The Sleepy People guide to choosing the right pillow

You might think that any pillow will do, but there are many factors you need to think about in order to choose the pillow that’s exactly right for you. Read on for a little healthy pillow talk from our sleep experts.

Are you a side, back or front sleeper?

The posture you adopt in bed is possibly the biggest factor affecting your choice of pillow. That’s because correct spinal alignment is essential to a good night’s sleep and a pain-free day. So while we are all prone to rolling over in bed from time to time, it’s good to ask yourself if you’re most comfortable – and most likely to fall asleep – on your front, back or side.

Your neck is always going to be happier when it is kept fairly straight. So if you sleep on your side, the distance from your head to the mattress is going to be far greater than if you sleep on your back or your front. Naturally, that distance depends on the width of your shoulders, but most side sleepers should start by considering using two pillows: a deeper, firmer one next to the bed, and a softer, slimmer one next to your head.

If you prefer to sleep on your front, your head should ideally be almost level with the mattress – but not quite. That’s why we recommend a softer pillow that provides comfort as well as gentle support.

However good your posture may be when you are standing up, your head still needs to be slightly raised and properly supported when you lie on your back in bed. For this reason we recommend a medium to firm pillow for back sleepers, with a medium to deep profile.

Firm, medium or soft, which is right for you?

Personal taste is an important consideration when choosing a pillow. So while our experts will almost always recommend a soft and fairly slim pillow for front sleepers, those who sleep on their side or their back can have a preference for several different levels of support and thickness.

If you like a very firm pillow, memory foam and latex pillows will generally be the best option; with hollowfibre usually offering a medium level of support and natural fillings such as down offering the most gentle support.

However, all of our pillows have a firmness rating to help you make the right choice every time.

Which type of filling is right for you?

You would be forgiven for thinking that the choice of pillow fillings was simply between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial.’ The fact is that there are many options to consider – and that susceptibility to allergies is just as important a consideration as pillow depth or support level.

We now know that 25% of all allergic reactions and 50% of asthmatic conditions are directly related to house dust mites, which are most prevalent in bedding: with your pillow being the most likely source of inhalation.

Every hollowfibre filling is non-allergenic, but if you or any member of your family suffers symptoms ranging from itchy eyes to full-blown asthma, it is worth considering an ‘anti-allergy’ filling, which actively resists microbes and bacteria. Latex fillings are another excellent option, as while they enable greater air-flow, they do not collect house dust mites

Spun from Polyester, all of our hollowfibre fillings are non-allergenic and machine washable. However, our comprehensive range now includes three advanced types of hollowfibre filling, each with its own unique benefits:

Classic Hollowfibre

This is made from a 50:50 blend of polyester fibres and our own spring-like conjugate fibres. These ensure a ‘plump’ look and feel and all the comfort and support you could ever need.

Microfibre Hollowfibre

Combining the light and soft feel of down with the non-allergenic benefits of man-made materials, microfibre is the most luxurious of all hollowfibre fillings, and can be found in Silentnight’s Just Like Down pillows.

Cirrus Hollowfibre

Keeping a cool head in bed is always a good idea, as if your head is too warm you will perspire more heavily and thus sleep more lightly. Cirrus hollowfibre helps to draw moisture away from your skin, enabling it to evaporate into the room from your pillow, to keep you drier and more comfortable.

While there are many types of memory foam pillow, in all grades and sizes, the primary benefit of memory foam is that it spreads weight and pressure more evenly than other fillings. It is also non-allergenic and temperature sensitive: enabling it to mould itself to your shape as it is warmed by your head and neck.

What size pillow should I choose?

We make all of our pillows in our own Lancashire mill to conform to British safety standards and our own exacting quality standards. They are also available in a range of sizes and shapes, enabling you to choose the best option for bigger beds, tots’ cots and even for those who like to sit up in bed to read:

Should I have the same pillow as my partner?

Just because pillows are often sold in pairs, it doesn’t mean that you and your partner have to use the same type of pillow; in fact, that’s one of the most commonly made mistakes. If one of you is a side sleeper, and one of you is a front sleeper, you definitely need to sleep on different pillows: you can always swap them around when you make the bed in the morning, if you prefer a neatly dressed bed…

Which pillow is right for babies, toddlers and children?

Children of all ages have quite different pillow needs to adults, so it is essential to consider the following advice, which, while it comes from our own sleep experts, reflects best childcare practice.

Babies mustn’t be given pillows

From 0-18 months a baby’s neck is extremely vulnerable and could easily be damaged by the use of a pillow. So babies should always be placed on their back in their crib or cot, without a pillow. They can then find a sleep position that suits them best, from lying on their back to sticking their bottom in the air…

When is the right time to give a child a pillow?

While some experts say that 12 months is safe, we generally recommend waiting until your child is ready to move from a cot to their first bed. Having said that, if you note that a child over 12 months seems uncomfortable in their cot – and particularly if they have started to make their own pillow out of blankets or soft toys – it may be time to introduce a pillow.

Which pillow is best for a child?

Generally speaking, a fairly slim profile with medium support is best, particularly for little ones. That’s because you don’t want a pillow so soft that it could fold around the head and cause a suffocation risk. It is also a good idea to choose an anti-allergy filling, even if your child has shown no sign of suffering from allergies. The Silentnight Anti Allergy Cot Bed Pillow is a popular choice when selecting a child’s first pillow.

Can I really machine-wash a pillow?

If you prefer a natural feather or down filling, we always recommend professional cleaning, as it’s very difficult to get a natural pillow dry all the way through without the right equipment.

However, all of our hollowfibre pillows are machine washable at 60 degrees C, which is great, because that’s the temperature at which house dust mites are killed.

We also recommend washing pillows one at a time to get the best results – and also using a pillow protector to reduce the frequency of full washes for your pillows.

It’s also worth knowing that 15 minutes in a tumble dryer once a week will also kill dust mites, as well as fluffing up and freshening your pillows between washes.

Is it really a 2-year guarantee?

We make all of our pillows in our own Lancashire mills, which means we are 100% confident in the quality of their materials and manufacture. So if you have a problem within two years that arises from a manufacturing fault – as opposed to too many pillow fights – we will be happy to refund or replace any pillow at our discretion.

We will also offer a refund or replacement at the time of delivery if any pillow is incorrectly supplied, faulty or damaged on delivery.