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Most people blame their mattress for not getting a good night’s sleep. However, it’s your pillow that could be the culprit. How so? A good pillow is designed to keep the spine in natural alignment. Alternatively, the wrong pillow can cause your neck muscles to be flexed overnight, which can trigger morning stiffness and pain.
In fact, you might need a pillow firm enough to keep your head from sinking in too deeply while keeping your neck straight. With orthopedic firm pillows, you provide you back (along with your neck and head) the support it needs to maintain proper posture throughout the night.
Firm pillows share one common feature – they are voluminous or tall enough to hold your weight and handle the length of your shoulders as a side sleeper. This extra “fluff” keeps the spine properly aligned. They tend to comprise of dense memory foam, allowing one just to fall right into maximum comfort.
There are all kinds of firm pillow manufacturers on the market, but they are not created equal. Some may offer support but fail to give comfort at the same time. Others will focus on comfort but don’t give too much support. To make things easier, we’ll take a thorough look at some of the best firm pillows sold today, important buying considerations as well as the most supportive pillow fillings out there. So without further ado, let’s get started!
The Best Firm Pillows
- Nest Bedding: the best adjustable firm pillow
- Bedsure: the best contour firm pillow
- MyPillow: the most durable firm pillow
- Ontel: the most affordable firm pillow
- Sealy: the best down alternative firm pillow
- Beans72: the best extra firm buckwheat pillow
- Perfect Fit: the best firm pillow for side sleepers
- Beautyrest: the best extra firm pillow for neck support
Table of Contents
The Best Firm Pillows Comparison Table
- Fully adjustable
- Memory Foam conforms to neck and head
- Manufactured with patented interlocking fill
- Bamboo cover is soft and breathable
- Down-alternative fiberfill
- Offers great cervical alignment for head and neck
- Flat design to handle an array of sleeping styles
- High loft that contours
The Best Firm Pillows Reviews
Nest Bedding: The Best Adjustable Option
If you’re looking for a firm pillow that allows you to adjust it, Nest Bedding may be just what you’ve been looking for. Their pillow may have its cons (for some), but they are definitely outweighed by the pros – adjustability, support, and ultimate comfort.
When you purchase this pillow, it comes overstuffed, which means you can just take out some of the fill to attain that perfect loft for a good night’s sleep. Nest Bedding uses the best materials made only in the U.S. and constructed to meet the industry standards, including its Tencel-Blended fabric cover and shredded memory foam fill. Along with that, the shredded memory foam is CertiPUR certified to enhance the healthy sleeping experience.
The company offers a 100-night sleep trial, which means if you’re not happy with the product, you can return it without any issues. There’s little chance of being disappointed with this pillow as its customer service is one of the best, so there’s no big wonder why it’s considered one of the best firm pillows sold today.
Bedsure: The Best Contour Firm Pillow
The Bedsure memory foam pillow uses an ergonomic design that’s built to resemble two rising waves on the upper side to give you a cloud-like sleeping experience. The two different heights allow for the contouring of your neck, so it alleviates any stiffness that could occur in it.
Bedsure is made completely of memory foam that will remember the neck’s curve and adapt to its shape. This cervical pillow is also soft to the touch but won’t allow your head to sink down to the bed. With the high-density memory foam, your spine and neck stay aligned (great for side and back sleepers), and the pillow’s perfect height helps address neck pain. It was created to offer a great balance between comfort and firmness – to support the neck with no additional pressure placed on the head.
The contour pillow has two-layer covers (inner cotton cover and microfiber outer cover) that have been custom fit to give users a deep rest. The outer cover can be removed and washed. Both sides have an air mesh to increase air circulation and keep you cool and comfortable all night.
It’s a little smaller than your other pillows on the market, which is great for people who don’t move around a lot in their sleep. The gel memory foam has no toxic chemicals such as methane chloride, PBDE, and formaldehyde. The manufacturer offers a one-month return and replacement service as well as free customer service for life.
MyPillow: The Most Durable Option
This product from the MyPillow manufacturer has the newest design – an upgrade from their classic version. It doesn’t matter what your sleeping needs are; this pillow is sure to meet them. Put it under your head, between the knees, under the knees, or along the hips, the shredded foam will contour to your body.
