Yes, we know that the title contains a pretty lofty statement. However, we are of the opinion that we may be so bold and just say that the ‘highest rated pillows in the world’ have been reviewed in this article.
But what does a highest rated pillow look, feel and sleep like? What material is it made of? Could it be latex, memory foam, luxurious duck or goose down or maybe even bamboo or gel? And then, does any pillow fit for all types of sleeper?
A lot of questions for just one part of the bed – however, like the mattress, the pillow forms a fundamental chunk of the overall bedding composition. It can make or break a night’s sleep. The wrong pillow can be the cause of back, shoulder and neck pain if it is not high and firm enough and in the right shape.
Selecting the right pillow is an art in itself, and we are here to show you which pillow is the best one for your needs, no matter in which position you sleep. Take the time to read these words; you won’t regret it – we sleep for one-third of our lives, so we better do it right.
A Guide to Pillow Sizes
What position we adopt in bed is the primary determining factor when it comes to the pillow size. In essence, there is nothing much else of import other than that.
So why is our sleeping position the main determinant? To answer that, let’s take a look at what affects a side sleeper for example? If you sleep on the side, the best-rated pillow needs a certain height or loft so that the shoulder height in relation to the mattress ‘sinkage’ is taken into account – if done correctly, the optimal spinal alignment will be achieved.
Below, we have listed the various sizes you can buy today.
20″ x 26″
20″ x 28″
20″ x 30″
20″ x 36″
26″ x 26″
24″ x 24″
22″ x 22″
20″ x 20″
18″ x 18″
16″ x 16″
54″ x 20″
48″ x 20″
14″ x 20″
Different Manufacturing Style
As with most things in the bedding industry, there are many different manufacturing styles and materials for pillows. Some of them involve synthetic materials, and others contain purely organic all-natural elements. In some cases, the contents of a pillow are shredded or molded.
Whatever you choose is a purely subjective matter. Although, sometimes, it may be wise to base your decision on your sleeping position and whether you suffer from any pain in your neck, shoulder or back – the right cushion can have a significant impact on the way you sleep.
When you read the word ‘shredded’ in conjuncture with a pillow, you can be sure that the writer is referring to shredded latex or memory foam – these two materials are the two most prevalent for shredding inside of pillows.
The main feature defining the shredded pillow is the fact that it is adjustable in height. Also, due to the airy nature and space inside the cushion, shredded products are far more breathable than say the molded version. And depending on whether you choose organic latex, you can have a purely all-natural pillow for your sleepy head.
Molded pillows are often associated with orthopedic sleeping paraphernalia because the outer layer on the upper side is shaped to the contours of the back of the head – the outer edge is slightly elevated so as to offer support to the cervical spine.
In most cases molded pillows are made of latex and memory foam (with or without gel or copper elements) – the main difference being that latex responds quicker, and the foam is softer and sinks more.
This molded cushion is top-rated for people with neck, shoulder or back pain – it provides the ideal support for these areas and keeps the head firmly in place.
Pillows with a noodle filling are as the name suggests full of individual noodle shaped components made of primarily memory foam or latex (synthetic or natural). The good thing about this type of cushion is that you are able to adjust the height as it is often fabricated with a zipper for the adding and removing of the noodle filling.
The noodle stuffed pillow is number one for all sleeping positions because of the adjustable height. For example, if you sleep on your stomach, you do not require too much height. On the side, the shoulder length must be taken into account for the correct alignment in the spine and lastly for the back, neck alignment in relation to the shoulder blades.
Available Materials on the Market
Memory foam for pillows is a very popular alternative. However, some people complain that the viscoelastic nature of a material creates too much heat and is entirely non-breathable. If you just love this NASA inspired material, and you sleep hot, you have to make sure that elements such as copper or gel or a celled-structure are included for better heat transference and airflow.
The great thing about memory foam is that it is entirely moldable – the superior contouring effect allows for optimal cradling of your head while alignment of your cervical spine is guaranteed. Some people find memory foam too soft for their liking. Also, this material does not adapt as fast as say latex.
