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FAQs About Bed Pillow Firmness

FAQs About Bed Pillow Firmness

three pillows on a bed next to a nightstand
You spend roughly a third of your life sleeping, and getting a good night’s sleep often depends on your level of comfort. If you often find yourself tossing and turning at night, it may be time to check and see if you and your pillow are compatible. An ideal pillow will support your spine's natural curvature and alignment, preventing your head from leaning too far forward or backward. Choosing the right pillow style can ease your journey to dreamland and boost daytime energy, but finding this ideal fit means knowing what size, fill, and firmness work best for you.
three pillows on a bed next to a nightstand
woman sleeping in bed

Are there pillows for different sleeping positions?

Your sleeping position determines where you need the most pillow support. Constant tossing and turning may indicate that you’re putting too much stress on one area of the body, and choosing a pillow with the correct support can reduce this stress. You should choose pillows that closely fill gaps between your upper body and the bed when your spine is in neutral alignment, and the position you sleep in will determine what firmness will help you achieve this.

If you sleep on your back, choose a medium-density pillow that cradles your neck without raising your head too high. Sleeping facedown requires little head support, so stomach sleepers should opt for a small or semi-flat pillow to keep your head, shoulders, and neck in line. Good side-sleeper pillows are firm enough to keep your ear aligned with your neck, so your head and spine stay aligned. If you happen to move around to all three positions, then a versatile pillow can keep you comfortable as you shift positions. Cover your bases with medium-density pillows that offer malleable or flexible support for occasional firmness adjustments.

two pillows on top of a bed

What standard pillow sizes are available?

The most common pillow sizes are standard, queen, and king. Standard size pillows, which are 20-by-26 inches, are ideal for twin and full size beds. This is the most common size of pillow; one standard pillow fits across a twin size bed, whereas two fit across a full size bed. Queen size pillows are slightly longer than standard pillows, measuring at 20-by-30 inches. Queen pillows are named as such because two queen size pillows fit perfectly across a queen size bed. Just like queen size pillows, king pillows are named because two king size pillows fit across a king size bed. These long pillows measure 20-by-30 inches.

a single square pillow

Are there specialty size pillows?

There are a number of different specialty size pillows available to meet all individual sleeping and decorating needs. Square Euro pillows measure 26-by-26 inches. They are particularly useful for supporting your body in upright or reclining positions while you’re reading in bed. If you value full-body support and flexibility, consider getting a large body pillow to cushion multiple pressure points at once. You can also find roll pillows, between-leg support pillows, or C-shaped maternity body pillows to make sleeping more comfortable.

two bed pillows on a bed

Are feather fills not very firm?

The type and density determine their overall firmness. While high-quality and natural fills traditionally cost more upfront, they generally last longer, making them worth the money in the long run.

Down pillows have a reputation for longevity and luxurious softness. Because the light, fluffy feathers naturally retain their round shape after being compressed, you can easily redistribute the fill to suit your comfort level. Down alternative is another option if you like the qualities of down pillows, but suffer from allergies. Pillows with a mixture of feathers and down provides a balance of loftiness and firmness that can be ideal for multiple types of sleepers. Keep in mind, if you buy a down or a feather pillow, both fills require regular fluffing to keep the firmness and loftiness that you require.

a contoured bed pillow

What are the benefits of synthetic fills?

The majority of pillows are filled with foam and polyester. Memory foam pillows have been rising in popularity, offering firmness where you need it and conforming to your body for a personalized fit.

Foam feels springy, molds to your body shape, and quickly reverts to its original form. Manufacturers use solid, shredded, and spring-like cores to produce varying degrees of firmness or pliability. Foam is common in contoured pillows, such as the S-shaped neck support, because it can maintain almost any irregular shape a manufacturer designs. Both latex and memory foam are resilient, but latex is hypoallergenic, making it an ideal choice for people with severe allergies.

Polyester fill is common in low-cost pillows you find at big-box stores. This material is prone to clumping and has a shorter lifespan, but the malleability is suitable for most sleeping positions. If you haven’t found your favorite fill, there are a number of specialty fills to explore, such as buckwheat, wool, gel, microbeads, and water. Foam is also a top choice for most combination pillows, which use multiple casings or core materials to offer pain relief or massage-like properties.