What are the Different Types of Pillows?
The Various Materials, Stuffing & Sizes

Bedding

Are you trying to figure out the best type of pillow for you? From side sleepers to travelers to back-sleepers, there are pillows that are catered to fit your specific needs. Even if you need a product for reasons other than for bed cushioning, like back and lumbar support, it’s important that you choose the best material and size that suits you.

With so many different types available to purchase, you could end up choosing one that causes you discomfort or that you simply dislike. So, we’ve compiled a list of different types of pillows that is out there and explained what some cushions are made of, the different types of pillow stuffing and how they feel, what the best uses for these pillows are and the pros and cons of each stuffing type so you educate yourself on what’s out there.

Bed

Different Pillow Types

1. Latex

Latex

The Latex foam pillow is quickly becoming a popular type of stuffing. The latex foam material itself is made from the milky-white sap of a rubber tree found in tropical climates. What makes this type of cushion so desired is their ability to hold their shape, the amazing neck and back support it gives and their ability to stay cool while in bed. They are one of few naturally occurring pillow material types like buckwheat and wool.

Latex foam stuffing is often compared to memory foam. They are quite different on the surface, but like memory foam, latex foam pillows can be quite firm and are a bit pricey. But the price is well worth it because it is a long lasting organic material that offers great support for those suffering from neck and back problems.

Pros

  • Offers excellent support
  • Breathable
  • Biodegradable
  • Mold and Mildew resistant
  • Insect Resistant
  • Made from natural material

Cons

  • Can be Pricey
  • Dense and heavy
  • Has a fixed shape that can’t be adjusted
  • Can have a foam or rubber-like scent

2. Full Body 

A body pillow is a type of cushion that is designed to be oversized so that it can support and cradle the entire body while you lay in bed. The type of material it’s made of can vary. This product is perfect for pregnant women because it conforms to the changes that are happening to their body and can relieve pressure from the lower back, hips and spine. It also offers proper support for side-sleepers and improves their body’s natural alignment. Body pillows can be made with any number of different material, so depending on the length and material of the cushion and pillowcases, it could offer even more support and comfort.

Women Lying in Bed

Pros

  • Gives extra support where it’s needed
  • Usually, doesn’t shift like regular cushions
  • Supports the shape of a pregnant woman’s body
  • Great for side-sleepers

Cons

  • Can be hard to wash
  • Pillowcases are hard to shop for

3. Water 

Water Cushion

These types of products normally have a top layer of polyester pillowcases and cushioned with water. Since the water can easily contour to the head and neck, it allows the user to completely relax without falling victim to pressure points that other materials have while you’re lying on them in bed. The material doesn’t shift or clump and that’s why it is typically used by people enduring neck and back pain. However, compared to other types, water pillows aren’t generally used by front sleepers because of their shape and the inability to hold steady. But, unlike most cushions, you can adjust the water level in your pillow to get the type of firmness you desire. Plus, they are heavy to move if you need to readjust while in bed.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Can adjust loft by adding or removing water
  • Temperature is cooler
  • Can hold its position better than other products
  • Automatically contours to head and neck
  • Offers neck and back relief for some

Cons

  • Heavy
  • High-maintenance
  • Can’t hold its shape
  • Makes water noises

4. Microbead 

Microbeads

This pillow type is filled with round synthetic polystyrene beads that can shift to your head positioning and offer support while in bed. These types of products even promote great airflow because of how the microbeads shapes to anything placed in it. Some compare the material to buckwheat, yet they are different in many ways. However, because the beads are so dense the cushion can begin to feel too firm for some. That is why this pillow is believed to be a great type for side-sleepers, compared to other types, because its rigidity may not work with other sleep positions. Yet, despite that, it shapes easily and may need only a little fluffing to get it back to the type of firmness you desire.

