Pillow Buying Guide

Mattresses tend to get all the attention when it comes to improving sleep. However, finding the right pillow is equally important. Pillows are designed to support the spine's natural curvature, relieve pressure points, and alleviate stiffness. Sleeping comfortably leads to deep, restorative sleep, which has been proven to increase energy, productivity, and quality of life.

But there are a lot of options to consider between size, material, cost, and ethics. Plus, pillow preference is subjective and not one size fits all. How do you know if you'll rest better on a soft, firm, down, or synthetic pillow?

Even though there are plenty of choices, pillow shopping is pretty simple once you know what you're looking for. Our pillow buying guide breaks down the basics so you can shop like a pro and get the best sleep of your life.

Pillow density and sleep position

Good sleep posture is essential to quality rest and physical comfort throughout the day. To find the perfect pillow, you must first identify your natural sleep position. Do you tend to wake up on your back, side, or stomach? Determining your sleep style will help you select the perfect pillow shape and fill for you.

Soft pillows for stomach sleepers

Stomach sleepers should select a soft pillow or extra soft pillow to maintain proper alignment of the spine. A compressible pillow with low loft ensures that the head isn't propped too high which can lead to pain and stiffness. A soft and thin pillow also prevents the breathing area from being obstructed. 

Medium pillows for back sleepers

Back sleepers should opt for a medium density pillow that offers just the right amount of support without hyperextending the head and neck. Low to medium loft pillows tend to cradle the natural curvature of the spine and prevent misalignment in this position. Back sleeping is ideal for individuals with neck or lumbar pain, and the right pillow may eliminate discomfort altogether.

Firm pillows for side sleepers

Side sleepers require the support of a medium to firm density pillow. Thicker pillows cradle the head, neck, and shoulders to keep the spine straight. Side sleepers should select pillows with a loft (or thickness) that matches the distance of their ear to the outer shoulder to ensure proper alignment. 

Adjustable pillows for all sleepers

Most of us sleep in multiple positions throughout the night. Toss and turn sleepers may benefit from an adjustable pillow such as the Intelli-Pedic™ FlexSupport™ Adjustable Pillow. This innovative pillow offers customizable support for maximum comfort. Use the outer pillow alone for soft support, the inner pillow for medium support, or combine the inner and outer pieces to create one plump and firm pillow.

Stomach Sleep PillowBack Sleep PillowSide Sleep Pillow

Pillow density is a factor of the physical ounce weight of the fill and the type of material used as fill. Loft refers to the height or thickness of a pillow. While there is no exact measurement, a low loft pillow will be flat and thin, and a high loft pillow will appear full and tall. Most pillows are 8 to 10 inches in height when new, but may compress when slept on.

Fill power is a measurement that indicates the loft and quality of down. Fill power is the number of cubic inches one ounce of down occupies. The greater the fill power, the larger the down clusters and air pockets, resulting in a fluffy and compressible sleep surface. Higher fill power down pillows are generally lighter, softer, and retain their shape longer.

All of our pillows feel soft and comfortable, but the key is in the density when compressed by your head. A soft pillow will have little resistance, while a firm pillow will have significant resistance. The most popular density is medium and there are several medium densities, some are closer to soft, and others are closer to firm. Be sure to consult the firmness guide that we show for each of our pillows to help you select the correct density.



Down vs. down alternative — choosing the right fill

Down and down alternative pillows each has advantages and can support a great night's sleep. Down filling is sourced from the undercoat of waterfowl, while down alternative is a manufactured substitute designed to mimic the feel of natural down. Here is a breakdown of factors to consider before deciding on natural or synthetic pillow stuffing.

Down pillows

Down pillows are comprised of soft and fluffy down clusters sourced from geese or ducks. 

This natural fill is lightweight, breathable, and adapts well to movement throughout the night. While more expensive than their down-alternative counterparts, high-quality down pillows are durable, retain their shape well, and last for years. In fact, a down pillow typically lasts two or three times as long as a synthetic version. As a bonus, the tightly-woven, specially-treated fabric used for natural down pillows regulates temperature, wicks away moisture, and promotes hygiene.

