Most people spend about a third of their lives sleeping, and almost all of us sleep with one or more pillows. It follows, then, that choosing a pillow is much more important than many people think and choosing the correct one will help you in getting a good nights sleep.

Choosing the Perfect Pillows for You

Here's a list of the most important factors in choosing a pillow.

Shapes and Sizes

Most pillows for sleeping come in standardized shapes and sizes. There is a correct size for every size of bed - but of course you don't have to follow these standard rules.

Standard Pillow

A standard pillow is 20" high by 26" long. It takes a standard-sized pillowcase. Use one pillow for a twin bed, two for a full or queen bed, and three for a king or California king bed.

Queen Pillow

Even though queen size is four inches longer than a standard size at 20" by 30", it still takes a standard-sized case; it just fills the case all the way to the end. Two queen's are generally used on a full or queen bed.

King Pillow

Extra-long at 20" by 36", king size take king-sized cases. Two king's fit perfectly across the top of a king or California king bed.

European Pillow

These square pillows are generally used as decoration and not for sleeping. They are 26" by 26" and take a pillow sham, sometimes known as a European sham.

Body Pillow

A body pillow is the perfect support for expectant mothers and others who need support while sleeping on their side. It is 20" by 54" and follows the shape of your body. Use a body pillowcase for this special pillow.


Pillows can be filled with down, feathers and down, polyester, or foam. Each filling has its own advantages, but down is generally considered to be the best, with feathers and down coming next and synthetic materials after that.


If you want one that fluffs up beautifully and molds to your shape, choose goose down. Down is the soft insulation that geese and some ducks have close to their skin; it's very different from feathers. Down clusters are softer and lighter than feathers, and they don't poke out of the pillow the way feathers sometimes do. Be sure to check the "fill power". The higher this number, the more it will fluff up and the longer it will last. Some times you can purchase a down pillow and down comforter in a single package.

Feathers and Down

Feathers are heavier than down, and they hold a shape well when pounded and folded into just the right shape. A feather may poke out every now and then, but there are those who say that this is good luck and confers a wish on you, just as a shooting star does.


Those who are allergic to down and feathers should choose this synthetic filling. These are generally the least expensive type of pillow, but they also don't last as long as ones made from natural materials such as down and feathers.


Memory foam, which "remembers" the shape against which it has been pressed, is good for those who like firm pillows, as well as sleepers who need extra support for the neck or spine. Foam pillows that rebounded to exactly the same shape and fell apart easily are a thing of the past; memory foam is a vast improvement over this old foam.

How to choose a pillow for your sleeping style

Pillows range from soft to firm, and each kind is especially suited to a different style of sleeping.

  • "Stomach sleepers" generally prefer softer pillows. These prevent the head and neck from staying in an unnatural position and becoming strained.
  • Those who sleep on their backs need a medium pillow that supports the head, neck, and shoulders.
  • Side sleepers should choose a firm pillow. Extra firmness will ensure that the head and spine stay aligned in a straight line.

Don't feel that you absolutely must choose one based on your style of sleeping. If you sleep on your stomach and prefer a firm pillow, feel free to choose one. Your comfort should be your most important guide!


The higher the thread count, the higher the quality. Higher thread count fabric tends to be softer, and it also works to prevent feathers from making a break for it. As an added bonus, this tightly woven fabric tends to prevent dirt and impurities from getting into the pillow.

You may also want to purchase a decorative pillowcase. Cases are available in a range of sizes and designs to fit your pillow and suit your taste. You could get a case that matches the rest of your bedding such as the comforter, or consider purchasing a comforter set that includes matching pillowcases.


If you are allergic to down or feathers, try one marked as "hypo-allergenic." You can further protect yourself from an allergy attack by keeping your pillow in a zippered cover with a high thread count. The pillowcase provides the final level of protection. Wash the cover as often as you wash the case to keep dust mites at bay.

Taking some time while purchasing your pillows can save you a great deal of discomfort - and don't you deserve to sleep soundly?