My Opinion on 6 Types of Sleeping Pillows

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 low-loft size. I found a nearly identical version of this pillow here that’s a bit cheaper.

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.

71 Responses to “My Opinion on 6 Types of Sleeping Pillows”

  1. Your opinion made me think. I own a company that manufactures cervical support pillows. My company is not in any way affiliated with any of the pillows you spoke of. Your analysis for pillow number 6 left me wondering. Was your head resting in the center portion or on the side portion of the pillow? I understand that the side portion has a slope the runs down to the center area. Was the slope I just mentioned the issue you spoke about? Durability has a lot to do with fitting the patient with the correct pillow size and density level. The D Core pillow gives fiber support pillows … a bad reputation. Thank you for this opportunity to place my comment.

    • Thank you for taking time to comment, David. In answer to your question, my head was resting in the middle of the pillow, but when I woke up my head was turned, supported by the angular slope on the side.

  2. Do you have any thoughts about the delux comfort side sleeper pillow? The design seems a bit more user friendly, but at 99.00, I hate to just try it out.

  3. I bought the latex pillow you recommended and love it. Thank you!

  4. For the latex pillow, do you recommend the low loft plush or low loft firm? Thanks in advance.

  5. I’m looking into the Z pillow and they offer a shredded version of it…saying it provides better airflow etc. Do you think this will be equally good as the one you’ve recommended? i’m a back and side sleeper. Thx!

  6. I was thinking the high loft plush on the latex pillow you recommended for back sleepers. The plush for softer feel on your head and high loft to allow your head to sink but only to the neutral position of the head and neck in relation to the shoulders and thereby giving you the support you need.

    David

  7. Thanks for this awesome analysis of pillows! I am a massage therapist and find that my clients have benefited greatly after finding the “right” pillow. Your information helps so much!

  8. I am enjoying your blog & the info. Good job.

  9. Good blog. Great information. Thanks for providing it and related comments. I’m going to try your pillow.

  10. Hi Kathy, I have not ever tried the enVy pillow. But thanks for introducing me to it. I’ll look into it.

  11. Any word on MyPillow and Mediflow brands?

    I’ve also heard good things about pillows filled with buckwheat hulls

    • Carson,

      I’m not a fan of the “MyPillow” or buckwheat pillows. The Mediflow “Water base” pillows are so-so. I want to like them, but grew tired of it in a short period of time.

  12. Thank you, Doctor, for the great info you post. I had a CF of 2-3-4-5, with full nerve damage, which makes sleeping very difficult. I was looking to purchase a latex pillow, but after reading your mattress recommendation regarding memory foam mattress toppers, I was wondering what your opinion is of the Z dough memory foam pillow? Do you believe it is similar to the latex or a close enough fit? Pricing between both is extreme. On a different note, I did purchase a while back a buckwheat pillow–you are correct, it lasted two weeks. The destruction happened when I put it in the dryer to refreshen and the hulls burst out the seams. Tried feathers, made my neck pain worse. Thanks again and I look forward to your posts. May I have your permission with credits to reprint this in our weekly newspaper where I am editor?

    • Karen, I’m not thrilled with the contour of the Z Dough Memory Foam. So for that reason, it’s not one I recommend.

      Please feel free to reprint the article in your newspaper. I’d love a link/copy of the article if you decide to run it. Thank you!

  13. It sounds like you are a back sleeper. Do you recommend the same pillow, low loft firm, for side sleepers?

  14. Help I’ve been sleeping on pillow #2 and I am a side sleeper but I also need good neck support. I am very tall and have neck pain. What pillow besides the latex is out there for me?

    • Ona, try the Therapeutica… If you’re “very tall” (6’6″ or above), you’re probably going to get the most comfort from a large or X-large size.

      • What is a good pillow for a female that is 5″2. I always wake up with a stiff neck and shoulder. I tend to go from my back to my side all night. Can’t seem to find a good pillow. All I do is ivest in pillows. So far, I have not found a good one! Help
        !!!!

      • Joyce, if you’re constantly waking up with a stiff neck and shoulder, it might not be the pillow… It could be your sleep position, number of pillows you’re using, a poor mattress, or a spinal issue. The “petite” Therapeutica is tiny — good for someone your height.

  15. I grew up with latex pillows, but have now developed an allergy. Do you have a source of non-latex foam pillows? Kathy

  16. I ask my wife what she wanted for Xmas and she told me a chiropractic pillow because her neck was hurting. Mine also does and I use to sleep on my stomach but I wear a cpap mask now and I can’t sleep on my stomach. So my question to you is where can I buy these pillows? Thank you

  17. I am a petite woman (4’11) and looking to get the latex pillow you recommended for my side-sleeping. Which pillow would you recommend for me?

