by Staff Writer
Bed pillows and sleeping pillows have one primary use: They support and cushion your head while you're sleeping, giving you a better night's rest. The pillow material most directly influences how well it does its job. Take a look at the article below to learn about the various types of pillows and how they affect your sleep.
Down: Down pillows are generally considered the ultimate in pillow luxury. ''Down'' is the small feathers that keep birds warm, geese and ducks in particular. Down pillows are renowned for their softness and warmth. Down pillows may have silk or satin pillowcases to add even more comfort to the design.
Buckwheat hull: Another natural pillow filling is buckwheat hulls. Traditional in Japan, buckwheat-hull pillows provide firmer support than down by conforming to your body shape, so the weight of your head and neck is evenly distributed. Buckwheat-hull filling is resistant to breakage, deterioration and burning and is not treated with chemicals.
Memory foam pillows: Memory foam pillows are a byproduct of the space age, developed by NASA to cushion astronauts during takeoff. Memory foam is created by mixing chemicals that expand as they react, forming tiny air bubbles in the material -- like a chemical Swiss cheese. Stiff foams do not allow air to circulate between cells, and some are actually strong enough to use as building materials. Memory foam, by contrast, is very flexible, especially when it is warmed by a human body. Also known as contour pillows, they mold themselves to the shape of your head but spring back to their original shape when you get up. The memory pillow has a natural resilience, so it won't ever go flat. Many believe that contour pillows provide better support for your head and neck than other materials.
Specialty pillows: There are also a few specialty pillow types: A backrest pillow can be a wedge that keeps the head raised above the body while sleeping. Frequent travelers are especially fond of neck pillows; their U-shape wraps around necks, cradling heads and keeping them upright while driving or flying.
Decorative pillows: Decorative pillows come in an almost limitless variety of sizes, shapes and styles. A needlepoint pillow is ornamented with stitching. Toss pillows are small enough to fit a couch or chair and are usually displayed in groups. Larger floor pillows are descendants of nomadic tribal furniture that had to be light enough to move every few days.