How to Choose Among the Various Types of Pillows?

It’s not always easy to pick just the right pillow to suit your needs. They come in many pillows shapes, and in fact there are plenty of different types of pillows to choose from.

The right kind of pillow can help you immensely if you’re not getting the quality of sleep you need. What’s more, a pillow is much more affordable than a new mattress. You may want to think about getting a new pillow instead if your mattress is already good enough.

But how do you pick one? They come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be designed for various functions. While there may seem to be an infinite number of choices for you to pick from, this guide can help you narrow down your options.

The Various Pillow Shapes and Sizes

Technically, manufacturers are free to create a pillow in any size or shape. But some shapes and sizes are more common because they’re the ones that are most popular with people.

Still, there are plenty of options here to choose from. They all have somewhat different designs, and these may be due to their different functions.

1. Standard

As the name implies, these are the regular ones you get. They’re very average in firmness and feel, and they measure 20 by 26 inches. That’s good enough for most beds.

2. Super Standard

While they’re standard in everything else, these pillows measure 28 inches long. It’s better suited for those who tend to toss, turn, or roll through the night.

3. Queen

These are also popular, and in fact they’re so popular that they’re considered “standard” as well. But they measure 30 inches long, which makes them more suited for bigger beds. You can put them inside a standard pillowcase to make them loftier.

4. King

These are 36 inches long. These can work for bigger beds, but many use this as a sort of body pillow. They offer a fair amount of huggable material when you sleep on your side.

5. European

Why do Europeans do things differently? In this case, the pillow is square rather than rectangular, and they measure 26 inches on each side. Many use these for decoration. But they can also be useful for back support and for cushioning joints. They don’t work as well as head support.

6. Body

The body pillow refers to a type of pillow that’s meant to support the body and not just the head. They’re often very long, averaging at 54 inches. You can use this to support your arm and leg when you sleep on your side or it can keep you from turning so you remain sleeping on your back.

7. Pregnancy

As you can very well imagine, sleep can become a rather complicated issue when you’re pregnant. It gets even more complicated when your doctor advises you to sleep on your side instead of on your back. Many of these body pillows for pregnant women coon their bodies to keep them from turning, while they also support the tummy while they sleep on their side.

8. Travel

It’s great to have your own pillows with you when you travel. Their familiarity makes them more comfortable to use. But they need to be smaller for better portability, which is why they often measure just 12 by 16 inches. They’re often great for toddlers too.

9. Wedge

These are often sued for special support and pain relief. They can be used by pregnant women, people with lumbar issues, and those who need to sleep in a more upright position.

10. Roll or Bolster

This is shaped like a cylinder cut lengthwise in half. You can use to keep your knees from knocking together when you sleep on your side. They can also support your neck when placed between your head and your shoulders when you sleep on your back.

Types Of Pillow According To Material

So what should your pillow be made from? Here are some of you options:

1. Down

These refer to the fibers near the chest of a goose, swan, or duck.

  • Soft and luxurious
  • Lightweight
  • Insulating quality
  • Long-lasting
  • A bit more expensive
  • Some people may be allergic
  • Cleaning difficulties

2. Synthetic Down Alternatives

These are manufactured materials designed to act like down, but supposedly without the drawbacks of down.

  • More affordable that real down
  • Also soft and lightweight
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Easier to clean
  • Doesn’t quite duplicate the insulating quality of down
  • Not quite as prestigious (if you want to brag about it)

3. Memory Foam

This is a gel-like material that conforms to the contours of your body and head.

  • No lumping
  • Gives nice cradling support to head and neck
  • Offers pain relief
  • Can be used for various shapes and sizes


  • May have breathability issues
  • May be too form for stomach sleepers
  • Some have chemical smell
  • It may feel too warm

4. Shredded Memory Foam

This is the alternative to regular memory foam, which is a single block of foam.

  • Supportive
  • Can be molded if too firm
  • Easier to clean than down
  • Firm enough for those who sleep on their sides or on their backs


  • The smell is still there
  • May become flatter eventually
  • When you clean it, it takes a long time to dry

5. Latex

This is a kind of rubber derived from a tree. Note, however, that some latex pillows use blends that contain polyurethane foam, which makes for an inferior pillow.

  • Supportive
  • Soft
  • Long-lasting in terms of responsiveness and shape
  • Some are latex-polyurethane blends that aren’t as durable
  • Can be somewhat heavy
  • Not really breathable
  • Some people are allergic to latex

6. Body Pillow

This is a special type of pillow that also supports your body. They’re used for a wide variety of special needs, such as support for pregnant women, for pain relief, or just for extra comfort for side sleepers. It all depends on the design.

