saatva down pillows on top of bed

Down Pillow Guide: Find Out Which Down Pillow Is Right for You

by
/ November 11, 2021

Many people prefer sleeping on traditional down pillows—they offer great head support, neck support, and also keep you warm.

Still, there's a lot you need to know before choosing the best down pillow for you. 

If you're in the market for a new down pillow, here's how to find the right one for you.

Down pillow fill power and fill weight

With so many down pillow options on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. To figure that out, you’ll want to look at two things: fill power and fill weight.

Fill power is a measure in cubic inches of the amount of space one ounce of down will fill. Fill power ranges from 300 to 700 or higher, with 600 considered very good quality. 

High fill power leads to: 

  • Better insulation with large down clusters
  • A fluffier pillow 
  • A durable pillow that maintains its shape without adding bulk or weight
  • A higher loft (height or thickness)

illustration of feathers explaining what down is inside a pillow

Fill weight, on the other hand, refers to the amount of down (in ounces) inside the pillow.

A high fill weight leads to: 

  • A firmer, heavier pillow
  • Long-lasting durability

Ideal firmness levels for different sleepers

Down pillow firmness options range from soft to firm. Your choice of firmness level will depend largely on your sleeping position and to some extent on your body type.

Stomach sleepers

If you sleep on your stomach, you might want to opt for a soft pillow. Sleeping in this position puts strain on your neck. a softer pillow with little loft will help reduce the strain, keeping your neck in a neutral position.

Back sleepers

Back sleepers will sleep best on a pillow that’s neither too soft nor too firm. A medium pillow will offer proper support and cushioning for people sleeping in this position. It will prevent your head from sinking too far into the pillow, which could strain your neck.

Side sleepers

Finally, side sleepers will benefit from a firmer pillow. In this position, firm pillows provide enough support for your neck, allowing it to properly align with your spine.

Different body types

Your body size and type also matter when choosing the ideal firmness level of a down pillow. Generally, people with larger bodies require more loft and should choose firmer pillows with high fill power as these will prove more long-lasting and durable.

Types of down pillows

There's a wide variety of down products on the market, and the label “down pillow” can mean several different things. Knowing the difference between the types of pillows in this category will help you identify the right one for you.

As with firmness levels, here too you have to consider your sleep style, sleeping position, and body type when choosing the right down pillow for your needs. 

illustration with down pillow on bed explaining what the different types of down are

Down/feather vs. all down

Down refers to the soft inner feathers of a duck or goose, while feathers are the outer covering of a bird. Duck and goose feathers are often lighter and less dense than down. 

The choice between an all-down and a down/feather pillow depends on your personal preference. An all-down pillow will be loftier, softer, and warmer than a down/feather pillow. It will also last you longer. 

All-down pillows are ideal for:

  • Stomach sleepers
  • Back sleepers
  • Cool sleepers
  • Smaller people

Although feathers are less prized than down, down/feather combos aren’t necessarily bad news—especially if you're someone who sleeps hot. Feathers are coarser than down and are less insulating. A pillow filled with a feather/down mixture will be firmer (depending on the ratio of down to feathers) and will sleep cooler since feathers don't trap heat as much as down does.

Down/feather blend pillows are ideal for:

  • Back sleepers
  • Hot sleepers
  • Larger people

Duck vs. goose down

The down filling for pillows comes from either ducks or geese. Generally, both types of down make soft and lofty pillows with fantastic insulating properties. But there are a few key differences.

Goose down is considered to be of higher quality than duck down because geese are larger birds that produce larger down clusters that translate into higher fill power. However, the maturity of the birds and their feed is just as important. In most cases, a good quality duck down pillow will provide all the loftiness and warmth you need.

Goose down pillows are ideal for:

  • Side sleepers
  • Cool sleepers
  • Stomach sleepers

Duck down is similar to goose down in feel, warmth, and loftiness. However, duck down pillows are sterile and hypoallergenic. If you have sensitive allergies, duck down pillows are a great alternative. 

Duck down pillows are ideal for:

  • People sensitive to dust mites and allergens
  • Stomach sleepers

Synthetic down

Synthetic down pillows are made with synthetic fibers that mimic the properties of real down. Although these will offer some of the warmth and softness of down, they won't be the same as the real thing. Down alternative pillows like these also have a shorter lifespan than the natural stuff. 

However, synthetic down pillows can have a higher fill power, giving them the ability to be much firmer than other down pillows. Additionally, they cost less and are hypoallergenic. 

Synthetic down pillows are ideal for:

  • People with allergies
  • Stomach sleepers
  • Back sleepers
  • Side sleepers 
  • Larger people

Related: Latex pillows: A buyer's guide

Memory foam pillows vs. down pillows

Possibly the most common alternative to down pillows today are memory foam pillows. If you’re unsure which of these two options is right for you, it helps to be aware of the different properties of down and memory foam. These two materials provide very different sleeping experiences.

Both down pillows and memory foam pillows can contour to your shape, but the feel is very different. Memory foam conforms more closely to the shape of your head and neck, offering more firmness, while down offers more plushness. 

Memory foam pillows are typically not quite as luxurious or soft as down pillows but tend to be on the firmer side. This might be a good thing if you need a lot of support. Memory foam pillows are also extremely durable and will last you a long time, so they might be especially suitable for heavier bodies. 

Down has fantastic insulating abilities but is also very breathable. A down pillow will keep you warm at night while still providing excellent airflow. Memory foam is very different in this respect. It tends to retain body heat and keep you warm, but it lacks the breathability of down.

Frequently asked questions about down pillows

Even after you’ve done your research and set your eyes on a down pillow, you might still have a lot of questions when it comes to practical things like care, size, and price. Here, we provide answers to the most commonly asked questions about down pillows.

How do I care for my down pillows?

Down pillows are surprisingly easy to care for. Most down pillows are machine washable and can be dried carefully in the dryer. If you do choose to clean your down pillows in the washing machine, we recommend following the manufacturer's instructions closely.

We also suggest fluffing down pillows between dryer cycles to ensure they last longer. Additionally, cotton covers can protect your down pillow from general wear and tear. Using cotton pillowcases can help avoid excess oil and moisture if they are changed frequently. 

Related: Why you should wash your pillows (and how to do it)

How do I know when it’s time to replace my down pillow? 

Down actually gets finer and softer with time, which means it will retain its qualities for a long time. A good quality down pillow should last you for two to three years but may last even longer than that.

Are down pillows expensive? 

Down pillows come in a wide price range. While goose and duck down pillows can be quite pricey, there are also high-quality down/feather blends or synthetic down pillows that are less expensive. 

What size do down pillows come in? 

The standard size for a down pillow is 20" x 26". However, you can also purchase king- or queen-size pillows that are much larger and have a higher fill weight and fill power.

Check out Saatva’s high-quality selection of down pillows

Finding the perfect pillow is essential to getting a good night's sleep. If you’re craving that plushy feel of down, it’s important to find a high-quality down pillow that’s perfect for your needs and will last you a long time.

While there are a lot of luxury down pillows on the market, finding the right one for you can be difficult. As a leading producer of quality bed accessories, Saatva offers a wide selection of luxury pillows, including a down alternative pillow, to help you get the best sleep possible. All of our pillows come with a 45-day trial so you can try them at home to see if they're right for you. 

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