Anything less than the best pillow can absolutely ruin a night's sleep. Pillows might all look more or less the same, but beneath that inviting-looking exterior you can find something that's thick or too thin, too firm or too sort, or... horror... a bit bumpy. Get it wrong and that's it, no sleep for you tonight. Or at best, a broken night and a stiff neck in the morning.
This guide focuses on US options. Not you? Head to the best UK pillows instead.
The best pillow for one person isn't necessarily the best pillow for another. For that reason, our guide includes a wide range of options for different preferences and needs. For this guide, we've reviewed the latest hi-tech pillows packed with memory foam and temperature regulating fabrics, as well as more traditional offerings stuffed with goose and duck feather and down (see our guide to down vs memory foam vs feather pillows to understand the differences). Most of them offer dust mite allergy protection, so whatever you choose you'll be in for minimal irritation.
To complete your dreamy bedtime setup, we also have comprehensive guides to the best mattress and the best duvet. For more buying advice, hop to the bottom of this article, or if not, read on for our official ranking of the best pillows around today.
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The best pillows US 2022, ranked
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The best feather pillow is the Scooms Hungarian Goose Down pillow (opens in new tab). It's full, plump and comfy to lie on, with a clever chamber design (an inner core of 15% down and 85% feather, with an outer chamber of 90% down and 10% feather) that keeps its shape well and rarely needs plumping. Choose between standard size (50x75cm) or king size (50x90 cm). The tightly woven, cotton sateen cover is dust mite-proof, making it suitable for those with dust mite allergies – although note it's not fully hypoallergenic. The Scooms pillow is a little more expensive than alternatives, but it looks and feels high end, and is full enough that it can be used on its own, rather than having to stack two pillows on top of one another. There are some welcome extras too: all the stuffing is certified ethically sourced (a by-product of the food industry), and the packaging is plastic-free, too.
Casper's Original pillow is filled with a synthetic stuffing that's designed to mimic the softness of down, and resist clumping. This brand's particular USP is a 'pillow-in-pillow' design that's essentially a firmer, more supportive inner with a soft, cushiony outer. There's a 100% cotton cover, which is good news on the breathability front, and while there's no confirmation that this pillow is hypoallergenic, it is machine-washable. Plenty of enthusiastic reviews attest to the effectiveness of the 'pillow-in-pillow' design, and you've got a 30-night trial period to make sure it works for you, too.
Emma is the brand behind one of our very favourite memory foam mattresses – the Emma Original – so it makes sense that it'd use its expertise in this material to create its pillow. The Emma pillow has three layers of different foams, and you can unzip the cover to swap or remove them depending on your preferences. Out of the box, there's a firmer top layer is the support layer, a breathable and soft middle later, and medium-firm memory foam base layer. The cover checks most of our boxes, being removable, washable, vegan and hypoallergenic (typically we'd prefer a more breathable natural fabric like cotton, but this won't stretch as is required to make the most of a memory foam). The benefits of going for a memory foam is that it doesn't require plumping, and melds gently to your head's shape to provide custom support. The downsides are that it can trap heat slightly, and doesn't look as nice on your bed as traditional stuffing does.
If you struggle with back or neck pain, the best pillow for you could well be the Tempur-Neck pillow. It's ergonomically shaped to fit the natural curve of your neck when lying on your side or back, while the 'Tempur Material' (a kind of memory foam) provides a comfy yet firm base that enables your shoulder muscles to relax fully while still keeping your head fully supported. There are three different sizes to choose from, to suit different body types. The hypoallergenic cover is removable and washable, which is a good thing because these won't fit your standard pillowcases. Some customers found it a bit too firm, but in general the reviews are very positive, with many saying it's a bit of a game-changer.
If you're on a tight budget, head to Amazon and pick up these gusseted pillows from Utopia Bedding. Sold in a two-pack, they offer excellent value for their (very) low price. Choose between Queen or King sizes and a variety of different coloured gussets (happily, this includes white, if you want something that won't show through a pale pillowcase). These are delivered vacuum-packed; to expand, the brand suggests either leaving them out in the sun, or putting them into your dryer with two tennis balls. So what compromises do you have to make for that low price? Well, the polyester cover probably won't match a natural fibre like cotton for breathability, and a number of reviewers commented that these were on the soft side, so you might need to stack two together if you prefer more height from your pillows.
How to buy the best pillow for you
Side sleepers will find that a firm pillow is likely the best choice; it'll give you plenty of head and spine support. If you sleep on your front, however, you'll probably need a much softer pillow if you want to avoid a stiff neck in the morning. Tend to sleep on your back? You'll want something in-between. That's really a rough guide though – at the end of the day, what you find comfortable is really mostly down to personal preference.
There are still some great natural pillows on offer that provide thick and fluffy sleeping aids at prices from cost-effective to 'how much?!'. However, synthetic is a popular choice for those with allergies and for a pillow that will bounce back even after a run through the washing machine (for the avoidance of doubt, here's how to clean a pillow). Memory foam is bang on trend right now and is ideal if you find you're waking with a stiff neck.
Confused about sizing? Head to our mattress and bedding size guide, which covers US, UK and EU sizing and naming conventions.