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How to choose the perfect pillow: A Polysleep guide!
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How to choose the perfect pillow: A Polysleep guide!

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Have you experienced chronic pains lately in the neck, shoulders and/or upper back when you get out of bed? Do you get headaches when waking up? Don't worry, you’re not about to die. But your pillow surely is! Which means it’s time to retire it, after its 1 to 6 years of good and loyal services (average lifespan of a pillow). So that you can avoid any visit to your chiropractor and at the same time to save you money, at Polysleep, we’ve decided once more to help in the choice of your new night companion (not your significant other, but your pillow of course!). After reading our guide, you’ll once more be able to wake up fresh and relaxed, just like before. Discover below everything needed to find quality sleep again by selecting YOUR pillow!

4 kids sitting on delivery boxes hold a Polysleep pillow in their hands

On top of the full support of your head, other factors are also to consider!

If you’re experiencing considerable stress in the top half of your body, such as neck pain, stiffness in the shoulders and more extensively in your upper back, or you have migraines as soon as you get up, your aging pillow is undoubtedly the biggest guilty party!

Discomfort is the first reason that should lead you to change your pillow, but not only. Other variable are equally to consider, such as allergies, which brings us to ask ourselves what material should we choose for our pillow. There’s no doubt that dust mites as well as some allergenic materials such as feathers could worsen your chronic symptoms, to a point that the people in your life would ask themselves if it’s possible to have the flu all year long.

Also, if you’re environmentally conscious, you might want to be aware of the composition of your pillow, to know if it contains toxic substances, as much for the environment as for your own body. Some manufacturers can use synthetic materials and even toxic adhesives or flame retardants in the making of your pillow. But it’s hard to find this out, since very often, their composition is protected by trade secret, which is far from protecting you!

To this are added the traditional questions that you’re now probably aware of if you’ve read our guides about foam mattresses and bed sizes, that is, the level of firmness and thickness of the pillow, as well as its dimensions and capacity to disperse heat (unless you like to sleep in an oven). In truth, there is, once again, no perfect and universal pillow for everybody; your pillow might be your best ally for your own sleep, but the worst nightmare of your spouse if they try to borrow it. To each their own pillow!

A woman hugs her Polysleep pillow on her bed

What pillow size should I choose?

To this question, Google would surely answer “You’re on your own for this one, I’m not your doctor nor your chiropractor!”, and it would be right, your morphological characteristics being so unique to you. And there is no question that you should, let's say it again, choose your pillow based on your body shape.

Still, here are a few tips to help you in this matter without the need to go see an ergonomist like you did for your workstation! And again, a larger pillow doesn’t automatically mean a better pillow. A lot of people undoubtedly buy their pillow to match the size of their bed, but the most important thing is to make sure of how it’ll affect your posture during the night. A pillow that isn’t large enough could be detrimental for a sleeper that moves a lot, while a too large pillow could not adapt well to someone with narrow shoulders. It's not easy! There are still standards that’ll allow you to see things more clearly. We’ll go over them here below. Put your seatbelt on!

Pillow sizes:

Standard Pillow

As you might expect, it’s one of the most popular types of pillow. It measures 20 x 26 inches, and is suitable for most people, whether kid or adult, as long as their shoulders are not too wide. It can be used without problem with any standard to Queen-sized pillowcase, without impairing your comfort in any way.

Super-Standard Pillow

Then comes the pillow size called super standard, with obviously more specific dimensions (20 x 28 po). It's a good choice for sleepers that move a lot, since its larger size allows for increased support for the latter. It’s also a particularly well-suited pillow for Twin beds, intended for kids. That’s why it's frequently used for a bunk bed configuration with raised side frame. As for pillowcases, you can equally use standard or Queen-sized ones.

Queen Pillow

Often regarded as similar to a standard pillow, the Queen pillow measures 20 x 30 inches, namely, an additional 4 inches in length. It can of course be used with standard pillowcases but, depending on its thickness, it might seem slightly firmer to you.

