What type of pillow is right for you?

Friday, May 18, 2018
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It can be really tricky finding the perfect pillow for a great nights sleep, especially if you have neck pain from time to time.

ThreeSixty Osteopaths have researched the different types of pillow which will give you a good starting point to determine what might be right for you.

1. Polyester pillows

Polyester pillows have a synthetic (man-made) filling, usually little ‘puffs’ of polyester. They can be good for people with allergies to feathers and down, as they are hypoallergenic and are washable. Initially, a polyester pillow can feel fantastic, but after the first month or so tend to lose their ability to support your head. Polyester pillows need to be replaced about every three to six months, so although they seem like a cost-effective option, it might be worth finding a longer term solution if you suffer from neck pain.

What’s your sleep position?

Best for:Back and side sleepers (initially). Stomach sleepers might also appreciate a polyester-filled pillow if it isn’t too thick.

2. Wool pillows

Wool insulates, breathes and regulates your body temperature overnight so they’re cosy in the winter and cool over the summer months. A wool pillow can also be quite good initially, but does feel hard over time as the fibres compress. Wool is hypoallergenic and resists bacteria, so great for people with allergies.

What’s your sleep position?

Best for: Back sleepers, and side sleepers initially.

3. Down and feather pillows

These pillows can be either feather, which is cheaper, or down, or a combination of the two. For softness, nothing is better than down pillows. They are designed to be puffy, supple, and luxurious, but are not meant to provide support. Down comes from a bird’s fluffy undercoat, and holds its loft up to three times longer than synthetic alternatives.

Feather pillows have been around for a long time. Much like down pillows, feather pillows are loved for their softness. The feathers used in a quality pillow are very small and highly curled.

Combination pillows are also available - usually containing 25 percent feathers and 75 percent down. Feather and down pillows offer conformability, softness and support.

If you suffer from neck pain, you’ll need something much more supportive than a feather, down or combination pillow.

What’s your sleep position?

Best for: Stomach or back sleepers. Not good for side sleepers, as they don’t offer enough support.

4. Memory foam pillow

Memory foam is polyurethane with added chemicals, increasing its viscosity and density. It reacts to body heat and pressure, allowing it mould to your neck and head in seconds while also returning back to its original shape once heat and pressure is removed. You stay comfortable because the pillow adjusts to your individual shape, which allows your shoulders, neck and head to rest in a natural position. Memory foam pillows self-adjust as you move during the night. Pillows made with memory foam come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are designed to bounce back to their original shape at different speeds.

Recently some memory foam pillows have been rebranded bamboo pillows. There is no bamboo in memory foam - only their rayon fabric cover is derived from bamboo. Don’t be fooled by clever marketing!

What’s your sleep position?

Best for: Back sleepersmemory foam keeps its shape so there’s no way for side or stomach sleepers to adjust the pillow lower or higher.

Shredded memory foam pillows

As its name suggests, shredded memory foam filling is simply memory foam material torn into tiny pieces. The individual pieces move independently, allowing the pillow to be mouldable. You can re-arrange the distribution of the pieces and carve out a place for your head if needed. The shredded pieces of foam create a more adjustable and flexible feel but with a similar bounce and responsiveness as the memory foam pillow.

They tend to provide good firmness and support and could be a good fit for back/side sleepers over stomach sleepers.

5. Contour pillow

A type of pillow shaped for back and especially side sleepers. The middle of the pillow curves down to provide proper support for the head. Contour pillows are made from material like memory foam so have the added benefits of this material also.

Peace Pillows are a great local example of a contoured pillow and provide excellent support for those with neck pain.

What’s your sleep position?

Best for: Back or side sleepers.

6. Latex pillow

Latex pillows are made from latex rubber harvested from rubber trees grown on plantations in tropical countries. These pillows are ideal for people who suffer from allergies and neck or back pain. They offer good support for your head and neck while retaining a soft feel. Latex pillows have lots of holes in them that helps naturally repel bed bugs, dust mites, mould spores, and regulates your temperature throughout the night. Latex pillows are not recommended for stomach sleepers because most have a higher than average loft.

What’s your sleep position?

Best for: Side and back sleepers.

What do the osteopaths think?

The best type of pillow we’ve come across is the Latex pillow. In fact, if you’d like to try one, we have a couple of loan pillows available – just ask reception next time you’re in.

We only stock the soft ones, but you’ll find them very supportive, and we’ve got a thin one or a thick one, depending on how broad your shoulders are – your osteopath can make a recommendation. You can’t really get a true idea of whether or not a pillow will be right for you in a shop. So we let you borrow ours for a week or so. Most people know straight away whether or not they like the Latex pillow. If its good but not quite right, you know you’ll be looking for something similar in the nearest local pillow store.


Pillow Comparison Chart – Positives Vs Negatives

Pillow Type: Positives: Negatives:
  • Cheap.
  • Washable.
  • Extremely tear resistant
  • Poor ventilation.
  • Poor neck support.
  • May be vulnerable to dust mite
  • Allergy free.
  • Stays cool during summer and warm during winter.
  • Healthy airflow to prevent moisture from sleep perspiration.
  • Natural insulator as it keeps your body at a constant temperature.


  • Flattens over time.
  • Feels hard once compressed.
  • Doesn’t contour to body curvature well.


Down / Feather Feather:
  • Durable.
  • Light weight.
  • Really flexible.
  • Superior softness.
  • Washable.
  • Long lasting.
  • Lighter than feather.
  • Down pillow is able to breathe thus reducing perspiration during sleep.
  • Does not have the usual feather quill shaft like ordinary feathers pillows.


  • Requires shaking and fluffing to maintain.
  • May have an odour from chemicals used to sanitize the feathers.
  • Feather quills can be uncomfortable when rotating during sleep.
  • Some people may be allergic to feather, although it’s most probably dust mites.
  • Support may not last as feather pillows tend to sink in further throughout the night.
  • Feather pillows might produce some noise when turning during sleep as the hard parts of the feather might brush against the pillow’s protective layer meant to prevent it from poking through.
  • Expensive.
  • Requires shaking and fluffing to maintain.


Memory foam
  • Provides the most comfort and support, especially for people with neck, shoulder and back problems.
  • Memory foam is combustible.
  • Infants may have trouble turning in memory foam pillows.
  • Emissions from memory from may cause respiratory irritation.
  • Traps body heat and may be uncomfortable in warmer climate.
  • Some memory foam gives off a distinct chemical odour


  • Really cradles your neck, providing solid support.
  • Helps you achieve and maintain proper posture when sleeping.
  • Alleviates snoring as the pillow shape supports the head and neck in such a way that breathing airways are kept open for smooth breathing during sleep.


  • Not designed for stomach sleepers


  • Biodegradable.
  • Flame retardant.
  • Really long lasting.
  • Resists mould and mild dew.
  • 100% natural, organic material.
  • Insect resistant so it wards off bed bugs and dust mites.
  • It’s free of harmful chemicals and is non-toxic from cradle to grave, even if it’s burned.
  • Moulds to your head and neck under your weight, providing a firm but cushioned sleeping surface.
  • Expensive

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