There's no need to spend a fortune to get a good pillow. Reviews indicate that users are nearly as satisfied with a cheap polyester pillow as they are with pricier down or memory foam purchases. It's certainly possible to spend more than $100 on a pillow, but Cheapism.com found that there are many inexpensive options nestled in the $5-to-$35 range that provide the comfort and good night's sleep that pillow buyers crave.

See full Buying Guide

Our Top Pick

Wamsutta Extra-Firm Side Sleeper
Our Picks
Wamsutta Extra-Firm Side Sleeper

Pros:

  • 2-inch gusset around perimeter helps ensure adequate firmness for side sleepers.
  • Reviewers say filling resists sinkage.
  • 300-thread-count cotton cover is soft, breathable, machine washable.
  • Comes in king and standard/queen sizes.

Cons:

  • Likely too firm, lofty for stomach sleepers.
  • Some reviewers say it flattens out long-term; experts say durability of polyester pillows is poor.

Takeaway: Side sleepers need a little extra support and loft from their pillows to keep their heads, necks, and spines well-aligned. Happy owners say the reasonably priced Wamsutta Extra-Firm Side Sleeper keeps them comfortable, with a breathable 300-thread count cotton cover and a good amount of polyester filling.

Lauren Ralph Lauren Logo Down Alternative

Lauren Ralph Lauren Logo Down Alternative Review

Available from Macy's

Pros:

  • Available in three densities to support different sleep styles: medium for stomach sleepers, firm for back sleepers, extra-firm for side sleepers.
  • Entire pillow can be machine-washed, dried.
  • Most reviewers say pillow is plump and plush while maintaining adequate support.

Cons:

  • Some users say it flattens out long-term.
  • Pillow may need to be fluffed often to return to original shape, comfort.

Takeaway: Reviewers say the budget-priced Lauren Ralph Lauren Logo Down Alternative pillows are a good value, standing up well to nightly use. They're also available in different firmness levels, making it easier to pick one to suit individual sleep styles.

Classic Brands Conforma

Pros:

  • Medium-firm feel is best for side and back sleepers.
  • Moldable memory foam cradles head and neck without flattening out.
  • Memory foam is ventilated for increased breathability.
  • Removable, machine-washable knit cover.

Cons:

  • Likely too firm for stomach sleepers; some users find it too hard.
  • Some owners complain of lingering chemical smell.
  • Pillow is very heavy and may not fit standard-size pillowcases.

Takeaway: For consumers seeking a pillow that provides substantial firmness, the Classic Brands Conforma is a good pick. Side sleepers are especially happy with this one, saying it strikes a good balance between firmness and support. The open-cell memory foam also helps keep it from feeling overly warm.

Simmons Beautyrest Latex Pillow

Simmons Beautyrest Latex Review

Pros:

  • Available in three sizes.
  • Pillow is very supportive and reduces pressure and neck pain, reviewers say.
  • Latex pillows get very good feedback on durability from owners and experts and won't "go flat" like other materials.
  • Breathable cells help pillow stay cooler than memory foam.

Cons:

  • Responsive latex may feel too springy for some.
  • Likely too lofty for stomach sleepers.

Takeaway: Latex pillows are noted for their longevity, and that makes the Simmons Beautyrest Latex Pillow -- already inexpensive for latex -- an even better buy. Users say the pillow conforms to the head and neck but maintains more bounce and responsiveness than memory foam. Latex also stays cooler than foam.

Sleep Whale

Sleep Whale Review

Pros:

  • Users say the bamboo-blend cover is very soft; it can also be removed for washing.
  • Shredded memory foam fill doesn't feel as hard as solid memory foam pillows.
  • Better accommodates back sleepers as well as side sleepers.
  • Individual pieces of foam allow for better air circulation than solid foam pillows.
  • Shredded memory foam may last longer than solid memory foam, experts say.
  • Lifetime replacement guarantee.

Cons:

  • Likely too firm, lofty for stomach sleepers.
  • Some owners find shredded foam lumpy and say pillow has to be fluffed too often.
  • One size only.

Takeaway: This Sleep Whale bamboo shredded memory foam pillow might be worth a look for side and back sleepers who want more support without sacrificing softness. This shredded-foam pillow can be fluffed somewhat like a traditional pillow, and it doesn't retain as much heat as a solid foam pillow.

Sobakawa Buckwheat

Sobakawa Buckwheat Review

Available from Walmart

Pros:

  • Buckwheat hulls inside pillow allow it to conform to head and neck, better accommodating sleepers who switch between several positions.
  • Breathable cotton cover and buckwheat hulls allow for good airflow.
  • Buckwheat pillows have above-average potential for pain relief, experts say.