King Pillow

It's simple: the King pillow size is by far the largest that you’ll see among standard pillow sizes. This pillow measures 20 x 36 inches and is intended, as its name indicates, for King beds, because two of them will occupy the whole width of these very large beds (aesthetics). A King pillow also provides the additional support required for people with wide shoulders. But it’s not recommended for people with average morphologies due to its superior size. It might also make you adopt bad postures during your sleep.

Bolster-type Pillow

This type of pillow is particularly popular among those who sleep on the side or stomach, since it allows support to the head, neck, hips and legs in one go, enabling the complete alignment of your spine, which is a bit like the Grail of every sleeper for a restful night of sleep. It’s also an excellent way to increase the height of other pillows on the total breadth of the head-board.

Neckroll Pillow

Often seen as a decorative pillow, this type of pillow looks like a “sausage” that is as wide as your standard pillow. Neckroll pillows were first created for people who sleep on their back, to provide maximal neck support in this position. With their dimensions of 6.5 x 13 inches, the latter are perfect to fill out the space between your head and shoulders, to allow for optimal rest of the soft tissues there. You can also fit one under your knees to relieve them if you need it.

Japanese-Type Pillow

With dimensions of 14 x 20 inches, perfect for a Japanese futon-type bedding set, Japanese pillows are made for those who, among us, don’t do backflips at night (understand here those who don’t often toss and turn during their sleep). You’ll also find these dimensions among memory foam pillows intended for those who sleep on the stomach or on their back.

The Polysleep Pillow and its adjustable foam layers

The materials used in the manufacture of your pillow affect the quality of its support!

First, you should know that the material used to “fill” the interior of your pillow substantially affect its thickness. Besides, some bulkier materials can occupy more space than others with a greater density. In that sense, the more voluminous the material, the less you’ll need to fill a pillow with the same thickness compared to a denser material. This way, the pillow’s thickness should be linked to the type of material used, not with its firmness, which is a common error. You’ve surely thought, just like us, that a thick pillow offered more support, or that a thin pillow didn’t provide any. That’s not true!

Instead, base your choice on the material(s) used in its manufacturing to judge the support of your future favorite pillow! We’ll cover with you here below the various types of materials used as filling in pillows, to help you choose.

Pillow types:

Memory Foam Pillow

Renowned for its viscosity and density for mattresses, memory foam, invented by NASA, also invites itself in your pillow. This foam perfectly moulds itself to the contours of your body, including the shape of your head in the case of a pillow, thanks to the heat that radiates from your body. The foam will return back its original form once you’ll stop emitting heat or applying pressure on it with your head. It’s a filling material that can suit everybody or close to, and in particular those among us who have neck and back aches. Remember that these pillows tend to have a more pronounced firmness than others, but also offer very attractive durability.

This type of pillow is still heavy, and, just like mattresses made in the same material, provides limited air circulation. If you’re a heat factory and sweat profusely, these pillows are not the best alternative. On top of that, their prices are rarely light on your wallet.

Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

Made from the same material than that used for memory foam pillows, which are made from a block of this material, shredded memory foam pillows are filled with, as the name indicates, tiny pieces of torn memory foam. These pillows are more malleable, but provide less stability for your head than their bigger siblings made from a single block. However, the difference is minimal.

The first advantage of this pillow is that since its filling is made of several pieces of memory foam, it offers better air circulation than its counterpart made from a single piece. This doesn’t stop it from being comfortable and providing the necessary support, but allows the head to sink a little more into the pillow. Most people will be comfortable with the fact that their head sinks slightly more, but not everyone. Since numerous pillow manufacturers allow adjustments in the quantity of filling for this type of pillow, you’ll be able to either remove some if you find your pillow too hard, or add some if you want more support.

Regarding disadvantages however, you should note that this pillow doesn’t shape itself as well around your cranium than one made of a single block of memory foam. In addition, if you move a lot, the pieces of memory foam are also likely to move around inside the pillow, changing the latter’s shape and consequently depriving you of the typical stability of memory foam.

Latex Pillow

Available in natural or synthetic latex, or a combination of both, this pillow offers, when new, some bounce. That's why it’s often compared to memory foam pillows by those looking for a pillow that provides more support.

