Memory Foam vs. Down Pillow: Which Is Right for You?

October 7, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team
memory foam vs down pillow memory foam vs down pillow memory foam vs down pillow

If you’re on the market for a new pillow, it can be difficult to decide between all the different types. Weighing the pros and cons can seem overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to walk you through two popular options: the memory foam vs. down pillow.

Both choices can help provide the deep sleep you need, but several factors, including temperature, allergies, and sleeping position, set them apart. You’ll want to keep these differences in mind while you’re pillow shopping.

To make the best decision for you, keep reading for everything you need to know about memory foam vs. down pillows.

What Is Memory Foam?

memory foam pillow benefits

You might be more familiar with memory foam mattresses, but the same material is great for pillows too. Memory foam pillows are made of polyurethane foam engineered to conform to each sleeper’s position.

Check out what makes memory foam stand out from the rest:

Memory Foam Benefits and Drawbacks

Since memory foam is designed to conform to your unique sleeping position, it can help relieve stress on sensitive joints, injuries, and pressure points. The customized shape can provide your head and neck with the support you need.

While memory foam comes with its benefits, some sleepers may prefer the softer feel of alternatives, like down. In addition, foam pillows can’t go in the washer, so cleaning them can require a bit more effort.

Memory foam is best for…

  • People who prefer a firmer cushion
  • People who sleep on their back
  • People who need more head and neck support

What Is a Down Pillow?

Down pillow benefits

A down pillow is filled with quill-less feathers from the soft underbelly of ducks, swans, and geese. Unlike regular feather pillows, down pillows don’t come with any pokiness from quills. Instead, they provide sleepers with a gentle, snooze-worthy cushion.

For those who prefer a synthetic option, a down alternative pillow offers the same softness but uses a polyester filling that’s feather-free and hypoallergenic. 

Down Pillow Benefits and Drawbacks

With their feather filling, down pillows are designed to create a cloud-like cushion for every sleeper.

Although down pillows offer a soft cushion, they don’t provide as much support as firmer options. They’re also not hypoallergenic, so those with allergies might want to choose down alternative or other pillow types.

Down is best for…

  • People who love a fluffy loft
  • People who move a lot in their sleep
  • People who get cold at night

Memory Foam vs. Down Pillow: Side-by-Side Comparison

Now that you understand the basics, it’s time for a more in-depth comparison between memory foam vs. down pillows. Before making your choice, you’ll want to keep all of these factors in mind:

memory foam vs. down pillow comparison

Softness

Since they’re made of feathers from the soft underside of ducks, swans, and geese, down pillows are designed to provide sleepers with softness. Unlike regular feather pillows that come with quills, down pillows are stuffed with quill-less feathers that won’t feel pokey. 

Meanwhile, memory foam pillows offer support that molds to the individual’s unique position. Although many sleepers love their moldable shape, memory foam pillows are firmer than other types like down. For people who want maximum softness, down pillows are the way to go.

Winner: down 

Smoothness

Over time, the filling inside down pillows may start to form clumps. That’s because these pillows are made from natural materials that can wear down as years pass. When you start to notice this lumpiness, it may be time to replace your pillows.

Memory foam pillows are less vulnerable to the clumping that can happen with down or down alternative pillows. The foam material has a consistent feel that’s engineered to provide a smooth sleep.

Winner: memory foam

Support

Down pillows are ideal for those who like softness, but they may fall short when it comes to support. For sleepers who need more structure for their head and neck, the cushiony loft of down pillows may be too soft.

If support is your top priority, you may want to opt for memory foam pillows. That’s because memory foam is firmer, providing more head and neck support while you sleep. The Casper foam pillow has three layers of foam engineered to keep your neck in proper alignment throughout the night.

Winner: memory foam

Price

While memory foam pillows tend to be more expensive than their down-filled counterparts, you can find affordable memory foam options that won’t sacrifice your sleep quality. A Casper down pillow costs $139 USD ($175 CAD), while our foam pillow costs $89 USD ($119 CAD).

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, down alternative pillows give you the soft, pillowy feel of traditional down at a fraction of the price. Casper’s down alternative pillow costs $65 USD ($85 CAD), so you can rest comfortably without breaking the bank. 

Winner: memory foam or down

Allergies

Memory foam pillows are hypoallergenic by design, so they make ideal options for those with allergies. Meanwhile, down pillows technically aren’t hypoallergenic. Before purchasing this pillow type, sleepers with allergies or sensitive skin should make sure down pillows don’t give them a reaction. 

