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Best Firm Pillows: What To Buy for Every Kind of Sleeper

Best Firm Pillows
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Updated November 28, 2023

Your choice of pillow, combined with a good quality mattress, can determine how well you sleep—and how good you feel when you wake up. For sleepers who prefer a lot of head and neck support, a pillow that's too soft can disrupt quality rest and even cause aches and pains. This is particularly true for people who sleep on their side or back, as these positions are more likely to strain the neck if there isn’t adequate support. For others, a firm pillow may simply be a case of what feels the most comfortable. Either way, a good night’s sleep will depend on having a quality firm pillow.

Even if your current set-up is adequate, it may be time for an upgrade. It’s estimated we spend a third of our lifetime sleeping, so why not make sure that your bed is as comfortable and supportive as possible? We’ve pulled together a list of the best firm pillows for every kind of sleeper, whether you prefer memory foam, down, down-alternative, or latex pillows.

What to consider when buying firm pillows

What kind of material do I prefer?

Firm pillows are more likely to be made of a molded material like memory foam, but you can still find plenty of options that utilize shredded fiber mixes or down. It’s important to check the fill material of a pillow before purchasing if you might prefer one style to another: Memory foam is more solid than other options, but won’t require fluffing, while down pillows offer great softness, but require more daily maintenance. Many brands are now utilizing shredded mixes, which combine memory foam with other materials to create something in the middle that balances support with malleability.

Do I need this pillow to fit into standard sized pillow covers?

While most pillows come in standard, queen or king sizes, there are some pillows that are specially designed to accommodate different sleep styles and that therefore come in a unique shape. These might be formed to fit against the natural curves of the body and improve spinal alignment, which is great for your neck, but not as ideal for your bed linens. While these pillows usually have an accompanying pillowcase available, if you’re particularly attached to your existing pillow shams, you may want to avoid non-standard pillows.

What kind of sleeper am I?

Some people just like the feel of a firm pillow, but sleep experts recommend specific pillow styles for different kinds of sleepers. The good news is that there is a firm pillow for every kind of sleeper. If you sleep on your side, you will need more neck support and therefore more loft (height) than stomach sleepers, who will benefit from a lower loft. If in doubt—or if you’re a combination sleeper who changes position during the night–then consider an adjustable fill pillow that you can tweak over time for maximum compatibility. What’s great is that many of the best places to buy pillows offer a free trial, so you can make your purchase risk-free.

Our top picks for the best firm pillows

Most comfortable firm pillow: Coop Sleep Goods The Original Pillow

Coop Home Goods has a dedicated sleep brand, Coop Sleep Goods, that makes a unique pillow stuffed with a mix of cross-cut memory foam and microfiber. It’s also one of our favorites on the market, making our list of the best memory foam pillows. The cross-cut fill promotes breathability and non-clumping, which can be lacking in memory foam products, while still maintaining a consistent feel. The Original Pillow comes with an additional half pound of fill, so that sleepers can adjust the firmness and loft of their pillow to their desired level. Coop Sleep Goods recommends taking two weeks to get used to your new pillow, but since they offer a free-returns period of 100 days, you can be 100% sure of your purchase. Even better, this pillow is one of the most affordable options on our list.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: Cross-cut memory foam and microfiber
  • Cover: Lulltra fabric (60% polyester, 40% viscose rayon)
  • Firmness level: Medium
  • Sizes: Queen, king
  • Height: Adjustable
  • Trial Period: 100 days
  • Price: $72-$92

What we like:

  • Affordable price point
  • Adjustable fill for maximum comfort
  • Balance of breathability and consistency thanks to cross-cut memory foam

What we don’t like:

  • Might take some adjustments before it feels right

The bottom line

The Original Pillow from Coop Sleep Goods takes the best of memory foam and microfiber and incorporates it into this affordable, adjustable pillow that suits most styles of sleepers.

