Pillow Filling Types Explained: What’s Best for Me?

Read on to find which materials are used in pillow stuffing. You’ll also learn which stuff is perfect for a specific sleeping position.

Basic sleeping equipment includes a mattress and pillows which are made to ensure that your body is well adjusted and are the right posture for sleeping. Mattresses come in different sizes and are easy to find, but did you know that the pillow filling is a very important decision.

The filling of a pillow is not specified to a certain body type, it is in fact only based on individual preference. However, since there are so many types, it may take a long time to find the one that suits you best. We have written this article about different pillow fillings in order to help you understand more about them.

You may be interested in Understanding Bed Pillow Sizes and Dimensions.

1. Down pillow fillings – Best for back and side sleeping positions

Down pillow fillings Down is the undercoat of a bird’s feather especially the under part of the bird. It is natural and a soft alternative to the synthetic stuffing inside of a pillow. They are more long-lasting than other artificial fillings, and a little more expensive. Down feathers are usually acquired through Hungarian geese or through white European geese.

A convenient and economical way to make this stuffing is to mix them down with other feathers, however, this may change the feeling. The best ones are the pure ones!

  • Very soft and comfortable
  • Hold the shape of the sleeper which helps in releasing the pressure points
  • Highly durable with the right care
  • Lightweight
  • The tendency to flatten easily, they will need to be fluffed out
  • Can be very expensive especially if you opt for the pure ones
  • Not suitable for warm places as they absorb heat
  • Difficult to clean

The down filling pillows are best for side and back sleeping positions as they take the shape and are very comfortable.

2. Kapok pillow filling – Best for side sleeping position

Kapok pillow filling Kapok is a tropical tree from Mexico that has flowers that are very fluffy. These traits are similar to cotton. The fiber also has a silk-like feeling, which is why it is sometimes known as silk cotton. It does not have any toxic materials yet they are soft and comfortable.

They do not form to the shape of the head and neck, but they do provide support and comfort. The best part is that they are eco-friendly.

  • Eco-friendly
  • Soft and comfortable feel
  • Inexpensive
  • Somewhat ventilated
  • The material is highly flammable which makes it dangerous around heaters
  • Tends to retain heat
  • They do not hold a shape

Side sleepers will find plenty of benefits with these pillows. Since they do not retain a shape, they will help side sleepers have a foundation that remains soft and comfortable.

3. Polyester fiber pillow filling – Best for stomach sleeping position

Polyester fiber pillow filling Polyester fiber pillow filling is very inexpensive and lightweight which makes it a great option as a pillow. It is not well ventilated which can make nights very warm and stuffy. Polyester filling is a great pillow to begin with but with time it can get very lumpy which causes lack of comfort and can be dangerous for your neck when it becomes lumpy.

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Easily cleaned
  • Good initial comfort
  • Becomes lumpy over time which is harmful to the neck
  • Stores all the body heat which makes it stuffy
  • Not very durable and become flat over time

The polyester fiber filling pillows are best for people that sleep on their stomach as they are lower level pillows and they provide support accordingly.

4. Shredded memory foam pillow filling – Best for all sleeping positions

Shredded memory foam pillow filling Memory foam is one of the most popular and supportive kinds of pillows. Shredded memory foam fillings allow users to have the shape of their head and neck in every position. They are designed to always bounce back to their original position which makes them durable.

The shredded memory foam filling is better than memory foam only because the small pieces have the ability to work more freely and therefore, provide better results.

  • Shredded pieces of memory foam take the shape of the neck and head to support pressure points
  • Comes back to its original shape
  • The small pieces work independently to provide more support
  • Doesn’t clump
  • The components tend to give out a bad odor
  • Tends to accumulate body heat and odor which causes bacteria

Since the filling has the power to take the shape of the pressure exerted, they are best for any sleeping position. They are also good if you toss and turn at night since the pillow will keep working to make the right shape for you.

5. Feather pillow fillings – Best for back sleeping position

Feather pillow fillings Feather pillows are a less costly alternative to down pillows. They are made in a way that they stick to each other and flatten out with time. Some companies tend to mix a small amount of down feather to increase the life of these pillows by a few years. These pillows are comfortable at first but then with time they tend to become uncomfortable and reduce their impact on pressure points. They hold the shape of the sleeper which allows them to provide great support to the user in the early days on the pillow.

  • Malleable and form to the user when they are new
  • Comfortable and supportive to the neck
  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Inexpensive
  • Tends to lose its fluff easily over time
  • The feathers make it very difficult to clean

These pillows are best for back sleepers because the feathers will support the neck.