The main thing you need to look out for with memory foam is that the material is of superior quality and certified by CertiPUR-US for example. Lower quality foams tend to smell bad due to off-gassing.
Latex comes in two distinct forms. Firstly, synthetic latex from petroleum-based materials that are vulcanized and secondly, all-natural organic latex through the Dunlop or water-based processes. Both are viable options. However, the synthetic alternative can off-gas due to the volatile organic compounds contained in the material, and natural latex can cause allergic reactions if you are allergic to organic latex.
Latex, no matter whether synthetic or natural, is the most durable material for pillows. Also, breathability is one of the best when it comes to pillows – any heat and moisture is quickly transferred from the insides of the pillow.
Another property many sleepers love about latex is the fast reaction time of the surface material – if you change positions during the night, latex quickly adapts and reshapes without any rustling noises. Yet, some of you may find the material a little hard compared to memory foam.
Polyurethane foam is the cheapest material for pillows and mattresses alike. If you are on a budget, or you need a cushion for the guestroom, it may be a viable option. With polyurethane it all boils down to the foam density – the lower the density, the softer and less durable the material.
One of the major complaints with polyurethane foam is that it tends to off-gas more than high-quality memory foam and synthetic latex. Having said that, there are some higher quality, certified foams that have this covered because of better quality manufacturing and materials. It’s highly recommended to read the reviews thoroughly when deciding on this option.
The main difference with its more expensive memory foam cousin is that polyurethane foam is more balanced in terms of support for the head and neck – it does contour as much as memory foam. Also, this element is more breathable than memory foam, albeit not as much as latex.
Gel – the cool guy in the bed. A gel is renowned for providing a cool and refreshing atmosphere in the bed. This material dissipates heat and moisture throughout the night. Many people and hospitals swear by this stuff when people have the flu or fever. Another plus for gel is that it is anti-viral, anti-microbial and hypoallergenic.
Also, a gel is moldable and ideal for the orthopedic pillows. If you suffer from any pain to your neck or back, you may love gel because of the cooling and the shaping that allows for a certain amount of curvature to the cushion surface.
A gel is often used in conjuncture with memory foam because many sleepers love the memory foam’s contouring mixed with the freshness of gel – it is an excellent combination as the gel is a little hard on its own.
Of course, there are other alternatives for the pillow, and we wouldn’t be thorough if we didn’t at least consider them. The goose or duck down feather cushion is a big favorite in the industry, but we will look into this version in more detail in a dedicated section.
Polyester is also a much-loved material for the pillow – in some cases, it gives off a more authentic feel than cotton. Especially, if state-of-the-art microfiber is used, then you almost have the same goose or duck down sleeping sensation that is just as breathable.
Another possibility is the combination or hybrid pillow that combines best of breed materials to create the ultimate sleeping solution. There are so many different versions out there that it would be difficult to name them all here. But to give you an example, memory foam is often combined with gel or latex with bamboo or latex and memory foam.
Should You Get Natural & Organic?
Even though it may not be immediately apparent, organic and natural have slightly different meanings. Natural elements like feathers, tree-sourced latex, cotton, wool, and bamboo are obtained from natural sources.
For a product to be considered as organic, it needs to have an official seal, in other words, it needs to be certified by a reputable organization that it contains absolutely no harmful chemicals for example.
Pillows made from natural and organic materials are a must have for people who suffer from allergies – just watch out for down feathers, but the rest are fine. So, let’s dig deeper and take a close look at all things natural.
Buckwheat hulls are a very good material for pillow filling because they provide superior cooling properties – heat and moisture is optimally removed from the cushion due to the best breathability. However, if you have ever slept on buckwheat, you may have noticed that the hulls rustle and are not particularly responsive when you move your head. So, if you toss-and-turn during the night, you may find this disconcerting.
One of the best attributes associated with buckwheat is the fact that it is hypoallergenic and as a result, perfect if you suffer from allergies. Just bear in mind that the material is not easily looked after as you cannot pop the pillow into the washer. Alternatively, place the pillow in the sun for a few hours or replace the filling.