Pros

  • Stays cool at night
  • Shapes easily
  • Supports head, neck and shoulders
  • Great air flow

Cons

  • Short life-span
  • Some consider it too firm
  • Can have a chemical odor
  • If product tears, the beads will be hard to clean up

5. Polyester 

Polyester

The polyester pillow is the most popular type of material today for several reasons. It is extremely inexpensive and is the go-to cushion type for those who want a soft cushion without breaking the bank to get it. It’s a stuffing that has been used in homes for years and is normally the types of cushions and pillow cases you’d find in the average household. It’s great for all sleeping positions and is coupled with high owner satisfaction. The downside to this type of product is that it easily absorbs sweat and oils from your face even through pillowcases. And the chemicals used to manufacture the product could trigger allergies in some people.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Cleans easily
  • Resistant to tears

Cons

  • Very little ventilation
  • Lacks Neck Support
  • Needs to be constantly readjusted
  • Could become vulnerable to dust mites

6. Feather 

Feather

Feather pillows have been around for a long time. It’s known for its light and fluffy feel. However, they are constantly compared to downs pillows, that offer a superior fluff with a heftier price-tag. Some of the main complaints about feather cushions are that they flatten over time due to the quills straightening out, but a good fluffing usually shapes it to its original glory.

Also, the feather quills may even begin to poke through the cushion and cause discomfort while you lie in bed. However, compared to other types, this product does last longer than a lot of other filling. Feather products are usually recommended for back or front sleepers and these cushions need to be washed regularly.

You also want to be careful if you suffer from allergies as feathers can aggravate it in some people.​

Pros

  • Somewhat Inexpensive
  • Soft and fluffy
  • Lightweight
  • Shapes easily
  • Washable
  • Durable

Cons

  • Needs constant fluffing
  • May have an odor
  • Quills against the cushion casing can be noisy
  • Doesn’t offer the best support
  • Not the best for people with allergies

7. Contour 

Contour

A contour pillow usually refers to the shape the cushion holds, with a concave dip in the middle it is meant to provide support for the head while you sleep. It can be made from any material, but the most common types are memory foam, buckwheat and water. The type of material used to make your contour pillow will affect the support and the level of comfort the shape of the product provides. The major letdown for this shape is that its effectiveness doesn’t translate to stomach sleepers.

Pros

  • Provides excellent head and neck support
  • Helps maintains the proper sleeping position
  • Opens breathing airways to lessen snoring

Cons

  • Not recommended for stomach sleepers

8. Memory Foam 

Memory Foam

Memory foam is the go-to material for people needing that extra support. The foam is constructed of polyurethane and some additional materials. A person’s body heat and pressures allow them to sink into the memory foam and creates a mold that caters specifically to the shapes of their head and neck which is why it is so popular today. The price of the different types of memory foam pillows can get a bit steep, but it’s worth it for the best support that this material can offer people. The material is typically targeted to back and side-sleepers because it isn’t easy to move and shape. Some people complain that this cushion can give off an odor and for those who get hot relatively easy while in bed, the material isn’t too breathable and could cause you to feel warmer than you want. Also, some researchers claim that the material may not be the best for a person’s health compared to other types of bed pillows.

Pros

  • Offers excellent support and relieves pain
  • Is firm and soft
  • Shapes itself to match support to your specific head and neck
  • Durable
  • Doesn’t require fluffing

Cons

  • Gives off a chemical odor
  • Retains body heat and can get uncomfortable in hot climates
  • Isn’t shapeable
  • Not recommended for stomach sleepers
  • Heavy

9. Buckwheat 

Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a type of material that has been slowly increasing in popularity as more people have been looking for environmentally safe and all-natural types of pillow stuffing. Types of buckwheat is made from the husks of kernels. Before the buckwheat hulls are stuffed in a pillow case, they are roasted to remove field dust. Because they are all-natural buckwheat cushions don’t have any chemical-like odors and customers don’t have worry about harsh chemicals while they try to sleep in their bed. The primary complaint about buckwheat cushions are the noises the hulls makes when it is shifted. Otherwise, the material shapes very well. It offers excellent neck, back and head support. It’s best suited for side-sleepers, but anyone can use it and enjoy it.