Still want the softness of a down pillow? Down alternative pillows are a hypoallergenic option that provides the same cloud-like comfort without bothering the skin or sinuses.

Winner: memory foam

Cleaning

How to clean memory foam and down pillows

The proper way to wash a memory foam vs. down pillow also varies. For down pillows, you can simply put them in the washing machine at any temperature. If you’d like to prevent fabric shrinkage, opt for cold water.

Meanwhile, memory foam pillows require a little extra care. You can clean them by handwashing or vacuuming and spot treating. Regardless of the cushion you choose, you should know the proper ways to wash pillows to keep them in good condition.

Winner: down

Durability

With proper care, both memory foam and down pillows can keep you comfortable for a long time. The high density in memory foam provides them with enough longevity to last for years. Plus, the foam bounces back to its original shape after each use.  

Down pillows can be just as durable. To make sure they stay soft for longer, you’ll want to fluff your pillows often.  

Winner: memory foam or down

Temperature

When choosing a pillow, you’ll want to keep your preferred sleeping temperature in mind. For those who tend to get cold overnight, a down pillow can provide the warmth you need to sleep soundly.

While some memory foams can lack breathability, Casper’s is made with AirScape™ technology that’s engineered to keep you cool with hundreds of perforations that keep away the heat. Sleepers who get overheated at night may be most comfortable with our cooling memory foam pillow.

Winner: memory foam or down

Odor

When you first buy some memory foam pillows, you may notice a slight chemical-like smell. This odor, otherwise known as off-gassing, results from the breakdown of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during production. To get rid of the scent, simply air out your pillow for 48 to 72 hours. 

If you’re concerned about what’s in your pillow, be sure to choose high-quality brands. At Casper, our top-rated foam materials are CertiPUR-US®-certified and low in VOC emissions.

For sleepers who would rather skip the initial smell, a down pillow provides an odorless cushion right away.

Winner: down

Sleeping Position

The decision between a memory foam vs. down pillow may also come down to your sleeping position. For side sleepers, softer down or down alternative pillows ensure that the neck isn’t strained while you sleep.

Meanwhile, back sleepers might prefer firmer memory foam pillows since they’re designed to keep the head elevated and neck supported overnight.

Winner: memory foam or down

Frequently Asked Questions

Still undecided between a memory foam vs. down pillow? Here are the answers to commonly asked questions that might make your choice more clear:

What’s the Difference Between Feather Pillows vs. Foam Pillows?

The difference between feather and memory foam pillows is in the filling. Memory foam pillows are designed with layers of polyurethane foam. While feather pillows provide cloud-like softness, memory foam pillows give sleepers moldable support.

What’s the Difference Between Down vs. Feather Pillows?

Although they’re both made of feathers, down pillows and feather pillows have important differences. While feather pillows get their filling from animal wings, down pillows retrieve it from the soft underbelly (or down feathers) of swans, ducks, and geese. In addition, feather pillows often contain quills, but down pillows have a quill-less filling that allows sleepers to rest without getting poked.

What’s the Difference Between Down vs. Down Alternative Pillows?

feathers, down alternative pillows are typically stuffed with a synthetic polyester microfiber fill. This alternative offers the same softness as a regular down pillow at a more affordable price.

Are Memory Foam Pillows Good?

n short, yes, memory foam pillows are great for many sleepers. They’re designed to mold to each person’s unique position, wrapping them in a customized cushion. Since they’re also on the firmer side, memory foam pillows provide excellent head and neck support.

Are Memory Foam Pillows Better Than Down Pillows?

The answer to this question depends on each sleeper’s preferences. You’ll want to consider a variety of factors such as temperature, allergies, and sleeping position in order to decide which pillow is best for you.

Is Down or Memory Foam More Comfortable to Sleep on?

What’s more comfortable to one sleeper may be less comfortable to another. For those who prefer a firmer cushion, a memory foam pillow may be the better choice. Meanwhile, sleepers who love softness might find a down pillow more comfy.

Memory Foam vs. Down Pillows: Take Your Pick

So, between memory foam and down pillows, which should you choose? 

After considering the key differences between a memory foam vs. down pillow, you’ll hopefully be able to settle the debate once and for all. If you’re still unsure, take a look through our in-depth guide on how to choose a pillow.

Once you’ve decided on the right pillow type for you, help get the sleep of your dreams by choosing from our high-quality Casper foam or Casper down pillows.

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