How To Choose The Right Pillow – A Helpful Guide

By: Ryan Poppie Reading Time: 15 minutes

Woman sleeping soundly
Reading Time: 15 minutes

If you’re searching for how to choose the right pillow, you’re in the right place. Since we spend every night sleeping on our pillows, the type and quality of a pillow can affect the quality of our sleep. 

The right pillow will adequately support your neck, head, and spinal alignment. Besides simple comfort, choosing the right pillow can impact your health.

As sleep experts, since 1929, we’ve learned that many people don’t know what to look for when shopping for a pillow.

Most don’t know all the different types and how to choose for your specific comfort, support, and sleep position needs.

Good news; this sleep guide will help you choose the right pillow.

So let’s dig in.




The Importance of Good Sleep

Before we look at the importance of choosing the right pillow, we believe it’s important to discuss the importance of good sleep.

Most of us go about our days putting our jobs, family, and friends before sleep, often ending up totally exhausted and never truly understanding why.

We try to eat well and exercise whenever possible, so why do we not feel as strong and healthy as we’d like?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

About 1 in 3 adults in the United States reported not getting enough rest or sleep daily. (source)

The big, bold truth is that sleep quality affects everything. It affects our health, our minds, and our emotions. It affects how well we function at work and communicate with others. And it affects the way we’re able to inspire and lift those around us.

With enough sleep, we can learn faster, pay attention better, and make sound decisions for ourselves and others. And just as it helps adults function better, it helps kids retain information and be more creative to perform better in school.

While understanding how to choose the right pillow – please understand the right pillow matters when you desire to experience the best sleep possible!

Find more sleep data and statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



What is a Pillow Loft?


Pillow Loft Chart

Pillow Loft Chart


A Pillow Loft is the compressed height of the pillow when your head is resting on it. When choosing the loft height, consider your sleep position, the firmness of your mattress, and your body type.

The loft is often used to refer to the thickness of the pillow. 

The typical loft profiles are as follows:

  • Low Loft – Three inches thick or less.
  • Medium Loft – Between three and five inches thick.
  • High (Firm) Loft – Five inches thick or more.

Which of these profiles you select is mainly based on your sleep position and body type. 

In general:

  • Stomach sleepers need a low loft (3 inches or lower)
  • Back sleepers need a medium loft (3 to 5 inches)
  • Side sleepers use a high loft (5 inches or higher),

Ensuring the right pillow height could be the difference between experiencing deep sleep vs. tossing and turning all night. 

We recommend going to an actual mattress store as they allow you to test different pillows to find the one that isn’t only the most comfortable for you and keeps your spine in the best alignment. 

Maintaining neutral spine alignment will give you the most comfort and rest. Knowing your sleep position will be your guide when deciding the loft size.

From spinal alignment to sleep positions to body and pillow types – let’s run through everything you need to know on how to pick the right pillow. 



Spinal Alignment is the Key For Choosing the Right Pillow


Neck Alignment Chart


We’ve all experienced it, waking up with a painful crick (or stiffness) in our necks. Ouch – not good.   When that happens, it often means that your neck was in an awkward position for some time; in other words, your spine was out of alignment. Stomach sleepers experience this more often than not, which is why sleeping on your stomach is not recommended.

Many other factors can lead to pain in your neck, so if the right pillow doesn’t quite do the trick, please, see your doctor.  

When you have the right pillow for your body type and sleep position, you’ll reduce strain on your muscles and ligaments, relieving pain which leads to a good night’s rest.

Sleeping on your back offers the most relaxed posture of your head, neck, and spine as it properly distributes your weight across your body.  

Sleeping on your side is the next best option, as it’s not easy for everyone to sleep on their backs.  



What Position Do You Sleep In?


Sleep Positions Chart

Sleep Positions Chart


How to pick the right pillow also depends on your sleep position. Not selecting the right pillow based on your sleep position can significantly affect determining the right pillow for you, including the loft size that would work best.

