The Best Memory Foam Pillows

Learn why memory foam pillows are beneficial to sleep and see our top picks for the best memory foam pillows

By Ashley Little

Memory foam pillows are a type of bed pillow which has been known to help with soreness and neck pain. Memory foam fill is a dense material made of viscoelastic polyurethane foam. It was invented by NASA to absorb weight and pressure and provide astronauts with comfort during rocket launches. Today, it is commonly used in pillows and mattresses. This foam fill is inserted into a pillow cover. Memory foam fill may either be shredded or a single piece.

Sleeping on memory foam pillows can provide pressure relief if you suffer from neck and shoulder pain. This is because memory foam changes shape when exposed to pressure and body heat. When you lay on a memory foam pillow, it will mold to the shape of your neck, head, and shoulders. It softens when exposed to body heat, conforming to your head and neck shape. The conforming properties of memory foam provide pressure relief for your head and neck and reduce the pain that comes from sleeping on a pillow with the wrong height or density. Memory foam is very durable and has a longer lifespan than other types of pillows.

Types of Memory Foam Pillows

Memory foam pillows vary by shape and material.

Shape

There are three primary shapes of memory foam pillows: traditional, wedge, and contour. The one you choose will depend on your sleep preferences.

A traditional memory foam pillow looks like a regular ole pillow. The insert is a single piece of rectangular foam. Memory foam pillows of this shape are unobtrusive to sleep, making them a great choice for any type of sleeper.

Wedge memory foam pillows are shaped like a block of cheese—thickest at the base with down-ward slope and tapering off at the bottom. Wedge pillows help elevate your shoulders and torso, as well as your head and neck. They provide great support to sleepers with chronic neck and shoulder pain. Wedge pillows may also provide relief for those suffering from acid reflux. Some research indicates that wedge pillows may also help snorers or others with sleep apnea by keeping the head elevated.

Contour memory foam pillows are a slap of memory foam material with a slight concave groove in the center. This groove cradles the head, providing shoulder support. They are especially good for back sleepers.

Material

There are three variations of memory foam material. Traditional memory foam has the benefit of conforming to your body, but it provides no temperature regulation. This type of memory foam is known for retaining heat, making them uncomfortable during the warmer months, or in humid climates.

Open-cell memory foam, also known as Aircol, is a different type of memory foam that increases air circulation throughout the pillow. This type of material is longer lasting than traditional memory foam and is also more resistant to mold, spores, and other allergens.

Last but not least is gel memory foam, which is available in two variations. One type is a foam infused with a cooling gel that simply absorbs heat. The other type is called phase-changing gel memory foam that not only absorbs body heat but also releases the energy absorbed back to you to help regulate body temperature throughout the night.

All of these materials are available as a single insert or shredded.

The Best Memory Foam Pillows

See our top picks for the best memory foam pillows available online!

The Layla Pillow is famous for its blend of memory foam and Kapok tree fiberfill. This combination creates a plush surface that promotes air-circulation throughout the pillow. Its traditional shape is best-suited for side or back sleepers.

The other special benefit of the Layla pillow is its copper-infused cover. Copper-infused yarn is commonly used in athletic fabrics, as it reduces odors. This material also helps remove and replenish dead skin cells, reducing build-up within the pillow and the residue it can leave on your face.

The Layla pillow also includes a zipper so sleepers can remove the fill to customize the height of the pillow to their liking. The removable cover also allows for the pillow to be washed.

It’s highly customizable and great for a variety of sleepers.

Leesa Pillow

The Leesa pillow is a contour memory foam pillow. Its open-cell structure was designed to increase the air flow throughout the pillow and promote a cool sleep- no more flipping over your pillow to get to the cool side! The contour shape is optimal for side and back sleepers.

The TEMPUR-Pedic name is synonymous with the memory foam tradition of bed pillows and mattresses. Their TEMPUR-Cloud pillow is offered in the shape of traditional pillows and low in height making it a good choice for back or stomach sleepers. Some reviewers reported that the pillow is quite heavy, or had a slight smell when taken out of the packaging, though this smell disappeared upon airing out the pillow.

The Brooklyn Bedding Luxury cooling pillow is the best option for sleeping cool during the summer, or for sleepers who live in warmer climates. This pillow combines gel and open-cell memory foam, creating the most breathable experience, cooling your skin on contact.