Cons:

  • Cotton cover is not removable or washable.
  • Pillow is too small for standard pillowcases.
  • Soft crunching sounds as buckwheat hulls shift and move inside, users say.

Takeaway: The Sobakawa feels nothing like a traditional pillow, and devotees say that's precisely why it works so well. The buckwheat hulls filling this pillow are able to shift and conform as necessary as sleepers change position, and the buckwheat stays cooler than similarly responsive memory foam, making it a good choice for hot sleepers.

Mainstays Standard Microfiber

Mainstays Standard Microfiber Review

Available from Walmart

Pros:

  • Very inexpensive; good value for anyone who needs several pillows for guest rooms, kids, or decorative use.
  • Microfiber cover is soft, owners say.
  • Entire pillow can be machine washed and dried.
  • Somewhat flatter pillows are ideal for back and stomach sleepers.

Cons:

  • Some reviewers complain pillows are under-filled and flatten out too easily.
  • Likely too soft for side sleepers.
  • Some reviewers report durability issues; experts say durability of polyester pillows is poor overall.

Takeaway: Walmart's polyester Mainstays Standard Microfiber pillows are about as basic as it gets, but many reviewers say they're surprisingly comfortable for the price, especially for stomach or back sleepers who may not need as much firmness from their pillows.

Sealy Posturepedic Moisture Wicking

Sealy Posturepedic Moisture Wicking Review

Pros:

  • Available in three sizes.
  • Moisture-wicking cotton cover locks away sweat on warm nights.
  • Medium firmness stands best chance of satisfying wider variety of sleepers.
  • Entire pillow can be machine washed and dried.

Cons:

  • Some reviewers say it flattens out long-term.
  • Pillow may need to be fluffed often to return to original shape, comfort.

Takeaway: Reviewers say the Sealy Moisture Wicking Pillow is a high-quality down alternative choice for sleepers who want to strike a balance between firm and soft. Owners like its 300-thread-count moisture-wicking cotton cover, saying it really does help keep them cool at night.

Downlite Old Fashion Granny

Pros:

  • Available in five sizes, including a body pillow.
  • Blend of goose feathers and down provides more classic feel.
  • Keeps users relatively cool.
  • Medium firmness stands best chance of satisfying wider variety of sleepers.
  • Pillow can be machine washed and dried.

Cons:

  • Despite double lining, some reviewers say the pillow feels too crunchy because of poking from individual feathers.
  • Pillow may need to be fluffed often to return to original shape and comfort.

Takeaway: The Downlite Old Fashion Granny is among the most budget-friendly choices for consumers who like the old-fashioned feel of a moldable, well-stuffed feather pillow. It can be tossed in the washer and dryer, and feather pillows are a little more cuddly for those who like to hug their pillows. It's also available as a body pillow, a popular choice for neck- and back-pain sufferers, as well as pregnant women.

Xtreme Comforts SlimSleeper

Pros:

  • Available in three sizes.
  • Thinner profile makes this pillow ideal for stomach sleepers or anyone irritated by loftier pillows.
  • Bamboo cover is ventilated for increased breathability.
  • Entire pillow can be machine washed and dried.

Cons:

  • Some reviewers say it gets lumpy or develops flat spots over time.
  • Some stomach sleepers say it's still not flat enough to be comfortable.

Takeaway: While memory foam pillows usually are too firm and lofty for stomach sleepers, the thinner Xtreme Comforts Slim may be just the ticket. Owners love the ventilated bamboo cover, and many appreciate how moldable this shredded memory foam pillow is compared with polyester or down alternative.

Mediflow Original Waterbase

Pros:

  • Loft and firmness make it ideal for side and back sleepers.
  • Water-filled pillow gets above-average reviews for neck-pain relief.
  • Pillow is leak resistant and resists excessive flattening.
  • Pillow can be machine-washed and dried.

Cons:

  • Finding proper support level may require some trial and error.
  • Because it's filled with water, it can't be molded to increase support in a certain area.
  • Too heavy to easily reposition when filled.
  • One size only.

Takeaway: Waterbeds may be out, but it's still possible to get a water-filled pillow. The Mediflow is noted especially for pain relief, so reviewers recommend giving it a shot if you wake up every morning with a stiff neck. It's a bit pricey, though, and probably won't work for stomach sleepers. Sometimes special deals can be had by purchasing directly from the manufacturer.

Buying Guide

Choosing a Pillow

There are a dizzying number of pillow brands, many of which settle into the budget zone. Unsurprisingly, these include store brands such as Walmart's Mainstays, Target's Threshold and Room Essentials, Macy's Charter Club, as well as brands sold more widely, such as Wamsutta. Still, at this price, shoppers are more likely to run across less familiar brands that sell online only.