Choosing the Right Pillow for Side Sleepers

Starting with the most popular sleeping position: lying on your side. Side sleepers place a lot of pressure on their neck, so they need a supportive pillow. A thicker (medium to high loft), possibly firmer pillow is best suited to keep your spine’s neutral alignment and curvature when lying on your side.

The higher loft helps to take pressure off your shoulder and keep your neck and head in line with your spine, while the firmness will help you hold the position through the night. Soft latex or memory foam pillows work well for side sleepers, combining firmness with comfort, offering excellent support and a good night’s sleep.

Choosing the Right Pillow for Stomach Sleepers

First, sleeping on your stomach is considered one of the more unhealthy and least common positions to sleep in, as your neck is turned from your spine.

To help mitigate the effects of sleeping this way and offer the best support, pillows for stomach sleepers should consider a low to a mid-loft pillow.

The Mayo Clinic recommends stomach sleepers sleep with a pillow beneath their pelvis while they sleep on their stomach.  This will support your hips to keep your spine better aligned.

Keeping your head and neck at the same level as the spine is crucial, preventing you from craning your neck, which can cause pain.

Choosing the Right Pillow for Back Sleepers

Back sleepers technically have the healthiest sleeping posture, as the weight of your body is evenly distributed.

The neck and head still need support, so choosing suitable pillows for back sleepers is still essential.

Back sleepers don’t need as high a loft as side sleepers or low like those that sleep on their stomachs, but something in the middle is recommended.

A medium loft keeps the head, neck, and back in neutral alignment in this position, and a medium firmness offers the proper support.

A material that conforms to the natural shape of your body, like memory foam, is ideal.

Bedgear BG-X ALL Position Pillow

Bedgear BG-X ALL Position Pillow

Choosing the Right Pillow for Combination Sleepers

People toss and turn without a particular sleeping position every night and need a pillow that works well for all positions.

Combination sleepers need a pillow that works as a jack-of-all-trades and provides a middle ground. Ideally, you want a medium-firm pillow with a medium loft – latex works exceptionally well.

Many pillows use innovative new technology to provide a better experience to combination sleepers; we recommend BEDGEAR Multi-Position Performance® Pillow, a best-seller at The Beloit Mattress Company.

This pillow has a patented Air-X® technology that keeps the air flowing in and around it to help the body naturally regulate its temperature. A React® fill has a supportive blend of consistently cut materials, including silk-like fibers that provide conforming and pressure relief.

It offers an Ori-Tee® cover with a temperature-neutral feel and more to accommodate all sleep positions, including back, side, stomach, and any combination.

Shop All Pillows



What’s Your Body Type?


Body Type Chart


Your body type plays a factor in determining how to choose the right pillow. While your sleep position will play a more significant factor in determining, your body type will lend a hand.

  • If you sleep on your side, your shoulder height will lighten the ideal size of your pillow, as broad shoulders will mean more distance between your bed and spine, requiring a taller pillow or a “high loft.”
  • If you’re a heavier sleeper that may sink into your mattress more – you may require a medium or low loft as a petite sleeper would.

Size Does Matter!

Choose the right size pillow for your size and sleeping style. 



Pillow Size Chart

Choosing the right pillow includes getting the correct size for your needs and bed size! For a pillow size chart, pillows usually come in either standard, super standard, queen, or king sizes; however, sizes have expanded over the years, including the popular body size.


Pillow Size Chart


  • Standard – 20 x 26 inches (51 x 66 cm).  A standard pillow fits well on either a twin or full-size mattress. It would take three standard pillows to cover a king-size mattress.
  • Super Standard – 20 x 28 inches (51 x 71 cm).  Need some more length? A super standard is 2 inches longer, yet 2 inches shorter than a queen. Two of these fit across a full or full XL mattress.
  • Queen – 20 x 30 inches (51 x 76 cm).  A queen pillow fits nicely on a queen mattress. They also can fit snuggly into a standard-size pillowcase.
  • King – 20 x 36 inches (51 x 92 cm). While a king pillow would fit on a twin bed, it’s suited for wider mattresses.
  • Body – 20 x 54 inches (51 x 137 cm).  If you’re a hugger and love the feel of a large pillow, this is a good choice for you.


