For most of my life, I’ve been able to fall asleep on anything: a floor, couch, or pillow—no matter how flat or lumpy—without any pain. However, since I hit my 30s, all of that has changed. After waking up morning after morning with a neck so tight that it hurt to move my head, I knew it was time to give up the $10 two-pack of pillows I have slept on for years. They just weren’t cutting it, no matter how many I layered each night.
If our pillows are doing their job, according to the National Sleep Foundation, they should both provide good head and neck support and keep them in a neutral position. Our pillows flatten over time as we use them, leading to way less support, but you can keep neck and shoulder discomfort at bay easily by changing out your pillow every two years. (You can also give them a good wash every so often to help kill off any dust mites, just check the tag first.) If you’re not sure when you last changed your pillow or you’re so sore you feel like you’ve run a marathon each morning, it’s time for something new. The search can be pretty overwhelming, so I put a few of Amazon’s best-reviewed pillows to the test to see which ones really lived up to the hype.
Of the five pillows I tried, this one is my favorite. For starters, the packaging was really well done—the pillow comes with extra stuffing to adjust it depending on what kind of sleeper you are, as well as instructions on how to do it. I am a back, stomach, and side sleeper, but I typically start on my side. I used the instructions to adjust my pillow based on my range of sleeping positions. I went with the less is more method, and it seems like I got it just right. I had no neck issues, and my shoulders felt relaxed the next morning. Two more features that make me happy are that the pillow is hypoallergenic and comes with a washable pillowcase. As someone with super reactive skin and an obsession with washing all my bedding every Sunday, those two details were the icing on the cake.
When we talk about sleeping, Casper is a brand we hear a lot about, so I couldn’t review pillows without including a brand beloved by so many. The pillow arrived in a vacuum-sealed wrap. When I opened it, the pillow expanded and fluffed up. In addition to its softness, the removable case is a big perk because it makes it easy to wash each week with my linens. I purchased the medium firmness option to try a pillow in the middle of the road. When I first tried it, I thought it was too soft—I was surely going to wake up stiff and in pain—but it pleasantly surprised me. It’s the perfect mix of softness and firmness, and because I enjoy a firm, almost bouncy pillow, and found that in the Coop option, this one was my second choice.
During one of our daily chats, my best friend and I talked about how we were both looking for new pillows. She mentioned this foam pillow. Because of her recommendation and the solid reviews, I ordered it. The first night, I was disappointed because the pillow was so firm—it felt more like a block than a pillow. But I gave it a few more nights. Each night I felt my neck and shoulder pain wither away. However, in terms of comfort, this well-designed pillow left a lot to be desired. I like to move my pillow around and fluff it while I sleep. With this memory foam pillow, that's impossible, but I still think this option is useful to keep around in case I run into any more neck pain.
These budget-friendly pillows give me hotel vibes. You know the soft, plush pillows you love sinking into during a vacation getaway? Though they aren’t as supportive as a couple of the other pillows I tried, these medium-firm pillows held their own when I slept on my stomach. I love that these are hypoallergenic, machine washable, and you get two pillows for under $25. With all I just mentioned, you may be asking why this one didn’t rank higher. As soft as these are, I don't know how long they'll keep their shape. However, I do see the value in pillows that offer comfort at an accessible price point.
This set of pillows had mixed reviews. However, because of the price, I wanted to give these a try. They are very soft. So soft, in fact, I thought for sure I was going to wake up in pain.
After a night of rest, to my surprise, I woke up without any neck or shoulder pain. However, if you’re someone who needs firmness for a restful night’s sleep, the Acanva option is probably the better choice because my head sunk into these. I think these are excellent pillows for a guest room, but not for use every day because I’m unsure how well they’ll hold up.
Searching for pillows is a more difficult challenge than I thought. In my experience, I’ve never heard many people advocate for investing in the right pillow the same way we do mattresses. We’re all working with a range of budgets, so I wanted to try pillows from budget-friendly to investment to help us all get a better night of rest. In the world of pillows, I believe you get what you pay for, so keep that in mind during your search.