A good pillow is essential to getting a good night’s sleep. Even if you’re not waking up with aches and pains, if you’re constantly readjusting your pillow throughout the night, it may be time for a new one. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for pillows — every sleeper is different — a good pillow can help you stay asleep and prevent a sore neck or back.
In order to find the best pillows, we slept on various types including down, down alternative, memory foam, latex and adjustable pillows. We narrowed down numerous pillow options on the market, tested 10 of the most popular pillows and found the three pillows stood out from the rest.
The Parachute down alternative pillow has a soft and squishy fill that never got lumpy, even after multiple nights of sleeping and washing. We found the medium firmness pillow soft and supportive for both back and side sleeping, and firmer and softer versions are available for those needing more or less support.
The plush, cloud-like Garnet Hill Heirloom pillow is 100% down, making for a silent and extra-comfortable sleeping experience. Unlike some other down pillows we tested, it keeps its shape through the night, with no flattening, and it comes in soft, medium and firm densities to suit your needs for support.
Best pillow overall: Coop Home Goods The Eden
$96 at Coop Home Goods
The Eden adjustable pillow from Coop Home Goods is one of the most popular pillows on the internet, getting praise for its comfort and adjustable fill. Like many adjustable pillows, you can add or remove as much or as little foam as needed to get the exact height and firmness level you desire. That’s one of the biggest reasons this pillow took the top spot in our testing, since it can be customized to fit different firmness and pillow height preferences, accommodating various body frames.
- Memory foam
- Adjustable fill
- Sizes available: queen, king
Out of the box, the pillow may seem like it doesn’t have enough fill, though it does come with a small bag of extra foam. However, following the brand’s suggestion, we gave it a wash and dry and the foam fluffed up a lot, to some two to three times its original size, so whether you like a firm or soft pillow you’ll have plenty of fill. For side and back sleeping we found that we had to remove some of the fill to get the desired level of support.
It took a few nights of sleeping on the pillow and adjusting the fill level to get the correct amount for us, but once we found that level, the Coop Home Goods Eden pillow was quite comfortable. The fill is shredded memory foam with microfiber which makes it feel more uniform and plush, rather than pillows only filled with shredded foam that can feel lumpy. The company’s literature says the memory foam is infused with cooling gel; while we didn’t necessarily feel the cooling through the pillow cover, we also didn’t overheat throughout the night.
The only drawback to this pillow is that it comes only in queen or king sizes, so if your favorite pillowcase is standard size it may not fit well.
Best down alternative pillow: Parachute Down Alternative Pillow
From $79 at Parachute
The Parachute down alternative pillow is available in three firmness levels: soft, medium and firm. The brand recommends soft for stomach sleepers, medium for combination sleepers and firm for back sleepers. We tried the medium pillow for stomach and back sleeping and found it to be soft and supportive, though it did seem to flatten out ever so slightly with use. Even so, the fill is soft and squishy and even after running it through the wash and sleeping, it did not get lumpy.
- Down alternative
- Firmness levels available: soft, medium, firm
- Sizes available: standard, king
This pillow is fairly similar in comfort and feel to the Tuft & Needle Down Alternative pillow. However, with three varieties, Parachute gives you more options for support and firmness level than Tuft & Needle, which only comes in a single firmness, so you can better find what suits you. Parachute also has a 60-day return policy, so if you’re not happy with the pillow it’s simple to exchange it (or simply to move on to another brand if you can’t get what you want from Parachute).
Best down pillow: Garnet Hill Heirloom European White Goose Down Pillow
From $199 at Garnet Hill
Unlike other down pillows that mix down with feathers, the Garnet Hill Heirloom pillow is 100% down, so there’s no crunching noise as there was with some of the other down-mix pillows we tested, nor will you find any quills poking through.
- Down (100%)
- Firmness levels available: soft, medium, firm
- Sizes available: standard, king
This pillow is extremely plush and cradles your head with a light cloud-like feel as you lay down. What made this pillow stand out was that it didn’t fall completely flat throughout the night like lower-quality down pillows. Despite having washed and slept on this pillow multiple times, it always bounced back to its original shape. Starting at $199, this is the priciest pillow we tested, but it’s well worth it compared to other down-and-feather-fill pillows, and most 100% down pillows (without feathers) are similarly pricey.
The Garnet Hill Heirloom pillow comes in three densities: soft, medium and firm. The brand recommends soft for stomach sleepers, medium for side sleepers and firm for back and side sleepers. We opted for a firm pillow and found it to be extremely fluffy and supportive, however if you have a smaller frame or prefer a flatter pillow, you may find it too firm and may want to opt for a medium or soft fill. Luckily, if you find the fill is not quite right, Garnet Hill has a 90-day return or exchange policy.
What you need to know about pillows and their fill
Dr. Andrew Varga, neuroscientist and physician at The Mount Sinai Integrative Sleep Center, suggests paying attention to any chronic neck and head pain you may experience in the morning, which suggests you may not be sleeping in the right position and could need a new pillow. According to Varga, it’s best to try to achieve a neutral neck position. Doing that may require experimenting with different types of pillows to figure out how much support works for you.