Major mattress retailers including Simmons, Serta, and Sealy also manufacture pillows, some of which fall into the upper end of our price range. Even bed-in-a-box and other online mattress retailers are getting in on the action with their own pillows, though price-wise, the well-known models are tagged beyond the Cheapism range, starting around $50. Examples include the Casper Pillow (starting at $55);  Tuft & Needle, which goes for $75; and the Saatva pillow, which will will set you back around $145 for a queen bed pillow . Cheaper online mattress manufacturers that make less-expensive bed pillows include Sleep Innovations and Classic Brands.

But buying a pillow has less to do with who makes it, than it does with individual needs. The best way to choose a cheap pillow is to become familiar with the various types and determine which matches your sleeping preferences.

Cotton/Polyester

Cotton and polyester pillows are the most common and the least expensive -- some of these highly affordable pillows cost as little as a few dollars, and $20 is about tops, making them the best bed pillows for those on a budget. They're made of 100 percent cotton or polyester and are very similar in their features, including their biggest downfall: the tendency to flatten and get lumpy over time. On the plus side, both are lightweight and easy to care for because they usually are machine washable .

Our top pick in this category is the Wamsutta Extra-Firm Side Sleeper (starting at $15 for standard/queen; king size is $5 higher), a firmer-feeling, loftier pillow meant to keep side sleepers' heads higher off the mattress. Its pluses include a soft, 300-thread count cotton cover (most pillow covers have a 240-thread count, or even less). We also like the Mainstays Standard Microfiber Pillow (starting at $7 for two), a Walmart exclusive. This 100% polyester, synthetic-fill pillow is a reliable cheap choice that works especially well for guest rooms or filling out children's beds.

Down Alternative

Down pillows are filled with the soft undercoating plucked from the underside of ducks and geese. They are soft, durable, and very expensive -- typically $100 or more each. Down alternative pillows are similar to old-fashioned goose down pillows in their feel but are constructed differently. Instead of down and feathers, down alternative pillows are made of polyester gel/puff fibers that feel like real down. The downside of gel-fiber down alternative pillows is that they can get lumpy and generally don't stay fluffed, but they're a good choice for people with allergies who like to sleep with a soft pillow. Considerably less inexpensive than their down counterparts, gel-fiber pillows are typically tagged between $10 and $30.

Our research pointed to the Lauren Ralph Lauren Logo Down Alternative Pillow (starting at $20 for standard/queen; king size is higher) as the best cheap offering in this subset, and it's available in three firmness levels to satisfy all kinds of sleepers. We also like the Sealy Posturepedic Moisture Wicking Pillow (starting at $28), which aims to help sweaty sleepers with a cotton cover meant to draw away moisture.

Memory Foam/Latex

Memory foam pillows are noted for their support, are usually allergy-friendly (among other things, they are dust-mite resistant), and typically don't require constant fluffing, molding, or shifting. Just as with a memory foam mattress, a memory foam pillow responds to body heat, which causes the foam to mold itself to the contours of a sleeper's head, neck, and shoulders, reducing pressure points and maintaining the neck's natural angle. But they're heavy, infamous for a chemical smell, and (especially in the case of onepiece memory foam vs. shreaded foam fill) typically too firm for anyone who prefers a softer pillow. Memory foam pillows start around $15 and top out above $100.

Latex pillows, like memory foam pillows, are known for being comfortable and supportive. They don't get lumpy or need fluffing, are less likely to trigger allergies, and also are cooler than memory foam. On the downside, they're heavy and pricier -- expect to spend anywhere from $30 to $100 -- and have a springier feel that isn't for everyone.

In this category, we name the Classic Brands Conforma (starting at $31 for queen size) as the best memory foam pillow overall. It has a one-piece memory-foam core that provides strong support for sleepers who want a firm pillow that doesn't need to be fluffed or manipulated. Our favorite latex pillow is the Simmons Beautyrest Latex Pillow (starting at $34), which is similarly praised for its support and also earns high marks for durability.

Natural/Bamboo

Pillow manufacturers have responded to customers clamoring for something "greener" by slapping bamboo or bamboo-blend covers on pillows. In most cases, this is marketing hype; most bamboo pillows are filled with memory foam, which isn't exactly natural, and the covers typically contain rayon (or viscose), which is derived from bamboo in a process that's not exactly eco-friendly. If none of this is of concern, a budget-priced pillow that we like is the Sleep Whale (starting at $35). This is a bamboo shredded memory-foam model with a bamboo/polyester cover and shredded memory-foam filling that's more breathable than its solid memory-foam-core counterparts.