Another thing we noticed when we tested a buckwheat pillow is that the individual hulls shape the cushion far too much – in other, words, if the head remains in one place for an extended period, support may be sacrificed adding pressure to your cervical spine and the muscles in that area.
However, if you prefer a slightly softer pillow that is natural and organic, then buckwheat may be the ideal choice.
Cotton comes in a natural form and also in a purely organic state. And the great thing is that it is not as expensive as goose and duck down or premium organic latex. The one attribute that stands out the most is the extremely high breathability of cotton. The material transfers heat and moisture perfectly. Cotton is the top-quality partner in hot climes, and it is hypoallergenic through and through.
The main thing to watch out for with cotton is that you purchase a pillow with sufficient filling so that you get the right height, especially if you sleep on your side. We mention this for one particular reason – cotton flattens out over time, reducing the cushion height, which may impact the correct spinal alignment. If your head sinks in relation to the level of your shoulder if you sleep on your side, then you may suffer from the consequences. For this reason, cotton as a filler is better suited for stomach sleepers as they do not need so much pillow height.
Another thing you may notice over time with cotton is that it tends to clump in one cushion area. Yet, it is difficult to beat in terms of smoothness and feel on the skin.
Like the spring mattress, down feathers sourced from ducks, geese or swans has been the age-old companion in any bed for generations. The chances are that your parents slept on nothing else are big. Although the material is in many cases purely organic and always all-natural, it is expensive and can be the cause of allergies if you do not support the feather filling.
Manufacturers mostly mix soft down with hard feathers, whereby the down is found close to the outer layer for plushness and the firmer feathers toward the center for more firmness. Pillows made from down feathers are still considered the pinnacle in luxury bedding.
The breathability is exceptional throughout any pillow made of this material – some people have compared it to resting one’s head on a cloud – that’s how soft and comfy it is. However, if you have neck pain, down feathers may not work as well as memory foam and latex.
The main problem with feathers is that they are not as easy to maintain. If you want to wash the cushion, you need to take it to the dry cleaners. And in time, the initial lofty feel of the pillow will decrease, diminishing support and firmness.
Consider Your Sleep Position When Shopping
Approximately seventy percent of people prefer this position even though it is not considered by experts to be the best. Our liking for this particular position most likely stems from when we were in the womb – fetuses curl the back and lift the knees to the chest as they develop.
The main thing to bear in mind if you are a side sleeper is that you have the right amount of support and give on the mattress. What do we mean by this? We say nothing other than that the hip needs an uplift and the shoulder area requires a certain amount of give so that the spine is supported and kept in the correct alignment.
And for no other sleeper type is the pillow more critical to achieving this. If the cushion had too much ‘sinkage’ then the head will dip, causing strain to your cervical spine and muscles. The perfect pillow supports the head and has a slightly elevated edge for the neck – see our top pillow picks for side sleepers.
Most experts consider sleeping on the back as the healthiest sleeping position. Although, if you have the wrong cushion and the head tips back, you may develop a proclivity for snoring as the tongue slips back toward the throat, partially blocking the windpipe. Snoring is bad for your health, and maybe the right pillow can help.
If you sleep on your back, the mattress must have a certain degree of give around the buttocks and the right amount of uplift near the shoulder blades so that the lumbar area on the back touches the mattress surface – any space will cause strain to the spine and the muscles in the lumbar region.
Not only the mattress has an important function, but the right pillow for a back sleeper does too. If your cushion is too high, the natural shape of the spine, especially in the neck area will be distorted. Such misalignment will lead to neck pain because the head tilts forward. If the pillow is too soft, snoring will be the result.
At around sixteen percent, sleeping on the front is surprisingly the second most popular position. Again, you need to look out for different things in your pillow as a stomach sleeper.
As the front of the body is almost wholly in contact with the mattress surface, the right amount of medium-firmness is required for the highest level of support and minimal give. For stomach sleepers, the pelvic and knee areas on the body need a slight amount of uplift, while the ribcage requires ‘sinkage.’ Achieve this, and you will have the optimal spinal alignment – check our highest-rated pillows if you sleep on stomach.
