Pillow Buying Guide

Pillow Buying Guide

Buying the perfect pillow can affect how well you sleep and how rested you feel when you wake up, so it’s a really important part of the Sleep Wardrobe. All of us sleep differently though, so what are the best pillows to buy?

There's no such thing as a one-type-suits-all pillow here. Soak&Sleep pillows are available in a variety of firmnesses. Choose between soft, soft/medium, medium, medium/firm and firm pillows for the perfect place to rest your head.

How to choose a pillow

The job of a pillow is to protect your neck and spine during sleep. The right pillow will not only alleviate pressure in your neck but will provide support for your whole body. The wrong pillow can lead to pressure in your neck and spine, causing problems like headaches, neck and back pain, shoulder and arm numbness and general discomfort.

There are also other factors that come into play when choosing a pillow such as whether you suffer from allergies, prefer eco-friendly options, or get hot at night and need a pillow that is temperature regulating. These are all important considerations to bear in mind when finding the perfect pillow.

So where do you start?

First, identify which sleeping position you are - a front sleeper, side sleeper, back sleeper or combination sleeper. Most of us move around at night, so to identify which type you are you’ll need to work out how you feel most comfortable when you are trying to drift off. This is a good starting point to discover your likely sleep type. If you are still unsure, you are probably best buying a pillow suited to a combination sleeper.

Front sleepers

Because the best sleeping position is to keep the full length of your spine in a neutral position, front sleepers need very little height. A soft, thin pillow is the best option. Healthcare professionals are divided about the benefits of sleeping on your front, although it helps counteract sleep apnoea and snoring, it can place strain on your back and neck.

Minimise this spinal strain by ensuring your back is in as neutral a position as possible. Use a soft, thin pillow for your head and consider propping up your pelvis with another thin pillow or folded towel to improve spinal alignment.

Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

Down or down alternatives are best for front sleepers to shape around your head. Our Ultimate 90% Hungarian Goose Down pillow is a lovely way to nestle down to sleep. For something a little more indulgent, try the Supreme Canadian Goose Down. And if feathers aren't your thing, our Supremely Soft as Down pillows give you the soft support you need to drift off to sleep.

Back sleepers

If you are a back sleeper, you should be looking for a pillow which provides support in order to keep your head in line with your spine. A good way of checking this is if your ears are in line with your shoulders and your chin is in line with your sternum when you are lying on your back.

Back sleepers should be looking for a pillow with medium firmness and medium depth. They're often made with an inner chamber of a denser fill to help create structure and support, with softer fill around the outside. You want your head to be lifted off the mattress to keep it aligned and you don’t want your head to sink into the pillow throughout the night, putting it in the wrong position. 

Back sleepers can also consider putting a pillow under the knees to further support the pelvis and spine.

Best pillows for side sleepers

Side sleepers should be looking for high depth and firm support. This is to ensure your head is at the right height (in line with your shoulders) when you are lying on your side and so you do not sink into your pillow throughout the night.

Our Duck Feather and down medium firm option with an internal supportive chamber is a great option for side sleepers.

Pillows for combination sleepers

The best pillow for a combination sleeper is one that provides good support but is not too thick. This ensures you can sleep on your back which requires a slightly lower pillow and on your side which requires a pillow with support. Here is a good example of a combination sleeper pillow.

Pillows for pregnancy

Medical advice during pregnancy is to sleep on your left-hand side, which is difficult if you're used to sleeping in any other position! So make sure you're equipped with the right pillows. Medium/firm pillows will help support your head and keep it aligned with the rest of your spine for comfort. A body pillow is also a good investment, giving you something to nestle into and to support your growing bump for a better night's sleep.

Pillows for arthritis sufferers and back pain

Make sure you choose a pillow firmness that complements your sleeping position. You should aim to rest your head at the same level as the rest of your body, so a pillow that's too soft or too hard can aggravate arthritis by putting your neck in an awkward position. Many people with arthritis or aches and pain find firm memory foam pillows provide good support.

Some people with back, shoulder and neck arthritis find supporting their arms with extra pillows at night makes sleeping more comfortable. You could also consider a body pillow to support your body's sleeping position for extra comfort. We'd recommend you seek advice from your doctor or other healthcare professional for advice tailored to your particular situation.

What pillow firmness should you get for each member of the family?

What firmness should you get for an elderly person?

Choosing a pillow for an elderly person is no different from choosing one for any adult - comfort is the priority. Using a square pillow together with a standard is a great way of being able to sit up comfortably. Otherwise, be guided by preference and sleeping position. A body pillow can help elderly people suffering from aches and pains to sleep more comfortably by helping support the frame for better comfort.

What pillow firmness should you get for a teenager?