You’ll find pillows on the market with different types of fill, from down and feathers to memory foam to molded latex and gels. Each type of fill has its own unique qualities, so when shopping, you’ll want to figure out what fill will best suit your personal preference.
Foam/adjustable pillows: Pillows that are adjustable often use cut or shredded pieces of foam or latex, and may be mixed with fiberfill. With these types of pillows, you can add or remove fill to change the firmness level to your preference, so they’re perfect if you don’t already know exactly what you want. These types of pillows have grown in popularity over the years because they are customizable to the level of support you like — just add more foam for a firmer feel, remove some for a softer feel — and because they work for people of different frames.
With adjustable pillows, you may need to add or remove some fill over a few nights to find the perfect amount for your preference and frame. Also, be sure not to throw away the extra fill as you may need it while finding the right firmness level or find over time you want to add more if the pillow flattens out.
A downside of memory foam pillows is that they can feel warm, so if you’re a person who gets overheated during the night, they may not be the best choice, unless you look for a model with a cooling cover, or one built with cooling gel in the mix. Also, over time, the foam pieces do lose their loft, so you’ll want to get new pillows every couple of years.
Down and feather: The terms “down” and “feathers” are sometimes mistakenly thought of as the same thing, but they are not synonymous. It’s important to know the difference so you know how it will affect your sleeping experience and what you’re paying for.
- Down comes from the soft insulating layer of under-plumage of ducks or geese and is a mix of soft, fluffy clusters that give pillows a plush cloud-like feel. Down is a more expensive fill than feathers, so the more down in a pillow, the higher the price you’ll likely be paying.
- Feathers, on the other hand, are flat and feel more stiff due to the shaft running down the center. While feathers can offer more support due to their stiffness, they can also feel and sound “crunchy” as the pillow compresses as you sleep, which some may not prefer. Their quills can poke through if the cover fabric is not densely woven, and some may find the feel of quills through the pillow uncomfortable.
Be sure to check the ratio of down to feathers on “down” pillows so you know how much of each is in the pillow, as these blends can vary from brand to brand. When properly cared for, high-quality down pillows can last a decade.
Down alternative: As the name suggests, down alternative pillows are designed to mimic the feel of down using a fill made from a synthetic material like polyester (think of the synthetic fills used in insulated winter coats — the same materials are used in down alternative pillows). Some down alternative pillows come very close to the feel of down, though some prefer the feel of down alternative, as the synthetic fill traps less heat than an equivalent amount of down (on the other hand, down pillows are warmer, ounce for ounce). Down alternative fills are also hypoallergenic, and the pillows often cost less than their down equivalents, though they typically need to be replaced more often, typically every couple of years.
Molded: Molded pillows are made out of memory foam or latex and they may include gel for a cooling effect. They are often firmer than other pillows and are designed to keep their shape through the night. Some are built to offer extra support in specific areas like the neck. For those that like firm support with less give or need extra support in specific areas, a molded pillow may work best.
Whatever style you choose, make sure you check out our tips on the best ways to wash your pillows so you can make sure to get the most out of them over time. A great silk pillowcase can also help extend the life of your pillows, and it feels great to sleep on too (though if you pick up a pillow with a cooling cover, that’s best used on its own to maximize the effect).
How we tested
After narrowing down our list to the 10 most popular pillows and brands, we slept on each for a minimum of two nights, noting factors like durability and comfort. We evaluated each using the following criteria.
- Comfort: After sleeping on each pillow for a few nights, we judged how comfortable each pillow was to sleep on, noting if we had to make adjustments throughout the night and if the pillow fell flat or retained a lot of heat.
- Durability: In order to assess the durability of each pillow, we washed and dried each pillow twice, if applicable, according to the manufacturer’s care instructions. If the pillow indicated it was not machine-washable, we washed the cover where possible. We evaluated each pillow for how much it flattened or changed shape after washing and sleeping on it. We also looked at the overall appearance of the pillow after wash and use and if anything broke in the process.
- Ease of cleaning: For each pillow we scored it on how easily and if it could be cleaned, taking into account if it’s machine-washable, dry clean, spot clean or not washable at all.
- Firmness options: We looked at how many firmness options are available for each pillow or if it can be adjusted to anyone’s fill preference, which makes it more likely you’ll be able to find the right fit for you.
- Trial and return policy: Since pillows are highly personal, we also scored each pillow brand on its trial policy, whether or not you could test it out and how many days you had to return it.
Other pillows we tested
$139.99 at Sleep Number
The Sleep Number ComfortFit Pillow is an adjustable pillow filled with foam pieces and microfiber. What sets this pillow apart from other adjustable pillows is that it has three layers of removable inserts, almost like three pillows within one pillow, so it’s mess-free to add and remove layers compared to other adjustable pillows where you’ll need to add or remove foam pieces bit by bit. We also found that the fill didn’t shift as much because the layers helped keep the foam in place.
The downside to this three-layered construction is that you can’t customize as precisely, though we found it easy to find a comfortable level of support. Still, we preferred having more adjustability, and felt the Coop Home Goods adjustable pillow let us get more comfortable at a lower price.