  18. Brenda Trost Reply 01/22/2013 at 14:08

    I have constant neck pain, especially upon waking. I have tried dozens of pillows but cannot find one that works for me. I alternate between side and back sleeping. I also need to find one for my husband who snores very loudly. Which latex pillow (or other) would you recommend?
    Thanks

  19. I was in Bed Bath and Beyond this weekend and came across a wool pillow. It’s heavy and made with lots of wool, cotton, and a synthetic core I believe. It looked like it could be really comfortable. Have you ever tried these? I’ve been using a cervical pillow for a long time but now I wake up with neck pain. I am a back and side sleeper. I sleep on a TempurPedic mattress and find that only certain pillows work with this mattress.

  20. Thank you so much for the information. I have a lot of neck pain both going to bed and when i wake up (and subsequently throughout the day). I have had physiotherapy, massage therapy, IMS treatment etc.but nothing seems to help. I have tried countless pillows but cant seem to find one thats comfortable. After reading your recommendation on the latex pillows i will definitely try this one next – i have just one question – which one would you recommend for me as I have a very long thin neck? (part of the problem in the first place unfortunately).
    Thanks a lot for your help.

  21. Diane Eardley Reply 03/28/2013 at 11:13

    You also have me seriously thinking of getting the Latex pillow. I have tried a few others you reviewed, and I agree with you on all of them. I am a side sleeper and woke up with horrible pain using those. I have a serious old childhood whiplash and so much pain with the wrong pillow. Right now I am using a $200 pillow which is comfortable — but I’m in pain so….I’m off to try the Latex one. Thank you for the advice. I am almost ready to get that contraption that allows one to sleep sitting up because it prevents the head from falling in any direction. I’d rather not sleep sitting up, though!

  22. Nicole Allcock Reply 03/29/2013 at 19:16

    Hi. I am a side sleeper. Average size / height for a woman. Every morning I wake up with dull “sinus” type headaches. Occasionally occipital, but mostly generalized sinus headaches, and I just don’t feel rested. What would be a good option if I am allergic to Latex?

  23. Dr. Adam, I wake up every morning in pain and I know it’s because of sleeping position/pillows. I have a straight neck (20 yr old total reversal of neck curvature/whiplash), TMJ with associated neuralgia (hard pillows, rolled up towels, and beads tend to make nueralgia flare up), arthritis forming between my shoulder blades, low back issues (tailbone injury), severe and constant allergies and a deviated septum. Because of my deviated septum the only way for me to get a really good nights sleep is on my right side. If I try to sleep on my back I’ve got post nasal drip and coughing fits, occasionally have woken up feeling like I was drowning. For 10 years I was thrilled with a spcific brand of contour pillow, although I would have to replace it every other year. Unfortunately they have since changed the pillows specifications and it no longer works the same. I have tried the medi flow pillows, neck rolls, tons of other brands of contour pillows, down, polyester, the perfect pillow, and several pillows supposedly made for side sleepers. I’ve lost count of how much money I have spent but I’m sure it’s actually into the thousands by now considering that several were over $100.00 each. I’ve read that you recommend Latex but I’m allergic to latex is there anything that you can think of for me?

  24. I ordered a Latex pillow at Sears, but as soon as I got it, I KNEW it was too soft for me. I need firmness under my neck. I also need to sleep on my side or I choke on my back (thyroid heavy). I might try that enVy pillow you recommend. I am currently using an expensive Sleep Number pillow that ‘breathes’. Do you have any opinions on the ContourSide Pillow by Relax The Back®?

  25. Beth Melendez Reply 04/24/2013 at 18:51

    Dr. Tanase – thanks for all of the advice. I am a side sleeper who has been having neck pain for a bit now. I have a cervical pillow that is just not working. I am going to try the latex pillow based on all of this great discussion. Thanks so much for the advice.

  26. Diane Eardley Reply 05/11/2013 at 20:22

    I have to THANK YOU for recommending this enVY pillow, because I’ve been sleeping on it for over 2 weeks now and have not woken up in pain once from it. I definitely love it. It keeps my head stable all night long. I used to wake up in pain almost every morning, so this pillow is now my favorite. I sleep so soundly for the first time in probably a couple decades.

  27. I’m one of those who bought the expensive Tempur pillow and am utterly dissatisfied. What do you recommend for a side sleeper with terrible neck/upper shoulder pain please?

  28. Hello Dr.,
    Thank you for this great information. I’m ready to order the latex pillow you recommended but I am a side sleeper and I’m uncertain that the low-loft firm will be correct. I need my pillow to be squishy and yet supportive but not too wide because I don’t have wide shoulders. I have terrible neck pain and I feel certain it is in large part because I can’t find the right pillow. Please advise- I’m leaning toward the high loft- plush. Thanks!

