While I’ve tried many different pillows over the years, here is my personal opinion about six common types available in stores and online:
1) Down Pillows ($50-300) – These are very luxurious to the touch. Many fine hotels use goose down to impress their guests. The problem, however, is that they are not uniformly supportive. They’re great for pillow fights, but will inevitably strain your neck muscles and spinal joints, so I recommend against sleeping on them.
2) TempurPedic Cervical Pillow ($100-200) – People are tempted to think that if the pillow is expensive, it must be good. When I used this memory foam pillow in 2002, I woke up with neck pain and sternum soreness every morning for a week. Many people use these and love them though, so if you’re strictly a back-sleeper, this pillow is okay. It’s not good for side-sleepers. There are a variety of structural problems within the neck that can make using this pillow unpleasant, so I generally do not recommend it to patients.
3) Atlas-T Pillow ($140) – This brand of pillow is available for purchase online. I tested it out and while I believe it’s decent for back-sleepers, I don’t recommend it for anyone who sleeps on their side. The slope does not offer any room for your shoulder in a side-lying position. For this reason, it’s not on my “recommended” list.
4) Therapeutica ($60-120) – I consider this the “training wheels” of pillows and recommend it for people who are trying to learn how to stop sleeping on their stomachs. It comes in a variety of “custom” sizes from petite to extra large. This is the brand of pillow I use in the resting suite at my St Louis chiropractic office. I know it’s shaped differently than conventional pillows, but my patients really enjoy resting on it, and frequently ask me if they can take it home! It’s great for back and side-sleepers alike. Here’s how to determine the right size. If you want to buy one, they’re sold here.
5) Latex Pillow ($40-70) – When I tell patients about latex pillows, most tell me they never knew these even existed. A family member of mine likes them so much that she brings one with her whenever she travels. They’re supportive and comfortable for both back and side-sleepers, and generally won’t abnormally flex the neck in either direction. An added benefit is that latex doesn’t break down very easily, so these pillows should last for many years. Whenever a patient asks me what type of pillow they should be using, this is it – here’s the one I use. It’s the firm low-loft size. I found a nearly identical version of this pillow here that’s a bit cheaper. UPDATE: The popularity of this article has contributed to the radically increased demand on these pillows. Here’s a link to the most affordable low-loft/firm latex pillow available.
6) D-Core Pillow ($17-30) – I had high hopes for this pillow when I first tried it… but I found that when resting supine, my head tended to lean to one side or the other because of the angled slope of the D-Core. This put tension asymmetrically on one side of my neck, and could easily induce strain and discomfort in someone who falls asleep in this position. The other problem I had with it involved its durability. The material within the pillow seemed to breakdown very quickly. These are also referred to as Tri-Core pillows.