What mattress size you need.



How to Measure a Pillow

How to measure a pillow is straightforward – no illustration is needed.

We recommend using a firm carpenter’s tape measure rather than a soft tailor’s measuring tape if you need an accurate measure.

With tape in hand, hold two corners of the pillow to the ground and measure from one end to another.

Do not measure diagonally nor from the center to any side. 

Measure to a whole number, and round off the measurement if necessary.

That’s all there is to it.



Types of Pillows To Consider When Choosing the Right Pillow

There are several different pillow types on the market. We’ll break them down to help you choose the best pillow.

Hypoallergenic Pillows

Alpaca Pillow with 100% Organic Cotton Cover

Alpaca Pillow – 100% All Natural

Allergies can quickly make a night’s sleep a nightmare. Hypoallergenic pillows repel dust mites and other allergens by having a higher thread count, making it difficult for them to settle. They can make a huge difference in your quality of sleep.

BEDGEAR, an American manufacturer, offers high-quality pillows at four different heights to suit a variety of sleepers. They also offer pillows with Dri-Tec fabric, a tri-level moisture-wicking weave that keeps moisture and allergens away from the pillow.

The Beloit Mattress Company also handcrafts an Alpaca pillow that is 100% all-natural and hypoallergenic.  It’s filled with 100% Huacaya Alpaca fleece, sourced from a local and family-owned farm, and covered by 100% organic cotton harvested in the United States.

Polyester Pillows

Polyester pillows are a budget-friendly option for purchasing a new pillow.

It’s an affordable pillow type that can be manufactured with varying levels of firmness and loft, making it a suitable option for all sleeping positions. Polyester pillows are lightweight, hypoallergenic, and a soft and comfortable option for those on a budget.

There are downsides to purchasing a polyester pillow, which partly makes them affordable. They aren’t very durable, often clumping and developing lumps, and usually must be replaced every six months to 2 years. It’s also not the right choice for hot sleepers, as polyester is not an exceptionally breathable material.

Memory Foam Pillows

This type of pillow is commonly associated with mattresses and is an excellent material for pillows.

Most memory foam pillows mold to the contours of your neck and head and offers excellent support for your body in many different sleeping positions. They’re particularly good for people with neck or upper back pain.

As memory foam softens to your body shape, it’s a comfortable – though firm – pillow choice. The material has a high density, which helps with its durability, and ensures memory foam pillows last a long time. It does retain heat due to its high density, which could be an issue for people that need to stay cool to sleep.

Latex Pillows

Rejuvenite Talalay Natural High Profile Pillow

Rejuvenite Talalay Natural High-Profile Pillow

Latex pillows, like the Rejuvenite Talalay Latex Down High Profile pillow, are among the most popular. These pillows are soft and elastic but still offer great support.

Latex is made from the sap of rubber trees, naturally resistant to mold and spores; this makes latex pillows an excellent option for people with allergies.

The material also works well for people who need to stay cool to sleep, as latex is more breathable than memory foam and stays cool during the summer.

This material is comfortable and supportive and works particularly well for back and side sleepers, though any sleeper could find a suitable latex pillow. The only aspect some find prohibitive is the cost!

Shop Rejuvenite Talalay Latex Down

Down or Feather Pillows

Down Alternative PillowDown or feather pillows and pillows that combine the two are the most traditional and still commonly used.

They’re made from the soft down feathers of ducks and geese. Down is not the same as feathers – down is the inner plumage of the stomach area, while feathers are generally cheaper and have quills.

A poor-quality feather pillow can soon have sharp quills poking through after some wear and tear.

However, these pillow types have stood the test of time, as they’re known to be soft and luxurious. They’re also long-lasting, potentially lasting up to 10 years.

The soft quality of down pillows makes them an excellent choice for stomach sleepers, though a down pillow with a high loft will also work well for side sleepers.

Down and feather pillows tend to retain heat – if you’re a sleeper that always feels warm, they may not be the right choice.

The Down Inc Pillow is also a consumer favorite with a 230 thread count, 80% white duck feature, and 20% snow white down. The Down Inc. pillow is considered a medium firmness pillow.

