We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, and our sleep habits can have a major impact on our health and wellbeing. Central to getting a great night's sleep is having a solid setup, including a really comfortable, supportive pillow.
"A good pillow is absolutely a top priority," said Rebecca Robbins, sleep researcher, author, and post-doctoral fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, "No matter your budget, I really encourage people to splurge and invest in these products because they will help. The bed is the foundation of our sleep and if these elements aren't supportive and not cozy to your personal preference, you put yourself at risk for sleep difficulties."
With that in mind, we tested eight different pillows and considered four others. I've been writing unbiased, meticulously tested product reviews for more than seven years and have a personal stake in finding a good pillow: I'm a living embodiment of the princess and the pea, and have purchased more pillows than I can count in pursuit of a good night's sleep.
While I slept on every pillow recommended in this guide for at least three nights, individual preferences and anatomy vary greatly (see: how to find the perfect pillow), so I enlisted a stomach sleeper (my husband) and two side sleepers (my neighbors) to try each pillow for at least a night and considered feedback from other Insider Reviews editors who have tried or reviewed pillows over the last few years. You can read all about our methodology here.
Here are the best pillows:
Prices and links are accurate as of 10/9/2020. We rewrote this guide after consulting a sleep researcher and thorough testing of our picks.
In the better part of a decade that I've been reviewing housewares, it's rare that I've come across a product as thoughtfully designed as the Coop Home Goods Original Pillow. Made from hypoallergenic shredded memory foam, the fill in the Coop pillow is adjustable so you can customize it to the perfect loft for your sleep preferences. Other thoughtful features like a washable pillow cover, 5-year warranty, and 100-night trial make it the obvious choice for our top recommendation.
While adjustable pillows made from shredded foam have become more popular, the Coop stands out in a number of ways. The first is in the packaging. When you open the box, you're greeted by a bright yellow insert that walks you through how to customize the pillow and suggestions on how much fill to add or remove (it's more than you think) based on your preferred sleeping position. It also offers tips on how to check your alignment so that you get the most comfortable night's sleep. While the pillow arrives almost overfilled, it also comes with a half-pound bag of additional fill in case you need even more support.
I followed the package recommendations to remove about a third of the fill for back sleepers and then fluffed the pillow up a bit to redistribute the foam. The result felt deeply personalized and it was very comfortable to sleep on with a great balance of support and fluff.
One drawback? If you favor a softer, more down-like fill (like I do), you may find the Coop pillow has the same issues as all memory foam pillows: it's on the firmer side and tends to get a bit hot during the night. If that sounds like you, you might appreciate our other top pillows in the picks below. However, we think most people will love the customization of the Coop pillow, especially if you prefer the springy feel of memory foam.
Pros: Completely customizable with removable fill, comes with additional fill if you prefer a firmer pillow, comes with a washable encasement, hypoallergenic, 5-year warranty, 100-night trial
Cons: On the firmer side and might not be the best choice if you don't like memory foam, testers in previous reviews thought it arrived with a slightly funny smell$59.99 from Coop
I've cycled through pillows throughout the last decade — from cheap Ikea and Target pillows, to bespoke offerings from high-end bedding brands — but never quite found my perfect pillow. That all changed when I tried The Saatva Pillow.
The Saatva Pillow is made from a supportive shredded latex core surrounded by a plush, down alternative layer and a satteen cotton liner. Its unique construction makes it different from any pillow I've ever felt before — it's got the hefty weight and support of a memory foam pillow, but with the plush, cool feel of a down pillow not unlike one you'd find in a hotel. Throughout testing, I kept coming back to this pillow and it quickly became my go-to for nights I wasn't actively testing anything new. I love how my head sinks into this plush pillow, but it's still supportive enough to keep its shape all night long and when I wake up, the pillow looks just as plush as when I fell asleep on it. I'm a very active sleeper who likes to move around a lot in bed and take my bedding with me, so I love that the pillow is equally plush and comfortable from all sides and angles. It's still soft and supportive when I inevitably fold it, scoop it, or hug it throughout the night. It's also weighty enough that it doesn't move on its own or slip into the gap between the headboard and the mattress (a pet peeve of mine), and has plenty of structure for when you want to prop your head up for reading or watching TV. Finally, it's hypoallergenic, which is a must for allergy sufferers like myself.
While the Saatva pillow is my perfect pillow, it's not adjustable enough to be our top recommendation for most people. The only adjustability offered is the ability to remove the latex core, which also takes away the supportive part of the pillow. Multiple stomach sleepers who tried the pillow as part of our testing found it too lofty, even with the inner core removed. Some side sleepers might also find the pillow not quite lofty enough; we think it's best for back sleepers and those who prefer a plusher, cooler feel than memory foam.
While it was one of the most expensive pillows we tried, the company offers a 45-day trial period to determine if the pillow is right for you.
