The 6 Best Rated Pillows of the Year

If you’ve ever slept in a hotel or a guest room with horrible pillows, you know that this piece of bedding simply cannot be ignored. Though it’s common to think more about the importance of a quality mattress for getting a good night’s sleep, your pillow also has a huge impact on your comfort and spinal alignment.

Some people may think that all pillows are created equal, but the truth is that there’s a tremendous range of materials that can be used to make a pillow, and these materials directly influence how that pillow will feel.

This guide will help you understand why a good pillow matters, what your pillow options are, and which are the best pillows of 2018.

What are the Best Pillows of 2018?

BrandBrand/ModelType of PillowLoft LevelPrice
Nest Bedding Easy BreatherShredded Memory FoamAdjustable$109
Layla PillowKapok + Shredded Memory FoamMedium$99
Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft PillowShredded Memory FoamAdjustable$70
Malouf Z Talalay Latex PillowTalalay Latex2 Choices: Low or High$135
Leesa Hybrid PillowMicrofiber + Ventilated GelAdjustable$125
Brooklyn Bedding Premium Shredded Foam PillowShredded Memory Foam + Shredded LatexAdjustable$40

Nest Bedding Easy Breather

Why we like it:

  • Tencel cover improves temperature regulation
  • Thick layer of shredded foam offers plenty of loft
  • Ability to remove foam provides huge flexibility in reducing loft
  • 100-night in-home trial with free returns

The Easy Breather pillow from Nest Bedding is a popular choice thanks to its simple design and quality materials. It is made with an exterior of Tencel Blended fabric of .5” in thickness. Tencel offers a smoothness and helps with keeping the pillow cool. Inside is 8” of shredded memory foam.

The pillow is adjustable, meaning you can unzip it to remove some of this material if you want less loft. Shredded memory foam can also be molded to help make the pillow fit the shape that you need. For these reasons, this pillow can work for sleepers in all sleeping positions, though it is generally best for back and side sleepers.

It comes with a 100-night trial, too, during which you can return the pillow for a refund if you don’t like it.

The Layla Pillow

Why we like it:

  • Uses unique mix of Kapok and memory foam
  • Copper-infused cover helps with cooling
  • 120-night in-home trial period
  • Solid loft level for back and side sleepers

 

The Layla pillow comes with a number of features that help it stand out from other offerings on the market. For example, its interior materials are a mix of Kapok and shredded memory foam. Kapok is made from the seed pods of Kapok trees with a lofty yet soft feel. When combined with memory foam, it gives the pillow excellent responsiveness and support.

In addition, the exterior has copper woven in to improve cooling and antibacterial properties. With a 120-night sleep trial, this is a strong consideration for those who want a pillow that is firm yet responsive and with medium loft.

Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Foam Pillow

Why we like it:

  • Loft level can be easily adjusted by removing some shredded foam
  • Cover of bamboo-derived rayon and polyester boosts breathability
  • Inner liner that helps with moldability and airflow
  • 100-night satisfaction guarantee

The Coop Home Goods Adjustable Memory Foam pillow is one of the most popular pillows sold online thanks to its quality of design and performance, especially at its price point.

It is made with a cover that is a blend of rayon and polyester that, along with an inner liner, keeps the pillow breathable. The shredded memory foam contours to your head and is malleable, and at the same time, material can be easily removed for those who want less loft (such as stomach sleepers).

Malouf Z Talalay Latex Pillow

Why we like it:

  • Cover from polyester and rayon increases breathability
  • Aerated latex improves airflow and prevents overheating
  • High-end Talalay latex for excellent performance
  • Offered in Plush or Firm options for comfort
  • Offered in Low or High loft

The Malouf Z pillow employs high-quality Talalay latex to offer a different feel in a pillow. Talalay latex is known for being both responsive and soft at the same time, allowing it to provide comfort and support to your neck and head.

Customers can choose between two options for firmness (Plush and Firm) and two options for loft (Low or High), meaning that there are versions of this pillow that can work for sleepers in any position.

