— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA Today’s newsroom and any business incentives.
Let's face it: Pillowing shopping is a royal pain. With all the different shapes and sizes and materials out there, parsing out the good from the bad can seem downright impossible. Fortunately, we're here to help you find the best pillow, period.
We scoured every retailer and site we could, reading user reviews and finding the very best pillows out there. We then rounded up the most popular bed pillows on the market and put them to the test to see which ones held up in the real world.
After hours of in-depth research and testing (and catching Z's), we are convinced that the absolute best pillow is the Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow. It's adjustable, so you should be able to find a way to make it work for you, and the soft bamboo cover keeps things nice and cool all night long. It works well for side sleepers (even those with neck pain), back sleepers, face-smushed-into-the-blanket sleepers, and everyone in between.
If you're not swayed by our top pick, don't worry. Whether you prefer fluffy pillows or rock-solid pillows, there's something for every kind of sleeper on this list.
1. The best bed pillow of 2019: Xtreme Comforts shredded memory foam pillow
The Xtreme Comforts pillow, despite its ominously overzealous name, is the pillow we're happiest to recommend for most people.
The pillow arrives rolled up and compressed, but once it’s out of the packaging it fluffs up to full size quickly. (Keep in mind that some memory foam pillows take longer to adjust in colder temps and tend to stay firmer in cold environments.)
The Xtreme Comforts really shines when it comes to adjustability. The pillow’s packaging states that is is intentionally “overstuffed,” so we removed about a quarter of the bamboo shredded memory foam and kneaded the pillow until the foam was evenly redistributed and it felt comfortable to lie on. Since the foam is shredded, you don't feel lumps and bumps—the contents mold around your head, neck, and spine so you feel supported.
We also tested it at full capacity and it helped to relieve a tester's neck pain that's usually suffered from sleep. Xtreme Comforts’ website claims that the pillow helps with proper alignment of your cervical nerves, so maybe there's some truth there.
The pillowcase is made with a Kool-Flow Micro-Vented Bamboo Cover, a feature you may particularly relish if you wake up hot in the middle of the night.
Other things we like: The pillow is hypoallergenic and dust-mite resistant, and the pillowcase is machine washable.
2. The best value pillow of 2019: Sleep Restoration gel fiber-filled pillow
These gel-fiber filled pillows feel supportive yet fluffy and comfortable. It’s named our “Best Value” because you get two pillows for less than the cost of our top pick, the Xtreme Comfort. The Sleep Restoration pillows felt comfortable without needing an adjustment—which is good because you can’t remove the super plush gel-filled fiber at all if the pillow is too high or fluffy for you.
You wouldn’t lay your head on this pillow and think it’s made with “gel” at all until you rub the pillow between your forefinger and thumb to feel the gel fiber. They seemed lofty, but settle down to a comfortable height while sleeping on your side or back.
Other things we like: It's dust mite and stain resistant.
Why it didn't win: The cover is not machine washable and the pillow is not adjustable.
3. The Purple pillow
The Purple Pillow is the most unusual of the bunch here. So while we liked it, we can't necessarily recommend it for everyone. The Purple is heavy, really heavy and if you tried using this in a pillow fight you might knock someone out. It's made up of a wobbly "Hyper-Elastic Polymer" in a honeycomb-like grid. There's a lot of space for the airflow in a pattern like that, which kept us cool through the night.
The downside is that there's not much give in the height. You can't "squash it down" to make it more comfortable and the push-back from the polymer might make your ears a little sore. Our female tester also found the Purple too tall. However, another editor in the Reviewed office absolutely loves it. Something this unique invites polarizing opinions. We suggest you try to get your hands on one before you buy. You can also check out our review on the Purple mattress, as well as the rest of the best mattresses in a box too.
4. The Casper pillow
At least one editor at Reviewed is on the record talking about his affinity for the Casper mattress, so it was natural that we wanted to try out their pillow. Though it may feel like a traditional polyester-fill, the Casper pillow is actually two "pillows" in one—a softer outer core and a firm inner core. It's an effective design without feeling gimmicky.
There's a quite a lot of sinkage when you lay your head down. One of our tall, male testers was concerned at first that it might sink as low as a down pillow, but the Casper held firm at just the right spot, cradling the head and neck. One of our female testers named this her top pick and is all set to replace her old pillows with two brand-new Caspers.
If you're looking for a solid, traditional pillow that just nails the basics really well, the Casper is a good choice.
5. The Parachute Home down alternative pillow
Parachute offers soft, medium, and firm densities at various price points, and they actually recommend the medium firmness for back sleepers, with the high firm for side sleeping. We were surprised that loftier medium-density pillow turned out to be one of the top-ranked pillows on this list.
The “down alternative” made from a hypoallergenic microfiber fill felt softer and more comfortable to sleep on than the partial down pillow we tried later with real feathers and down. It was great for overnight sleep and its lightness and fluffiness made it the perfect pillow to toss on my couch for a nap. Since it’s lightweight, this would be a nice pillow to fold in half and rest your head on against the window during a long car ride nap.
How we tested: finding the best pillow
Hi, I'm Diana Kelly. I’ve been a health journalist for over a decade and have likely written at least 50 articles about sleep and health, so I know the importance of getting quality sleep. I’ve worked both sides of the editorial divide, contributing to review sites and writing for the sleep companies themselves at various times.
