Pillow buying guide

Pillow buying guide

Pauline, Self-taught handyman, Leeds

Guide written by:

Pauline, Self-taught handyman, Leeds

97 guides

Essential for a good night's sleep, pillows should be chosen to match your sleeping position, body shape and preferences in terms of comfort and support. From natural or synthetic materials to ergonomic, memory foam or hypoallergenic options, follow our guide to rest easy in your choice of pillow!

Important features

  • Size and shape
  • Cover and filling
  • Materials
  • Latex pillows
  • Memory foam pillows
  • Treated pillows
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Key criteria to consider when choosing a pillow


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Your pillow should be changed approximately every two years to ensure optimal support and comfort. With this in mind, the issue of choosing a pillow will come up fairly often. So, which pillow is best for you? It all depends on your comfort preferences, sleeping habits and budget.

You must first decide on size and shape. Although some people like the look of square pillows on their bed, rectangular pillows are recommended for the most comfortable sleep.

Next up is your pillow cover: cotton is a classic choice, polyester is easy to maintain and bamboo has natural hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial properties.

Last but not least, comes the filling. Natural materials are more expensive but plump perfectly while synthetic materials are easier to maintain and offer a wide range of different comfort levels. And let's not forget the ever-popular memory foam pillow, which is particularly recommended for people who suffer from back pain. It is also possible to find ergonomic pillows made from latex memory foam, which support your neck by adapting to its shape; these pillows are perfect for side and back sleepers.

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Choosing the ideal pillow size and shape

Square vs. rectangular pillows


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Pillows can be square or rectangular in shape:

  • Square pillows look stylish and are perfect for sitting up in bed to read or watch TV, but they are not the most comfortable option for sleeping.
  • Rectangular pillows are perfect for every sleeping position. What's more, the extra length keeps your head in constant contact with the pillow, and in alignment with your spine, so it is supported even if you move around a lot.

Finding the perfect pillow size

There are a variety of pillow sizes, but the most common are:

  • for a square pillow: 60 x 60 cm or 65 x 65 cm;
  • for a rectangular pillow: 50 x 70 cm or 40 x 60 cm (the latter option is perfectly for children).

Pillow covers: cotton, polyester or bamboo


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As pillow covers are designed to keep the filling in place, they must be of high enough quality to stop any synthetic fibres, down or feathers from escaping. There are a number of materials to choose from:

  • A cotton cover is moisture-wicking and provides superb air circulation.
  • A polyester cover is comfortable and easily maintained.
  • Covers made from bamboo have become increasingly popular. Often filled with memory foam, this material is naturally anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic. It is also moisture-absorbent and provides excellent air circulation.

Your ideal pillow filling: natural vs. synthetic

The material enclosed in the pillow cover is called the filling and it determines the firmness of the pillow. You can choose between natural or synthetic filling.

Pillows with natural filling


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As the name suggests, this type of filling is made from natural materials, most often a mixture of duck or goose down and feathers. Since down is softer than feathers, choose a filling with a higher proportion of one or the other depending on your preferences.

Fluffy and plump, pillows with natural filling also guarantee excellent ventilation and temperature regulation. On the other hand, they require more maintenance and are more expensive than pillows with synthetic filling.

Another option is a wool-filled pillow, which has natural anti-dust mite properties, regulates moisture and temperature and provides firm support – even a little too firm for some people!

Pillows with synthetic filling

Synthetic filling is made from a range of different synthetic fibres, which makes these pillows easy to care for, breathable and more affordable than those with natural filling. However, pillows with synthetic filling aren't as durable.

Often recommended for allergy sufferers, pillows with synthetic fillings come in a wide range of densities to cater for all comfort and support preferences.

Pillows with synthetic fillings include:

Pillows with synthetic latex filling


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Thanks to its honeycomb-style structure, this type of filling provides excellent air circulation, which makes it ideal for reducing the risk of allergies. In addition, its enhanced elasticity offers optimal support for the neck and head.
It should be mentioned that some fillings contain a mixture of natural and synthetic latex.

Memory foam pillows


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Memory foam is temperature-sensitive. It responds to your body temperature in order to conform to the shape of your head and neck and return to its original shape with each movement. Made of highly dense polyurethane foam, memory foam gives maximum support to the spine and neck.

While this type of pillow is recommended for people with back problems, it is not recommended for those who perspire a lot as it doesn't allow the air to circulate as well as a material like latex.

Choosing a pillow to match your sleeping habits and allergies

Anti-dust mite and anti-bacterial pillows


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Pillows that don't offer natural protection are sometimes given specific anti-bacterial and/or anti-dust mite treatments to prevent health issues such as allergies. The cover, filling or both the cover and filling can be treated.

The pillow fibres can be treated using chemicals or essential oils (lavender, eucalyptus, lemon).

Choosing the perfect pillow for your sleeping position

The position you most often sleep in will determine whether you choose a firm pillow or a softer one. It will also help you pick a filling type.

Best pillows for back sleepers


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If you sleep on your back, it's best to choose a pillow with firm or medium support, or even an ergonomic pillow, which will provide perfect support for your head and neck.
However, avoid pillows that are over-stuffed because they create an arch at the nape of the neck.

Best pillows for side sleepers


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In this position, the alignment of your head, neck and spine must be kept balanced with a medium firm or ergonomically designed pillow.

Best pillows for front sleepers


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Since this position is not considered ideal for a good night's sleep, it is best to choose a soft pillow to prevent the spine from curving excessively.
A natural down and feathers filling is especially recommended for front sleepers.

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Guide written by:

Pauline, Self-taught handyman, Leeds, 97 guides

Pauline, Self-taught handyman, Leeds

With a handyman-father, I grew up with the soft sound of the sander and hammer on weekends. I am both manual and cerebral (yes, it is possible.), I learned the basics of DIY and the customization of furniture because I was passionate. The salvage mentality is a true way of life that allowed me to know how to use all the tools and products needed to give something a second life, from sander to varnish. I have two favorite activities: the transformation of old furniture and decoration tips. I am always ready to lend a helping hand to revamp a table or to restore a mirror that was intended for the trash that will become a friend’s centerpiece. I’m convinced that it’s possible to reinvent an interior by small, regular modifications, I constantly research low-cost, test ideas.

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