Where can I get a firm, thick pillow that will last?
June 29, 2009 11:01 PM   Subscribe

I sleep on my side and every pillow I've had flattens after several weeks of use, or just collapses when I put my head in it. This causes my shoulder or back to hurt when I wake up. Is there any type of pillow that will stay firm for a while so I can sleep on my side comfortably? I've tried double pillows, folding a pillow in half, etc. but it never works out.
posted by tasty to Shopping (31 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried a contoured memory foam pillow? It's helped me wake up with a less sore neck/shoulders. Also, have you tried sleeping on your side with another pillow between your knees to help keep your hips/spine in line? Those are both things that others have recommended to me.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:10 PM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

I have the same problem and will be watching this thread carefully.

What I do is find the hardest pillow possible (generally sold at foam-rubber retailers from ends of foam chipped and stuffed in a pillow shape) and then top this with a regular "firm" pillow (which is not firm at all, but is sufficiently cushiony to make the hard pillow comfortable). The foam-chip pillows are hard, fat and cheap (about $10AUD). As soon as they start compacting, I toss them and get a fresh one. I get about 12 months per pillow. I'd get more if I didn't wash them as much as I do (dust mite allergy).

I'm overdue for a new pillow but can't find any locally. I'm considering heading to the nearest foam store and asking them to whittle me a nice big block of high-resistance furniture foam, sewing it into a cover myself, and seeing how that goes.

Good luck!
posted by ninazer0 at 11:11 PM on June 29, 2009

I use wool pillows for this reason. They do squash down a little at first but then they hold their shape for years. It's just about impossible to find a 100% wool one so they usually have polyester in there (sometimes it's cotton), and the more polyester the more squashing, but a good quality wool pillow with just some polyester is lovely and comfortable. Plus they breathe nicely, don't have lumps, don't hold dust, and don't get mouldy, so they're good pillows all round.
posted by shelleycat at 11:14 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding the pillow between the knees for side sleeping. It's the only thing that works for me to prevent an achy back in the morning. They actually make pillows just for this.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:20 PM on June 29, 2009

If you punch up your pillow every night, you can make it forget the abuses of your
sweaty, immobile head, and make it last for years. This doesn't work on memory latex
pillows, but for down and polyester pillows it makes a world of difference. It's a fairly
vigorous sequence of punches, perhaps 10 a night.
I very much like the idea of a wool pillow. Fleeces are easy to obtain, and even I could
sew some of it into a rectangular bag on which to lay my head. Thanks, SC.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:24 PM on June 29, 2009

There are pillows made for this problem, but they are made of a special kind of fairly hard foam and they're considerably more expensive than normal pillows.

They're not the chip foam pillows referred to above - they're one solid piece of foam and they're sculpted into specific shapes for specific problems. Can't find one in any of the catalogues I've got at home but they're usually advertised as chiropractic or physio pillows.

These are similar to the kind of pillows I'm talking about, while these are convential memory pillows.

Examples picked totally at random from Google and aren't an endorsement for those companies,
posted by Lolie at 11:25 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

You may want to try a buckwheat pillow. They do not compress much, and usually come zippered so that you can adjust the amount of filling. One with high-quality, clean buckwheat filling and a layer of felt/wool batting on the outside would probably be ideal.
posted by zennie at 11:39 PM on June 29, 2009

Sleeping bag stuff sacks can now be purchased with a flannel covering on one surface. Stuffing a down vest and a couple other pieces of clothing inside it made a pillow for me that sounds like the one you're looking for. But don't use a sleeping bag itself as the stuffing, since that would be too firm.
posted by telstar at 11:50 PM on June 29, 2009

Have you tried using a throw pillow (the kind that are made for decorating your couch)? They are much firmer, and more durable, than bed pillows. I've noticed that when I nap on the couch, my head and neck feel very comfortable and supported by the throw pillows, so maybe using them in bed would work for someone with your problem.
posted by amyms at 11:50 PM on June 29, 2009

I tried a spelt pillow, one like this one, made with spelt husks, at a hotel a few weeks ago, and loved it so much I bought one. It doesn't get flat, keeps my head cool, and is so comfortable. It makes this sort of rustling sound which takes a little getting used to, but is otherwise so great. Buckwheat husk pillows are similar, though I don't like the Japanese style ones that I grew up knowing - they are stuffed so tightly that they are as hard as little logs. Get a modern grain husk filled one that is firm yet still loose. (The same hotel also had millet pillows, which were also nice and a bit firmer, but I like the spelt ones better.)
posted by thread_makimaki at 11:58 PM on June 29, 2009

I shelled out for a latex pillow. Not a memory foam, just a regular latex. It bounces back every night. I just moved across the world and there was no way I was going to be without it. I used to get terrible migraines with previous pillows, but this has really lessened with this one. The brand is durapillow.
posted by wingless_angel at 12:04 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I find that most pillows collapse at the front edge, leaving my neck unsupported. What I do is take a small towel, roll it up and slip it inside the pillow case, on top but near the edge of the pillow. Voila - instant neck support, and you don't have to buy a new pillow.
posted by embrangled at 12:41 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you're looking for a traditional down pillow, you really just have to pay for this. And they don't last forever. I'd expect to pay triple digits for this pillow, and it seems allergy stores are a good place to shop for higher fill power pillows. That's about the best I could find.
posted by rhizome at 12:52 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I use a second smaller pillow just under my head in addition to a regular sized one. I think I swiped it from and airline, to give you an idea of the size. I place it just under my ear, so that the front part of my face is off of it - keeps the head aligned forward, and prevents your face from getting all squished up against the pillow.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:56 AM on June 30, 2009

I've lately taken to ditching the pillow altogether and just using a small rolled hand or bath towel (related to embrangled's solution). Fold the towel in half lengthwise, roll tightly, secure with two hair ties or two rubber bands, and you're good to go. It's very firm, very comfortable (I find, at least), and small, so you can place it precisely where you need the support.
posted by Bardolph at 4:21 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a spelt pillow. It is AMAZING. It has really improved my night's sleep - I certainly miss it when I travel.

