Discover the best pillow for your sleeping style with our buying guide and bite-sized reviews
Many people don’t realise that finding the best pillow for your body shape and size – as well as your style of sleeping – is critical to a good night’s sleep. If you don’t take care when buying the right pillow, chances are you’ll wake up with a crick in your neck.
Even if you did put time and effort into getting the right pillow the last time around, chances are it needs replacing. Even the best pillows don’t tend to last more than a few years, eventually failing to provide the level of support they used to – and that’s before you even think about the hygiene factor. You probably won’t want to hear this, but within two years of use, a third of a pillow’s weight is made up of dead skin, dirt, oil, dust mites and their droppings.
Not sure where to start on your pillow shopping spree? Our buyer’s guide at the bottom of this page will help you find out what filling, level of firmness and cover fabric will suit you best.
How to choose the best pillow for you
How often should I replace my pillow?
Most of us are guilty of putting up with our pillows long after they’ve lost their original fluffiness. But old pillows can lead to back and neck pain, as well as allergies. Some pillows may need replacing after as little as six months, while others will give you two years. Down pillows last longer – up to five years – and a feather pillow might even give you eight years.
Not quite sure whether your pillow needs replacing or not? If it’s lost its shape and/or you’re waking up with a sore neck or a blocked nose, chances are it’s time to invest in a new one.
What difference does my sleeping position make?
A good pillow, according to the Sleep Council, is not just about personal preference, but alignment. So whatever kind of sleeper you are – back, front or side – your pillow should hold your head in relation to your shoulders and spine as if you were standing up with perfect posture, with the cushioning of the pillow nicely tucked into the neck and shoulder area to fully support your head.
- Side sleepers should ideally choose a medium-high thickness pillow (high-fill down, memory foam or medium-high synthetic are all good) to support the shoulders, neck and head.
- Front sleepers should go for a softer pillow (down or low-fill synthetic are both good).
- Back sleepers need a medium-thickness pillow (high-fill down, orthopaedic memory foam or medium synthetic are good).
- People who sleep in a mixture of positions should go for medium thickness (for example, high-fill down or medium synthetic).
What type of filling should I go for?
There’s a whole world of pillow fillings out there, so we’ve summarised the pros and cons of the various types below.
- Combined feather and down pillows are good for comfort and support, eliminating pressure points and avoiding face squashing. But if you suffer from allergies, they’re a no-no.
- Pure feather pillows – as luxurious as the idea of pure feathers may sound, we’d avoid this type as those pesky feather quills seem to have a way of escaping and stabbing you in the face. It’s also worth noting they don’t offer the support and height needed for side sleepers. Plus, they can be noisy and don’t suit allergy sufferers.
- Pure down pillows, on the other hand, are the ultimate in luxury, particularly if you like your pillow soft and fluffy. They’re lovely and light, as well as being airy and quiet – and they last well. But side-sleepers, be warned they often lack support and height so you may need a firmer pillow underneath. Other downsides are that they can be expensive and they are high maintenance, needing lots of shaking to get them back into shape. And once again, they’re no good for allergy sufferers.
- Synthetic pillows are usually made from polyester. As they’re hypoallergenic, they’re great for allergy sufferers and also affordable, lightweight and easy to care for. They’re good if you sleep in a variety of positions throughout the night too. But they aren’t as malleable or breathable as other pillows and they have the shortest lifespan of all pillows – with the filling often prone to clumping.
- Memory foam pillows mould your neck and head, creating a comfy and smooth cradle while you are in the land of nod, making them a great option for pain relief and strong support. They are also quiet, as well as being easy to care for and temperature-sensitive. But they are dense and firm, which makes them a poor option for restless sleepers and they can start off with a rather chemical smell, as well as being pricey.
- What other types are there? More niche pillows include micro-bead, buckwheat and water pillows (again, good for pain relief as they’re mouldable), but they can be noisy and have that certain smell.
What about pillow sizes?
