Given that we’ve finally cottoned on to the importance of a good night’s sleep for our health and wellbeing, it is staggering how many of us will put up with a pillow that is uncomfortable, whether it is too flat or too tall or too soft or too hard. (Or too hot: our best summer pillow, the Kally Cooling Pillow, £39.99, comes in very handy in a heatwave.)
This isn’t frivolous stuff, either. Research has proven that sleep has a stronger association with a person’s wellbeing than almost anything else in their lives. As well as the best pillowcase and the most comfortable mattress topper, investing in the right pillow will pay dividends and help you get a good night's sleep, especially with warmer weather on the way. (Read our guides to the best portable air conditioners and best fans for more ways to sleep in the summer heat.)
Recent progress in sleep technology and the proliferation of new bedding and mattress companies makes now a good time to take stock of what you sleep on. A flattened pillow from too much usage could put strain on your neck and shoulders, so experts recommend they be replaced every two years. (If you're struggling with a bad back or neck, it could be worth reading our guide to the best mattresses for back pain, too.)
Dust mites and other allergens can also accumulate in pillows if you neglect to wash and replace your pillows regularly. One study from the University of Manchester found that the average pillow that has been used for more than 18 months contains at least a million fungal spores.
For this test we worked our way through a constant rotation of new pillows looking for those that will help you sleep better. The first thing we learned is that material is an important factor in the pillow you choose. Broadly speaking, there are four types that you need to know about: washable cotton, luxurious down, memory foam for support and modern microfibre. See the FAQ at the bottom of this article for a full explanation of the pros and cons of each.
How I tested the best pillows
I started by sleeping on each for at least three consecutive nights (unless I really didn’t like one, in which case I cut it from the list). I was looking for comfort, support and temperature regulation, as well as a nice feel and a pillow that didn’t need constant plumping. I rated each model on these factors. This testing, combined with insight from experts, is how I formulated this list of the ‘best’. As a writer for the Telegraph's lifestyle sections, I've also tested the best mattresses and sofa beds.
At a glance: the best pillows for 2022
- Best pillow overall –Simba Hybrid
- Best cooling pillow – Kally Cooling Pillow
- Best down pillow –
- Best luxury pillow –White Company
- Best memory foam pillow –Panda London
- Best hypoallergenic pillow – Scooms Hungarian goose down pillow
- Best firm pillow – Simba Hybrid Firm
Read on for our full reviews
The best pillows
1. Simba Hybrid pillow
Best for height adjustability
The fundamental beauty of the Simba Hybrid is simple: it’s height adjustable. Whether you’re big or small, sleep on your side or your front, you can tweak its dimensions to perfectly fit your needs. All you have to do is unzip the casing and take out some of the hundreds of “open-cell” foam “nanocubes” that make up the core of the pillow. (These are surrounded by a plush-feeling microfibre layer, so you don’t feel like you're sleeping on a stack of sugar cubes).
I knew I liked this pillow the first night I slept on it. I knew I loved this pillow when I felt disappointed every night I had to rotate it out to test the other pillows on this list.
If – like me – you had always assumed that the plushest pillows had a natural down filling, the Simba Hybrid will prove you wrong. It feels as soft as the finest goose down but with the support of memory foam (although the Simba is clear that this isn’t a memory foam pillow per se). It never needs plumping, and I found it much better at keeping me cool than the natural-fill pillows I tried. Given that the filling is synthetic, it is also suitable for people with allergies or sensitive skin.
Its excellent temperature regulation is thanks to Simba’s Stratos technology, which is printed on one side of the pillow. It was inspired by Outlast, a material originally designed for space exploration (NASA uses it in space suits) to help regulate temperature by absorbing, storing and releasing heat. Along with the mesh strip around the edge of the pillow to promote airflow, Stratos helps keep you cool and comfortable throughout the night. Having tested this pillow in a heatwave, I can confirm it works a treat.
“We’ve got more and more research showing how temperature is really crucial to sleep disturbances and the ability to stay in sleep,” says sleep psychologist Hope Bastine. “We also see a correlation between nightmares and high body temperature. So keeping the body temperature quite low is important for staying in deep sleep as well as being comfortable.”
The only downside is the cost – the Simba Hybrid is a significant outlay, although you can save 35 per cent if you purchase a mattress and pillow at the same time. I feel confident in saying that it is worth every penny.
2. The White Company luxury Hungarian goose down pillow
£80, The White Company
Best for luxurious feathers
These are the pillows you would find in my fantasy five-star hotel. Let’s start with the outer layer – made from 329-thread-count woven cotton jacquard, it is smooth and luxe-looking. The inside is a lightweight mixture of down and feather with a three-chamber construction: the outer filling is made from 90 per cent Hungarian goose down and 10 per cent fine Hungarian goose feather, and the inner core is filled with 85 per cent duck feather and 15 per cent duck down.
