Unlike the other pillow fights you may have had as a child, the winner of THIS pillow fight will improve sleep quality, reduce pain and help you feel more refreshed in the morning.
The contenders in this fight are the four most popular pillows available on the market; memory foam, fiber filled, down feather filled, and buckwheat hulls. If you have been lucky enough to stay at a hotel with a pillow menu, you have seen these varieties laid out. In addition to different filling options, you’ll see some that are thick, thin, soft, or firm. Each one is created differently and has its own pros and cons.
Though comfort is important, it’s not the only factor that should be considered when picking a pillow. Some pillows can adversely impact your health, trigger allergies, impact cervical alignment and disrupt your sleep. Sleep is critical to your health and well-being, and if your pillow is getting in the way of that, you can suffer the consequences. You spend eight hours a night on your pillow, so you must get the right one!
We’ve done the research, weighed out the pros and cons, and determined that buckwheat pillows are the clear winner! To show you why a buckwheat pillow is the winner of this “pillow fight,” I’ll share the details one each pillow and what qualities are important when buying a pillow.
Memory Foam Pillows
Memory foam pillows had their moment in the spotlight years ago. Though the material was invented in the 70s, it wasn’t introduced to consumers until the early 90s. Initially memory foam was designed for NASA; however, it never made it on the shuttle and was instead used in airplane seats.
This pillow is made from a material called viscoelastic polyurethane. This material is on the firmer side until your body’s heat touches it. After you lay on it and the pillow heats up, the material will soften and contour to your body. The pillow claims to support body weight while reducing strain and pressure points. It was advertised as molding to the shape of your head and cradling it, so you get the tailored support you need. The claims don’t often match up with the reality of using one of these pillows. Because it softens as you heat up, throughout the night, your head will continue to sink. This means that after a few hours, you won’t get the support (and proper alignment) you need.
That’s not the worst part – it’s the chemicals within this pillow that prevent it from taking the number one spot of best pillow. A petroleum-based chemical process is used to create and package these pillows, producing chemical off-gassing and harmful VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound). This means the chemicals gasses like chlorofluorocarbons and formaldehyde are released when you lay on them.
One article listed all the potential chemicals found in memory foam, such as dimethylformamide, acetone, methyl benzene, and methylene chloride, and their possible health effects such as organ damage, skin, and lung irritation, and some are considered potential carcinogens. No one wants to breathe this in a while sleeping – not only is it incredibly unpleasant to think about, but it can have long-term health effects and trigger allergies and migraines.
Fiber Filled Pillows
The next pillow up in this pillow fight is fiber filled pillows. These are your basic pillows, ranging from $5 to $50 in price. But, just as they range in price, they also vary in quality. Fiber filled pillows can feel like they are stuffed with cheap clumps of fluff or something a bit more substantial. Either way, they don’t last. Fiber filled pillows are notorious for their short lifespan. Due to the nature of the material, they often become lumpy, flat, and misshaped, and as you can imagine, this doesn’t support your head. When your head isn’t in proper alignment because of a lumpy pillow, it can strain the muscles and tendons in your neck and head, causing pain and headaches.
In addition to their lack of support, fiber filled pillows are notoriously hot. They trap heat and can make you feel hot during the night. When you are hot, you sweat more, which can quickly become trapped in the fibers. In addition, these pillows are difficult to clean, and when you throw them in the washer, you are more likely to create these lumps.
Lastly, just like a memory foam pillow, these pillows can also contain chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene. This isn’t good for your health nor the environment and things you definitely don’t want in your pillow! Additionally, because of the materials they are made of and their short lifespan, fiber filled pillows are one of the least sustainable pillows on the market.
Down Feather Fill Pillows
Down feather filled pillows are the high-maintenance sister of feather filled pillows. Though similar, the two key differences. Down feathers are taken from the belly and chest of ducks and geese. Where feather pillows use feathers taken from the back and wings of a bird, and contain quills. Down feathers are much smaller, fluffier, and don’t contain quills. There are a few issues with these pillows. First, many people are looking for more animal-friendly options, and this certainly isn’t one of them. And secondly, because it contains an animal product, it can cause allergies.
Even if you are okay with down, you won’t get the support you need. These pillows require frequent fluffing because the pillow compresses as soon as you rest your head on them. Down filled pillows look big and fluffy, but when they are used, they are quickly flatted. This means this filling is better suited for a throw pillow rather than a pillow you will be sleeping on.
If you are a hot sleeper, a down feather fill pillow isn’t a great option. These pillows shouldn’t get wet because they take so long to dry. It also makes them exceptionally challenging to clean, and you never want to go to bed with wet hair! You can see why these pillows are considered high maintenance!
For a high maintenance, unsupportive pillow that could trigger your allergies, you’ll be paying upwards of $100 – not worth it!
Last but certainly not least is the buckwheat pillow. These pillows have been around the longest, originating in Japan (read more on the history of buckwheat pillows here). Buckwheat pillows are filled with an organic, natural filling known as buckwheat hulls. The unique structure and strength of buckwheat hulls create a firm yet flexible filling that provides proper alignment and support.
Unfortunately, the other pillows on this list aren’t adjustable, but buckwheat pillows are. Each person requires a different pillow height and level of firmness, but with a one-size-fits-all pillow, you are unlikely to find that perfect fit. As a result, buckwheat pillows are often recommended by chiropractors and physical therapists. When your head, neck, and shoulders are properly aligned as you sleep, you will sleep better, breathe easier, and wake up pain-free.
Buckwheat pillows are also great for hot sleepers. Their unique structure prevents the filling from being compressed together like it is with down filled, fiber filled, or memory foam pillows. Instead, space remains between the hulls allowing air to travel feeling through the pillow. This keeps the pillow cool and also makes these pillows an inhospitable environment for dust mites.
Many allergens, like dust mites, can become trapped in your pillow, making it difficult to sleep. Buckwheat pillows, however, are hypoallergenic. Further, they are also more hygienic because of this airflow and are easier to clean. The filling is secured in an inner pillowcase that you can remove and throw in your washing machine. At this point, it’s clear to see that buckwheat pillows are the winner of the pillow fight, but there is more. They are also sustainable and better for the environment as they have a long life span of 10+ years!
Though they weren’t one of the contenders in today’s pillow fight, millet pillows deserve an honorable mention. These pillows are popular in Europe and similar to a buckwheat pillow but made of millet hulls. Millet hulls are 30% lighter and make less noise than buckwheat hulls because of their smaller size. It is an excellent alternative for those who find a buckwheat pillow to be too firm but still want all the benefits from a natural, organic pillow.
You spend nearly one-third of your life laying on your pillow, so you want to ensure you are sleeping one that will help you – not hurt you! Unfortunately, memory foam, fiber, and down feather filled pillows don’t provide the level of support you need, can make you hot, and are a breeding ground for bacteria and dust mites. Even worse, these pillows are bad for the environment and can contain harmful chemicals.