Your teenager will have personal preferences for most things, and their pillow will be no different. So be guided by their likes and dislikes when choosing a new pillow. One thing is for sure - they'll need a different pillow to the one they had when they were smaller as pillows lose their shape and support over time. It's a good idea to choose a pillow that's easy to wash and dry to help keep things nice and clean - spilt drinks, smudged make-up and a build-up of hair product can damage pillows. Add a pillow protector to prolong the life of their new pillow.

What pillow firmness should you get for a child?

We would recommend a soft or soft/medium pillow for support and comfort. An easily washable pillow is a good choice as it helps you keep things nice and clean more easily. We'd also recommend you invest in a pillow protector to help prolong the life of their pillow and make clean-up jobs easier.

What pillow firmness should you get for a toddler?

Smaller bodies need smaller pillows - toddlers need to use pillows with a lower height to help them avoid neck strain.

Use a protector to help prolong the life of their pillow and make clean-up jobs easier.

What pillow firmness should you get for a baby?

Pillows are not suitable for babies, and we do not recommend you use a pillow for your baby.

Which pillow filling is best for each member of the family?

Which pillow filling is best for a toddler?

It's best to keep things practical with little tots, so stick to a pillow that's easy to wash. Microfibre is a snuggly and easy-care choice whilst wool pillows provide temperature regulation to keep your little one sleeping soundly, together with the reassurance of being easy to wash and dry.

Which pillow filling is best for a child?

Be guided by your child's preferences and bear practicality in mind when you're choosing them a new pillow. Synthetic fills are easily washable and affordable - take a look at our hollowfibre and microfibre pillows, whilst wool provides a firm and supportive pillow with excellent temperature regulation properties for a good night's sleep and more cheerful mornings, whilst also being easy to wash and dry.

Which filling pillow is best for a teenager?

Your teenager will probably have pretty clear ideas about which type of pillow they'd prefer. Why not give them a list of options and let them choose for themselves? Bear their sleeping position in mind. Teens who like to snooze on their sides will need a different pillow to those who sleep on their backs. Synthetic fills are an excellent choice as they're affordable and easy to care for. Wool is also a good option thanks to its supportive firmness and temperature-regulating properties.

Which pillow filling is best for an elderly person?

An elderly person will have clear ideas about what they do and don't like, so be guided by their preference whilst making sure you bear their sleeping habits and medical needs in mind. If they spend a lot of time sitting or resting in bed, then consider something that's easy to plump up and quite large to support them while they read or watch TV. A square feather-filled pillow would be perfect. They can remove it when it's time to sleep.

If they suffer from arthritis or another condition where chronic pain is an issue they will benefit from a more supportive pillow. Memory foam pillows are an excellent choice for supporting arthritis sufferers and a body pillow helps relieve pressure on joints for a better night's sleep.

Many elderly people will try to tell you there's nothing wrong with the pillow they've already got. That may be the case - but do take a look to check. Most pillows are past their best after about two years of use. If their pillow looks like it's been around for a while, persuade them to treat themselves to a new pillow - they'll really notice the difference and will sleep far better.

Pillow Fill

We use two methods to construct our pillows - our chamber pillows are so-called because they have a central chamber containing a firmer fill, surrounded by a softer fill. They provide a firmer-feeling pillow with a core of support with softness for extra comfort.

Non-chamber pillows have a consistent filling throughout the pillow that tends to result in a softer feeling pillow.

We have options in both synthetic and naturally filled pillows. 

Synthetic pillows

Microfibre pillows

Microfibre is a synthetic fill made from fine polyester fibres. It feels so soft and silky that premium microfibre is often used as a substitute for the softness of down in synthetic pillows. A microfibre pillow will feel luxuriously soft without the feathers - making it a more affordable alternative that's also vegan-friendly. They're easy to care for, and a great choice for busy households with lots of beds that need comfy pillows.

Hollowfibre pillows 

Hollowfibre is a synthetic fill made from fine polyester fibres. It has a full, springy feeling, quite similar to wool, that creates a lovely puffy pillow with lots of bounce and support. And what's more, its low price makes it a great-value pillow fill.

Natural pillows 

Benefits of a Wool pillow

Our wool pillows are filled with lovely bouncy New Zealand wool and in an unbleached cotton case. You can choose between a pure wool fill or a blend of polyester and wool. Wool-only pillows are firm and supportive while wool-blend pillows feel softer and bouncier. Some of our customers like using our firm wool pillows as a base for a softer second pillow.

Wool is a wonderful fill for a pillow, its benefits go beyond good head and neck support.

Scientists in Australia found that wool helps you regulate your body temperature while you sleep. It does this by absorbing and releasing moisture in the atmosphere so you'll always feel just right for a much more comfortable night's sleep. Wool has been scientifically proven to help you sleep longer and deeper, increasing your REM sleep for a more restful night.

