The best pillow for a good night's sleep—whether you’re a back, side or stomach snoozer

On the hunt for the best pillow for you? There's no such thing as a good night's sleep without one—so we've rounded up our pick of the comfiest.

Emma pillow—one of the featured pillows in our best pillow round-up
(Image credit: Emma)

A good night's sleep depends hugely on having the best pillow you can buy—because we all know a bad one can leave us feeling achy, tired and fed up.

The right pillow for you will largely depend on three key factors. First, which kind of sleeper you are (stomach, side, or back), whether you suffer from any allergies, and what filling you prefer. For example, you might want to think about opting for a cooling pillow, with a breathable cotton outer if you tend to overheat at night. Hypoallergenic microfibre, silk, or memory foam will all help if you suffer from allergies. And for those who sleep on your front, thin pillows can often feel better and less obstructive. A preference for a firm pillow or a soft, marshmallow-like one will also influence what you choose. And choosing the right pillow for you is vital to help you feel more rested come the morning—as is having the best mattress for your sleeping position.

To help you decide on the best pillow for your needs, we tested a variety from across the market. 

How we tested for the best pillow

Our homes and interiors expert Ysanne Brooks tested each of the best pillows over several nights with a range of different positions—front, side, back, restless and overheating—to ascertain the comfort and how supportive each pillow felt in each position—as well as whether it mitigated any pain.

Our tester made sure to test the pillows over multiple nights, to ensure our assessment was fair and accurate. As well as measuring support and comfort, she also kept an eye out how cool/breathable each pillow felt, questioning whether she felt her head and neck had overheated during the night. Similarly, she observed the supposed hypoallergenic properties of those that state that they have those benefits, by judging how stuffy her nose (potentially) felt each morning. She also assessed the potential for those little niggles that have us regretting our purchases—such as fillings that didn’t clump or poke through the casing.

Ysanne also noted the value-for-money of each pillow, and whether her night's sleep was worth the price—or whether a more affordable choice would offer the same experience.

How do I choose the best pillow for me?

There are a few things to consider when purchasing a new pillow—taking a moment to think about what you need from yours will ensure you buy one that will give you the most comfortable, restful night's sleep. Consider: 

Your sleeping position:

Finding the best pillow for your needs will largely depend on your body size and shape, and what sleeping position you find yourself in the most. The best pillow will be one that comfortably supports your head and neck in the same alignment as if you were standing up straight—and this is normally down to the amount and supportiveness of the filling itself.

  • Back sleepers: As a general rule, back sleepers should choose a medium-thickness pillow. With a medium-loft pillow, most back sleepers will be able to achieve a good spinal alignment, to prevent any aches and pains from occurring.
  • Side sleepers: Side sleepers a thicker, high-fill pillow to cushion the space between the neck and the bed. Pillows for side sleepers should also be on the firmer side, to maintain alignment for their body while they sleep.
  • Front sleepers: Front sleepers require a thinner, softer down, synthetic or specialist pillow to avoid that suffocating feeling of sinking into something too deep. This is why thinner pillows can be good for people who sleep often on the front, and who may use their arm to prop up their head in the night.
  • Multi-position sleeper: If you’re a restless sleeper, choosing the pillow for your most common sleeping position could help. But if you naturally opt for several positions in the night, then choose a medium-filled pillow to ensure you have enough support overall.

Budget:

Pillows can vary wildly in price from $15 (£15), to over $100 (£100), so setting your budget is vital.

  • £: The most affordable pillows are often synthetic pillows—e.g, those not made out of natural materials but man-made. They are often hypo-allergenic and can be very comfortable—however, they don't last as long as other pricier pillows.
  • ££: Mid-price pillows usually use synthetic fillings too, such as microfiber or memory foam. These will meet the vast majority of different sleeper's needs.
  • £££: Often, those with more luxurious fillings (such as feather and down), will be more expensive. These are often the cushiony, marshmallow-like pillows that you might have slept on in hotels.