Most comfortable firm pillow
Coop Sleep Goods The Original Pillow

Coop Sleep Goods The Original Pillow

Best value firm pillow: Buffy Cloud Pillow in Firm

Buffy is known for its environmentally-friendly bedding, from comforters to bed sheets, and their pillows are equally popular. While the brand offers a range of supportive pillows, the Cloud Pillow in firm is our top pick for affordability and value (also available in soft and medium styles). The Cloud Pillow upholds Buffy’s commitment to sustainability, with the cover being made from earth-friendly TENCEL lyocell fibers and the fill from recycled PET. In fact, each pillow amounts to recycling 24-30 plastic bottles, so you can feel twice as good when you go to sleep each night. The lyocell fibers are moisture-wicking and feel cool to the touch for added comfort at night, but shoppers looking for a super firm pillow may find these a little too soft. Fortunately, you can try it for yourself risk-free thanks to the 7-day free trial. And, if you need to completely change up your bedding, Buffy also made our lists of the best duvet covers and best linen sheet sets.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: 100% GRS-certified, BPA-free, recycled PET fill
  • Cover: TENCEL lyocell shell, 300 thread count sateen weave
  • Firmness level: Medium
  • Sizes: Standard, king
  • Height: 7 inches
  • Trial Period: Seven nights
  • Price: $40-75

What we like:

  • Great price and extra savings when you buy two or four pillows at once
  • Environmentally-friendly materials
  • Ability to try for seven days before committing

What we don’t like:

  • Not as firm as some other products in the market
  • “Plush” feel may not be to everyone’s taste

The bottom line

Affordable and environmentally-friendly, the Cloud Pillow from Buffy offers firm yet plush support, a cooling feel, and a convenient seven-day free trial.

Best value firm pillow
Buffy Cloud Pillow in Firm

Buffy Cloud Pillow in Firm

Best firm pillow for neck pain: TEMPUR Neck Pillow

Anyone who experiences frequent neck pain will know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep in the right position. Thanks to the TEMPUR Neck Pillow’s unique curved shape and proprietary memory foam, sleepers can be confident that their heads will be fully supported during the night when they use this product. A secure head and neck should in turn reduce aches and pains, which is why this pillow is a favorite for those with chronic neck pain. It’s also available in three sizes, plus a travel version, to ensure maximum comfort, although some people may just not love the shape. The TEMPUR Neck Pillow has a high level of firmness and is the most orthopedically-minded product on this list, which is why you’ll pay more than average. This will be worth it, however, for anyone who wants to alleviate their neck pain. If you prefer a more traditional shape, consider the TEMPUR-Cloud pillow, which made our list of the best pillows for neck pain.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: TEMPUR material (proprietary memory foam)
  • Cover: Polyester
  • Firmness level: High
  • Sizes: Small, medium, large
  • Height: 4 inches
  • Trial Period: None
  • Price: $115-$159

What we like:

  • The proprietary memory foam keeps the neck stable during sleep for maximum support
  • There is a cooling version for hot sleepers
  • Five-year warranty (repair or replacement)
  • Removable, machine washable cover

What we don’t like:

  • The unique shape might not be the most comfortable to everyone
  • More expensive than many options on this list

The bottom line

The TEMPUR Neck Pillow is the perfect choice for anyone who suffers from frequent neck pain and is willing to pay for best-in-class spinal alignment.

Best firm pillow for neck pain
TEMPUR Neck Pillow

TEMPUR Neck Pillow

Best firm pillow for side sleepers: Eli & Elm Side Sleeper Pillow

Side sleepers will know from experience that the sleeping position makes it challenging to get adequate neck support, which is where the Eli & Elm Side Sleeper Pillow comes in. Uniquely shaped in a ‘U’ to accommodate your shoulders while resting perfectly under the neck, the Side Sleeper Pillow uses a mix of latex and polyester fill to create firm support. This support is adjustable, with additional fill available for those who like a firmer feel. The ‘U’ shape does mean that standard pillowcases won’t fit, but Eli & Elm sells a custom pillowcase in classic white, which should complement most bedding. Although there is no free trial, sleepers can take advantage of the 45-day free returns period and test out their product before they commit.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: Latex and polyester
  • Cover: Cotton, polyester and spandex blend
  • Firmness level: Adjustable, medium-firm
  • Sizes: One size
  • Height: Adjustable
  • Trial Period: No trial, but 45 day free returns
  • Price: $109.99-$144.99

