June 20, 2014 11:05 AM   Subscribe

I am in search of the best pillows ever for sleeping. Can you help me?

Our pillows are all super old and crummy and flattened and very uncomfortable. I don't even remember where we got them from - odds are they came from Target or something. They definitely were acquired when we were in college, but that was seven years ago at this point. Bottom line is, they suck.

I want good pillows that are comfy to sleep on - ideal pillow would be fluffy but firm, but not so firm that it's like putting my head on a cinder block.

Other details if relevant: SO sleeps on his stomach usually. I sleep on my back mostly but sometimes on my side. I have chronic pain across my shoulder blades and the crummy pillows tend to exacerbate this somehow.

That's it, really.

Suggestions please? Thanks in advance!
posted by thereemix to Shopping (29 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I am a stomach sleeper and I a ADDICTED to my Soba Pillow. My Mom got it for me in Japan and it's such a HUGE component to my sleep.

Now, it's an investment, so I'm going to recommend you get a Sobakawa Cloud Pillow as a trial. Instead of buckwheat it uses styrofoam beads. It's about 90% of what my real Soba pillow is. You can get them for $20 at any AS SEEN ON TV rack.

I PROMISE, you will come to my house and thank me.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:11 AM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

This comprehensive review is all you need.
posted by poq at 11:12 AM on June 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Ruthless Bunny is right as usual. I take my wonderful buckwheat-hull pillow with me everywhere, even camping.
posted by anadem at 11:34 AM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Now that they're easier to find, I highly recommend shredded foam. Usually it is shredded memory foam, sometimes mixed with other stuff, but they are very durable and firm without hardness. And they don't make noise like buckwheat hull pillows. When they seem too hard and flat, you just rip and roll them to get them back into fluff.

I've had the first one I bought for over 5 years and it is still as nice as day one, and still my favorite.

Caveat: I may be the queen of shredded foam, as I also sleep in a sofa-sized bag full of shredded foam (fuf brand) because I couldn't find another bed that didn't make my back hurt. So I am a little biased.
posted by monopas at 11:45 AM on June 20, 2014

This comprehensive review is all you need.

I bought the pillows recommended by The Sweethome and, for us, they SUCK. We've had them for a couple of months; they were ok at first but have since become far too collapsible to give any real support. We were sleeping on OLD Ikea pillows that were just uncomfortable, but the Sweethome pillow have actively given me serious neck pain.

I went out and replaced mine with a Tempur-Pedic and the pain immediately subsided. That said, they're an acquired taste and I know they work for me but don't sound like what you're looking for.
posted by The Michael The at 11:47 AM on June 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm not allergic to feathers or down, so my bed has a combination of down and down+feather pillows. They hold up great and don't turn into a brick like a lot of "synthetic down" pillows. I'm a side sleeper and they give me enough support so that I don't wake up with achey shoulders and neck. They're an investment, but they last, can be washed, and stay comfortable. Occasionally Costco has nice ones for a reasonable price.
posted by quince at 11:56 AM on June 20, 2014

Although I am a big fan of The Sweet Home, I returned the pillows the recommended immediately. I then tried some fancy Primaloft Black Label from The Company Store and returned those as well. I ended up picking out one at BBB, I think it's this The Seasons Collection. I have major neck problems and this helped a lot.
posted by radioamy at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2014

I'm seconding Tempur-Pedic. They resolved chronic pain from a pinched nerve in my neck. I bought one for a dear friend who was having shoulder pain and he didn't use it for a couple of years and then when he started using it, he immediately apologized to me for not taking my gift very seriously, because his pain subsided.

They have also aided or resolved snoring issues in a couple of boyfriends (I've been using them for a decade now).

It is true that they take some getting used to, but it is so completely worth it. I mainly use their standard neck pillow. I also have a side sleeper but I don't really use it -- even though I sleep on my side frequently.

One word to the wise: at one point, I also purchased a Rhapsody pillow and I just find it completely unusable. The contour pillows are really where it's at.
posted by janey47 at 12:08 PM on June 20, 2014

For us Ikea is the best pillow source. I'm sure there's better-made stuff out there but their display style and firmness ratings makes selection easier than anywhere else we've shopped for them. This is significant in a mixed marriage such as ours, where I like what my wife describes as "three old cotton balls in a hefty bag" and she prefers to have her head raised at basically a 110 degree angle on something with the size and give of a Buick.

They have a huge range in styles and materials, so if you walk in with some idea what you want they will likely have it. I can't think of any other big box store where that's true.
posted by phearlez at 12:12 PM on June 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

If you aren't allergic, make sure you get a pillow with 100% down.
Those are considerably more expensive, but otherwise, what you're resting your head on at night on isn't far from recycled Dasani bottles.

Make sure that you have clean high thread count cotton or bamboo pillowcases, too.

They actually have a little bit of the good stuff hidden among lots of the bad stuff at Bed Bath and Beyond, but the good stuff isn't cheap. Shop around, and make sure you know your sleeping style.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:30 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I swear by my contoured memory foam pillow (I can't remember if it's actually the Tempur-Pedic brand or not) -- it has helped tremendously with my neck and shoulder pain.
posted by scody at 12:36 PM on June 20, 2014

The best pillows I have ever used are Charter Club Vail Collection (sold at Macys) down pillows - we have both soft and firm because I am a stomach sleeper and my husband is a back sleeper. You really can't get the same firmness to accommodate such differing sleeping styles.

