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You’ve got your fan. The air is on. Your family complains that they’re sleeping in a polar ice cap, and you tell them to get an extra blanket.
You sleep hot. And ideally, you need to sleep cool in your body and a little bit cooler for your head to get the best night’s sleep.
One place you can’t seem to get any relief is your pillow. Night after night, you wake up to a sweaty head, a gross pillow, and a whole lot of anger. It’s a situation.
Just like you can get cooling mattresses, you can also find cooling pillows. These allow your head to breathe, wick away heat, so the surface of the pillow always has a cool spot, and help you get back to sleep.
We’ve put together a list of our top picks for the best cooling pillow. Plus, we’ve answered some questions you may have about what to look for. Let’s take a look.
How Does A Cooling Pillow Work?
Regular pillows have materials that compress and prevent air flow. The materials begin to store heat from your head through the night, trapping that heat and reflecting it back to you. You flip the pillow to the cooler side, but it quickly returns to the temperature of your head. You toss and turn all night and wake up cranky.
Cooling pillows use materials that move heat away from the head and disperse it out of the pillow. The most basic type of cooling pillow is one that uses open cell materials for better air flow. Open cell materials store air in tiny pockets. As you move around, you compress the pillow and force air through the pockets. This helps funnel heat out of the pillow.
Better airflow also helps dry out moisture and make your pillow less of a sweaty mess. Overall, this means less moisture, less mold, and fewer microbe loving organisms.
Some pillows use materials that actively cool the surface. Gel is one of those materials. Gel pulls heat away from your body and disperses it throughout the pillow. It’s continually drawing heat away from you and returning the pillow to the ambient temperature of the room. Gel is often combined with open cell memory foams that quickly move heat from your head out of the pillow.
Some pillows use phase change materials to conduct heat actively. These materials were created by NASA and are continually changing states. They absorb heat from your body when you’re hot or reflect it back to your body when you’re cold. They’re really interesting materials that can be a turning point in your quest to sleep more comfortably.
How Do I Wash My Pillow?
Gel pillows can’t be machine washed without ruining the gel material. You’ll have to wash them by hand. If you sweat a lot, you still may get some moisture on your pillow even with the cooler temperature. Make sure you’re ok with frequently hand-washing your pillow to keep it sanitary.
If you don’t want to hand wash your pillow, look for a washable memory foam pillow. Some can be washed on cold and spun to dry. BE sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations before you clean your pillow, so you don’t accidentally ruin the materials.
Can I Use A Pillow Case With My Cooling Pillow?
It depends on the pillow. Some pillows are created to be used without a pillowcase because it already has a removable cover material. If you want to use a simple, breathable cotton pillowcase to prevent oils and dirt from your skin from getting to your pillow surface, you can do that as well.
Make sure that the cover material is meant to be removed and washed regularly if you don’t want to use a pillowcase. If you do use a pillowcase, make sure it’s something breathable so that the airflow continues well through the pillow. Otherwise, you’ll lose some of your cooling.
What Are The Downsides Of A Cooling Pillow?
Some cooling pillows are pretty heavy. The gel materials weigh more than synthetic fills, so if you like to move your pillow around in the night, it might take some adjusting.
Gel doesn’t mold as well as other types of fillings either. Side and stomach sleepers often like to mold the pillow to fit around the neck and shoulder area, so you may have to give that up if you go with a gel pillow.
A Note About Price…
If you’re upgrading to a cooling pillow, you may notice an increase in the average price of the pillows you’re looking at. We know it can be hard to spend money sometimes, but your pillow is a crucial part of your sleep health.
Cooling materials should be free of odors and toxins, so you may have to invest in a little bit more to get a pillow that you know is safe for you to sleep on. Also, the pillows on our list should have a life of three to five years at least, which is way better than what you’ll get out of that cheap pillow you found at the big box store.
You probably don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars, but putting a little more into your pillow gets you something safer with a longer lifespan, not to mention better performance.
And now, here are our picks for the best cooling pillow. They each have materials that work to keep your head cool and keep moisture at bay. Let’s find your next best pillow.
Nest Easy Breather Pillow – Our Top Pick
Nest’s pillow uses many of the same types of materials as their mattresses. The easy breather pillow helps you get into the right position to relieve back pain and keep your spine in the right position.
It uses Tencel for cover materials. Tencel is cooler than cotton, but still very soft. Inside, shredded memory foam gives the pillow soft comfort and moldability. Shredded memory foam allows air to flow freely through the pillow, and you can still scrunch it up underneath your neck and shoulders if you’re a stomach sleeper.
Nest wanted the pillow to mimic the way down feels, but all the materials use synthetic fabrics that are allergy resistant. It’s soft on the neck and encourages your nasal passages to open. It’s CertiPur-US certified, so you know it will have very little off-gassing.
One good thing about the Easy Breather is that you can adjust the fill level to suit your preferences. The cover zips open, so just add or remove fill as you like. It’s available in standard, queen, and king sizes.
You get to try the pillow out for 100 nights to see if it helps. Return it any time before the trial period is over for a full refund. Try to give it a few weeks so you have time to adjust. The pillow is also covered by a lifetime warranty against defects, so make sure that you don’t use the pillow for anything other than its intended purpose.
The pillow doesn’t arrive compressed, so you don’t have to wait for it to inflate before use. It uses mostly passive cooling by using Tencel and shredded memory foam. Air moves freely through the pillow and keeps you cool.
Muse – Runner-Up
Muse also uses the same types of materials in the pillow as what’s in their mattresses. The cover materials use cold wire fabric, a kind of material that actively moves heat away from your head and face to keep the surface of the pillow cooler.