Those proportions have been formulated to offer a little more support than a pure down pillow while maintaining the marshmallow-like softness down is famed for. You can feel the difference – the result is a sumptuously soft pillow that doesn’t leave me with a sore neck or require too much plumping.
Another issue I encountered with testing other down pillows is a strong, musty smell that lingers long after first use. That didn’t apply to this one. I also noted that there is no sign of the feathers or down poking out through the tightly-woven cover.
The White Company founder Chrissie Rucker says this pillow is her all-time favourite. That could just be marketing spiel, of course – but this really does feel like quite a special pillow. I opted for ‘medium’ firmness, but you can choose between soft and medium as suits.
3. Soak & Sleep Hungarian goose down pillow
Best goose down pillow
It's hard not to wax lyrical about this pillow, which is the plumpest and most comfortable down I've ever slept on. It's made from 90 per cent ethically sourced Hungarian goose down and 10 per cent feathers (scan the QR code on your pillow for a fully traceable guide to the manufacturer).
Perhaps greedily, when shopping for a pillow I want both downy softness and enough support to sleep on my side. Surely that's not too much to ask? Soak & Sleep have risen to the challenge. The feathers are contained in a central core surrounded by down, which means it feels more supportive than competitors but still has that light, fluffy feel. A slightly more structured down pillow is the best of both worlds. It's available with soft, soft/medium or medium/firm fillings; I opted for medium and, like Goldilocks, found it was just right.
The finish is very premium: it has a breathable (and anti-allergy) 280 thread count cover and piped edges, plus a unique side gusset that makes the pillow deeper and more comfortable. Though it’s by no means the cheapest pillow you can buy, I would be confident in saying the quality makes it good value for money.
4. Kally Sleep cooling pillow
£39.99, Kally Sleep
Best cooling pillow
This pillow deserves a place on my list of the ‘best’ on the basis of value for money alone. While it is by no means the cheapest out there, it includes many of the premium features found in more expensive pillows (mesh air vents and a specially engineered cooling foam construction, for instance) for less.
The hollow fibre and foam inner is excellent at regulating temperature. Having slept on this pillow over the course of several scorching summer nights, I found that I wasn’t tossing and turning in search of the cool side.
However, this isn’t a pillow that should be saved for summer, as I found it comfortable enough to want to use all year round. With medium firmness, a squishy finish and what I would describe as the perfect height (10cm), it would be suitable for all but the fussiest of back, front and side sleepers.
The filling is sealed into the pillow. On one hand, this means the cover has to be hand washed instead of thrown in the washing machine, but on the upside, there are no zips sticking out as with some of the other pillows I tested.
While I was undoubtedly a big fan of this pillow, it must be said that the material doesn’t feel as luxurious as other models. The cover is polyester microfibre, for instance, and in general I definitely prefer cotton. But it is still a worthy contender.
5. Panda London memory foam bamboo pillow
£44.95, Panda London
Best for memory foam
I liked sleeping on this pillow far more than I thought I would based on first appearances alone, as it is flat and – to be frank – a bit odd looking. It is 60cm in length, so slightly shorter than the standard 70cm, which means it looks a little sad and small in my pillowcase. However, I rapidly changed my tune when I lay down on it. It is supremely supportive and comfortable once you lie down, and the hypoallergenic bamboo pillow cover is very soft to the touch.
A balance between good support and comfort is another element that Bastine outlines in explaining what makes a good pillow: “Sometimes you fall asleep on your side and wake up on your back. A good pillow should move to the way you’re lying.
“Comfort and supporting your spine and the natural curvature of your spine and taking weight off the pressure points in your body is really crucial to creating a sense of weightlessness. The less pain that you’re in, the less discomfort that you’re in, the more likely you are to be able to stay still, and staying still is crucial for good sleep quality.”
The Panda pillow is lighter and softer-feeling than other memory foam models, which I like as it feels more like a pillow and less like a medical headrest. You still get individualised support from the memory foam that makes up the pillow’s core, which moulds to the shape of your head and neck. Another criticism usually levelled at memory foam is that it retains too much heat, but this pillow felt supremely breathable – perhaps because of the bamboo cover.
If you have sensitive skin, this could be the pillow for you, as it is OEKO-TEX certified free from irritants and chemicals, and the soft, smooth bamboo cover is naturally antimicrobial.
