Memory foam pillows claim to cradle your head and neck for optimum comfort, but there was a time when many of them – certainly at the cheaper end – felt like sleeping on a brick.

Good news is that there is now a wide range of decent ones to choose from – each with their own USPs – and growing numbers of people swear by them for a good night’s kip.

It was NASA that first introduced memory foam back in the 1970s to improve seat cushioning and crash protection for aircraft seats. Moulding to the body in response to heat and pressure, it allows for a completely even distribution of body weight.

Then, once the pressure is removed, it returns to its original shape, but “remembers” the shape of your head for the following night. Whether you want to treat or prevent joint pains and back problems or help with conditions such as sleep apnoea, these pillows can be a godsend.

Our tests involved sleeping on the pillows for at least a couple of nights, taking into consideration comfort, support, durability and value for money.

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. 

Eve the memory foam pillow: £59, Eve 

This looks bigger than a normal pillow, but it isn’t as we discovered when we slipped it into our standard pillowcase – something we nearly didn’t bother with because the stretchy breathable cover is so soft against the skin and, most importantly, machine washable. But alas, the yellow piping doesn’t match most decors.

Comfort wise, it manages that difficult balance between soft and supportive, but don’t be afraid to try it with a second pillow underneath if you’re usually a two-pillow kind of person and it feels too thin on its own. It’s hypoallergenic, superb at stopping sweat and the 30-night home trial is a nice touch to help the undecided. You might catch a slight chemical whiff initially, but it doesn’t last more than a day or two.

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Tempur comfort pillow cloud: £87.99, Bensons for Beds

Our top choice for back sleepers due to the height, this is also a favourite among some side sleepers especially if they are willing to ditch their two pillows to try just one. It’s heavier than most pillows, which makes it easy to assume it will be rigid.

But it’s actually very squishy, hence the cloud-like claims (which it really does live up to) yet it bounces back into shape instantly and is supportive enough to provide instant comfort for neck or back ailments. From a top name in memory foam pillows, it has a machine washable cotton cover and also excels at keeping you cool.

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OTTY adjustable pillow: £84.99, OTTY

This is the more expensive (by a long shot) of OTTY’s two memory foam pillows, but we think this one stands out for its versatility. The secret lies in the removable foam fillings, which allows you to adapt the firmness and height according to your head size, how broad your shoulders are and whether you’re a front, side or back sleeper. What you don’t use, you can store in the zippable pouch.

It’s breathable, cool and everything about it feels top quality, including the outer cover which is filled with soft duck down. If you’re not happy with your setup within two weeks, you can get a refund. But for pressure relief, we think there are better memory foam pillows out there.

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Dormeo octasmart pillow: £49, Dormeo

The concept of having 24 individual memory foam springs under your head might make you wonder if you’ll get any sleep at all. The idea is to keep you supported in every sleep position and actually, it does just that. There’s a good level of squidge and comfort and because the air flows so easily between the octasprings, and it stays noticeably cooler than traditional memory foam pillows.

The removable, anti-allergenic washable cover stands out too – it’s made with hundreds of comfort pockets that add an extra level of cosiness. It’s somewhere in the middle in terms of bulk – there are both flatter and higher memory foam pillows available.

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Rested the moon pillow: £60, Rested

Rested has nailed it when it comes to producing memory foam pillows specifically aimed at the type of sleeper you are. First, there’s the butterfly pillow, its unusual shape stops your nose squashing against it if you’re a front sleeper or your neck from lacking support if you’re a back sleeper. And then there’s this, the moon, which is by far its best seller and made for side sleepers.

The curved edges support the shoulder area while the memory foam core, with its 12cm height, cradles the head and allows for good spinal alignment. Some back sleepers swear by it too. There are other similar shaped pillows with cheaper price tags, but this one tops the lot for all-round quality and it has a washable cover.

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Ikea klubbsporre ergonomic pillow: £29, Ikea

If you’re prone to getting sweaty at night, this is well worth considering. On one side, there’s bouncy cushioning foam, while on the other there’s cooling gel which – together with the moisture wicking fabric – stops your head from getting too hot. The removable, machine washable cover keeps things clean and hygienic and despite the unusual shape, it fits in an extra long 50 x 80cm pillowcase.

The comfort levels, while good, aren’t quite up there with the crème de la crème of pillows reviewed here, and we found it quite heavy. But what it loses in squishiness, it gains in saving you from horribly hot, sticky nights.

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Sealy activsleep Geltex memory foam pillow: £34.99, Amazon

This stands out for breathability, thanks to the focus on ventilation and airflow which runs between the hundreds of tiny fibres that surround the Geltex core. It’s been made with allergy sufferers in mind too, with hypoallergenic filling and a knitted Purotex cover to prevent bugs and bacteria.

It’s on the stodgy side, as well as being quite high, so perhaps not the best option for anyone wanting a gentle transition into memory foam – but those who are after something robust and substantial will more than satisfied. Good luck fitting it into a regular sized pillow case, though.

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The White Company memory foam comfort pillow: £45, The White Company

This claims to offer firm support but as it’s made from shredded memory foam, we found it a lot more yielding than many of its rivals.

Feeling more like a luxury down pillow, you can even plump it up. Especially good for side sleepers, it lives up to its promise of bridging the gap between the shoulder and neck for perfect alignment – something we judged by a noticeable lack of tossing and turning while going to sleep and a distinct reduction in aches and pains among a tester who was prone to waking up to neck twinges.

We like the hygiene factor – the polyester/bamboo casing can be unzipped and bunged in the washing machine. And it stays cool, no doubt helped by the added air flow of the contents.

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Tempur original pillow: £72, John Lewis & Partners

This looks hard, with a dip in the middle, all of which can be quite off-putting, especially if you haven’t yet entered the world of memory foam. But we were smitten. The contour is designed to support the neck and this, together with the soft cover and spot-on sink-ability and height, made it an instant winner for us.

It’s as if it’s been created specifically for the contours of your body and as such, is off the scale ergonomically. It’s available in different sizes and you can wash the cover at 60C, with spares – as well as pillow cases – available to buy separately.

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The Emma pillow: £65, Emma

This is customisable. On one side, there’s a classic memory foam that slowly moulds to your head and neck as you lie into it and on the other, a firmer, more supportive side. In the middle is the core level which supports both. Each of these layers are removable so you can adjust the height of the pillow – if you’re a side sleeper, you’ll probably keep all three, whereas back and front sleepers may opt for just two.

You’ll need some patience as it’s not all that easy, but we got there in the end. There’s a 100-night trial so you have time to decide if it’s the one for you, and there’s a machine washable cover. Impressively restful and great for personalisation.

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The verdict: Memory foam pillows

You can count on Eve’s the memory foam pillow to kill off aches and pains caused by poor posture at night. And if you don’t like the feel of it, you can get your money back after 30 days. The Tempur cloud support pillow should get a special mention too – it’s soft and squishy yet incredibly supportive.

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.