The pillow is not as important for side sleepers. However, that does not mean that you can choose any type. If the pillow is too high, it will apply pressure to the neck, bending it unnaturally. Go for a cushion that is relatively thin and not too hard, and you will do all right.
Recommended By Health Condition
Neck pain can have many causes, but in less than 1% of all cases are serious illnesses. In some respects, going to the doctor cannot hurt. You should go to a medical professional especially when the pain is severe, radiating into the arms, extending along the entire spine or accompanied by a fever and a headache.
Love to sleep on your side? See our most recommended pillows for side sleepers with a neck pain.
For the most part, muscles are the primary cause of neck pain, or at least they contribute massively. The reason for this is that they react to many stimuli and adapt their tension to them. In this case, this means that they can not only trigger pain but also respond to it, with an increase in tension.
In most cases, loosening the muscles in the neck allows for relief in pain even when structural problems such as osteoarthritis are the cause. One very effective way to deal with neck pain is to invest in the right mattress, and corresponding pillow – support of the head and spinal alignment are key.
Often this nocturnal troublemaker harasses the matrimonial bedroom; sometimes the sawing sound even reaches out to our ears from the next room: snoring (rhonchopathy) robs many people of their sleep. More than half of men and just under 40% of women in advanced age snore. But the noisy breathing through the mouth is not only annoying to others, but it can also affect the sleeper’s health.
Snoring is a sound that is produced in the upper respiratory tract during sleep. It arises when the soft palate, uvula and other parts of the pharynx flutter as a cause of the airflow in the pharynx. Many people only snore when they are lying on their backs. Obesity, high alcohol consumption and the use of sedatives and psychotropic drugs can cause snoring.
The tendency to snore increases with age, as muscles and body tissues become slack with age. Try sleeping on your side or if you are on your back, lift the head some more.
Mites are invisible to the naked eye. They nest everywhere when they find the ideal living conditions: 70-80% humidity, 77° F, darkness and sufficient food in the form of dander and hair are the perfect breeding ground for this pesky critter – and you guessed it – the mattress and the wrong pillow offer the optimal habitat for the house dust mite.
Not the mites themselves cause the allergic reaction but the effect of their feces. This is caused by moving and shaking the bedding triggering the dust to rise in the air where it is inhaled, consequently triggering the allergic symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itching, eczema and asthmatic seizures.
You should always pay attention to the following:
- Ventilate all bedding regularly.
- Invest in hypoallergenic bedding.
- Frequently change the comforter and sheets.
- Wear pajamas, so less dander gets into bed.
- Pay attention to your room temperature – 64-68° F and humidity of 45-50% should be maintained.
- Ventilate the room several times a day.
What aggravates one partner does not bother the other in the least: Loud snoring, followed by pauses of ghostly silence before another cacophonous snore explodes – these are the typical sounds of sleep apnea.
Change your sleeping position – Just avoiding the back position can often do a lot.
Weight loss and sports
You should always aim for a body weight that will make you feel good. This is usually within the range of your standard or ideal weight. This will not only prevent sleep apnea but chances are, you can get rid of it all together.
Do not smoke
You probably already guessed it. You can possibly imagine the negative influence of a breathing-related sleep disorder caused by smoking. The scientific evidence is clear.
Alcohol only in moderation
It is recommended to stop drinking alcohol for about two hours before bedtime. Otherwise snoring may be increased and the duration and frequency of respiratory distress (apnea) increased.
Do you get headaches in the morning? Then it’s worth conducting a pillow-check. Many of us sleep on far too big pillows. As a result, the shoulders cannot sink into the mattress, and the neck muscles get tense, potentially causing your migraine.
But what is a migraine exactly?
A migraine is a seizure-like headache that recurs at irregular intervals. Some people only have a migraine once or twice a year. Others suffer from a migraine several times a month or almost every day. The headache is pulsating, throbbing or stinging.
