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You’ve made the switch to memory foam, and now it’s time to sort out your pillow. The same benefits of memory foam apply to your pillow. The right memory foam can be cooling, supportive, and resist compression.
Upgrading your standard pillow to memory foam is usually a good move, but if you want to know how to choose the right one (and a few of our favorite options), we’ve got answers in our best memory foam pillow roundup.
What’s So Great About Memory Foam?
You may not think much about your head and shoulders, but they need just as much support as the rest of your body. If your pillow isn’t supportive, it can cause your neck to lay in a strange position and knock your spine out of alignment.
Memory foam molds to your particular shape, allowing your head to sink a little further into the foam while filling in around the gap at your neck. This keeps your spine straight instead of curved and prevents compression that causes loss of support.
How Do I Choose A Memory Foam Pillow?
There are a few things to consider when you’re choosing.
Type Of Foam
You can get solid memory foam pillows and shredded memory foam. Solid memory foam is good for people who need more support because the dense foam doesn’t mold or compress as much as shredded foam. The downside is that solid foam is difficult to keep cool, and you need to be very particular about the depth depending on your sleep position.
Shredded memory foam has more loft and feels more like a traditional pillow. It’s frequently cooler and a good option for side sleepers who prefer a thicker pillow. It can still experience some compression, requiring you to mold the pillow periodically.
Memory foam has a reputation for being hot. Memory foam pillows aren’t any different than their mattress counterparts here. If you have to turn the pillow over for better temperature, it’s going to keep you awake at night.
Open cell foams are better at temperature regulation because air pockets continually force fresh air through the pillow as you change positions.
Some pillows use gel-infused foams to actively draw heat away from your head and redistribute it throughout the pillow. They also wick moisture away to evaporate creating a cooler feeling throughout the pillow.
Other types of phase change materials can also help with temperature. These conduct heat quickly away from the source (aka you) and distribute it throughout the pillow, creating a cool to the touch feeling that never goes away. If you sleep hot, you want to follow the same temperature regulation as you would with a mattress, or you’ll still wake up hot and sweaty.
Your sleep position determines the type of depth of your pillow. Side sleepers need a much deeper pillow to account for shoulder width. If you have unusually broad shoulders, you’ll need an even deeper pillow.
If you’re a stomach sleeper, you’ll need a firm but flatter pillow. The pillow should support your head but prevent tipping it back, so your spine doesn’t curve. Back sleepers can have a flat to medium pillow depending on body construction, but again, the pillow should fill in gaps around the neck without pushing the head too far forward.
Even if you have the same sleep position, you may not have precisely the same pillow requirements. If you have really broad shoulders, the loft on your pillow may need to be bigger and firmer to accommodate it. If your shoulders are narrow, your loft will be slightly lower.
If you’re heavier than average, you may need a longer pillow such as a kingsize to accommodate your shoulder width as well. The weight of your head and neck could cause more compression than the average person, so be sure to check the width and depth.
We won’t lie. There are some very expensive memory foam pillows out there. We understand that you might be on a budget, but before you decide to let the cost be the sole determiner of your next pillow, we have a few suggestions.
Ultra-cheap pillows are just waiting to break down. You might be lucky even to get a few months of use before they start to lose their support and compress more than you’d like. Before long, you’re left with a flat pancake in a pillowcase.
Spending a little more on your pillow may increase its durability.
More expensive foams could be better quality and resist breaking down under nightly stress. They also contain fewer emissions and toxins because they aren’t solely a petroleum byproduct.
Price doesn’t guarantee high-quality materials, but you’re more likely to get a better product if you expand your budget a bit.
Memory foam can have some pretty toxic chemicals. Memory foam is a byproduct of petroleum, but newer forms replace some of that with plant-based products. These have fewer VOCs and emissions that can irritate your respiratory system.
Look for products that are certified as low emissions. CertiPur-US and Greenguard Gold are two important certifications to look for. You might also check on certifications for the cover materials because things like cotton can carry many pesticides.
It’s also helpful if a company has a lower carbon footprint during production and ships from the United States (or has distribution in your home country) because this can cut down on the environmental strain from shipping. Plus, you don’t have to wait as long.
Sleep Trial And Warranty
If at all possible, find a pillow that has a sleep trial. Sleep trials can help you figure out if you’ve got the right pillow. Different body types can react differently to different pillows, so having some time to try the pillow out is an excellent way to know you’ve got the right one without having to risk too much.
Ideally, the sleep trial should last at least three months, so you can have a month to sleep on the pillow. That’s how long it could take your body to adjust to a new sleep situation.
Warranties are also important. Pillows have a life expectancy of three to five years, so a warranty that covers at least part of that period can help keep things working in your favor.
Double check sleep trials and warranties before you make a decision, so you know that your needs are met.
And now our top picks for best memory foam pillow. These offer excellent solutions for your neck and shoulder pain and help you get to sleep a little bit faster.
Muse’s pillow is a unique memory foam that uses a combination of shredded and solid memory foam. It comes in four different lofts, so you can choose what you need based on your sleep position and shoulder width. If you aren’t sure what loft to do, it has a handy quiz to help guide you.
The diamond breeze cover is the same that’s used on the mattress, and it actively draws heat away from your head to distribute it throughout the mattress. The entire pillow is very cooling and never loses support due to compression.
It has very few emissions or VOCs, so you shouldn’t have issues with respiratory reactions. It comes uncompressed wrapped lightly in plastic. Allowing the pillow to air out can reduce any small, lingering odors from shipment.