The Luxury Cooling pillow if offered at two heights— low profile and high profile. The high profile option is best for side sleepers as it gently elevates your head and neck while providing pressure relief from the shoulders. Back sleepers may choose their preference between high and low profile. Stomach sleepers will prefer the low profile height, as this aligns your spine and helps you avoid stiffness, aches, and pains that come from sleeping with a misaligned spine.

The Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow is a shredded memory foam pillow wrapped in Tencel fabric that’s designed to mimic the comfort of down or feather pillows while simultaneously providing the support of memory foam. This pillow has also been designed to open nasal passages to promote proper breathing. It’s also customizable and comes equipped with a zipper so you may remove fill to reach your desired pillow height and density.

The Coop Home Goods adjustable memory foam pillow is made with a combination of shredded memory foam and microfiber then wrapped in a bamboo rayon cover. It is offered at the medium firm level but you can zip off the cover to adjust the comfort and height of your pillow to your liking. With more than 11,000 positive customer reviews, Coop Home Goods might be the creator of the most loved pillow on the internet. Made with CertiPUR foam and GREENGUARD GOLD fabrics, this pillow is hypoallergenic and meets the highest standards for quality materials. As a bonus, this pillow comes with an incredible five-year warranty.


Benefits of Sleeping on a Memory Foam Pillow

Memory foam has a dense structure which provides multiple health benefits. The power of this material is that it keeps your head and neck aligned with your spine by molding to your bone structure. It evenly distributes the weight of your head and neck to provide pressure relief. It absorbs motion if you toss and turn and can provide relief from neck spasms, arthritis, and stiff necks. Some users report that memory foam helped them find relief from snoring and tension headaches.

Huge developments have been made to memory foam materials as of recent, one of which is minimizing heat retention. Memory foam pillows also have hypo-allergenic properties due to the open-cell structure that reduces the build-up of dust, mold, and bacteria within the pillow.

Cons of Memory Foam Pillows

Not all memory foam pillows are created equal. Traditional memory foam, with its dense material construction, retains heat as you sleep, and you may need to flip over the pillow to get to the cool side. Hot sleepers may prefer to choose gel-infused or open cell memory foam pillows.

Cheaper memory foam pillows lose their elasticity and retain dents from your head and shoulders over time. Thus, it is important to completely read the label of your memory foam pillow before you choose to purchase, to ensure you’re getting the correct pillow for your sleep needs.

Keep in mind the temperature of your home when shopping for memory foam as it’s a material that’s heat-responsive, meaning in colder weather it may feel rigid and inflexible while in warmer weather, it may sink easily and be too squishy.

Memory foam pillow inserts are not machine washable. However, many memory foam pillows come with a cover that can be placed in the washing machine when the memory foam insert is removed.

You should never let a child under the age of two sleep with a memory foam pillow due to the potential for suffocation.

Memory Foam Versus Traditional Down Pillows

While memory foam and down are very different materials at their core, the feel of shredded memory foam is comparable to down fill. Down is a type of feather with a small, flexible spine. They can squish down when exposed to pressure, and regain their full shape when pressure is lifted, similar to the resiliency of memory foam. Yet, down has long been considered the softest, most luxurious type of fill for pillows.

Down is also known for its high insulation powers. Being a very warm material, a down pillow may have you tossing and turning to get to the cool side in the middle of the night. While traditional memory foam is similar in that it retains body heat, open-cell and gel-infused memory foam have more temperature regulation powers.

In a similar vein to temperature, down can only wick away small amounts of moisture from sleep sweats because it is not water resistant. In fact, it loses its insulating power when wet. While memory foam itself is not a moisture-wicking material, it can be covered with a moisture-wicking pillowcase to increase this ability.

An advantage of down is that it is an all-natural material, meaning it contains no chemical compounds or oils. However, one downside is it has to be fluffed in the morning to regain its original height. On the other hand, memory foam pillows regain their natural shape without ever needing to be fluffed.

How Often Should I Change My Pillow?

Over time, all pillow fills will break down and become soiled with body oils, skin cells, and dust mites. While common wisdom tells us to replace pillows every five years, memory foam pillows should be replaced every 18-36 months

To test if it’s time for a new memory foam pillow, fold the pillow in half. If it doesn’t immediately spring back to its original shape, it’s time for a new one.


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