$99 $89 at Nest
The Nest Easy Breather pillow had one of our favorite pillow covers; it feels silky and was luxuriously plush to sleep on. The cover feels cool to the touch and we found we didn’t overheat while sleeping. It does lose some coolness when using a pillowcase on the pillow rather than sleeping directly on the cover, but that’s expected of most cooling covers.
We also found the pillow’s shredded foam and fiber fill extremely comfortable, feeling supportive and plush at the same time. Unfortunately, we felt the construction was flimsy compared to our top pick — during our testing, the Nest’s zipper broke almost immediately. The pillow was still usable, but it did make us question the long-term durability. They do have a 2-year limited warranty, however when reading the details it’s unclear whether or not this would be covered. The pillow is available in standard, queen and king sizes as well as a side sleeper option that has a curved cut-out to make room for your shoulder.
$69 at Tempur-Pedic
Tempur-Pedic is known for their memory foam mattresses so it’s no surprise they have taken their signature memory foam and shredded it for use in an adjustable pillow. The Tempur-Cloud pillow uses three different types of foam, which according to the brand are designed for pressure relief, comfort and support. While testing, we noticed this didn’t feel as plush as other adjustable pillows but it was still comfortable to sleep on. The downside to this pillow is that Tempur-Pedic doesn’t offer a trial period, so the Tempur-Cloud can’t be returned if you don’t like it.
From $100 at Tuft & Needle
This down alternative pillow felt the most similar to down of all the similar pillows we tested, with a soft and cloud-like feel. It’s made with polyester fill so there’s no worries about allergies to down or feathers. Even with repeated washes and use it kept returning to its original shape. We found it comfortable for back and side sleeping, which are the positions Tuft & Needle recommends it for this pillow. Stomach sleepers, however, may find they need a different option and unfortunately this only comes in a single firmness level.
$30.74 at Amazon
The very affordable Amazon Basics pillow is available in two firmness levels, soft and firm. We opted for the firm (described as “for side and back sleepers”). Unfortunately the firm pillow was way too firm for either position; it was the most dense pillow out of the bunch, with almost no give, and it was nearly impossible to get comfortable. If you like an extremely dense pillow this may be a good option, and it definitely won’t change its shape throughout the night, but if you like a softer pillow definitely opt for the soft version, or try something else.
$69 at Slumber Cloud
The Outlast fabric used in the cover of the Slumber Cloud UltraCool pillow makes it feel immediately cool to the touch, much more so than any other cooling pillow we tested. While the immediate coolness feels like it wears off as you lay on it, we never felt overheated. As with all of the cooling pillows we checked out, we found the effect works best without a pillowcase, so if you prefer a pillowcase just know the cooling effect will be dampened.
While this was a comfortable pillow to sleep on, it didn’t make it to the top of our list because the fill clumped after a few washes. This isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, but if you wash your pillows often it may not hold up well. Also, the pillow seemed to trap water inside during the wash, so it took six dry cycles to get it completely dry.
$79 From $63.20 at Brooklinen
Brooklinen calls this a down pillow but both the mid-plush and firm options are made with a combination composed predominantly of feathers with some down. We tested the mid-plush option, which is 80% feathers and 20% down.
Brooklinen describes the pillow as made using “a dual-core structure with an extra supportive inner layer of feathers, and a super comfy outer layer of down clusters.” We did find that the feathers added support so the pillow doesn’t fall flat, however they also made the pillow feel very crunchy compared to 100% down models, and while quills did not poke through the fabric, they added some discomfort. The feathers also seemed to clump to one side of the pillow, making some areas really hard and crunchy.
If you want a down pillow but still want firmer support in your down pillows and don’t mind the crunchiness of the feathers, you may enjoy this pillow. However, if you’re looking for a cloud-like down pillow, you’re better off going with the Garnet Hill down pillow if it’s within your budget.
$189 at Casper
Unlike memory foam pillows that can run hot, we found Casper’s foam pillow with Snow Technology did not overheat during the night. This molded foam pillow has small holes throughout its structure to provide ventilation which helps heat escape without feeling lumpy.
As usual, we found that a pillowcase lessened the cooling effect, so it may be best just to sleep on the bare pillow (it has a removable, washable cover). We found this pillow to be supportive and on the firm side, which was good for side and back sleeping but may be too firm for some stomach sleepers who like a really soft pillow.
$179 $161 at Purple
This pillow from Purple uses the company’s signature honeycomb-patterned purple grid that surrounds a core of latex. The result is a bouncy, squishy pillow that offers firm support. One big advantage of this structure is that it allows air to circulate so your head never overheats. The drawback is that — even though we chose the low pillow height —it was still too tall for us, so if you like a flatter pillow or have a petite frame this pillow may not work for you.
$99 at Avocado
The Avocado pillow is made with molded latex, which holds its shape regardless of how you move, unlike loose fill that can shift around. We found this pillow very firm, though also somewhat bouncy, which took us a few nights of sleeping on to get used to the feel. It’s infused with charcoal, which is supposed to eliminate odor and excess moisture, though we did not notice much of a difference over the course of our testing.