Although more advanced now than the original version, memory foam has been around since the early 1960s. Memory foam was invented by NASA-funded researchers to offer better shock absorption, impact protection, and enhanced passenger comfort on long flights. Since the foam compresses to match the contour of body pressure and returns to its initial shape once pressure is removed, it was originally called “slow spring back foam”.
With technological advances leading to more environmentally friendly and less temperature-sensitive versions, the modern memory foam pillow is one of the most highly recommended sleep-enhancing accessories. We’ve set out on a mission to find the top memory foam pillows in 2023 for ultimate quality sleep. Here are our favorite picks and tips to choose one that suits your sleeping style.
Choosing the right pillow can have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep which in turn affects your overall health. An unsupportive or uncomfortable pillow can cause sleep disruptions, poor spinal alignment, breathing problems, and even affect snoring. As a result, you can experience neck, shoulder, and back pain as well as headaches.
With so many pillow types, sizes, stuffings, and fabrics out there, how do you possibly know which one is the right fit for your sleeping style? In this guide, we’ll highlight the benefits of memory foam pillows, the different types, and how to find your perfect match.
Where many pillows will simply sink in and require you to adjust the position of your head or neck, a memory foam pillow adjusts to you. The firm foam softens in response to pressure and body heat to mold into a supportive cradle. This prevents pressure build-up and minimizes joint and muscle strain. When not in use, the pillow bounces back to its original form.
Poor spinal alignment increases your chance of experiencing long-term pain. Due to the stable support of the foam, it is much easier for the head and neck to remain in a neutral position which enhances spinal alignment. It also distributes weight and pressure more evenly and keeps airways better aligned for comfortable breathing.
Memory foam pillows absorb movement and produce no noise if someone moves their head. This minimizes sleep disruptions for yourself and your partner.
Since the foam is fairly dense and thick, it can be cut into a variety of shapes and sizes during manufacturing. This makes it just as useful as a supportive tool for medical conditions and injury recovery.
Memory foam pillows have become very popular and are easy to find in-store or order online.
Although this may depend on the specific brand, most solid 100% memory foam pillows are resistant to bacteria and dust mites. As long as you are not allergic to the foam itself, this is a good option for allergy sufferers.
Solid memory foam bolsters and pillows are made of a solid block of foam. This can be a traditional pillow shape or tailored to the curves of the head and neck. Solid memory foam has a slow response to pressure and conforms very evenly with your unique curves. It returns to its original shape when not in use. Some versions allow you to adjust the loft with inserts.
Pros of solid memory foam pillows
Cons of solid memory foam pillows
Shredded pillows are stuffed with lots of smaller foam pieces. These can either be 100% memory foam or a blend including latex, fiberfill, or other materials. Although they don’t conform as evenly and provide more moderate support, they do have other benefits. They have better breathability and allow for more airflow which makes them slightly cooler to sleep with. You can also customize the filling quantity to adjust the loft and the density.
Pros of shredded memory foam pillows
Cons of shredded memory foam pillows
Another type of memory foam pillow you’ll find is a more recent development. Gel-infused pillows help minimize the heat build-up associated with memory foam pillows. If you often sleep hot but find that the support of memory foam is essential for a good night’s rest, these are a great option for you and well worth the investment. The foam is infused with a gel that assists with heat dispersion. These pillows are also anti-microbial, which makes them the perfect sleeping companion for allergy sufferers.
Your sleeping position plays a big role in the height and firmness of the pillow which will provide optimal spinal alignment and feel most comfortable to you.
Solid memory foam pillows generally have a medium to high loft. These are ideal for side sleepers since they can fill the gap between the neck and shoulder. Since they are firmer than shredded insert pillows they are a good choice to maintain alignment and minimize pressure.
Stomach sleepers will do better with a shredded insert pillow that is not too high and can be slightly molded.
If you are a back sleeper, you already maintain a somewhat neutral posture. You do, however, need to ensure that your head does not tilt too far back or forward. A pillow loft that keeps your head level is the ideal choice.
This ventilated gel memory foam pillow from the Weekender made our very top pick because it simultaneously optimizes support and temperature regulation. If you need the support of the firm structure but can’t handle the heat build-up of traditional memory foam, this is just the pillow for you. The foam is infused with temperature-regulating gel that dissipates heat better than regular solid memory foam products.
