Best Pillows 2022 – Outstanding Feather, Foam and Fibre Pillows

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Which are the best pillows in the UK? And is there anything more confusing and less interesting than shopping for pillows?

Here’s my attempt to simplify things a bit, along with five of the best pillows in the UK based on reviews, awards, specification and value for money.

The different types of pillow

There are two main types of pillow. Of course, there are subcategories and less popular alternatives if you’re really interested, but most of us are basically picking between these two:

  1. Natural pillows (most are filled with a mix of feathers and down from either geese or ducks) – £15 to £200ish
  2. Synthetic pillows (usually filled with microfibres/hollowfibres which are fluffy and soft or ‘memory foam’ which is more solid with a hugging/sinking feeling) – £5 to £100ish

Closeup of Tempur pillow
Some pillows use foam instead of natural fibres – this one is made by posh brand Tempur

I’ve picked out five highly rated pillows made from a range of materials and have included some cheaper and some more expensive ones.​ There are some frequently asked questions about buying a pillow at the bottom of the page.

1. Silentnight Hotel Collection Pillow – pack of 2 – £20 (synthetic pillow)

These Silentnight ‘Hotel’ pillows are a decent choice if you sleep on your back and want a reasonably priced synthetic pillow. Synthetic pillows won’t impress your posh friends at a dinner party. However, they are good value and I’d also question why you are discussing pillows at a dinner party.

They’re made by Silentnight, which is probably the biggest name in the UK mattress and beds market.

The official blurb suggests that you could use two of these if you’re a side sleeper. The aim is to keep your spine nicely aligned whilst asleep. You need a firmer or thicker pillow if you mostly sleep on your side, whilst you need a thinner or softer pillow if you mostly sleep on your back or front.

At the time of writing these pillows were getting much better customer reviews than most similarly priced synthetic pillows (4.4/5 after thousands of reviews). Overall, the Silentnight brand was scoring a very respectable 4.1/5 on TrustPilot when we checked.

The filling of the pillow is ‘hollowfibre’. That is similar to the stuff that you get inside a big fluffy synthetic duvet. It’s not as posh or expensive as natural fibres like duck or goose feathers/down but it isn’t as naturally breathable.

A softer and warmer alternative

A similar alternative to hollowfibre is a ‘Just Like Down’ microfibre pillow (£14 for 2). That one is made from the same synthetic material but is less dense so that it feels softer. Microfibre is meant to be softer and warmer and feels more like feathers/down. Hollowfibre is more breathable and cooler.

Pros: a low price pillow from a big name brand with a good reputation. It also has lots of positive reviews.

Cons: synthetic materials can be less breathable and warmer than natural materials.

Silentnight's best pillows
These pillows are synthetic and great very positive reviews
Woman sleeping on bed
Search latest deals on ​Silentnight Hotel Pillows
Big name bed brand + lots of positive reviews
Big name bed brand + lots of positive reviews Show Less

Similar alternatives

  • If you mostly sleep on your front, I would take a look at these soft pillows from Soak and Sleep which use similar materials (£40 for two). The pillows were scoring 4.6/5 on Amazon when we checked. The Soak & Sleep brand was scoring 4.7/5 on TrustPilot.
  • If you mostly sleep on your side, a slightly firmer alternative is offered by Soak & Sleep, where you can get a medium/firm synthetic pillows for £45. The Soak and Sleep brand was scoring 4.7/5 on TrustPilot when we checked whilst this pillow was scoring 4.6/5.

2. Eve Sleep Microfibre Shaper Pillow – £49 (synthetic pillow)

There are now a few pillows which offer a trial period. The idea is that you can avoid the lottery of buying online or the annoyance of trying pillows out in store. Pillows in shops are often in their plastic wrapping which hardly gives a proper experience.

Some home trial pillows are made with microfibre fillings which is a synthetic material which aims to feel similar to feather and down (e.g. Dormeo Octasense Pillow, £50 or Eve Sleep’s Microfibre Shaper Pillow, £49).

Others are made with memory foam or a combination of different foams (e.g. The Emma Pillow, £119, Tempur’s Original Pillow, £105 or Eve Sleep’s Memory Foam Pillow, £59).

