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Best Pillows 2023

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In some ways, everyone is a sleep expert—virtually every adult has been sleeping since they were born. But that doesn’t make selecting a pillow, without trying it, any easier. That’s where I come in. I spent four weeks of sleeping on 15 different pillows (and 6 months testing them over time) in order to determine which one is, truly, the best of the best. The most consistent leader was the Coop Home Goods Original Pillow, which I found comfortable right out of the box. It’s adjustable, relatively affordable, relatively easy to wash and doesn’t hold on to heat or humidity. Several months later, it’s still the pillow that I use most at night, often combined with another one to get the most comfortable sleeping angle. The best value pillow I found was the Amazon Basics Down Alternative Pillow, which was not only surprisingly supportive and a terrific value, but also the easiest to clean option of my entire pillow lineup. For the best down option, I recommend the Parachute Down Pillow.

The Original pillow from Coop was the best pillow I found after 6 months of testing.

Photos: Retailers / Illustration: Forbes

To sum it up, these are the top picks from months of testing:

  • Best Pillow Overall: Coop Home Goods Original Pillow
  • Best Value Pillow: Amazon Basics Down Alternative Pillow
  • Best Down Pillow: Parachute Down Pillow

Of course, what the “best pillow” means is up to how you sleep and what you prefer, and there are several different types of pillows on this list that may work for you. Based on research and interviews, I established certain parameters when trying to find the best pillows: They should be both soft and supportive, stand up to the wear and tear of washing and drying without coming apart and have a generous return policy so you can give the pillow a proper trial. I also tested pillows for heat and humidity retention, noting which ones stayed cool and dry. Read on for my full review.


Coop Home Goods Original Pillow

Fill: Shredded Memory Foam | Firmness: Adjustable | Warranty/Trial Period: 100 Days  | Price: $72 |

Best for:

  • People who want to try out shredded memory foam and want a good trial period
  • Sleepers who want to customize the firmness of their pillow
  • People who tend to sleep hot and would like a pillow that doesn’t get heat

Skip if:

  • You’re not a fan of shredded memory foam
  • You want a more affordable option

Works For Side And Back Sleepers

Of all the pillows in all the different materials I tested, the Coop Home Goods Original Pillow stood out as a clear winner. This pillow uses shredded memory foam rather than a solid piece of foam, which means the materials can shift and mold to your body. It compresses when you put your head (or a bowling ball) on it, but still provides enough support to cradle your head and neck. It cooled off quickly and didn’t retain humidity, and it stood up well to washing without developing lumps, off-putting odors, or frayed seams. It’s comfy without the added expense or upkeep of down. Over several months of sleeping on it, I found that it more or less retained the original shape that it had when I took it out of the box—I’ve had to fluff it a couple times, but upkeep hasn’t been onerous.

The Coop Home Goods Pillow was one of the more comfortable memory foam pillows I tested. I’m usually a stomach sleeper, but recently I’ve been trying to sleep on my side to help with back pain, and I found that the Coop Home Goods Original Loft Pillow was the easiest pillow I found to make that transition. It’s comfortable in both positions, and even worked for a spell when, thanks to a knee injury, sleeping on my back was the only way I could get any rest. My mom called it “the marshmallow pillow,” and requested that I hang on to it for her future visits to my house.

An Actually Adjustable Pillow

The best part about this pillow, however, is that it’s adjustable. It comes with an additional bag of the shredded memory foam it’s stuffed with, meaning that you can add or take out fill in order to adjust the firmness to your liking (and the brand has recommended heights for side, back, and stomach sleepers). In my experience, it took a couple weeks of sleeping on the pillow to figure out the correct level of filling for me. Once I got it right, I haven’t added or taken out any of the foam fill, though that’s always an option if your sleep preferences change or if someone else is using the pillow.

The Coop Home Goods Original won best pillow overall because it’s adjustable—it comes with extra … [+] foam to tweak the pillow’s height.

Margaret Eby

The ease of adjustability set the Coop Home Goods Original Pillow apart, and it was exactly what Dr. Landsness suggested looking for when I spoke to him. Because finding the right pillow firmness for you is, as he put it, “a Goldilocks game,” discovering a pillow that you can also change the softness of, albeit manually through taking out and putting filling back in, was a huge draw. “Variable firmness would allow you to optimize your pillow as needed,” Dr. Landsness said. “In a pillow you’re stuck with one setting and one setting only.” But not with the Coop Home Goods OriginalPillow. Though other shredded memory foam options performed solidly in testing, this added feature is what put the Coop Home Goods over the top.

