How to Test a Pillow Before Buying

Testing a pillow before you buy it is essential for ensuring you get a good night’s sleep and wake up free from neck or back pain. Here’s how you can make a well-informed decision.

Understanding Pillow Materials

Before you start testing pillows, it’s important to understand the different types of materials used. Memory foam, down feathers, latex, and polyester are among the most common fillings. Each material has its unique properties, offering varying levels of support and comfort.

Memory Foam

Memory foam pillows contour to the shape of your head and neck, providing excellent support. However, they may retain heat, making them less ideal for hot sleepers.

Down Feathers

Down pillows are known for their plushness and are good for those who prefer a softer feel, but they might not offer enough support for some sleepers’ needs.


Latex pillows are supportive and hold their shape well. They are also resistant to dust mites and mold, making them a good option for allergy sufferers.


Polyester pillows are generally the most affordable and are easy to care for, but they tend to flatten out more quickly than other types.

Testing Support and Comfort

When testing a pillow’s support and comfort, consider your usual sleeping position, as it will influence the right pillow for you.

For Side Sleepers

If you’re a side sleeper, look for a firmer, thicker pillow to fill the space between your ear and shoulder. Proper alignment is essential to prevent neck strain.

For Back Sleepers

Back sleepers should opt for a medium-firm pillow that supports the natural curve of the spine. A too-high pillow can push your head forward, whereas a too-soft one may cause your head to sink in too much.

For Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers need a soft, flat pillow to avoid putting pressure on the neck and spine. Sometimes, even sleeping without a pillow can be beneficial.

Testing in the Store

If possible, simulate your sleeping environment in the store. Lie down in your typical sleeping position and stay there for a few minutes to see how the pillow feels. Pay attention to any pressure points or areas of discomfort.

Considering Pillow Size and Shape

Pillows come in various sizes and shapes, from standard to king-size, and even body pillows. Choose a size that fits your bed and your preferences. Some people prefer a pillow that can be tucked and shaped, while others like a more solid, uniform pillow.

Checking for Allergies and Sensitivities

If you have allergies, check for hypoallergenic pillows. Look for certifications like CertiPUR-US for memory foam pillows or the Responsible Down Standard to ensure ethical sourcing of down feathers.

The Importance of a Good Pillow Cover

A pillow’s cover should be breathable and washable. Natural fibers like cotton or bamboo are breathable and can contribute to a cooler night’s sleep.

Warranty and Return Policy

Always check the warranty and return policy. A good warranty can give you peace of mind, while a generous return policy allows you to test the pillow at home and return it if it does not meet your needs.

Top 5 Pillows Recommended By

Longevity and Maintenance

Consider how long the pillow will last before it needs replacing. A higher upfront cost for a durable pillow may save you money over time. Also, think about how easy it is to care for the pillow. Can it be machine washed, or does it require special cleaning?

Testimonials and Reviews

Edward A. Murphy once said, “If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way.” So, to avoid such mishaps with your pillow choice, searching for testimonials from other customers might help you spot potential problems before you buy.

  • Consider the overall ratings and read both positive and negative reviews.
  • Look for comments regarding the firmness, durability, comfort, and whether the pillow retains its shape over time.

One renowned sleep expert, Dr. Michael Breus, believes that the pillow you choose is just as important to your sleep quality as the mattress. If an authority in sleep science emphasizes this point, it’s worth taking your pillow testing seriously.

Finishing Thoughts

Finding the perfect pillow is a personal journey that requires a bit of research, testing, and patience. By taking the time to understand different materials, considering your sleeping position, and checking for any specific needs or allergies, you can make an informed choice. Remember to test the pillow in-store if you can, look for a good cover, check the policies, and read other customers’ experiences. With these tips, you should be well on your way to finding a pillow that can provide you with a comfortable and supportive night’s sleep for years to come.


  • Dominic Johnson

    Hello! I’m Dominic Johnson, the whimsical wizard behind the world of sleep at With a background in Sleep Psychology and a quirky love for all things dozy and dreamy, I bring a sprinkle of fun to bedtime blues. I've spent my career unraveling the mysteries of the Sandman, turning dense science into cozy bedtime stories. When I'm not buried in research papers or testing the fluffiness of the latest pillows, I'm usually found playing impromptu lullabies on my old guitar for my twin daughters or teaching my labrador, Rocket, new tricks. My approach to sleep is simple: blend science with a touch of magic and a hearty laugh.

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