I got mine from an online store called Greenfibres in the UK.

Apparently "The robust spelt husks offer support and retain warmth while allowing air to circulate freely. Bigger and more uneven than millet husks, spelt has a massaging effect on the body. Together with its high silica content it is beneficial in the prevention of stiff necks and other muscle related tensions."
posted by jonesor at 6:02 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your post describes me a month ago. Then (on the recommendation of a coworker) I bought a Buckwheat pillow, and I couldn't be happier. I wake up without a sore shoulder or neck now. I strongly recommend it for your situation.

I don't know where you are, but I got mine here.
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:27 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nap pillows from Brookstone hold their shape firmly and totally awesomely...for a few months. However, the zippered up case that comes with them are probably their best feature. The fabric is soft to the touch and when stuffed and zipped up with an oversized firm pillow they work great for side sleeping.
posted by GPF at 7:10 AM on June 30, 2009

The contour memory foam pillow saved my LIFE. (Or at least my neck, shoulders, and upper back.) I got mine cheap at Target, it's lasted for several years now without any compression, and I never wake up with neck/shoulder pain any more, whereas that used to be a daily agony.
posted by Kat Allison at 7:17 AM on June 30, 2009

I have a memory foam pillow. I use it after I've been swimming or doing somethign else that makes my neck a little more in need of support and it's great. It's heavy and it's also a little hot but it does exactly what you seem to want a pillow to do.
posted by jessamyn at 7:21 AM on June 30, 2009

Another vote for buckwheat pillows. I actually use a neck roll, and it's great.
posted by mkultra at 7:27 AM on June 30, 2009

I have the same problem as you. The other day I was in an Ikea and saw some pillows that looked promising. They are sold in two pieces: an outer pillow that has a zippered inner pocket and the filling for it. Here's an example: pocket and filling. I thought this seemed promising because you could customize it and replace the parts that end up flattened. An example outer pillow with filling made for a side sleeper. I'm planning on getting one of these when my current pillows flatten out.

I had a memory form pillow shaped for side sleepers - one half of it was higher than the other. I guess the higher part was supposed to fit under your neck, but I never got used to it and found it uncomfortable. I would wake up with a greater pain in my neck than with a regular pillow, ugh.

However, I have had great success with a horseshoe-shaped buckwheat pillow on planes. Someone gave me a regular pillow-shaped version of one last week and I'm planning on trying it while sleeping in a bed. I just worry that it might end up too warm though...
posted by jacquilinala at 7:50 AM on June 30, 2009

I have this Homedics Temp-Rite Classic pillow and it ROCKS. It's like memory foam, but it's not a weird shape (I like a normal shaped pillow). This thing is rock hard and I love it!

I bought mine at Bed Bath and Beyond but didn't see it on their website. I've had it for a year. I'm mostly a side but sometimes a stomach sleeper.
posted by peep at 8:21 AM on June 30, 2009

As said previously, try a spelt or buckwheat pillow.
posted by paulg at 9:33 AM on June 30, 2009

I use a memory foam pillow with a Mission:Allergy microfiber encasing for it) since I have dust mite allergies too, ninazer0).
posted by booknerd at 9:35 AM on June 30, 2009

I am a side sleeper and love the Sealy posturepedic extra firm pillow, seen here. Make sure it has the pink ribbon all around. I keep trying others but come right back to this one. I only use one pillow.

It looks like this, but you can't buy it from amazon, it's out of stock. I usually buy it from sears or other department stores..

posted by glenno86 at 9:51 AM on June 30, 2009

I've been through buckwheat pillows, really firm pillows, stacks of soft pillows, no pillow... I currently have a memory foam pillow, and it works as well as the buckwheat, for being firm enough while allowing me to sleep on my side or back as needed. The buckwheat might have an advantage for you, as you can sort of sculpt it to have the kind of neck support shape you want. That's not possible with the memory foam.

Totally behind the pillow-between-the-knees thing for sleeping on your side. It helps hold your spine and hips in a less compacted position, and is great for blood and nerve happiness to your lower body.
posted by hippybear at 10:41 AM on June 30, 2009

Another option that I didn't see mentioned here (and sorry if I missed it) is an inner-spring pillow. These have a little core of springs like a mattress, wrapped in pillow batting.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2009

I sleep on a Water Pillow (warning annoying audio starts right away), recommended by my chiropractor and love it. I've never had a problem with leakage, except when the heat went out in the cabin for 3 weeks and the core froze and burst. Bought the second one on ebay for less than my chiropractor charged.
posted by sarajane at 1:08 PM on June 30, 2009

I have a memory foam pillow, have had it for years, and it's still nice and firm (yet soft enough) and the right height for me. It's pretty much a rectangular block shape. We got it from Kmart and it cost $40 AUD, but I've not needed to replace it annually like everyone else's $10 pillows.
posted by b33j at 3:13 PM on June 30, 2009

I use one of the sculpted memory foam pillows and I put a down pillow on top of it. Nice and cozy but still suppotive. It takes some getting used to but it has vastly helped my neck and shoulder.
posted by tamitang at 7:04 PM on June 30, 2009

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