The pillow has a gusseted sidewall that allows for easier fill manipulation, easy washing, and drying, and ensures the pillow never flattens when taken good care of. The shredded foam filling offers softness, with a cotton casing that helps improve airflow to ensure a cooler night’s rest.
One more reason why MyPillow is so popular is that it’s made in the USA and offers an outstanding 10-year warranty. You also get a helpful online guide and a color-coded system to help you find the right size.
Ontel: The Most Affordable Option
You may have heard of bamboo pillows, but the Ontel’s bamboo pillow will blow away all the others. The pillow is great for side and back sleepers, but may not be ideal for stomach sleepers. However, this is the only drawback of this product. Everything else you have heard about it is real.
Thanks to the shredded memory foam and soft polyfill, you get a firm pillow that you can shape to best fit your head and neck for ultimate comfort. Since the foam will conform to your body, it provides you with ample support and soft contouring. There’s no need to flip the pillow to find coolness; with this breathable memory foam, the temperature stays regulated.
And, even though Ontel is not entirely adjustable, it’s extremely versatile for various sleep positions, body types, and sizes.
The pillow’s cover is thick, soft, and breathable so that odors are not trapped within the shredded memory foam. Plus, the durable bamboo fiber casing has hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties. Another great aspect? It wicks away moisture and maintains a comfortable temperature, so the pillow stays fresh and cool all through the night.
Sealy: The Best Down Alternative Firm Pillow
This pillow is ideal for side sleepers regardless of their shape and size but may be too thick for most back sleepers. While very supportive, especially if you use it in a reclined position upon your back, it gives you a high loft when laid flat.
The Sealy pillow has an “overstuffed” look that includes six-inch-high gussets to accommodate the blend of memory foam and down-alternative fiberfill. It may look too soft to some, but the material is quite firm and is very supportive of the head and neck. You have the option to use the memory foam on one side to give you more support or the down alternative fiberfill on the other side to give you a plush cotton feel.
Sealy comes with a 300-thread count cotton cover to keep moisture from building up and ensure amazing airflow. Its thick gusset is double-stitched to make sure the fill remains inside and redistributes well when weight is applied to it. You can also remove the cover and wash it in the washer machine.
Beans72: The Best Extra Firm Buckwheat Pillow
The company opted to use the 600-year-old Japanese tradition called Sobakawa, which makes use of the buckwheat seed hulls for various products, including pillows. The buckwheat hulls allow air to circulate throughout the pillow, keeping it cool. It’s an extremely durable seed that will last for some time and can provide personalized shaping to properly hold our head and neck in place through the night.
Those who have ever tried the Beans72 pillow may consider it heavy and hard, which can be a good thing and a bad one. Due to its support, the spine, neck, and head will safely align while you’re sleeping. And, the movable hulls will conform to your body to ensure a good night’s rest. However, for some sleepers, the pillow’s hardness is difficult to get past since many people are accustomed to sleeping on softer pillows.
The manufacturer of Beans72, which is made in the U.S., designed to the pillow to ensure natural comfort. The company only uses high-quality materials that extend its lifespan. The pillow measures 20x14x4 inches in size and comprises of 100 percent natural unbleached cotton twill casing.
The pillow is loaded with organically-sourced buckwheat husks, grown totally without herbicides or pesticides. These buckwheat husks are thoroughly cleaned in a three-step process to eliminate the debris, dust, and buckwheat flour. With the zipper design on the pillow, you can add or remove buckwheat hulls to fit your exact needs.
Perfect Fit: The Best Firm Pillow For Side Sleepers
This is another outstanding firm pillow choice for those who like to sleep on their backs or lighter side sleepers. It’s also a great choice for people who sleep on their stomach to alleviate the pressure on the lower back. The thin design lets side sleepers have enough support to cradle their neck, whereas back sleepers can keep their spine and heads aligned with their back. However, the loft could be a bit thin for heavier side sleepers who may need a little bit more material for the space between their shoulders and head.
This mid-loft, extra firm pillow is filled with polyester fiberfill with a two-inch gusset design. The fiberfill is hypoallergenic and will remain lofty. The gusseted custom color quilted sidewall is designed to offer additional support and has reinforced corded edges to eliminate fill breakdown.
The pillow’s 233-thread count cotton cover provides the maximum airflow to ensure you stay cool as you sleep and whisks moisture away to keep the pillow fresh. Perfect Fit is manufactured in the U.S. and can be thrown into the wash, making it easy to care for.
