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Pillows 101: 5 Pillow Types Explained

Wednesday October 28, 2015 comments

Anyone who’s spent a night tossing and turning has wondered at some point whether the culprit might be their pillow. And if a new pillow is in order, which kind? Most people have a sleeping preference, whether it’s one pillow or stacks of them, firm or soft, big or small–but what about what’s inside? Here are a few popular pillow materials and how they perform.


Buckwheat hulls really keep their shape, so your pillow won’t be collapsing under you. Buckwheat also retains little heat, keeping sleepers cooler throughout the night. This pillow provides a decidedly firm level of support.


Feather pillows are not to be confused with down. While feathers have quills and offer exterior protection, down comes from underneath feathers, making it softer, lighter, and without quills. Some pillows have a combination of feather and down filling, so look closely when shopping.

Feathers are tougher than you might think–they have the strength to support your head and neck better than down can.


Memory foam rises up to match and support the shape of your body when you lie on it, customizing your pillow to you. Not only does memory foam offer support because it eases pressure points, it may be a good choice for those who suffer from pain while sleeping. Unlike latex, memory foam softens against body heat. Memory foam’s adaptable qualities and technology can make a variety of sleepers have a good night.


Latex keeps you in place by providing a foundation under your neck and head so you won’t sink down. Natural latex (also known as natural rubber) is also an option. Latex is known for keeping sleepers cooler and adapting to seasonal temperatures for all-year-round comfort.


Down is a low-support pillow material made from the light, soft parts of feathers lacking quills. Down has that sinking, plush feeling that some sleepers enjoy, and may be a good option for stomach sleepers, who don’t require much support.


Alternative pillow fillers include kapok, a tree fiber; millet hull (similar to buckwheat), wool, and cotton. If you’re looking for a pillow out of the ordinary, have allergies to traditional fillers, or want to explore natural, organic, or eco-friendly pillows, test out these types in a local store.

Synthetics offer another host of options. For example, someone with a feather allergy might choose a down alternative in order to get support they want, without the allergens.