When most people hear the words “memory foam,” they immediately think of mattresses and mattress toppers. But this material, originally developed by NASA for trips on the space shuttle, is actually an extremely common fill material for pillows.
Memory foam is a material with distinct characteristics related to its ability to respond to pressure and conform to the body. For this reason, it can be both very comfortable and supportive as a pillow. However, it can also have issues with unpleasant odors and sleeping hot that may disturb some people.
In this guide, we’ll cover the competing pros and cons of memory foam pillows while also filling you in on all the needed background about the different types of memory foam pillows, how much they cost, where to buy them, and more.
You can continue reading to find these details, or click here to jump straight to our recommendations for the best memory foam pillows.
What Sizes do Memory Foam Pillows Come In?
Memory foam pillows are available in a number of different sizes. The sizes that you will typically find include the following:
|Pillow Size||Dimensions||Best Mattress Fit|
|Standard||20″ x 26″||Twin or full mattress|
|Queen||20″ x 30″||Full or queen mattress|
|King||20″ x 36″||Queen, king, or California king mattress|
|Body Pillow||20″ x 48-54″||Any|
- Standard: 20” wide x 26” long. The standard has that name because it is the most common pillow size in the United States. Standard-size pillows are relatively compact and will fit in almost all pillowcases.
- Queen: 20” wide x 30” long. By adding an extra 4” of length to the pillow, queen-size pillows are most often used by people who need a longer pillow to accommodate turning over frequently during the night.
- King: 20” wide x 36” long. With 10” more than a standard and 6” more than a queen, a king-size pillow is noticeably larger and gives even more cushioning for people who turn over. King-size pillows are also popular among people who like to sit up in bed and need a backrest.
- Body Pillow: 20” wide x 48-54” long. Body pillows are much, much longer than normal pillows because they have an entirely different use. Rather than supporting the head, body pillows are used to bolster the body or to snuggle with.
What Are Memory Foam Pillows Made Of?
Memory foam is a material that was initially developed by NASA but has since been commercialized and applied in a number of different consumer products. Its more technical name is viscoelastic foam, and it has two main features. First, it responds proportionally to weight and pressure that is applied to it and then slowly bounces back to retake its original shape. Second, as it gets warmer, it becomes softer, and this conforming or hugging feeling becomes somewhat more pronounced.
Memory foam pillows fall into one of two categories — shredded or one-piece.
Shredded: these pillows are filled with many small pieces and/or chunks of memory foam. In some cases, the case holding these pieces is zippered, which allows for some of the shredded foam pieces to be added and removed to change the feel of the pillow.
One-piece: these pillows are composed of one single chunk of foam. This provides a more uniform and solid feel with less ability to mold or shape the pillow.
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Memory Foam Pillow?
As memory foam is a material with distinct characteristics, it also comes with distinct pros and cons. The pros and cons can be slightly different for shredded and one-piece pillows, but they do share some overlapping characteristics. We’ll start with the pros and cons that are common to both types of these pillows.
- Pressure point relief: Memory foam has a reputation for being extremely supportive thanks to its ability to conform closely to the body. It is a highly-responsive material, and as a result, it can compress in a way that properly accommodates pressure points in order to provide both comfort and neck and spinal alignment.
- Quiet: Moving on a memory foam pillow makes virtually no noise, which helps to minimize disruptions during the night.
- Varying models and designs: Memory foam can be formulated in different ways and sizes, allowing for more diversity of pillow models including greater choice for loft levels, prices, and firmness.
- Sleeping hot: Because it conforms closely to the body, the tendency for memory foam is to limit airflow around the skin, which can cause heat retention. The fact that memory foam gets softer as it warms up only contributes to this through the course of the night.
- Odor: The chemicals involved in the production of memory foam can cause the material to give off an odor. This is known as offgassing, and it has the strongest smell when the pillow is first unpackaged. While this is not harmful and often goes away within a few days, some customers find it to be very unpleasant and/or find that some amount of odor persists over time.
