12 Different Types of Pillows for Every Sleeping Position

February 17, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team

No matter how you like to hit the hay, understanding the different pillow types that are right for your preferred sleeping position can help make sure you don’t wake up with a stiff neck. 

For example, side sleepers should look for pillows with a higher loft to ensure their neck isn’t strained at night. Meanwhile, stomach sleepers should look for high pillow softness to ensure they don’t hyperextend their neck. Back sleepers need to find that sweet spot where the support is firm without pushing their neck too far forward.

Keep reading to learn about different types of pillows and which one is best for your sleeping position. 

chart explaining ideal pillow firmness by sleeping type

1. Down Pillow

Down pillows are made from the soft fibers close to the skin of a goose, duck, or swan. Since these pillows are sometimes blended with feathers, be sure to look at the down to feather ratio when purchasing a down pillow. 

It’s also important to find an ethically sourced down pillow. Since down is taken from animals, it’s important to make sure down pillows are certified by the Responsible Down Standard which guides the ethical treatment of ducks and geese. 

Pros: 

  • Moldable, good head and neck support
  • Durable, can last several years
  • Light pillow weight
  • Soft and cushiony
  • Insulating

Cons: 

  • Can retain body heat, so it can be easy to overheat
  • Potential allergic reactions
  • Requires fluffing to maintain loft
  • Can be difficult to clean
  • Need to find ethically sourced down

Who this pillow is best for: Side, back, and stomach sleepers. Down pillow material is one of the best pillows for stomach sleepers due to its cushion and pillow softness.

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2. Down Alternative Pillow

Down alternative pillows are a synthetic version of the classic down pillow. Most down alternative pillows are filled with polyester that is used to mimic the feeling of down. Polyester makes down alternative pillows hypoallergenic and much more affordable. If you’re looking for a soft down feel without wanting to use actual feathers, a down alternative pillow is a great option. 

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Easy to clean
  • Hypoallergenic
  • No ethical sourcing issues

Cons:

  • Can develop lumps
  • Not moldable
  • Weaker insulation than true down

Who this pillow is best for: Back and side sleepers. Stomach sleepers can also use down alternative, but the soft and fluffy nature of down alternative pillows makes it one of the best pillows for back and side sleepers. 

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3. Feather Pillow

Feather pillows are made of a traditional filling that’s great for providing support without losing shape. Feather filling is an excellent option if you’re looking for a comfortable, supportive option. However, it’s important to note that many feather pillows are also filled with a small amount of down, so people allergic to down should be sure to look at the makeup of a feather pillow before purchasing. 

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Light pillow weight
  • Holds shape
  • Moldable

Cons:

  • Needs fluffing to maintain loft
  • Difficult to clean
  • Retains body heat

Who this pillow is best for: Back and side sleepers. Feather pillows are similar to real down in that they are soft and fluffy, but the higher loft makes it one of the best pillows for side sleepers and back sleepers.

4. Cotton Pillow

Cotton pillows have been on a downward trend in popularity in favor of newer synthetic materials like memory foam. But cotton pillows are made of classic pillow material that does have specific advantages, particularly for people who are allergic to synthetic materials. Additionally, since cotton pillows are simple to clean, it’s easy to wash your cotton pillow regularly. 

Pros:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Light, breathable fabric
  • Odorless

Cons:

  • Needs regular cleaning for dust mites and mold
  • Doesn’t contour to head
  • Can become lumpy

Who this pillow is best for: Side, back, and stomach sleepers. Cotton pillows are very versatile and work for almost all sleepers, but it’s important to note that this material won’t mold to the shape of your head like memory foam or feather pillows. 

5. Latex Pillow

Latex pillows are gaining popularity because of the high level of support they provide for your head and neck, while still maintaining a soft and cozy feel. Latex pillows are sold both in solid and shredded material. However, be sure to watch out for latex-blend pillows, which are commonly blended with polyurethane foam, which can potentially be toxic. 

Pros: 

  • Durability
  • Moldable
  • Breathable and cooling
  • Biodegradable

Cons: 

  • Odor
  • High cost
  • Potential for allergic reactions

Who this pillow is best for: Side and back sleepers. This pillow is not recommended for stomach sleepers because of its higher than average loft. 

