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10 Different Types of Pillows and Their Uses

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Choosing the right pillow can mean the difference between a restless night of tossing and turning and a restful night of peaceful dreams. The number of pillow types available today can make your head spin. Without understanding which types of pillows best fit your needs, you can lose precious sleep, and worse, incur pain or exacerbate existing pain.

To help you find the perfect pillow suitable for your individual needs, we have created the following list of 10 types of pillows and their uses. First, let’s journey through a brief history of the pillow.

The History Of The Pillow

Pillows were first used around 7,000 BCE in early Mesopotamia. Unsurprisingly, those first types of pillows were made of stone and were, without a doubt, uncomfortable, even by the standards of that time.

In ancient China the pillows also were made from hard objects including stone, bamboo and porcelain. The ancient Greeks and Romans were the first people to make the types of pillows we are familiar with today. They stuffed them with soft materials like cotton and reeds. However, this advancement in pillows was short-lived. By the middle ages, pillows were seen as a sign of weakness, therefore, people shunned their use.

However, during the Industrial Revolution people’s attitudes toward pillows changed for the better. They finally saw them as an important instrument upon which they could rest their heads at the end of a long work day. For this reason, they no longer viewed softness as a weakness, but instead rejoiced in this wonderful quality.

Unlike centuries ago, today there is a pillow out there for almost every need imaginable.

Ten Different Types Of Pillows

1. Cotton

Cotton is a versatile material that, when combined with polyester, makes a quality pillow. The best aspect of cotton pillows is they are washable and hypoallergenic. If your body temperature rises during sleep, then these types of pillows are a great option, for they stay cool despite any increase in body heat.

Note you should replace cotton pillows every few years as they will clump up.

2. Feather

Feather pillows are a natural-fill pillow that are stuffed with feathers. These pillows are soft, and perfect for stomach sleepers who need a flat, soft pillow that won’t strain their neck. Made with countless tiny (sometimes curled) feathers, these pillows are also light and moldable to the shape of your neck and head.

Even though feather pillows are similar in quality to down pillows, they are much more affordable. They also require regular fluffy to maintain their suppleness.

3. Down

Down pillows are the epitome of softness. They are made from the feathers of a bird’s undercoat, which is the part that insulates the bird from the cold. The most common type of down pillow is European goose, also known as goose down. These types of pillows are the pinnacle of mankind’s soft-pillow-making achievements.

For stomach sleepers, down pillows are the best option; although they provide minimal support, they are suitable for those who sleep on their stomachs. Remember to fluff these types of pillows every week to enjoy all of their benefits.

4. Memory Foam

Memory foam pillows have maintained their popularity since their debut. The revolutionary thing about these types of pillows is that they conform to your individual shape throughout the night, no matter your position.

The foamy material is firm, yet comfortable to your neck, shoulders and head. These pillows are highly recommended for back and side-sleepers for their ability to adjust to body shapes accordingly.

In addition, these types of pillows can be great companions for those who suffer from neck and back pain. If you are looking for memory foam pillows on the softer side, look for pillows filled with shredded memory foam instead of one solid foam.

5. Latex Foam

Latex foam pillows conform to the shape of your neck, shoulders and head, like that of memory foam pillows. The only difference is that latex foam pillows offer users a cooler sleep.

If you are a back sleeper or suffer from back or neck pain, look no further than these types of pillows. Latex foam pillows offer the firmest support. Also, they are anti-microbial and hypoallergenic, so you can sleep soundly throughout the night safe in the knowledge that you are protected from allergens.

6. Reading Pillow

Reading pillows are large, puffy pillows that support your back in an upright position. As the name describes, they allow you to sit in bed and read. These types of pillows also have another name — husband, boyfriend or girlfriend pillows. The reason for this name is that they have two arms that extend out by your side in the same way as significant other if he or she hugs you from behind.

These types of pillows are a must-have for reading in bed. They provide your body with the support it needs without letting your spine slouch. However, reading pillows are not recommended for sleep because they are slightly too plump and will cause your neck to strain.

7. Buckwheat Pillow

Buckwheat pillows are an all-natural and plant-based alternative to traditional pillows. These types of pillows are made from the husks of buckwheat seeds and are amazing at providing a supportive sleep surface.

If you run hot during the night, buckwheat pillows are a great cooling option for you. Another upside is that you can adjust the amount of filling based on your firmness preference. Buckwheat pillows also do not compress, so there is no need for you to fluff it back to its original shape. The only downside is that the filling can be noisy when you switch sleep positions.

8. Wedge Pillow

Wedge pillows are large triangular shaped pillows that can be used for the whole body. Typically made with firm foam, wedge pillows can withstand the weight of your body throughout your sleep. To use these types of pillows, place the low sloping part of the pillow at your buttocks so that your back is gradually elevated.

Sleeping in such an upright position helps curb acid reflux and breathing problems during sleep. Wedge pillows also can be used under your upper legs, which is a great remedy for joint pain. In addition, pregnant women who want to sleep on their sides can use the wedge pillows to support their belly.

9. Leg Rest Pillow

Leg rest pillows are wedge pillows with a slight twist. Instead of the triangular shape of the wedge pillow, leg rest pillows have a flattened-out surface that allow you to elevate your legs at a horizontal angle.

These types of pillows are helpful in relieving injury and swelling of the legs. If you have just incurred an injury or are in recovery, use a leg rest pillow to relieve any pain or discomfort in your lower body. To use it properly, place the pillow under your buttocks and place your legs on the flat surface.

10. Body Pillow

Body pillows are oversized pillows perfect for cuddling and spooning. Not only do they provide ample support for your head like a traditional pillow, they also provide comfort to the rest of your body as you wrap yourself around it. These types of pillows are usually soft and plush, and conform to the shape of your individual body. They are perfect for side-sleepers. What’s not to like?

The Many Uses Of Pillows


When we think about pillows, the first use that comes to mind is sleeping. For centuries, people have used pillows to support their neck, shoulders and head during sleep. Depending on the firmness and material of the pillow, some are more suitable for side-sleepers while others are perfect for back and stomach sleepers.


A comfortable and supportive reading pillow is the top ingredient to a cozy reading session in bed. Finding that perfect reading pillow can be tricky, However, be mindful of the level of firmness in regards to back support. Also, be aware of how much back coverage is sutiable for your seating posture.

Resting Joints

If you suffer from joint pain or discomfort, the right wedge or leg rest pillow can help you ease pain and place you on the path to recovery. These types of pillows are typically made from firm foam to provide you with the ultimate level of support.

Supporting Pregnancy

When we think of pillows, we seldom think about their use during pregnancy. Wedge-shaped pillows, for instance, are beneficial for pregnant woman during their second and third trimesters. They provide support to their belly during side-way sleep. Some body pillows are designed even to wrap around the entire body. This elevates the belly during curled up sleep that mimics the fetal position.


From traditional cotton to luxury down feather, pillows have evolved since their initial use centuries ago. Whether you are a side, back or stomach sleeper, there are pillows tailored to fit your sleep position. Pillows do so much more than initially expected. They provide support during reading, muscle recovery and even pregnancy.