pillow talk

I just bought a new pillow.  And, it's one reason I can't wait to go to bed at night. The wrong pillow is like the wrong guy.  It can worsen headaches, give you neck pain as well as aggravate shoulder and arm kinks or make you go numb.  If it doesn't give you the proper support, it can ruin your night.  See what I mean?  A lot like the wrong guy . . . or gal, for that matter.  Bad pillows can even make you sneeze, wheeze or otherwise provide other discomforts that rob you of your sleep.

Pillow Toss

Industry experts say shell out the money for a new pillow every 12 to 18 months.  Here is why: after just two years, they may contain lots of undesirables:  mold, mildew, fungus, and dust mites. Not a good idea right next to your face.  And if you have a family, replacing those pillows can get expensive.    So best to research and make the best choice for you.

Take a Position

Before you buy a new pillow, think about your sleep position.  Are you stomach, back or side?  Pick one and read on.

Specialist such as physical therapists and such advise choosing pillows that keep your head aligned with your shoulders without your head bending back far or reaching forward.  Some experts disagree on what is best but look for these pillow attributes when replacing your next pillow depending on what kind of sleeper you are:


  • Very thin, almost flat 
  • No pillow at all or placed under the stomach to avoid lower back pain


  • Thin so the head is not thrown too far forward
  • Extra loft in the bottom third of the pillow to cradle your neck


  • Firmer pillow 
  • Enough loft to fill the distance between the ear and the outside shoulder


Stuff It

There is no shortage of fillings you can find to pad your pillow.  From down to foam to latex to poly-fill and the eco-smart or organic options like buckwheat and kapok that carry many health advantages like no volatile organic compounds (VOC). Here are some fillings to consider:

  • Memory foam: This filling is known to reduce pressure points by continuously molding to the shape of your body as you move throughout the night. It can make you hot, though, and emit chemical odors. There are foams with no VOCs on the market.
  • Latex/Natural Latex: This is a very firm filling to help with back and neck alignment. It can resist mold and dust mites,  The natural form is hypoallergenic.  This choice may be good for side-sleepers.
  • Wool and cotton/organic wool and cotton: These fillings are firm and hypoallergenic and resist mold, mildew and dust mites. Cotton can get flattened over time, though. Wool is especially good for regulating temperature and moisture as the fibers naturally wick moisture away from your face.  Look for chemical-free organic fillings as cotton can contain high does of pesticides.
  • Down/feather: This filling is very pliable but firm as the feathers can be moved around easily to your liking.  Many are allergic to down, however.
  • Polyester fills:  This filling mimics down but won't last as long. These fibers can contain ethylene glycol, which gets absorbed by our bodies through breathing and our skin.  It can have adverse effects on our nervous system.   
  • Buckwheat:  This filling of buckwheat hulls moves and molds to the head.  Buckwheat is also nice for air circulation and keeping your head cool. Some manufacturers of these pillows add wool or cotton to help cut down on the crunchy sound that may really annoy you when you move. On the plus side though, the hulls are naturally pesticide-free, hypoallergenic, and water resistant. 
  • Kapok:  This filling consists of silky fibers from the renewable ceiba trees, which are usually pest free and require no pesticide use. It is much softer than cotton and similar to down with no allergens.  It is fluffy and offers minimal resistance. This is a good alternative to down.
  • Millet: The hulls from millet are small and round making for a softer pillow and less um . . crunchy than a buckwheat pillow.
Pillow covers can be purchased along with your pillow for extra pillow protection or to even keep the filling intact such as the case with down and the feathers escaping.  They come in all various fabrics from cotton, organic cotton and polyester and can be washed frequently.

Where to Shop

Here are some companies to check out that carry pillows with the fillings that are more eco-friendly, organic, pesticide-free and hypoallergenic. Make sure to inquire with the company where you purchase your pillow about the best way to wash and care for it.

If you have a favorite source for pillows or can recommend a particular type, please share in the comments.  We all need our beauty rest!


  1. This is so interesting, actually! My husband and I have an ongoing battle every time I change the sheets and pillowcases - we end up in a skirmish over whether we each got the "right" pillow! Pillows really do feel different one from the next, and having just the right one makes such a big difference. Now I can be so much smarter about making good choices next time buy one!

    1. Ah, yes! My husband's pillow is rock hard and I can't even imagine getting some shut-eye with it! Happy shopping as there are so many pillows to try next time you are in the market for one . . .