Comprehensive Guide to Pillow Types, Materials, Shapes, Sizes, and Features
Pillows are an essential part of our sleep routine. They provide the necessary support for our heads and necks, ensuring a comfortable and restful night’s sleep.
With a wide variety of pillow types available in the market, it can be challenging to choose the right one.
In this article you’ll discover the different types of pillows based on their material, shapes, sizes and features.
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- Comprehensive Guide to Pillow Types, Materials, Shapes, Sizes, and Features
- Types of Pillows Based on Material
- Types of Pillows Based on Shape
- Types of Pillows Based on Size
- Types of Pillows Based on Features
- How to Choose the Right Pillow
- What is the most common type of pillow?
- What are the different classifications of pillows?
- How do I know what kind of pillow I want?
- How many types of pillows are there?
- Which type of pillow is best for sleeping?
- What type of pillow will be best for my sleep position?
- Can I wash my pillow in the washing machine?
- What is a supportive pillow?
- What is a water pillow?
- What is a shredded-foam pillow?
- What does the warranty on a pillow cover?
- What is a decorative or throw pillow?
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Types of Pillows Based on Material
|Down||Fluffy, soft, lightweight, expensive|
|Down alternative||Soft, affordable, hypoallergenic|
|Memory foam||Conforming, supportive, pressure-relieving|
|Latex||Supportive, durable, hypoallergenic|
|Polyester fiber||Soft, fluffy, durable, affordable|
|Feathers||Supportive, affordable, heavier than down|
|Shredded memory foam||Conforming, adjustable, breathable|
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Standard pillows are the most common type of pillows used by sleepers. Measuring 20 x 26 inches, they are compact and versatile, suitable for all types of sleepers – side, back, and stomach. Standard pillows are available in a variety of materials, allowing you to choose one that best suits your comfort and support needs. They are also an economical choice, being the most affordable among all pillow sizes.
Cotton pillows are known for their breathability and softness. Made from natural cotton fibers, these pillows are hypoallergenic, making them a great choice for people with allergies or sensitive skin. Cotton pillows are also easy to clean and maintain. However, they may not provide as much support as other types of pillows, as they tend to flatten over time. A cotton pillow can be a good choice for stomach sleepers who need a flatter pillow.
Feather pillows are filled with the outer feathers of ducks or geese. They are known for their luxurious softness and excellent moldability. You can easily shape a feather pillow to suit your comfort preferences. However, feather pillows may not provide enough support for some sleepers, and the quills may sometimes poke through the pillowcase.
Latex pillows are made from the sap of rubber trees, making them a natural and eco-friendly choice. They offer a unique combination of softness and support, contouring to your head and neck while maintaining their shape throughout the night. Latex pillows are also hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites and mold. They can be an excellent choice for those seeking a balance between comfort and support.
Memory Foam Pillow
Memory foam pillows are renowned for their pressure-relieving properties. They are made from viscoelastic foam, a material that responds to heat and pressure, allowing the pillow to mold to the shape of your head and neck. This provides excellent support and helps maintain proper spinal alignment. Memory foam pillows are particularly beneficial for people with neck or back pain. However, they can retain heat, which might be a concern for hot sleepers.
Down pillows are filled with the soft, fluffy feathers located beneath the tougher exterior feathers of ducks or geese. They are incredibly soft, lightweight, and moldable. Down pillows are known for their luxurious feel and excellent insulation properties. However, they may not provide enough support for sleepers who need a firmer pillow. Also, some people may be allergic to down.
Down Alternative Pillows
Down alternative pillows offer the softness and fluffiness of down pillows but are filled with synthetic materials like polyester. They are a great choice for those who are allergic to down or prefer a cruelty-free option. Down alternative pillows are also generally more affordable than real down pillows.
Gel pillows incorporate a layer or infusion of cooling gel. The gel helps to dissipate heat, providing a cooler sleep surface, which can be beneficial for those who tend to sleep hot. Gel pillows can be made with various materials, including memory foam and latex. They combine the comfort and support of these materials with the cooling properties of gel, offering a comfortable and restful night’s sleep.
