There’s no better feeling than resting your head on the perfect pillow at the end of a long day: think a soft, down cloud that sinks and supports in all the right places. 

But there’s no worse feeling than face-planting into a bad pillow: whether that’s an amorphous clump of feathers or a solid wedge that barely raises you off the mattress.

Having the right pillow is about much more than just a good night’s sleep: perfect pillows keep your neck and spine in alignment, preventing cricked necks, pinched nerves and back pain. 

All too often people try to get the perfect pillow-fit by constructing elaborate pillow piles, when really the perfect pillow shouldn’t need any back-up at all.

We tested a range of pillows with a variety of sleepers – side, back and front sleepers, people who suffer from neck pain and people who could sleep comfortably on a brick. 

We tested for comfort across all those categories, bearing in mind that some people need more support than others (so might need a second pillow beneath a very soft pillow, for example), and also for temperature control – a sweltering summer proved how important that was for a pillow’s outer case. 

Finally we were strict about the sourcing of natural pillow fillings, preferring those that used down that was a natural by-product of the meat industry and that had cast-iron ethical sourcing.

Ultimately we found that our reviewers’ preferences often came down to sleeping position. Broadly speaking, people who tend to sleep on their sides need the most support to keep the neck and spine in line: if that’s you, go for a firmer pillow with more fill, or a technical fill like the Tempur. 

People who sleep on their backs need a little support – think a medium down pillow or a natural fibre like wool. Front-sleepers need the least support – a soft down pillow is perfect.

If you suffer from neck pain, you probably won’t get you the support you need from a soft, down pillow alone – unless you go for one of the super lofty, more expensive options below, like the Nimbus. 

But that doesn’t mean you’re consigned to weird-shaped wedges: both the Simba and the Tempur pillows below passed our neck pain tests with flying colours.

Down pillows are traditionally the luxury option – stuffed with the tiny, soft underfeathers from geese and ducks, they are preferable to feather pillows because of their loft, softness, and because the stuffing won’t occasionally escape and stab you in the neck at night.

As mentioned above, all the down in this review is ethically sourced. But down isn’t right for everyone – people with neck pain and vegans for example – so as well as the most luxurious down pillows we’ve picked out the very best alternatives, from organic wool to space-age foam to recycled plastic bottles.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Greenfibres organic wool pillow: £73.10, Greenfibres

We loved everything about this pillow, from the small, friendly, eco-minded Devonshire company behind it to the supremely comfy stuffing. Wool doesn’t sound like a typical fill for a pillow, but our reviewer actually preferred it to down: it felt like it offered natural support with plenty of “bounce” and had a really good distribution of heat on hotter nights. Everything about this pillow is ethically-minded: the quilted cotton outer is fairly traded and extremely comfortable, the inner is made of kapok (a super soft sustainable tree fibre), and the fill is organic and ethically sourced knops, or tight wool balls. If you buy two pillows, you’ll get 10 per cent off. 

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The Fine Bedding Company nimbus gold Hungarian goose down pillow: £185, Fine Bedding Company

The pillow of choice for five star hotels for a reason, this goose down pillow is the benchmark for high-end luxury. It is also the go-to for anyone who suffers from neck pain. Even though it is ridiculously soft – thanks to the 100 per cent down filling – the pillow felt really supportive, and lofted again quickly without needing a midnight shakeup. Our neck pain expert, who has tried every specialist orthopedic pillow on the market, swears by it. The company also has impeccable ethical standards: all the down is a product of the food industry and animal welfare is assured, its eco-factory in Estonia leads the field in sustainable production, its cotton is sustainable and its plastics made from 50 per cent recyclables. If that isn’t enough to convince you, all the leftover filling is sent to local companies to stuff teddy bears.

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The White Company Canadian goose down soft pillow: £172, White Company

Imagine the best hotel pillow you’ve ever slept on, then double that luxury level: sleeping on this pillow felt like snoozing on a silky soft, puffy cloud. The Canadian goose down in this pillow is larger and loftier than other downs, something our reviewer felt was genuinely noticeable and not just a gimmick. The pillow springs back up and quickly re-lofts when you move your head around, with no need to re-fluff. Our reviewer – a front sleeper – prefers a softer pillow and found this one to be perfect, but if you need a bit more neck support you could always layer it with a harder pillow underneath for more height. The price tag is, admittedly, eye-watering, but it’s worth every penny – think of it as a present to your future self, and insurance against insomnia.

