MattressFirm Logo
Bed Basics
Bed Basics

Matty Asks: Pillows

Qi Guo

Got questions about buying a new bed? Our Sleep Experts® have heard ‘em all. And with their 200+ hours of sleep training, they are here to help with all the answers. Whether you’re curious about mattress types, toppers, pillow lofts, frame options, or anything else in your bedroom, we’ve got answers. And there’s no question too small or too silly.

Matty Firm has an ear to the ground when it comes to common sleep questions and is crossing the country asking Sleep Experts® from coast to coast your burning questions so you can get your best night’s sleep on the right sleep setup for you.

Matty Firm asks Jamie Rudat, Sleep Expert® and Senior Store Manager in Burlington, as well as Andrew Miller Sleep Expert® in Valdosta, Georgia, the most common questions about pillows.

Matty asks: Which type of pillow is best?
Sleep Expert® Jamie Rudat: This is the ultimate question, isn’t it? The best pillow takes into account your preferred feel, plus the proper positioning for your head. If I were to specify which pillow is the best as a primary sleeping pillow for your head, then the best pillow is the one that provides proper neck and spinal alignment to you when you are in your primary sleep position, whether side, back, stomach or a combination of all. The difficulty of selecting a pillow is that you truly need to test it on a sleep surface that is as close to your mattress as you can find. This makes purchasing a new mattress an ideal time to find your best pillow so you can make sure they pair up well.

Matty asks: How do I choose a pillow for my sleep position?
Sleep Expert® Jamie: The position you sleep in each night plays a large part in determining the best pillow for you. Spinal alignment and the support level of your mattress—firm, medium or plush—will help guide the right loft and type of pillow. For example, a stomach-sleeping position typically requires the thinnest-profile pillow so that your head and neck aren’t propped too high above your shoulders. On the other hand, the side-sleeping position props your neck up due to the stacking of your shoulders, meaning a greater space between your neck and the mattress, so a taller loft pillow is usually needed to support your head and keep your spine aligned. The firmness or plushness of the mattress also becomes a factor because the deeper your body goes into the mattress, the less loft you need to support your head.

Matty asks: What is a pillow fitting, and what is that process like?
Sleep Expert® Andrew Miller: A pillow fitting is all about finding the perfect pillow that works best with the way you sleep as well as the type of mattress you sleep on. There are a lot of factors and features taken into consideration for fitting a pillow, some of which include:

  • Your sleep position
  • The loft or thickness of a pillow
  • Cooling technology
  • Preference of a down or memory foam pillow

The process is based on what will solve the guest’s sleep disruptors and can be one of the simplest ways to ensure you’re getting the best sleep possible.
Matty asks: Why are hotel pillows so comfortable?
Sleep Expert® Jamie Rudat: Hotels know they are in the business of making people comfortable, so I imagine that they change out their pillows far more often than the average consumer.

Matty asks: What pillows are best for cuddling?
Sleep Expert® Jamie Rudat: I recommend an adaptable material like memory foam or potentially a down pillow. However, if you’re looking for a pillow specifically for cuddling, I’d recommend a body pillow over a standard-size pillow.

Matty asks: What are the different pillow sizes and types of pillows?
Sleep Expert® Jamie Rudat: Technically, there are three main types of sizes: standard, queen and king. However, it gets a little tricky because some places (including Mattress Firm) will use the standard and queen-size interchangeably. For brands that don’t use the two interchangeably, a queen-size pillow is 4 inches longer than a standard-size pillow. Mattress Firm mostly stocks queen- and king-size pillows, but some brands vary.

The thought process is that a twin- and full-size mattress would either use one or two standard pillows, respectively, to equal the full width of the mattress. The same goes for queen- and king-size pillows. There are also some specialty sizes and types like body pillows or even wedge pillows, which can help prop your body up.

Matty asks: Can you wash pillows?
Sleep Expert® Jamie Rudat: It depends on the materials in the pillow. Typically, if it’s a specialty foam pillow (memory foam, gel or latex), you will have to hand wash these pillows and leave them out to air dry. However, those pillows typically have removable washable covers. In general, if the pillow is filled with feathers, down or polyester fiberfill, you can throw it in your washing machine and tumble dryer. As always, please follow the care instructions label on your pillow. And while you’re washing your pillow, make sure you’re washing your pillow protector and pillowcase regularly to help keep your pillow in top shape.

Matty asks: Why do pillows turn yellow?
Sleep Expert® Andrew Miller: Pillows start to turn yellow as they accumulate moisture like sweat or water from wet hair. Over time this moisture gets trapped in the pillow and causes it to change color and stain. Once the pillow stains it can be very hard to change the pillow back to its original color. Luckily you can prevent this from happening by using a pillow protector and regularly washing the pillow’s cover.

Matty asks: How often should you change your pillows?
Sleep Expert® Andrew Miller: Just like a mattress gets worn down over time, so does your pillow. Of course, the frequency at which you replace your pillow depends on various factors, such as its quality, usage and personal preferences. Generally, I recommend that you change your pillows out every three to four years because, over time, your pillow will start to lose its loft and won’t provide you with the same support as it once did. Additionally, over time, your pillow accumulates dust mites, dead skin cells and other allergens. So, if you’re not washing your pillow regularly, you may find you need to replace your pillow sooner.

Matty asks: Which pillow material is best for sleeping?
Sleep Expert® Jamie Rudat: This goes along the same lines as which is the best pillow. Ultimately, you want the best material that provides the ideal support for your sleep position. If you are an all-over sleeper and don’t have one specific position that you fall asleep in, you may want a memory foam material that can adjust quickly to what you need or even a down pillow that could be fluffed up to fit the shape you need it to be. For hot sleepers, you’ll want to look for a pillow with cooling technology that draws heat away from you as you sleep. And if you’re one of the many who deal with allergies, finding a hypoallergenic material can help cut down on dust gathering on your pillow.

Matty asks: What are pillow inserts?
Sleep Expert® Andrew Miller: Pillow inserts are sheets you can put inside your pillowcase infused with fragrances to provide a soothing scent while you sleep or rest. These inserts are used as aromatherapy to calm the body as you lie on your pillow, which helps you fall asleep faster instead of doomscrolling on your phone (which I am guilty of). Scented pillow inserts can be beneficial for individuals looking to create a calming and soothing sleep environment. However, you may want to consider any sensitivities to certain scents before using pillow inserts. Currently, the Sleepy’s pillow inserts offer a unique blend of lavender, sweet jasmine and cedarwood.

Check Out Our Sleep Expert® Approved Pillow Picks