For some reason, Autumn is apparently the time when we’re most likely to invest in new bedding, whether it’s pillows, duvets or fitted sheets. And as huge fans of memory foam, we decided it’s high time to give a shout out to the best memory foam pillows available.
But first, a bit of myth-busting: memory foam pillows aren’t just for summer. Today’s versions are hi-tech head huggers which are ergonomic, breathable and quite frankly brilliant.
If you suffer from neck, back or shoulder pain, a firmer memory pillow may be a good way to go. “Firm pillows tend to support the head at the correct height when sleeping on the side or back and thus reduce strain at these regions,” says Professor Neal L Millar, professor of orthopaedic surgery and honorary consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the University of Glasgow.
He continues, “They can also absorb motion and prevent it from transferring, creating more stability in the neck region. Memory foam pillows provide relief for pressure points that cause pain by distributing the weight. However, everyone’s needs are different and if the pillow is too firm then equally this could cause more pain and sleep disturbance. Trying different brands will give you a good idea of what works for you.”
How we tested
Lots of sleeping. We used the pillows in a wide range of scenarios: on camping trips, to see how they fared on uneven surfaces; on hot, muggy nights when temperature regulation was a priority; and on cooler nights when we were simply craving something snug and soft. The good news (kind of)?
We’d recently suffered a quad-biking accident which had left us with a broken rib and a strained neck and shoulders. The silver lining to this injury was that it provided the perfect opportunity to give these pillows thorough testing – never have we placed more value on a pillow that offers optimal support without compromising on breathability (our injury meant we spent significantly more time in bed than we usually do, to put it bluntly).
The best memory foam pillows for 2021 are:
Best overall – Dunelm Temperature Reactive Memory Foam Firm-Support Pillow: £40, Dunelm.com
Best for hi-tech materials – Sealy Geltex Pillow: £46.99, Bensonsforbeds.co.uk
Best for medium support– Dorma Down Surround Memory Foam Medium Support Pillow: £40, Dunelm.com
Best for allergy sufferers – Sensaform Sensation Memory Foam Pillow: £39.99, Bensonsforbeds.co.uk
Best for staying cool – S8 Pillow Vortex: £75, Sleep8.uk
Best for neck support – Kally Neck Pain Pillow: £39.99, Kallysleep.com
Best for luxury – Duvalay deluxe pillow: £54.95, Duvalay.co.uk
Best for lump-free sleeping – Dormeo Octasmart Essentials Pillow: £30, Dormeo.co.uk
Best for uninterrupted snoozing – Tempur Symphony Pillow: £105, Tempur.com
Best for hot nights – TheraPur Memory Foam Ice Pillow: £69, Dreams.co.uk
Best for value – JYSK Wellpur Olden Pillow: £22.50, Jysk.co.uk
Best for design – Slumberdown Memory Plus Pillow: £11.50, sleepseeker.co.uk
Best for jet setters – Go Travel Memory Dreamer: £19.99, Go.travel
Best for comfort – S8 Pillow Spring Massage: £49, Sleep8.uk
Dunelm temperature reactive memory foam firm-support pillow
One of the most hi-tech pillows we’ve come across, this slab of sleep-inducing perfection is seriously impressive, offering firmness paired with unbeatable air circulation. We tested it on a particularly muggy night and woke up well-rested, with none of the clammy-faced discomfort associated with other pillows.
The temperature reactive part isn’t just a gimmick, either – we could clearly see the holes which allowed air to circulate, and the material had a definite coolness when we rested our head against it. One side is textured and one side is smooth, but both offer the same cooling sensation. And the design also ensured the material stayed fresh-smelling, even after one week of use. Nobody likes a pongy pillow, after all.
Buy now £40.00, Dunlem.com
Sealy geltex pillow
Best: For hi-tech materials
This is memory foam, but not as you know it. Sealy has used a hi-tech combination of gel-infused memory foam (geltex) and an open-cell structure to crank up the comfort while giving the pillow unbeatable breathability. Designed for medium support, it’s a pillow that has just the right amount of firmness. We loved the use of hollow fibre filling alongside the geltex – a combo that prevented the hardness you’ll often get with memory foam pillows, especially when they’re fresh out the packet.