One of the best things about the Muse is you can try it out for 120 days to see if the loft and the pillow itself is the right one for you. Give the pillow a few weeks to see if it improves your sleep because it can take some time for your body to adjust and for the pillow itself to break in. It’s also covered by a three-year warranty against pillow defects.
- 120-night sleep trial
- three-year warranty
- four different lofts for different sleep positions
- quite an investment
- might be too firm for some
Puffy’s shredded option feels more like a regular pillow and is intended for combination support. It’s filled with shredded memory foam inside an insert. You can customize the loft to fit your particular sleep style.
The cover is a blend of bamboo polyester that stays a lot cooler than cotton and is better than cotton at wicking moisture away from your head. The shredded foam stays cool by allowing maximum air flow.
You can machine wash the cover, cutting down on toxins and other allergens. The foam is CertiPur-US certified as having low emissions and VOCs, so overall the pillow is a good choice if you’re plagued with allergies. Memory foam is also naturally allergen and dust mite resistant.
Shipping is free, and you get 101 nights to try the pillow out. Make sure you give it at least a few weeks to allow the pillow to break in and for your body to adjust. It can take time for old pains to subside.
If you have very broad shoulders, it may not have firm enough support, but it is somewhat moldable to fit under your neck and shoulders. It is an excellent option for those of you who don’t like the feeling of solid memory foam but find traditional pillow fills less supportive.
- shredded memory foam feels more like a traditional pillow
- the loft is suitable for combination sleepers
- loft is customizable
- may not be firm enough for those with very broad shoulders
The Vecelo memory foam pillow is contoured to fit into your neck and shoulder and support your head while never experiencing compression. The curves help keep your body in position, and it’s great for side sleepers who experience neck and shoulder pain.
Both sides have different levels of loft. One side is larger for side sleeper while the other is lower and better for back sleepers. We wouldn’t recommend it for stomach sleepers because it may bend your neck back to an awkward position.
It has a heavier smell than the other pillows on the list, so you should air it out well before you begin to use it. It ships in plastic and may retain that smell for a few days. There’s no sleep trial, and for warranty information, you should contact the seller directly.
However, it’s a budget option for those who want a more supportive pillow, but don’t want to spend a considerable amount to get one. You can try the memory foam out, and if you don’t like it, you aren’t out that much.
The contour is excellent for those who don’t move around very often through the night and might not wake up to be able to remold the pillow to better support you. Instead, the curves nestle into the crook of your neck, and the pillow never loses support.
- contoured specifically for side or back sleepers
- solid foam never loses shape
- zippered, washable cover
- heavier smell
- may not suit stomach sleepers
The Ghost pillow comes from Ghostbed, and it’s a solid memory foam pillow infused with cooling gel. It’s good for back sleepers because the solid foam provides excellent support without tipping the head forward.
The pillow uses ventilated foam with plenty of air pockets that force air through the mattress as you move around to refresh it continuously. The gel actively draws heat away from your body and disperses it throughout the pillow, so you get a cooler night’s sleep without flipping it over.
You can remove the fabric by unzipping it, and it’s machine washable and dry-able. This keeps the surface of the pillow free from allergens and cleans off any facial oils that could irritate your skin.
The design is intended to keep your spine aligned and to work with your mattress to make sure your head is supported. It’s medium firmness and best for back sleepers or those who prefer a low to medium loft pillow.
It has a light lavender scent when you first unpack it, but there’s also a faint memory foam odor that will have to be aired out. It’s somewhat expensive and not customizable. There’s only one loft, so if you don’t like it, that’s it.
It comes with a 101-night trial and a five-year warranty. Make sure you give the pillow a few weeks before you decide so that your body can adjust.
- gel-infused foam stays very cool
- best for back sleepers with neck pain
- the faint lavender scent is calming.
- only one loft available
- faint memory foam smell
Our last pillow is a memory foam pillow with side ventilation to help air the pillow out as you sleep. Side ventilation keeps you cool and helps wick moisture away to dry quickly. It’s affordable and gives you medium firm support for back or stomach sleepers.
The knit cover is breathable and cool. It zips off and goes right in the washing machine and dryer to keep things clean. The foam is CertiPur-US certified, so there’s very little odor or emissions. Memory foam is naturally allergen and dust mite resistant. It puts your head in the ideal position to keep your spine aligned and remove pressure.
There’s a 30-day sleep trial, and so be sure you give it a few days to break in and allow your body to adjust. It does have a ten-year warranty against mattress defects, so you’re covered. Make sure you only use your pillow for its intended purpose, so you don’t accidentally void the warranty.
It may not offer as much support for side sleepers because of the loft style, so make sure you know what you’re getting.
- side ventilation for better air flow
- good for back or stomach sleepers
- CertiPur-US certified
- not as much support for side sleepers
Switching to memory foam may help solve some of your pain and sleep issues. Getting one with excellent temperature regulation and the right kind of support can round out your mattress and give you better support for your whole body.
Some of you may be reluctant to spend more than the minimum amount on a pillow, but your pillow is just as crucial as your mattress. Spending a little more often translates into more durability and longer life. Also, many of these more expensive pillows have protections in place such as long sleep trials and warranties that can help cover any mattress defects.
Make sure you consider your sleep position and body type as well as temperature regulation, and you could finally get your sleep life in order. Trust us. Don’t neglect your pillow and don’t shortchange yourself. You stand to gain a whole new lease on life.
How’s your current pillow situation? Are you willing to switch to memory foam or are you settled on your traditional pillow? Tell us all about it in the comments below.