The number of pillow fillings available on the market has increased greatly over the last few years to the point that there is now a pillow tailor-made for every conceivable sleeping position or health problem. As a result, buying a new pillow can quickly prove difficult for the average consumer who is likely unfamiliar with all of the available options.
That said, it’s definitely worthwhile to put a bit of thought into which pillow filling is right for you, because a good pillow can help reduce muscle tension, headaches or a stiff neck. For this reason, we would like to give you an overview of the different types of pillow fillings and show you how to find the right pillow for you.
What does a good pillow do?
A good pillow provides optimal support for the neck area while you sleep, thereby preventing discomfort. By filling the space between the mattress and your head, the pillow ensures that your spine isn’t overstretched while you sleep and your head isn’t tilted up or down.
The exact amount of space between your neck and the mattress depends on your sleeping position; for this reason, when you’re on the lookout for a new pillow, you should ask yourself which pillow is best for which sleeping position and which position you prefer to sleep in.
A good pillow can significantly improve our sleep quality, because having poor posture at night can lead to muscle tension and pain in the back and neck. If you find yourself waking up more and more often feeling stiff or with a headache, you should ask yourself if you’re sleeping with your back in too curved a position.
The different types of pillow fillings
The number of different pillow fillings available nowadays is quite high, with new ones being added every year. In light of all this variety, people naturally wonder which pillow filling is the best? In our overview, we divide pillows into two main categories, namely those with natural and synthetic fillings. In the end, which type you choose should depend on your personal preferences and needs.
Natural filling materials for pillows
Down and feathers
The first difference between down and feathers is that down lacks a hard quill. Thus, down pillows are softer and have a higher fill power, while feather pillows are more stable in shape. When choosing between feathers or down, you can usually choose between duck or goose down.
What’s the difference between duck and goose down? Goose down clusters are larger in size and therefore have more air chambers. For this reason, their ability to store heat is superior to that of duck down. Eider duck down, in particular, which is native to Scandinavia, North America and Siberia, is known for being of very high quality.
Animal fur fillings
Pillows filled with animal fur or hair are very popular among people who tend to sweat quite a bit. They’re also a big hit with those who value natural products. The types of fur used for these types of filling are usually horsehair, camel fluff or virgin sheep’s wool. Animal fur fillings are incredibly good at absorbing moisture and releasing it back to the outside.
Camel fluff and sheep’s wool are slightly softer than horsehair. Horsehair offers more support, though it’s not as malleable as camel fluff or virgin wool.
Pillows with natural fillings
Pillows filled with beans or grains are often sold as massage pillows or as heating/cooling pillows. Cherry stones, millet or spelt are often used to make these types of pillows. Cherry pit pillows are usually too hard to lie on all night, though.
If you’re considering millet or spelt pillows, make sure that they contain enough filling material, as the grains shift easily and don’t provide sufficient support. In addition, the pillows make noise when you turn your head while lying on them at night. While some find this annoying, others find that it helps them fall asleep.
Plant fillings usually are usually made from cotton, hemp or kapork, and sometimes even a combination of these fibers. Since these pillows tend to be puffy, they score lower in terms of support compared to other materials.
Natural and synthetic latex Natural and synthetic latex Natural latex is obtained from the milky sap of the rubber tree. Synthetic latex is made from petroleum and is a bit firmer than natural latex. Latex is often used as a filling for neck support pillows, but since it does not absorb moisture well and isn’t breathable, people who tend to sweat a lot while they sleep should rather find an alternative to latex.
Pillows with gel or cold foam
There are many different types of foam fillings, but the most common varieties include PU foam, latex foam, gel foam or cold foam. The degree of firmness also depends on the type of foam used. In addition, these pillows come in multilayer versions, with open or closed pores, in flakes or layers or with one-piece fillings.
Pillows with polyester filling
Polyester pillows are usually the cheapest and are quite easy to wash and dry. However, polyester loses its shape quickly and often clumps together. Furthermore, it retains body heat and doesn’t absorb moisture, which means that your head and neck tend to sweat faster; moreover, the sweat will remain in your pillow.
Visco foam is slightly softer than other types of foam and is designed to mold itself to the shape of your head and neck. As neck pillows, they either come as a whole block of Visco or as regular pillows with foam flakes. Ergonomically, visco pillows provide good neck support and are breathable.
Pillows for different sleeping positions
As mentioned above, the type of pillow and filling should be based on the position you spend the night in. Here are the best pillows for the various sleeping positions:
Side sleepers: Side sleepers have the biggest space between their head and the mattress, so they need a stable pillow that provides good support to the neck and to the head.
Back sleepers: Back sleepers have a small space between their heads and their mattress. As such, their pillow only needs to be thick enough to prevent the cervical spine from bending backwards. In this case, the pillow shouldn’t not be too high.
Stomach sleepers: From an ergonomic point of view, this position is the least healthy of all for the back and the cervical spine, as both are overly rotated. That said, those who can’t do without this position should find as thin a pillow as possible.
Mixed sleepers: There are no special pillows for mixed sleepers, but it should be noted that the harder the mattress, the taller the pillow should be.
Orthopedic pillows: Orthopedic pillows are specially shaped and precisely adapted to the side or back position. They give, but don’t lose their shape over time. For people who often move back and forth during sleep, this type of pillow can be somewhat uncomfortable, as the pillow takes some time to conform to the new shape. However, in the right position, these pillows can provide optimal support for the spine.
The pillow fillings you can find at Zizzz
At Zizzz, we value natural materials and sustainability above everything else. That is why we only offer the following filling materials for our pillows: ethically-sourced duck down, goose down or pure virgin sheep's wool pillows.
Our down pillows are available in different sizes and are Downpass certified. Our wool pillows are filled with Swisswool pellets, which can be removed from the pillow to find the perfect fit for your body.
Which pillow filling is best is ultimately up to you, as everyone has their own sleeping preferences and needs. If you choose the right combination of filling and type of pillow, you’ve already created a good foundation for a healthy sleep.