Our Pillow Talk series begins with an explanation of the many different types of pillows on the market, along with the positives and negatives of each. Choosing the right pillow is subjective only in the sense of wants: you want to be comfortable. But, it’s also objective in the sense of needs: the proper pillow needs to properly support the neck, head and shoulders or it could cause discomfort, or worse, sleep injuries. Use this Pillow Talk Series to learn about the different types of pillows, how they’re made and to help find the one that works for you.
Down pillows are made of the soft under feathers of the domestic goose or the duck. Duck down is collected from the bird’s nest (Eider down). Down is also taken from birds being used as food, or less humanely, live-plucked from the birds (outlawed in the U.S. and Europe.) Most down comes from China. Down pillows are usually a combination of down and feathers, to add bulk, unless labeled as 100% down.
Positives of down pillows:
- Soft and super comfortable to most people (subjective.)
- You can push the down and feathers around and make a very decent version of a supportive, orthopedic pillow.
- If you buy them from a reputable source, they are sustainable and humane.
- They are excellent insulators, which is helpful in colder climates.
Negatives of down pillows:
- They don’t like to get wet, so no washing. They get stinky.
- The feathers can poke through the pillow.
- They harbor dust mites, dust, mildew and mold.
- They break down to the point where they won’t fluff after a few months.
Memory Foam Pillows
Memory foam pillows are either contoured for orthopedic support or shaped like a basic pillow. They are made of polyurethane and other chemicals, which explain the odor of memory foam mattresses and pillows when you first bring them home.
Positives of memory foam:
- Supportive to the neck, head and shoulders.
- Will offer support regardless of sleep position, unless contoured.
- Bounces back after use.
- Resistant to allergens.
- You can gently wash and air-dry them.
Negatives of memory foam:
- Off gas odors can cause respiratory distress.
- Very heavy and dense if pillow is solid memory foam.
- Have to be combined with charcoal, green tea, or other natural products to reduce gas odor.
- Trap heat so they can get very hot, unless gel is added.
- If they have gel you can’t wash them.
In part 1 of my Pillow Talk Series I hope you gained some insight into down and memory foam types of pillows. When you start seeing combinations of material types, such as memory foam and latex or latex and wool, the market starts to get interesting. Each pillow does have its positives and negatives, so the important thing is that you make an informed decision when you’re looking for the right pillow. Remember: a proper pillow needs to support your neck, head and shoulders. Everything else is subjective.
Next week, in Part 2 of my Pillow Talk Series I will talk about synthetic down pillows, fiberfill and latex.