Leesa Hybrid Pillow

Why we like it:

  • Made with two different sides to easily adjust feel
  • One side is cooling with ventilated gel
  • Other side has soft polyester microfiber
  • Pillow insert is removable to adjust firmness and loft
  • Tencel blend cover helps improve breathability and softness
  • 100-night trial

This pillow from Leesa, one of the biggest names in online mattresses, combines numerous unique features that make it distinct from your old, everyday pillow.

It has two distinct sides, offering a cooler feel from ventilated gel or a softer feel from polyester microfiber. The quilted style helps hold material in place, and the pillow insert can be taken out to change the firmness and loft level.

Brooklyn Bedding Premium Shredded Foam Pillow

Why we like it:

  • Blend of shredded memory foam and latex
  • Memory foam is gel-infused to improve cooling
  • Removable filling allows for loft level to be adjusted
  • 120-night trial period

 

The Brooklyn Bedding Shredded Foam pillow offers a combination of memory foam along with latex, giving it a mixture of responsiveness and firmness that achieves a high level of support and comfort for most sleepers.

The pillow comes overstuffed, but the foam can be removed to adjust the pillow to your needs. In addition, both the cover and the gel-infused memory foam helps to keep the pillow cool. At a price point below many similar pillows, this represents an excellent value, and it comes with a 120-night trial period to boot.

Pillow Buying Guide

Before choosing the right pillow, there are a handful of factors to take into account including the pillow size, loft, and composition. 

Pillow Sizes

In general, pillows are sold in 6 different sizes, as shown below:

Pillow SizeDimensions
Standard20” x 26”
Super Standard20” x 28”
Queen20” x 30”
King20” x 36”
Body54” x 20”
Toddler14" x 20"
  • Standard: what most people are used to and compatible with virtually all pillowcases.
  • Super Standard: less common but ideal for people who want added width compared with a standard.
  • Queen: a larger size and a better fit for a larger bed as 2 queen pillows stretch across a queen bed.
  • King: designed for king beds as 2 king pillows stretch across a king bed.
  • Body: very long and intended to be used to support the body such as for pregnant women or people with back pains.
  • Toddler: extra small for little sleepers.

Pillow Loft – Determining Your Needs

A key factor in determining whether you’ll get what you need out of a pillow is its level of loft. Loft is the thickness of the pillow when it is flat on your bed. Some pillows have a stable loft level while others can have their loft adjusted either by molding the pillow or by adding or removing some of the interior material.

Several factors influence the proper loft level for your pillows. These factors include:

  • Sleeping Position: your choice of sleeping position directly influences how your neck is aligned in relation to the mattress and thus an appropriate amount of loft. The most common position is side sleeping, and people on their side generally need higher loft to keep the head in line with the shoulders. An adjustable loft pillow or one that is moldable to change the amount of loft can also be very useful for side sleepers so that they can make minor modifications to get the right height. Stomach sleepers need a much lower loft pillow because they are lying flat and flush with the mattress. A pillow that is too tall can cause unnatural arching or bending of the neck in a stomach sleeper, so a lower loft pillow (including adjustable pillows) serve these sleepers best. Back sleepers, who are also flush with the mattress, also generally do not want too much loft in a pillow because of how it can cause craning of the neck.
  • Head Size: the larger someone’s head is, typically the more loft that they will need since they will tend to put more pressure on the pillow. Additional loft, then, helps to prevent the pillow from compressing too much.
  • Body Shape and Size: people who have a bigger frame and who weigh more (generally 200 pounds or more) are more likely to sink into a mattress, which means that they need a pillow with lower loft. If they use a high loft pillow but their body sinks into the bed, then there will be an exaggerated bending or elongation of the neck, which can potentially lead to aches and pains. On the flip side, a lighter person who won’t sink into the bed much at all will probably be better served by a higher loft pillow.
  • Firmness of the Mattress: as a general rule, the firmer your mattress, the higher the loft that you want because you will be less prone to sinking into the bed. People who have very plush mattresses should err toward a lower loft pillow or a pillow that has an adjustable loft level.
  • Shoulder Width: this matters mostly for side sleepers. For side sleepers with very broad or wide shoulders, higher loft is usually necessary since the space between the mattress and the head is higher.
  • Placement of the Pillow: there are different ways to rest your head on a pillow. Some people put their head entirely on the pillow while others only put part of their head on the pillow. The level of loft that you need can depend, then, on how exactly you are placing the pillow under your head and how that affects the angle of your neck.

