The Pillow Glossary: Understanding Terms from Fill Power to Thread Count

When you’re on the hunt for the perfect pillow to lay your head on at night, you might be surprised by the array of industry-specific terms you encounter. From “fill power” to “thread count,” each term can play a significant role in determining your pillow’s comfort and durability. Let’s dive into the world of pillows and unravel the often-confusing lingo, ensuring you’re well-informed for your next restful purchase.

Fill Power: The Measure of Fluffiness

Fill power is a term that often pops up when shopping for down pillows. It measures the quality of the down used as the filling in terms of its loftiness. Essentially, it refers to the volume one ounce of down occupies in cubic inches. Higher fill power indicates a fluffier pillow that will last longer and provide better insulation. A down pillow, for example, with a fill power of 800 is considered very high quality.

Types of Down Fill

When discussing down fill, you might come across terms like goose down or duck down, referring to the source of the down. Goose down is often regarded as the more luxurious option due to its larger down clusters, while duck down is more readily available and budget-friendly. The idea that softer and more resilient pillows are generally made with higher fill power down is well captured by the phrase from “Downright,” a reputable bedding company: “More down clusters equal greater insulation and breathability, which means a better night’s sleep.”

Thread Count: Beyond the Sheets

Thread count is not just a term for sheets; it’s also a critical factor for pillowcases and covers. Thread count refers to the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. A higher thread count usually means a smoother and more durable pillow cover, although comfort is not solely defined by thread count. Aim for a range between 200-800 to ensure a soft touch without being misled by excessively high numbers, which may not actually increase comfort.

Understanding the Weave

The weave of a pillowcase also contributes to its feel and longevity. Common weaves include:

  • Sateen: Silky and lustrous, with a higher thread count, sateen is a weave that provides a luxurious feel.
  • Percale: Known for its crisp texture and matte finish, percale is a breathable and durable option with a medium thread count range.
  • Jersey: Jersey is actually a knit rather than a weave, resulting in a stretchy fabric that’s soft and casual in appearance.
  • Twill: Recognizable by its diagonal rib pattern, twill is less prone to wrinkles and has a distinctive texture.

The Different Pillow Fills

As you delve into the world of pillows, you’ll find that fillings vary widely, each offering unique benefits. Let’s explore the most common types:

Memory Foam: Supportive Contours

Memory foam pillows are praised for their contouring properties and support. This synthetic material responds to body heat and pressure to mold to the shape of your head and neck, providing excellent support. However, they can retain heat, leading to potential discomfort for hot sleepers.

Latex: Cool and Supportive

Latex is a natural material known for its cooling properties and responsiveness. It offers a similar level of support to memory foam but without the heat retention. Latex pillows are also hypoallergenic, making them a good choice for allergy sufferers.

Microbead: The Cushy Feel

Microbead pillows contain tiny beads often made of polystyrene. The beads move independently, allowing the pillow to adapt to your movements. These pillows can provide good support but may not be the most durable option over time.

Polyester: The Budget-Friendly Choice

If you’re looking for an affordable option, polyester-filled pillows might be the answer. They are lightweight and often softer than memory foam or latex. However, they may not offer the same level of support or durability as other fills.

Pillow Shapes and Sizes

Moving beyond the inside of the pillow, let’s consider shapes and sizes. Pillows are not one-size-fits-all, and the right choice can significantly impact sleep quality.

Standard, Queen, and King Pillows

These are the most common pillow sizes you’ll encounter and are designed to match up nicely with the same size bedding. Standard pillows are typically 20 x 26 inches, queen pillows are 20 x 30 inches, and king pillows are 20 x 36 inches.

Specialty Pillows

Specialty pillows include shapes and sizes made for specific needs. For example, a body pillow provides extra support for the entire body, great for side sleepers or pregnant women. Contour pillows have a curved design to support the neck and head, while cervical pillows are specifically shaped to maintain the natural curve of your neck.

Pillow Protectors and Pillowcases

The final layer of protection for your pillow is the pillow protector and pillowcase. Pillow protectors encase the pillow and often feature a zipper, providing an added barrier against dust mites and allergens. They can also extend the life of your pillow by protecting against sweat and oils from your skin.

Materials Matter: Natural vs. Synthetic Pillowcases

When selecting a pillowcase, you have the option of natural fibers, such as cotton or silk, and synthetic fibers, like polyester or microfiber. Cotton is breathable and soft, while silk is gentle on hair and skin. Synthetics are often more durable and resistant to wrinkles.

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Understanding Pillow Certifications

In the quest for quality, certifications can provide assurance that the products meet certain standards.

Certified Organic

This certification ensures that the pillow materials have been grown and processed according to strict environmental standards, without toxic chemicals.


For memory foam pillows, the CertiPUR-US certification indicates that the foam has been tested for safety and environmental stewardship, free of harmful chemicals.

Know Your Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position is key to choosing the right pillow. Whether you’re a side, back, or stomach sleeper, there’s a pillow out there tailored for your specific needs. Side sleepers often benefit from a thicker, firmer pillow to fill the space between the ear and the outside shoulder. Back sleepers may require a medium loft pillow for optimal spinal alignment whereas stomach sleepers should look for a softer, flatter pillow to avoid neck strain.

Finishing Thoughts

Understanding the glossary of terms associated with pillows is a crucial step towards selecting the ideal option for a peaceful night’s sleep. Take into account factors such as fill power, thread count, pillow size, and your sleeping position to find the perfect match. Remember, the quality of your pillow can profoundly impact your sleep and, consequently, your overall health and well-being. Equipped with this knowledge, you can now confidently navigate the extensive world of pillows and choose one that will cradle your dreams night after night.


  • Leo Murray

    Hey, I'm Leo Murray, your friendly guide to the galaxy of great sleep at GoodlSleepHub. As a certified Sleep Therapist with a lively spirit for all things restful, I'm here to take the mystery out of your zzz's. My mission is to make good sleep accessible to everyone, mixing solid science with a dash of humor. When not demystifying sleep cycles or hunting down the best mattresses, I'm an avid mountain biker and a coffee connoisseur. My weekends often involve exploring new trails or experimenting with coffee blends. These adventures fuel my philosophy: great days are born from great nights. So, come along as we journey through the night skies of sleep. I promise to keep it informative, light-hearted, and always focused on getting you the restful sleep you deserve. Remember, in Leo's world, every night is an opportunity for a perfect dream!

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