like a book.  When you remove the weight, it should spring back to shape.  If not, look for a new one.

Happy snoozing!

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