Expert pillow picks and tips for getting your best night's sleep.
If you dream of a better night’s sleep, you’re not alone.
Researchers for the Sleep Cycle app found that Americans don’t get eight hours of sleep — they averaged seven hours 19 minutes in 2017. Even if you can’t get more, you can sleep better. And a good place for improvement is with a new pillow.
“A pillow is a bed for your head,” says Michael Breus, a California psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders. “If you spend $1,000 on a mattress and use a $10 pillow, you just turned your bed into a $10 mattress.”
But researching the right pillow can be like staring down the toothpaste aisle: The options are endless. Thankfully, pillow testers like Breus can help narrow it down.
The first thing to consider is the type of sleeper you are. Back sleepers may need a flatter pillow, to keep the head and neck in alignment. Stomach sleepers may need a soft pillow, or no pillow. Side sleepers may need a firmer pillow that’s on the thicker side.
Then there’s fill — wool, cotton, latex, memory foam, feathers, down — which you pick often depends on whether you prefer squishy or firm pillows.
As for cost, Rebecca Robbins, a sleep adviser to the Benjamin Hotel in New York, says to invest at the highest level your budget can afford. “We sleep for one-third of our lives,” she says. “Why not make it the most amazing, comfortable room in your house?”
Breus says his favorite pillow, and the one he sleeps on, is V&R Naturals’ Latex Kapok Blend ($129 at vrnaturals.com) because portions of the stuffing can be removed as needed based on your sleep preference.
At the Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab, senior product analyst Lexie Sachs and other analysts look at how well pillows keep their shape, withstand laundering and fit into a pillowcase. Consumer testers rate pillows for comfort and support.
One pillow that has come out on top is the Sleep Number ComfortFit Pillow ($90–$150 at sleepnumber.com), available in Classic, Curved and Ultimate styles.
Sachs uses the Classic model. “I love how it’s both soft and supportive,” she says. “Most foam pillows feel too firm for me, but this one is a combination of foam and down-alternative fiberfill, and it feels like I’m getting the best of both.”
Because it’s not washable and has no removable cover, Sachs uses a pillow protector to keep it clean.
Michelle Dirkse, a Seattle-based interior designer whose projects have appeared in design magazines “Luxe,” “Rue” and “Domino,” says the Parachute Down Alternative Pillow ($59–$89 at parachutehome.com), available in soft, medium and firm densities, is one she has picked for her clients and herself.
“I just finished remodeling my entire condo and the new pillows are a cozy final touch for my new bed,” she says. The pillow would be a good fit for a guest room, too, because it’s allergen-free.
Hotel advisor Robbins, a side sleeper, uses the Beautyrest Black Ice Memory Foam Pillow ($129 at mattressfirm.com). “Temperature plays a huge role in our sleep,” she says, noting that the pillow is made of a cooling, breathable foam.
“The bedroom is the gateway drug to get more sleep,” says Robbins, a postdoctoral fellow at New York University. “We drink coffee, we drink wine, we get stressed about our careers. Some of those things are hard to modify, but the bedroom is something we can often control.”