If you wake up with a sore neck or shoulder pain or you just can’t get comfortable in bed, it may be down to your pillow.
But finding the ideal balance of softness and support in a new pillow is no mean feat, with contributory factors including whether you’re a side, front or back sleeper as well as your body, shape and size. There’s also personal preference.
Remember that even the best pillows won’t last you longer than a few years, eventually failing to give you the support you need, as well as potentially becoming unhygienic.
If your pillow is discoloured or you regularly wake up with neck ache or a blocked nose, it’s almost certainly time to get a new one.
According to the Sleep Council, a good pillow should hold your head in the correct alignment – that is, in the same relation to your shoulders and spine as if you were standing upright with the correct posture.
The pillow should also be tucked well into the neck and shoulder to support your head fully.
Side sleepers, remember you’ll need more support and possibly even two pillows, while front and back sleepers may benefit from one soft pillow that’s on the thinner side.
We tested a range of pillows with side, back and front sleepers for both comfort and neck and spine alignment, as well as temperature control and ethical sourcing of natural fillings.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
The Simba hybrid pillow
For exceptional support and terrific cooling action, this one is hard to beat. The support is down to the blue foam “nanocubes” that make up the filling, some of which can be removed and stored in the drawstring bag if it feels too high. (Our tester thought she’d have the opposite problem, being a seasoned two pillow sleeper, but was surprised to find it was spot on.)
Meanwhile, the lasting coolness comes from three factors – the astronaut-inspired temperature regulation applied to the fabric of the pillow, a special layer of mineral-enriched fibres that dissipate heat underneath and finally, the mesh that keeps the pillow breathable by releasing heat through the night. It’s a versatile pillow, suiting all types of sleepers – front, side and back – and one of those pillows that’s so comfy, you’ll really miss when you stay away from home.
Buy now £99.00, Simba
Scooms Hungarian goose down pillow
Hungarian goose down is the most luxurious of all pillow fillings and the price tag is often eye watering, with cheaper versions tending to feel more measly and thin in comparison. Not so with this one, which did so well in a blind sleeping test that we were blown away by the cost. It has two chambers – a core of 15 per cent down and 85 per cent feather and a surround of 90 per cent down and 10 per cent feather.
It is supremely comfortable, with lots of give and cushiness, and it also offers good support around your neck. We didn't have feather escapees during the night and it’s hypoallergenic – unusual for down. It stays cool and is breathable, but it doesn’t spring back into fullness quite as quickly as some others.
Buy now £75.00, Scooms
John Lewis & Partners synthetic soft touch washable standard pillow
This is our favourite budget option. For a mere tenner, you get a lofty, plump microfibre pillow that is streets above others at this price when it comes to comfort. There are two options – medium/firm (great for back or side sleepers) or soft/medium (best for front or back sleepers) – and both are washable at 40 degrees.
We were surprised how sumptuous ours felt, and it’s good at keeping its shape thanks to the polyester mini ball clusters. But although it offers good support to keep your spine aligned, it’s not as squidgy or yielding as others we tried and the medium/firm one is very thick, which some people might not like.
Buy now £10.00, John Lewis & Partners
Eve the memory foam pillow
This is our “Best buy” in our best memory foam pillows round-up because it does an excellent job at cradling your neck and head yet without that kind of firmness that makes you feel you feel stuck in one position all through the night. You are unlikely to wake up feeling overheated and it’s hypoallergenic too.
There’s a stretchy, breathable and washable cover to help keep it clean and a 14 night trial if you don’t like it. Be prepared for a slight chemical whiff at first, but it doesn’t last. We also recommend Eve’s range of bedding (especially the linen range), mattresses and beds – all top drawer quality – so you can practically kit out your whole bedroom if you feel so inclined.
Buy now £59.00, Eve
Fine Bedding Company boutique silk pillow
Made from 10 per cent silk and 90 per cent microfibre, we are not surprised this indulgent, hotel-like pillow is one of this brand’s most popular pillows. The addition of silk creates a much smoother and softer feel than traditional full-fibre pillow.
Meanwhile, the microfibre is made from recycled polyester fibres and manufactured in the company’s eco factory that ticks lots of boxes when it comes to renewable energy, recycling and sustainable sourcing. It’s highly breathable – all helped by the high thread count cotton cover – and it keeps its shape, even after washing. Another great choice for allergy sufferers too.