Buckwheat pillows are filled with the hulls that encase buckwheat seeds. These pillows are firm and highly adjustable, providing excellent support for the head and neck. They are particularly suitable for side and back sleepers. Buckwheat pillows are also breathable, allowing for good air circulation and a cooler sleep surface.
Wool pillows are filled with natural wool fibers, known for their excellent temperature-regulating properties. Wool pillows can keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They are also resistant to dust mites and mold, making them a good choice for people with allergies. However, wool pillows may not be as soft or moldable as other types of pillows.
Cotton pillows are filled with natural cotton fibers. They are soft, breathable, and hypoallergenic, making them a good choice for people with allergies or sensitive skin. Cotton pillows are also easy to clean and maintain. However, they may not provide as much support as other types of pillows, as they tend to flatten over time.
Kapok pillows are filled with the fluffy fiber from the seed pods of the kapok tree. They are soft and lightweight, similar to down pillows, but are a more sustainable and hypoallergenic option. Kapok pillows are also moldable, allowing you to adjust the shape to suit your comfort preferences.
Microbead pillows are filled with tiny polystyrene beads. They offer a unique combination of support and comfort, conforming to the shape of your head and neck. Microbead pillows are lightweight and breathable. However, they may not be the most durable option, as the beads can flatten over time.
Silk pillows are known for their luxurious feel and numerous benefits for skin and hair. (Read more about silk pillowcase benefits.) Silk is a natural material that is hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, making it a good choice for allergy sufferers. The smooth surface of silk pillows can reduce friction on your hair and skin, helping to prevent hair breakage and sleep wrinkles. Silk pillows are also breathable and can help regulate temperature, providing a cool and comfortable sleep surface.
Satin pillows offer a similar smoothness to silk pillows but at a more affordable price. Satin, a weave rather than a material, can be made from various fibers, including silk, polyester, or nylon. Satin pillows can help reduce hair frizz and skin creases due to their smooth surface. (Read more about the benefits of satin pillowcase.) However, they may not be as breathable or temperature-regulating as silk pillows.
Charcoal pillows incorporate activated charcoal in their design, often in the form of charcoal-infused memory foam. Activated charcoal is known for its odor-absorbing properties, helping to keep the pillow fresh. Charcoal pillows can also absorb moisture and regulate temperature, providing a comfortable sleep environment. (Read more about charcoal pillow benefits.)
Copper pillows are infused with copper particles, known for their antimicrobial properties. Copper can help prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes, making these pillows a hygienic choice. Some studies also suggest that copper can promote skin rejuvenation, although more research is needed in this area. (Read more about copper pillow benefits.) Copper pillows often use memory foam or latex for their core, providing a balance of comfort and support.
Types of Pillows Based on Shape
Standard Pillow Shape
The standard pillow shape is the most common and versatile pillow shape. It’s rectangular and measures 20 x 26 inches. Standard pillows are suitable for all types of sleepers – side, back, and stomach. They can be filled with various types of materials, such as down, memory foam, or cotton, to provide different levels of support and comfort.
Contour Pillow Shape
Contour pillows have a unique shape designed to support the natural curve of your neck and head. They have a lower middle section and higher sides and are often made of memory foam. Contour pillows can help alleviate neck pain and ensure proper spinal alignment, making them a good choice for back sleepers and those with orthopedic issues.
Wedge Pillow Shape
Wedge pillows have a triangular shape and are used for therapeutic purposes. They can elevate the upper body or legs, helping to relieve symptoms of acid reflux, sleep apnea, and other health issues. Wedge pillows can also be used to support the back when sitting up in bed.
Body Pillow Shape
Body pillows are long and rectangular, designed to support the entire body. They are particularly beneficial for side sleepers and pregnant women, providing support to the belly, back, and hips. Body pillows can also be used to elevate the legs and improve circulation. (Read more about the benefits of a body pillow.)