Beautyrest: The Best for Neck Support
Beautyrest came up with its high loft extra firm pillow that offers amazing comfort and support for the neck and head. Its two-inch high gussets have been reinforced to ensure proper shaping and even fill distributing under the excess weight.
Perfect for side sleepers in need of good neck support, the pillow offers soft comfort without sacrificing firmness. However, for some back sleepers, the pillow may be too firm with too high a loft, which can keep the neck misaligned and stress the soft tissues of both the shoulders and upper back.
Beautyrest comes with a 400-thread count Pima cotton to ensure breathability. While lower thread counts usually equate to better airflow, the pillow won’t lock in moisture or heat up. After every use, the fiberfill will plump up once more. What’s more, you can throw the pillow into the washer and dryer, allowing for easy care and maintenance.
A Firm Pillow Buyer’s Guide
Extra firm pillows are certainly worth considering when you’re shopping for a new pillow for your bed. Remember, pillows are used to fill the gap that exists between the mattress and the head. They are designed to keep the body in a neutral sleeping position, which means no undue pressure on the nerves, muscles, and discs.
Your body is best when it’s kept in a straight position – parallel to the mattress – with no bends in the spine. If you remain in a neutrally aligned position, you won’t wake up with neck pain or stiffness and will sleep better during the night.
For a long time, people thought the only way to get this kind of sleep was to use a soft, fluffy pillow filled with down. Down is one of the more popular fillings due to its durability and comfort. However, in the hopes of getting better sleep, you may find that your preference is for the firmer pillow types. How so?
The softer pillows’ compressible nature is actually bad for your spine because they fail to keep the body in its neutral sleeping position. What’s more, the head also sinks into the soft filling, which means the sides of the pillow will push against your face and prevent airflow. It can make you feel hot and sweaty at night.
On top of that, softer pillows tend to lose their thickness as you sleep as the pressure causes them to flatten. As a result, your neck can drop into an uncomfortable sleeping position, which may lead to pain and stiffness in the morning.
Why Choose A Firm Pillow?
- Conforming – A firm pillow that doesn’t conform to the shape of your body is going to feel like a rock. Firm pillows are not comfortable unless the weight of your head is evenly distributed across their surface. If your pillow doesn’t allow for this, it will result in pain-causing pressure points.
- Consistent Support – Firm pillows should offer consistent loft to keep your head stable and parallel to the mattress during the night. The idea of a firm pillow is to reduce compressibility so your head won’t sink down into the pillow while you are sleeping.
Different Types Of Pillow Fillings (and How Firm They Can Be)
When it comes to the best firm pillows on the market, there’s no one choice that is perfect for everybody. Pillows are typically categorized based on their filling material. While the casing fabric is important, it’s your pillow’s filling that makes it feel the way it does. And, each material has its own benefits and drawbacks and appeals to a unique audience of sleepers.
When it comes to pillow fillings, buckwheat hulls are very firm. However, there are all kinds of reasons you need to consider this type of material, including but not limited to:
- Eco-Friendly – Since buckwheat hulls are all-natural, they can be recycled.
- Adjustable – The majority of the buckwheat pillows are adjustable with a zippered opening so you can remove or add the filling. This is great for any sleeping position and body type.
- Breathable – Buckwheat hulls will allow air to flow through, allowing warm body heat to escape, so you can stay cool throughout the night.
- Moldable – They will conform to the shape of your shoulders, head, and neck.
- Consistent support – Extra firm pillows made of buckwheat hulls will not collapse in the middle of the night.
Despite their many benefits, some people don’t like buckwheat pillows because of the rustling noise they can make when you change positions at night. Light sleepers may even wake up because of it. If you also like to move your pillow around, the eight-pound buckwheat pillow may be too heavy for you to comfortable use. Lastly, some people who are accustomed to softer pillows may find that buckwheat pillows are just too firm to their liking.
A microbead pillow is made of thousands of tiny pieces of polystyrene, which makes it a unique consideration for your bed. They can be soft initially when you first apply the pressure. However, they will not collapse or compress, so they can provide amazing support for your head and neck.
One more great point? They are also breathable, so you don’t have to worry about flipping to get the cool pillow side.
