Choosing the Best Pillow For You

Our handy guide

Did you know that your pillow has a great deal to do with how well you sleep at night? It’s true – your pillow can make or break a good night’s sleep. Getting a better night’s rest goes far beyond just buying a mattress that supports your body perfectly. A good pillow will support your head and neck without applying undue pressure, as it conforms to the exact shape of the sleeper, thus spreading the weight evenly and uniformly along the vertebrae. A crucial aspect of getting an uninterrupted sleep is the correct positioning of your head throughout the night. Stabilizing the neck during sleep is of paramount importance!

What Pillow is Right For You?

Pillows come in an array of sizes and shapes, some meant for décor, others meant to support your head and neck properly.

Types of Pillows

There is a wide variety of pillows available on the market today. Here is a list of several of the more popular and common types of pillows you will find available. Your choice will depend upon your personal preferences and whether you have any special needs caused by allergies or upper body aches and pains.

Natural fill pillowsinclude feathers and goose down. These are more expensive for example those with particularly high down content and usually the most comfortable. They offer the advantage of softness and their ability to conform to shapes desired by the user. These are often considered the most luxurious pillows and can also be the most durable. Down pillows do not provide as much support as some other types of pillows and they do need to be fluffed up on a regular basis to retain their loftiness, however have a long life if cared for correctly.

Cotton pillows, this type of pillow is also a great choice for allergy sufferers as they are hypo-allergenic.

Synthetic fill pillowsoffer more support than natural fill and are usually the less expensive option. These pillows are also a good choice if you suffer from allergies. While they are not usually quite as soft, they do provide extra support and better quality ones are normally machine washable.

Hypoallergenic pillowsare ideal for those who like the softness of down but are allergic to feathers. ‘Hypoallergenic’, is a term applied to a preparation in which every possible care has been taken in formulation and production, with materials which also repel mold and mildew, substances which can cause allergic reactions. Severe allergic sufferers however should look to specific medically endorsed products dependant on the type of allergy they have.

Memory foam pillowsare popular with people who need a lot of support. The memory foam pillows will conform to the shape of your head and neck and retain that shape. As is always the case with memory foam there are varying degrees of quality which is determined by the V rating. This will determine the durability and the amount of conformability as well as how responsive they are to returning to their original shape.

Orthopaedic pillowsare traditionally made of a foam core wrapped in fibre giving the feel of soft on the outside however firm in the middle reflected in the comfort of this pillow. The term orthopaedic however will not in most cases mean the product is medically endorsed.

Size Matters

The size of your pillow will affect your slumber. If yourpillowis too large and dense, it may prop your head forward. Sleeping with your head tilted forward or sideways can obstruct the airways if you are a side sleeper. One of the most common reasons for snoring is a blockage or obstruction of the airways. Lack of oxygen can wake you during the night, prompting a shift in your sleep position. A stiff neck or sore back may also be a result of the misalignment of the neck and spine. If your pillow is too small or soft, the same ailments can occur during the night due to the neck and spine being angled in the opposite direction.

Standard size pillowsmeasure 19 by 29 inches or 48 x 74cm. This is the most common size and the number of pillows required is generally determined by the mattress size: one pillow for a single sized bed, two for a double bed or King size bed.

Euro size pillowsmeasure 26by 26 inches or 15x 65cm. These large, square pillows are ideal for adding support and comfort or for propping you up to read. They also make great decorative bed pillows.

Your Sleep Profile

People generally sleep in three different postures: on their back, on their stomach, and on their side. Some even sleep with all three postures at one point or the other during the night.

A Pillow must match your sleep profile:

  • If you sleep on your stomach or have a small build, a low, soft pillow is best.The pillow should be relatively flat, or the head should rest directly on the mattress, so that the head and neck aren’t turned unnaturally to either side. It can also help to place another flat pillow under the stomach to help the spine keep its natural alignment.
  • If you sleep on your back a medium to firm pillow with a medium profile is best. The pillow should support the natural curvature of the cervical spine, with adequate support under the head, neck, and shoulders.
  • If you sleep on your side or have a bigger body frame, a firm or extra-firm pillow might suit you better.The pillow should support the head and neck to help the spine maintain a straight and natural horizontal line. Weight should be evenly distributed so as not to create unnatural bending or pressure.


Your pillow should feel comfortable to lie on to allow you to relax, get a good night’s sleep, and feel well rested in the morning. The material used in your pillow will make a difference. Synthetic fills arepolyesterbased and are often times firmer than natural fills, which usually contain a feather or down material. When deciding between natural or synthetic, take into account any allergies you may have as well as the density that is most comfortable for you. Allergy sufferers and small children should go with an anti allergy pillow, not only does this dual action pillow offer anti-microbial and anti-dust mite properties it is also machine washable.


A pillow’s main purpose is to support your neck, aligning it straight with your spine. If your pillow is too large and dense, it may prop your head forward. Sleeping with your head tilted forward or sideways can obstruct the airways if you are a side sleeper. The most common reason for snoring is a blockage or obstruction of the airways. Lack of oxygen can wake you during the night, prompting a shift in your sleep position. A stiff neck or sore back may also be a result of the misalignment of the neck and spine if you suffer from a bad back or stiff neck.


It is best if the pillow can be adjusted to fit the unique shape and curves and sleeping position of the user. A pillow should conform to one’s individual shape and alleviate any pressure points.

Pillow Hygiene

The cleanliness of your pillow is also vital, not only for the longevity of it, but also for your sleep quality. You may not have allergies to any of the materials used to manufacture the pillow, but over time dirt and spores will accumulate, increasing allergic symptoms that can hinder your sleep. Following the manufacturer’s suggested care instructions can increase the lifespan of your pillow. Most of today’s pillows are machine washable, best practice recommends washing and cleaning your pillows on a regular basis.

Did you know?Ten percent of the weight of a two year old pillow can be composed of dead skin, dust mites and their droppings. One of their favourite foods, is dead skin and the average person sheds 4 kilograms (or about 8.8 pounds) a year.

As Ireland’s sleep experts, Harvey Norman stock a large range of quality bedding to complement your new bed or help with that bedroom makeover that you’ve being dreaming off.Visit a store near you.


In Short: Getting a new bed or mattress is only half the battle, you’ll also need to find the perfect pillow. But what should you really be looking for?

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Posts from the Harvey Norman blog team.

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