A 30 day trial period and a choice of heights

We’ve picked out the Eve Sleep Microfibre Shaper pillow which has a useful 30 night trial. It is made from a natural cotton cover and synthetic fillings. We like it because you can turn it round depending on whether you tend to sleep on your side or back. Side sleepers need a higher pillow than those who sleep on their back or front.

Eve Sleep also sell a memory foam model but that won’t be to everyone’s taste. Memory foam offers consistent support but some people find it makes them a bit warm.

Eve Sleep reckon that their memory foam pillow is best for ‘side sleepers with neck pain’ whilst the Microfibre Shaper pillow is the ‘best pillow for all types of sleepers – a true all-rounder’.

At the time of writing the Eve Sleep brand is scoring 4.2/5 on TrustPilot.

It’s always worth reading the smallprint before you sign up for a trial period with a mattress or pillow. Some insist that you try it out for a certain amount of time or have other terms. Most offer a refund if you don’t like it but others will only swap it for another product.

I struggled to find home trial pillows made with genuine feather and down. It tends to be synthetic pillows which offer trial periods.

Pros: a trial period so you can test it out and excellent brand reviews

Cons: relatively expensive compared to most synthetic pillows. Not as long a trial as the Emma Pillow.

Eve Sleep Microfibre Shaper Pillow
The Eve Sleep Microfibre Shaper pillow comes with a 30 night trial, so you can return it if you don’t like it
Woman sleeping on bed
Search latest price on the Eve Sleep Microfibre Shaper Pillow
30 Day Trial Period + Clever Design + Highly Rated Brand
30 Day Trial Period + Clever Design + Highly Rated Brand Show Less

More detail on other pillows offering a trial period:

  • Emma Sleep – popular mattress brand which also makes two different memory foam and microfibre pillows with a 200 night trial. The brand overall scores 4.4/5 on TrustPilot – £119
  • Dormeo Octasense Pillow – a microfibre pillow with two sides which offer different levels of comfort  – £50, 60 night ‘comfort trial’. Score of 4.4/5 on Amazon.
  • Tempur – posh brand of memory foam style pillows which come in ‘classic’ shapes or an ‘ergonomic’ shape. This one has a 30 night trial and costs £105. They’re sometimes a bit cheaper from John Lewis & Partners but I don’t think you get the trial period.
Tempur pillow
Tempur is a big name brand which makes foam pillows

3. Amazon Basics Fresh Memory Foam Pillow – £32 (synthetic pillow)

An alternative to a synthetic hollowfibre or microfibre pillow is a memory foam pillow. This one from Amazon Basics is good value.

Memory foam is still a synthetic (i.e. man-made) material but it feels much more solid than hollowfibre. It gives a supportive feel after the initial sinking sensation. Memory foam type material was originally developed to keep astronauts cosy before being developed for mattresses and pillows.

Some people don’t like the feeling of memory foam whilst others like the way it gives consistent support. A few guides I’ve read suggest that a memory foam pillow goes well with a memory foam mattress. 

Admittedly, Amazon Basics aren’t known as a memory pillow brand. However, it was scoring 4.5/5 from more than 600 reviews when we checked, so it’s not to be sneezed at.

The cover comes off and is machine washable. One common complaint with memory foam is that it can make you feel too hot. This one is double sided, with a cooler side for summer and a warmer side for winter. Alternatively, there is a ‘cooling-gel’ version of the same pillow which aims to overcome the heat issue.

Pros: removable cover, cheaper than most memory foam pillows with a similar design, positive reviews

Cons: no trial period, some find that memory foam is too warm

Amazon basics memory foam pillow
This cheap Amazon memory foam pillow scores well with customers
Woman sleeping on bed
Search latest price on Amazon Basics Memory Foam Pillow
Removable cover + great price + great reviews
Removable cover + great price + great reviews Show Less

Similar alternatives:

As mentioned earlier, the posher end of the memory foam pillow market is led by Tempur. They were the original company to use memory-foam type materials and they are still a big name in the market. Their memory foam pillows are about £100, but they get decent customer reviews on John Lewis & Partners and on Amazon. If you buy it from Tempur you can try out the pillow for 30 daysA Tempur pillow would certainly impress the neighbours if you can casually drop it into conversation (for example “would you mind taking a parcel in for us from John Lewis, we’re expecting our new Tempur pillows to be delivered”).