It often occurs on one side of one half of the head but can extend to the other side. Migraine attacks last a few hours to three days. In children and elderly, the attacks are often shorter. The pain is usually accompanied by vegetative symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, noise, and photophobia and hypersensitivity to noise and odors.
At the onset of pregnancy, few women can already imagine how much the changes in their own body will affect their physical well-being. The fact is, however, that with the growth of the abdomen and the increased body weight pose entirely new challenges for a woman’s body. This is not only felt during the day but especially at night.
However, peaceful and restorative sleep is essential for expectant mothers, so they should strive for the most ergonomic sleep environment possible. Side sleeper pillows are an important helper because they support and relieve the body. Thus, complaints such as back pain, insomnia, tension and shortness of breath are avoided from the beginning.
We mentioned sleeping on the side because is one of the best positions when pregnant, particularly the left side, because the fetus gets optimal blood circulation and the bladder is not put under undue pressure like when sleeping on the back.
Getting too hot in bed is a much-touted complaint – the causes may be the room temperature, the wrong comforter for the time of the year, continuous heating of the bedroom, a heat-retentive mattress and pillow. So, you get the picture. There are many reasons why you get hot in the night.
The good thing is that you can solve the problem quickly. In many cases, a simple bedding change will suffice. However, if your mattress and pillow are the culprits because they are made of pure memory foam without any cooling agents like gel, then you best change both the mattress and your pillow.
Latex, down feathers, buckwheat, memory foam with gel or copper infusion are all excellent cooling pillow option if you sleep hot. Cotton is also a pretty good solution, but this material is slightly hotter than the others. What you need for your head and body is optimum breathability throughout the pillow and mattress.
Type of Covers You Can Buy
Throughout this article, we have mainly focused on what is inside the pillow. So far, hardly any attention has been placed on the cover. A cushion will not sleep well if the cover is not smooth and cozy and breathable – that’s it in a nutshell.
Bamboo is an all-natural, eco-friendly and the most sustainable options for the cover of your cushion. It is easily sourced and thanks to the incredible growth-rate of bamboo shoots, the supply is almost immediately replenished.
The ideal thing about this material is that it is incredibly breathable and free of any chemicals. To top it off, bamboo is hypoallergenic. But what you notice when you touch a bamboo pillow cover is the luxurious softness of the fabric produced from the material. If you have sensitive facial skin, you can really do no better than bamboo.
For restful sleep, it is crucial that you choose the right pillowcase, as the head will continuously come into contact with the fabric.
Cotton pillowcases are very durable and provide the best soft and scratch-free feel to the skin. In addition, these pillowcases can be easily washed at temperatures up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or hot ironed.
- Very robust
- Soft skin feeling
- Heat resistant
- Low allergy potential
- Prone to creasing
- Very breathable but not at the same level as say latex or bamboo
Pillowcases made of cotton also have a far lower allergy potential. Flannel and beaver covers are also made of cotton, but here the fabric is roughened, and thus these covers are even warmer. However, cotton is hardly elastic as fabric, and these types of covers can wrinkle quickly.
Many pillowcases thee days are made of poly-blends. This synthetic fiber is based on oil as the principal raw material and is derived by a special manufacturing process. The fabric polyester is comfortable to wash, robust and durable. Also, polyester has high dimensional stability and the fabric hardly wrinkles.
In addition, pillowcases made of polyester provide no breeding ground for mites and are therefore particularly hygienic and hypoallergenic. Polyester is very soft and stores a lot of heat. To increase the comfort of polyester pillowcases, however, the material is often mixed with other fabrics such as cotton to enhance breathability.
Advantages and disadvantages at a glance:
- Easy care
- Heat sensitive
- Stores heat (not ideal if you sleep hot)
Although poly-blended pillowcases dry quickly, the fabric does not tolerate high temperatures, and so most polyester covers can only be washed at 70 degrees Fahrenheit in a gentle washing cycle.
