Sleeping on the job
Not getting enough rest? The problem could be your pillow. A bad one can keep you tossing and turning through the night. That not only makes you groggy the next day, but over time it can put you at risk for everything from obesity to depression, says Lisa Shives, MD, medical director of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois.
To help you get more rest, we snoozed on 20 pillows, checking for stray feathers and funky smells while keeping in mind criteria from Rocco Monto, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, Massachusetts, and a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "A good pillow should fill the gap between your head and neck and the mattress, and dynamically assume that shape during position changes as you sleep." Which ones delivered all night long? Here, the standouts for every sleep position.
Synthetic back sleepers
Synthetic winner: Sealy Posturepedic Posture Fit Back Sleeper Pillow ($36; amazon.com)
"This is like a big puffy marshmallow—in a good way," noted our tester, who called it "soft yet firm." Hypoallergenic polyester fibers in a gusseted shape gave extra support, with no bunching up at the ears.
Natural back sleepers
Natural winner: Eddie Bauer Classic Goose Feathers & Down Pillow ($70; amazon.com)
"My head felt lined up with my spine—no more cricks in my neck!" our tester raved. The pillow (also in firm) boasts an inner feathers-and-down chamber that's then wrapped in down, providing ideal support.
Synthetic side sleepers
Synthetic winner: Beyond Down Gel Fiber Side Sleeper Pillow ($17; amazon.com)
This hypoallergenic slide sleeper promises the feel of down without the allergen worries. One reviewer reports, ‘It has reduced my headaches and eliminated my neck pain with its firm support, but still feels soft! The 300 thread count cover feels amazing next to your skin as the pillow cradles you in comfort. It is hypoallergenic too. A luxurious pillow at an affordable price!’
Natural side sleepers
Natural winner: L.L. Bean Down Damask Pillow, Firm ($139; llbean.com)
L.L. Bean's 100 percent goose-down pillow cradled our tester’s head and neck without feeling dense. "It was thick and lofty,” she said, “and I didn’t have to keep re-fluffing it." It's cheaper than most goose-down pillows, too.
Synthetic stomach sleepers
Synthetic winner: Primaloft Deluxe Pillow (starting from $50; macys.com)
With a soft-cotton cover and an ultracomfy fill, this pillow is above the pack. "This is the one synthetic that didn't feel like a comfort sacrifice," our tester noted.
Natural stomach sleepers
Our tester wished for a pillow that felt "soft and squishy with just enough support," and she got what she was looking for in this model. "My head sank in, and my neck felt perfectly cushioned," she noted. Bonus: No weird down smell.