Cervical Pillow Shape
Cervical pillows, also known as neck pillows, have a curved design that aligns with the natural curve of your neck. They provide optimal support and relieve neck pain and stiffness. Cervical pillows are often made of memory foam or latex, materials that can mold to the shape of your head and neck for personalized comfort.
Roll or Bolster Pillow Shape
Roll or bolster pillows are cylindrical in shape and can serve various purposes. They can be used to support the neck, lower back, or knees, providing targeted relief from pain or discomfort. Bolster pillows are also popular in yoga practice, where they can be used to support different poses.
Reading or Backrest Pillow Shape
Reading or backrest pillows have a unique design with armrests and a tall back. They provide excellent support for your back and arms when you’re sitting up in bed reading or watching TV. Some models also include a neck roll for added support. These pillows can transform your bed into a comfortable lounging area.
Horseshoe Pillow Shape
Horseshoe pillows, also known as travel or neck pillows, are designed to support your neck during travel. They prevent your head from falling to the side when sleeping in a seated position. Horseshoe pillows are compact and easy to carry, making them a must-have for frequent travelers.
Knee pillows are usually wedge-shaped or hourglass-shaped and are placed between the knees when sleeping. They help align the hips and spine, reducing pressure on the lower back and hips. Knee pillows are particularly beneficial for side sleepers.
Neck pillows, also known as cervical pillows, have a curved design that aligns with the natural curve of your neck. They provide optimal support and relieve neck pain and stiffness. Neck pillows are often made of memory foam or latex, materials that can mold to the shape of your head and neck for personalized comfort.
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Types of Pillows Based on Size
|Pillow Size||Dimensions (in)||Dimensions (cm)|
|Super Standard||20 x 28||51 x 71|
|Standard||20 x 26||51 x 66|
|Queen||20 x 30||51 x 76|
|King||20 x 36||51 x 92|
** Note that the dimensions of Euro pillows vary depending on the brand and style. The standard size of a queen pillow is 20 inches by 30 inches, but there may be slight variations in dimensions depending on different brands. Each pillow size has unique dimensions and is best fit for specific mattress sizes and types of sleepers.
Standard Pillow Size
Standard pillows are the most common size of pillows and measure 20 x 26 inches. They are compact and versatile, suitable for all types of sleepers – side, back, and stomach. Standard pillows can be filled with various types of materials, such as down, memory foam, or cotton, to provide different levels of support and comfort.
Super Standard Pillow Size
Super standard pillows are slightly larger than standard pillows, measuring 20 x 28 inches. They provide extra length for sleepers who prefer a larger pillow or for those who tend to toss and turn during the night. Super standard pillows can accommodate more movement without your head falling off the pillow, making them a good choice for restless sleepers.
Queen Pillow Size
Queen pillows are larger than standard pillows, measuring 20 x 30 inches. They provide extra space for sleepers who move around a lot during sleep or for those who like to hug their pillow while sleeping. Queen pillows can also serve as a backrest for reading or watching TV in bed.
King Pillow Size
King pillows are the largest standard pillow size, measuring 20 x 36 inches. They provide ample space for sleepers who move around a lot during sleep. King pillows are also ideal for those who like to prop themselves up in bed to read, work, or watch TV. In addition to their functional benefits, king pillows add a touch of luxury and aesthetic appeal to your bed.
European Pillow Size
European pillows are square pillows that measure 26 x 26 inches. They are typically used for decorative purposes or as backrests for reading in bed. European pillows can add a touch of elegance to your bed, and they are large enough to provide ample support when sitting up. They are also often used as floor pillows due to their large size.
Travel Pillow Size
Travel pillows are compact and designed to be easily portable, providing comfort during travel. They are typically U-shaped or horseshoe-shaped to support the neck and prevent the head from falling to the side when sleeping in a seated position. The size of travel pillows can vary, but they are generally small enough to fit in a carry-on bag or backpack. They are a travel essential, especially for long flights or car rides.