6. Memory Foam Pillow

Memory foam pillows are becoming extremely popular because it contours to your body, meaning that it can be a good fit for all sleeping positions. This allows your head and neck to mold the memory foam pillow into a position that’s most comfortable for you. 

Pros:

  • Pain relief support
  • No clumping
  • Contours to your body

Cons:

  • Need to find foam density that doesn’t inhibit breathability
  • Some memory foams retain body heat

Who this pillow is best for: Side, back, and stomach sleepers. However, memory foam pillows may be too firm for some side sleepers. 

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7. Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

Shredded memory foam pillows are a rising alternative to traditional memory foam. Since shredded memory foam pillow filling can be added or removed depending on the individual’s preference, shredded memory foam is a good fit for nearly every sleeping preference. 

Pros: 

  • Doesn’t clump 
  • Moldable
  • Customizable support
  • Easy to clean

Cons: 

  • Chemical off-gassing
  • May arrive overstuffed
  • Can wear out over time

Who this pillow is best for: back and side sleepers. Some stomach sleepers may like shredded memory foam, but others report finding this pillow uncomfortable due to the more firm material. 

8. Bamboo Pillow

Bamboo pillows have been a rising trend in the sleep industry for a while, likely because of their antimicrobial properties and moisture-absorbing abilities. Most bamboo pillows are actually made of a shredded foam interior with a bamboo viscose shell, meaning you get the benefits of a shredded memory foam pillow with the cooling properties of bamboo. 

Pros:

  • Antimicrobial
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Cooling and moisture-wicking

Cons:

  • Chemical off-gassing
  • Heavy pillow weight
  • Difficult to clean

Who this pillow is best for: Back sleepers. Since bamboo pillows are made of dense shredded memory foam, stomach and side sleepers may find these pillows too firm. 

9. Gel Pillow

Gel pillows are touted for their ability to keep people cool at night. Many gel pillows are actually made of gel combined with another material, like foam or latex, to give the cooling benefits of gel with the softness of another material. The gel material is firm and holds its shape well, but can be molded to fit the contours of the sleeper, similar to memory foam. 

Pros:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Cooling
  • Easy to care for

Cons:

  • Too firm for some sleepers
  • Expensive

Who this pillow is best for: Stomach and back sleepers. Side sleepers may find gel pillows to be too firm to find a comfortable sleeping position. 

10. Polyester Pillow

Polyester fiberfill pillows, sometimes referred to as poly-fill, are a popular budget-conscious pillow choice. However, due to the cheaper material that poly-fill pillows are made with, they tend to absorb heat and become lumpy fairly quickly.  

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons:

  • Can develop lumps
  • Not breathable
  • Not long-lasting

Who this pillow is best for: Back, stomach, and side sleepers. Since poly-fill can be produced with varying levels of firmness, it works for all sleeping positions. 

11. Buckwheat Pillow

Buckwheat pillows have been popular in Asia for a while, and are just starting to make their way over to North America. These pillows are filled with buckwheat shells, which are firm yet still breathable. However, it’s important to note that the buckwheat shells can be noisy if you move around in your sleep.

Pros:

  • Malleable
  • Breathable and cooling
  • Long-lasting

Cons:

  • Makes noise when moving around
  • Heavy pillow weight
  • Too firm for some sleepers

Who this pillow is best for: Back and stomach sleepers. Side sleepers may find buckwheat pillows to be too firm.

12. Microbead Pillow

Microbead pillows are similar to buckwheat pillows in feeling, but are made with a synthetic material called uniform polymer particles. As a synthetic alternative, microbead offers lots of similar advantages like breathability and conforming to your head shape, but they may also lose their shape faster than true buckwheat pillows. 

Pros:

  • Breathable
  • Malleable
  • Firm and supportive

Cons:

  • Chemical off-gassing
  • Not long-lasting
  • Retain heat

Who this pillow is best for: Back sleepers. Some stomach sleepers may also like microbead pillows, but the high level of firmness is ideal for back sleepers. 

chart explaining best pillow fill for each sleeping position

The Right Pillow For You

Understanding different pillow shapes and fills can mean the difference between a restful snooze and a frustrating night spent counting sheep. Whether you’re looking for hypoallergenic bedding or something designed to ease back pain, you can find different types of pillows that fit your needs. 

Ready for some sweet dreams? Pile on the comfort with a soft and supportive Casper pillow today.