The higher the percentage of down, the more cloud-like the pillow will feel. A down pillow by FTC law has to have a minimum of 75% down clusters.

Goose down pillows

Goose down is considered the most luxurious pillow filling. It delivers unbeatable softness due to the large down clusters of mature geese. Goose down is durable and rare, making it one of the most expensive pillow fills. The outstanding comfort and longevity of goose down may be well worth the price tag in the long run. Their vegetarian diet gives goose down less of a natural scent.

Duck down pillows

Duck down is a close second to goose down. Duck down clusters may be slightly smaller than goose down, but these pillows offer incredibly soft and fluffy support for all types of sleepers. Duck down is more affordable than goose down and will last just as long. Their omnivore diet gives ducks more of a natural scent when compared to goose down.

Feather pillows

Feather pillows are often confused with down pillows, but they are quite different. Down is the light and wispy material found underneath waterfowl feathers, and it creates a very soft and compressible pillow. Feathers are more rigid due to their quill and provide firmer support. Feather pillows cost less than down and may need to be replaced more often. Since feathers may occasionally poke through the pillow fabric, we recommend using a quality pillow protector underneath your pillowcase. 

Feather blend pillows can range from a 10–90 down to feather ratio to a 25–75 or even a 50–50 ratio.

Chamber pillows

Chamber pillows are a unique hybrid option that offers the softness of down and the support of feathers. The center of the pillow is constructed of feathers, while fluffy down envelopes the core for maximum comfort. Chamber pillows are an excellent choice for anyone who can't decide between a down and feather pillow. This video explains how a chamber pillow is made.

Down alternative pillows

Down alternative pillows are comprised of synthetic materials, expertly crafted to imitate the softness of down. Down alternative pillows are naturally hypoallergenic, easy to clean, and less expensive than down fills. This may be a good choice for anyone with feather allergies or those who prefer to avoid natural products. Premium quality down alternative pillows offer the support and loft of natural down and are available in soft, medium, and firm density models.

PrimaLoft® pillows

PrimaLoft® is the closest down alternative to white goose down. This silky-smooth microfiber blend simulates the billowy softness of down. Primaloft® is also hydrophobic, meaning it does not absorb water, making drying quick and easy.

EnviroLoft® pillows

EnviroLoft® is a DOWNLITE-exclusive fiber comprised of thick polyester strands for exceptional fluffiness. This fill provides added support and rigidity and is famous for hospitality bedding due to its durability and price point.

Spira™ pillows

Spira™ is a fiber made of EcoCluster Polyester puff balls, often called Cluster Puff. This unique fill offers excellent volume and durability and is used in many hotel bed pillows.

LiquiLoft™ pillows

LiquiLoft™ is a premium gel-like fiber that molds every movement for ultimate support and comfort. This squishy and adjustable fill is ideal for all-night toss-and-turn sleepers.

Continuous polyester fiber pillows

Continuous polyester fiber is a quality fiber sent through a machine to open and plump the fill. This process creates a seamless sheet that is cut and rolled, resulting in a pillow with more consistent density at a lower price point. 

Find your fabric and thread count

Thread count is calculated by the number of threads woven together in a square inch. Contrary to sheets and other bedding, a higher thread count does not necessarily mean a better pillow. In fact, a high thread count may alter the compressibility of a pillow and work against the filling and intended performance.

High thread counts also trap heat which may interrupt deep sleep. A pillow thread count of 200–400 provides a quality shell while allowing the inner materials to move around and properly cradle your head. The most durable down proof fabric is a 230 thread count cambric cotton. This plain weave fabric allows minimal spots where the filling can escape. The downside is that the fabric has a very crisp sound to it. If you want a quiet but still durable fabric, consider a 300 or 400 thread count sateen fabric.

Pillow fabric is another consideration. Some pillows feature performance-based fabrics and treatments that offer added benefits, such as moisture-wicking, stain resistance, anti-microbial protection, and thermoregulation comfort.

Cotton fabric

100% cotton is the most breathable pillow material and a natural choice for staying cool. Cotton is also soft, naturally hypoallergenic, and easy to clean.