If you have a single or double bed, choose a standard-size pillow. If you have a king or super-king bed, you may want to consider a super-king pillow. Square pillows are typically used for decoration.
- Standard: 50cm x 75cm (20in x 30in)
- Super-king :50cm x 90cm (20in x 35in)
- Square: 65cm x 65cm (26in x 26in)
What if I have allergies?
If you’re an allergy sufferer, you should consider a latex pillow. These pillows are made from the sap of rubber trees, not only making it elastic and resilient but good to fight against allergies as they are mold-resistant. It’s worth noting, however, that they tend to be cooler than memory foam and can form to fit your head and neck but don’t offer as much give. They can also be quite heavy and expensive.
Does the cover fabric matter?
It’s easy to assume this is irrelevant as you’ll have a pillowcase covering it. But it’s worth noting that natural cover fabrics such as cotton have much more breathability than polyester and other man-made fibres, which can make for a far more comfortable night’s sleep if you’re prone to getting hot at night.
How we test pillows
When testing pillows, some of the key factors that we take into consideration include loft (or height), firmness, temperature, and value for money – as well as the sleeping position of the person we are recommending the pillow to (whether that be on their side, back or a combination of the two).
For instance, if you sleep on your side, you may want something with a bit more loft. And if you’re someone who is prone to overheating at night, it’s important to be aware that some pillows – particularly memory foam ones – may feel warmer than others. Different sleepers will get on better with different pillows, and it’s important to bear that in mind when testing.
Where relevant, we also take into account other aspects including trial periods, washable covers and extra features – such as adjustable and ergonomic designs – all of which can play a part in our recommendations.
READ NEXT: Best memory foam pillow
The best pillows you can buy in 2023
1. Silentnight Just Like Down Microfibre Pillow: Best value pillow
Price when reviewed: £25 (pair) | Check price at Amazon You’ll have no problem drifting off with this cushioning your head and, as its name suggests, you could easily be fooled into thinking the soft and fluffy filling is down, whereas its mere hollowfibre. The result is a well-insulated, warm pillow that comes in at a fraction of the price of a real down one.
Moreover, you get two in the pack, making the saving even greater. The pillow spells good news for people with allergies as it’s hypoallergenic and we also like the fact that the whole thing is washable. Unlike down pillows, though, it’s relatively big and bouncy, making it better for side and back sleepers than front ones – and it won’t last as long as real down. Still, given that you can pick up a pair for just under £25, these are only minor moans.
Key features – Filling: Hollowfibre; Cover: Microfibre (machine washable); Sizes: Standard size only
2. Slumberdown Allergy Protection Pillows: Best pillows for allergy sufferers
Price when reviewed: £12 (pair) | Check price at Amazon If you suffer from allergies or are simply in search of a more hygienic night’s sleep, we highly recommend this affordable two-pack of pillows from Slumberdown. Their polyester filling is specially formulated to help reduce dust mites and the buildup of bacteria and they come with a seal of approval from the country’s leading allergy charity, Allergy UK.
There are three options available: soft support for front sleepers, medium support for back sleepers and firm support for side sleepers, all of which are available as two-packs for under £20.
We tested the firm version, which feels springy to the touch and still offers a decent amount of give. Indeed, we found the pillow strikes a keen balance between supporting your neck and head and providing enough cushioning to help you snooze serenely.
Key features – Filling: 100% Polyester; Cover: 100% cotton; Sizes: Standard size only (74cm x 48cm)
3. Panda Memory Foam Bamboo Pillow: Best-value memory foam pillow
Price when reviewed: £45 | Check price at Panda Making the move to a memory foam pillow can be a big step for some, and the initial prospect of resting your head on a wad of foam isn’t always the most appealing. However, this memory foam pillow from Panda is both supportive and very comfortable indeed.
