Best pillows – tried and tested for side, front and back sleepers

We've tried and tested the best pillows from all the leading brand names to curate our top recommendations for side sleepers, back sleepers, front sleepers, neck pain, and much much more

One of the best pillows the Ideal Home team has tried and tested - the Simba hybrid pillow - on a pink background
(Image credit: Future)

Finding the best pillows for a good night’s sleep should be easy. After all, there’s not that much science to finding a good pillow, right? 

Well, as you may have come to realise if you’re tossing and turning at night squishing your current pillow into all kinds of shapes to try and get comfy, when it comes to pillows, one size does not fit all. 

Just like when it comes to finding the best mattress, finding the best pillow for your best night’s sleep depends on several different factors. That includes your regular sleep position – i.e. whether you’re a front, back or side sleeper – if you suffer from any aches and pains, like neck pain, and what your pillow filling preferences are. 

The good news is that we’ve done the hard work for you, and tried and tested multiple pillows from a wide range of brands to find the cream of the crop. Our top recommendations are listed directly below, and we’ve broken down the basics of pillow shopping at the bottom of this guide. Happy snoozing!

Best pillows – tried and tested

Why you can trust Ideal Home Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Best pillows overall

Best pillow for side sleepers

Side sleeping is by far the most popular sleep position, which is why we've done extensive testing to find the very best pillow for this sleeping style. You'll find more options, plus in-depth buying advice in our guide to the best pillow for side sleepers.

Best pillow for back sleepers

Best pillow for front sleepers

Best memory foam pillow

Best feather and down pillow

Best pillow for neck pain

Budget buys

Where to buy the best pillows

How to choose the best pillow for your needs

It's easy to think that there isn't much to choosing a pillow, which is probably why most of us grab the cheapest two-pack of pillows we can find on the shelves. However, once neck pain, overheating, or general discomfort enter the equation it soon becomes clear there's more to finding a good pillow than meets the eye.

Finding the best pillows – or best pillow, as most experts advise against sleeping with two – for your best night’s sleep depends on a variety of different factors. That includes your regular sleep position – i.e. whether you’re a front, back or side sleeper – whether you suffer from any aches and pains, like neck pain, and whether you’re someone who tends to overheat at night.

There’s also your preference for natural materials – like cotton, down, feather, or wool – or synthetic materials – like memory foam or polyester – to factor in. Plus there’s sustainability to consider, and of course, the necessity to find the best pillows for your budget. You might also be desperately searching for an effective anti-snore pillow to silence a noisy bed partner. So what should you consider before splashing your cash in search of a better night's sleep?

A row of pillows tried and tested by Ideal Home

(Image credit: Phillip Sowels/Future Studios)

Are you a front, back or side sleeper?

Your preferred sleep position is probably one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing the best pillows for you. As James Leinhardt, sleep & posture expert and founder at pillow and mattress brand Levitex explains 'Choosing the right pillow for you is about ensuring the best possible sleeping surface for an optimised sleep posture', and that means considering your neck and spine alignment. 

Whatever position you sleep in, if you imagine a thin pipe or tube (I like to think of a hosepipe!) running from the base of your spine to the top of your head, you want that tube to be straight with no kinks around the neck area. This means you don't want a pillow that's too flat – which will mean your head dips down forming a kink in the tube – or too high – which will force your neck to arch upwards adding a different kink to the spinal pipe.

The position you sleep in will largely determine the type of pillow you need to keep your spine aligned nicely straight.

Side sleepers – if you sleep on your side then you'll want a thicker pillow – or two thinner pillows – that lift your head enough to keep your spine and neck in alignment. Finding the best pillows if you're a side sleeper can be a challenge as everyone’s shoulders are different widths – wider shoulders mean you'll need more pillow height to keep your neck straight once you're laid on your side – so sometimes it can take a little trial and error to get the correct height. A boxwall or memory foam pillow can be a good bet here as they both provide a more structured pillow that offers height but prevents your head from sinking too much.

Front sleepers – this sleep position is generally the one most frowned upon by osteopaths as unless you faceplant your pillow you're likely twisting your head to either side which isn't great for your spinal alignment and puts pressure on the neck. However, as a front sleeper myself I know it can be a hard habit to break! Front sleepers will want a softer, thinner pillow that doesn’t lift the head too far from the bed.

Back sleepers – if you sleep on your back you’ll want a mid-height pillow that sits somewhere between a thinner front-sleepers pillow and a higher-side sleepers pillow. Again it’s all about spinal alignment, you don’t want a pillow that forces the neck to arch too far upward or sink too deeply down. A memory foam pillow can offer good support, moulding to the neck to support this area, whilst allowing the head to sink slightly deeper.

A pillow laid on an upholstered bed

(Image credit: DUSK)

Which filling is best for pillows?

Spend some time looking for a new pillow and you'll soon realise there are a whole host of pillow fillings available. From hollowfibre to goose down, synthetic to natural, the array of terms and materials can fast become a little overwhelming. 

To help you get to grips with the basics, we've broken down the pros and cons of most common pillow fillings below.

First up, it's synthetic fillings. These pillows are filled with manmade fibres, like polyester and polymide that are made from petroleum-based plastics. 

Confusingly many manufacturers 'invent' their own terminology to dress things up to sound a bit more fancy, but the basic synthetic options are hollowfibre, microfibre, and memory foam.