Buy now £30.00, Fine Bedding
Soak & Sleep Canadian goose down pillow
This takes pillow comfort to whole new levels, with the silky soft, cloudlike sensation seamlessly sending you off into the land of nod, yet it springs straight back into action when you get up the following morning or when you move your head around in the night. Canada is seen as the crème de la crème of goose down because the down clusters are some of the largest in the world due to the cold temperatures and this one is available in a variety of sizes.
We tried the soft version (there is also a medium) which some people might prefer to double up with a base pillow, but for our front sleeping tester, it was just the ticket on its own. It doesn’t come cheap though.
Buy now £190.00, Soak & Sleep
The White Company perfect everyday duck down pillow
Another good value offering, this supportive pillow comes in medium or medium-firm and is a boon for side sleepers. It pairs well with a second pillow if you want it to and has three main chambers made up of different proportions of duck feather and duck down.
There’s no unpleasant odour as with so many pillows and the 233 thread count cotton percale cover with piped edges makes it feel so nice against the skin through the pillow case that we ditched our decision to use a pillow protector which we felt would have masked the softness. It gives good back, shoulder and neck support for reading in bed and doesn’t seem to flatten with age.
Buy now £35.00, The White Company
Brook + Wilde marlowe pillow
Another premium option with a price tag to match, this one will suit people who love the luxurious feeling of goose down but prefer a bit more loftiness. Available in medium (which we tried) and firm, it has three European goose feather-filled sections, while the outer chambers are made up of 90 per cent new white Masurian goose down, all covered with a 380 thread count Egyptian cotton cover which stops any fall out.
It is ridiculously comfortable – quite unlike any other pillow we’ve tried – and is especially well suited to side sleepers. It keeps its structure and comfort levels over time and we also like the fact that every single bit of it is traceable.
Buy now £229.00, Brook + Wilde
Eve microfibre pillow
The microfibre polyester filling is ideal for allergy sufferers and thanks to the plump filling (firm but squashable at the core, with a softer, more malleable filling round the edges), it holds its shape better than feather or down pillows, cutting precious time off the ritual of making your bed every morning.
Like the Simba pillow, it has mesh sides for breathability and it also stands out because one side is thicker than the other, enabling you to choose the best side for your sleeping type (slimmer side for back sleepers, thicker for side sleepers). It comes in at a good price point and it washes beautifully.
Buy now £39.00, Eve
Beaumont & Brown savoy pillow
Not only is this feather (70 per cent) and down (30 per cent) combo a bestseller for use at home – it is also the pillow of choice for many hotels, including The Connaught, Claridges, Limewood and Gidleigh Park. We totally get why – it is fluffy and lofty enough to offer good support when reading or sleeping, but soft enough to give good neck and spinal support to leave you waking up feeling as good as new.
It comes in a range of sizes – standard, king and square – and the 100 per cent cotton percale cover is soft against the skin. Bear in mind it’s best suited to the kind of person that prefers a fuller pillow, though, and you will have to plump it up more than you would with pricier pillows.
Buy now £64.00, Beaumont & Brown
Devon Duvets folding wool pillow
This has all the benefits of the other wool pillows – good bounce, temperature-regulating, dust mite-resistant and hypoallergenic – but with the added bonus of the patented folding design keeping it ultra hygienic. If you consider that we lose a third of our body heat through our head, our pillows tend to store up an awful lot of sweat and the folds with this one mean you can unravel it and air it as often as you need to.
Available in two, three or four folds to suit your height and whether you’re a front, back or side sleeper, it’s also designed so that you can roll up some of the pillow for additional neck support. It’s also easy to pack away in your suitcase for travel. We’re impressed – it’s modern and different and does exactly what it promises.
Buy now £59.00, Devon Duvets
The Wool Room deluxe washable wool pillow
Wool wouldn’t be most people’s go-to pillow filling, but actually it offers more bounce than down or feather pillows and it’s also temperature-regulating (a great solution for night sweats), hypoallergenic (good news if you suffer from allergies) and dust mite-resistant (with the Allergy UK seal of approval). It’s even adjustable, so you can customise it to your chosen height up to 23cm, which makes it suitable for all types of sleepers.
Also in its favour is that it’s machine washable and we can vouch for the fact that it comes out as good as new. All the wool is completely traceable to ensure this company’s top-notch ethical standards, and it has a soft organic cotton cover. But you will need to pump it up regularly.
Buy now £48.74, The Wool Room
The verdict: Pillows
The Simba hybrid pillow ticked the most boxes when it comes to a pillow that offers comfort, longevity, value for money and suitability for all types of sleepers, with Eve’s The Memory Foam Pillow coming in a close second.