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Home > Home Furnishing Blog / Resources > Guide to Choose the Perfect Pillow

Guide to Choose the Perfect Pillow

Designer Cushions Online IndiaAfter a long day, few things match the simple joy of sliding between softsheets, stretching out on a comfortable mattress, and lying your head on a pillow that gently cradles your head and supports your neck in a properly-aligned position as you drift off into blissful sleep. Choosing that pillow, however, can be an exercise in frustration.

There are so many types of bed pillows; you might feel like you need to take a multiple-choice exam just to choose the right one.

Do you sleep on your side or back? Do you have allergies? Do you need a specialty pillow? And what about the pillow's fill?

You shouldn't need a study guide just to go home with the right pillow, but knowing the various options makes it easier to select a pillow that scores an A+ for superior comfort, support and providing a great night's sleep.

What's your sleep position?

While everyone shifts throughout the night, most people prefer a certain sleeping position. This is important when choosing the right bed pillow.

  • Side sleeper: If you generally sleep on your side, look for a pillow with firm support, a medium loft (the height of the pillow when laid flat on your bed) and a gusset, or insert, that gives extra support and keeps your neck aligned with your spine.

  • Stomach sleeper: Because sleeping on your stomach requires lying with your head turned sharply to the side, you need a pillow that is fairly flat and soft to avoid straining your neck by lifting your head out of alignment with your spine.

  • Back sleeper: If you usually find yourself sleeping on your back, you'll want a pillow that holds your head high enough to avoid a back tilt, yet isn't thick enough to strain your neck. Medium support is best.

How Firm of a Pillow Do You Need?

While your primary sleeping position plays a strong role in determining the best pillow firmness for your needs, personal preference is also important. Some people love nothing more than sinking into a gentle cloud of pillowy softness, while others prefer a pillow not much softer than the stone pillows used by ancient Egyptians. You probably fall somewhere in between.

  • Soft: Natural feathers, down or a mix of two make the softest, most cushiony pillows. Although there are synthetic substitutes for feathers - perfect for those with allergies - they aren't quite as soft as the real thing.

  • Medium: Somewhere in the middle of pillow firmness lie the synthetic fills - usually polyester blends. You'll also find a wide range of alternative pillow fills, including latex, water, buckwheat hulls, microbeads and wool.

  • Firm: If you want it hard, choose a memory foam pillow. These are very supportive and firm, with just enough give for comfort.

Which Size of Pillow do you want?

There are three standard sizes for bed pillows:

  • Standard pillow: 20" x 26" You'll need one standard pillow for a twin bed, two for a full or queen, and three for a king-size bed.

  • Queen pillow: 20" x 30" Two of these will fit perfectly across your full or queen bed.

  • King pillow: 20" x 36" You'll need king-size pillowcases for these large pillows, which fit in pairs across the top of a king bed.

What About Pillow Fills?

There are almost as many types of pillow fills as there are pillows, but no single type is the right choice for everyone. Here are some of the most common fills you'll encounter:

  • Feathers and down: Super-soft, natural and light as a… well, a feather. If you like to have your head disappear into a cloud of softness, this is what you’ll want. Although there are dander-free down pillows and feather-proof pillowcases available, if you are strongly allergic, this isn’t a good choice for your bed.
  • Polyester: The most common synthetic pillow fill, polyester is non-allergenic, inexpensive and washable. Poly/cotton blends tend to be firmer than pure polyester.
  • Pellets: These tiny little polyester beads are also used to fill beanbags and therapy pillows. They make a very comfortable bed pillow that adjusts to your every move, but can be a bit noisy. If you suffer with neck, shoulder or upper-back pain, these pillows can provide relief.
  • Memory foam: Developed to protect astronauts during lift-off, memory foam conforms to your body, offers very firm support and is smooth and soft. It's another good choice for those who have muscle or joint pain in the upper body. On the down side, it is hot, expensive and heavy.

  • Latex: Natural latex is derived from the rubber tree. These pillows are very supportive and dense, but are springier than memory foam, and don’t conform to your body the way foam does. They are a good choice for sleepers with back, neck or shoulder problems, but can initially have a strong odor, are very heavy and often are quite thick.
  • Buckwheat hulls: Very popular in Asia, buckwheat hull pillows feel like beanbags, and adjust to your every move. On the downside, they are heavy, make a crinkly noise, and the hulls tend to crush over time, leading to a flatter, less-supportive pillow.
  • Water: These specialty pillows generally contain an inner core of water, surrounded by a synthetic fill. You can adjust the amount of water inside, thus changing the firmness and loft of the pillow. Water-filled pillows are especially loved by people with neck or shoulder pain, and they are also a good choice for those who prefer a cool pillow. Cons include weight, potential leaks and difficulty in adjusting the amount of water.

Do You Need a Specialty Pillow?

While the majority of pillows sold are the standard rectangles, there are plenty of other shapes to consider. Specialty pillows can have a wide range of fills, though most are polyester or memory foam. Most are specifically designed to help relieve pain or sleep issues.

  • Body pillow: These extra-long pillows are great for pregnant women, fibromyalgia  sufferers or anyone else who finds it difficult to get comfortable at night. Body pillows give comfortable support right where you need it, but take up as much space in the bed as another person.

  • Bed wedge: Shaped like a large triangle, you can use a bed wedge to elevate your upper or lower body. These are good for those with reflux, headaches, sinus issues or swollen feet.

  • Butterfly: Shaped like a butterfly or hourglass, these pillows are popular with those suffering from shoulder or neck pain.

  • Contour: Though there is no standard definition for contour pillow, generally, these pillows are foam or firm poly fill with a shape reminiscent of a valley between two gently curved mountains. One “mountain” is usually lower than the other, allowing sleepers to choose which side best fits their neck. This is another good pillow for those with neck or back pain, and is often recommended by chiropractors.
  • Cervical: Although there is no standard definition for cervical pillow either, it often refers to a pillow with a center depression – somewhat like a cat bed. These pillows are good for side or back sleepers with neck pain, shoulder pain, snoring or other sleep issues.
  • Roll: As the name suggests, these pillows are shaped like a long roll. They are useful for relieving shoulder and neck strain, and are also good for separating or elevating the knees during sleep, propping up injured extremities or using as a travel pillow.

Whatever type of pillow you choose, it should hold your neck in straight alignment with your spine, offer the amount of support most comfortable for your preferred sleep position and just plain feel good when you use it. Regardless of how much you love your pillow, it's time to replace it when it loses its shape or support, the fill breaks down into lumps, or the pillow no longer springs back into position when folded in half.

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