The Ultimate Pillow Guide
There’s no doubt about it; pillows affect sleep quality just as much as mattresses.
It makes no wonder when you consider that pillows are where you lay your head every night. Without pillows, you’d be laying flat, a position that offers no support when sleeping on your back and side.
Even if you don’t always sleep with pillows, you’ll be thankful for them when you need them. We think every bed needs pillows because they unlock various sleeping positions that improve sleep quality and comfort.
This ultimate pillow guide will help you invest in the right pillows, so you can get the most from them and enjoy a great night’s sleep.
Let’s jump right in.
Hypoallergenic vs anti-allergenic pillows
No one wants pillows they’re allergic to. Thankfully, you can get hypoallergenic and anti-allergenic pillows that promise no allergic reaction.
What’s the difference between hypoallergenic and anti-allergenic?
- Hypoallergenic pillows have a tightly woven cover so no dust, dust mites and pet dander can penetrate it.
- Anti-allergenic pillows have an anti-allergy spray treatment at the factory, neutralising allergens or sealing the fabric.
Some bedding is both hypoallergenic and anti-allergenic. For example, some of our duvets are hypoallergenic with an anti-allergenic treatment.
Pillow cover materials
Pillow covers are the outer fabric on the pillow. You will probably cover this up with a pillowcase, but you can still feel the texture and smoothness of the fabric underneath, and here lies the difference between luxury and budget pillows.
- Cotton: The softest natural fabric with excellent softness, often sold as Egyptian cotton and organic cotton. The quality of the cover is determined not by the type of cotton but the thread account – higher thread count = better cover.
- Polyester: A relatively soft synthetic fabric often used as a substitute for cotton. It’s cheaper than cotton, but soft, pliable, and more durable than cotton despite being inexpensive.
- Polycotton: A polyester-cotton blend usually in a 50-50 ratio. Polycotton merges the softness of cotton with the durability of polyester. It’s nearly as soft as cotton and feels significantly nicer than pure polyester.
- Microfibre: The softest of all synthetic pillowcase materials, microfibre is exceptionally soft and subtle. It’s less breathable than cotton but more breathable than polyester – a good choice at any price.
- Polypropylene: A water-resistant pillowcase material reserved for budget pillows due to its low price. Scratchier than polyester and not as soft, it’s used in hospitals, bedsits, student accommodation and temporary housing.
Fillings determine the thickness and weight of pillows as different fillings have different densities when packed. Fillings also determine comfort, loftiness, breathability and feel, so your choice of filling is an important one.
- Hollowfibre: The most common filling in pillows, hollowfibre is popular for a reason – it’s great to sleep on. It’s lightweight, breathable, lofty and springy, and it can’t hold moisture, making it ideal for muggy nights.
- Microfibre: A synthetic down substitute, microfibre is loftier than hollowfibre and holds more air, creating an airy pillow. You can fluff a microfibre pillow like a down pillow, with no fears about allergies or animal cruelty.
- Down and feather: A natural filling made with animal ingredients, down and feather is slowly being fazed out due to ethical concerns. However, it offers a sublime sleep, with outstanding loftiness and cushioning.
- Microbeads: Offers you the same sensation as a beanbag. Most people don’t like the sound of microbeads or the feel of them, but there’s no denying the comfort, with the beads conforming to the shape of your head.
Pillow comfort scale
Pillows are rated on a comfort scale of firm, medium and soft. Some pillow brands go further with firm-medium, medium-soft and super-soft, but this incremental scale confuses things. We recommend sticking to the following scale:
- Firm: A pillow that will compress up to around 30% under your head. Ideal for side sleepers and back sleepers who need extra support.
- Medium: A pillow that will compress by around 50% under your head. Ideal for back sleepers and occasional side sleepers.
- Soft: A pillow that will compress by around 70% under your head. Ideal for front sleepers and people who like to sleep flat.
If you don’t know what to get, go for a medium pillow and use it as a baseline to figure out what you like. Most people use a combination of pillows. The most common combination is a firm and soft pillow. We sell pillows individually and in sets.
Yes, pillows come in more than one type. There are over a dozen different types of pillows, although only a few are common.
- Regular pillows: These are the rectangular pillows on your bed.
- U-shape pillows: These are half the length of your body, used during maternity and to snuggle up to something. U-shape pillows are firm and supportive.
- V-shape pillows: Similar to U-shape pillows but shorter and shaped in a V. V-shape pillows are specially shaped for sitting upright in bed.
- Bolster pillows: Cigar-shaped pillows used for firm support and elevation, such as leg elevation to improve circulation.
Pillow protectors are accessories that protect pillows from stains and spills, keeping them clean and fresh for longer. Most people think pillow protectors are a waste of time, but they are essential when you have expensive pillows.
- Waterproof protectors: Made from polyester, waterproof pillow protectors are rigid with poor breathability. However, they protect pillows very well.
- Quilted protectors: Made from cotton or polycotton, quilted pillow protectors give budget and mid-range pillows a luxurious texture and feel.
- Anti-allergy protectors: These use either hypoallergenic fabric (such as tight-weave cotton) or have an anti-allergy coating applied at the factory.
We sell pillow sets with pillow protectors, so we have you covered if you want pillow protectors. Are they worth it? In short, yes. Pillow protectors can make budget pillows feel mid-range and protect them from stains and spills.
Buy the perfect pillows today
Now you know everything there is to know about pillows, it’s time to get some. We sell a wide range of pillows to get you started. Check out our range here.