Buy now £46.99, Bensonsforbeds.co.uk
Dorma down surround memory foam medium support pillow
Best: For medium support
This one is a brilliant option for back sleepers, and has just the right amount of support – it’s firm, but still has a certain moldability (because nobody likes sleeping on a brick, after all). Our first impression was that our head was some distance from the bed (due to the pillow’s firmness), but the top-notch memory foam soon did its thing and our head sank blissfully into the optimum position. Our top tip? Even if you usually double up, you won’t need to with this one, due to its firmness.
Buy now £40.00, Dunelm.com
Sensaform sensation memory foam pillow
Best: For allergy sufferers
We’re always sceptical when a relatively simple item claims to do everything barring a quick clean of the kitchen sink. But with this memory foam pillow, which claims to offer exceptional head and neck support, is hypo-allergenic and has a cover that can be washed at 40C, our concerns were unfounded.
Our head and neck felt supported with just the right amount of cushioning, and despite testing the pillow on a night when the pollen count was through the roof, we enjoyed a sniffle-free sleep. It’s made in the UK too, which will come as a relief to those concerned about their carbon footprint. This pillow is currently out of stock, but you can add it to your wishlist.
Buy now £39.99, Bensonsforbeds.co.uk
S8 pillow vortex
Best: For staying cool
S8 claims this pillow is designed for all types of sleepers, but we can’t help suspect that it’s especially suitable for front sleepers. Its design errs on the solid side but has a softer spot at the base – where the neck will be. There were no claustrophobia-inducing bulges that rose up either side of our head when we were sleeping on our front (a personal pet hate).
It’s incredibly hi-tech – there’s a Nasa-designed cover which S8 promises will maintain a cool, constant temperature all night long. There was certainly a definite coolness to the material, and we loved the way it offered natural, solid support from the outset without the need for any manual moulding.
Buy now £75.00, Sleep8.uk
Kally neck pain pillow
Best: For neck support
The perfect pillow to lull side and back sleepers into their deepest sleep yet, Kally’s neck pain pillow (which we can’t help but feel could have been given a more appealing name) looks unashamedly quirky, with a butterfly-shaped design and a slightly smaller size. It certainly feels a little odd at first – the memory foam takes longer than most foams to rebound – but we were quickly converted.
The combination of its central groove and top-quality memory foam allowed this pillow to mould around our head, shoulders and neck with an accuracy that was incredibly supportive but unobtrusive. Despite testing this during a week when a minor injury had flared up a bout of shoulder pain, we enjoyed one of the most comfortable night’s sleep we can recall.
Buy now £39.99, Kallysleep.com
Duvalay deluxe pillow
Best: For luxury
We’re aware that a jaunty trim doesn’t have any reflection on the quality of a pillow, but we can’t help but wish more pillow manufacturers shunned the all-white approach and followed Duvalay’s lead, adding a splash of colour to the sea of white. It’s a full-bodied pillow that claims to use what the brand calls “airwave design” in conjunction with super-soft memory foam that keeps cool and is breathable and supportive.
It was twice as deep as our old pillow, but despite this extra depth, we awoke without the neck ache we feared. The brand also claims its design can help reduce snoring, although the jury’s out on this one given we’re not prone to this trait.
Buy now £54.95, Duvalay.co.uk
Dormeo octasmart essentials pillow
Best: For lump-free sleeping
One of the most hi-tech memory foam pillows you’ll find for under £40, this wallet-friendly option from Octasmart relies on eight-sided foam springs to provide the perfect balance of support and comfort. It also relies on cooling technology to help regulate temperature.
Whether our sleep was 25x cooler remains to be seen (simply because it’s almost impossible to work out) but on a muggy night, we stayed surprisingly cool, and the pillow did a great job of moulding to our head, back and shoulders, too.
Buy now £30.00, Dormeo.co.uk
Tempur symphony pillow
Best: For uninterrupted snoozing
Nothing is more likely to keep us awake at night more than a blocky pillow with rigid sides, and we loved the gentle contours of this pillow, designed with sloping edges and a slight curve which did a brilliant job of supporting our neck and head. It’s a great option for side sleepers, and we loved that the cover it comes which could be washed at 60C – all too often a maximum of 40C is recommended. Bed bugs, be gone.
Buy now £105.00, Tempur.COM
Therapur memory foam ice pillow
Best: For hot nights
The Therapur pillow has an open cell structure to help regulate temperature (aided by a layer of cooling gel). Ideal for side sleepers, it offers a decent level of support – it’s officially ranked as firm – and did a great job of keeping our temperature under control.
However, we can’t help but suspect the price is on the high side – there are plenty of similar quality pillows which do all of the above but come with a much more palatable price tag.
