What Are Pillows Stuffed With According To Science

Most of us are sleeping with three pillows or more in our bed. We usually loved to cuddle pillows because they are so soft, and that helps us to sleep better at night.

However, some pillows will make you suffer from neck pain, stiffness, and headaches because they are so hard to cushion your head, which makes them unsupportive. You might start wondering what your pillows are made of?

Pillows are stuffed with materials such as polyester, feathers, down, or a combination of the latter two. In addition to the list, pillows can also be filled with cotton, microbeads, memory foam, latex, organic wool, water, buckwheat hull, and some pillows are stuffed with kapok.

There are people who believed that your choice with your pillow fillings defines your character, whether you prefer a soft, firm, low loft, high loft, and supportive.

Therefore, the preference of your pillows, whether you want them to be soft or firm type will depend on the filling materials and the amount that is used.

Listed below is a summary that will help you further understand different types of filling materials and the pros and cons of each type.

Down Pillow Filling

Some people are still confused about where do down pillow fillings came from, hence, let me help you to give you a quick background about this type of pillow.

Down fillings came from the undercoat of a bird’s feather, specifically the fluffy part that is present at the lower of the feather.

One distinct characteristic of this type of filling is its natural softness, and it can maintain the quality of the loft up to 3 to 4 times longer compared to other synthetic pillow fillings alternative.

The best quality for this particular filling type of pillow is the European or Hungarian goose. I know most of us will be concerned about the welfare of the birds. That’s why down fillings come at a reasonable price.

There are three techniques to collect down feathers. First is the post-mortem after they get their meat, second is the live-plucking, and lastly is collecting from live birds.

These down fillings are naturally pure white, and they are larger compared to other types. To know if it is a real down filling, the pillow must contain down only.

However, some stores combine down with feather fill, as this method can add volume to the pillow filling.

While stuffing a down fill with a feather filling is economical, sometimes a feather’s quill sticks out from the pillow that might poke your face. Therefore, you must invest in high quality down pillow filling due to its longevity.

PROS of Down Pillow FillingCONS of Down Pillow Filling
• Highly durable: they can last for several years if you take good care of your down pillow
• Foldable: one good feature of this type of pillow is its ability to mold and keep its shape well that offers a good head and neck support
• Cuddly, lightweight, and very soft in nature
• Sustainable: these fillings came from natural resources. Therefore they are biodegradable
• Expensive
• High maintenance: they need consistent fluffing and are hard to clean
• Absorbs body heat which makes them feel warm and uncomfortable
• Inconsistent support: due to their very soft characteristics that result in a too high or low head support
• Some people consider it as inhumane since pillow fillings came from birds

BEST FOR: This type of pillow filling is advisable for all sleeping positions. It works for all the sleep-lovers out there.

Feather Pillow Filling

This is a cheaper version of the down pillow filling, though they are always associated with down filling, I do not recommend this type of filling. Instead, you just invest your money in buying a real down pillow. Here is the reason why:

Aside from the feather quills that keep poking your face while you are asleep, they have a natural capacity to assemble and make a formation with each other, especially when they lay on a flat surface.

Over time, these feather pillow fillings will become uncomfortable and flat. Likewise, some manufacturers incorporate a cluster of down fillings to feather pillow filling to slow down its degeneration.

PROS of Feather Pillow FillingCONS of Feather Pillow Filling
• Cheaper when compared to down fillings
• Foldable
• Lightweight and cuddly
• Requires consistent fluffing due to its tendency to flatten
• Difficult to clean
• Has a lingering unpleasant smell
• Like down fillings, they absorbed body eat which makes them feel warm and uncomfortable
• Some people consider it inhumane since pillow fillings came from birds

BEST FOR: These types of pillow fillings are perfect for side and back support.

Polyester Pillow Filling

Polyester or polyester fiberfill is the type of pillow that is most common and cheaper you can see on the market. It is lightweight and very easy to clean.

However, this type of pillow can absorb body heat, and it is not breathable making your pillow warm and uncomfortable.

Moreover, this type of pillow tends to feel flat and lumpy over time; therefore, these pillows need proper care to lengthen their life span.