As it’s relatively firm, you’ll get all the support you want when you’ll go to sleep. This type of pillow can even perform miracles if you need to relieve your neck pain. It’s also resistant to dust mites. Lastly, this kind of pillow is durable and hypoallergenic.

The best of both worlds you say? Yes, if its price is a secondary variable for you. To be sure, latex pillows are among the most expensive on the market. But they’re suitable for all situations, including yours!

Gel Pillow

Gel pillows, for their part, contrary to what their name suggests, are not only made of gel. They are rather latex or memory foam pillows with a foam filling that is preceded by a gel layer, with the function of ensuring that the sleeper continuously stays cool.

This time, you’ll REALLY get to have your cake and eat it too (if you’re single). The gel absorbs the heat while regulating the temperature, and so lets you enjoy all the advantages already mentioned above and related to memory foam or latex pillows.

On the other hand, some of you might not like the fact that these pillows can show a lower degree of durability, because in some cases, the gel beads will end up breaking the foam's cell structure. When that’ll happen, you’ll have to purchase a new pillow! What is more, these pillow are worth their weight in gold, being even more expensive than pillows that only contain memory foam or latex, which are already quite pricy themselves! More expensive and less durable? Some of you will surely pass on this one. It's up to you!

But if you decide to acquire such a pillow, make sure that your new acquisition contains at least 30% gel in order to you’ll get your money's worth and feel the difference.

Pillow with Polyester Filling

Arrived on the market in the 1950s, it made a number of its competitors fall by the wayside, with such a low price and being available in several levels of firmness. You’re then sure to find one that will suit you! It’s also machine washable, which is perfect for the active parent that you are, or if you want to get a comfortable pillow that suits you and is easy to maintain! In addition, it's lightweight, soft and doesn’t smell when taken out of its wrapping!

On the other hand, this type of pillow doesn’t possess great breathability, which makes it particularly uncomfortable in summer. The filling of these pillows also ends up in clumps, and they have a tendency to loose volume over the years. In addition, they’re not protected against dust mites, so you should avoid this option if you have allergies. Lastly, their manufacture involves numerous chemical products and that’s bad for the environment as well as potentially harmful to your health.

Water Pillow

Just like water beds, there are pillow filled with the same liquid. Contrary to what you might think, this type of pillow isn’t completely filled with water. Generally, the top layer is made of polyester. The lower part is the is the one filled with water.

Among the advantages, let’s note that these pillows always stay cool, and will then prevent you from sweating too much at night. So this type of pillow is the perfect candidate on which to sleep in summer! Its thickness and firmness are also adjustable, which is perfect for those of us who like to personalize their pillow for tailor-made comfort and support. It also fully adapts to the shape of your neck and head, making it an alternative of choice compared to memory foam and latex pillows.

For all that, these pillows are heavy, and can be expensive. But if you want all the advantages of latex or memory foam while staying cool, water pillows are the most attractive!

Down Pillow

Contrary to popular belief, down and feathers are two different types of filling materials for your pillow. While you know exactly what a feather is, down is the silky part found under said feathers on the duck or the goose. Goose down is generally the one considered to be of the best quality.

These pillows are typically lightweight, and a major feature is their optimal thermal regulation for your head; while they retain heat in winter, they on the opposite stay surprisingly cool during the warm season. Down pillows maintain their shape particularly well, and provide quality support for stiff or painful necks. They’re also adaptable to posture, no matter the position in which you prefer to sleep. What versatility!

But the latter quality happens at the expense of durability. These pillows have a tendency to lose some of their down, and/or end up somewhat flat. You can, of course, have the filling replaced, but only to a certain point. Passed that, you’ll inevitably have to buy another new pillow. Besides, if you live in a particularly humid climate and/or if you perspire more than average, the moisture absorbed by the pillow will end up damaging it. Down doesn’t tolerate water very well. That's why people will tell you to never clean your winter coat in the washing machine if it contains down! So of course, you’ll have to have it dry cleaned, which isn’t cheap. Lastly, the poor ducks and geese on which we harvest said down are often killed just for this, or even live plucked. It’s a cruel process, and will deter a great number of people.