Pros: Moderate height that's ideal for back sleepers, plush like a hotel pillow, supportive latex core, 45-day trial period, comes with a pillow cover, cover and outer pillow are machine washable
Cons: Not very adjustable, too lofty for stomach sleepers$145.00 from Saatva
Stomach sleepers generally require the least amount of pillow support, since your head and spine are already pretty close to alignment when lying on your stomach. Most stomach sleepers would benefit a soft pillow with just a bit of loft, and for that, the Parachute Down Alternative Pillow is our top choice.
This is the only pillow that received high marks for comfort from my husband, who is an avowed stomach sleeper and finds most pillows too lofty. The Parachute pillow elevates his head just enough to alleviate any neck strain, and the sateen cotton encasement keeps the pillow remarkably cool all night long; ideal for those, like him, who run hot. We purchased four of these pillows a little over a year ago, and they were our mainstay before I started testing and evaluating pillows for this guide. In a lot of ways, this pillow hits all the marks for me: it stays cool, is incredibly soft and comfortable, and is hypoallergenic. But while my husband happily drifts asleep with one of these pillows tucked under his head, I (a back sleeper) need to stack two or three to get the loft I need to fall asleep comfortably.
While the fill is thin enough that the pillow easily folds over for some support if you occasionally flip to your side or back during the night, it doesn't provide enough for those who spend the majority of the night in those positions. The pillow also won't offer much lift if you're looking to prop yourself up to read or watch TV while lounging in bed. Since stomach sleepers are in the minority according to the National Sleep Foundation, we don't recommend outfitting a guest room with these soft, thin pillows, but they're a great personal pillow for any stomach sleeper who has found other pillows too lofty.
While experts recommend fluffing your pillows daily to extend their life and maintain their comfort, we've found that these thinner pillows with less filling especially benefit from a daily fluff to keep their shape.
Pros: Soft and pillowy, made from hypoallergenic down alternative, folds easily for added support when lying on your side or back, stays cool, 60-day return window
Cons: Needs to be fluffed regularly to retain its shape, doesn't offer enough support for sleepers who spend the majority of the night on their back or side and therefore not the best choice for guest bedrooms, fill cannot be adjusted$59.00 from Parachute
As someone who has struggled with back and neck troubles, I literally feel your pain if you're currently dealing with a stiff or painful neck. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the first line of business is to make sure that your current pillow isn't causing or exacerbating your neck strain. Your pillow should support your neck in alignment with the rest of your spine in your preferred sleeping position, which can be a very personal thing. Sleeping on the wrong pillow for your body and preferences can actually make neck pain worse. While we think our picks for side, back, and stomach sleepers will help you minimize the chances of sleep-induced neck pain, if you're deep in the throes of an existing neck sprain you should check with your doctor before considering a new pillow.
Experts told us that a memory foam pillow is the preferred choice for neck pain because the material offers cushion and support to keep your neck aligned, and doesn't flatten or "sink" throughout the night like other more fluffy pillows. For this, we think our overall pick by Coop is a great choice since it has an adjustable memory foam fill that you can customize to your perfect loft. But if your pain is making it hard to even get to sleep, I highly recommend you try out the Leesa Hybrid Pillow.
The pillow's unique construction consists of a gel-filled cooling side and a quilted cushioning side, with a removable mini-pillow in between for adjustability. While the quilted side is plenty comfy, the gel-side is where the Leesa pillow truly shines. The gel provides an instant chilling effect that I found deeply soothing for muscle pain and neck strain; a similar effect to holding a wrapped ice pack up to your neck. On nights when my back and neck have really hurt, the Leesa has provided some much needed relief to help me fall asleep.
That said, this hybrid pillow has received mixed reviews from our testers over the years. With only two possible (and both relatively low) heights, it's also less adjustable than other pillows we tested, and best suited for stomach and back sleepers who don't need a lot of loft. It's also fairly heavy, and its unique design may take a few nights to get used to. And if you're not a hot sleeper or currently struggling with neck pain, the pillow's main selling points may be lost on you.
Pros: Cooling gel helps relieve neck pain, good for hot sleepers, two different sides to choose from for optimal support, removable inner pillow for adjusting loft, inner pillow can be used as a travel pillow
Cons: On the heavy side, takes some getting used to, may be too squat for some side sleepers$109.00 from Leesa $119.19 from Amazon
Experts we consulted for the guide stressed that a good pillow is a worthy investment; after all, you spend nearly one-third of your life laying on it. But if you're the type of person that can fall asleep just about anywhere or you're primarily concerned about price, the Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow is the best bang for your buck.
I was intrigued by the sheer number of positive Amazon reviews — there are more than 25,000 five-star reviews, and we all know that reviews aren't always reliable. But when I tried them for myself, I understood why. These pillows are on the thinner side, but have a gentle, down-like plushness that sets them apart from other inexpensive pillows I've tried from Ikea and Target. While they're definitely more squishy than supportive, they're a good choice for stomach sleepers, back sleepers, and anyone who likes to hug, fold, or stack their pillows at night.