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Simba hybrid pillow: £99, Simba

A real contender for our overall favourite, this was without doubt the most interesting pillow we reviewed. It’s stuffed with medium-sized blue foam “nanocubes” that gave the pillow some of the best support we encountered. You can also remove cubes if you want less height, and the pillow comes with a drawstring bag to store the spare cubes in which is a neat touch. One of the main selling points is its “phase change” fabric outer that absorbs, stores and dissipates heat – supposedly this means you will never have to flip the pillow to the cool side. We didn’t find this as dramatic as we’d hoped – and we tested it with a number of different pillowcases – but there was a noticeable improvement on a basic microfibre fill. Everyone – from the front sleepers to the side sleepers used to sleeping atop a small pillow mountain – found this pillow perfectly comfortable on its own, the only pillow that managed this.

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Marks & Spencer Hungarian goose down pillow: £59, Marks & Spencer

In a blind napping test, our reviewer struggled to tell this pillow apart from some of its loftier and more expensive competitors. It’s gloriously comfortable, with all the give and cushiness you expect from fine goose down, plus a good dissemination of heat – and at half the price of higher-end pillows. It didn’t loft back up quite as quickly as some of the more expensive pillows – probably because, as a forensic examination of the label revealed, there are some feathers in the pillow too – but that was hardly noticeable when we layered it on top of another pillow. We also love Marks and Spencer’s commitment to the Better Cotton Initiative, which guarantees ethical cotton sourcing for the outer fabric.

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Silentnight eco comfort pillow soft: £30, Silentnight

We were really impressed by this eco-friendly pillow from Silentnight. Not just because of its impeccable environmental credentials – it’s filled with fibres that are made from recycled plastic bottles, which Silentnight says represents a reincarnation of 17 bottles per pillow – but also because of how comfortable it was for the very reasonable price tag. If you are a side sleeper or a back sleeper you will probably need another pillow underneath to feel totally supported; but our front-sleeping tester found the pillow to be just fine on its own. Silentnight also does more supportive pillows with the same eco-friendly filling.

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Tempur cloud pillow: £99, Tempur

Super-smart Tempur is the brand of choice for people who suffer from neck or back pain. While they are best known for their firm, contoured pillows, we fell in love with the softer Cloud Pillow, which is filled with “visco-elastic cells” that mould to fit you – to us, it feels like really good memory foam. Because of that, you can also squish the pillow into a shape that works for you and it stays that way: our side-sleeping testers loved this, because it made the pillow decidedly huggable. A great option for anyone who needs firmer support but still wants a more traditional pillow shape.

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Soak and Sleep cooling chamber pillow: £24, Soak and Sleep

Maybe it was because we tested it over one of the hottest summers in history, but Soak and Sleep’s cooling chamber pillow felt like a really welcome game-changer. Covered with a tencel/nylon blend, the outer fabric dissipates heat noticeably better than cotton. The filling – a springy hollowfibre – is celebrated for the high support it offers, but we were convinced it also added to the general coolness of the pillow. While unusual, we also really liked the three chamber design – we found, particularly for side sleepers, this made everything a but more customisable. A superb pillow for the price.

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John Lewis & Partners synthetic soft touch medium pillow: £10, John Lewis & Partners

Our reviewer’s long-time pillow of choice, this budget-friendly pillow is super soft – even with the medium support model – and comfortable. The polyester mini-ball clusters keep their body well even after long-term use and don’t need a lot of fluffing-up to keep the pillow firm. It’s also extremely practical – machine washable and light, in case you want to take it travelling with you. The very reasonable price means that this is also the perfect pillow to double up with a loftier down pillow if you need a little more height, support, or just can’t kick the two-pillow habit.

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Panda memory foam bamboo pillow: £44.95, Panda

The perfect pillow if you want something supportive but eco-friendly, bamboo-evangelist Panda has managed to get all the benefits of memory foam – a generous three layers, in fact, of memory foam gel, where most memory foam products only have one – into a comfortable and sustainable package. The pillow comes with a gorgeous bamboo pillowcase, which we loved – bamboo is a natural super fibre that feels softer than cotton, as well as being hypoallergenic, antibacterial and odour-resistant. It’s also a nice-looking product, particularly for the competitive price, with a little panda outline in the corner, and we appreciated the recycled cardboard box it came in – most pillows are still packaged in in oversized plastic bags.

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The verdict: Pillows

For innovation, excellent ethical standards and all round comfort, we loved Greenfibres’ clever wool pillow. But there’s no denying what £200 can buy you: the down-stuffed luxury of The White Company’s Candian goose down soft pillow and The Fine Bedding Company’s nimbus gold Hungarian goose down pillow made every night we tested them feel like a night in a luxury hotel.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.