The Pillow: Just How Important is it?

The topic of Pillows and their importance to a good night’s sleep has not been a topic of discussion in quite a while. We all know that the selection of the right mattress is extremely important for a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep is not likely to be complete unless it has the assistance of a great pillow that matches the physical characteristics of the sleeper, firmness of the mattress and the position of the sleeper. Spinal alignment, resolving neck and shoulder soreness or issues are often the job of the Pillow, and is often overlooked during the mattress purchase. There are so many pillows out there today. The unlimited supply of materials and designs, gimmicks and conventional combinations make it difficult for a sleeper, particularly one who purchases a new mattress to get comfortable with their new bed.
I could start listing materials and designs, but that would take a month to compile, organize and categorize.
What I would like to have is a general discussion from members, moderators and trusted members and our Trusted Experts Talk To The Experts - Mattress Underground the approach they take on selecting, advising and the timing of when to purchase that new pillow that is essential for a good night’s sleep. For the discussion, we can include or exclude individual physical limitations as it concerns sleep, such as degenerative conditions or things like effect of blue light, melatonin, circadian rhythms and how it relates to sleep, unless the pillow specifically has technology to address the issues.
Thanks, and look forward to everyone’s thoughts!

Choosing a pillow should not be an afterthought. The pillow in an integral part of the sleep system and a means for a healthy, restful, good night’s sleep. When choosing a pillow, you should have a sense of what type position sleeper you and your partner (if there is one) are. Are you a back sleeper, side sleeper, stomach sleeper or a combination of some or all of these types. People will find when they get a new mattress of a different firmness level from their previous mattress, that the first few nights of sleep can be a bit confusing. You tried something in a store or studied it on paper, and now your new mattress has arrived and your first few nights are uncomfortable. Certainly, some mattresses need to go through their break in period, the sleeper needs to go through their own break in period and more than likely, your pillow (even if previously new) may need to be changed due to the firmness of your new mattress system.
As a general guideline as everyone is different, side sleepers should be careful to check the height between their ear and surface of the mattress. Naturally the loft or height of the pillow will be determined by the broadness of the sleepers’ shoulders. As a side sleeper, I tend to go nearly half the thickness of the pillow higher in loft. Depending on the pillow material, you may find yourself sinking into the pillow about half way. So, to ensure your head and nose are level with the rest of your body, you may have to adjust your height accordingly. Many people simply measure the height from the mattress to the side of the head and get buy a pillow at that loft. This will cause a bending of the head when it depresses into the pillow and cause muscle strain, as it is the pillow that is supporting your head, not your shoulders. Just be certain to understand how your pillow works. It sounds funny to say that, but viscoelastic memory foam sinks and cuddles your head, latex tends to sink at first, then starts to push back against your head. Then there is the plethora of pillow fill materials, some sink, some are very firm and so on.
The back sleepers need to ensure that their pillow contours to the natural curve of your neck. Cervical pillows are nice for this, although they are super comfortable to sleep on, can keep you from snoring, feel supportive, they can sometimes be more difficult to maintain the exact sleep position throughout the night if you toss and turn a bit. Again, attention must be given to the material, as a general rule a firm or medium-firm pillow is preferred by most back sleepers.
Stomach sleepers can run into some issues if their pillow is not quite right. They want to be careful not to hyper extend their neck and strain their neck, shoulder and back muscles. Pillows that have a lower loft, medium to medium soft feel is the general consensus to allow your head to settle in without too much uplift to the head.
Of course, there are a variety of pillow shapes, sizes and contouring styles. They make the cut-out types for the side sleepers for a place for your shoulder to land. The butterfly looking cervical style to support the head and neck for back and the occasional side sleeper. There are even pillows with cutouts or holes where your ear/back of your head rests (depending on side or back sleeping). Any way you view it, the pillow is the critical component to support your head and neck while you sleep.
It is essential that some due diligence is done to understand the various materials, what they do, how they work and feel. One of the best places to start when shopping is to look at the law label. I feel like I do this all the time. You walk through Sam’s, Costco, private home store, the law label is the key to what is in the pillow. So many terms such as down alternative, poly fill, even memory foam, when printed on the box or pillow wrapping, doesn’t really tell you much. The law label will be more specific. 100% molded polyurethane foam, 100% Viscoelastic Polyurethane Foam, Latex, Natural Latex, Organic Latex, are just some names that are used and often hard to distinguish as they sometimes mean the same thing. All viscoelastic foam is polyurethane, but not all polyurethane is viscoelastic depending on the formula and the additives combined with the material. There are synthetic materials, natural materials, blends of both, synthetic versions of natural materials. Horse hair, alpaca, wool, buckwheat, solid materials, and shredded materials. Then there is equal sized cuts of the shredding, cross cut, little squares, interlocking pieces, hey wait, it’s lucky charms, :astonished:. I think if a manufacture thought they could fill a pillow with aquarium sand, they would do it, and tout some benefit, as long as it was profitable. The main point is do a little research and have a sense of what you are buying, what material you are selecting, the pillow style and how it matches up with your PPP’s (I say the PPP is not just for mattress selection).
As mentioned, I could go on forever with materials, designs, fillings, and recommendations, but ultimately, it is up to the user to coordinate their mattress, pillow and materials for a comfortable, healthy, good night’s sleep.
Keep in mind too, the healthcare issues that coincide with a good night’s sleep. Various health conditions, and then there is caffeine, melatonin levels, and blue light levels given off by various electronics and natural sources, where you need to curb exposure, at least an hour before heading to sleep.