It’s a little bit firmer than the Otty Deluxe, but it’s not so firm that it feels clinical, instead landing somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It comes with an inbuilt protector, plus a soft, breathable and hypoallergenic bamboo cover (which can be washed at 40°C), which helps you to keep things fresher than washing your pillowcase alone .
The Panda pillow offers great value for money, beating bed-in-a-box rivals such as Eve, Emma and Otty on price. A single pillow will cost you £45 direct from Panda, although you might find it cheaper on Amazon. And while the claim that bamboo is the last word in sustainability is open to dispute, Panda prides itself on its eco-friendly credentials, avoiding the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides, while introducing its own Circle of Life recycling initiative.
Key features – Filling: Memory foam; Cover: Bamboo (machine washable); Sizes: Standard size only
Also consider: Panda Hybrid Bamboo Memory Foam Pillow
While “hybrid” is a popular term with online mattress and bedding brands, it’s often unclear exactly what it means and how it should apply to the products it labels (perhaps with the exception of hybrid mattresses, which have a combined foam and sprung construction). Nevertheless, Panda’s Hybrid Bamboo Memory Foam Pillow is comfortable and supportive, which is arguably what matters most.
The core of the pillow is made from bamboo and charcoal-infused memory foam (dubbed “CharcoCell foam” by Panda), perforated to promote airflow and wrapped in a quilted bamboo rayon cover. It’s softer than Panda’s standard bamboo pillow, instead looking and feeling more like the Otty pillow featured below. The cover is also silky soft and cool to the touch – so much so, that it’s almost a shame to put a pillowcase over the top of it.
At £90, it costs twice as much as the standard Panda pillow, so that remains the better value option – but you do get the same 30-night trial period and 10-year guarantee.
4. Nectar A Whole Night’s Sleep Pillow: Best adjustable foam pillow
Price when reviewed: £99 | Check price at Nectar One of the challenges of buying a new pillow is that one person’s idea of perfection can leave someone else tossing and turning all night. Nectar’s A Whole Night’s Sleep pillow is one of a number of new pillows that aims to overcome this problem by letting you adjust its height.
We found it just right straight out of the box, offering fairly firm support with a soft comfort layer on top. However, should you find it too high, you can unzip its cover and remove one of its three layers of memory foam.
Despite being made from foam, we also found that the A Whole Night’s Sleep Pillow did a great job of stopping us from getting hot and clammy. This can likely be attributed to its plush Tencel cover, which is filled with technofibre microfibre to offer a down-like feeling.
If that’s not enough to convince you, the fact Nectar also makes a donation to mental health campaign #IAMWHOLE for every unit sold may do the trick.
Key features – Filling: Memory foam and microfibre; Cover: Tencel cover; Sizes: Standard size only
5. Scooms Hungarian Goose Down pillow: A luxury pillow that won’t break the bank
Price when reviewed: £90 | Check price at Scooms If you’re in the market for a truly luxurious pillow, Scooms’ Hungarian goose down pillow ticks pretty much every box. Made from a goose feather and down core surrounded by a 90% down outer chamber, it delivers emphatically on the company’s claim that it’s simultaneously supportive and soft.
Scooms’ “perfect” pillow is surrounded by a 300 thread count, 100% sateen cotton case and it’s machine washable – which the company recommends you do so every 6-12 months. The down and feathers both adhere to the Responsible Down Standard, meaning they’re sourced from geese that have been treated well and never suffer from live-plucking.
The only significant caveat is that to keep the pillow feeling its best, you’ll need to plump it up daily – something that’s not necessary with the foam pillows in this list.
Key features –Filling: Goose down and feathers; Cover: 100% cotton cover (machine washable) Sizes: Standard size and king size
6. Soak & Sleep 90% Hungarian Goose Down Pillow: Best down pillow for customisable options
Price when reviewed: From £85 | Check price at Soak & Sleep Much like the Scooms pillow above, Soak & Sleep’s 90% Hungarian Goose Down Pillow won’t break the bank (in fact, starting at £72, it’s actually ever-so-slightly cheaper). It’s just as comfortable too: we tested the medium/firm variant and found it to be supportive yet not too firm.