Pillow Types and Materials

To help determine the type of pillow that you want, it’s important to know about all of the various materials that can be used to fill a pillow. The characteristics and performance of a pillow will change based on this material, and in this section we’ll give you an overview of what to expect from each.

Memory Foam

This material, commonly used in mattresses as well, is known for its compression and ability to contour to pressure. In a pillow, this makes it especially attractive as it can give the kind of support your head needs depending on the weight of your head and how you rest it on the pillow.

There are generally three types of memory foam pillows:

  • Shredded: in these, the pillow is filled with many small pieces of foam. This makes the pillow more moldable while retaining its supportiveness. In many cases, a shredded foam pillow will be adjustable, meaning that you can add or remove pieces of foam to change the loft of the pillow. In general, the flexibility of these pillows makes them viable for sleepers in most positions. In addition, shredded foam does not retain as much heat as a block of memory foam, helping the pillow stay cool in the night.
  • Molded: this type of pillow is one single piece of foam, and for this reason it tends to have a higher and more consistent loft. It still will compress to accommodate your head and neck, but it is not moldable in the way that a shredded foam pillow would be. It also tends to retain more heat.
  • Noodle Foam: these pillows have a noodle or wave shape meaning that they look like a long cylinder. These allow you to have a great deal of flexibility in adjusting their shape, but their unconventional size can make them difficult for many people to use as a primary pillow.

Latex

Latex pillows are made with latex rubber that is known for having qualities of both responsiveness and resilience. This resilience means that you are less inclined to feel that your head is sinking into the pillow, but it can still compress to give support.

These pillows tend to be durable and have a higher loft but generally have limited ability to be re-shaped. Most latex pillows are molded and made of one piece of latex, but there are some pillows that are made with shredded latex. As with memory foam, shredded latex has more moldability and retains less heat.

Polyfoam

Polyfoam is a broad category of foam products that is distinct from memory foam. Polyfoam can be manufactured to have a wide range of different characteristics including some types of polyfoam that takes on some of the characteristics of memory foam.

These pillows tend to be lower cost than memory foam and usually do not have quite as much sink. They can be a viable option for sleepers in any position depending on the loft level of the pillow and whether it is adjustable.

Down

Down pillows are made with feathers from ducks or geese and specifically with the down feathers, which are from the underside of the plumage. These pillows are known for being soft, light, and easily molded. While they have a greater loft, they tend to compress a lot and can be adjusted to take on different forms.

Many side sleepers and some back and stomach sleepers like down pillows, but others may find it tedious to keep reshaping them. They also tend to be more expensive, and some people have allergies to them.

Down Alternative

Down alternative pillows are designed to have a performance and feeling akin to down but without using actual down feathers. To accomplish this, pillow makers usually employ synthetic fabrics that are much cheaper and do not have issues with stoking allergies.

Overall, they capture much of the moldability and lightness of down that works well for sleepers who want to be able to adjust their pillow into many different shapes through the night. However, down alternative pillows usually do not last as long as true down and may not be quite as soft.

Buckwheat

Thousands of small buckwheat husks are used to make buckwheat pillows. While each of these husks feels hard, when they are combined in a pillow, they offer a surface that is at the same time supportive and firm.

The husks can be pushed around to make the pillow moldable and usable for sleepers in most positions. The nature of the filling also makes these pillows naturally breathable and unlikely to retain heat. This combination of features leads sleepers of all positions to seek out buckwheat pillows.

The only downsides are that they can be expensive and can also be noisy in the night (from the movement of the husks), so they may not be the best choice for people who are easily disturbed by noise while sleeping. The firmer loft level may be an issue for some stomach and back sleepers, depending on the amount of filling.

Cotton

A low-cost option, cotton pillows are stuffed with this ubiquitous textile. Cotton tends to be fluffy and moldable, but it has limited ability to offer real support and tailored contouring that comes from many other pillow types. Cotton also absorbs heat and is poor at moisture-wicking, so people who are concerned about temperature may find cotton to be problematic.

In general, a thin cotton pillow is most likely to work for a back or stomach sleeper who needs less overall support than for a side sleeper who puts more pressure on the head and neck.