What we like:

  • Specially shaped to accommodate side sleepers’ necks
  • Adjustable firmness and height
  • Additional fill available

What we don’t like:

  • Requires a custom pillowcase (which costs $20 if bundled, $34.99 separately)
  • Only one size

The bottom line

The Eli & Elm Side Sleeper Pillow is designed with side sleepers’ comfort in mind, specially shaped with adjustable fill to ensure a supportive night’s sleep.

Best firm pillow for side sleepers
Eli & Elm Side Sleeper Pillow

Eli & Elm Side Sleeper Pillow

Best firm pillow for stomach sleepers: Belly Sleep Belly Pillow

It seems obvious that Belly Sleep would know how to create the best pillows for belly sleepers, and sure enough, they do. The Belly Pillow has the lowest profile of any of the types of pillows on our list, as it’s designed to suit stomach sleepers who naturally have a smaller gap between their neck and the mattress. The two and a half-inch height ensures improved spinal alignment, while memory foam creates support for the head. There’s also a cooling gel-infused version for hot sleepers. Another reason for stomach sleepers to rejoice, this is one of the most affordable products in this guide, costing customers only $45.99.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: Memory foam
  • Cover: Bamboo
  • Firmness level: Firm
  • Sizes: Standard, mini
  • Height: 2.5 inches
  • Trial Period: None
  • Price: $45.99-$59.99

What we like:

  • Great price—one of the lowest on our list
  • Slim shape to better accommodate spinal alignment for stomach sleepers
  • Gel-infused memory foam ensures cooling for hot sleepers

What we don’t like:

  • Low height may not be sufficient for other styles of sleepers
  • Not adjustable

The bottom line

The Belly Pillow from Belly Sleepers accommodates stomach sleepers with its low height and memory foam support at a very affordable price.

Best firm pillow for stomach sleepers
Belly Sleep Belly Pillow for Stomach & Back Sleeper - Thin, Flat, & Ergonomic Pillows for Sleeping and Cervical Neck Alignment - Cooling Gel Memory Foam Pillow with Cover - Stomach Sleeper Pillow

Belly Sleep Belly Pillow for Stomach & Back Sleeper - Thin, Flat, & Ergonomic Pillows for Sleeping and Cervical Neck Alignment - Cooling Gel Memory Foam Pillow with Cover - Stomach Sleeper Pillow

Best firm pillow for back sleepers: Purple Harmony Pillow

Back sleepers can be considered the Goldilocks of sleepers, requiring more height than stomach sleepers, but less than side sleepers. Finding the perfect middle ground can be a challenge, but not with the Purple Harmony Pillow, which comes in three variable heights for maximum customization, and uses the brand’s signature honeycomb gel grid for flexible support in addition to a cooling effect. When combined with a latex core, the resulting fill balances firmness with a plush feel, which is ideal for back sleepers as the pillow is likely to flatten over time. While the grid itself is visible, and sometimes tangible, through the pillow cover, reviewers attest that this is not distracting during sleep as the grid moves and adjusts to the head. The only downside is the high price you’ll pay for the proprietary grid technology.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: Hyper-elastic polymer, latex with polyester knit cover
  • Cover: Nylon and spandex
  • Firmness level: Medium
  • Sizes: Standard, king
  • Height: 5.5 inches (low), 6.5 inches (medium), 7.5inches (tall)–back sleepers should choose low
  • Trial Period: None, but 100-day returns
  • Price: $199-$239

What we like:

  • Height options include “low” for better neck support when sleeping on your back
  • Unique honeycomb gel grid provides support, ventilation and bounce
  • Designed to retain shape and loft even after continued use

What we don’t like:

  • Highest starting price point on the list
  • Honeycomb grid is visible through the cover, which may bother some sleepers

The bottom line

Back sleepers can achieve the perfect balance of support and comfort with Purple’s Harmony Pillow, thanks to its effective (but expensive) gel grid technology.