Pros

  • All natural
  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Breathable with great airflow
  • Excellent neck, back and head support
  • Shapes easily

Cons

  • Can be noisy
  • Depending on the size, it can be heavy

10. Lumbar 

This cushion isn’t made for sleeping, but for sitting. It’s usually a rectangular shape with a curve that helps support the lower back or the lumbar region of the spine. Because sitting for long stretches of time can strain the lower back area and cause pain and fatigue. Lumbar pillows help alleviate that and can be made with any material; however, the material is usually dense and won’t easily collapse compared to other types of pillows.

Lumbar

Pros

  • Alleviates pain in the lower back
  • Holds its shape very well
  • Most are washable

Cons

  • Can be uncomfortable being used for anything other than lumbar support

11. Wool 

Wool is one of the few natural pillow stuffing material on the market. It’s great because not only does it give the soft feel that everyone wants from their pillow, it is also naturally dust mite, mold and mildew resistant. It’s very breathable compared to other types of materials and can naturally get rid of moisture so that your head can be cool in the summer months and warm in the winter and it causes less tossing and turning while in bed. Like, buckwheat stuffing, wool stuffing won’t give off any chemical odors and is perfect for anyone who suffers from allergies. The major complaints that some have with this product is that it shapes awfully and doesn’t contour to a person’s body compared to other types of products. The wool material can feel hard when its compressed and it flattens with time. However, it’s best for all sleeping positions.

Wool

Pros

  • Stays cool in the summer and warm in winter
  • Great airflow
  • Prevents moisture buildup
  • Allergy-free
  • Mold and Mildew resistant

Cons

  • Becomes flat over time
  • Can feel when hard flattened
  • Not shapeable

12. Down 

Down

Like buckwheat and latex foam, down is a naturally occurring stuffing material. Down pillows are similar to feather cushions; however, they are different in respect to their fluff. Down is the fluff found under the belly of a waterfowl. Down fluff is a lot lighter than feathers and much softer. It keeps it loft a lot longer than its synthetic alternatives. Some claim that their down pillow has lasted for over a decade without losing isn’t signature fluff. Because of how long these types of cushions last on an owner’s bed and their soft, cuddly feel, they can get a bit pricey. However, they are lightweight and many claim these types of products to be the softest on the market. It shapes easily and last for an extremely long time. These products are perfect for front sleepers.

Pros

  • Super soft and fluffy
  • Light
  • Long Lasting
  • Breathable and cool
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Can be pricey
  • Needs constant fluffing
  • Some may be allergic

13. Cotton 

Cotton is another natural material used in some pillows like buckwheat and latex foam. Cotton stuffing is easy to locate in any store and cotton cases adorn most beds. Cotton cushions are naturally soft, hypoallergenic and easy to maintain. However, these types of pillows can easily become lumpy over time when the cotton stuffing can begin to clump together. However, it doesn’t retain any odors, unlike its synthetic counterpart. It’s good any sleeping position.

Cotton

Pros

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Airier than synthetic and foam material
  • Firmer and flatter than down pillows
  • Washable
  • Soft

Cons

  • Cotton can clump and make the cushion lumpy
  • Cotton fill would need to be replaced more often than other fills
  • Can flatten over time
  • Doesn’t shape to head or neck well
  • Retains moisture, so it needs to be cleaned regularly

Investing in Your Sleep

Women Sleeping

There are a plethora of different types of pillows out there with any number of different stuffing materials to make your bed more comfortable. It isn’t enough to have a cozy bed; you need a cushion that best shapes to your unique style of sleep.

Whether it’s memory foam, buckwheat, or any other kind of stuffing. In fact, there are multiple cushion types that we recommend on this site for a variety of different types of sleepers. Whether you’re looking for a travel pillow or are searching for the perfect pregnancy pillow, we have tested and reviewed products that are certain to improve your life. Let us help you discover your next pillow that is perfect for you.

For more information on brands and specific product types click here and read about all the cool products featured on our homepage. ​