YES, they are expensive. Wait until the next big sale (4th of July) when they are usually on sale for buy-one-get-one-free and ask the salesperson if they have a coupon that you can add on.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:41 PM on June 20, 2014

Another vote for down pillows. I have some of these from Bed Bath and Beyond, which I got with one of the 20% off coupons that they seem to send me every couple of months.
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:45 PM on June 20, 2014

Both my wife and I have this Tempur-Pedic pillow and will highly recommend it.
posted by Silvertree at 1:27 PM on June 20, 2014

I was skeptical of Tempur-Pedic for a very long time, but received one as a gift several years ago and have never gone back. The neck and shoulder pain I used to wake up with is gone! And I don't have the issue with them being too warm that I was concerned about (though I also make it a point to buy sheets and pillowcases that remain relatively cool, so I'm sure that helps).

The partner is a side sleeper and I'm a side-or-stomach sleeper and we both liked the original Tempur-Pedic pillows we got years ago, but we recently replaced them with the Symphony model that has two differently-shaped sides, and it's even better. He likes to sleep with the broader side under his head so there's extra room for his shoulder on the underside, and I like being able to flip to either side as needed.

They're spendy, but you can often find them at Costco, or take advantage of occasional deep discounts at Brookstone.

I also regularly spend the night in a bed with Ikea pillows, and they're surprisingly nice, too.
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:00 PM on June 20, 2014

Memory foam! Memory foam! Memory foam! We get them at Costco for like $20 per pair and they are lovely, they mold to the shape of your head and give great support all around, especially neck support. And they don't lose shape / deflate overnight like every other pillow on the planet.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:05 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wool fill are the only way to go. I have these in queen regular loft. My first pair lasted about ten years before I replaced them. I searched far and wide for the perfect pillow. I even tried the buckwheat ones. Wool fill are the best. Not too soft, just the right amount of support.
posted by ephemerista at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2014

I've got MyPillow and love it! The commercials make it seem pretty gimmicky, but I've been very happy with. They come in different thinkness sizes for different sleeping positions.
posted by Arbac at 2:49 PM on June 20, 2014

Another vote for buckwheat! I am a back/side sleeper and I love mine. They allow air to circulate around your head and neck, which is heavenly, and the filling can be easily rearranged if you need the pillow to be taller for side sleeping.

I know you said you don't want hard pillows, and that buckwheat pillows sound about as much fun as sleeping on a bag of sand, but they mold to your head and neck in a really comfortable and supportive way.
posted by Lycaste at 3:44 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing buckwheat. I have been using them for years, and they have completely spoiled me. I now sleep horribly when I don't have one with me.

For what it's worth, my wife hates the buckwheat. She uses a mountain of cheapy pillows from Ikea.
posted by bluejayway at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing buckwheat. It gets bonus points from me for not having to flip it over because it gets hot.
posted by jgirl at 6:15 PM on June 20, 2014

I got my down pillows at ikea and they are wonderful, perfect for sleeping on my stomach.
posted by lizbunny at 6:20 PM on June 20, 2014

A best pillow is hugely individual, and you'll probably need to experiment a bit. My husband can only sleep on a crappy foam pillow he's had for way too long, and I need a good quality down pillow that I replace every couple of years.
Think about what you do with your head and neck and arms when you sleep - for example, I know I need a down pillow because I move around a lot and go from back to stomach to either side over the night, so I like a pillow that I can mold to fit whatever position I'm currently in.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:03 PM on June 20, 2014

I bought the Sweethome pillows, too. Not a fan.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:06 PM on June 20, 2014

As you can tell from these responses, pillows are ridiculously personal choices. I love my Simmons Beautyrest latex pillow, and my wife loves her Technogel. You couldn't pay either of us enough to swap pillows for the night. I'd suggest going to all your local bed stores and trying everything they have until you find something you love.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:07 PM on June 20, 2014

I use a Mediflow Water Pillow and I love it (I am a side sleeper)

But everyone is right, it is a totally personal thing. My husband loves his memory foam contour pillow, and I think it's the most awkward feeling thing ever.
posted by antimony at 7:04 AM on June 21, 2014

Maybe go to a mattress store and try out a few pillows. I tried a Tempurpedic, thinking I would like it to support my neck while I'm sleeping on my side, and realized that it was too high for my narrow shoulders. Ditto for several others. Since it will come down to personal preference, sampling a few might be helpful.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:42 AM on June 21, 2014

Definitely test out some pillows to see what makes your special snowflake shoulders happy. I have a neck injury, which migrated into shoulder pain, and it took me several pillows to find one that felt good. I am a side sleeper who tends to migrate to my back while sleeping.

I tried the memory foam, but it didn't work for me. The contour wasn't quite the right shape for my neck, and it is an un-movable brick. I like to be able to hug my pillow while I sleep on my side, and that was impossible. I also found it to be really uncomfortable while I was on my back, but I know people who swear by it and will never sleep on anything else again.

I tried out some down pillows, but found them all too flimsy until I tried the Hotel Collection firm pillows at Macys. I love this pillow. Other firm pillows didn't offer enough support to keep my neck happy, and synthetic pillows would push my head up too much and collapse the neck. This particular pillow is a little fussy in that it requires regular re-fluffing and shaping, but when I go to bed, I can push on the top to get juuuust the right amount of support under my neck, while the rest of the pillow stays soft and pliable. It also transitions into being super comfy under my neck while sleeping on my back. My neck and shoulders have been much happier since investing in this pillow.

They are expensive, but go on sale regularly (like right now!). If you try it in the store and like it, but are concerned with price, sign up for Macy's newsletter and get it with an added discount.
posted by ohisee at 10:22 AM on June 21, 2014

Nthing buckwheat pillows (I can't sleep well on anything else anymore) as they mold to the head and stay cool.
posted by gillianr at 5:05 PM on June 21, 2014

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