Best firm pillow for back sleepers
The Purple Harmony Pillow - Low

The Purple Harmony Pillow - Low

Best cooling firm pillow: GhostBed GhostPillow Gel Memory Foam

The GhostBed Ghost Pillow uses four layers of technology to promote a cool night’s sleep, so it’s perfect for hot sleepers or those who are always searching for that “cool side of the pillow” feeling. The pillow’s core is made from aerated gel memory foam which provides continuous airflow, while the next layer is GhostBed’s patented phase change material that adjusts to body heat in real time. The third layer is an aerated mesh cover, and finally the pillow is wrapped in a zippered cover made of Ghost Ice Fabric, which is designed to neutralize heat on both sides of the pillow. The company claims it’s the Coolest Pillow in the World, and the positive customer reviews certainly help their case, with many people favoring this product over more expensive options in the market. Shopping tip: Run really hot at night? Check out our list of the best cooling sheets and the best cooling mattresses.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: Memory foam
  • Cover: Ghost Ice Fabric
  • Firmness level: Firm
  • Sizes: Standard, queen
  • Height: 6 inches
  • Trial Period: 101 nights
  • Price: $109-$139

What we like:

  • Each layer of technology targets body heat and promotes cooling
  • Lofted height of six inches provides good support for side sleepers
  • Long trial period

What we don’t like:

  • No king-size available
  • May be too lofted for some sleepers

The bottom line

Hot sleepers will love GhostBed’s GhostPillow and its four layers of cooling technology, especially if they sleep on their side, thanks to the six-inch loft.

Best cooling firm pillow
GhostBed GhostPillow Gel Memory Foam

GhostBed GhostPillow Gel Memory Foam

Best firm latex pillow: Avocado Molded Latex Pillow

The Avocado Molded Latex Pillow combines luxury, performance, and sustainability, so it’s no surprise it’s one of the most expensive items on our list. The pillow fill is made of charcoal-infused latex, which imbues the product with performance technology such as moisture wicking, odor reduction, and temperature regulation. The cover is certified organic cotton and the overall pillow is Greenguard Gold certified by UL Environment, so shoppers can be confident that this purchase meets all sustainability criteria. Avocado offers a 100-day trial, which may make the price tag more palatable, while also helping customers determine if this pillow is actually too firm for them, as a few reviewers reported.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: Charcoal-infused latex
  • Cover: Organic cotton
  • Firmness level: Firm
  • Sizes: Standard, queen, king
  • Height: 5 inches
  • Trial Period: 100-night trial
  • Price: $129-$149

What we like:

  • Pillow is also moisture wicking, odor-reducing, temperature-controlling, and breathable
  • Made from certified vegan and organic materials
  • Extensive free trial of 100 days

What we don’t like:

  • High price point
  • May be too firm for some sleepers, and better for side sleepers

The bottom line

Avocado’s Molded Latex Pillow offers the latest in sustainable technology for a top quality pillow that may just be a little too firm (and pricey) for some sleepers.

Best firm latex pillow
Molded Latex Pillow - Standard

Molded Latex Pillow - Standard

Best luxury firm pillow: Parachute Down Pillow

Parachute’s Down Pillow is one of the most expensive on this list, but this investment translates to a luxurious night’s sleep. With fill made entirely from down clusters and feathers, this pillow ensures premium comfort and the soft feeling that one usually associates with high-end pillows. To accommodate different sleep styles and preferences, the Parachute Down Pillow comes in three firmness levels, with the firm level appearing more lofted and full. This creates sufficient support without the need for memory foam or other core technology. As with other down products, the pillow will need to be fluffed regularly–and you’d be wise to take care of it, considering the high price tag–but you’ll be rewarded with a hotel-quality sleep experience.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: Down clusters and feather fibers
  • Cover: Cotton sateen
  • Firmness level: Soft, medium, firm options
  • Sizes: Standard, king
  • Height: Not listed
  • Trial Period: None
  • Price: $169-$209 (for firm)