Soak & Sleep also claims that its ethically sourced down filling (which is contained within a 280 thread count cotton casing) is, contrary to conventional wisdom, suitable for allergy sufferers because of its “excellent oxygen and turbidity ratings” (among other things such as lack of chemical treatment).
Another appealing feature is the amount of choice you get when it comes to size and feel. It’s available in soft, soft/medium and medium/firm variants, as well as standard (50 x 75cm), superking (50 x 90cm) and square (65 x 65cm) sizes.
Key features –Filling: Goose down and feathers; Cover: 100% cotton cover (machine washable) Sizes: Standard, superking, square
7. Otty Deluxe Pure Pillow: A cool, comfortable memory foam pillow
Price when reviewed: £70 | Check price at Otty Of all the myriad memory foam pillows we’ve tested, the Otty Deluxe Pure is one of the most comfortable. Its boxy appearance might give the impression that, like many foam pillows, it’s impenetrably dense. However, while it does offer a good amount of support and ‘bounce back’ (meaning it’s quick to take its shape once you’ve stopped laying on it), it’s about as close as you can get to plush comfort from an all-foam pillow.
The memory foam filing of the Deluxe Pure is infused with bamboo and charcoal for its moisture-wicking, hypoallergenic and antibacterial properties, and the polyester cover can be machine washed at 40°C. At £70, it’s not cheap. But by no means is it the most expensive pillow on our roundup, and you can often find it discounted in Otty’s sitewide sales.
Read our full Otty Deluxe Pure Pillow review
Key features – Filling: Memory foam with bamboo and charcoal; Cover: Polyester (machine washable); Sizes: Standard size only
8. Tempur Cloud Pillow: Best luxury memory foam pillow
Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at John Lewis Memory foam pillows are the Marmite of the sleep world but don’t jump to conclusions about this unconventional and firmer choice, which can be life-changing. In particular, people suffering from allergies, back and neck pain report feeling almost instant relief from the memory foam that moulds itself into the natural curvature of your neck and head, avoiding pressure points for added comfort.
And while there are plenty of rival pillows on the market, we’ve not found one that comes close in terms of comfort, malleability, support and longevity. Plus, it’s made from extra-soft material and responds to body temperature, so there’s no need to wake up to a damp pillow if you get clammy at night.
Key features – Filling: Memory foam; Cover: 100% cotton cover (machine washable); Sizes: Standard size only
9. Simba Hybrid Pillow: The most versatile pillow
Price when reviewed: £109 | Check price at Simba The Simba Hybrid Pillow with Stratos is one of the most expensive pillows on this list but it’s also one of the most sophisticated. Just like the company’s hybrid mattress, it’s made using a combination of different materials: on one side of the pillow is a breathable fibre filling encased in the “astronaut-inspired” material Stratos; on the other is a soft, anti-allergy microfibre filling below a layer of premium cotton. You can lay your head on either side but the pillow’s party trick is its “nanocubes” – small memory foam cubes in its core that can be added or removed to adjust both the height and firmness according to your preference.
Despite the high-tech credentials, the Simba Hybrid feels surprisingly like a traditional pillow – much more so than some all-foam competitors. Unlike microfibre and feather pillows, which tend to be either soft or supportive but rarely both, the Simba Hybrid finds that sweet spot right out of the box. It’s worth noting, however, that unlike the Simba Hybrid mattress, there’s no trial period with its bedding products.
Key features – Filling: Down, memory foam and microfibre; Cover: Cotton and Outlast; Sizes: Standard size only
Also consider: Simba Firm Hybrid
Just as versatile is the uniquely layered Simba Firm Hybrid. Much like the original Simba Hybrid, it can be adjusted to suit your sleeping preference. But rather than containing foam “nanocubes”, it has slab-like layers that can be added, removed and rearranged in different orders depending on whether you prefer a medium or a firmer feel. What makes the Firm Hybrid pillow stand out, though, is a layer of titanium “Aerocoils” which are designed to provide the perfect level of support. We can’t say how effective these springs are, but the pillow does feel very supportive and comfortable.