It is advisable to avoid these types of pillows unless you are looking for a budget-friendly type of pillow.

PROS of Polyester Pillow FillingCONS of Polyester Pillow Filling
• It is cheaper compared to most other types of pillow fillings
• Easy to clean
• It is lightweight
• Pillow fillings become lumpy over time. Therefore, they need frequent readjustments
• Due to their clumping issues, they usually have a shorter lifespan compared to other types
• They hard to fold and mold
• They are heat absorbable and non-breathable making you feel warm
• As manufacturing of these types of pillows use hazardous chemicals such as toluene, formaldehyde, benzene, and other chemicals, they can bring a greater risk for your health and environment

BEST FOR: Polyester pillow fillings are best for people who love to sleep on their stomachs. These pillow fillings also offer good support for side and back.

Shredded Memory Foam Pillow Filling

These memory foam pillow fillings are best known for their cleanliness. It can retain their shape, making it desirable for people.

These memory foam pillow fillings compose of a solid box-shaped loaf. They are not moldable UNLESS you squish it hard or you sculpt them.

That is why many people prefer the shredded type for memory foam, as they can be moldable. Unlike memory foam, they can be easily torn into pieces.

In addition to the issues brought about by memory foams, there are some studies conducted that these memory foams are toxic to our health.

This is because they are made mainly of polyurethane and other toxic chemicals that give off a nasty smell that came from volatile organic compounds.

PROS of Shredded Memory Foam Pillow FillingCONS of Shredded Memory Foam Pillow Filling
• They are moldable
• They do not form lumps
• It can give good support
• Gives off a strong chemical odor
• Potentially hazardous because of the off-gassing of volatile compounds
• They become soft and too thin when too much body heat is absorbed
• They become inconsistent over time

BEST FOR: Shredded memory foam pillows are perfect for people who sleep on their back, and it works for side sleepers.

Buckwheat Hull Pillow Filling

Buckwheat pillow, also known as Sobakawa, is a traditional Japanese pillow stuffed with the hulls of buckwheat seeds.

This type of pillow filling is firm, yet they are moldable and breathable, considering them as one of the best ideal pillow fillings for head and neck positioning.

This makes them a popular sleeping aide for people who want to have a good night’s sleep.

PROS of Buckwheat Hull Pillow FillingCONS of Buckwheat Hull Pillow Filling
• It provides excellent support compared to other pillow fillings. It conforms to the shape of your head and neck
• They are breathable that keeps your pillow cool
• Has a long lifespan
• They are moldable
• They are natural and eco-friendly
• They produce ruffling noise when turned
• They are heavy (approximately around 8 pounds for a 20 x 26’)
• They are too firm for some people

BEST FOR: These type of pillow fillings are best for people who love to sleep on their back, side, and stomach.

Latex  Pillow Filling

These types of pillow fillings are quite popular these days. This is because they are soft, and they offer good head and neck support.

Like memory foam pillow fillings, these latex pillow fillings are also available in a solid box-shaped that are not moldable. Hence, shredded latex pillow fillings are the moldable and foldable type.

I would suggest you look for a shredded latex pillow filling with a label “100% natural latex.” 

PROS of Latex Pillow FillingCONS of latex Pillow Filling
• Moldable and foldable
• It is natural and eco-friendly
• It is also breathable like buckwheat pillow fillings which helps you sleep cool at night
• They are quite expensive
• They produce a rubbery odor
• They are inconsistent that results in a too soft to cushion your head in a too high or low position

BEST FOR: These types of pillow fillings work perfectly for back and side sleepers.

Learn more how long latex pillows last.

Kapok Pillow Filling

Kapok is a type of topical tree originated from Mexico. This tree produced a flower with a cotton-like, fluffy material, which is a perfect material for stuffing pillows.

The soft fiber you can find with a light brown color is the so-called silk cotton. This type of pillow filling has a smooth quality that makes it a good alternative to polyester or down fillings.