Panda London is justifiably proud of its sustainability efforts: it uses organic bamboo from sustainable sources that is free from pesticides; and as well as using recycled and recyclable packaging, it offers a recycling programme and will collect your old Panda pillows free of charge. It also offer a 30-night trial and 10-year warranty as standard.
6. Scooms Hungarian goose down pillow
Best for anti-allergy finish
Sumptuously soft as they are, down-filled pillows can present a problem for allergy sufferers. Scoom created this pillow with that in mind. It is made from a core of Hungarian goose feather sandwiched between chambers of goose down, but it is finished with a special sateen cotton cover that’s tightly woven and down and dust mite-proof to make it hypoallergenic. It is certified by the Nomite anti-allergen standard; you won’t get any pesky feathers poking out of this one.
It feels perfectly plush and deliciously soft while still supportive on my neck and shoulders, thanks to the feather content in its core. The inner core is made from 15 per cent down and 85 per cent feather, and it’s sandwiched between outer chambers of 90 per cent down and 10 per cent feather.
Unlike other down and feather pillows, which tend to flatten out after a few nights’ sleep, this one required very little plumping.
7. Beaumont & Brown Savoy duck down pillow
£69, Beaumont Brown
Best for duck down luxury
This boutique bedding business began by selling to luxury hotels before opening sales directly to consumers. While the most premium pillows traditionally use goose down, I was a huge fan of this squashy and supportive duck down pillow.
It has a ‘down surround’ design, meaning that the feathers (70 per cent of the inner) are held in a central chamber surrounded by down. This sounds simple but, in practice, makes a big difference – the feather core provides excellent head, neck and shoulder support but you still get the soft, luxurious feeling of a down pillow.
I found it very difficult to decide which of the down pillows I preferred, as there really is a hair’s breadth between this one and the White Company or Scooms down pillows. However, there is a marginal difference in softness between duck and goose down, with the latter winning out.
8. Loaf Perfect Kip pillow
£80 for 2, Loaf
Best soft pillow for this price point
This brand prides itself on only selling three rigorously researched pillows, of which the Perfect Kip is the most affordable. But that doesn’t mean it should be banished to the spare bedroom. On testing I found it to be the perfect squishy pillow – a little flatter than the other options on this list, but satisfyingly soft nonetheless.
It’s filled with goose down and feathers, but has a higher feather-to-down ratio than some of the more expensive pillows (85 per cent feathers and 15 per cent down). Based on this I would definitely classify it as a ‘feather’ pillow. It has a comfy cotton cover and, despite the high feather content, I didn’t experience any uncomfortable rustling and the feathers didn’t stick out.
It ranks here on the list not because there’s anything specifically disappointing about it, but because there’s nothing outstandingly special about it, either – I would say it’s an excellent all-rounder at a decent price.
9. DUSK duck feather and down pillow
£39.90 for 2, DUSK
Best for value
As it’s made from 90 per cent duck feather and 10 per cent down, this is definitely a feather (rather than down) pillow. However, it's still well worth considering. It offers excellent value for money, has a crisp 100 per cent cotton casing and a soft, if slightly flat, filling.
I opted for one each of the soft and medium pillows, and would say that the former is very soft indeed – perhaps best suited to front sleepers. The medium filling was soft enough to give me that luxurious sinking feeling, but firm enough to offer some springy support. I also didn’t notice any feathers poking through the cover, which is another plus.
10. WoolRoom deluxe washable wool pillow
Best wool pillow
Wool is hypoallergenic, naturally cooling and springy, which makes for quite a firm pillow. That's perfect for side-sleepers who like height and support, but when it arrived my pillow was definitely too high. Luckily this is like the Simba, in that you can unzip the side and add or subtract the filling. It was fun to pull out great handfuls of traceable British wool (from Rutland, since you ask). After a while I got it just right and the pillow stayed that way through weeks of use. A really good choice for side-sleepers, halfway between the lightness of goose-down and the solidity of memory foam.
You can wash the wool at 30 degrees in a netted bag using wool detergent, so it feels like a pretty sustainable choice too.
11. Simba Hybrid firm pillow
£159, Simba Sleep
Best firm pillow
Firmness: variable (medium to firm)
Recommended by Simon Lewis
I'm a side-sleeper with a very strong preference for firm pillows, but I've never found one that was exactly right – that is, exactly the same height as the width of my shoulder. I've been searching for years in the picky manner of The Princess And The Pea.
Simba's new hybrid firm pillow has cracked it. Where their standard hybrid pillow, ranked number one in this review, can be made thicker or thinner by adding or subtracting foam cubes, this has three removable layers inside it: two soft pillows made of their Renew synthetic down, and one very firm and springy pillow made of Aerocoil.
