If you’ve visited any historic sites where you can see beds made from stone, then it’s clear we’ve come a long way since the days of resting our heads on hard surfaces at night. With so many pillow types to choose from, the question now is what sets different types of pillows apart?

the top 5 pillow types

The best type of pillow for you will depend on your preferences. As well as what you like the feel of, other factors to consider include allergies, neck and back problems and the types of pillow material.

Different kinds of pillows available include down and feather filled pillows made from natural materials - or sometimes, in the case of former - synthetics. You can also buy non-natural pillow filling types such as orthopaedic, microbead or memory foam pillows.

There are various factors to consider when choosing a new pillow - but surely comfort has to be top of the list. This may be balanced against the cost, so your budget is also a primary factor. But whatever the price, no one wants to sleep on a pillow that makes them sneeze. Nor one that doesn’t feel cosy.

To help you choose your next new pillow, here’s a rundown of the types of bed pillows you can buy. As we spend a third of our time sleeping, it’s a pretty important decision to make!

The pros and cons of top 5 pillow types

Feather pillows

Feather pillows have been around for a long time. They make a soft yet structured pillow that’s light in weight, and feather pillows can be more breathable than those filled with other materials.

A feather pillow will generally be filled with duck or goose down. It may also be combined with down to create, for example, a duck feather and down duvet or pillow.

The downsides of a feather pillow include the comfort factor, and the possibility of an allergic reaction. On the upside, they can be plumped up to retain their structure very easily. Feather is also generally more affordable than down.


  • More affordable than down
  • Good breathability
  • Easy to reshape


  • Feathers can feel scratchy
  • Regular re-shaping required
  • More likely to cause an allergic reaction

Natural down pillows

Down is similar in some ways to feather - but there are key differences. While feathers are self-explanatory, down is an insulating, natural material. It grows the core, or chest, area of a creature.

Down appears mostly on birds living in cold conditions, but may also be grown on animals. Such as the cashmere goats that live in extreme climates in areas such as Mongolia. It’s another of the natural types of pillow material, and normally comes from geese or ducks in this case.

Sometimes feathers and down are combined. So you may see bedding labelled as ‘duck feather and down’, for instance. Down is also used for other items such as winter outerwear.

Real down is prized because of the superior warmth it offers. Yet it is an incredibly lightweight material. The type of down varies a little depending on whether it comes from a duck or a goose. This will also affect the price - duck down generally being the cheaper and more widely available option.


  • Natural material
  • Ultra lightweight
  • Superior warmth and softness


  • Not as breathable as feathers
  • Expensive, especially goose down
  • Not suitable for those with an allergy

Synthetic down pillows

Another type of down also exists, and is increasingly being used to fill pillows, jackets and other cosy items. As technology improves, the quality of this synthetic down is also improving. Though this of course varies from one type to another.

On the whole, synthetic down is cheaper than duck down. It’s also often more suitable for those with allergies to natural fibres. The man-made down is created to mimic the real thing, but may not be as warm or as lightweight as the down that comes from a bird.


  • Soft and warm
  • Cheaper than natural down
  • Quality improving as technology advances


  • Breathability varies
  • Not all synthetic down is created equal
  • Tends not to be as soft or warm as real down

Memory Foam pillows

Memory foam has made a huge impact on the market when it comes to comfortable, supportive materials. It’s very popular among those who suffer from spinal pain affecting the neck or back.

Memory foam pillows are more structured than those filled with synthetic down, real down or natural feathers. They come in various forms. The types of pillow shapes you can buy include those with a traditional rectangular form, or those shaped like a wedge.

Some memory foam pillows may also be hypoallergenic, or designed to offer a cooling effect as you sleep. Whichever you choose, the memory foam will mould to your head and neck, offering support as you slumber. It will then spring back into the original shape once you get up out of bed. Or if you change your sleeping position, it will re-mould itself to adapt.


  • Supportive and promotes correct posture
  • Used for many ergonomic pillows
  • Retains shape


  • Not as soft as feathers or down
  • Breathability can be variable
  • Synthetic materials

Orthopaedic pillows

Orthopaedic pillows are specially designed to provide superior support to those who need it. If you have neck or back pain, then you may have thought about investing in an orthopaedic pillow. You may even own one already.

There are lots of big brand names behind the bestselling orthopaedic pillows. These include some you may be familiar with, such as Tempur, Emma, ComfortZone or Kally. Such companies spend a lot of money on research and development. And as you’ve probably guessed, they also tend to have large marketing budgets.

This means this type of pillow can also be pricey. But if it works, surely it’s worth it? The minus side is that you won’t really know which is best for you until you try some out. You could strike it lucky straightaway, or you might need to try another if one doesn’t work for you. Sometimes the different shapes and materials do take a bit of getting used to. But for committed converts, there’s often no going back.

Memory foam is often used for making orthopaedic pillows.


  • Scientifically researched
  • May offer significant pain relief
  • Many brands, shapes and types to choose from


  • Can be costly
  • Deciding which to buy can be difficult
  • Shapes can take some getting used to

What your pillowcase is made from is also very important. There’s nothing better than pure mulberry silk pillowcases for skin, hair and sleep, so why not take a look at the options today?

February 02, 2023 — Michelle Fletcher Smith