- Durability: Memory foam starts to lose its strength more quickly than some other pillow materials, and once it starts to soften, it no longer is able to provide the kind of pressure point relief that it is usually known for.
Comparing Shredded and One-Piece Memory Foam
While they both contain memory foam and have many shared characteristics, there are also some important differences to be aware of when it comes to shredded and one-piece memory foam pillows. These are outlined in the table below.
|Shredded Memory Foam Pillow||One-Piece Memory Foam Pillow|
|Moldability||Easily molded; can be formed or scrunched into numerous shapes||Not malleable; maintains primary shape|
|Fluffling||Must be fluffed to eliminate lumps or get the pillow back to original shape||Holds shape and does not need to be fluffed|
|Weight||Light, easily moved and repositioned||Heavier and weightier|
|Washing||Usually machine-washable, making for easy cleaning||Not machine-washable, requires spot cleaning|
Where Can I Buy a Memory Foam Pillow and How Much Will it Cost?
Memory foam pillows can be purchased both in-store and online. In stores, they can usually be found at major department stores, mattress stores, and most other large retailers that carry bedding products. Wholesalers like Costco also often carry memory foam pillows.
You can also buy these pillows online where you are likely to find more selection. Online, you can find memory foam pillows from big e-commerce sites like Amazon as well as from the web stores of major retail chains.
The average price for a memory foam pillow is between $50 and $60. This is more expensive than many other pillow types, as demonstrated in the table below.
|Pillow Type||Average Price|
|Memory Foam||$50 – $60|
|Down||$70 – $100|
|Down Alternative||$20 – $30|
|Feather||$25 – $50|
|Buckwheat||$50 – $75|
|Latex||$40 – $60|
|Polyester||$10 – $15|
Who Is Best Suited For Using a Memory Foam Pillow?
The type of pillow that’s right for you can depend on your specific needs and comfort preferences. Though not a match for everyone, memory foam pillows do have the highest reported levels of owner satisfaction of any pillow type available. Take a look at who memory foam pillows are and are not suited for:
- Side-sleepers: Those who sleep on their sides need to keep their neck in alignment with the rest of their body, which places a priority on getting a proper amount of support. Because a memory foam pillow can conform to their neck position, it offers a lot of pressure point relief and is a good fit for people in this position. With its enhanced moldability, shredded memory foam tends to be the best
- Back-sleepers: The responsiveness of a memory foam pillow helps back sleepers maintain a stable and comfortable head position that is in line with the rest of their body.
- People who prefer a medium-firm feel: Because of the design of memory foam, it can offer a higher firmness level without sacrificing comfort as it gives both support and a feeling of softness.
- Those who a like higher-loft pillow: Even though it compresses, a memory foam pillow still generally maintains a higher level of loft compared to other pillow types, such as down or feather pillows.
- Stomach sleepers: Memory foam pillows are likely to have too much loft and firmness for most stomach sleepers, and if they are extremely soft models, they may permit too much sinking of the head into the pillow.
- People who are smell-sensitive: Because of issues with offgassing, people who are highly susceptible to being disturbed by smells should probably not choose a memory foam pillow.
- People who have issues sleeping hot: Anyone who has a tendency to sleep hot and for this to disturb their sleep should err against using a memory foam pillow because of its heat retention properties.
Memory Foam Pillow Ratings
In order to better understand the performance of a memory foam pillow, you can review the ratings listed below. For each category, these ratings are on a scale of 1 (Poor) to 5 (Excellent).
Memory foam pillows are neither the most expensive nor the cheapest of pillow types. Most people can find quality memory foam options at a price that won’t break the bank.
Memory foam pillows can be expected to last for a couple of years, but once the foam starts to wear down, these pillows quickly lose their comfort and supportiveness.
The tailored responsiveness and pressure point relief offered by memory foam pillows places them easily among the most supportive of pillow types. Shredded memory foam and its ability to be molded can offer even further support.