Hi batmannorm.

Thanks for starting a thread about pillows. Pillows are, in my opinion, just as important as choosing the right mattress and, like mattresses, different sleeping positions require different loft, softness, support, etc. People also have varied preferences and support needs, and frequently upper back and neck pain is related to a poor fit of pillow!

I personally have a large collection of pillows that I sort of rotate through. Some are solid firm foam, some are shredded latex, some are gel…and even a body pillow!

I’ve even slept on buckwheat pillows. Not my favorite.

Looking forward to everyone’s thoughts on the pillow topic.


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So, I guess I will start by listing all the pillows I have. It is a reasonably long list, so I hope I am not boring.

1 Queen Sized Blonde 100% Horsetail hair Pillow new September 2023

2 Tempur-pedic King Soft and Conforming

2 Tempur-pedic Contour Neck Pillows Plus 1 Original TP Neck Pillow from 1992/3

1 Tempur-pedic Dual Breeze Queen

1 Tempur-Pedic ProCloud Hi Queen

1 Tempur-Pedic ProCloud Mid Queen

1 Tempur-Pedic Symphony Standard

2 Enchante King 100% Wool Pillows

1 Malouf Gel Zoned Dough Queen Hi Loft

1 Brooklyn Bedding Premium Shredded Foam Pillow Queen

1 100% Natural Latex Talalay Pillow Queen

2 100% Natural Latex Dunlop Eluxury Standard Pillows

2 Brookstone Biosense Pillows

2 Pacific Coast Down/Feather Pillows

2 Serta Shredded Memory Foam Pillows

2 Cervical neck pillows, one with arm wings, one just the butterfly shape

several bamboo contour neck pillows and neck roll pillows.

I won’t even count the cheap polyfill pillows.

So, as you can see, I went a little crazy with the pillow thing. It took a while to settle on a combination that was comfortable for me. Which ended up with the TP King Soft and Conforming and the TP ProCloud Hi on top. My wife actually likes the TP King Soft and Conforming with the 100% Latex Talalay Pillow on top. I often swap and exchange pillows around to see if combination works better. I do like the Brooklyn Bedding Pillow and The Malouf Pillow. The TP Dual Breeze is a solid pillow too. But the TP S&C with the TP PC Hi is my favorite. There are still pillows I would like to try, but I just haven’t figured out which ones I want to try first. There are just so many out there. Kapok, Buckwheat Hull, Horsehair (I wish I kept my horsehair pillows from when was a kid, who knew you weren’t supposed to throw them out). I have found the 100% Talalay Latex too bouncy and pushes back to hard against my neck, The Malouf’s not bad, but when my head sinks into the pillow, it doesn’t stay stable throughout the night. The wool pillow compressed to the point of being too hard (I like firm, but it was a bit too much). The cervical pillows were actually really good. Kept my neck in position, kept me from snoring, they were just a little odd shaped and hard to keep my head center in the neck mold area. What I like about the TP ProCloud is that my head sinks into the pillow about half way down and it holds me in place and I feel like I am sleeping on a cloud. Funny that my head likes that feel, but my body likes an ultra-firm/laying on top of the mattress feel. I find that if the shredded foam pillows are not stuffed enough, they feel lumpy against my head. At 6’ 220 with broader shoulders, and mostly a side sleeper, I need the two-pillow stack to keep my head aligned with the rest of my body. I don’t like when my head is pushed up too much or droops down below my shoulder when on my side.

It’s no wonder that so many people have issues sleeping. Finding the right mattress is hard enough. Then finding the right pillow/s to go along with it can be a real challenge. If you don’t get it right, it can be a rough night’s sleep. Ok, I guess I have rambled on enough. Any thoughts (other than to tell me to shut up).

I would welcome any suggestions too. I have heard of micro coil pillows, and other unique things, but haven’t seen fit to see what they have to offer. So, if any of our Our Manufacturer Memberships :: The Mattress Underground have anything unique and different, I am always game to give it the old college try. That’s my pillow story, what say you?

I would like to add that I purchased, and have used (for at least a short period of time) every pillow on my list. I have never received a pillow or mattress as part of any promotion, nor have I ever participated in one(although I am not opposed to it, hint hint :grinning:). I am an optical health care professional and not an industry insider. I just happened to be passionate about the mattress, bedding and towel industry. Any evaluation (if you want to call it that) or review is purely my own unique opinion and experience. If anyone wants to get a sense of what I think about each pillow, or should there be any questions I would be happy to share my experience. My opinion would be un-bias regardless. It is not my nature to be swayed by outside influences, it is more about my own experience with a particular product. I call them as I see and feel them. So if you have any questions about how any in my collection of pillows, feel or perform, I would be happy to discuss.