Another great aspect is that microbead pillows are malleable and conformable, so the gap between you and the mattress is eliminated. With even support, you don’t get the undue pressure on the pressure points.
However, that doesn’t mean that microbead pillows don’t have their drawbacks. Though firm and breathable, they are also subjected to chemicals that emit a strong odor (similar to memory foam). When you first remove the product from the box, the smell can be overwhelming. These beads are also bad for the environment.
Another problem is that the microbead filling quickly loses its loft and resistance, which means it will eventually flatten. Since the microbeads don’t hold together, such a pillow will eventually lose its shape, and you will need to constantly readjust it.
Think of water pillows like the infamous water bed of the 1980s and 1990s. If properly filled, the water pillow will keep your head elevated at just the right level all through the night. Water doesn’t compress, but in a plastic bag, it will conform to your head, so you get consistent support as you sleep.
There are not many firm pillows on the market that can be customized, which makes it tricky to find one that’s best for you. That’s the difference with water pillows; you can adjust them. Add in the right amount of water, and you get the loft you need. However, since water tends to bounce back, they’re not considered moldable. And, some of these water pillows are wrapped in soft fiberfill, which can be good or bad depending on what you want.
This type of pillow material is durable, supportive, and firm. Latex comes from the Hevea-Brasilienis tree (or rubber tree). Since the latex filling isn’t mixed with chemicals, manufacturers often market latex pillows are safer, natural options to other material types, including memory foam.
The drawback? Just like memory foam, latex pillows will retain body heat, making it uncomfortable for some individuals. To increase the airflow, small holes are often made into the pillow surface.
On top of that, these pillows aren’t moldable, which means they won’t conform to the shape of your neck and head. It doesn’t matter how much you smash it or squeeze it; it will go back to its original shape. This is a deal-breaker for some.
The squishy character of memory foam is one of the reasons why this material has increased in popularity. If you’ve touched memory foam before, you know that its texture can conform to any pressure – something you don’t see with other material types.
If you put your head down on one, you’ll notice that the memory foam conforms to your body. When the pillow is no longer under pressure, it goes back to its original shape. Memory foam is ideal for all kinds of reasons, including but not limited to:
- Ultimate support for your neck and head
- Pressure points relief because the body’s weight is distributed evenly
However, there are some drawbacks to memory foam pillows as well. For instance, they tend to lock in body heat, which can make them too warm for some people. They also lose some loft as they warm up, thinning out and not keeping your head properly aligned.
Another complaint – a really big one – people who use memory foam firm pillows often complain about their chemical smell. This potentially unhealthy odor comes from the polyurethane and other chemicals used during the manufacturing process. It’s not uncommon for “off-gassing” to occur with these pillows, and unfortunately, some of these chemicals can be dangerous.
Fiberfill and Overstuffed Down
The least firm out of pillow fillings are fiberfill and overstuffed down. Most people wouldn’t even label these as firm pillows, but they are often sold as such. These pillows are loaded with extra filling, so they won’t compress and stay consistent in the loft.
Fiberfill isn’t very malleable, which means it won’t conform very well to the shape of your neck and head. Down, however, is softer and has conforming qualities. The problem is that when it’s stuffed tightly in an extra firm pillow, these qualities are typically lost.
On top of that, down and fiberfill often retain heat the body releases while you sleep. Thus, they can become very uncomfortable, and you may need to “wake up shortly” to flip the pillow to the cooler side.
People who are used to sleeping on these soft traditional pillows tend to stick with them. However, if you really want a firm pillow for your bed, this is not your best option.
Sleeping Position and Pillow Comfort
Most people understand that their mattress’ firmness will have a direct impact on their sleep quality, and this varies depending on what kind of sleeper you are – back, stomach, or side. Your sleeping needs are also unique to your body shape, height, and weight.
For the most part, side sleepers need a softer plush that will cradle their shoulders and hips, and keep their spine aligned all night. Stomach and back sleepers need firmer support to lift their hips and shoulders up, keep their spine straight and ensure the soft tissues don’t have undue pressure throughout the night.
However, as much attention as you give your mattress, your posture may be being affected by your pillow choice.
While there are millions of stomach sleepers in the world, the reality is that sleeping on your stomach isn’t a good thing, especially for your spine. When you use a standard pillow, it makes it hard to keep the spine aligned with your neck and head.