In my testing, I noticed that many pillows took hours to dry, or smelled funny after a wash. I’ve taken to air drying the pillow if I have the time—I think it helps the memory foam bounce back to its original shape—but it also can go in the dryer on low. It takes me more than one cycle, but that’s still a lot easier to deal with than washing my down pillows. Plus, with a 100 day trial period, you can easily return the Coop Home Goods if it’s not to your liking.


Amazon Basics Down-Alternative Pillows

Fill: Down Alternative | Firmness: Medium | Warranty/Trial Period: 30 Days  | Price: $37 for two

Best for:

  • People looking for a more budget-friendly pick than the Coop Home Goods Pillow 
  • Sleepers who want to avoid down but don’t like memory foam
  • People looking for a pillow that washes and dries easily

Skip if:

  • You prefer a pillow made of down or memory foam
  • You’re looking for a pillow with more loft
  • You want a longer warranty or trial period

To my pleasant surprise, the Amazon Basics Down Alternative Pillow consistently aced my testing, and it was the most inexpensive option I tried. When I set out to test the best pillows I didn’t think much of the Amazon Basics option. I’ve been burned by very cheap pillows before—they start out fine, and end up flattening out, or they provide an uncomfortably sweaty sleep experience. But the Amazon Basics was one of the pillows I kept gravitating to even after testing was done, and one of the pillows that both my parents liked the best in their testing, so much so that they ordered some for their house. I’ve kept these in our guest room—along with several other pillows as options—and found that most guests really like them. The only complaints were from people who preferred a much firmer pillow.

Supportive And Breathable

This pillow is supportive but still has a good deal of give to it. In comparison to down options, I found it was just as soft without flattening down too much. It doesn’t end up compressing into a crumpled ball on the top of your bed, like other inexpensive pillows I tried.

Despite being one of the least expensive pillows I tested, the Amazon Basics Down Alternative was … [+] one of the most comfortable.

Margaret Eby

In my tests, the Amazon Basics was more breathable than pricier pillows, too. It retained slightly less heat and humidity than the Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow, which costs twice as much and can’t go through the washer or dryer. It also stayed cooler than most foam or down options, so this pillow could be a great choice if you sleep hot.

Easy To Clean And Quick-Drying

The Amazon Basics pillow washed and dried easily and quickly without shrinking or clumping, and required zero fluffing. That’s particularly useful for a spare room pillow, which might need freshening up between guests—I usually throw mine in the dryer for 20 minutes in between people staying at my house, just to refresh them. Unlike other pillows, it didn’t require an extra cycle (or two) in the dryer. This will make it a great option for a guest pillow, or a pillow for a kid’s room that might need more frequent cleaning. I also found that the pillow stood up to more heavy duty cleaning, thanks to a wayward kitten having an accident in our guest room. The Amazon Basic pillows, after a very thorough wash and soak in enzyme cleaner, still bounced back to their original loft, and didn’t retain any unpleasant odors.

At 30 days, it has one of the shorter return and trial periods—some pillows I tested offered a 3-year warranty. But these pillows are so affordable that they’re less of a risk to buy; if they don’t suit your fancy, you can repurpose them for a guest room (or give to your neighbor).



Parachute Down Pillow

Fill: Down | Firmness: Medium | Warranty/Trial Period: 3 Years  | Price: $149

Best for

  • If you just prefer a down pillow
  • People looking for a long warranty period
  • A pillow that comes with firmness options

Skip if

  • You want a less expensive pillow
  • You want a pillow that maintains its shape

Of all the down options that I tried, the best was Parachute Down Pillow. It comes in three firmness options: soft, medium and firm. (For this pillow and all the down pillows that had firmness options, I tried the medium firm one). Most down pillows I tried had these options, which is a bonus if you prefer the softness and warmth of down but would like a firmer choice.

Some Considerations For Down Pillows

Down can compress a bit more than the other fill materials I tried, and this pillow does have a tendency to flatten down and retain the shape of your head. It’s easily fixed by fluffing it out, but it is just one extra thing to deal with. That’s pretty par for the course, according to my research and testing.