As these pillows are made from the feathers of animals, you should take care to make sure they’re ethically sourced.

Substitutes that mimic the effect of down without sourcing it from an animal, like the Down Alternative Pillow – Luxurelle 230 TC, are also great.

Shop Down Alternative Pillow



Caring For Your Pillow

So once you’ve invested in your perfect pillow, you need to look after it!

Keep your pillow clean by investing in a pillow protector. A pillow protector will protect your pillow from your body’s dirt, oils, and saliva. Pillow protectors will help your pillow stay nice, fluffy, and soft for extended periods.

We recommend a pillow protector and a pillowcase. Most pillow protectors have a zipper, whereas most pillowcases do not. A pillow protector will also protect your pillow shell from yellowing.

You’ll need to treat your pillow very differently according to its material. Latex and memory foam pillows can’t be washed in the washing machine and must be spot-cleaned. The washing machine can usually clean other types, but you should always check the pillow label to see the care instructions.

On average, you spend about 56 hours a week on your pillow. Think of all the deal skin cells, drillable, and even factual oils that soak your pillowcase. Eww.

You should wash your pillowcase frequently and your pillow protector half as much. And if the manufacturer suggests washing the pillow, follow the instructions on the label.

Shop Pillow Protectors



Waking Up With Pain?

Sleeping without the support you need can leave you in pain for hours after waking. Are you waking up with back pain in bed?

While your sleeping position significantly impacts the type of pillow you need, the location of your pain points can also give you some insight.

Listen to Ryan Poppie, President and master bedmaker of The Beloit Mattress Company, talk about how to find the right pillow for neck pain.


Have Neck Pain? How to Choose the Right Pillow!


Best Pillow for Neck Pain

If you’re suffering from neck pain, your pillow isn’t providing you with the support you need.

As we have already discussed, a pillow is meant to keep your neck and head in neutral alignment with your body. If it’s too high or too low, your neck will be in an unnatural, unsupported position, which can cause discomfort after a whole night.

Latex and memory foam are the best materials for neck pain, as they provide excellent support and can cushion or mold your body shape. You will want a medium-firm pillow that combines support with comfort.

The root of the issue where neck pain is often concerned is that the pillow’s loft is wrong. High loft pillows are frequent offenders, as they can prop the neck in an unnatural position, creating tension. Look for a lower loft, and ensure that your pillows do not crane your neck before going to sleep.

Best Pillow for Shoulder Pain

If you’re suffering from shoulder pain and suspect it is either caused or worsened by your pillow, you are likely a side or combination sleeper.

Side sleepers, or people that spend some of the night in that position, place a lot of pressure on their shoulders while they sleep. If your pillow isn’t supportive, you’re adding the weight of your neck and head into the equation.

A high-loft, supportive pillow is essential for people with this issue. A firm material like memory foam or latex that can keep your body in alignment, and pressure off your shoulder, is vital in staving off shoulder pain.

Best Pillow for Snoring

Snoring isn’t fun for you or, if you have one, your partner. Many people have issues with snoring, but this can be helped by choosing the right pillow.

The best pillow for snoring offers good support and a high loft. It’s essential to keep your head elevated, as this keeps your airways open and helps to prevent snoring. Similarly to pillows that work for shoulder and neck pain, latex and memory foam pillows are best for people who snore, as they offer the necessary support and loft.



Other Things to Consider

These are a few other considerations for choosing the right pillow and how it can affect your sleep.

What Type of Mattress Do You Have?

The right pillow won’t matter if your mattress type is unsuitable or low quality. Ensuring you have the right mattress to match your pillow is essential for a healthy night’s sleep.

You can find your perfect mattress match through a quick questionnaire on our website.

Are you Allergic to Certain Materials?

In the case of mild allergies, you may not realize you’re allergic immediately. Many people unknowingly spend many nights on a pillow made from materials they’re allergic to, blaming their allergy symptoms on the common cold.