There are two layers inside the pillow. The top uses shredded memory foam for soft comfort and to help your head sink into the correct position. The bottom layer is dense support foam to keep your spine aligned.
You can get the pillow in four different lofts, or depths (4, 5, 6, and 7 inches). Your pillow will depend on your preferences and your sleep position.
The cover is removable and washable, so you can really clean your pillow every so often. You can still manipulate the filling around your shoulders and neck.
The company gives you 120 nights to try your pillow out to see if it’s the right one. Try to give it at least 30 nights so you have time to adjust and the pillow can break in a little. If it doesn’t help you stay cooler, just return it for a full refund.
The company also covers the pillow against defects for three years. Make sure you use the mattress only for its intended purpose, so you don’t accidentally void the warranty.
The pillow doesn’t come compressed, so you can use it right away. It doesn’t produce any serious off-gassing, and memory foam is naturally hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant.
The pillow works through passive cooling on the interior. The materials are highly breathable, and the cold-wire cover fabric actively wicks heat and moisture away from your face. We love that we can customize the loft without losing moldability.
One of the following pillows may work better if you fall into one of these more specific categories. Let’s take a look.
Purple – Best No-Pressure Cooling Pillow
If you suffer from neck and shoulder pain, Purple’s pillow may help relieve the pressure you feel in your neck and shoulders.
Purple uses a grid layer with a hyperelastic polymer. The triangles cradle your head and redistribute the pressure across the entire surface. Your spine can decompress while your neck stays supported throughout the night with no aches or pains.
The polymer stays really cool because the grid layer is open cell. As you move around, there’s constant airflow to keep the surface cool. The material can give way where it needs to, but you never lose support underneath your neck. It doesn’t break down or lose its shape. Instead of compression, you get a soft, comfortable pillow.
It can take some getting used to. It’s heavy, about ten pounds, and feels a bit like jelly. There’s no need to fluff the pillow to improve support or to get a fresh side of the pillow. It’s firmer around the edges and softer in the middle. If you have trouble with pain in your neck or head, or if you can’t quite find a supportive enough pillow as a side sleeper, this should help relieve that pressure.
You can try the pillow out for 100 nights. It can take some time to get used to the weight and feeling of the pillow, so try to give it at least 30 nights. Your body will have time to adjust. If you decide it isn’t the right one for you, just return it before the sleep trial is over.
Purple covers the pillow for one year against defects. Make sure your pillow is only used for its intended purpose, so you don’t accidentally void the warranty. It arrives wrapped in plastic, but not compressed, so it’s ready for you right out of the box.
Ghost Pillow – Best All Foam Core Cooling Pillow
Ghostbed’s pillow is an all foam core that uses a cooling, open-cell memory foam to provide firmer support. It’s great for combination sleepers because you don’t need to keep remolding the pillow underneath your head and neck.
When you unpack the pillow, it has the faint smell of lavender. Lavender is relaxing and thought to help soothe the body to sleep. The Tencel cover is removable, but we recommend spot cleaning the pillow to prevent damaging the memory foam. The foam bounces back quickly as you move from position to position.
It uses open cell memory foam to force air through the pockets as you move around. It also uses gel-infused foam to encourage cool temperatures. It actively wicks heat and moisture away from your head and neck to disperse it throughout the pillow. Phase change technology keeps you cool when you’re hot and warm when you’re cold.
If you have unusually broad shoulders, you may need a second pillow to raise it up a little bit. If you like a super fluffy pillow, you may not be pleased with Ghost Pillow, but it has medium-firm support. If you like a solid pillow that doesn’t shift around a lot, this one is a good choice.
It has a 101-night sleep trial, so you can decide if switching to a dense foam core is the right option for you. Give it at least a few weeks so your body can adjust and the pillow can break in a little bit. If you decide it isn’t the right one, just return it before the trial period is over.
It comes with a five-year warranty against pillow defects. As long as you aren’t doing anything crazy to your pillow, it should be covered if you notice any unusual indentions or sagging.
Malouf Z Travel Pillow – Best Cooling Travel Pillow
Once you switch to a cooling pillow, it’s hard to leave it behind if you’re traveling. If you need a travel pillow, Malouf’s is a combination of gel and memory foam with a medium firm feeling. The design is compressible, so it’s easier to pack.
It uses open cell memory foam to improve breathability. When you move around, you push air through the pockets in the memory foam to refresh the pillow. It has a gel square that actively moves heat away from your head and returns the surface of the pillow to ambient room temperature sooner.
The cover is a rayon blend that’s ultra-soft and removable. You shouldn’t have any trouble compressing the pillow to get it packed. The company doesn’t offer a trial period, but depending on where you purchase the pillow you should ask about the return policy.
It is covered by a manufacturer’s warranty against defects. Make sure you aren’t using your pillow for anything except its intended purpose so that you don’t accidentally void the warranty.
The dimensions of the travel pillow are 16 inches by 12 inches by 4 inches. It’s slightly smaller than a standard sized pillow.
Cooling pillows may be the final link between you and your best night of sleep. If you’ve got temperature troubles, just upgrading a mattress may not be enough to keep you comfortable all night.
Stop torturing your family. You can turn down the air conditioner all you want, but you aren’t going to solve your temperature issues if you keep using your old pillow. You need something very breathable and preferably with materials that help wick heat and sweat away from your head.
Some of the pillows, you may have to get used to not being able to mold underneath you. However, our top choices give you the option to mold them. And with one epic, cooling travel pillow, you shouldn’t have to ever be without your cooling pillow again.