The best pillows as reviewed by our experts

best pillow, Emma Memory Foam Pillow

Best pillow for a customised sleep experience

Specifications
Firmness: : Soft/medium
Machine washable: Yes, the cover is washable
Product guarantee: No, but you get a 100 night trial of the pillow before you have to commit
Reasons to buy
+Adjusts to suit your sleeping preferences+Breathable+Relieves pressure in head and neck
Reasons to avoid
-May be too soft for some

The soft, breathable outer cover of this Emma Memory Foam pillow, which encases three separate layers of support, makes this one of the best pillow picks for us. The top is cold foam, which according to the makers is necessary for counter-pressure and helps to keep your spine aligned. The second is an Airgocell foam layer that’s softer, aiding sleep by letting your head softly sink into the pillow. Finally, an adaptive visco-elastic memory foam layer will distribute and relieve pressure evenly for a good night’s sleep. However, this isn’t where this pillow’s story stops as it’s designed to allow you to remove layers, depending on what kind of sleeper you are in order to have a night’s sleep that’s right for you. 

Removing or adding layers will make this pillow thicker or thinner, depending on your preferences. Emma’s recommendation is that side sleepers keep the pillow with all three as they will need more support in the neck area. Front sleepers should use just one, while back sleepers two. It doesn’t say which layers to take out or leave in so we experimented. Our side sleeper found the three layers super supportive but the restless, position-changing sleeper preferred two layers—the comfort and the memory foam combined. It gave the right level of softness as well as helping to keep the spine aligned whether they were on their side or back. 

The Emma Memory Foam is a pillow you can adjust to your sleeping preferences, for a breathable sleep at a very reasonable price-point.

See our full Emma Memory Foam Pillow review

best pillow, Soak & Sleep New Zealand Wool pillow

(Image credit: Soak and Sleep)

2. Soak & Sleep New Zealand Wool pillow

Best pillow for back sleepers

Specifications
Firmness: Medium-firm
Machine washable: Yes
Product guarantee: Yes—5 years
Reasons to buy
+Good for allergy sufferers+Contours the head and neck beautifully+Soft but supportive
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly more expensive option

Filled with New Zealand wool, this medium-firm Soak & Sleep New Zealand Wool pillow was both supportive enough for our back sleeper but also soft enough for a more than sound night for our restless sleeper, making it our best pillow choice for back sleepers. It fitted beautifully under the head, gently shaping to cradle the contours of the neck and shoulder, which ensured there was no neck stiffness in the morning. To keep it from compacting, we just massaged the filling a bit and it was back to its usual medium-firm plumpness in no time. Wool is naturally temperature regulating and dust mite resistant, making this a good choice for allergy sufferers too. Plus, it can also be machine washed at 60˚C, which means it can be easily kept in tip-top condition. It comes in three sizes, junior, 40x60cm, standard and super king.

This pillow will cradle you to sleep, and given its anti-allergen properties, it easily made it onto our list of the best pillows.

best pillow, Tempur Original Support pillow

3. Tempur Original Support pillow

Best pillow for neck pain

Specifications
Firmness: Firm
Machine washable: Yes - the cover is washable
Product guarantee: Yes - 3 years
Reasons to buy
+Very firm so great for those with neck pain+Molds to your shape
Reasons to avoid
-Not ideal for restless, multi-position sleepers

This contoured ergonomic Tempur Original Support pillow is one of the best pillows for neck pain. It has been specifically designed to cradle the neck and shoulders, to provide a neck-pain-free night. Made from a visco-elastic material first developed by NASA to provide pilots with a comfortable seat when flying, Tempur began making mattresses from this material in the 1990s. 

Their Original Support pillow is very firm and the unconventional, almost rigid curved shape means it’s best suited to those who experience neck pain, and also those who sleep on their back or side. The shape, and the memory foam filling itself—which gently molds itself to your individual shape when sleeping and springs back to its original shape afterward—definitely take a little time to get used to, particularly if you’ve always had a traditional style pillow. But many say it’s well worth persevering for a couple of weeks for a pain-free experience. It was definitely the most ‘Marmite’ of all the pillows we tested and while it didn’t really suit our multi-position, restless sleeper, after a few days our back sleeper had got used to it and found it helped them sleep a little sounder with no recurrence of recent neck pain.

