A pillow is a pillow is a pillow, right? Well, not quite.
You might think they are simply bigger, smaller, firmer or squishier, but that’s far from the end of it. Finding the perfect pillow depends a lot on your sleeping position - do you lie regimented stock-still on your back like a soldier? Or flop like a lazy seal on your front? Like more than half of the population, you may just be a side sleeper.
If you vaguely remember a time in the distant past when you slept on those amazing pillows in that posh hotel, that’s the pillow you want! Let’s try and help you rediscover that bliss…
What to look for if you are a side sleeper:
Side sleepers tend to need thicker pillows that will fill the space underneath their head and neck. Ones that are too thin won’t offer enough cushioning, while massively thick pillows can mess with spinal alignment. The perfect pillow will keep your head and neck aligned when lying down. Any fill from down to foam can work for side sleepers. If you sleep on your side most of the time, you want a medium-density pillow that offers decent support, but also enough give to contour your head and keep body comfortably aligned.
Different types of fillings:
Feather and down pillows are the classic, luxury options but a decent one will command a high price tag. They are mouldable and cloud-soft, making them a great snuggling pillow, although the feathers can sometimes sound a little crunchy to your ears. They will last longer than synthetic pillows but require professional cleaning, and you’ll need to plump them up regularly.
Synthetic pillows, often made from microfibres, are a cheaper option but the best ones can still be wonderfully plump. They won’t last as long as natural pillows and are less mouldable and breathable, but they can be washed at home and often come with hypoallergenic options.
Memory foam pillows are the recent kid on the block and give strong, even support. They are easy to look after but can be too hot in the summer months, and some people just don’t like their firm feel.
See our pick of the best pillows for side sleepers below.
Kally Sleep The Ultimate Side Sleeper Pillow
This British-made pillow is a great all-rounder and at the price we’d say “ultimate” is a fair claim. Its hollowfibre filling doesn’t quite replicate the dreaminess of a mountain of goose down, but is plump, springy and moulds happily into the neck, plugging the gap between shoulder and ear to support you. It also holds its shape perfectly, stays cool throughout the night and is great for allergy sufferers. If you haven’t got cash to burn, this might be the best slice of luxury and function out there.
Emma Cloud Pillow
The mattress-maker ups the synthetic game with this clever pillow. Packed with fluffy microfibres, it’s undeniably cloud-like and wonderfully soft, as well as being cool and breathable. It certainly doesn’t feel like you’re sleeping on manmade material. But the smartest trick here is that the pillow consists of two inserts - one thick, one thin - which can be removed to customise the depth and feel to your liking. “ForeverPlush” technology means it will also hold up to the rigours of the washing machine. Its softness and comparatively slim size means it’s not quite as supportive as some of the other pillows here, but a thin extra pillow placed underneath is a simple fix for that.
Coze 3 Chamber Luxury Pillow
You want that elusive hotel feel to your slumber? Head to Coze, a family business that’s been making sumptuous, artisanal textiles for four generations. Besides being superbly luxurious, what sets this pillow apart for the side sleeper are its two filling elements. On the outside is gorgeously supple 70 per cent Pyrenean duck down and 30 per cent feather. On the inside for support is a firmer 10 per cent Pyrenean duck down and 90 per cent feather. And you’ll feel worthy too, as Coze traces its production processes all the way from seed to pillow.
Simba Hybrid Pillow
This space-age contender, a feat of somniferous engineering, has been one of the pillows to beat recently. Inside are hundreds of foam Nanocubes which can be removed to adjust height and firmness. Around this layer are cool microfibers, and there’s mesh for air flow as well. Topping it all off is “Stratos”, an outer layer inspired by astronauts that applies phase change technology (don’t ask) to soft cotton, meaning it absorbs, stores and releases heat when needed. Phew! The result is a huge amount of bounce, support and comfort that doesn’t disappoint, although this wasn’t the coolest pillow on test here.
Silentnight Firm Support Pillows
Okay, so you haven’t got a small fortune lying around to invest in your sleep, but you still want to wake up without feeling like an elephant has sat on your head. Cue this budget pair of pillows, which have a firm fibre centre surrounded by a soft, hollowfibre casing. They are also hypoallergenic and machine washable. You’ll probably need both pillows as they are a little on the thin side, but the firm yet gentle support they offer is fantastic. For sure, they are noticeably less luxuriant than a high-end option, but we woke up feeling perfectly rested after a night on these.
Woolroom Deluxe Washable King Size Wool Pillow and Luxury Organic Pillow
Let the geese and ducks keep their feathers, because wool is an amazing material for pillows. Breathable wool is a fantastic natural temperature regulator, keeping you cool when it’s too hot and offering a warm place to snuggle when the chill sets in. On top of this, it helps control moisture and Woolroom’s pillows are also hypoallergenic. As soon as our heads hit these, it felt like we’d been wafted to a five-star highland lodge and the support they offered throughout the night was perfect. If you want a fatter pillow, the Deluxe option can be filled with extra wool, while if you care about the provenance of what you sleep on, the wool can be traced right back to the farm it came from. We are now undoubtedly wool pillow converts.
Eve Memory Foam Pillow
Right, we’re now in Marmite-land as far as pillows go. Yes, when it comes to memory foam, people tend to love or hate. Eve has selected a not too hard, not too squashy foam, which means your head is properly supported and it’s also just the right height to keep your spine aligned. Hundreds of air holes mean it’s also very cool at night and the jersey knit cover adds an extra touch of comfort. We woke up without a hint of neck pain, but if you want to sink into a cotton-wool slumber this might not be the one for you.
Tempur Ombracio Pillow
This strange-looking beast is from the original memory foam pioneers, ‘the only mattress and pillow officially recognised by Nasa for improving the quality of life’ no less. And we love this memory foam, which has a secret formula known by fewer than 10 people in the world. It’s rather complicated, but basically the ‘visco-elastic’ cells actively mould and adapt to your body. Unlike other foams, this can also be plumped up and shaped. What you get is the perfect balance between squish and support, and the clever star shape means you can nuzzle you shoulder in and have support each side to stop you rolling back and forth. It’s aimed at front sleepers as well as side sleepers, so if you wriggle on to your front, no problemo. For memory foam haters, this might just be your new love.