Feather Pillow

Definitely the most renowned pillows since like you, we’ve seen them in the movies and TV shows of our childhood when the protagonists engaged in pillow fights. Often, the bedroom was filled with feathers! Far from being a fictional pillow, the feather pillow, or should we say in reality, feather and down pillow, since it is filled with both of these materials (down pillows ONLY contain down), possesses many advantages similar to its down cousin, for a much lower price.

Feather pillows are lightweight and malleable, and can then be literally folded in four (ok, ok, rather in two) to adapt to the way you sleep, without however becoming a hoven when the temperatures are very high. They also provide fully adequate support, while being easy to wash. Finally, they are durable if you take care of them, with a service life that can go up to 10 years.

But knowing that they’re malleable, they can also change shape during the night depending on how you move, and the initial support that they bring might disappear, which can cause neck and spine pains due to the sub-optimal support of your head. To conclude, it won’t be a first choice for some of you if your back and neck are sensitive.

Buckwheat Pillow

Yep, you read that right! No, you can’t eat it like a crêpe bretonne. This type of pillow was first massively used for centuries in the Far East, and has gained in popularity these last years in the western hemisphere.

These pillows have numerous advantages, starting with tailor-made support for your neck and your head, like memory foam. But contrary to the latter, buckwheat allows for easy air flow, which results in great heat dispersion. So you’ll keep cool during the warm summer nights! And since it's a naturel and renewable material, the eco-friendly anti-globalisation protestor in you can sleep in peace!

But for those among you who sleep light, it's not the best choice. At the slightest movement, hello noise that comes with buckwheat! This pillow is also heavy, as heavy as eight pounds! Moving it to follow your changing position won’t be easy… But it’s an excellent sportive activity, you’ll agree! Then, if the filling comes in contact with water and doesn’t dry properly, hello odors!

Kapok Pillow

Created from the Kapok tree’s flowers and originating from Mexico, pillows with Kapok filling are soft and feel like cotton. This type of filling is sometimes used instead of materials like down and feathers, which makes it a choice alternative to avoid animal cruelty while getting a pillow with the same properties than those made of feathers and/or down, while begin vegetal.

These pillows also feature a zipper that gives access to the filling, allowing you to adjust the level of firmness to your preference in terms of support. They also offer royal comfort, near what you would have with a feather or down pillow, which however implies less support compared to those made of memory foam or latex.

In terms of disadvantages, no campfire on your bed before you sleep when a Kapok pillow is close by. They’re definitely highly flammable! Besides, these pillows don't keep their original shape very well, the support they provide varying in time. So you should be aware that they offer a varied and insufficient support at the neck level, this type of pillow isn’t intended for those who are looking for maximum support there.

The Polysleep Pillow

The pillow that we propose, for its part, is the pillow of a new era! Truly, it doesn’t fit in any of the pillow categories mentioned above, and that’s why we had to give it a whole paragraph by itself!

Under its cover entirely made of cotton hides a filling of microfiber for unparalleled softness, while up to four viscoelastic hybrid foam layers of various sizes have the role of bringing you all the support you need at the neck and head levels.

It's certainly a pillow that provides support a la carte, since you can add or remove the foam layers to adjust the support provided to your taste! So it offers everything you were dreaming of for a pillow: flexibility, softness, royal comfort, optimal support and excellent thermo-regulation.

A woman tans while reading outside on her Polysleep Mattress

To conclude…

Phew! It’s done. If you’ve read our guide up to here, bravo! Here is your medal. But seriously, we hope that these few (long) lines will allow you to make an informed choice based on your budget, your body shape and your preferences.

Let's finish with a short summary of the important elements addressed in our guide:

A few useful tips:

  • The lifespan of your pillow ranges from 1 to 6 years maximum.
  • If you start to experience neck and upper back pain, or get headaches upon waking up, it’s time to change your pillow!
  • The size of your pillow should first be selected depending on your body shape and then the size of your bed:

Different pillow sizes:

  • Standard pillows (20 x 26 inches) are ideal for kids and adults with narrow shoulders.
  • Super-standard pillows, bigger (20 x 28 in), are perfect for sleepers who often toss and turn and for your kids’ Twin beds.
  • Queen pillows are even larger (20 x 30 inches) and are suitable, of course, for people who move a lot, because of their increased length, but can seem firmer.
  • King pillows, for their part, are the largest pillows in the standards sizes, and measure 20 x 36 inches. These pillows:
    • are intended for King beds, since they occupy the total breadth of the head-board for aesthetic reasons;
    • can bring the required increase support at night for people of large built;
    • are not suitable for people of average body shape;
    • can cause bad habits in terms of posture.
  • Bolster-type pillows:
    • allow for support at the head, neck and hip levels all at the same time, perfect the alignment of your spine;
    • lets you increase the height of pillows under which it’s found for enhanced support of your head and your neck.
  • Neckroll pillows (6.5 x 13 inches), are particularly suitable for those who sleep on their back, by filling the space between your head and your shoulders to allow for optimal rest of the neck’s soft tissues.
  • Japanese pillows, with dimensions of 14 x 20 inches, are perfect if you don't too that much during your sleep. It’s a format also found among memory foam pillows intended for those who sleep on their stomach of their back.

Table of materials used in pillow fillings

Type of Pillow Filling Properties Recommended for… Not suitable for …
Memory Foam Perfectly moulds itself to the shape of your neck and head. Durable. Excellent support. Everybody, more particularly those with neck pains. People who don’t like heavy pillows. Those who get too hot fast. Those that want a reasonable price.
Shredded Memory Foam Softer than pillows made from a single foam block. Also marginally less stable. Better air circulation. Adjustable firmness by adding or removing filling. People who want:Memory foam, but also good air circulation. Less firmness and more comfort. To be able to adjust the firmness of their pillow. Those who want similar support than single block memory foam pillows.
Latex Provides some bounce when new. Similar support to memory foam. Anti-dust mite. Hypoallergenic. People looking for optimal support. Those who have neck pains. More widely, everybody. Those who want their pillow at a reasonable price.
Gel Perfectly moulds itself to the shape of your neck and head. Keeps you cool. Intended for people that want all the advantages of memory foam or latex pillows, while staying cool. Those who want to pay a small price for their pillow. Those who want a similar durability to foam/latex pillows.
Polyester Available in different levels of firmness. Machine washable. Lightweight and soft. No lingering odor after unwrapped. Those who want tailor-made support. Those who want a low-priced pillow. Those who want an easy to maintain pillow. Those who want a pillow that keeps them cool. Those who don’t like clumps in the filling. Those who want a pillow that maintains its volume long term. People sensitive to dust mites. Environmentally-conscious people.
Water Always stays cool because of the water. Adjustable firmness depending on water quantity. Adjusts to the shape of the neck and head. Those looking for a pillow that keeps them cool in summer. Those who want adjustable comfort and support. Those who don’t want a heavy pillow. Those looking for a small-priced pillow.
Down Lightweight. Excellent thermo-regulation. Maintains its original form. Good support. Good for any sleep position. Those who want to sleep at the right temperature at all times. Those who want quality support. People who need a durable pillow. Those who live in a humid climate and/or who sweat a lot. Expensive maintenance (dry cleaning). Plucking of ducks and geese inhuman.
Feathers Lightweight and malleable. Adapts to how you sleep. Excellent thermo-regulation. Good support. Easy to wash. Long-lasting life. Those who want a pillow that adapts to the way they sleep. Those who want to keep cool when sleeping. Those who want a pillow easy to maintain. Those wo what a durable pillow. Those searching for good value for money. Those who toss and turn at night (disappearance of initial support). By extension, people with sensitive neck and head.
Buckwheat Tailor-made support for the head and neck. Excellent thermo-regulation. Renewable and eco-friendly material. Those who want tailor-made support. Those who want to keep cool when sleeping. Those who are environmentally conscious. Light sleepers (buckwheat noise when you move). Those who want a lightweight pillow. People sensitive to odors.
Kapok Soft. No animal cruelty, the Kapok is a tree. Adjustable support. Those who want all the comfort of a feather or down pillow without killing poor birds. Those who want tailor-made support. Those who aren’t keen on being burned alive (Kapok is very flammable). Those who want a pillow providing optimal support. Those who want a pillow that keeps its shape long term.

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