Ensuring a pain-free night's sleep on a super firm pillow, the Tempur is a great option if you have the money to spend, as it is pretty pricey.

best pillow, Simba hybrid pillow

Best memory foam pillow

Specifications
Firmness: Adjustable
Machine washable: Yes—the cover is washable
Product guarantee: Yes—1 year
Reasons to buy
+Ideal for regulating temperature+Allows you to adjust pillow to your preference
Reasons to avoid
-One of the most expensive options

Like the Simba mattress, the Simba pillow is in-demand because of their next-gen sleep technology. And we love the latest version of their Hybrid Pillow, which now features heat-phase technology called Stratos, which helps the body maintain the perfect sleep temperature, effectively storing and releasing heat for when you are cold and moving it away from you when you get too warm.

We really liked the fact that the loose filling of soft memory foam cubes was encased in a zip pocket, allowing us to remove as much or as little as we liked to create a bespoke sleeping experience. When it arrived, with all its filling intact it was quite deep even for our side sleeper but once we’d taken out a few handfuls of the cubes to adjust the height and firmness, it was very comfortable. If you feel you need more or fewer cubes, simply empty or fill from the mesh bag (that comes with the pillow) to adjust. The Stratosfabric technology—inspired by technology originally designed for astronauts—solved a common memory foam pillow problem of overheating, as it works to keep your body temperature steady all night by absorbing, storing and releasing heat as and when it’s needed. The cubes are also sandwiched between a hypoallergenic mineral-enriched fiber called Aerelle Cool Night, which dissipates heat and a durable microfiber padding for softness. As with Simba’s original offering, our overheating side sleeper definitely found it supportive and there was no need to flip it during the night.

The ideal pillow for regulating your temperature while you sleep, there's a reason Simba is everyone's favorite memory foam pillow.

See our full Simba Hybrid Pillow review

best pillow, Eve Microfibre Pillow

(Image credit: Eve)

Best pillow for side sleepers

Specifications
Firmness: Soft
Machine washable: Yes
Product guarantee: Yes—3 years
Reasons to buy
+Ideal for side and back sleepers+Two options for sleeping+Cool
Reasons to avoid
-May be too soft for some

The unusual shape of this Eve microfibre pillow—it’s boxy at one end and tapered at the other—means it works well for both side and back sleepers. The thicker side provides more support to the neck—great for those who assume the side position— while the thinner edge works to align the spine for back sleepers. Softly supportive, rather than firm, it still provided enough rigidity for our multi-position sleeper to get a good night’s sleep, once they’d decided on which of the two options (the thicker of the two) suited them best. The 230 thread-count cotton case is beautifully soft and the polyester mesh side panels aid airflow, ensuring there was no sign of overheating, even on an unseasonably warm spring night. At 46x67cm it’s sized to fit a standard pillowcase and is machine washable at 40˚C, too. A quick re-fluff after tumble-drying will help it to retain its shape.

A fantastic option for side and back sleepers, the Eve Microfibre pillow is cool and provides great neck support—though it may be too soft for some.

See our full Eve Microfibre pillow review

best pillow, Slumberdown Front Sleeper Pillow

6. Slumberdown Front Sleeper Pillow

Best pillow for stomach sleepers

Specifications
Firmness: Soft
Machine washable: Yes
Product guarantee: No
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Super supportive+Breathable
Reasons to avoid
-Not for back or side sleepers

Because of their position—with face pressed into the pillow, often with an arm cradling their head—those who regularly sleep on their front often find themselves drifting towards the outside edge of their pillow to ensure they don’t feel smothered by it. Front sleeping is the least recommended position because it can force the neck into an uncomfortable angle, resulting in aches and pains. But, if you do sleep on your front, pillows with a thin profile or loft (height) will help, as pillows that are too plump can feel suffocating. While you can buy oddly-shaped designs that allow for breathing space, we found this regular shaped one, the Slumberdown Front Sleeper Pillow, was not only a great price, it was also a perfectly comfortable option for front sleeping as it was supportive enough but didn’t force the neck of our multi-position sleeper into a nasty angle when they flipped onto their tummy.