Sure, the stomach sleeping position is comfortable, and several bedding manufacturers have created pillows that will support the body and ensure the neck is free of pain. However, you don’t want to use thick or high-loft pillows, since these will leave the head in an unnatural position.
If you’re a stomach sleeper, you want something firm but also thin – three inches thick is typically best, although this will vary from person to person. A thin firm pillow does take some time getting used to, but it’s worth it in the long run. Your spine stays neutral, easing any tension in your back and neck.
If you’re a back sleeper, you don’t need a really thick pillow, but you should still opt for one with some loft to it. You also have a gap between the back of your neck and the mattress that needs to be filled, so be mindful of this when shopping for your new pillow.
Back sleepers often feel as if they sink into their pillows, which can lead to various health issues later on. To avoid this, choose a firm or extra firm pillow. Your head won’t sink, and snoring may become a thing of the past.
Sleeping on your side (your left side, preferably) has an array of benefits, such as increased blood circulation to the heart, better digestion, more effective lymphatic drainage from your brain, etc. However, side sleeping does have some drawbacks if you don’t choose a supportive, firm pillow that is suitable for your sleeping position.
For instance, you need a slightly thicker pillow, as there is usually a much larger space between your head and the mattress. Your pillow must fill that gap to ensure your spine stays aligned with your neck and head. Too thin of a pillow will leave you with a sore neck, shoulders, and back along with an unnatural positioned spine (and even a headache).
Things to Consider Before You Buy
The Right Size Is Important
Regardless of what you may think, there is not a one-size-fits-all option out there. And, this is why you need to know the differences to find the best firm pillow for your particular needs. The standard, most common pillow size is 20x26 inches. While the Standard size is great for anybody regardless of their sleeping position, side sleepers often opt for larger sizes to get more support.
Whatever pillow size you choose, you want to buy a pillowcase for it. This works to eliminate the buildup of dust and other allergens and allows for easy cleaning.
Choose between a high or low loft.
What is a pillow loft? It’s how high a pillow sits when it’s lying flat on a surface. A pillow with a high loft is considered a thick pillow, while a pillow with a low loft will be more on the thin side. High loft pillows are rounder and can include a gusset or panel on the sides, so the pillow gets a rectangular shape to it.
Bear in mind that just because a high loft pillow comes across as thicker and more solid, it doesn’t mean it won’t cradle your neck and head like it should. The same principle is applied to thin pillows. A low loft doesn’t mean a flat, lifeless pillow with no support.
Your sleeping position is going to help you to determine what type of loft is right for you. Side sleepers tend to stick with high loft pillows while stomach and back sleepers often choose low loft for their comfort.
Keep in mind that the higher the quality of material the pillow is made of, the longer it will maintain its loft.
Test your pillow age every 18 months to 2 years
When you buy a new pillow, you want to test its age every couple of years. Fold it in half and see how quickly it springs back. If the pillow doesn’t spring back quickly, it’s time to get a replacement.
Firm Pillow Pricing Can Be A Concern
When it comes to the best firm pillows on the market, you’re going to be surprised by the prices. Traditional pillows can cost as low as $5, but a cheap product doesn’t always equate to good sleep. Therefore, you really need to do your homework here and increase your budget a little bit to find an option that’s best for your head, neck, and spine.
Even if you bought a cheap pillow in the hopes of saving money (now), in the long run, you’re only going to spend more to replace it every other month. With the firm pillow made of high-quality materials, you save yourself a lot of money in the grand scheme of things if it lasts longer than the cheaper alternatives.
Try Various Pillows To See What’s Best For You
All the touching and holding in the world won’t help you find the best firm pillow for your particular needs until you sleep on it. Be sure to read the return policy the manufacturer offers. If you find a pillow isn’t working for you, put it back in its box and send it back to them. Since you spend a third of your life sleeping, your pillow needs to be comfortable.
This means doing a little research and experimenting. Go with your first impression and ignore the marketing hype that manufacturers use to entice you to buy their product.
What To Keep In Mind…
When it comes to the best firm pillows on the market, the choices above are our favorites for both comfort and versatility. Keep in mind that firm pillows are typically made with higher loft options for the unique neck support of back and side sleepers. Stomach sleepers usually need a firm pillow with a lower loft to ensure proper spine alignment.