Pillows – A Guide to What’s Inside

It’s not until you actually decide to start shopping for pillows that you realise the baffling array of choice out there for what you’d think is quite a simple and straightforward product. There was a time when it was just a matter of choosing between natural or man-made fillings. Not anymore. This article will take a quick look at what’s available and offer a short guide so that you will have a better idea of what you want before you hit the High Street or start googling for a new pillow.

Sheets, towels and mattress protectors all have something in common in that their weight, or grams per square metre (GSM), immediately gives a useful indication of quality. The heavier the thread usually means the higher the quality. This is NOT so with pillows. A low-quality pillow with a standard man-made filling can weigh as much as 850g and costs under £5, while a luxury-quality pillow with all-natural filling can weigh only 600g and costs over £35. This is because air plays a significant role in how the pillow feels and how long it lasts.

Filling Types:
The most significant difference between pillow types is the material used to fill them and this is as much about air as it is about the filling. Because different fillings trap air in different ways and this affects its comfort.

Pillows can first be divided into those with natural filling and those with man-made filling. Then there are the different types of each. Natural filling will generally be either from goose or duck. Goose is considered of a higher quality than duck, because the clusters of goose ‘down’ hold onto more air which makes them lighter and softer. ‘Down’ filling is different from that of feathers, because it is taken from the insulation layer underneath the feathers on the bird’s body, which help the bird to regulate its body temperature – warmer in cold weather and cooler when it’s hot. This natural flexibility is what makes pillows made from down the most comfortable. Down gives softness and feathers give firmness and shape. Natural-fill pillows are often made from a combination of feathers and down, and from both goose and duck. Finding the combination that suits you best can make your sleeping more comfortable for the rest of your life.

Natural fillings are better when it comes to how they fit to your body. Natural fill will adapt to your head and neck, but still retain its shape, giving more support than most man-made products. This also means that natural-fill pillows last longer than those with man-made fillings.

Synthetic fillings have come a long way, though, and one of the first advantages they brought was a relief to people who suffered from allergies to feathers. The introduction of anti-allergenic qualities in man-made pillows pushed advancements in natural fillings, so that there are now natural pillows treated to make them less allergenic. Yet synthetic fillings are the safer choice for those with strong allergies.

The main advantage of most synthetic fills is low cost, as well as increased fire safety. Most man-made fillings can be divided into those with hollofibre and those with siliconised-ball fibre fill. Hollofibre is generally cheaper whereas siliconised-ball fibre is lighter, likely to keep its shape better and last longer. The newest kid on the pillow block is memory foam fill. As the name suggests they are made from dense foam which adapts to your head and neck to give strong support. Some people suffering from back and neck problems favour these pillows, although they cost more than most with a synthetic fill.

A pillow is a more significant choice than you might think, particularly if you sleep on it. Taking the time to find the right one for you and your family can pay huge dividends in achieving a more restful and comfortable night’s sleep.