What’s the Big Deal About Pillows?

That crick in your neck when you wake up is there to remind you that it’s time for a new pillow.  Sleep Well can help you find the right pillow for your posture and body type. That bird’s nest in your hair when you wake up….now that’s another issue.

Pillow Talk

What’s the big deal?  I can get a $7 pillow at the local big box store; it’s what I grew up with and what I buy.

There’s a lot of truth in that statement.  I know because I used to say it.  Before Sleep Well started, and before I spent 80% of my awake time researching sleep and mattress materials, I was just like you.  I hated thinking about spending a large chunk of money on a pillow because the fluff pillow down the street was just as good.  OR worse yet, I used that fluff pillow for about eight years. YES, eight years.  Looking back I can tell you that is about as disgusting as anything I have ever done in my life.

There are several points to talk about today about pillows.  Let’s cover:

  • Posture
  • Materials
  • Longevity


As we’ve pointed out before in our blogs, posture while you sleep is one of the most critical factors in finding the right sleep system for you.  Posture, while you sleep, is vital for many reasons, the most important one of them is that while you sleep you are in a relaxed mode, and at times paralyzed.  Your muscles are no longer holding you frame straight, your spine can be misaligned, your shoulders can misalign, and your neck can twist in horrible unusual pain causing angles.  This is why having the right pillow height and pillow build is so important.

The right height keeps your neck straight.  Your head angle should be no different than when you are standing.  If you are a back sleeper or a side sleeper, your pillow height should match your standing posture.

There are several pillow designs on the market for either back or side sleepers.  A back sleeper pillow is your basic pillow design with different materials to give you a plush or firm feel, and different widths to support your head at just the right angle.

A side sleeper pillow has a cutout on the shoulder area to get your rotator cuff a break and keep you from pinching your nerves in your shoulder.

Materials and Longevity

The most common pillow construction material is poly fluff.  The cheap value pillows you find at the local department store are poly fluff, the mass marketed pillows you see on TV are poly fluff.  It’s a cheap material that allows you to form the pillow in the position you want.  It can come in a firm (packed tight with less fluff) or in plush (lots of air in between the poly, less packed with the material).  Poly pillows are good for short periods, mostly due to the materials breakdown.  Over a few short months, the materials start to pack down or lose their fluff.  In some instances, these can be washed, but when you wash the poly, you’re only respacing the fibers and adding a very temporary airiness to your pillow, not support.

Another common material is memory foam.  Memory foam can be manipulated to a firm or plush feel by the amount of air added to the foam.  Memory foam is good longer lasting material; you should be able to get three years out of a memory foam pillow before it loses its support.  The trouble with memory foam is you get what you pay for.  Expect cheap memory foam to be cheap memory foam, more air in the foam means more breakdown.  Construction is the main reason for the difference in pricing you see.  Good memory foam will have a more dense cell structure that makes it last longer, and a cheaper version is based on air cells in the foam which feel good for a while then start to breakdown and leave you with a wilted pillow offering zero support.

Down and feather pillows are a higher end support material commonly used in pillows.  These are a more old fashioned material, but a long-lasting material.  These pillows are washable and retain support due to the “conformability” of the feathers.  You can shape these pillows exactly how you need them.  They are a little higher in pricing but well worth the expense if you are used to the feel of these pillows.  Newer designs include different styles of plumes, whether it be from different feather types or different feather treatments.

Latex is one of Sleep Well’s favorite mattress materials and one of our preferred pillow materials too.  Latex pillows are long-lasting, they are allergen free, and have an antibacterial property that other materials don’t have.  Latex pillows are available in Firm and Plush.  They offer a bouncy feel and come in differing heights for your needed support.  The drawback with the latex pillows is they are not formable; you can not squish them together to make them higher.  The latex just wants to pop back into its regular shape and won’t hold any scrunching up to add height for your neck.  It’s because of this property that it is necessary to come into the store to get the right height for your neck and shoulder height.

Another material you will see is a cooling gel layer in the pillows.  This gel material is a heat bank; it requires a lot more energy to heat and can keep you cooler longer in bed.  This is not a be all end all to the issue of sleeping hot though.  Some of these gels simply stay at room temperature for shorter periods, other gels work better and stay cooler longer.  Again just like memory foam depends on the makeup of the material.  Without getting too complicated just remember you really do get what you pay for, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Your Neck Needs a Head Bed

We are known for using the term “Head Bed” in Sleep Well to refer to the pillow of your choice.  We recognize the need for people to get a new pillow at the time of getting a new mattress, because of the support factor change and the need to keep your head in the right position.  Keep this in mind during your research for your next bed.  Know that you need a complete sleep system, not a partial one that leaves your head flat or one that leaves your head propped up all night.

If you have any comments or ideas to share, please leave them below!  We love to hear from our readers.  Remember when you Sleep Well, You Live Well.

Here are a few related articles you may find useful in your search for the right pillow:

About the author:

Javier is the owner of Sleep Well, professionally trained sleep stores, specializing in specific mattresses for specific needs. He lives to give. He is an active member of his community and church. His hard work and efforts pay off for him when he can help others, and give to efforts for the betterment of others.
His spare time is spent with his beautiful wife, Gretchen. They are craft beer hobbyists who enjoy making their own beers, visiting small breweries, and making new friends. Their lives revolve around church, family, exercising, four great dogs, and keeping up with their home in Alamogordo NM.