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Pillow Talk: How to Choose a Pillow’s Firmness

by Mitchell Chitiz

In the Market for a New Bed Pillow?

By now you are probably aware that there are multiple pillow options on the market, especially if you are buying pillows online.

Not only do you need to consider your pillow fill options – Down or Down-Alternative (like microgel) - you also need to know how you want the pillow to feel underneath your head. Are you looking for the equivalent of sleeping on a fluffy cloud? Or, do you need a little more stability when you sleep?

Choosing the right pillow is key to good sleeping posture which is also vital for sleeping soundly each night without pains or aches. A pillow is not just an item that allows you to feel comfy at night, but it also helps you to achieve a healthy sleep posture. If your pillow is not providing your neck and shoulders with enough support it can throw your spine and body out of alignment.

None of us want to wake up with strained muscles and feeling fatigued. One way to make sure this doesn’t happen is by choosing the right level of pillow firmness.


How to Choose Pillow Firmness

Trying to find a pillow with the right firmness level can often turn into a Goldilocks situation. One will be far too soft while another will be too hard. It may take you multiple times to find the one that is just right. However, there is another way to know what level of pillow firmness you should choose: by sleeping position.

Pillows are generally manufactured using three levels of firmness: soft density, medium density and firm density. Each level of density is more beneficial to one sleep position versus the others. Below, we look at which pillow firmness level is right for how you prefer to sleep. Each level of density is more beneficial to one sleep position versus the others.


Soft Density

Pillows that are of soft density are generally very thin and comfortable. They allow the head to sink in while still providing enough cushioning to support spinal and neck alignment. This pillow firmness level is best suited for stomach sleepers.

Many sleep experts recommend that you avoid sleeping on your stomach as it can often position your upper body poorly increasing the risk of neck and lower back strain if you don’t have the right soft pillow. If you do prefer to sleep on your stomach, choose a soft pillow that has a low loft and has a compressible pillow fill.


Medium Density

Medium-density pillows typically give a medium to medium-soft level of firmness. They are thick enough to make sure that the neck and shoulders are properly supported while also making sure that the pillow won’t flatten too quickly.

Sometimes referred to as a happy medium pillow, this level of firmness is the perfect pillow choice for back sleepers. As a person that sleeps primarily on their back, you will need to buy a pillow that can relieve pressure in the neck while also keeping it in perfect alignment with the spine. This is also an ideal choice for those who are considered active sleepers and like to toss and turn during the night. 


Firm Density

Lastly, firm pillows are thicker than other pillow types and often feature a higher loft level. A firm-density pillow is quite plump and has a tall profile. Those who are side sleepers should pick this level of pillow firmness.

Why is that? As a person who sleeps on their side, a soft pillow puts you at risk of throwing your spine out of neutral spine alignment. However, if your pillow is firm enough, it will relieve pressure in your shoulder and make sure that you can sleep comfortably in a horizontal position.

Not sure how firm a pillow should be? It should be as thick as the distance between your ear and shoulder when lying down.


Best Pillow Fill Types for Your Firmness Needs

Now that you understand which pillow firmness is correct for your sleeping position, it is time to choose pillow fill. To help you when buying pillows online, we’ve put together a handy list of which pillow fill is best for which level of firmness.

  • Soft density pillows: As you will need a compressible fill, the best pillow fill type is either Down or Down-Alternatives as they are shapeable and can be easily compressed into a low loft. Try our Westex Hutterite White Goose Down pillow.
  • Medium-density pillows: For medium to medium-soft pillows, you will need a pillow fill that is easily able to conform to pressure to cradle the head properly. For example, the Westex Down Triple Chamber pillow or the Down-Alternative Westex Luxury Microgel pillow offers the perfect level of support for back sleepers while also being hypoallergenic and environmentally-friendly.
  • Firm density pillows: The best firm pillow should be made with a filling that is easily fluffable but yet, also shapeable. The Westex Down Triple Chamber pillow is a great choice as these pillows give the comfort and support you need without losing their puffiness. If you want to go down the Down-Alternative then a bamboo pillow is a great option for you as they are sustainable, allergen-free, and provide great moisture-wicking abilities. 

In order to achieve restful sleep, you need a great pillow. While buying pillows may feel a little daunting at first, if you use the tips that we provided above we are sure you’ll find the perfect pillow to add to your bed in no time.