4. Snuggledown Hungarian Goose Down Gentle Support Pillow – £49 (natural pillow)

This Snuggledown pillow made from natural materials ticks a lot of boxes for the price. It’s a soft pillow, so would be most suited for people who sleep on their fronts.

The main differences between cheaper and more expensive natural pillows are to do with the ratio of feathers to down (the down is the more expensive and softer bit). Goose down tends to be more expensive than duck and there is also some variation in price depending on where the goose comes from – by which I mean which country it comes from rather than whether it had a tough upbringing.

This Snuggledown pillow is 80% goose down, which is very good for the price. Having a few feathers gives a pillow a bit more ‘structure’ so you won’t find many pillows which are 100% down.

The goose is from Hungary, which seems to be good according to most guides I’ve read (apparently ‘Siberian geese’ are sometimes actually from China).

It’s also machine washable and was scoring 4.3/5 from 5000+ customers.

Pros: high quality specification with naturally breathable filling, good mix of feathers and down, machine washable, lots of positive reviews

Cons: less famous brand than John Lewis & Partners, more expensive than most synthetic pillows

Snuggledown Hungarian Goose Down Gentle Support Pillow
A natural pillow like this one should be more breathable than a synthetic pillow
Woman sleeping on bed
Search latest deals on Snuggledown Goose Down pillows
Natural materials + machine washable + positive reviews
Natural materials + machine washable + positive reviews Show Less

Similar alternatives:

5. Soak & Sleep Supreme 100% Canadian Goose Down Pillows – £145-£190 (natural pillow)

If you’ve recently had a lottery win and are looking for luxurious things to spend your money on, then take a look at the Soak & Sleep 100% Canadian Goose Down pillows.

For the upgraded price (compared to the natural pillow at #4 on this list) you get a higher proportion of goose down, which creates a softer pillow.

Customer reviews were at a very impressive 4.7/5 when we checked. Soak and Sleep also get very positive reviews as a brand, with an average of 4.7/5 on TrustPilot from more than 22,000 reviews. According to their website, ‘in 2017, Which? voted us as the UK’S No.1 pillow brand’.

 award-winning brand, down provides ultra soft pillows, great scores from customers

Cons: very expensive, 100% down has less structure than a mixture of feather and down

Soak and sleep pillow
The softest natural pillows have a high proportion of down
Woman sleeping on bed
Search latest price on Soak & Sleep 100% down pillows
Luxury materials + popular brand + great reviews
Luxury materials + popular brand + great reviews Show Less

Frequently asked questions about buying a pillow

Which is the best type of pillow?

So which are the best pillows? Natural or synthetic pillows?

You might assume that the most expensive pillows are the best, but it’s not quite that simple. In fact, an academic study into pillow performance in 2011 reached the conclusion that ‘Polyester and latex pillows are generally associated with fewer waking symptoms, higher sleep quality, and least reports of disrupted sleep’. Genuine natural latex pillows are certainly expensive, but polyester pillows are at the cheaper end of the scale (the study was called ‘How Well Does Your Own Pillow Perform?’ by Gordon and Grimmer-Sommers).

The same academics published another paper called ‘Your Pillow May Not Guarantee a Good Night’s Sleep or Symptom-Free Waking’. In this instance they said that ‘Feather pillow users provided consistently low reports of pillow comfort and sleep quality’ (Gordon and Grimmer-Sommers, 2011).

Natural pillows are snugger and breathable and tend to feel softer. Generally, you pay more for a natural pillow with a high proportion of ‘down’ (the soft bit of the bird is under the wings). You also pay more for goose feathers than duck usually. Feathers are cheaper than down, but some people like a combination of the two as the feathers give a bit more shape and structure to the pillow. 

Are synthetic pillows the best pillows for people with allergies?

Some guides you’ll read suggest that natural pillows made from feathers are problematic for allergies. The evidence and research available say it’s not quite as simple as that. A group of academics in Italy looked at ‘allergen avoidance measures for mite and pet sensitized patients’ and published their findings in 2005.

