Firm Vs. Soft Pillow: Which Is Better For You?

October 22, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team

Much debate has been made about what kind of pillow is the most universally health-affirming, and our sleep experts at Casper decided it’s high time we put the firm vs. soft pillow debate to bed. So, should you get a firm or soft pillow? Which pillow type is right for you?

The bottom line is that there is no blanket answer—choosing the right pillow firmness is an entirely personal matter. However, it’s important that your pillow has proper support.

Whether you’re searching for an additional pillow or trying to find an alternative pillow to recoup your neck after snuggling up to a pillow that did you wrong, this article will help you. We’ll help you learn how to choose a pillow that has the right firmness for you.

Whether you want a firm or soft pillow, our selection of pillows have the perfect balance of softness and support. Made for all sleeping positions, our pillows are what dreams are made of.

The Pillow Firmness Scale

The subjectivity of softness means there’s no universal metric by which pillow firmness is ranked, but it can be helpful to keep an eye out for these terms if you’re shopping online for a new bed pillow. 

Most pillows fall into one of five firmness scale categories:

  • Soft
  • Medium Soft 
  • Medium 
  • Medium Firm
  • Firm

While a softer pillow will provide the most amount of give, a firmer pillow is more resistant to the weight of your head during the night.

Pillow Firmness vs. Loft

Another term you’ll want to look out for when shopping for your next bed pillow is loft.

Where firmness refers to how much a pillow maintains its shape when weight is applied, loft describes a pillow’s height and thickness.

Here’s how loft affects your sleep position:

  • Low loft pillows keep the neck at a neutral angle in relation to the rest of the spine. 
  • High loft pillows tend to conform to the cervical spine’s natural curvatures.

Pillow Firmness and Pillow Material

Another factor affecting pillow firmness is the material the pillow is made of. Ranked from the most to least soft, here are five common materials you’ll find for pillow filling:

  • DownDown pillows, which contain the plumage from ducks or geese, typically fall in the soft to medium range.
  • Down alternative – A down alternative pillow is usually soft to medium firm. They’re made with polyester fibers that resemble the texture and give of traditional down pillows, without the use of animal products.
  • Memory foam – Memory foam pillows are designed to conform to your resting body’s contours, scale between medium soft to medium firm. Casper’s Foam Pillow, for instance, is designed to strike a balance between them for ample neck support without forfeiting on squishability.
  • Buckwheat – The firmest type of pillows on the market are made of the husks of buckwheat kernels, a type of cereal grain. Buckwheat pillows are notoriously heavy, and fall in the firm to extra firm range.

Preferences for a firm or soft pillow is always a matter of individual taste, so acquainting yourself with pillow materials is the most surefire way to judge a pillow’s softness before you meet it. 

Is It Better to Have a Soft or Firm Pillow? The Best Pillows For Your Sleep Style

When deciding between a firm or a soft pillow, the single most important factor to take into account is your sleeping position.

Your preferred sleeping position will likely fall into one of four categories, each of which can benefit from a certain degree of pillow firmness:

  • Side sleepersSide sleepers need a firmer pillow with medium loft to support their cervical spine at rest. Pillows that are too thick or too thin will disrupt the natural curvature of their neck, and can lead to cramps and pain over time.1
  • Stomach sleepers – For the stomach sleeper, low loft, soft pillows offer the least amount of resistance and ensure a barely-there angle between the neck and the rest of the spine.2 A stomach sleeper tends to build heat during the night, and should opt for a well-ventilated pillow like Casper’s Foam Pillow to stay cool.
  • Back sleepers – There are two varieties of sleepers who sleep on their back: “soldier” sleepers, who lay their arms by their sides, and “starfish” sleepers, who splay them overhead. Back sleepers of all stripes are best supported by medium-firm pillows, and an option like the Original Casper pillow will lend them the most consistent support throughout the night.3
  • Combination sleepers – Combination sleepers have the most nocturnal flair of the bunch, and tend to assume many different positions while unconscious. Soft, versatile pillows are best suited to adapt to the myriad poses they animate in the wee hours, which makes a plush pillow type option like Casper’s Down pillow ideal.

Choosing the right pillow loft and firmness also plays a significant role in ameliorating neck pain. Sleeping on your stomach is one of the most common culprits for chronic neck discomfort, and a low loft option with maximum give can alleviate acute distress.

When deciding between a firm pillow or softer pillow for neck pain, you may want to address your sleeping position head-on.

Consider fine tuning your sleeping habits and learning to sleep on your side or back, which is a more supportive sleep position for the entire spine. Purchasing a medium loft pillow can provide you with the structural support to make a gradual adjustment.

Cloud-Like Comfort Every Time Your Head Hits the Pillow

Where you rest your head at night matters—to your quality of sleep, and your overall well-being.

Both firm and soft pillows can serve you at different points in your life, depending on your current sleep habits and overall state of health. That’s why our range of pillows were engineered for maximum adaptability to keep you cozy you wherever you are in your sleep practices.

For supportive pillows that never fail to squish across the soft spectrum, shop Casper today. We’ve got something for you no matter what pillow size, type, or firmness you need.


  1. The Sleep Foundation. Best Pillows for Side Sleepers.
  2. The Sleep Foundation. Sleeping On Your Stomach – Is it Bad for You?
  3.  The Sleep Foundation. Starfish Sleeping Position.