6. Buckwheat Hulls Pillow filling – Best for back sleeping position

Buckwheat Hulls Pillow filling Buckwheat hulls are outer shells of the buckwheat grain and are used as filling for pillows. These are unique fillings and are friendly to the environment. This filling gives the pillow room to be ventilated and keep them cool.

They also help in providing support and relieving pressure points while the user is sleeping. They are not soft fillings, yet they provide a great foundation to rest your head on and sleep comfortably.

  • Provides small air spaces which allow the pillow to be well ventilated and cool
  • Eco-friendly
  • Helps relieve pressure points
  • Do not flatten easily
  • Not very soft
  • Tend to make a lot of noise when shifting position
  • The filling makes the pillow quiet heavy

Buckwheat hulls are best for people that sleep on their back since these fillings are a little too firm for most people. The neck remains straight and pain-free in this position.

7. Microbead pillow fillings – Best for stomach sleeping position

Microbead pillow fillings Microbead pillow fillings match buckwheat hulls filling in nature but they are artificial and are less durable than the buckwheat hulls.  They are synthetic which means that a lot of people tend to be allergic to them.

However, they do promote air ventilation which keeps them cool and very convenient to use in places where summer dominates the year. They are malleable which allows them to give support to the sleeper. Microbeads are more expensive than other types of fillings and are highly effective.

  • Allow air ventilation to keep the pillow cool and breathable
  • These are pretty reasonable and convenient to purchase
  • Moldable and provide support to the sleeper
  • They have soft beads which tend to flatten out quickly
  • Most people are allergic
  • Usually, leave a chemical odor

Since these are microbeads, they are best for sleepers of every position but best for stomach sleepers. The reason is that they will simply take the shape of the position and will remain breathable.

8. Shredded latex pillow fillings – Best for all sleeping positions

Shredded latex pillow fillings Latex pillows are a newer filling option for pillows. They have a soft and comfortable feel which allows them to be suitable for almost everybody. They are box-shaped yet they have the right firmness to form to the user’s head and neck which provides support.

This box shape can be easily molded because they are shredded pieces of latex and work just like shredded memory foam pillows. One of the most important aspects is to get pure latex with the right feel.

  • Moldable because they are shredded
  • Ability to shape to the sleeper
  • Pure shredded latex pillows are breathable and cool for warm places
  • All naturally shredded latex pillows are eco-friendly
  • Tend to have a long-lasting odor
  • Expensive
  • Does not provide enough support

Since shredded latex is very soft and moldable, they work best for sleepers that sleep in all kinds of positions. They basically work for all positions as long as the user is comfortable with the softness.

9. Cotton pillow filling – Best for all sleeping positions

Cotton pillow filling Cotton is one of the most popular and reasonable pillow fillings. Cotton pillows are highly breathable and are very low maintenance. Cotton pillows can, however, lose their shape in a short period of time. They are hypoallergenic which makes them a better fit for many people.

Cotton is usually mixed with synthetic fibers to make the pillow last longer. Cotton pillows are very soft and comfortable for almost everyone.

  • Well ventilated and breathable keeping them cool
  • Easy to wash and are low maintenance
  • Cotton fillings are hypoallergenic
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Can become flat in a short period of time
  • They do not provide strong support
  • Need to be fluffed to ensure that they will last a little longer

Cotton pillows can be used by sleepers that like to sleep in any position. This is because the pillow does not provide strong support for the sleeper.

10. Water pillow filling – Best for tossing and turnings

Water pillow filling Water pillows are a new emerging idea that usually has two or three layers to them. The first layer is cushioned with a form of fiber which is usually polyester. The second layer is an insulator that helps keep in the water. The third layer is fill-able water pouch that provides support. The top layer of fiber can range from memory foam to any other type of fiber or foam.

These pillows require water to be changed every few days; and though they are not breathable, they remain cool because of the water.

  • Remain at a cooler temperature
  • The water allows for a firm support
  • The neck and head postures are constantly positioned to help relieve pain
  • The weight is evenly distributed with the water
  • Less durable as one puncture could ruin the pillow
  • High maintenance

The water is the pillow constantly helps adjust the muscles in the neck no matter what position the sleeper uses. It is, however, best for people that toss and turn at night.

Also, you can read more about Top 10 Best Pillows review.


There are many different types of stuffing for pillows and each one is made for a sole purpose. Since none of them is specific to one person; you will need to understand your sleeping habits, and know your budget to ensure that you get the right one.

Getting the right pillow can greatly affect your sleep and reduce stress on your neck and your spine. These reasons make it important for you to have the knowledge needed to choose a pillow accordingly. Changing your pillow as soon as it wears out is a very good decision to make.

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