"Gel pillow" is a bit of a misnomer; there's no liquid or cooling gel in these pillows like there is in some other cooling pillows. Instead, these pillows are filled with polyester gel fiber, which is similar to a down alternative in both feel and performance. The pillows stay relatively cool compared to denser materials like memory foam, but stop short of actively cooling you like the Leesa Hybrid Pillow.
While these pillows aren't adjustable, each pack comes with two pillows, so you can easily stack them to your desired comfort level. The pillows themselves are also machine washable and the company offers a 30 day satisfaction guarantee — a rarity for Amazon-only pillow brands.
Pros: Inexpensive, soft and stackable, sleeps relatively cool, machine washable, good for stomach and side sleepers, 30-day return window, hypoallergenic
Cons: Side sleepers will likely need two or more of these pillows, pillows are not adjustable$59.99 from Amazon
There is no one-size-fits-all best pillow for everyone; individual anatomy, sleep habits, and preferences deeply impact how comfortable a pillow will be from person-to-person. For that reason, our rating criteria for this guide relied heavily on the following considerations:
Return policy and trial period: It's impossible to know how comfortable a pillow is going to be for you until you sleep on it, despite how comprehensive our guide aims to be. "The most important thing is trying the pillows out to see what works for you," said Robbins, which includes being able to touch, lay on, and sleep with a pillow before deciding if it's right for you. For this guide, we only considered pillows that accept returns of used merchandise for a full refund with at least a 30-day trial window, which gives you ample time to decide if a pillow is right for you.
Adjustability: We prioritized pillows that are adjustable, with removable inserts or shredded fill for dialing in your perfect loft. This creates a more custom pillow that would better suit your needs.
Ease of Use: We looked at how well each pillow fit a standard pillowcase, whether the pillow came with a case or protector, and whether all or parts of the pillow were washable for better hygiene and pillow longevity.
Comfort: I slept on all of the pillows for at least three (sometimes agonizing) nights. I also enlisted a side sleeper and a stomach sleeper to try the pillows over the course of a couple weeks. For future updates, we will develop a diverse sleep panel and have them test our top picks for additional feedback.
Robbins told us the single biggest consideration when picking a pillow is your preferred sleep position: side, back, or stomach. The goal of your pillow is to support your neck in a neutral position aligned with the rest of your spine, but that alignment shifts depending on the position you're sleeping in. While we all move around during sleep — switching positions about 60 times throughout each night — most of us spend the majority of our sleeping time in one position.
Not sure what your sleep position is? Consider what position you typically fall asleep or wake up in. Robbins also has a neat exercise she performs with her clients: imagine you've been up for 24 hours and are presented with a big, luxurious hotel bed; how would you lie down on it to go to sleep? The position you envision is most likely your preferred sleep position and plays a big role in what type of pillow will work best for you.
Side sleepers: Around 65% of the US population are side sleepers, according to Robbins, and this position requires the most loft and support to bridge the wide gap between the side of your head and where your shoulder rests on the mattress. If you're a side sleeper, choose a lofty pillow — ideally with an adjustable fill since there can be a lot of variability in the size of that shoulder gap from person to person. Robbins said hotels and sleep clinics usually outfit rooms with side sleepers in mind, so if you're buying pillows for a guest bedroom, a side sleeper friendly pillow is usually a good bet.
Back sleepers: Back sleepers are the Goldilocks of pillow hunters — they need a pillow that is not too soft and not too firm, and with just enough support to lift the back of the head to be in line with their shoulders. Back sleepers tend to benefit from a medium, cushion-y pillow made from down or down alternative, though an adjustable pillow with at least one third of the fill removed may work as well.
Stomach sleepers: In the minority are stomach sleepers, who need the least amount of support from their pillow. Typically a thin, very soft pillow works best for stomach sleepers — just enough fill to cushion their face from the flat surface of the mattress.
Even the best pillows aren't meant to last forever; for the best sleep, the National Sleep Foundation recommends replacing a well-used pillow every couple of years. Our fluffy little pillows absorb a shocking amount of dead skin and body oils night after night, which is the perfect breeding ground for allergens like dust mites.
You can tell if it's time for a new pillow if your pillow is lumpy or flat no matter how much you fluff it. Robbins also told us that a healthy pillow springs back when you compress it; if you fold your pillow in half and it stays put, it's probably time for a new pillow. (One caveat: it may not work with a very, very thin pillow.)
Taking care of your pillow not only extends its life and helps you sleep better, but can also ease allergies. The National Sleep Foundation and Robbins both recommend adding a pillow protector (an encasement that adds another level of protection from allergens, body oils, dust mites, and other pests) in addition to a pillowcase if your pillow doesn't already come with one (many of our top picks do), fluffing your pillows daily, and washing your pillow every couple of months according to manufacturer directions.