What we like:

  • Plush feel without compromising on support
  • Adjustable firmness for different styles of sleepers
  • High quality materials that translate to a luxurious night’s sleep

What we don’t like:

  • Firm options cost $40 more than soft counterparts
  • High price point
  • Down requires regular fluffing to maintain shape

The bottom line

Parachute’s premium materials are combined in this down pillow to create a luxuriously soft feel and enough support for most sleeping styles.

Best luxury firm pillow
King Down Pillow | Parachute

King Down Pillow | Parachute

Best organic firm pillow: Avocado Green Pillow

Many brands claim they use natural materials, but the Avocado Green Pillow is made solely from organic certified materials like cotton, latex or kapok. The customizable fill is made with organic latex foam ribbons and kapok tree fiber. Avocado provides an additional bag of fill, so that sleepers can adjust the firmness and height of their pillow to their own preferences. The jersey liner and quilted cotton cover also promote breathability for a cool night’s sleep. The king size pillow is relatively affordably priced at $139, especially considering the premium materials used, and all manufacturing is done in California. With a 100-night trial and three sizes available, shoppers can test this product risk-free.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: Organic latex and organic kapok
  • Cover: Organic jersey cotton liner and knitted cotton
  • Firmness level: Firm, adjustable
  • Sizes: Standard, queen, king
  • Height: Adjustable
  • Trial Period: 100-night trial
  • Price: $109-$139

What we like:

  • All materials are organic certified and pillows are made in the US
  • Adjustable fill–and extra fill bag included with purchase–to suit all kinds of sleepers
  • 100-night trial

What we don’t like:

  • Too firm and lofted for some sleepers
  • Fill can migrate within the pillow if left partially filled

The bottom line

The Avocado Green Pillow is made solely from organic certified products and reflects a commitment to environmental care, without loss of performance.

Best organic firm pillow
Green Pillow - King

Green Pillow - King

Best firm down pillow: Brooklinen Down Pillow

Down isn’t usually associated with firm support, but the Brooklinen Down Pillow is able to pull it off. In fact, the product is specifically available in three firmness levels (plush, mid-plush, and firm) to better accommodate sleepers’ needs. Plush is recommended for stomach sleepers, while firm is best for side sleepers. To provide adequate support, the down fill combines a dual-core structure that features an inner core of feathers and an outer layer of down clusters for comfort. Down pillows do require regular fluffing to keep their shape and lift, but the reward is a soft and cozy pillow to rest your head on at night.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: Down clusters and feathers
  • Cover: Cotton sateen
  • Firmness level: Plush, mid-plush, and firm options
  • Sizes: Standard, king
  • Height: Not listed
  • Trial Period: None
  • Price: $129-$149 for firm style

What we like:

  • Soft and comfortable feel compared to other firm pillows
  • Customizable firmness, from plush to firm
  • Suits all kinds of sleepers

What we don’t like:

  • The firm style costs more than the plush style
  • Down requires regular fluffing to maintain loft

The bottom line

A perfect blend of support and comfort, the Brooklinen Down Pillow proves that you don’t need memory foam to keep your neck happy at night.

Best firm down pillow
Brooklinen Down Pillow size Standard

Brooklinen Down Pillow size Standard

Best extra-firm pillow: Sweet Zzz Buckwheat Pillow

Just as there are people who like a super soft pillow, there are some who want extra-firm support. If this is you, consider the Sweet Zzz Buckwheat Pillow, designed for next-level firmness. The Buckwheat Pillow contains buckwheat hulls inside an organic cotton cover–when packed together, this creates solid support which is particularly popular with migraine sufferers, since buckwheat pillows have been known to help alleviate and sooth the condition. The resulting pillow promotes air circulation and cooling, without compromising on support. When fully packed, the pillow reaches seven inches of loft, but this can be reduced to fit individual needs by placing extra fill in the accompanying cotton bag. This product won’t be for everyone, but it will really deliver for anyone who wants an extra-firm pillow.