Toddler Pillow Size
Toddler pillows are small pillows designed specifically for toddlers. They measure around 13 x 18 inches and provide the right amount of support for a toddler’s small neck. Toddler pillows are typically filled with soft materials to ensure comfort and are covered with hypoallergenic fabrics to prevent allergies. They are an essential part of transitioning a child from a crib to a toddler bed.
Types of Pillows Based on Features
Pillows with a cooling feature are designed to dissipate heat and provide a cooler sleep surface. They often incorporate materials like gel or breathable fabrics that help regulate temperature. Cooling pillows are ideal for hot sleepers or those who live in warm climates, helping to prevent overheating and promote a more comfortable night’s sleep.
Pillows with a cradling feature have a concave design or use materials that mold to the shape of your head and neck. This provides a cradling effect, offering optimal support and pressure relief. Memory foam and latex pillows often have this feature, making them a good choice for those seeking personalized comfort and support.
Additional Neck Support
Pillows with additional neck support often have a contoured design or extra padding in the neck area. They help maintain proper spinal alignment and relieve neck pain. Cervical or neck pillows typically offer this feature. They can be particularly beneficial for back sleepers or those with neck or shoulder discomfort.
Better Support for the Back
Pillows that provide better support for the back are designed to support the natural curve of the spine. They can be lumbar pillows, wedge pillows, or full-length body pillows. These pillows can help alleviate back pain and ensure proper spinal alignment, promoting a healthier sleep posture and a more restful night’s sleep.
Preventing Problems with Snoring
Pillows designed to prevent problems with snoring often have features that promote proper spinal alignment and open airways. They may have a wedge shape or a contoured design that elevates the head, reducing the likelihood of snoring. Some anti-snore pillows are also made with memory foam or other materials that mold to the shape of your head and neck, providing personalized support and reducing snoring.
Hypoallergenic pillows are designed to reduce allergies. They are made with materials that resist common allergens like dust mites, mold, and pet dander. Hypoallergenic pillows often have covers made from tightly woven fabrics that prevent allergens from entering the pillow. They are an excellent choice for people with allergies or asthma, helping to promote a healthier and more comfortable sleep environment.
Pillows with added softness often contain plush fill materials like down, down alternative, or soft memory foam. These pillows provide a luxurious feel and can be easily molded to suit your comfort preferences. However, they may not provide as much support as firmer pillows, so they are often best for stomach sleepers or those who prefer a softer pillow.
Bamboo pillows are known for their breathability and moisture-wicking properties. The cover is usually made from bamboo-derived rayon, while the fill can vary from memory foam to shredded latex. These pillows are hypoallergenic and eco-friendly, providing a comfortable and sustainable choice for sleepers. Bamboo pillows also offer a balance of softness and support, making them a popular choice for a wide range of sleepers. Read more about the benefits of a bamboo pillow.
How to Choose the Right Pillow
Finding the perfect pillow is a crucial part of improving sleep quality. The type of pillow you choose will largely depend on your preferred sleeping position, body shape, and body size. Whether you’re a side, back, or stomach sleeper, there’s a pillow out there designed to provide the right level of support and comfort for you.
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Pillows come in various densities and firmness levels, from soft to medium to firm. Shredded memory foam pillows and natural latex pillows are popular choices for their ability to conform to the natural curvature of your head and neck, providing a supportive and comfortable sleep surface. They also have excellent shape retention and can return to their original shape after use.
For those who prefer a softer feel, down or down-alternative fill pillows offer added softness. However, they may not provide the same level of support as a firmer pillow. Synthetic pillows, including those made from synthetic fibers or synthetic latex, can be a good alternative for those with latex allergies or for allergy sufferers who may experience an allergic reaction to natural materials.
The pillow material also plays a significant role in the pillow’s performance. Some materials, like bamboo or cotton, have cooling and hypoallergenic properties, helping to keep the pillow cool and prevent allergic reactions. Other materials, like wool or kapok, have excellent temperature-regulating and antimicrobial properties.