ClimaSmart™ fabric

Downlite's Intelli-Pedic ClimaSmart™ fabric is soft, breathable, brushed cotton that delivers advanced temperature regulation, moisture-wicking, and anti-microbial technology. 

Other characteristics

Recognizing your sleep disturbances and considering the maintenance of your new pillows are also important factors to consider when shopping. 

Hypoallergenic pillows

All DOWNLITE pillows are rated hypoallergenic, which helps to prevent the trapping of common allergens and may provide relief for those who suffer from asthma or allergies. Downlite created a line of AAFA-certified beddingaccredited by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Downlite hypoallergenic pillows come in an assortment of down and down alternative fills with varying firmness and support, all while preventing the accumulation of dust mites, pet dander, and mold.

Cooling pillows

Science proves that sleeping in cooler temperatures helps you fall asleep faster, improves sleep quality, and combats insomnia. Those who suffer from night sweats or live in warmer climates may benefit from a cooling pillow. With NASA-inspired technology, cooling pillows help regulate body temperature and reduce tossing and turning for deep, restorative sleep. Cooling pillows have also been reported to help relieve other discomforts, such as headaches, neck pain, and heavy legs.

Machine washable pillows

While we spend one-third of our lives in bed, our pillows continually absorb sweat, skin cells, body oil, face and hair products, dust, and mold. Over time, the bacteria and buildup may affect the inner fill's ability to support your head and neck properly. Regular washing helps extend the life of your pillows and reduces allergens. Downlite pillows are machine washable and dryable, so you can easily care for your bedding. 

We strongly suggest adding pillow protectors to any type of pillow to minimize laundry needs and to protect your investments.

Pillow size chart 

The proper pillow size depends on your mattress size, sleep position, and desired bedroom aesthetics. Here are some tips for selecting the right pillows for your bedroom.

Standard size pillows

Known as the most versatile option, standard-size pillows are compact, and complement any sleeping position, especially side sleepers. One standard pillow, measuring 20 x 26 inches, fits perfectly on a twin bed, and two work great on a full/queen mattress. Those with a king-size bed may want to opt for more oversized pillows or select three standard-size pillows to fill the width. Generally, a smaller pillow maintains firmness better than a king size option.

Jumbo size pillows

Slightly larger than a standard pillow and smaller than a queen pillow, jumbo size pillows measure 20 x 28 inches. Also referred to as a standard/queen or super standard pillow, jumbo pillows accommodate most sleeping positions. Two jumbo pillows fit nicely across a queen-size bed, while just one pillow will work on a full or twin mattress.

Queen size pillows

Queen-size pillows are four inches longer than standard pillows and are an excellent choice for toss-and-turn sleepers. The extra length provides more space for shifting throughout the night. Two queen pillows fit beautifully on a queen-size bed.

King size pillows

King size pillows are ten inches longer than a standard pillow. These extra-long pillows with additional volume offer fantastic support for side sleepers or back sleepers with broad shoulders. King size pillows are also a great choice for those who tend to sit up in bed to work, read, or watch tv. These pillows can also be used as small body pillows to alleviate back and hip pain. Two king pillows fit perfectly across a king or California king-size bed. They can also be used as decorative pillows on smaller beds.

Specialty pillows

Enhance your comfort and bedroom character by adding non-traditional sleeping pillows into the mix. Body and pregnancy pillows promote alignment of the spine and hips to relieve joint pressure. In addition to offering total body support and improved blood circulation, sleeping with a body pillow has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Euro pillows are the epitome of style and function. Euro pillows add a decorative and inviting look to any size bed and offer the perfect support when sitting up in bed to read or work on a laptop. Use one euro pillow on a twin bed, two on a full/queen bed, and three on a king bed.

Pillow Sizes

Pillow Dimensions


20 x 26 inches

Jumbo (Standard/Queen)

20 x 28 inches


20 x 30 inches


20 x 36 inches


20 x 48 inches to 20 x 60 inches


26 x 26 inches to 28 x 28 inches

How much do pillows cost?

The price of a pillow varies depending on the materials, size, and fill power. A quality pillow ranges from $30 to over $200. While this may sound broad, there are many factors to consider that cater to nearly every budget.