They said that whilst ‘it has become common to advise allergic peoples to avoid the use of feather bedding, the evidence for such recommendation is not strong’. They later added that ‘there is a weak scientific basis for recommending non-feather or synthetic bedding in our mite sensitized patients’ and even went so far as to say that ‘cross-sectional studies have shown that synthetic bedding is significantly associated with several respiratory diseases’ (Riccardo, Cazzola et al)

Some useful advice from Allergy UK

factsheet from the charity Allergy UK offers some further insight and advises ‘using allergy-proof covers on bedding’. They also say that ‘washing it regularly can sometimes help, although clinical trials suggest that multiple measures need to be taken’. Research has suggested that ‘tightly woven fabrics‘ and ‘nonwoven synthetic fabrics’ are most effective if you need to ‘block common indoor allergens but still allow airflow’ (Vaughan, McLaughlin et al, 1999).

Synthetic pillows are usually cheaper and are better at not filling up with dust and other unpleasant stuff over time. Most synthetic pillows are either hollowfibre or microfibre. Hollowfibre is more breathable and cooler whilst microfibre is finer and warmer and feels a bit more like a ‘natural’ feather and down pillow. You can also get memory foam synthetic pillows which feels completely different and allows your head to sink in. 

Some guides I’ve read suggest that memory foam pillows last longer than microfibre or natural pillows, but I haven’t found anything definitive.

I’ve also read guides which suggest that if you’ve got a memory foam mattress, it’s a good idea to get a memory foam pillow.

Which is the best pillow for back sleepers, side sleepers and front sleepers?

There’s some variation about what you should look for based on how you sleep.

According to a 2011 academic paper by Gordon, Grimmer-Somers et al ‘it is widely believed that a pillow which holds the cervical spine in a “neutral” position prevents cervical waking symptoms’. In other words, the aim is to keep your spine straight whilst you’re asleep so generally speaking:

  • front sleepers/stomach sleepers need a softer and thinner pillow
  • back sleepers also need a softer and thinner pillow
  • side sleepers generally need a thicker or firmer pillow

Everyone moves around a bit, but if you don’t have a particular preference for how you sleep then you are probably best to go for a medium firmness pillow.

Please take note that I have no training or expertise in back care. This is just the summary of what I’ve picked up from reading numerous pillow-related guides online. 

There’s also something called ‘fill power’, which sounds a bit like a 1990s darts player. It’s complicated and duller than a conversation with a spatula, but the gist of it is that pillows are given a score and that higher scores are better.

What about ‘contour pillows’?

Another way of categorising pillows is according to their shape. You may have seen ‘contour pillows’ such as these from Tempur.

Research was carried out in 2011 which examined their usage, which was titled A randomized, comparative trial: does pillow type alter cervico-thoracic spinal posture when side lying?’ (Gordon, Gimmer-Somers et al). 

The study involved a group of people, who didn’t have existing issues related to their spine (‘Exclusion criteria were history of surgery to the cervico-thoracic spine, an injury or accident to the cervico-thoracic spine in the preceding year, or currently receiving treatment for neck symptoms’).

They were each asked to rest ‘in a standardized side-lying position for 10 minutes on each of the trial pillows: regular shaped polyester, foam, feather, and latex pillows, and a contour shaped foam pillow’.

It’s worth noting that the study only examined what happens when you lie on your side, so it will be of no interest to people who sleep on their back.

What the study says about contour pillows

The study looked at the ‘slopes’ which were produced ‘at each spinal segment’ and concluded that ‘there is no evidence to support the recommendation of a foam contour pillow over a foam regular pillow to achieve a neutral cervico-thoracic spine posture in side sleepers’.

Researchers concluded that ‘Many health practitioners are asked specifically about contour pillow use, and the results of this study do not indicate that the contour foam pillow supports the cervico-thoracic spine any differently to a regular shaped foam pillow when side lying’.

As mentioned earlier, I am not an expert on back care and would advise speaking to a specialist but thought it was worth discussing the study. If you’d like to read the study for yourself, the link is here.