PROS of Kapok Pillow FillingCONS of Kapok Pillow Filling
• They are natural and eco-friendly
• They are free from toxic chemicals
• They have a natural soft texture, which makes them a good alternative for down pillow filling
• Highly flammable
• Have the tendency to form lumps similar to polyester fillings
• They are not moldable. Therefore, they cannot retain their shape

BEST FOR: Good thing, these types of pillow fillings work for all sleeping positions.

Organic Wool Pillow Filling

Due to its breathable and insulative properties, wool is used in many different products.

For many years, wool has been used for a variety of products such as clothing, insulation, carpeting, blankets, and used in upholstery materials such as fabric, padding, and springs.

Unfortunately, wool is not highly recommendable to use as a pillow filling because of its tendency to form clump making your pillow inconsistent and lumpy.

PROS of Wool Pillow FillingCONS of Wool Pillow Filling
• Made from natural products, therefore they are free from toxic chemicals commonly found in foam pillows
• They are breathable
• Many complaints regarding its odor, especially in humid environments
• They have the tendency to form lumps quickly making them uncomfortable
• They are not foldable, and it cannot retain its shape
• Some people consider it inhumane just like in down and feather pillow filling

BEST FOR: These types of pillow are best for side and back sleepers

Cotton Pillow Filling

The good thing about these types of pillow fillings is their availability. Since they came from natural filling, they are very breathable and comfortable to use for sleeping.

However, these types of pillow fillings tend to form clumps eventually. That is why they are often combined with polyester, which is a synthetic fiber.

PROS of Cotton Pillow FillingCONS of Cotton Pillow Filling
• They are naturally hypoallergenic
• They are capable of washing
• They are soft
• They are cooler compared to foam and polyester fills
• They usually clump over time that results in a lumpy pillow
• These fillings need for frequent replacement compared to other pillow fillings
• They can produce noise when squeezed

BEST FOR: The use of these types of pillow fillings will depend on your sleeping position. They work best for people who love to sleep on their sides.

Microbead Pillow Filling

Did you know that microbeads could be an alternative for buckwheat hulls? Even though they are synthetic, they share the same characteristics with buckwheat hulls, such as their breathable property, and they are moldable.

However, microbeads tend to lose their volume, and eventually, they flat out which is quicker compared to other pillow fillings.

PROS of Microbead Pillow FillingCONS of Microbead Pillow Filling
• They are breathable which help you sleep comfortably at night
• They are moldable which make them a good head, neck, and back support
• Since they are synthetic, they produce potentially toxic odor
• They have a short life span since they quickly lose their volume that makes them flat
• They have limited variety for firmness and loft, usually medium

BEST FOR: These pillow fills are perfect for people who sleep on their backs.

Water Pillow Filling

These pillow fillings are one of the favorites because they are unchanging, and they are reliable support. These pillows compose of a plastic reservoir wrapped in synthetic foam such as in polyester foam or other alternatives

PROS of Water Pillow FillingCONS of Water Pillow Filling
• They offer good support
• They help in relieving pain
• They are adjustable depending on your preference whether thick or thin
• They are not moldable
• Since these pillow fills are made from water, they have a high tendency to leak, which can wet your mattress and pillows
• They can be too soft when they are wrapped with a fiberfill

BEST FOR: These water pillow fillings work best for both side and back sleepers.

Down Alternative Pillow Filling

These down alternative pillow fillings try to imitate the advantages of the down fills while enhancing some of its drawbacks.

PROS of Down Alternative Pillow FillingCONS of Down Alternative Pillow Filling
• It is cheaper than the authentic down pillow filling
• These types of pillow fillings are very easy to clean
• They have the tendency to form lumps
• They are not moldable
• They are nonbreathable just like the original down pillows

BEST FOR: Just like the traditional down pillow fillings, they work best for all sleeping positions.


There are many types of pillow fillings available in the market. All these types of pillow fillings have different pros and cons. So, it depends on your preference, which pillow filling will suit your needs and match your comfortability.

I recommend you purchase all these different types of pillow fillings and try to test them in different sleeping positions to check for overall comfort that they can give you. This further helps you to make the right decision when buying a pillow.


Feruza is a mom and a blogger. She had a neck pain for 15 years, which made he interested in everything about pillows.

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