These pillows are available in a wide range of thicknesses, lofts, and firmness levels. That said, it is rare to find an extremely plush memory foam pillow, so the true range available is somewhat limited by the inherent nature of memory foam as a material.
Shredded memory foam pillows are noticeably lighter than one-piece pillows, but neither is as light as a material like down.
Because of the tendency toward offgassing, odor can be a definite issue with both shredded and one-piece memory foam.
The difficulty of cleaning these pillows depends in large part on the type. Shredded memory foam pillows are much easier to clean because they are usually machine-washable.
These pillows are virtually noiseless, making them a great choice for people who need a quiet pillow.
To help make your pillow shopping experience simpler and more efficient, we’ve done the hard work of sorting through the options to help identify the best memory foam pillows. We’ve separated these into the best shredded memory foam pillows and the best one-piece memory foam pillows, both of which are discussed in further detail in the following section.
Best Shredded Memory Foam Pillows
The Xtreme Comforts pillow includes a hefty amount of shredded memory foam with cover made of a polyester and rayon blend. The pillow comes with a 30-day return guarantee and a 6-year warranty.
Why?: This pillow has a track record of solid reviews and is fully adjustable, allowing customers to add or remove foam in order to tailor the amount of loft and firmness to their preferences.
Why Not?: Some customers complain of the foam shifting too easily and becoming lumpy very quickly. If the pillow isn’t fluffed, the lumps may start to feel a bit stiff or uncomfortable.
The Bottom Line: This is a high-quality pillow that offers all the benefits of memory foam at a very reasonable price point.
The Coop Home Goods shredded memory foam pillow has a zippered opening for adjusting the amount of foam and comes with a 30-day tryout period and a 5-year warranty.
Why?: This shredded foam pillow is highly malleable and adjustable in size, helping to provide the appropriate amount of support to both side and back sleepers. It has an extensive history of excellent verified reviews.
Why Not?: Some customers have reported issues with lower-quality foam, offgassing, and difficulty in knowing exactly how much foam to remove in order to achieve the proper size and loft level.
The Bottom Line: With the sheer number of reviews that this pillow has received, it’s no surprise that some customers haven’t found it to their liking. But for people who want a memory foam pillow and one that is adjustable, this serves as a proven and solid choice.
Snuggle-Pedic offers this pillow with adjustable, shredded memory foam and leads the pack when it comes to customer-friendly policies, offering a 120-night trial, a 20-year warranty, and the opportunity to get a customized foam blend to try to meet your preferences.
Why?: The zippered compartment inside the cover allows you to easily remove foam, and if you can’t find a comfort level that works for you within 120 nights, you can send the pillow back and get a full refund.
Why Not?: As with most memory foam products, there is some issue with offgassing, and some people find that it has issues with being quick to become lumpy.
The Bottom Line: This pillow is well-reviewed and well-priced, and with the opportunity to test it out at no risk, it is an excellent option for anyone considering a memory foam pillow.
One-Piece Memory Foam Pillows
The PureCare memory foam pillow provides a high level of responsiveness without the issues of lumping that can occur with some shredded memory foam models.
Why?: With its one-piece design, the PureCare pillow gives a more consistent level of loft without sacrificing the softness or conforming comfort of memory foam.
Why Not?: This pillow is not moldable, which means that if the height of it is not the right fit for you, it is difficult to adjust.
The Bottom Line: If you want a more stable-shaped pillow that can still hug your head and neck, the PureCare plush is worthy of your consideration.
With a simple, straightforward design, the Classic Brands Conforma pillow offers one-piece memory foam at a price well below most of the competition.
Why?: This pillow costs less than $30 in the queen size, which is a tremendous discount relative to most other queen-size memory foam pillows. It provides a very consistent shape and significant firmness while still being able to compress in response to pressure from your neck and head.
Why Not?: It is only currently available in queen and king sizes, and many customers find that it is simply too firm and does not offer enough give to conform to the head and neck.
The Bottom Line: this is a great choice for budget shoppers and for those who are worried about a lack of firmness from a memory foam pillow.