Wool's super-hero properties don't end there, it's machine-washable and naturally hypoallergenic making it a good choice for children and allergy sufferers.

Benefits of a cotton pillow 

Cotton pillows feel firm and supportive with a lower profile that's ideal for people who sleep on their front or back. Super-absorbent, cotton pillows help wick excess moisture away from your head and face, leaving you free to sleep soundly without waking up feeling clammy. These breathable pillows are filled with pure cotton, known for its naturally hypoallergenic properties, making them a good choice for allergy sufferers. Side sleepers could double-up on these thinner pillows for the benefits of a cotton pillow.

Benefits of a Silk pillow

Luxurious silk creates a firm and low-profile pillow with excellent moisture-wicking properties, making them ideal for people who get hot in bed. Entirely natural and very breathable, you'll also benefit from silk's naturally hypoallergenic and antibacterial properties, making them ideal for allergy sufferers.

Benefit of a Feather & Down pillow?

Feathers make puffy and supportive pillows that feel like a complete treat to nestle down with. Feathers are often paired with down for additional softness. Our feather pillows are available in a range of softness options to suit your sleeping style, but always feel wonderfully supportive. Softer feather and down pillows are great for doubling up with other pillows for extra depth and softness. They also look lovely and plump and make for a gorgeously inviting bed.

Down is used because of its incredible lightness and loft; it feels soft and squidgy. The higher the proportion of down in a pillow, the squidgier and softer it will be. Some of our down-fill pillows include an inner chamber filled with feathers to provide support for your head and neck whilst still letting you indulge in the soft and squidgy feeling of down.

Down does an excellent job of trapping warm air thanks to the way the clusters of down lock together. A down pillow is ideal if you feel the cold easily or live in a cold house. If you tend to get hot in bed you may prefer a natural fill pillow.

Because our pure down fill pillow is very soft, it's perfect for layering up with other pillows for a personalised blend of support and softness. Back or front sleepers may find a pure down pillow gives them just the right level of support.

Feather & down pillows with a high fill power indicate how well the loft of your pillow will maintain over time (assuming you care for it well). Fill power is a reading that helps you understand the quality of the down in your pillow and its ability to recover. Although it doesn't indicate the size of the down clusters, you will generally find that better quality and larger down clusters mean a better fill power. Fill weight is simply the weight of the fill inside a pillow. If weight is referred to as "gsm", then it refers to the weight of the fill within a square metre.

Our Supreme Canadian Goose Down pillow is filled with the highest quality goose down. It regains its fullness very quickly thanks to its excellent fill power. In contrast, our duck feather and down pillow contains duck down which has a lower fill power. Because the duck down is blended with feathers for support, a high fill power down is unnecessary in this pillow.

Which pillow fillings are anti-allergenic?

We offer a range of pillows containing naturally hypoallergenic fills. Wool, cotton and silk are recognised for their hypoallergenic properties and can help allergy sufferers get a better night's sleep.

Which pillow filling is best for sensitive skin/eczema?

Eczema and sensitive skin flare-ups can be caused by overheating and contact with irritants, so your pillow choice may have a bearing on your skin health.

Because natural fills such as cotton, wool and silk are naturally temperature regulating, these will help prevent the overheating that can trigger flare-ups. Using and regularly washing a pillow protector will help keep irritants at bay for fewer flare-ups.

Which pillow filling is best for asthma?

Evidence about the best pillow fill for asthma sufferers is inconsistent, so specific recommendations are difficult to provide. We'd suggest asthma sufferers use natural or synthetic pillows. Encasing your pillow in a zipped dust-proof pillow protector and regularly washing your protector will help keep dust mites and other allergens at bay.

Which pillow filling is best for sweating/warm sleepers?

If you're the type of person that gets hot in bed, you'll fare better with a natural-fill pillow. Wool, cotton or silk are all good choices as they help you regulate your body temperature by wicking away excess moisture. Natural-fill pillows feel less fluffy and bouncy than synthetic or feather & down pillows. If you prefer a fluffy pillow, then you may prefer a pillow with a blend of natural and synthetic fills - such as our wool and polyester pillow or microfibre and silk pillow.

Which pillow filling is best for Summer?

Pillows aren't as much of a seasonal item as other sleep essentials we use in bed. Choose your pillows based on sleep position, firmness and fill preferences, remembering to keep your pillow protected and fresh by using a pillow protector and keeping it clean with a regular wash. You'll get a better, healthier night's sleep and your pillow will last longer.

If you find yourself getting a bit overheated in the summer, you might want to swap to a cotton protector that will help wick away excess moisture as you sleep for a fresher morning.

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