Pillow buying rules – 5 things you need to know before the Presidents' Day sales

With these pillow buying rules, you'll find pillows for pennies

An example of pillow buying rules, a selection of Garnet Hill pillows on a bed.
(Image credit: Garnet Hill)

The right pillow can instantly upgrade your sleep routine, alleviating aches and pains to keep you cool and comfortable. When you take advantage of the Presidents' Day sales, you can snap up a premium pillow for a fraction of its usual price.

Down pillow inserts offer the plush look and feel of real feathers, though a down alternative option might be more suitable for vegan shoppers and sensitive sleepers. The latest trend is adjustable pillows, featuring all sorts of zippers and inserts to help you find your ideal sleep position. With so much on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start.

I spend my days searching for the lowest prices on the best pillows, and I spend my nights testing them out in my own bed. I know that there's no such thing as the ultimate pillow to suit every sleeper. Pillow shopping can be a long, laborious process to find the shapes, sizes, and materials that suit you. 

Pillow buying rules: what you need to know

To speed things up a bit, I've rounded up a few of my favorite pillows for sleeping and styling. I've found the best pillows from specialist sleep stores and major home retailers and put them all in one place. While we're at it, I'd like to share my five top tips for pillow buying to save you time and money. 

1. Establish your sleep style

Before you invest in any sort of bedding, it's worth stopping to consider your sleep style. I tend to sleep on my stomach, but you might sleep on your back or sides, or switch between positions in the night. Certain shapes and sizes of pillow are better suited to particular sleepers. 

If you sleep on your stomach, you should consider a flatter pillow to reduce neck strain. Back sleepers should opt for something a little thicker to support their head and maintain the natural alignment of their spine. Side sleepers need a pillow with a bit of give to absorb the pressure from their neck and shoulders. 

If you want to take stock of your options, I recommend shopping at Sleep Number. They make the same pillow three different ways, in a Classic, Curved, and Ultimate Curved style, to support each and every sleeper.

2. Select your stuffing

Once you've worked out what you want your pillow to look like, it's time to consider what goes inside it. While you're shopping for pillows, you'll come across these terms: 'down' and 'down alternative'. 

Down pillows are filled with clusters of duck and goose feathers. They're soft and squishy, with heaps of natural loft, though they might not be suitable for sensitive sleepers or vegan shoppers. 

'Down alternative' is a broad term, referring to any kind of foam or fiber you could fit inside a pillow. Memory foam pillows offer custom comfort, while a microfiber fill imitates the look and feel of real feathers. Eco-conscious shoppers might prefer to sleep with a down alternative pillow, though you'll have to sacrifice some of that loft.

3. Find ways to keep cool

If you're a hot sleeper, like I am, then you'll understand the struggle to find a pillow that keeps you cool and comfortable at the same time. The downside of those soft and squishy memory foam pillows is that they hold a lot of heat and force you to swelter in your own sweat. 

If you prefer the feel of memory foam, but you'd like to sleep cooler, then you should keep an eye out for pillows with cooling covers. Materials such as bamboo and eucalyptus are naturally moisture-wicking and thermoregulating, helping you to stay just the right side of cool and dry. 

Some of the specialist sleep stores infuse their pillows with cooling gels. These gels work through thick layers of foam and fabric to keep you cool, whatever the weather.

4. Find your ideal height

If there is such a thing as pillow trends, the theme for 2024 is custom comfort. You'll find adjustable pillows at all the specialist sleep stores. Just how these pillows adjust varies from store to store. 

This year, I've started to see pillows with zippers and removable inserts to alter the look and feel of the fabric. The strangest technique I've seen is also the most innovative. You can get adjustable pillows that are filled to the brim with microfiber. It's up to you to reach down inside the pillow, remove and replace clusters of fiberfill until you achieve your desired height. 

Adjustable pillows tend to be more expensive than standard shams: that makes sense, when you consider the time and effort that's gone into developing them. If you sleep on your side, and you have a little cash to spare, that money could be well spent on an adjustable pillow.

5. Consider cases

5. Consider cases

Picking out a pillowcase is harder than you'd think. So many of the major home retailers only sell pillowcases as part of a sheet set or bedding bundle, while specialist sleep stores tend to stick to pillows. You might need to use filters to narrow your search before you find what you're looking for. 

You could shop for pillowcases by material. Cotton sateen cases feel silky beneath your head, while cotton percale might be a better bet for hot sleepers. With the best silk pillowcase, you could start your journey towards softer skin and smoother hair.

Pillow inserts are invariably white. You could use your pillowcase to introduce some color to your bedspread. You'll find plenty of cool neutrals and cute pastels, as well as bolder prints and patterns at stores like Brooklinen

Final thoughts

You might have made it all the way to the end of this article and just worked out that what you're looking for isn't a pillow for sleeping, but a pillow for styling. If that sounds like you, then you're in luck: I've rounded up a few of the best throw pillows to suit every style of room and size of budget.  

Emilia Hitching
eCommerce Editor

Before she joined Homes & Gardens, Emilia studied English at the University of Oxford, where she sharpened her critical writing skills. She also worked on the other side of the aisle writing press releases for regional newspapers and crafting copy for Sky. Emilia combines her business savvy with her creative flair as our eCommerce Editor, connecting you with the products you’ll love. When she’s not in the office, Emilia is happiest when entertaining friends al fresco or out in the country.