Down alternative pillows are less expensive than natural down. Goose down is more expensive than duck down since geese produce larger down clusters with greater loft. Hotel pillows deliver premium quality, durability, and easy care. Bulk pillows are a great option for vacation home rentals to fill multiple bedrooms and have spare pillows on hand. 

No matter what type of pillow you are shopping for, one of the most important considerations is the manufacturer. Purchasing from a trusted company with bedding expertise is a surefire way to guarantee value at any price.

While there are many "deals" out there, you may want to consider the adage that "quality is long remembered after cost is soon forgotten." In other words, you get what you pay for. There are bargain pillows on the market, often constructed with cheap materials and poor sewing. They clump easily and don't provide the necessary support, leading to pain, stiffness, and disrupted sleep. While the price tag may seem appealing, these defects outweigh the perks. At the end of the day, investing in a good night's sleep to function well and improve your overall health is priceless.

Conscious shopping

Being a conscientious consumer helps preserve the environment, ensure humane working conditions, and impact the world for the better. Making thoughtful and responsible shopping decisions may help you sleep better at night, knowing that your behavior has positive effects on sustainability and the future.

Assembled in the USA

DOWNLITE pillows are 100% assembled in the USA using imported and domestic materials. Shopping for products assembled in the USA supports American jobs and workers, ensures better labor and environmental standards, and typically results in high-quality goods built to last.

Family-owned and operated

DOWNLITE has been a family-owned and operated business for three generations. The strong family ties, passion for bedding, product knowledge, and experience are felt in every product and unparalleled customer service. 

Responsibly-sourced down

DOWNLITE is proud to be RDS certified. This global certification ensures that all down is responsibly sourced and ensures humane practices and processes to improve animal welfare. A yearly audit verifies that all geese and ducks used for down are not inflicted with unnecessary harm, such as live-plucking or force-feeding. The Responsible Down Standard also requires suppliers and businesses to abide by the Five Freedoms of animal welfare: freedom from hunger or thirst, freedom from discomfort, pain, injury, and disease, freedom to express normal and natural behavior, and freedom from fear and distress.

OEKO-TEX® certified

Oeko-Tex® certifies the safety of textile products throughout all stages of production (from raw materials and fabrics to finished goods). Oeko-Tex® is on a mission to make sustainability easy and inform consumers of products free from harmful substances. DOWNLITE is proud to offer Oeko-Tex® certified pillows to ensure high product safety and promote a sustainable future.

Eco-friendly bedding

With a commitment toward sustainability and the environment, DOWNLITE donates 1% of all e-commerce sales to One Percent for the Planet. This global organization pairs members with environmental non-profits looking to make an impact and tackle the most pressing issues facing our planet. To date, these 1% contributions have raised $250 million to go toward environmental issues. You can be philanthropic by purchasing goods from a company that gives back.

When is the best time to buy a pillow?

January is typically the best time of year to buy a pillow. Retailers traditionally offer a "white sale" just after the new year with significant discounts on bedding.

The busiest season for buying winter bedding is October through February. During these months, items may run out of stock due to demand, so it's best to purchase before October.

Many retailers offer holiday sales and promotions throughout the year. One way to get alerted of upcoming offers is to sign up for emails.

Additional ways to find pillow sale prices are looking for manufacturer-direct pricing, checking for promo codes, and shopping for overstock sale items.

Find your new favorite pillow today

Discover hotel quality bedding at manufacturer-direct prices from DOWNLITE. All of our pillows are assembled in the USA at our headquarters in Mason, Ohio or our facility in Monroe, North Carolina. Shop pillows from Downlite Bedding.

We understand that shopping online eliminates the touch and feel of pillows that may sway your purchase decisions. That's why our seasoned customer service representatives are ready to give you personal recommendations based on your unique preferences. Contact customer service to have all your questions answered and get matched with your new favorite pillow.

If your new pillow isn't everything you were hoping for, we offer a simple 30-day return window.


Looking for fresh bedding to go with your new comforter? Check out our other buying guides:

Comforter Buying Guide  |  Mattress Pad & Topper Buying Guide  |  Bedding Fill Guide