What we can say with certainty, however, is that such innovation comes at a high price: the Simba Firm Hybrid costs an eye-watering £159. Ultimately, no matter how good a pillow is, this is a price some people simply won’t be able to afford.
10. Silentnight Eco Comfort Pillow: Best for side sleepers
Price when reviewed: £15 | Check price at Amazon If you’re a side sleeper (statistically, most of us are) then you’ll want a pillow that can provide a decent amount of support to help keep your spine aligned. Silentnight’s Eco Comfort Pillow comes in a choice of two firmness options – soft and medium/firm – so we’d recommend the latter as a more supportive option for side sleeping.
The Eco Comfort is a sustainable and affordable alternative to many memory foam pillows. Its spiral shaped ‘Eco Comfort Fibres’ are made from 100% recyclable materials which, Silentnight claims, includes 17 plastic bottles. This filling gives the pillow a buoyant feeling and helps it to spring back to shape when you aren’t using it – just like memory foam.
It’s worth noting that, if you’re a side sleeper, we have a separate best buy roundup of pillows just for you, which you can check out here.
Key features – Filling: Recycled polyester Eco Comfort Fibres; Cover: 98% Polyester, 2% Elastine (machine washable); Size: 74 x 45cm
11. Dormeo Octasmart Pillow: An outstanding breathable memory foam pillow
Price when reviewed: £49 | Check price at Dormeo The Dormeo Octasmart pillow uses 24 memory foam “springs” to deliver a high level of support and breathability. The manufacturer claims this design is up to eight times more breathable than regular memory foam. Pushing down on the pillow with my hand, I could feel the individual springs and worried it wouldn’t be particularly comfortable. However, the reality was entirely different. If you’re looking for a memory foam pillow that’s supportive without being excessively firm or sweaty, this fits the bill admirably. It’s not as high as the Eve memory foam pillow, which arguably makes it better suited for back and front sleepers than side sleepers, but overall it’s a great all-rounder. The Octasmart’s cover is also machine washable.
Key features – Filling: Wellsleep fibres and memory foam; Cover: Polyester; Sizes: Standard size only
12. The Emma Pillow: Best money-back guarantee
Price when reviewed: £105 | Check price at EmmaUPDATE: Since publishing our review, Expert Reviews has noticed a recent influx of negative customer reviews for Emma Sleep on Trustpilot, with many customers complaining of delays to shipping and a lack of communication over when deliveries will happen. According to Emma Sleep, these delays have been caused by factors “not under [the brand’s] control”, and a spokesperson said that the process of transitioning “order management and fulfilment platforms” has led to these issues. We’ve also been told that resolving these issues is a top priority for Emma Sleep and the company is expecting to resolve the issues in the coming weeks. We will be sure to bring you more information as we receive it.
Featuring three layers of removable foam, the Emma Pillow can be tailored to suit your personal sleeping preference. Each layer possesses different qualities: the Airgocell foam layer is open-pored, improving breathability and heat transfer away from your head, the memory foam layer contours to your head and neck, and the HRX layer provides firmer support for your head and neck.
Emma suggests side sleepers use all three layers, while those who sleep on their backs are encouraged to remove a layer, with front sleepers recommended to pick just one of the trio of foam inserts. We tested various combinations and found two layers to be the sweet spot in terms of comfort, support and breathability when sleeping on our side. Your experience may well differ, of course, but we’re confident that no matter your sleeping preference, you’ll find a configuration that works for you.
Emma is equally confident and offers a 200-night trial on the pillow. So, if you find it’s not helping deliver the sweet slumber you’re craving, simply return it and get your money back, no questions asked.