This pillow comes with a removable and machine-washable cover for easy cleaning. While the pillow is great for all sleepers, it is especially recommended for side sleepers.
Established over 140 years ago, Sealy is a leading mattress and sleep accessory brand. Sealy specializes in manufacturing products that will enhance quality sleep, and this pillow does just that.
The pillow is designed with a single block of premium memory foam that adapts accurately to your unique shape and sleeping position for the most effective support. It reduces pressure on your neck, head, shoulders, and spine. This effectively promotes quality restful sleep and minimizes tension headaches. The unit comes with a plush knit cover for enhanced comfort and easy cleaning.
If you find solid memory foam pillows too firm, you will love this shredded foam-filled pillow from DreamyBlue. While the shredded memory foam still offers great pressure relief and spinal alignment benefits, it’s not as dense or hard as solid foam. It also has better breathability characteristics which means that body heat will dissipate more effectively than with solid foam versions.
Our favorite feature about this pillow is that it comes with an extra bag of fill. The pillow has a side zipper that allows you to add or remove fill to customize the loft to your liking, sleeping position, and ultimate level of comfort.
Linenspa provides a set of shredded memory foam pillows at a great price point, so you don’t have to lose any sleep over going over budget — the perfect pillow for college students! Unlike solid memory foam, these pillows can be fluffed, molded, and shaped to suit your sleeping position. They offer softer support than solid foam pillows yet still provide pressure relief.
The pillows are breathable and have a smooth, hypoallergenic cover. The memory foam shreds are also CertiPUR-US certified which means that the product does not contain toxic substances and meets the necessary safety standards. This is why these pillows are recommended for people with sensitive skin.
Ideal for back and side sleepers, these Sky Dreamer cooling memory foam pillows from PharMeDoc provide solid support without causing you to sleep hot. The firm support foam has a dual cooling system with ventilation holes for improved airflow and cooling gel integration for enhanced heat dissipation. These cooling pillows are perfect for people that live in hot or humid climates.
The pillows are available in a single or double pack and come with a removable and machine-washable spandex cover. Characteristic of good-quality memory foam, they absorb movement and bounce back to their original shape when no pressure is applied.
A: Choosing a pillow that is CertiPUR-US and OEKO-Tex certified will help ensure that it meets the necessary safety standards. Safety certifications are only valid for a year so they need to be current to be reliable. Since these are synthetic foams, they might release what is called 'off-gassing odors' when unpacked for the first time. We advise that you let any new pillow air out for a couple of days before using it, especially if you suffer from allergies and respiratory conditions.
A: Yes, you should always use a pillowcase with your pillow. This will prevent dead skin cells, bacteria, and dust from getting into the actual foam. It also keeps it clean, prevents stains, and absorbs moisture or sweat. A breathable, moisture-wicking fabric such as cotton or bamboo is suitable if you are a hot sleeper or suffer from allergies.
A: Although some shredded memory foam pillows are machine washable, solid foam pillows should not be washed. These should be spot-cleaned only. Submerging the entire pillow in water can ruin its supportive features and if not dried properly mold will start to form. This can lead to respiratory issues, especially because it comes into contact with your face. It can be an especially serious problem for people who suffer from mold sensitivities. Even when spot-cleaning, don’t let the pillow get too wet, and always make sure it is completely dry before putting the cover on. Use a removable cover so you can machine wash the cover and keep the foam cleaning required to a minimum.
A: The ideal pillow thickness will vary between 3 to 6 inches and depends on your sleeping position. A mid-range loft of 4.5-inch is suitable for back sleepers, while side sleepers will need more elevated support.
A: With good care, typical pillows should only have to be replaced every one to two years. A memory foam pillow provides firm support and doesn’t lose its shape as quickly, replacing it every two to three years is recommended.
A: Memory foam products are better suited for school-age children. Since softer memory foam pillows and mattresses can make it hard to shift positions, they are not suited to children under the age of four years. Older children can, however, really enjoy kid-friendly memory foam products. Always ensure that products you purchase for babies and toddlers are designed with their specific age development and safety requirements in mind. You should opt for CertiPUR-US certified products and give them a few days to de-gas before using.