Specifications:

  • Fill material: Buckwheat hulls
  • Cover: Organic cotton
  • Firmness level: Extra firm
  • Sizes: Traditional, standard
  • Height: 7 inches when full, adjustable
  • Trial Period: None, 50-day return policy
  • Price: $114-$139

What we like:

  • Fully adjustable height and firmness thanks to removable fill
  • Known to help with migraines
  • Substantial air circulation and cooling effects

What we don’t like:

  • Could be too firm or uncomfortable for some
  • Pillow sizes skew small

The bottom line

For those who need substantial neck support, particularly those suffering from migraines, the Sweet Zzz Buckwheat Pillow is extra-firm and cooling.

Best extra-firm pillow
Sweet Zzz Buckwheat Pillow

Sweet Zzz Buckwheat Pillow

How we selected the best firm pillows

Choosing the right pillow can have a significant impact on your quality of sleep, on neck health, and on general spinal alignment, so it’s important to get the right advice. We researched products based on key characteristics such as fill material, pillow height, breathability, price, material quality, and trial availability. We considered the opinions of customers of every sleep style and incorporated the advice of sleep experts, to make sure we were accommodating different needs. Finally, we used our own personal experience and knowledge to ensure we are only listing pillows we can stand behind.

Who is best suited to a firm pillow?

Different kinds of sleepers need different levels of support, but a firm pillow can be beneficial for many people as it helps keep the head in place during the night. This ensures the neck remains supported and the spine stays in alignment, reducing the risk of strain or injury. Back sleepers are particularly likely to want firm support, with experts recommending a loft of about five inches. Side sleepers will likely need special support for their neck due to the natural curve of the body, with experts recommending a loft of about six inches. Stomach sleepers will only need two to four inches of support, but may still want a firm pillow to keep them secure and comfortable.

Then there’s just personal preference! If you’re more comfortable with a firm pillow, then it’s likely that sleeping with one will lead to a better night’s sleep.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Is it better to sleep on a firm pillow?

It’s more about getting the right amount of support for your sleep style than it is about whether firm or soft is ‘better.’ A firm pillow can help create greater stability for your head and neck during sleep, particularly if you sleep on your back, while a side sleeper may want something with a little more give to accommodate the curve of the neck. Some sleepers also just prefer the sensation of greater support than others, so they will benefit from getting the feel that they like. You will sleep best when you are the most comfortable!

Do hotels use soft or firm pillows?

Hotels often use down as their pillow fill of choice, as down is associated with luxury and high quality and gives a nice, plush feel to the pillow. However, down pillows can come in varying levels of firmness, which is another reason why they’re a good choice for hotels, who need to accommodate every kind of sleeper. High-end down pillows should balance a plush feel with significant support for a medium-firm result that suits most people.

Can a pillow be too firm?

Yes, a pillow can be too firm. This could mean that it’s uncomfortable for the person trying to sleep, or that there isn’t sufficient give in the pillow to support both the head and neck. This is subjective, of course, and will depend on the sleeper’s individual physiology and preferences. The extra-firm recommendation on our list won’t be to everyone’s taste, but many people love that degree of firmness.

How firm should a pillow be?

A pillow should be firm enough to provide sufficient support to the neck and head. This helps to maintain spinal alignment and reduce any strain placed on the body, which can cause pain and injury. A pillow shouldn’t be so firm that it’s uncomfortable to use–it’s hard to achieve adequate rest if the user is not able to relax.

Are firm pillows good for back sleepers?

Yes, firm pillows are ideal for back sleepers as they can help keep the head and neck supported and in one position throughout the night.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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