Down pillows tend to be more expensive and require more upkeep than pillows stuffed with other material, but many people prefer their softer feel. John Spear, general manager of the Hotel Drisco, noted that of all the selections on their pillow menu, down was by far the most popular. Down is the traditional material of luxury pillows: it’s great at insulation, so it retains warmth, and it’s very soft. On the other hand, down is not not so great if you’re a hot sleeper. As someone who tends to be very cold when I go to sleep, and wake up overheated, I’ve found that down pillows are only an option for me in the winter. There are also animal welfare concerns with down, since it comes from geese and ducks. While some people may think they have a down allergy, they might actually be reacting to dust mites living inside the down or feathers in their pillow, and prefer a foam option.

A note about down: There’s no such thing as a truly 100% down pillow, because of how difficult it is to separate down and feathers. Down is the soft coating that’s underneath the feathers of birds, and so you generally remove both. The Parachute Down Pillow is filled with a minimum of 85% goose down, which is 10% more than is required by law for a down product. Down labeling is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, so any down pillow you buy will have a label indicating the percentage of down that is in its filling. Because down is a natural material that comes from ducks and geese, down clusters are always mixed together with feathers. Separating the down from the feathers is challenging and expensive—the higher percentage of down a pillow is, generally the more expensive it is, too. To be sold as a down product, the filling must be at minimum 75% down (the rest is feathers, which are less soft and can be scratchy). Usually that down product will have more down than that minimum percentage, but modifying the fill content label is onerous, and so it isn’t unusual just to keep the minimum down label even if the actual percentage of down is higher.

All that to say, the Parachute minimum of 85% goose down is impressive, particularly for the price. By contrast both the L.L. Bean and Garnet Hill pillows had a minimum of 75% down on their tags—the actual down content may be higher for both, but you’re guaranteed more with the Parachute pillow. The higher amount of down filling also likely contributed to how well the Parachute pillow released heat.

The Parachute pillow also excelled in loft and cleaning tests compared to other down pillows. While other down pillows sank down immediately, providing little cushion between your head and the mattress, the Parachute down pillow maintained a supportive structure. (One of the other down pillows I tried compressed so much with normal use it is now known in my house as “the flat pillow.”) It also washed and dried the best of any down pillow option though, like all down pillows, it required some fluffing. And it comes with a three-year warranty, one of the best return policies of any of the pillows I tried.

Other Pillows I Tested

I tested 12 additional top-rated pillows that didn’t make the final cut.

L.L. Bean Down Pillow: This pillow was one of the most expensive we tried at $269, but the down provided the least amount of cushion compared to other pillows I tested. The bowling ball—and my head—felt like it was resting on the mattress instead of a pillow.

Tuft and Needle Original Foam Pillow: This solid memory foam option did well in my loft and heat tests. But the people who slept on it felt slightly claustrophobic, reporting that their heads sank into the memory foam base. I also found it more difficult to shift sleep positions while using this pillow.

Nest Easy Breather Pillow: The Nest Easy Breather is a solid choice if you want a memory foam pillow that doesn’t have the adjustability feature of our top pick. The Nest took several hours in the dryer to return to its original shape, however, while the Coop Home Goods took just one hour.

Sleepnumber Original Comfortfill Pillow: Though comfortable and supportive, the Sleepnumber had a lingering chemical odor after washing and drying, so it didn’t make the cut.

Garnet Hill Down Pillow: This pillow comes with a lifetime warranty, which was attractive, but it wasn’t as supportive or comfortable as the Parachute Down Pillow..

Original Casper Pillow: This down alternative pillow did an OK job in our loft and heat retention tests, but is twice the cost of the Amazon Basics Down Alternative pillow, so I ruled it out.

Comfort Revolution Blue Bubble: As a solid memory foam pillow, this is a good pick.The blue bubble gel felt mostly like a gimmick, however, and reviews that mention that it can deteriorate over time.

Purple Harmony Pillow: This novel pillow has a hexagonal grid of hyper-elastic polymer at its center rather than memory foam, down, or down alternative filling. But at $145, it’s on the more expensive side, and the material was distracting to sleep on—my partner said it was like trying to sleep on a very soft subway grate.

Brooklinen Down Pillow: Since this pillow is spot clean or dry clean only, it’s more difficult to care for than the Coop Home Goods pillow, so it wasn’t a winner.

Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow: Like its down counterpart, this pillow was dry clean/spot clean only. In contrast, the Amazon Basics pillow was easy to throw in the washer and dryer.

