Best Pillows From Consumer Reports' Tests
Which pillow, from brands including Sealy, Sleep Number, and Tempur-Pedic, will help you get better ZZZ's?
Maybe you’re hoping for better sleep this fall. Or maybe you’re prepping your guest room for visitors. A supportive mattress is just part of the equation. You also need the right pillow.
We currently rate 18 pillows from widely available brands, each poked, prodded, and pounded by machines in the lab. We assess how well each one supports the head and neck of people of various sizes—petite, average, and large/tall—whether they sleep on their side or their back. And we use a pressure mat to analyze about 1,600 pressure points, focusing on the contact area between the head and the pillow.
“You need to find a pillow that doesn’t crane your neck in any position,” says Joel Press, MD, physiatrist in chief at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “The idea is to keep your neck as neutral as possible when you sleep.”
We also evaluate how well pillows hold their shape by placing an evenly distributed 225-pound weight on each one (to simulate the human body) in a room set to 98.6° F (to mimic body heat) for 96 hours. “Some pillows will show considerable changes, but fluffing will bring the pillow back to the exact characteristics it had prior to the test,” says Chris Regan, the CR test engineer who oversees pillow testing. “Some aren’t able to bounce back.” That’s reflected in a lower resilience score.
For more on how we test pillows and some things to consider as you shop, see our pillow buying guide.
Read on for a closer look at the top pillows from our tests, listed in alphabetical order. Some are adjustable, meaning you can remove some of the filling to your liking. For more, check our pillow ratings to see how all 18 pillows perform in each of CR’s tests.
CR’s take: This Sealy pillow is made of memory foam with a gel foam on one side. It’s great if you sleep on your side but not ideal if you sleep on your back. It’s pretty firm and doesn’t really allow your head to sink into the pillow. That creates a greater angle for petite sleepers that could lead to restless sleep. This pillow holds its shape well. Despite the claim that the gel layer keeps the pillow cool, we found just the opposite in our tests. The gel layer combined with the dense memory foam makes the pillow less breathable and causes it to trap moisture. So this might not be the right pillow for you if you tend to sleep hot.
CR’s take: The Serta StayCool Gel Memory Foam is the top non-adjustable pillow in our ratings for those who want to keep it simple. It’s made of a 100 percent polyurethane foam pad and proved to be rather resilient and breathable. Side sleepers will find more than adequate support when sleeping on this pillow because it earns a Very Good rating in that test. For back-sleeper support, this pillow didn’t fare as well, earning a middling rating of Good.
CR’s take: Sleep Number’s ComfortFit Ultimate (yep, that’s the name) is made of a blend of memory foam pieces and down alternative fibers. Inside the pillow casing are three layers that can be added or removed to tailor the pillow to the level you need. It earns top support ratings for both side and back sleepers in our tests, and our testers found it to be very breathable. It’s not as resilient as some other options on this list, though, and might not hold its shape as well over time.
CR’s take: Tempur-Pedic’s Breeze Dual Queen pillow is made of two layers of gel memory foam. It’s the most expensive pillow we’ve tested. It earns an Excellent rating in our tests for side-sleeper support. But for supporting those who sleep on their back, it earns only a Good rating. In our resilience test, this pillow mostly maintains its shape. Although it has “breeze” in its name, it doesn’t allow for much airflow, so you could get sweaty sleeping on it. Note: Unlike every other pillow in our ratings, this pillow is not washable. Only its cover can be cleaned.