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How to Pick a Pillow: Everything You Need to Know

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There are many factors that come into play for a good night’s sleep: your mattress, temperature, distracting noises, and light (or lack thereof). But have you ever considered your pillow a significant player?

Having the right mattress is a great start to sleeping better, but if your pillow is terrible, you may still be tossing and turning trying to get comfortable.

Why does the right pillow matter?

Finding the right pillow can greatly improve your quality of sleep because it helps your sleeping posture. Do you ever wake up in the morning and say, “I must have slept funny,” as you try to massage out the kink in your neck? We’ve been there, too. Good sleeping posture helps you sleep better and wake up without those aches and pains.

The right pillow will help keep your spine stay in alignment while you sleep (a.k.a. help with your sleeping posture), regardless of your preferred sleeping position. With a pillow that supports healthy posture, your neck, shoulders, back and hips will get the support they need so you wake up pain-free.

While the pillow you choose is largely based on your personal preference, finding the right pillow also depends on the sleeping position you prefer. Are you a back sleeper, side sleeper, or stomach sleeper? This will determine the amount of support you need from your pillow.

Back Sleepers

For back sleepers, your pillow should support your neck and head, but not so much that your neck is propped up at an unnatural angle. Remember, you want your spine and neck to stay aligned while you sleep, so back sleepers probably want a medium-thick pillow—something that’s not too full, but not too flat.

Side Sleeper

If you’re a side sleeper, your pillow should support your head in a neutral position, keeping it aligned with your spine. Because your shoulder takes most of the pressure when you sleep on your side, you may want a fuller, firmer pillow to give your neck the support it needs and take some of the weight off your shoulder.


Sleeping on your stomach

Sleeping on your stomach is the most stressful position for your back and neck, so many experts recommend trying to train yourself to sleep in another position. We know that you can’t change your sleeping habits overnight, so if you do sleep on your stomach, you’ll want a pillow that’s softer and a little less full. This will help keep your spine as neutral as possible.

When should you replace your pillow?

While the general rule of thumb for the life of a mattress is about eight years (sometimes more if you get a quality mattress and take care of it), your pillow usually doesn’t last quite as long. You’ll need a new pillow every 18 months or so, although a well-made memory foam pillow will last longer—about three years. Not sure if it’s time for a new pillow? Here are a few ways you can tell:

Give your pillow a once-over. Is it stained? Are there any tears or holes? Does it have a smell? (Gross, we know, but just like your mattress, pillows collect dead skin and sweat. They can even grow mold.) If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to throw your pillow away.

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If it passes the physical exam, try the fold test. When you fold your pillow in half, does it stay folded or does it spring back to its original position? If it stays folded, your pillow is probably exhausted, and it may be time to say goodbye.

If your pillow is lumpy, smelly, flat (or all of the above), it may be time for an upgrade. The Leesa pillow is comfortable and supportive—the perfect pillow. Through years of development, we created a responsive memory foam pillow that’s great for every sleeping position. It’s also cooling, made with the premium cooling foam that customers love in our mattress. Plus, the beautifully designed, cozy cover can be taken off and washed.

The Leesa Hybrid Pillow is adjustable and reversible, with a down-like quilted pocket side and a cooling side. This pillow is completely customizable—a great pillow choice for any sleeping position—with a removable insert. Leave the insert in for a fuller pillow or remove it for something a little flatter. Made with cool-to-the-touch fabric and a cooling gel side, this pillow will keep you cool while you sleep.

How to Pick the Right Pillow

There are so many pillow options available, so when it comes to choosing the right pillow for you, it can be a little overwhelming. What criteria should you consider when you’re trying to find the perfect pillow? We’ve broken down some of the most important pillow-picking criteria to help you make the decision.

Fill

Some fill options include memory foam, down, synthetic down, polyester fill, latex, cotton, and wool.

Weight

Memory foam or latex pillow is going to be heavier, while a down or synthetic pillow will be a little lighter.

Fabric

Even though you’ll cover it with a pillowcase, you want your pillow fabric to be breathable and durable.

Size

Pillows generally come in two sizes: standard and king. For most people, a standard pillow is big enough, but if you prefer something bigger, a king pillow may be right for you. (A king-size pillow also fits a king-size bed better.)

Quality

A quality-made pillow will last longer and help you sleep better. Once you’ve decided on the type of pillow you prefer, do your research and read reviews to choose the right pillow for you.

Science Behind the Build

It may sound silly, but it’s something to consider. The premium comfort foam in the Leesa pillow, for example, is hole punched to promote airflow and specifically engineered for the perfect combination of comfort and cooling.

When you’re ready to upgrade your sleep, don’t forget about your pillow. Find a pillow with the perfect combination of comfort and support for your sleeping position and personal preference.

Ready to start sleeping better? Let Leesa help you find your new favorite pillow.

Pillow Size Matters: Find the Right Size for You

Size mattress chart

While a standard-sized pillow will work for most people, some prefer a larger or smaller pillow. There are many different factors to consider when choosing the right-sized pillow. These factors include:

  • Your sleeping position – How you sleep can affect which pillow size is best for you. Side sleepers may prefer a thicker soft pillow, while back and stomach sleepers might be more comfortable with thinner pillows that reduce neck strain.
  • Personal preference – Some people choose a flatter pillow, while others want something cushier.
  • Body type – Your body size may also play a role in the size of pillow you need. For example, if you are petite, you may want a smaller pillow, while someone with a larger frame may prefer a more oversized pillow.
  • Distance between neck and shoulder – The distance between your neck and shoulder is something you may want to consider. If the distance between them feels too wide or small, it's time for a new pillow.

Our Leesa Pillows

Leesa offers two different kinds of pillows. These include:

Premium Foam Pillow – This pillow is designed with premium comfort memory foam to help you sleep throughout the night. It provides full support to your head and neck with a high-quality performance foam that is pressure relieving.

Hybrid Pillow – This pillow is made with a down-like quilted side and cooling gel fiber, allowing for personalized comfort and support as well as temperature regulation. The Hybrid pillow is adjustable and reversible, making it perfect for all sleep positions.

FAQs

How to wash a pillow?

Most pillows are machine washable. Remove the pillow covers and wash both pieces separately in cold water on a gentle cycle. Use mild soap (no bleach or fabric softener). Rinse well, then tumble dry low until damp-dry. Reshape while still damp; air dry completely before using again to prevent shrinkage. For Leesa memory foam pillows, remove foam or gel inserts before putting them in the washing machine.

How to choose the best pillow for neck pain?

A medium-firm pillow is the best option if you suffer from neck pain, and this will give proper support to your head and neck without putting too much pressure on any area. You may also want to try specialty pillows like a cervical pillow explicitly designed for people with neck problems.

What size is a standard pillow?

A standard pillow is about 20 inches wide and 26 inches long. Depending on the specific manufacturer, it may be slightly smaller or larger than this. Since you can make a custom case for it, there isn't an industry-standard size for "standard."

Does your mattress matter to your pillow choice?

Yes, your mattress and pillow firmness should work together to ensure proper alignment. It's a good idea to look at your mattress and pillow together, rather than just looking for the right kind of pillow. Top reasons a mattress affects your pillow choice: A softer mattress will cause your body to sink, leading to neck pain and poor alignment. A firm mattress will not contour to your body shape, and you may find that a softer pillow is more comfortable. Is it healthy to sleep without a pillow? Learn everything you need to know in our article and find out if it’s healthy to sleep without a pillow.