So when my editor asked if I’d like to sleep, nap, and burrow into pillows for hours in the name of research, I was on board. I love sleep. When I have a great night’s sleep, I feel like I can check off all of my work to-dos, exercise at my full potential, make healthy food choices, and act kinder and more patient to others.
And when I don’t sleep well, picture the opposite of all of that. I’ve even jokingly called myself a "napportunist" in the past—when an opportunity to nap arises, I try to take it. If that makes me sound lazy, so be it. I just got to call napping and going to bed “work” for two weeks and I’m pretty happy about it.
After researching some of the top-rated and best-ranked pillows on the Internet, our team looked at the reviewed pillows on Sleepopolis.com and SleepLiketheDead.com. I slept on each pillow in our experiment (I’m 5’6”) and gave them to my partner to sleep on (he’s 6’3”). I also napped on each pillow, had pillow fights with my partner (I lost all of them), and folded them with a weight on top to see if they bounced back to their original shapes or need fluffing. Here are the top pillows, in order of their rank, and why they made the grade.
In order to expand the line-up of pillows we tested, Dave Kender, editor at Reviewed, packed a monstrously large bag full of pillows and brought them home for him and his wife to evaluate. They "calibrated" themselves by first testing the two winners, then testing the Casper, Purple, and My Pillow.
What You Should Know About Bed Pillows
What kind of fill should I get?
When it comes to picking a bed pillow, there's a lot to consider. Do you sleep on your stomach or your side? Is a foam pillow better than a down pillow? What's a good pillow for a king-sized bed? If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't worry, we're here to help.
It's important to figure out what kind of fill you want. A down pillow, for example, is really squishy, so it's a great cushion for your head. In addition to being fluffy, they're also hypo-allergenic. A foam pillow, on the other hand, is firmer and will keep its shape even when you shift in your sleep. If you want something in the middle (not too soft, not too firm), we'd recommend a pillow with a polyester fill.
Do sleep positions matter? What's the best pillow for a side sleeper or someone with neck pain?
When it comes to comfort, your go-to sleeping position matters quite a bit. Do you sleep on your stomach or side? Whether you count yourself amongst the legion of side sleepers or a snooze as a stomach sleeper, we'd recommend a thicker pillow that'll support and give you the neck support you desperately need.
If you tend to sleep on your back, you should go for a flat, thinner pillow. Side sleepers need a lot more support, and it's critical you find a pillow that is supportive and comfortable so it can hold your head in the correct position while you sleep. Soft pillows with plush fill may seem great, but if it won't hold your head up you are bound to wake up with some discomfort and pain.
Side sleepers are particularly tricky to find pillows for, because you need something that is firm enough to keep your head aloft but that doesn't feel like sleeping on a stack of books. Since everyone's heads and necks are different, we think something like our top pick is a great choice, since it lets you adjust the internal stuffing to your liking.
If you're not sure which pillow does what, most quality pillows (including all the pillows we review above) will have information on how to use them and get the best support.
When should I replace my pillow?
Pillows aren't designed to last forever. That's just the sad truth of it. But how do you know when it's time to replace it? If you fold your pillow in half and it doesn't spring back to its original shape, then it's time to toss it. You should also keep an eye out for sagging or lumps.
How do I care for my pillow? How often do you wash your pillow?
Every pillow we review above will come with care instructions on how to wash it properly, but it's critical that you keep your pillows clean. Research by Dow suggests that after two years 1/3rd of the weight of a standard pillow is made of debris like dust, mites, dead bugs, and droppings (yes, droppings).
Most pillows can be washed in the washing machine, just follow the included instructions for the pillow and your pillowcase or sham of choice. Most experts we have found recommend washing your pillow at least once every six months. Though you'll want to follow your pillow's included care instructions, if you removed the tag you may no longer have the instructions (you rebel, you).
Here are the best ways to wash every different type of pillow:
How to wash organic cotton, down, and synthetic pillows
1. Check the tags on your pillows to make sure they can be washed in the washing machine. Most pillows can, regardless of whether they’re down or synthetic, but a few can’t.
2. Remove the pillow from pillowcase or sham, if applicable. You can also throw these pillow covers and/or shams in the washing machine along with your pillows.
3. Put your pillows in the washing machine. The trick is to wash at least two pillows at a time to keep the washer balanced.
4. Add your detergent as normal.
5. Start the wash cycle using warm water and opt for the gentle cycle, unless otherwise specified.
6. Tumble dry the pillows on low heat, fluffing and turning them often.
7. Add a softener sheet for freshness, and add a couple of sneakers or tennis balls to help fluff them.
How to wash foam pillows
1. Remove the pillowcases from your foam pillows.
2. Place two pillows in the washing machine to balance the load.
3. Add a gentle detergent, using the delicate cycle. Let the machine go for several minutes and then spin them a few times. Check to see the wetness. If the pillows are still soaked, spin a little longer. Remove them as soon as they are no longer soaking wet, slightly damp is okay.
4. Place the pillows in the dryer at the lowest heat possible. Add a softener sheet for freshness, and two or three tennis balls to help fluff them. Keep an eye on the pillows and remove them as soon as they are dry.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.