Our front sleeper found this pillow breathable and lightweight, but supportive enough to prevent any aches and pains, which makes it a winner in our books. 

Although the Slumberdown doesn't come in any other firmness level than soft (the advised level for front sleepers), and doesn't come with a guarantee, it would still be our best pillow recommendation for those who sleep on their front most often.

best pillow, Silentnight Airmax Pillow

Best overall pillow

Specifications
Firmness: Soft
Machine washable: Yes
Product guarantee: Yes—2 years
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Great if you want a cooler pillow+Lovely, marshmallow-soft comfort
Reasons to avoid
-Too soft for some sleepers-Might be too big for some

Just like the duvet of the same name, this Silentnight Airmax pillow has lovely, squishy marshmallow plumpness—in fact, it was so big we had to use an oversized Oxford pillowcase to cover it. Don’t be fooled, though, this box construction hollowfibre pillow is pretty supportive, and at just £10.99, it was also one of the best value pillows we tested. Even though it’s very much on the soft end of the scale, our dedicated side sleeper actually found it firm enough for a comfortable night’s rest, so it's a good option for many different sleepers. 

However, it’s the improved airflow from the meshed material strip that runs through the center of this pillow that makes the difference. It definitely helped to circulate the air and keep our over-heater cool and rested, with no need for the usual pillow turning to get the cool side in the middle of the night. It’s hypoallergenic and machine washable at 40˚C, plus it has a 2-year guarantee—all things that added up to make it the best all-round pillow we tested.

Our best pillow overall, we loved the Silentnight Airmax's plumpness, firm softness, cooling abilities and easy-care options.

See our full Silentnight Airmax pillow review

best pillow, Slumberdown Allergy Protection pillow

8. Slumberdown Allergy Protection pillow

Best pillow for allergy and asthma sufferers

Specifications
Firmness: Medium
Machine washable: Yes
Product guarantee: No
Reasons to buy
+Best pick for allergy sufferers+Ideal if you sleep in different positions
Reasons to avoid
-None!

One of our testers has what Allergy UK has named ‘home fever’, an increasingly prevalent non-specific allergy to our homes that causes sniffles and sometimes sore eyes, as well as aggravating eczema. So, we were keen to try this Slumberdown Allergy Protection pillow—one of the few that has the Allergy UK seal of approval—filled with synthetic fibres that have been specially treated to combat dust mites, one of the biggest causes of night-time allergies and asthma. It’s a medium-dense, soft filling that’s a good all-round option if you sleep in a variety of different positions during the night—although our side sleeper needed two in order to ensure proper spine alignment and avoid a stiff neck in the morning. It’s machine washable at 40˚C, has a breathable 100% cotton cover and at just £12.50 for a set of two measuring 48x 74cm, we felt it was one of the best value pillows we tested, too.

If you suffer from allergies, there's no better choice than this synthetic pillow, which offers great value-for-money too.

best pillow, Clevamama Toddler Foam pillow

9. Clevamama Toddler Foam pillow

Best pillow for kids

Specifications
Firmness: Firm
Machine washable: Yes—the cover is washable, the pillow is hand wash
Product guarantee: No
Reasons to buy
+Breathable and lightweight+Good for kids with allergies+Machine washable cover
Reasons to avoid
-Quite thin

While babies shouldn’t have pillows, as there’s a risk of suffocation, once a toddler moves from a cot to a proper bed, you might find they need a more supportive base to rest their head. Filled with ClevaFoam®, this Clevamama Toddler Foam pillow, researched and developed with the university at Trinity College Dublin, has the benefit of being the only one that is scientifically proven to reduce pressure on the back of a baby’s head by 50% and increase support by 80%. This helps to combat Flat Head Syndrome, a condition often caused by lying and sleeping in one position. Lightweight, hypoallergenic and breathable, it has reduced heat retention ensuring there’s no overheating at night. This also makes it a good choice for children with asthma or allergies. The pillow, compared to adult ones, feels quite thin at first but the foam filling molded comfortably to the head, and was just the right height and level of firmness for a toddler. The cover is removable and machine washable, too—which we're sure any parent will be glad to hear!