Key features – Filling: Airgocell foam, HRX foam, Visco-elastic memory foam; Cover: 98% Polyester, 2% Elastane; Sizes: Standard size only (70cm x 40cm)
13. Emma Premium Microfibre Pillow: Best adjustable microfibre pillow
Price when reviewed: £115 | Check price at EmmaUPDATE: Since publishing our review, Expert Reviews has noticed a recent influx of negative customer reviews for Emma Sleep on Trustpilot, with many customers complaining of delays to shipping and a lack of communication over when deliveries will happen. According to Emma Sleep, these delays have been caused by factors “not under [the brand’s] control”, and a spokesperson said that the process of transitioning “order management and fulfilment platforms” has led to these issues. We’ve also been told that resolving these issues is a top priority for Emma Sleep and the company is expecting to resolve the issues in the coming weeks. We will be sure to bring you more information as we receive it.
Just like Nectar’s A Whole Night Sleep pillow, the loft (or height) of the Emma Premium Microfibre Pillow can be adjusted by adding or removing one of its layers. The difference with Emma’s pillow is that it’s made from microfibre rather than memory foam. We found it much more “squishy” than most of its foam counterparts, so we’d argue it’s best suited to sleepers who prefer a softer pillow.
The pillow’s two polyester microfibre layers are encased in a soft padded pillowcase. With both layers inserted, the pillow has a good amount of loft, which is a good thing for side sleepers who need to support their head and shoulder (though we also found the pillow to be comfortable and supportive with just the one insert). While most of the pillows on our roundup have a machine washable cover, you might also be pleased to hear that this pillow – inserts and all – can be popped in the washing machine at a temperature up to 60°C.
Emma’s Premium Microfibre pillow is on the pricier end of the spectrum at £115. But taking into account the regular promotional sales that the brand runs, there’s a good chance you won’t have to pay full price. What’s more, the pillow comes with a trial period, giving you 30 nights to try it out. If you decide you don’t like it during this time, you can return it for a full refund.
Key features – Filling: Polyester (machine washable inserts); Cover: Polyester (machine washable); Sizes: Standard size only
14. Original Groove Pillow: Best contoured pillow for neck pain
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at Groove Contoured pillows aren’t uncommon these days, and the Groove Pillow (originally branded the EasySleeper) is one of our favourites, featuring on our best pillow for neck pain roundup as the best ergonomic option.
It looks a bit odd at first, and is a little thinner than a lot of other pillows we’ve tested, but we found the Original Groove Pillow to be comfortable and supportive: we didn’t once wake up with a sore neck during testing. It comes with a removable cover that can be machine washed, and its memory foam inner is infused with bamboo and charcoal. The pillow will fit a standard sized pillow case, but if you want a better fit, Groove sells cases designed specifically for its contoured pillow.
At £30, the Original Groove Pillow is also a great option where value for money is concerned and you get a 100-night trial, during which you can return it for a full refund if you’re not happy.
Key features – Filling: Memory foam; Cover: Quilted scuba (neoprene) (machine washable); Sizes: 1 (60 x 35cm, 11/6cm height)
Also consider: Zamat Butterfly Button Shaped Cervical Pillow
Compared to the Original Groove pillow, the contours of this pillow from Zamat are a lot more prominent and defined. As such, some might find it hard to get along with it. Indeed, some of us on the Expert Reviews team didn’t find it all that comfortable. But others, particularly those of us who often struggle with neck and shoulder pain, had a much more positive experience – finding it comfortable and supportive even when moving about during the night.
It’s a bit on the pricey side at £68, particularly when compared to the Groove pillow which is less than half this. What’s more, like many memory foam pillows, it can feel quite warm. But our reviewer did mention a noticeable difference in how much better their neck and shoulder blades felt upon waking up in the morning.
While you can use a standard pillow case, it’s not the most natural fit. It would be nice if it came with an additional fitted case as part of the cost of the pillow (in addition to the pillow’s washable cover), but for now you’ll have to fork out an extra £12 if you want one of these.