Sobel Westex Belleazure DuoDown: Sobel Westex is a huge supplier of linens and pillows to hotels, including Disney resorts and Hard Rock hotels. I wanted to try it because when I spoke to pillow suppliers for hotels, they mentioned Sobel Westex is also the white label supplier for other big brands and hotel linen brands. It tested well, but the Parachute was easier to wash and dry, and retained slightly less heat and humidity.

Sobel Westex Sahara Nights: This is a comfortable down alternative pillow—another one of my parents’ favorites—but it had a little less cushion and trapped heat much more than our pick. This is a comfortable down alternative pillow, but it fell in the middle during our testing—and the Amazon Basics is ultimately more affordable.

How I Tested The Best Pillows

For the 15 standard sized pillows I tested, I slept on each one, and also asked my parents and my partner to sleep on finalists. I’ve also continued to sleep on the finalists for the four months since I conducted the test to make sure that my picks have held up. While I slept on every pillow that I tested, I split up the other pillows according to the general material each tester preferred—down alternative, memory foam, and down—and took notes on how they liked each pillow. Once I determined each person’s favorite pillow, I then slept on it again to further assess. But since taking notes while asleep is notoriously unreliable, I also devised a series of objective tests for the most important factors of a good pillow.

First, I tested loft, a term that describes how tall a pillow is and how much it squishes down when you put your head on it. I was looking for a pillow that would still add cushion once the weight of a human head was applied, and would bounce back to its original loft relatively quickly, without leaving a giant divot in the pillow or needing a serious fluffing to get back into shape. At the same time, I wanted the pillow to compress enough with the weight that it wasn’t like lying on a hard surface.

The average weight of a human head is 11 pounds, so I used an 11-pound bowling ball as a proxy and measured how far each pillow sank after the ball rested on its surface for 30 minutes. I also measured how quickly the pillow sprang back once the ball was removed to determine how well the pillow could mold to, and support, a human head. Having that cushion is what provides you head and neck support. “The height is important,” is how Dr. Eric Landsness put it. That means it’s a pillow that won’t leave your head resting at an uncomfortable angle on the mattress, either too far above it or too close to it, which can lead to aches and pains when you wake up.

I used an 11-pound bowling ball to approximate the weight of a human head in testing.

Margaret Eby

Pillows notoriously retain heat, which leads to an uncomfortable, sweaty sleep—the cool side of the pillow is a sought-after quality for a reason. To test for breathability and temperature retention, I also put a hot water bottle with 99 degree water—as close as I could get to the resting human average of 98.6 degrees—on each pillow for half an hour. I measured how hot the pillow got, and used a humidity sensor to gauge how much humidity was on the surface of the pillow once the hot water bottle was removed, to see how cool a pillow would remain once resting on it.

If the pillow was adjustable, like the Coop Home Original Loft Pillow, I experimented with taking out and putting filling back in to see if it made a significant difference in the pillow composition (and if the filling, once adjusted, clumped up or otherwise became difficult to manage). Finally, I washed and dried each pillow according to their instructions to determine how well they stood up to wear and tear, noting whether the seams of the pillow seemed worn or otherwise strained by the trip through the washer and dryer.

How To Pick A Pillow

Choosing a pillow from the vast field of options might feel daunting, and what’s right for you will depend on all kinds of factors. As Dr. Eric Landsness told me, “It’s a combination of your personal preferences, like whether you sleep on your side or your back, and it varies from one individual to the next.”

There are four main types of pillow filling: down, down alternative, solid memory foam and shredded … [+] memory foam.

Margaret Eby

Most of the best pillows come with a trial period, and Dr. Landsness recommended doing your own sleep testing to find out which pillow is best for you by tracking how well it works for you over a period of time. There will always be some degree of trial and error in finding the right pillow for you. For the adjustable pillows, that same principle applies to finding the right fill “setting”—it takes sleeping on the pillow a few times to figure out whether adding or removing the fill will be more comfortable for you. To help narrow down your choices, here’s what to consider.