The size of the pillow should match your bed size. Standard, queen, and king sizes are the most common, but there are also specialized sizes like European or travel size. The size of the pillow can also affect its firmness level, with larger pillows often being softer than smaller ones.
Lastly, it’s important to consider the care and maintenance of the pillow. Many pillows come with removable covers that are machine washable, making them easy to clean. Some pillows, like those made from memory foam or latex, may require a pillow protector to prevent damage from moisture or stains.
Remember, the ideal pillow for you is the one that meets your individual needs and preferences.
So take your time, do your research, and don’t be afraid to test out different pillows until you find your favorite.
With the right pillow, you can look forward to a night of restful and rejuvenating sleep!
What is the most common type of pillow?
The most common type of pillow is the standard pillow. It comes in a rectangular shape and is designed to support the head and neck during sleep.
What are the different classifications of pillows?
Pillows can be classified based on their material, shape, and purpose. Material types include down, feather, memory foam, latex, cotton, wool, and buckwheat. Shapes include standard, contour, and body pillows. Purpose-based classifications include travel pillows, orthopedic pillows, and pregnancy pillows. (Read more about How To Use A Pregnancy Pillow.)
How do I know what kind of pillow I want?
Choosing the right pillow depends on your sleeping position, comfort preference, and any health issues you may have. For instance, side sleepers generally need a firm pillow with a high loft, while stomach sleepers need a soft, low-loft pillow. If you have neck pain, a contour pillow may be beneficial.
How many types of pillows are there?
There are numerous types of pillows, including down, feather, memory foam, latex, cotton, wool, buckwheat, standard, contour, body, travel, orthopedic, and pregnancy pillows. Each type has its unique features and benefits.
Which type of pillow is best for sleeping?
The best type of pillow for sleeping depends on your individual needs and preferences. However, memory foam and latex pillows are often recommended for their ability to contour to the shape of your head and neck, providing excellent support and pressure relief.
What type of pillow will be best for my sleep position?
The best pillow for you depends on your preferred sleep position. Side sleepers generally need a firm or medium-firm pillow for proper alignment of the neck and spine, while back sleepers might prefer a medium firmness. Stomach sleepers often find a soft pillow most comfortable.
Can I wash my pillow in the washing machine?
Some pillows, particularly those with synthetic fill or shredded foam, can be machine washed. However, always check the care instructions on the product label before washing. Find out: How Long Does COVID Live on Pillows?
What is a supportive pillow?
A supportive pillow is one that maintains its shape and provides consistent support to your head and neck throughout the night. This can help to alleviate shoulder pain and ensure proper alignment of the spine.
What is the difference between a traditional pillow and an adjustable pillow? A traditional pillow has a fixed amount of fill, while an adjustable pillow allows you to add or remove fill to adjust the level of firmness and height to your preference.
What is a water pillow?
A water pillow is a type of pillow that uses water as the primary support layer. The firmness of the pillow can be adjusted by adding or removing water.
What is a shredded-foam pillow?
A shredded-foam pillow is filled with pieces of foam rather than a solid foam block. This allows for better airflow and makes the pillow adjustable, as foam can be added or removed to change the pillow’s firmness.
What does the warranty on a pillow cover?
Most high-quality pillows come with a warranty that covers defects in materials or workmanship. The length of the warranty can vary, with one-year warranties being common. Always check the warranty terms before purchasing.
What is a decorative or throw pillow?
Decorative or throw pillows are primarily used for aesthetic purposes in home decor. They come in various shapes, sizes, and designs and are often used on sofas or beds.
What is a pillow sleep test or pillow testing?
Pillow sleep testing refers to the process of trying out a pillow for a certain period to see if it suits your needs. Many companies, like Brooklyn Bedding or Tuft & Needle, offer sleep trials that allow you to test their pillows risk-free for a certain period.
What is a Luxe Pillow or a Nest Bedding Easy Breather?
These are specific brands and models of pillows. The Luxe Pillow and the Nest Bedding Easy Breather are both high-quality pillows known for their comfort and support. Always check product reviews and details before purchasing to ensure the pillow suits your needs.