Buy now £69.00, Dreams.co.uk
JYSK wellpur olden pillow
Best: For value
This is a brilliant reminder that great pillows don’t need to cost the earth. Its slimline design offered an impressive level of support, and we loved the fact that the cover is made from bamboo viscose, which doesn’t just help regulate temperature but is better for the environment, too. Its breathability is enhanced by its dimpled design – something we worried might disturb our sleep at first, but our 12-hour snooze session suggested otherwise.
Buy now £22.50, Jsyk.co.uk
Slumberdown memory plus pillow
Best: For design
In our humble opinion, you can’t go wrong with Slumberdown – not simply because we’re seduced by the name, but because the size and success of the brand allow it to pack its pillows with features rarely seen on ones with this price point. A firm support pillow designed with side sleepers in mind, this pillow achieves the holy grail of great support paired with freedom of movement.
We’re prone to shifting around in the night, but this pillow’s super soft material (both the cover and the hollow fibre filling, which is surrounded by a layer of memory foam) ensured we didn’t remain outside of the land of nod for long.
Buy now £11.50, Sleepseeker.co.uk
Go Travel memory dreamer
Best: For jet setters
This addition is timely given how international travel is returning once more. We’ve got a confession to make: we’ve never tried a neck pillow, and have always wondered how a horseshoe-shaped piece of foam can ever be comfortable. But this one had us at hello. Admittedly, it won’t deflate so you’ll struggle to stash it into your handbag, but with this level of comfort and support, it’s a sacrifice we’ll happily make.
Buy now £19.99, go.travel/uk
S8 pillow spring massage
Best: For comfort
This is one of the springiest pillows we’ve come across so it’s probably best suited to sleepers who like their pillows to have a certain amount of give. With its blue trim and waffle effect (which apparently has a micro-massage effect, although we’re admittedly sceptical about this part), it’s almost too pretty to cover up.
We were also sceptical about the independent block of springs we could feel near the base – designed to support the head and neck gently but firmly – although after waking from the best night’s sleep we’ve had in years, we might just be converts.
Buy now £49.00, Sleep8.uk
Memory foam pillows FAQs
Are memory foam pillows good for posture?
Memory foam pillows are good at conforming to the shape of your neck and head, which can stop you from sinking too far into the pillow. This added support helps to keep your cervical spine in line, which can help your posture in the long run.
Are memory foam pillows good for side sleepers?
The best type of pillow for side sleepers is either a memory foam pillow or an orthopaedic pillow. This is because those who sleep on their side can damage their spine’s natural alignment if their head is positioned either too high or too low while snoozing. Unlike feather or down pillows, memory foam ones are designed to cushion vulnerable pressure points on the head and ensure the neck remains in the optimum position.
Can you wash memory foam pillows?
Sadly, no. The motions of both dryers and washing machines can easily damage the memory foam. The good news? The covers (albeit the ones which come with the pillow, and which will go beneath your preferred pillowcase) can normally be washed, although you’ll typically need to keep to a temperature of 30C max. Always check the label to get the lowdown on laundry issues.
How long do memory foam pillows last?
This one’s open for debate. In a nutshell? Not quite as long as traditional down pillows. Typically, memory foam pillows will last for two to three years, but take the time to keep an eye on the memory foam and how it feels and responds.
Are memory foam pillows comfortable during hot weather?
It’s a myth that memory foam pillows are heat magnets. Ten years ago, this was a more understandable assumption, but the memory foam used in today’s pillows is generally much more hi-tech, and typically has features such as air holes and areas of foam and down, to ensure brilliant temperature regulation.
Are memory foam pillows good for neck pain?
In short, yes. They’re also good for back and shoulder pain, but obviously, this is subjective – it’s essential that you take the time to read up on the pillow’s shape, the materials used and its weight, length and firmness, because all of these things can make a difference.
The verdict: Memory foam pillows
Dunelm’s temperature reactive memory foam firm-support pillow is the winner here, simply because it ticks all the boxes – it’s great value, has a hi-tech design and had us drifting off to the land of nod in record time. Sealy’s hi-tech geltex pillow is truly deserving of second place, largely due to the clever combination of different materials, and the Dorma down surround memory foam medium support pillow is an absolutely brilliant option for anyone who likes their pillows on the firm side.
For the latest discounts on pillows, duvets and other homeware offers, try the links below:
You’ve got the pillow, now you need the mattress – read our mattress buying guide to find the best one for you