The most common perpetrator is a pillow made from goose feathers, which often triggers sneezing and a runny nose in the unlucky few who suffer. Checking, through a patch test or otherwise, to make sure your pillows are made from a safe material is essential for a good night’s rest. If you suffer from dust or other airborne allergies, consider a hypoallergenic pillow resistant to them.

Do you Sleep Hot or Cold?

Some people have a higher core body temperature when they sleep and feel too hot lying in bed.

These people are often combination sleepers; they restlessly toss and turn to stay cool, meaning they usually need medium-loft, medium-firm pillows.

Some pillows have specific technology designed to keep them cool – many BEDGEAR pillows use their patented Air-X® airflow and Ver-Tex® fabric technology to ventilate the pillow and stay cool all night.

On the other hand, cold sleepers need to huddle under a blanket to stay warm when they sleep. Though, as with hot sleepers, the sleeping position can vary, cold sleepers often sleep on their side. They need high-loft, supportive pillows.



Where to Shop for A Pillow

The Internet is saturated with companies selling pillows – so you have plenty of places to choose from. Here at The Beloit Mattress Company, we’ve run a family-run company with almost a century of experience crafting the perfect night’s sleep.

As one of the midwest’s premier factory direct mattress factories, we know a thing or two about the importance of sleep, comfort, and quality of pillow products. That’s why we only offer our valued customers the best pillow options.

Our local Beloit community is at the heart of our business, and we value supporting American products and labor. Though the pillows we offer are manufactured elsewhere, all brands, including BEDGEAR and Rejuvenate, share our values and are made in the USA.

We all spend a significant portion of our lives asleep; it’s a time worth investing in. Beyond excellent products, we have a 5-star customer rating to back our craftsmanship, service, and support.

We are currently offering up to 25% off one of our most popular pillow brands, BEDGEAR, including free shipping – take advantage today while stocks last!

Shop our BEDGEAR Sale



Need More Help Getting Better Sleep?

A Sleep Guide for Every Age Group

A Sleep Guide for Every Age Group


As we’ve stated, sleep is crucial to our well-being. It impacts your mood, memory, and cognitive abilities, and deep sleep is a restorative stage vital for maintaining our health.

We have created a sleep guide to help you get the best night’s sleep possible.

Within this free guide, you’ll learn how to get the best sleep, from infants to seniors, no matter your age. 

We share valuable insights on the various stages of sleep, how you can live a healthy life, and what will help you achieve the ultimate goal of sleeping your best.

If you’re not sleeping an average of 6-8 hours a day, be sure to find choose the right pillow and learn more from this guide.

Download This Free Guide



Pillow FAQ

We hope our guide on how to choose the right pillow has helped.  Here are some frequently asked questions on the subject. If you need help, please chat or call us any time.

How do you Know Which Pillow is Right for You?

By reading this guide and following our advice, of course! Trial and error is one method, but you can discover which pillow is right for you by considering your usual sleep position, preferred material, your budget, and areas that cause you discomfort.

Which Material Pillow is Best?

This depends on your specific needs – memory foam is one of the best for offering neck support, for instance. Latex is considered one of the best materials for pillows, as it is comfortable, supportive, and long-lasting. The only downside with latex is its price tag!

What Firmness of Pillow is Best?

Rather than a general ‘best’ firmness, there is a firmness that works best for you. Medium-firm is the most common firmness used in pillows, but you should purchase what you prefer and the firmness that provides the support you need.

What Type of Pillow is Best for All Positions?

While most medium-firm, medium-loft latex pillows are a great option for combination sleepers, we recommend the excellent BEDGEAR Multi-Position Performance® Pillow, one of our best-sellers.



Prefer shopping at our mattress store?

Please visit us if you’re local to either of our mattress stores. You’ll be glad you did!



About Ryan Poppie

Ryan Poppie, President and Chief Bedmaker at The Beloit Mattress Company. He's not just a mattress maker but a true expert in sleep. Leading a 4th generation family business, Ryan uses his deep sleep knowledge to ensure every mattress made gives his customers the best rest possible. Each custom mattress is handcrafted to show his love for sleep and how it can improve our lives. With his team, Ryan's passion is to improve your quality of life through a better night's sleep.

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