5 Things to Know Before Buying a Pillow
Follow these tips from CR’s experts to find the best pillow for the way you sleep
Choose the wrong pillow and you could literally lose sleep over it.
There are myriad fills and degrees of firmness, and prices range from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars. Indeed, it can be tricky—and expensive—to find just the right one for you.
Here, Consumer Reports pillow experts reveal the most crucial things you need to know before you buy a new pillow. Our extensive pillow tests combine technical assessments—including measuring 1,600 pressure points for proper head support—and real-world evaluations from a panel of human subjects on factors such as a pillow’s feel and comfort level. For more on how we test pillows, see our pillow buying guide.
1. Be picky about firmness. Do you sleep mostly on your back, your side, or your stomach? Generally, if you’re a side sleeper, you want a fuller pillow that makes up for the gap between the bed and your upper back and shoulder blades. It’ll help keep your neck aligned with your spine rather than angled to avoid any strain, says Joel Press, M.D., physiatrist-in-chief at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Back sleepers need flatter pillows since that gap is smaller, due to the curve of the upper back and shoulder blades. If you sleep on your stomach, a thin pillow is enough to keep your neck’s natural curve.
And don’t just rely on the manufacturer’s label for how firm a pillow is. Press down on the pillow to gauge its true firmness. Shake, fluff, squeeze, and even lay on it if you can to get a feel for what you’re buying. For pillows that are made of a loose filling—instead of a slab of foam—check whether it maintains its shape after you fluff it, and whether there any lumpy spots. You want a pillow that maintains a uniform shape and thickness.
Best Pillows From CR's Tests
Read on for a closer look at the top pillows from our tests, listed in alphabetical order. For even more options, see our pillow ratings.