Most pillows have one of four kinds of material as their stuffing:

  • Down: This soft, fluffy fill is made from the soft clusters from ducks or geese. It insulates well, but can be too warm for hot sleepers. It’s also generally pricier than the other types of fill, and requires the most maintenance. It’s important to prioritize pillows with certification from the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), the International Down Standard or Downmark, which indicate high quality and ethical animal welfare practices.
  • Down alternative: This polyester or microfiber fill mimics the soft airiness and warmth of down. While down alternative-filled pillows are less expensive than true down, the downside is that they can come with attendant chemical odors, and over time the filling can break down to become lumpy or flat.
  • Solid memory foam: Memory foam responds to pressure and heat, so this material contours closely to cradle your head and bounces back to its original shape when you move. While ultra supportive, a solid piece of memory foam may trap too much heat or feel overly enveloping.
  • Shredded memory foam: This fill is made of smaller pieces of the same pressure-relieving memory foam. They offer the same support with less of a sunken-in feeling. However, off-gassing can be an issue when these pillows are new or after being washed.
  • Latex: Natural latex is derived from rubber trees. In pillows, the material is often shredded, but sometimes you’ll find solid latex pillows. It’s a soft, temperature-regulating material with great durability, but it doesn’t contour quite as well as memory foam. Plus, it tends to be expensive.

Warranty and Return Policies

When buying a pillow, look for how long you have to return the pillow if it doesn’t work out. Some pillows offer generous trial periods so you can test them out. Others come with long warranties, so if a pillow goes flat too soon or springs a leak, you’ll be covered. Figuring out whether a pillow works for you can be a long process, so taking advantage of extra time to figure it out is a great way to pick the right one.


If you sleep on your back or stomach, you might prefer a softer pillow, whereas if you sleep on your side, you might be looking for a pillow with more loft. The good news is that many pillows come in three options: firm, medium and soft. An adjustable pillow like the Coop Home Goods will allow you to switch between those levels of support to figure out what’s right for you. The other option is to buy two pillows of different softnesses and stack them to get the combination of softness and support you need.

Washing and Drying

You can wash and dry most pillows at home, depending on the specific manufacturer’s care instructions. Typically, a pillow should be washed once or twice a year, or when you notice stains or odors. Most down and down alternative pillows can be washed on the gentle cycle using warm water and dried using low heat. Adding a couple wool dryer balls or tennis balls to the dryer will help fluff them up faster. The labels on solid memory foam pillows often advise you to avoid washing in a machine (the pillow material may fall apart), but you can wash shredded memory foam pillows similarly to down and down alternative options.

My Expertise

Aside from being someone who really loves to sleep, I’m a journalist and reporter who has been covering the food, lifestyle and home space for more than 10 years for publications like New York Magazine, Food & Wine and Vox, among others. I’ve also done tests for Forbes to find the best coffee grinders, the best juicers and the best meal kit delivery services.

For my tests, I spoke to sleep and pillow experts including Washington University Sleep Neurologist Dr. Eric Landsness and John Spears, the general manager and pillow buyer of San Francisco’s Hotel Drisco, where each guest selects from a pillow menu. I also spoke to Lauren Fountain, product expert at the Sleep Foundation and Certified Sleep Science Coach.

Can I Use a New Pillow Right After Buying It?

You can, but it depends on the pillow. Memory foam filled pillows, whether solid or shredded, typically require at least 24 hours to decompress into their final lofted form. And any pillow can pick up dust and traces of chemicals from the manufacturing process. If you’re sensitive to those or prone to allergies, it’s not a bad idea to put your new pillow through the wash before you use it.

Is It Worth Getting an Expensive Pillow?

It can be! Pillows come in a vast array of prices, and figuring out which one works for you probably will involve dropping some cash. That said, all of the pillows that I selected through my testing fell in the middle of the range. You don’t necessarily have to drop $300 for a good pillow—there are plenty of excellent options in the sub-$100 range. But if an expensive pillow really works for you, and it’s in your budget, why not—you spend a whole lot of time with your pillows. A good night of rest is always worthwhile, in my opinion.

Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow?

If you’ve had a pillow for a long time, you might notice that it’s gone from bright white to a dingy beige or yellow. That’s thanks to the slow accumulation of moisture from sleeping on it. Sweat, drool, oil from your skin and hair, hair products, and face products can all be culprits as well, per the Sleep Foundation. A stained pillow isn’t necessarily doing you any harm, it just looks a little past its prime. If the pillow smells bad, is permanently stained, or is leaving you with a sore neck or back in the morning, however, it might be time to find a replacement.

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Best Pillows 2023 Reviewed by RP on April 29, 2023 Rating: 5

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