Our Top Pillows Compared & Reviewed
Nest Bedding Easy Breather – Number One in the World
- No off-gassing – no nasty smells
- Available in two materials: latex or memory foam)
- Superior breathability
- Lifetime warranty
Our Ratings: 9.7/10
The Nest Bedding Easy Breather pillow emulates the feel of a down and feather filling almost precisely. And the Tencel fabric cover is softer than cotton and just as breathable. You can also adjust the height by merely opening the pillow and removing some of the fill so that your head is best supported and the cervical spine aligned with the rest of the spinal column.
The wonderful thing about this product is that you can buy it in two different materials:
- Shredded memory foam – the foam allows for the top-grade contouring to the shape to the head. However, it sleeps hotter than other materials and the foam response time is not particularly fast – not the ideal choice if you toss and turn in bed.
- Noodle natural latex – excellent classic sleeping feel, superior molding and perfect breathability. Also, latex is known as the most durable material in the industry.
The pillows on offer by Nest Bedding cater to all sleeper types.
Layla – Excellent Deal on the Market
- CertiPUR-US certified
- Made in the USA
- Hypoallergenic pillow solution
- Lifetime warranty
Our Ratings: 9.5/10
Not only is the Layla pillow an excellent deal on the market, but the copper-infused memory foam is the very best when it comes to heat transference, allowing for a cooler and more refreshing night’s sleep. Another thing that defines copper as metal is the anti-inflammatory properties and the targeted heat conduction.
And the blended mix of memory foam and Kapok fiber is a marvelous amalgamation of synthetic material with natural elements from the Kapok tree. It feels like you are sleeping on down, but you have not harmed a duck or goose at all.
The cover is soft to the touch and non-scratchy. From the moment you lay your head down on this cushion the memory foam and Kapok will work their magic, providing optimal contouring to the shape of your head. It’s a super comfy pillow that will optimally support the neck.
Purple – One of the Most Comfortable Pillows Ever
- Very responsive and very breathable
- Made in the USA
- 100-night risk-free sleeping trial
- Free shipping
Our Ratings: 9.3/10
The famous purple stuff that constitutes the larger part of the Purple pillow’s makeup allows for a refreshing night’s sleep – you won’t sleep sweaty at all thanks to the celled-structure material. The hyper-elastic polymer creates a cool atmosphere inside the cushion, and it supports the head and neck so that everything is in the perfect place.
The main thing you will notice is that this pillow does not lose shape. Also, you can adjust the height or loft with an ‘inflatable booster’ that is delivered with the product. In addition, extra loft can easily be removed if it is no longer required.
The outer layer or cover is a mix of bamboo viscose, spandex and polyester – it’s smooth and breathable all in one. Not only is the Purple pillow hypoallergenic and anti-microbial but also you can easily keep it clean because it is one hundred percent washable.
Our Final Thoughts
Fortunately, one type of pillow does not dominate the market because we all have different preferences when it comes to our head. You can purchase a pillow in such a wide range of different fills derived from various materials that it can get confusing at times.
This article hopefully removed some of the noise confusing in this part of the bedding industry. You should be best prepared for your new pillow.
We have seen that pillows come in latex (synthetic or natural), memory foam, cotton-fill, down feathers, poly-based fibers, polyurethane, and bamboo.
All of them have their pros and cons. It all depends on whether you desire good breathability, head-contouring, surface responsiveness, eco-friendliness, all natural and organic and finally firmness.
The most important thing that your pillow can do for you is supporting the head no matter the position you sleep – if you rest on your side, a slightly higher pillow will play in your favor; on your back, less firm and less high; and on your front, the pillow should not have much loft at all.
That was just a small recap of the most important points. If you take your time to set your budget and choose wisely, you will soon be sleeping on the best pillow.
- Is Your Pillow Giving You a Stiff Neck? 7 Tips – https://health.clevelandclinic.org/is-your-pillow-hurting-your-neck-7-tips-for-better-sleep/
- Get Enough Sleep – https://healthfinder.gov/healthtopics/category/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationship/get-enough-sleep
- Good Sleeping Posture Helps Your Back – https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4460&ContentTypeID=1