    • Emma, the “firm” isn’t stiff. Latex is naturally very spongy. Choose whichever makes the most sense to you, but I still recommend the low-loft firm in this case.

  29. What pillow recommendations would you have for side sleeping, with TMJ, on a GERD wedge? PIllows don’t work the same when bed is flat compared to being inclined because torso and neck are not horizontal. Can you respond by email please?

  30. Do you have any thoughts on the SleepRight Side Sleeping Pillow? I sleep on my side, have TMJ from grinding my teeth and have neck pain from trigger points in my levator scapulae. Based on you article I was also thinking about the low loft latex.

    • Denise,

      I’ve tried the SleepRight pillow… and I think it’s a very well made pillow — but when compared to others I’ve tested, it’s not in my top 5.

  31. I suffer from congenital torticollis in my neck and I’m having a hard time with finding the right pillow. Would you recommended latex foam for me or something different? any advice would be greatly appreciated!! thank you

  32. Billie Seguin Reply 07/25/2013 at 05:09

    right now i have 17 pillows in my house and cant find the right one yet im mostly a side sleeper and then back my problem is when i sleep on my side my arms tend to go numb obviously because i am not sleeping right on pillow i need something that doesnt raise my head too much when on my side and when on my back dont want my chin touching chest which pillow would you think i need i have very broad shoulders

  33. Hi Dr. Tanase,
    I didn’t see the response to the post from the 4’11″ woman who was looking for the right pillow. I too am 4’11. I have tried several kinds to find support and comfort. I toss and turn, and wake up sore. I sleep all over, but primarily on my side. The latex pillow looks like it might be too tall..? I would appreciate your input. Pillow shopping is frustrating!

  34. In the last year I have started to develop some neck and shoulder pain. Even have some jaw pain. Ive noticed here lately that sleeping is becoming more painful. I am now in the hunt for a pillow that can help or at the least will not exacerbate the issue. I have research and read closely and am torn between the latex and the enVY pillows. I am a side sleeper and a stomach sleeper but I currently am trying to train myself to not sleep on my stomach. I have always avoided firm pillows but at this point I will try anything. Any advice would be great.

  35. I wanted to say thank you for the information on your site. I suffer from Cervical Dystonia/Spasmodic Torticollis for over two years now and have a rough time sleeping due to the daily neck pain. In addition, my husband hurt his back and neck about six weeks ago and his difficulty sleeping has made it almost impossible for me to get more than 2-4 hours of sleep a night. I was thinking that a new mattress might help him out (and therefore, help me out) and I found your site while doing research. While I decide between a new mattress and a mattress topper (had not considered that until I read more about them in your mattress section) I ordered a new pillow for me (low-loft firm). My goal is for us not to end up in twin beds like Ricky and Lucy and am willing to try anything. Cross your fingers for me and thanks again.

  36. Jason Brenner Reply 01/31/2014 at 13:25

    Great website. I have a bulding disc c5-6 with some narrowing (not warranting surgery yet thankfully). Neck pain and cervical radiculopathy for the past year, back sleeper. I used to use the low loft firm latex pillow which was great for several months but then it stopped working for me and neck pain came back. I tried to purchase a new latex pillow and it still caused pain. Have also tried the therapeutica pillow and a couple of fiberfill cervical pillows which did not work as well. I honestly do not like memory foam pillows. Very frustrated as I feel I have tried every pillow out there and cannot find one that works (or works for only a short time then stops working). Any suggestions for a new pillow?

    • Hi Jason, it’s important to remember that if a person has underlying structural imbalance within their neck, pillows can’t undo this problem. Are you receiving any form of corrective care to address your neck?

      In the mean time, you might consider checking out the NanoBead pillow by Z. I haven’t personally used it, but it’s an affordable try-it-and-see option. Also, give the BackJoy Posture Sleep pillow a good look. Here’s a link – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00911XFGK/?tag=chthne0e-20

    • I experienced almost the same scenario, Jason, after a pillow worked for awhile. My chiropractor started doing K Laser IV Therapy on me and it has helped greatly. Right now I’m doing something and waking up pain-free. I am a side sleeper and have one of the side sleeper memory foam pillows. Its the right height. I put my cervical collar on now before bed and only lay my head down on the flat part of the pillow. None of my neck is touching the pillow, and I’ve been pain-free like this for several months so far. Dr. Tanase is so right that pillows can’t undo the problem. Sometimes, I think the necks want a break of laying on anything for awhile.

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