Wednesday, 31 January 2007 | Tags: , , , ,

Essential to a good night's sleep, the right pillow supports your head, neck and shoulders, and aligns your spine in a neutral position. We talk to pillow experts and conduct a snooze-a-thon to find out which pillow provides the best sleep.

The Basics

  • To find a pillow that fits your body, test the pillow out in the store (find a display bed). Lie on your side and check that the pillow fully supports the space between your shoulder and your head.

  • The fill and the fabric cover determine the price of the pillow:

    • Down is most expensive fill. Foam polyester the least.

    • The higher the thread-count of the fabric cover, the more expensive the pillow.

    • “Down blend” means there are feathers mixed in with lighter, fluffier down. These pillows are heavier than unblended, and can’t be machine-washed.

    • For a down-blend pillow, the fabric covering should be a minimum 200-thread count and well-calendered, meaning the fabric has been pressed between rollers to minimize spaces between the fibres and help prevent feathers from poking through.

    • Goose down is considered the best feather fill.

Other Considerations

  • If down pillows make you sneeze, consider a primaloft fill, which is a well-priced, polyester-based microfibre marketed as a down substitute.

  • You may want to purchase a washable pillow cover (to use in addition to pillow cases) to help protect your pillow from dust, oil, and moisture. Some covers even claim to have antibacterial properties that act as a barrier against allergens.

Be Aware

  • Don’t trust the “side sleeper” or “stomach sleeper” labels. These descriptions vary among manufacturers and there’s no standard.


We conducted a sleep-a-thon with a group of testers and these pillows of varying fills and price ranges:

  • Northern Feather (100% polyester): $20.
  • Northern Feather (80% feather, 20% down): $45.
  • Northern Feather (100% Siberian down): $120
  • Tempur Canada (Tempur foam): $185(specialty foam made of tempur, the material developed by NASA for the US space program.)
  • Mediflow Water: $65

Comfort Test

  • The Mediflow offered a lot of support to some sleepers, while others found it to be like a slab of concrete.

  • The inexpensive Northern Feather 100% polyester offered some testers just the right amount of support.

  • The Northern Feather 100% down was too soft for some testers, especially with back pain. Others found it divine (the same testers the found the Mediflow too hard).

  • The least favourite overall was the Tempur pillow, which is made of foam material developed by NASA for use in space. It was too uncomfortable for all testers, but did stay in the same spot all night.


Whether you’re a side sleeper, back sleeper or stomach sleeper, pillows are a personal choice. If your budget is $20 or $200, make sure you can test drive a pillow before you buy it to ensure it provides enough support.


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