  • Versatile
  • Useful for body aches
  • Great for pregnant women
  • Because they’re bigger, they’re not exactly portable
  • They can separate you from your sleeping partner
  • Unconventional shapes can lead to difficulty in removing the cover

7. Adjustable

As the name implies, you can adjust the amount of filling inside this type of pillow. Basically, you can open the cover and take out an amount so that it raises your head at the right height.

  • Works for various sleeping positions
  • Wide variety of sizes, shapes, and filling materials
  • You get just the right “feel”
  • Adjusting is by trial and error
  • Can be a bit messy
  • You have to know how to remove and store the filling you take out properly.

8. Feather

This has long been the traditional type of filling for a pillow, though nowadays there are so many alternatives. Unlike down feathers, these regular feathers originally came from the top of the birds.

  • Firm
  • Holds its shape well
  • Lightweight
  • Soft
  • May feel too warm
  • Needs lots of fluffing
  • The feather quills may stick out of the cover
  • Some people are allergic

9. Buckwheat

These are the hard outer shells of buckwheat seeds.

  • Allows for air movement
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Supportive
  • Moldable
  • When you move it, it makes noise
  • Pillows feel crunchy
  • Stomach sleepers may feel it’s too firm
  • A bit heavy

10. Kapok Fiber

This is the seed pod fluff of a rain forest Ceiba tree.

  • Lofty
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Naturally resistant to mold and mildew
  • Soft
  • Lightweight
  • Bio degradable
  • Needs lots of fluffing
  • Bit more expensive
  • Extremely Flammable

11. Water Pillow

As there are also water beds, someone obviously though there will be a market for water pillows.

  • Conforms to your head
  • No need to fluff
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Easy to adjust (just add or remove water)
  • Stable
  • It may be too firm and not soft enough
  • Potential leaks
  • Not breathable

12. Gel

Often, the gel is paired with memory foam pillows.

  • Cool, which is great for warm weather
  • No need to fluff
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Relieves pressure


  • You don’t sink as much into the pillow

13. Microbead

These pillows are made of tiny polystyrene beads.

  • Adjustable
  • Supportive
  • Breathable


  • Slow to degrade
  • Potentially messy (if you tear the pillow)

14. Cotton

Cotton is a common filler material for mattresses, so some thought it would work for pillows too.

  • It’s natural
  • Mostly hypoallergenic
  • Breathable


  • May get lumpy or flat after a while
  • Doesn’t contour to the head shape easily
  • Mold and dust mites can be problems without regular cleaning

15. Wool

These are the natural fibers from sheep.

  • Regulates body temperature
  • Resistant to dust mites
  • Retards fire
  • Antibacterial
  • Renewable resource


  • Can get smelly as it absorbs odors
  • Must be dry cleaned

Pillow Casing Materials

Here are your material options for pillow casings:

  • Cotton- Breathable, soft, and affordable
  • Bamboo- Sustainable, breathable, and good for blends
  • Poly-Threads- Strong, durable, and used for blends with cotton
  • Eucalyptus Fiber- Blends well with synthetics to create soft, moisture-wicking pillow casing
  • Wool- Helps with cooling and warming
  • Copper Infusions- Supposedly releases “positive ions” to maintain your health

Pillow Uses

It all depends on how you use the pillow. Possible uses include:

  • Rest for your head
  • Support for joints
  • Pressure relief
  • Improves spinal alignment
  • Can keeps train on lower back or hipsc
  • Can help pregnant women along with sick or convalescing patients to sleep better

Questions to Ask

Before you pick a pillow, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this meant for my favorite sleeping position?
  • Is it soft enough to lull me to sleep quickly?
  • How warm or cool does it let me sleep?
  • Does the pillow cradle my head properly?
  • Is my neck sufficiently supported?
  • Does my back feel right when I wake up?
  • Does it cause (or reduce) my snoring?
  • Am I allergic to the materials?

What’s Your Sleeping Position?

You’ve probably heard how some mattresses are designed for a particular sleeping position. Some mattresses are suitable for those who sleep on the back, others are for the side sleepers, and there are even mattresses which can help those who sleep on their stomachs. Pillows are much the same way.

The main reason why you need to factor in your favorite sleeping position is that your pillow, like your mattress, can help you get a good night’s rest. The pillow can also do its part in keeping your spine properly aligned and supported.

In addition, your pillow must keep you feeling comfortable while you sleep. How else are you going to sleep if you don’t feel comfortable? That’s why you need a pillow that works best for how you sleep.

Remember, just because you’re having some trouble sleeping doesn’t mean you have to spend a huge amount of money on a new mattress. You don’t have to renovate your bedroom either. You may first want to change your pillow—for a few dollars, the right pillow can provide you the good night’s sleep you’re looking for!

Billy L. Osorio

My name is Billy. I am a computer engineer by profession. So, most of my work is on the desk. In my past days, I had many back pain issues due to a long time sitting, eating, working habit. I did a lot of studies and consulting for overcoming my problem. Now, I am trying to share my knowledge.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: