What are the Most Common Types of Pillows?

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Many people make the mistake of investing in a quality bed and mattress then leaving the choice of pillow to chance. In fact having the right pillow(s) is an important part of a good night’s sleep.

I can’t tell you the best pillow to buy or make the right choice for you, but I can give you some information about the various options available.

As with beds and mattresses, most people keep their pillows far too long. Most pillows should be replaced every couple of years – cheaper ones will need replacing more frequently. You know it’s time to buy a new pillow if the old one no longer has any “bounce”. Fold it in half then see what happens. Does it jump back into shape quickly? Or does it return to shape gradually and reluctantly – if at all? Should you consider buying a cervical neck pillow?

Another term you might come across is bolster pillow. This is essentially a long, cylindrical pillow. You usually buy (or make) a decorative case or cover and use them as a coordinating design accessory.

Firm or Soft?

types of pillowsThe wrong pillow can ruin your sleep. A pillow that is too soft or too flat can cause neck pain, one that it too stiff or too high can cause back pain.

The right pillow for you will support your neck comfortably. The size and firmness required will depend on both your personal physiology and on the way you sleep, some people like a soft, fluffy pillow whilst others prefer one that is rock hard. It’s rare that two partners will find exactly the same pillow combinations ideal.

If you sleep on your stomach (in itself liable to produce muscular problems) then soft pillows are probably best for you. People who sleep on their backs will require something a little firmer. Side sleepers probably require the most support and hence even firmer, higher pillows.

See: Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers

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Pillow Filling

There are a wide variety of pillow fillings on the market, both natural and synthetic. Whether you prefer the old-fashioned luxury of soft down or the latest man-made materials, it’s important to buy quality.

Many of the cheapest pillows either offer no support at all or else are too rigid and lack comfort. A good pillow should conform to your natural contours and provide support for your head.

Natural Pillow Fillings

With the increasing affordability of memory foam, many people today are choosing memory foam pillows. However there are still people who are sensitive to artificial pillow fillings or who simply prefer to sleep with traditional natural fillings.

Some people find natural fillings to be kinder and claim that they last longer. They also allow you to “refluff” the pillow which is difficult or impossible with some man-made fillings.

When using a natural filling it is essential that the pillow casing be made of a suitably strong material, otherwise you could end up with a bed full of filling! As always, shop around and invest in quality.

Some of the most popular natural pillow fillings are:


Down is the fine layer of soft, fluffy feathers found under the main feathers of birds and goose down is a popular choice for pillows. For allergy sufferers it is possible to buy Hypoallergenic pillows filled with specially cleaned goose down. Many people consider down filled pillows the ultimate in natural luxury however that luxury comes at a price – down filled pillows are not cheap. Many down filled pillows need professional cleaning.


The larger bird feathers can also be used to fill pillows. Feathers are less luxurious than down but also less expensive. It is possible to get pillows containing various mixtures of down and feathers. These combined feather and down pillows are often a good compromise between quality and affordability.


Cotton filled pillows can be an excellent choice for people with certain allergies and chemical sensitivities. However cotton does tend to suffer more from compaction than some other fillings, so your pillows might need to be replaced more frequently.

Husks and Seeds

Less common but very popular with some people are pillows filled with husks and seeds, often buckwheat or millet. These are said to provide a firmer support whilst also moulding themselves to your individual shape. They are also less prone to mites than some other pillow fillings. These pillow fillings tend to make a slight rustling sound which many people find soothing but a few find irritating.

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Synthetic Pillow Fillings

In previous generations, synthetic pillow fillings were generally seen as cheap substitutes for the “real thing”. However as technology has advanced so the quality of synthetic fillings has improved. Today some of the man-made fibres are claimed to be as comfortable as natural down

best type of pillows
Cotton is the most common synthetic type of filling for pillows

There are two main sorts of synthetic pillows.

  1. First there are those that attempt to mimic – and improve on – natural fillings. So where a pillow might normally be filled with down it is instead filled with man-made fibres.
  2. The other common sort of synthetic pillow is one which incorporates a “spring” mechanism similar in concept to those found in some mattresses – usually individual springs wrapped in pockets. There are a wide variety of pillows available on the market containing almost every possible combination of springs, natural and man-made fibers.

The main advantages given for synthetic fillings are:

  • Price
    The cost of synthetic pillow fillings is often less than that of their natural counterparts.
  • Allergy
    Many people are allergic to certain natural pillow fillings. Synthetic fibres are sometimes hypoallergenic and can be more suitable for allergy sufferers.
  • Maintenance
    Natural fillings often require careful washing and handling whereas synthetic fillings are usually easier to maintain.
  • Durability
    A natural pillow filling such as down is wonderful when new but they do sometimes sag or clump with age. An up-market synthetic filling could last longer, however this is entirely dependant on the quality – which in turn is usually connected with the price.

The latest innovation in synthetic pillow filling is memory foam. This makes no attempt to imitate either natural down or mattress springs. Instead it is simply a solid lump of foam. It doesn’t look like much but many people (including me!) find it extremely comfortable and supportive.

If you have trouble sleeping because of the heat you might want to consider a cooling pad such as the Chillow.

Memory Foam

If you are happy with modern materials then you might want to consider a memory foam pillow. This is basically just a shaped piece of memory foam placed inside a pillow case. Placing a memory foam pillow on top of a traditional one can be an excellent solution for some back and side sleepers.

Personally I like to use a memory foam pillow placed on top of a traditional pillow to give me the necessary height to support my head and also the comfortable “moulding” of the memory foam.

Buckwheat Pillows

Buckwheat Pillows have been used in Japan for centuries. The buckwheat hulls, also known as sobakawa hulls or sobagara hulls are a natural fibrous husk that protect the buckwheat kernel as it grows.

Buckwheat is not wheat, rather it is a fruit similar to rhubarb. Buckwheat pillows are made from the buckwheat hulls that are harvested and separated from the buckwheat flour.

Buckwheat pillows are all natural and it is possible to find them filled will all organic buckwheat hulls that have not been treated with any chemicals or fertilizers during the growing, harvesting or cleaning processes.

This makes buckwheat hull pillows an excellent alternative to other synthetic and feather pillows. They are naturally hypo-allergenic and because the hulls are mostly fiber they are less likely to harbor dust mites and other germs.

Benefits of Using a Buckwheat Pillow

There are many benefits to using a buckwheat pillow. They have been known to relieve neck pain, back pain, muscle tension, snoring, breathing problems, TMJ syndrome, and other conditions.

Buckwheat hull pillows are unique in that they form to the shape of your head and neck offering excellent support, but they do not try to move back to their original form like most synthetic and foam pillows. This reduces the pressure and strain on the muscles of the neck and back because your head can just rest easily on top of the pillow in the proper position.

Buckwheat hull pillows can be adjusted to give you the right amount of support. The inner casing has a zipper so that hulls can be removed or added in order to give you the right amount of support.

When first purchased a buckwheat pillow usually have more hulls than most people need. This is because over time the hulls become polished from use and take up less space. The extra hulls can be removed and stored so that they can be added back later.

This should only need to be done once after a year or so of using the pillow. The hulls should be stored in a cool, dry place to prevent them from being damaged. The freezer is an excellent place to keep them.

One other benefit of buckwheat pillows is that they allow for air to circulate naturally. This keeps you cool and dry while you sleep.


Buckwheat hull pillows will last for years, allowing you to sleep comfortably all through the night and if you ever need to wash your pillow this can be done easily. The outside cover can be remove and machine washed and dried.

The inner casing can also be machine washed and dried. You just need to open the zipper and remove the hulls before you wash the casing and make sure it is fully dry before you put the hulls back in. Never get the buckwheat hulls wet because they are very difficult to dry once they have become damp.

It is possible to find all types of pillows filled with buckwheat hulls. From bed pillows and knee pillows, to neck pillows and travel pillows. There are even places that sell yoga and massage mats filled with buckwheat hulls. Whatever your needs are a buckwheat pillow can be found that will meet them.

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Baby Nursing Pillow

types of pillowsA Baby Nursing Pillow is a banana or U shaped pillow that mothers use as a support for Baby while she is breastfeeding. Some women buy these pillows while they are pregnant and use them to sit on and help make themselves comfortable after the birth as well.

Baby Nursing Pillows help in many ways. They help lift the baby into a higher position for breastfeeding so that the mother doesn’t have to bend over and hurt her back and neck. They also help with good posture, which is important for women who have just given birth.

Of course the Breastfeeding Pillow also helps those women who have had a ceaserian section. The last thing they want is to have baby leaning against the wound while breastfeeding. The pillow lifts the baby and takes the strain off the mother’s tummy.

Mothers who have sore nipples, which can be the result of incorrect positioning of the baby for feeding are often given a Baby Nursing pillow. This helps with the proper positioning of the babies mouth and the nipple and results in relaxing feeding for both mother and baby. The Nursing Pillow can also help prevent gas or wind in the baby.

You will find there are hundreds of different Baby Nursing Pillows on the market, in the shops today. Always try to choose a lightweight pillow so it is easy to carry around. You will also want to look at the shape and firmness of the pillow. After testing a few you will know which one is the right one for you.

Reading reviews of these Baby Nursing Pillows makes me realise that the features they have are also very important to consider. Remember that you will only have one hand available to connect the Nursing pillow to you as you will be holding baby at the same time. Some of them have heavy Velcro snaps that are difficult to connect behind your back with one hand. Also if baby falls asleep you want to be able to take off the pillow without waking him from sleep.

The best thing to look for is a feeding pillow that is ergonomic, supports baby and lifts baby to the correct height so that feeding is comfortable and enjoyable for both of you.

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Decorative Throw Pillows

Decorative throw pillows are an easy and inexpensive way to brighten up a room and add style. Update your tired old sofa with some inviting accent pillows. Decorative throw pillows come in all shapes, sizes and textures. You can choose needlepoint pillows, silk pillows, beaded pillows, leather pillows and many other beautiful toss pillows to add texture and patterns to a room.

Decorative throw pillows add color and pizzazz to a boring room. Add lots of colorful and decorative pillows to a room with a neutral theme and create a warm, inviting and comfortable feeling. Needlepoint pillows or embroidered silk accent pillows add charm or elegance.icon

Change the theme or decorating style of a room easily and quickly using decorative throw pillows and a matching throw.

For a safari or jungle theme, add some toss cushions in a leopard or faux fur print and add a soft, cuddly faux fur throw. Explorer needlepoint pillows are great for the nautical or world traveler theme and kitten or horse pillows for the animal lover. Elegant silk embroidered accent pillows add an Asian touch and bright floral prints add excitement to a Caribbean theme.  Use your imagination – your options are endless!

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Floor Pillows

For the latest in casual decorating, add a comfortable, versatile floor pillow. They are a great complement to decorative throw pillows.

Floor pillows are great for lounging and can create a whole new look to your living area. Comfy, decorative floor pillows are great for extra seating, lounging, watching movies, playing videos and reading.

For reading you may also choose a reading pillow or wedge pillow that is smaller and also works well for those who like to read in bed.

Floor pillows come in a variety of color combinations, solids, stripes and floral patterns. The decorative oversized pillows also come in of variety of fabrics such as poly/cotton broadcloth or corduroy, to complement almost any décor.

They also come in sports team logos for all the avid sports fans to relax while watching their favorite teams play on TV.

The pillow covers are easily removed for washing.

Reading Pillows

The reading pillow or wedge pillow comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. They are also available in a variety of fillings such as polyfill or feather fill and fabrics such as denim and cotton.

You will never again have to struggle to comfortably arrange your bed pillows to read. The reading pillow provides more support for the head and neck than a standard pillow.

There are also reading pillows that are supportive of your head, neck, back and arms as you read or watch TV on the floor or in bed and also provides a handy side pocket for your book or glasses.

Imagine reading in bed without getting stiff and sore. The smaller wedge pillow is great to take with you when you travel. Floor pillows and reading pillows are simply perfect for your lounging habits.

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Bed Pillows

The right bed pillows are key to waking up each day feeling revitalized and ready to start a new day. For your toddlers, there is a toddler pillow in just their size.

Bed pillows come in a variety of shapes, sizes and fill. Choose from soft, medium, firm and extra firm support.

For those who sleep on their stomach or who sleep in many different positions, a soft pillow usually offers the best support. Those who sleep on their back may prefer a medium support pillow to support their neck and head.

For those who sleep on their side the best sleep is usually with a firm support pillow. Or try sleeping with a body pillow.

The uniquely designed full body pillow cradles you from head to toe as it molds itself to the shape of your body. The soft and fluffy pillow greatly reduces your need to toss and turn as it aligns the spine and relieves pressure and muscle stress.

Maternity and pregnancy support body pillows support the back and the growing belly and can be used as a nursing pillow once the baby arrives. Add pillow shams and toss cushions to complement your bed pillows and don’t forget a toddler pillow for your little one.

Toddler Bed Pillows

The toddler pillow can be personalized with a pillow case embroidered with your child’s name. Toddler pillows are great for cuddling and comfort at daycare or preschool, naptime or when traveling.

The tooth fairy pillow is perfect for the little one who is waiting for the tooth fairy.

Bed pillows and a body pillow offer comfort and support as well as a decorative element to any bedroom.

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Therapeutic Pillows

Therapeutic pillows are designed to help prevent as well as relieve discomfort and pain. They help to ease such symptoms as back pain, neck pain, insomnia and snoring.

If you regularly wake up with pain in your back, neck or shoulder, you may be sleeping with the wrong pillow. Instead, try a new therapeutic pillow designed to cradle your neck and align your spine while you sleep.

Therapeutic pillows often combine foam with other materials like gel, polyester or down to add support but keep the feel and the look of a regular pillow. You can also choose a pillow that is solid, temperature sensitive memory foam which molds to your head, neck and shoulders, providing support and soothing pressure points.

With so many therapeutic pillows to choose from it can be confusing, however choosing the right pillow is important. If you sleep on your side you should choose a firm pillow to keep your neck supported above your shoulders.

As 60 percent of snoring is associated with sleeping on your back, sleeping on your side will help to eliminate that positional snoring.

Medium density pillows are best for those who prefer to sleep on their back. These pillows cushion the head while providing enough support to keep the head from tilting back too far. Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended as it puts a lot of stress on the spine. But if you must sleep on your stomach, choose a soft therapeutic pillow to help support your spine.

Therapeutic pillows not only help you to have a more comfortable, restful sleep, but there are also pillow designs available to provide support and relief in your daily activities. Some of the choices available are: a contour pillow, ring cushion, a latex doughnut shaped cushion, wedge pillows and lumbar support pillows.

You will also find pillows to relieve hemorrhoids, a bruised coccyx, post operative pain, post natal discomfort and many other conditions such as varicose veins or poor circulation. With all of the options available today, you will find a therapeutic pillow that is just right for relief of your current symptoms or prevention of future problems.

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Travel Pillows

Have you ever traveled in a car or airplane, only to arrive at your destination with a stiff neck and sore back?

A travel pillow can help you to have a relaxing trip and to arrive at your destination feeling rested.

Travel pillows come in a variety of shapes, fabrics and sizes. A child size travel pillow that attaches to their car seat will keep your child protected and comfortable while traveling.

That will allow you to relax and have a more enjoyable trip as well. Travel pillows provide comfort for a child in a stroller as well.

You can choose a travel pillow that is U-shaped, rectangular or a bolster, whatever you prefer. These pillows allow your muscles to relax by providing support and keeping your head from bobbing around during travel.

The bolster provides great support for your back or knees as well as your neck. Travel pillows are easy to pack in your carry-on luggage for your convenience, and many come with their own carry bag. An inflatable travel pillow can easily be deflated for storage and tucked away when not in use.

Travel pillows filled with buckwheat hulls provide relaxing yet firm support, while a pillow with a sheepskin cover is cool in summer and warm in winter.

A travel pillow filled with unique micro-fiber foam beads, and a nylon spandex cover, is also very comfortable. Memory foam travel pillows fit to your shape to provide comfort and support.

For a therapeutic effect, choose a travel pillow with a pocket for a removable scent packet. Lavender and chamomile scent packets help you to relax on your journey.

Most travel pillows come with a washable cover that can easily be removed. Sheepskin covers can be brushed out with a pet brush. Do yourself a favor and choose one of the many travel pillows that you can find online. Travel in comfort and arrive at your destination feeling relaxed and energized.

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Ring Bearer Pillows

The ring bearer pillow or ring pillow used to symbolically present the wedding rings is a tradition carried on from royal crown coronations.

Although white and ivory are still the most popular colors, today ring bearer pillows are available in many different color choices. If you would like to match your wedding colors exactly, you can have a ring pillow made in your own wedding fabric, often at no extra charge.

The ring bearer pillow is usually a square or heart-shape, but some brides choose a round pillow shape. The size varies, with 8”, 10” and 12” being the most popular. If you should desire to have your canine friend participate in the wedding ceremony, you will even find a ring pillow designed just for that occasion.

Ring bearer pillows come in a variety of styles to match any wedding theme. Choose a pillow design from Beverly Clark and Kim Anderson and Precious Moments and from such themes as beach, country western, floral, Asian, and many more.

Red weddings are popular this year. You can choose a red ring bearer pillow for your red theme wedding. Once you choose your ring pillow, choose matching wedding accessories such as a guest book, pen, wedding tapers, unity candle, memory book, wedding book, photo album, bridal purse, garter, flower girl basket or money bag.

The elegant ring bearer pillow is often handmade and is sure to be treasured for generations to come. For a special keepsake, you may have your initials or names and wedding date embroidered onto your ring pillow.

The fabric choice for ring bearer pillows varies, but they are usually made of duchess satin, beautiful moiré, silk peau de soi or elegant brocade and then decorated with lace of varying colors, bows, satin or chiffon ribbons, organza ruffles, butterfly and flower appliqués, embroidered flowers, pearls, crystal beads, rhinestone hearts, sea shells or even real starfish.

Whether you are having a simple or elegant wedding, your ring bearer will proudly walk down the isle carrying your precious wedding rings in style on the ring bearer pillow of your choice.

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Yoga Pillows

Because of its many benefits, yoga has become very popular among all ages. Yoga helps us to keep healthy, limber and youthful, benefiting our skeletal and muscular structure. It helps us to enjoy increased energy and concentration, release tension from our body and relax our mind.

Yoga cushions, bolsters, meditation cushions, neck pillows and eye pillows provide support and comfort for your yoga practice or for meditation. You will find a wide selection of yoga cushions and props available online for your shopping convenience.

Buckwheat and kapok are two popular fillings for yoga cushions and meditation cushions. Cotton batting is also used. A traditional Zen meditation cushion, the Zafu, is perfect for any type of sitting meditation.

The Zabuton which is used under the Zafu, cushions the ankles, knees and legs and will keep you warm on any floor. Eye pillows are perfect for shavasana and they are also ideal for relieving tired eyes or helping you fall asleep.

Rayon or silk eye pillows offer soft, smooth comfort and may be filled with plastic beads or flax seeds. Mint or lavender may be added for a relaxing scent.

So whether you are a beginner or an advanced student of yoga, yoga cushions, meditation cushions, bolsters, neck pillows and eye pillows are some of the products available to support you in achieving the most benefit from your exercise.

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Pet Bed & Pillow

A custom pet bed or pet pillow is an ideal way to pamper your cherished pet. Our pets are important to us and we want them to be as comfortable as possible. Pet pillows and pet beds offer dogs, cats, pigs, ferrets or any other pet a comfortable place to rest and sleep.

Some companies even claim that their pet beds are so comfortable that your dog will prefer sleeping in their pet bed over your bed. Even more important than comfort is support. With an orthopedic pet bed your beloved pet will be supported and protected while it rests, helping it stay healthy and active.

When looking for a pet bed or pet pillow there are a number of things to keep in mind.  You will want one that can be easily machine washed. The size and shape of pet pillow that you will need will change depending on the size of your pet.

Another thing to look for is whether or not the pet bed is anti-flea and anti-tick. Most pet beds will be made of materials that are hypoallergenic and that do not hold odors, but it is always a good idea to check and make sure.

Just because a pet bed is functional doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish as well. Pet pillows are very simple, but the fabrics and patterns that they are made with range from beautiful pastels to intricate floral designs.

A pet bed can be very elaborate and look like a miniature over-stuffed sofa or a bed with a wrought iron head board. They can be very simple as well, for example a doughnut bed or fleece mat. With all the options available you are bound to find the exact pet bed or pet pillow that you are looking for for your precious pet.

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Understanding Pillow Fillings

There are a variety of pillow fillings to choose from. Feather and down pillows, buckwheat pillows, bucky pillows, the memory foam pillow or latex pillow are some of the popular pillow types today. From basic down pillows with a 600 fill power to the deluxe 800 fill there is a down pillow to suit every type of sleeper. It is important that the pillow have good quality ticking to prevent down leakage

Like down pillows, buckwheat pillows come in different sizes for your individual comfort. You may choose from small, standard, queen or king buckwheat filled bed pillows. The small, uneven sized buckwheat hulls continually shift as you move. The air constantly flowing through the organic filling keeps the pillows fresh and fluffy. The pillows adjust to your neck, shoulders and head shape and weight, thus providing comfortable support and relief from shoulder and neck pain. A benefit of a good buckwheat pillow is that you can unzip it and add or remove hulls to adjust the pillow height. Another popular option is the memory foam pillow.

There are many types of memory foam pillows on the market today. Memory foam was originally developed for NASA. The memory foam pillow responds to your body heat and moulds to your neck and head shape thus ensuring an anatomically supportive sleeping posture. The contour pillow design eliminates stiff neck pain, neck pain and head aches and snoring sometimes experienced when sleeping on a regular pillow. Whatever pillow fillings you prefer – down pillows, buckwheat pillows or a memory foam pillow, there is a pillow that will provide you with a comfortable, restful sleep.

 A Word About Pillow Cases

Don’t forget about the humble pillow case – it’s the visible manifestation of your pillow. Whether you buy something decorative or plain, choose something that fits in with the overall design, theme and colour scheme of your bedroom. For something more decorative than functional you might consider a pillow sham.

What Is A Pillow Sham?

The name pillow sham derives from the word “sham” in its sense of “false”. A pillow sham is thus a “false” pillow case.

Essentially the key point of a pillow sham is that it is designed to be decorative rather than functional. When you buy one you are likely to be thinking more of how it will look in your bedroom than of how comfortable it might be to sleep on. It’s a display pillowcase. Some bedding sets in the stores come with coordinated pillow shams.

Many pillow shams have textured patterns or tassles and ruffs that could actually be rather uncomfortable to sleep on. In addition the decoration could be adversely affected by sleeping on and constant washing. Thus it is common for pillows with a sham cover to be “day only”. At night the sham pillow is either removed or placed underneath another pillow with a conventional case.

There are an endless variety of shams available to buy. Since the emphasis is on the visual impact many popular designs on the market include features such as ruffles and cording. Euro pillow shams are a popular choice.

As with pillows themselves, shams are available in a variety of sizes. The most sigificant difference in size probably depends on where you’re planning to use it. Small pillows with shams are sometimes best used to enhance the decor of rooms other then the bedroom.

Be sure to buy the right size!