This obviously means you can vary the height, but you can also make it more supportive by placing the Aerocoil layer on top, softer by placing it on the bottom, or medium-firm by placing it in the middle. Personally, my perfect arrangement is to have the Aerocoil on top and one of the soft pillows removed.
I love this pillow, but it is undeniably very expensive indeed. I've justified it to myself by the fact it also has cooling 'Stratos' material on one side, making it a good choice on hot nights. But really, like the Princess, I'll demand any amount of extravagance as long as I get a good night's sleep.
The long list
There were some pillows I tested and I didn’t like as much for reasons that simply come down to personal preference. I believe some of them are still great pillows, even though they weren’t for me, so they are deserving of a place on this long list...
11. Brook + Wilde Everdene cooling pillow
£98, Brooke + Wilde
A boon for hot-headed sleepers, this pillow is filled with Thermofill Plus hollow fibre filling, which is encased in a quilted, breathable Egyptian cotton cover. So far, so good – the temperature regulation really is something special, but I found the pillow slightly too high, plump and firm for my liking. It was going to have to be very special to justify the high price. But if temperature regulation is your top priority, it may be worth the investment.
12. TEMPUR Comfort pillow
Memory foam was all the rage a few years ago, but I’ve never been convinced. The best word I can find to sum up this pillow is “sturdy” – but I can completely see why some people would love it, especially those looking for extra support for back or neck pain.
The TEMPUR brand is, of course, very reputable – it was the first to bring memory foam to the mainstream. This Comfort model is designed to look more like a conventional pillow than TEMPUR’s other ones, which is a plus – it fits in a conventional pillow case and doesn’t look as clinical as some of the others. It’s dense and heavy – the material almost feels like a weighted blanket. Although it’s described as among the softest of TEMPUR’s pillows, constructed from “Extra-Soft (ES) micro-cushions”, beware that I found it to be pretty firm and rather unyielding.
If you’re looking for a high level of pressure-relieving support, TEMPUR is probably the brand to go for. But, again, it just wasn’t for me.
By Jack Rear
Which type of pillow is best?
- Cotton: The basic, bog-standard pillow. Cotton pillows are cheap and readily available – but they’re prone to absorbing heat, and over time they flatten out to nothingness. Fine for the spare room that is very rarely slept in; not good enough to be considered in my search for the best pillows out there.
- Feather: A more luxurious pillow that tends to be squashy and comfortable. Usually the feathers will be either duck or goose. If you can, buy a down pillow, which uses feathers from the softer, fluffier layer underneath a bird’s outer feathers; these tend to be even softer and more luxurious. Feather pillows are light and ultra comfortable but they do tend to clump up requiring a daily plumping, and they’re obviously not vegan, if that matters to you. In addition, some people are allergic to feathers.
- Memory foam: Memory foam pillows and mattresses were once all the rage but they’re on their way out now. Memory foam is designed to mould to the shape of your head, providing solid support all night long. They’re also hypo-allergenic and don’t require washing. The trouble is that they’re very firm, heavy, and absorb heat during the night, making for an uncomfortable combination. My advice is to only pick memory foam if you really want a firm, supportive pillow.
- Microfibre: The new kid on the block, microfibre aims to combine the best of all the other kinds of pillow. They’re soft and fluffy like feather, don’t clump, don’t trap perspiration or moisture, and aim to keep cool through the night. However, microfibre is also the most expensive pillow lining, so you generally tend to find these pillows are bulked out with memory foam or feathers too.
Do I need to wash my pillows?
As well as bed sheets, you should also be washing your pillows – but there are different washing rules depending on the filling and material.
While it’s generally recommended that you wash your pillowcases at least every week or two, along with your sheets, you can get away with leaving your actual pillow for longer. You should aim to wash it at least every six months, if not more often (because of the dead skin cells and bodily fluids that may soak through the pillowcase).
How do I wash my pillows?
The general rule is that as long as it's not memory foam, you can shove it in the washing machine with the rest of your bed linens. This can vary for feather and down pillows, some of which are professional clean only, so do make sure to check the washing instructions when you get a new set.
For memory foam pillows, you should have to clean them less often anyway, as the material is naturally resistant to allergens and bacteria growth. But if you do spill something on one, just draw a bath, add some detergent and submerge the pillow, squeezing the water through it. Air dry or use a fan to speed up the process. Never use a heater to dry memory foam as it’s a serious fire hazard.
What pillows do they use in five-star hotels?
Obviously it’s hard to say without knowing the specific hotel but you generally tend to find the best hotels plump for duck or goose down as it’s incredibly soft and luxurious.