Ensuring breathability, a cool sleep, and an affordable price tag, this thinner pillow is a solid choice for parents on the hunt for their toddler's first pillow.

best pillows for neck pain, Sealy zonal support pillow

(Image credit: Sealy)

10. Sealy Zonal Support pillow

Best pillow for a combination of support and luxury

Specifications
Firmness: Firm (but medium and soft also available)
Machine washable: No—only covers
Product guarantee: Yes—three years
Reasons to buy
+Great support for head and neck+Crisp but soft casing+Maintains shape after use
Reasons to avoid
-Not very plump-Limited availability 

The Sealy Zonal Support pillow does what it says on the tin—it exudes both hotel levels of luxury comfort, whilst also providing brilliant support for your head and neck. With multiple internal layers to provide different levels of support, this pillow puts spinal health and comfort at the forefront. The pillow really cradled our upper body during testing, with firmer foam springs in the center of the pillow for the head, and softer springs in the edges of the pillow, to gently support the shoulders and neck. One drawback is that this pillow definitely isn't as plump or fluffy as others, but this is because of the way that it works to support your body during sleep.

However, we did enjoy the luxuriously crisp, 100% cotton casing, which meant sleeping on the it felt a bit like sleeping in a hotel room. 

Despite its lack of plumpness, there's no doubt that the Sealy is a dream to sleep on—supportive, bouncy, and leaving us pain-free in the morning. 

See our full Sealy Zonal Support pillow review

Tempur Comfort Pillow Original

(Image credit: Tempur)

11. Tempur Comfort Pillow Original

Best pillow for all sleeping positions

Specifications
Firmness: Medium
Machine washable: Yes—the cover is
Product guarantee: 3 years
Reasons to buy
+Great for all sleeping positions+Supportive+Molds well to your head and neck
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Memory foam isn't for everyone

Tempur Comfort Pillow Original is a pillow that offers great support for all sleepers, whether you lie on your side, front or back. Made of supportive memory foam, it's sturdy and heavy, so you can count on it to take care of your body where it really needs it while you sleep, as it adjusts its support levels depending on the position you are in. We found that this one molded incredibly well to our heads and necks when drifted off to sleep, and offered brilliant support. However, memory foam isn't for everyone, so it's worth noting that it generates a bit of heat after a few hours of sleeping. The Tempur Comfort is fairly expensive too, so that's something to factor into your buying decision. However, it offers a great guarantee, is very easy to care for (the cover is machine washable), and provides the incredible support that we've come to expect from the Tempur brand. 

For a pillow that offers premium support whatever position you sleep in, and for those with the larger budget to match, the Temput Comfort is an excellent option.

See our full Tempur Comfort Pillow Original review

Pillow

(Image credit: Amazon)

12. Gentle Living Cooling Lumbar Support Pillow

Best lumbar support pillow

Specifications
Firmness: Firm
Machine washable: Yes
Guarantee: No
Reasons to buy
+Cooling gel inside that can help hot sleepers+Can be used in a number of different positions—not just behind the head+Very supportive+Adjustable levels
Reasons to avoid
-Does move about during sleep at maximum thickness

The first thought that came to mind upon testing this pillow was “supportive”. Upon testing, we placed the pillow behind our back, where it and fit snugly into the curve of the spine. At maximum thickness, when waking up a few times in the night our tester noticed the pillow had shifted away from its original position, causing some tension in the lower back the next morning. However, on the shallower level (it's an easy adjustment—all you have to do is unzip the case and remove the bottom piece of foam), the interruption was much less and the pillow stayed in place throughout the night, allowing us to enjoy a peaceful and supportive night's sleep.