Hollowfibre – the cheapest pillows you can buy tend to be made of hollow fibre. Made of polyester wadding, a hollow fibre pillow is dense but lightweight. A hollow fibre pillow is affordable, easy to care for as it can generally be washed at high temperatures, and anti-allergenic, which makes it a popular choice for kid's bedding. However, over time this pillow is most likely to flatten and become lumpy. Synthetics can also cause overheating and night sweats as the plastic polymer fibres aren't breathable and reflect body heat towards the sleeper, and neither production or disposal at the end of the pillow's life span (plastic is non-biodegradable) is good news from an environmental point of view.

Microfibre – the 'luxury' version of hollow fibre, a microfibre fill is made of much finer strands of polyester resulting in a very lightweight pillow with a, yes, more luxurious feel. Some compare microfibre to the feel of down, but it has the upside of not running the risk of animal cruelty. However, again, being made of synthetics, the environmental impact of production and disposal is a concern. Like hollow fibre, microfibre can also cause overheating.

Memory foam – synthetic, yet a very different beast to hollow fibre or microfibre, memory foam is a dense material that offers a much firmer sleep surface. Activated by body heat, memory foam has elastic qualities that help it to mould to your contours as you sleep. This can make it a good choice for back sleepers and those who suffer from neck pain as it ensures good support of the head and neck. However it tends to be expensive, and some can find it too hot. Like with all synthetics, there are also environmental concerns.

Then there are the more traditional, natural fillings to consider. These range from all types of feathers and down to wool filling. 

Down – long thought of as the Holy Grail filling of all the best pillows, down creates the plump, squishy and super soft feel that we perhaps all associate with the classic pillow. This natural fill is also far more breathable than a synthetic option, making for a cooler sleep. However, sourced from either duck or goose on an industrial scale, the fill can raise concerns about animal cruelty. Down pillows also can't be washed, will need more plumping, and that luxury feel comes with a luxury price tag to match.

Feather and down – a more affordable alternative to pure down, a feather and down fill bulks out down's fine softness by adding some larger feathers into the mix. Goose feather and down tends to be the most luxurious mix, with duck feather and down the more affordable (yet often a little lumpier) alternative. Generally speaking, the more you spend on a feather and down pillow the better the quality, with some cheaper options resulting in escaped down and feathers that stick through the casing. 

Wool – in our opinion, wool is a bit of a wonder fibre in terms of bedding fill. Insulating, breathable, temperature regulating, hypoallergenic, durable, a sustainable and renewable resource, and bio-degradable at the end of the product's lifespan, it ticks a whole lot of boxes when it comes to the best pillow fill choice. However, it is currently quite hard to come by except from at specialist retailers, and not all wool pillows can be washed, so it pays to double-check the manufacturer's care instructions.

A pair of pillows laid on an upholstered bed

(Image credit: DUSK)

Temperature regulation

Overheating is one of the most common reasons for disrupted sleep or night-time waking. If you regularly flip your pillow over at night looking for the cooler side, it’s likely you need a ‘cooler’ more breathable option. 

Synthetic pillow casing and fill is usually the biggest culprit if you find your pillow gets too hot in the night. Made of plastic polymers, synthetics aren’t breathable – although manufacturers try to combat this by adding in ‘spaces’ between fibres to enable airflow – so the natural heat of your head is reflected back to you, leading to overheating or a sweaty head. 

Opting for natural materials for the pillow casing and fill is the best bet for staying cool at night. Look for cotton, wool, feather, or down which are all far more breathable and so make the best pillows for those prone to overheating at night, delivering a far cooler sleep. 


What pillows do hotels use?

With down lauded as the ultimate luxury, many top-rated hotels will use down, or a feather-filled blend in their pillows. Down pillows are often also the best all-rounders when it comes to catering to a wide array of sleep positions. So while memory foam options are really good for the individual buyer, they aren't quite as versatile for multiple users.

For the full boutique feel, teaming one of the best pillows with one of the best duvets will ensure that what you're sleeping under feels just as luxurious as what you're sleeping on. 

How often should you replace your pillows? 

To ensure continued support and hygiene, experts recommend replacing your pillows every one to two years. But since you will get up close and personal with your pillow every night, a regular wash can also be necessary to ensure longevity. Our how to wash a pillow guide will make sure you don't damage it in the process.

Experts say you should wash your pillows every three to six months, so consider this when you buy. For more information on how often you should wash your pillows, read our handy guide. We love pillows with removable covers that can be tossed in the machine and even tumble-dried as is common with many foam pillows. This means you can usually wash it, dry it and sleep on it by the evening. Great if you only have one set of pillows, or you have a favourite that you struggle to sleep without.

A row of three pillows with different fillings

(Image credit: Phillip Sowels/Future Studios)

How we test pillows

You'll find the general principles of how we review products at Ideal Home on our how we test page, however, what better way to test out a pillow than to lay your head down for a nap?

To thoroughly test all the options in this round-up, the Ideal Home team of experts has tried and tested each of these pillows to find the very best night's sleep. Each pillow has been tested over multiple nights, and by a variety of reviewers; from hot sleepers looking for breathability to those with neck pain or snoring issues, and a range of front, back, and side sleepers.

To earn a place on our shortlist, each pillow has to have impressed our reviewers, proved itself good value for money, and delivered a great night's sleep.

Amy Lockwood
Ecommerce Editor

After studying Print Design at Winchester School of Art, Amy spent multiple years working in the interior industry, including styling and visual merchandising for many well-known brands. She’s now Ecommerce Editor at Ideal Home, offering expert advice on the best products for decorating your home and ensuring it functions smoothly. That includes sourcing stylish yet affordable furniture – from the best sofa beds for combining style, comfort, and function, to the best artificial Christmas trees for a stress-free festive season – helping our readers to find the best mattress for their sleep style, and testing top-rated dehumidifiers and air purifiers to narrow down the best-in-class.