I’ve tried many pillows over the years, but I doubt as extensive a list as you have! I’m a side and back sleeper and have struggled to find one pillow that works well for both positions without having to reshape or fluff it. While they’re not a TMU Trusted Member the one I’ve found that works best for me is the Majestic Pillow from Majestic Beds. It’s a cervical pillow but is far better than any other I’ve tried, it offers exceptional support whether I’m on my side or back. It keeps my neck in proper alignment so I no longer wake up with a stiff neck, I give it my highest recommendation. Of course the fact that it works so well for me is no guarantee it will perform similarly for anyone else. They’re sold without any trial period as is common for many pillows.

  • Bill
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Hey Bill,
That looks like a really nice pillow. Looks much more cushy than my budget cervical pillow (that actually worked well, but did not allow for much moving around). Would you describe the feel as more of a stiff pillow or more of the viscoelastic memory foam, sink in a little, feel. I have still been doing well with my TP Procloud Hi, but I was surfing around the net and ordered a horsetail hair pillow. Hopefully, it will arrive in a week or two. Your pillow looks to have some removable layers too. Do you use this pillow stacked on another pillow or solo? So happy you found a comfortable pillow, it is not as easy as one would think!

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I would love to try a horse hair pillow. I almost got a Lanoodle shredded latex, but shipping was $20.95, so I ordered a Sleep on Latex to try. Free shipping on Amazon with 30 day returns. I currently have My Pillow, plus many others from feathers to solid foam. I really wanted the down/feather pillow to work. It just doesn’t stay firm enough. My Pillow is a decent pillow, but it was washed many times and it’s time to try something different.

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I ordered mine from Italy, from a place who uses british horsehair. $45 shipping. Ouch, but I wanted to try one again. Since I have not had a horsehair pillow or mattress since I was a kid. Will let you know how it goes, when I get it! There were only a few places in the US that have them for over $300-$500 a piece.

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Hi Norm,

The Majestic Pillow isn’t stiff and has a bit of the memory foam feel but not a very slow response. It’s got a conforming softness but with enough support to eliminate stress on my neck. I’m a big guy with broad shoulders and it fills in above my shoulder perfectly when side sleeping to keep my neck aligned. I use the pillow on its own with the two thin blue foam layers included at the base. Good luck with the horsetail hair pillow, that should be interesting.

  • Bill
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I’m sure you’ll love it. I’ve seen them on US websites, but I think anything Italian made is good quality.

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Hey everyone, whoever has been following or just interested parties. :thinking: I received the first horsehair pillow at the end of September. My current favorite 2 pillow combination was a king tempurpedic soft and conforming as my base pillow and a tempurpedic ProCloud hi as the upper pillow and had been very happy and comfortable for quite some time. I have been itching to re-live my younger days, so to speak, (Prell shampoo, adidas superstars, puma clyde’s, wigwam socks {some I still have from 8th grade because they last that long! They kept moving from dresser to dresser every time I moved}) and now the horsehair pillows ( I stupidly got rid of my original ones in college as I did not know what the hell I was doing at the time). Anyway, enough nostalgia, as I know someone else’s memories are boring, like home videos.

I have been sleeping on the horsehair pillow for a couple of weeks now, and I must say, I sleep deep, comfortable, soundly, and any other synonymous adjective and adverb you want to throw in there. I can not explain if it is just my mind playing tricks or if it’s the power of my own persuasion. Or the fact that the actual pillow provides a more breathable, comfortable sleeping surface. Perhaps it is just that the pillow is so darn comfortable. My sleep has been “all that,” plus another step beyond. The pillow was so comfortable, I ordered and received another pillow. Plus, i ordered an extra 1kg of horsehair fill, as I wanted the pillow to have just a bit more loft. Of course, I overdid it and added too much, so I had to back off a bit to found the perfect loft for my side sleeping. I still use the tempurpedic king soft and conforming as the base of the two-pillow stack but will be experimenting with my king 100% wool pillow as the base to see if there is any major difference. I have a feeling that the firmer wool pillow will give a little more spring to the horsehair.
Horsehair is hard to describe. It is nothing like any other material fill. The horsehair is soft but firm and springy at the same time. It does not push back like latex, and it doesn’t sink like viscoelastic memory foam. It is not stiff or firm in the way a 100% polyurethane cervical pillow feels. It is not as fluffy as a down or compressing like a feather pillow either. It just feels great. I used the second pillow and made a T with my regular pillows and slept with the second pillow under my shoulder down to my lower back as if it were a topper. It just conforms and supports beautifully. It makes me want to get a king-sized horsehair mattress topper now.
Just the next step in the journey to the perfect night’s sleep.
How is everyone else doing with their new pillows if you have updated them recently?
All the best for a good night’s rest. :sleeping_bed:

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