By placing a lumbar pillow under your back, between your legs, or under your stomach at night, you can alleviate back pain by providing your spin with extra support. And we certainly found this to be true with the Gentle Living Lumbar Support Pillow could be the solution. The best part is is that you needn't use it only whilst sleeping. You can use the pillow for extra support at your office chair, on the couch, or at the dinner table. It's a versatile pillow that can make sitting or lying down much easier if you find it often causes you back pain. 

At a very reasonable price point, with machine washing an option, this is, overall, a solid pillow choice if it's lumbar support you are after.

See our full Gentle Living Lumbar Support Pillow review

What are the different types of pillows?

There are many different types of pillows. While most pillows have a soft, cotton or polyester outer casing, the fillings can vary considerably. Familiarise yourself with the pros and cons of each so you can choose the best pillow for you:

  • Down or feathers: A combination of down and feathers will be soft and cushioning, with those featuring a larger percentage of down to feathers being the most luxurious. However, the more down, the less support, so while they will be good for front sleepers, they might not be firm or deep enough for side sleepers. For those with allergies, pillows with down or feathers might be best avoided. However, if well cared for, natural materials are the best choice if you want a long-lasting pillow.
  • Silk: Silk pillows are generally less deep and are a good choice if you overheat at night, because they naturally wick away moisture and help to regulate body heat. Opt for one if you’re a front sleeper with allergies, as they’re naturally dust-mite resistant—after all, good sleep hygiene is vital for helping you to feel properly rested.
  • Wool: Natural wool will give a good level of support and, depending on how well filled the pillow is, will work well for both back and side sleepers. Regular plumping is needed to stop the pillow flattening or bunching up over time, though.
  • Synthetic: Synthetic pillow fillings, such as microfiber, are also hypoallergenic, so a good choice for those with allergies. They’re lightweight, often machine washable, and reasonably priced, too. However, choose your outer cover carefully if you get hot at night as some feature a polyester cover, which is not as breathable as cotton. While synthetic pillows may be cheaper, they often have the shortest lives, as the filling can start to clump and be uncomfortable over time.
  • Memory foam: Memory foam provides great support if you’re a side sleeper—most of the best travel pillows are made of memory foam. But, many people find them on the firm and hot side and, like memory foam mattresses, there is sometimes an initial chemical smell. Despite this, the deep, firm support they offer often makes them a good choice of pillow for those that have neck problems.
  • Latex: Latex pillows are similar in feel to memory foam, providing firm, deep support for your head and neck, but often giving a cooler sleeping experience (see our guide to the best cooling pillows here, if that's what you're after). This means they are an excellent option if you’re an overheating side sleeper. 

But if you're looking for a new place to rest your head, how often do you need to replace your pillow? Well, if you’re waking up with sniffles (read: allergies) or a sore neck and shoulders, or your pillows has lost its shape, it’s likely that it has overstayed its welcome. 

Some synthetic pillows may need replacing after as little as six months, while others such as down and feathers and memory foam will give you two years or more depending on how well they are cared for. Down pillows tend to last longer—up to five years, while a feather pillow could last up to eight years. For more information, see our full guide to how often should we change our pillows.

Is it better to have a hard or soft pillow?

When deciding what's the best pillow firmness for you, you'll have to take into consideration your sleeping position and personal taste. Front sleepers will find a too-firm pillow uncomfortable and cloying, while back and side sleepers will need a more solid support to hold their neck and spine in alignment through the night.

Consider which position you sleep in, or sleep in the most often, and make your decision based on that. In our pillow reviews above, we've suggested the best pillows for those who want a firmer option, and the best pillow for those who are after a softer option. 

Why are hotel pillows so comfortable?

If you’ve ever laid your head to rest in a five-star hotel, you’re likely to remember the ultimate softness and luxury of the pillows in hotels. Many hotels will have their own brand of standard pillows—and these are usually well-filled goose or duck down ones, which are a brilliant pick for ultimate squishiness. Plus, many of them will be encased in super luxurious high thread count Egyptian cotton.

Some hotels even have pillow menus, from which you can pick a variety of fillings and comfort levels. The Savoy, for example, uses a quality feather-down pillow, while Hilton hotels across the world have pillow menus that feature something for every kind of sleeper.