For something truly green, go for buckwheat. Lauded for durability and moldability, these pillows are filled with buckwheat hulls that provide excellent support for head and neck by staying put once the head is at rest. Buckwheat pillows never get lumpy, although the hulls may shift to one side over time (easily fixed by pushing the hulls back where you want them). High-end buckwheat pillows can be opened and the hulls removed to adjust the height and firmness. Most buckwheat pillows are costly, starting around $40 and climbing into the triple digits, but one good cheap buckwheat pillow is the Sobakawa (starting at $27).

What We Considered

Given that every user has a different comfort preference, pillows can be just as hard to parse when it comes to making recommendations as mattresses. Because of that, in addition to which is the most comfortable pillow and/or which one offers the best support, we also consider a wide variety of other factors in making our picks for the best bed pillows. Those include heat retention, durability, neck- and back-pain relief, washability, and odors or smells.

The most thorough expert pillow-review sources include Sleep Like the Dead, The Sweethome, Sleepopolis, and Good Housekeeping. But given that many expert-vetted pillows are beyond the Cheapism price range, we relied heavily on user reviews from retailer sites including Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy's, Walmart, Overstock, and other home-goods sellers.

Comfort/Support

According to reports, an overwhelming majority of sleepers tend to favor lying on their sides, while much smaller percentages snooze on their stomachs and backs. Why does it matter, aside from the relative health advantages and disadvantages of each position? Well, when it comes to pillows, there's a strong link between someone's preferred sleep position and whether they will find a particular type of pillow comfortable.

In general, side sleepers need firmer, loftier pillows, according to Consumer Reports. Among the best choices are latex pillows like the Simmons Beautyrest Latex Pillow or memory foam pillows like the Classic Brands Conforma. For a more traditional feel, the polyester-fill Wamsutta Extra-Firm Side Sleeper offers a balance of firmness and softness with a 2-inch gusset for extra height for those whose neck's natural curve demands that for best comfort. It worked well for a reviewer who tested several pillows—including many that were much more expensive -- for New York Magazine. He landed on the Wamsutta as a favorite, and praised the pillow's spring, calling it "firm" and "satisfying." Users who posted at the site of home-goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond are similarly pleased.

Back sleepers, on the other hand, need something in the middle -- not too firm, not too soft, not too lofty, and not too flat. Oftentimes, down alternative pillows fit the bill. That would include the Lauren Ralph Lauren Logo Down Alternative Pillow and the Sealy Moisture-Wicking Pillow. The more conforming feel of memory foam that suits back sleepers also comes with a shredded-foam model like the Sleep Whale, in which the filling can be shifted for greater or lesser support in specific areas, unlike solid foam pillows such as the Classic Brands Conforma.

Finally, stomach sleepers are best served by a flatter, thinner pillow that keeps them closer to the mattress. Our choice, the Mainstays Standard Microfiber pillow works well because it's soft and on the flatter side, say reviews on Walmart – a thin pillow is not always a good thing, but is ideal for stomach sleepers.

The Sweethome's pick for stomach sleepers is the pricier Xtreme Comforts SlimSleeper (starting at $36 for a standard size pillow; king size and queen bed pillows are also available ); testers there name it the best memory foam pillow based on its moldability and comfortable support. And while memory foam pillows generally aren't the best choice for stomach sleepers (most are too lofty to grant a good night's sleep) happy reviewers who posted on Amazon say that with its adjustable shredded memory foam filling and slimmer profile, the Xtreme Comforts pillow (available in 3 sizes: standard, queen, king ) is an exception because it's thin enough to keep their necks natural curve at a proper angle. For stomach sleepers who are foam devotees and wiling to pay a little more, we'd agree this may be a model worth considering.

Neck- and back-pain sufferers often find a body pillow to be a welcome addition to their bedding. This type of extra-long, extra-wide pillow runs the full length of the body to provide extra support. Among our picks, the Downlite Old Fashion Granny pillow is available as a body pillow as well as a king size and queen bed pillow

One notable pillow that gets decidedly mixed reviews for comfort despite a lot of hype is the MyPillow Classic (starting at $50 for standard size/queen size), a late-night infomercial staple priced above the Cheapism ceiling. Filled with shredded foam, the pillow simply feels too lumpy and unsupportive to a large number of buyers. One reviewer on Amazon says his MyPillow seemed like the kind found in a crummy motel. In other words, if you're going to splurge on a pillow, think twice about this one.

Heat Retention

Some people "sleep hot" and prioritize finding the best cooling pillow as they don't want one that will contribute to a sweaty, sleepless night. Even those who don't tend to be hot sleepers may want a cooler pillow during warmer months. Experts say memory foam pillows are the most likely to have heat issues. Indeed, we read complaints about the heat-trapping qualities of the memory-foam Classic Brands Conforma but minimal grumbling about heat retention with the shredded memory foam Sleep Whale, likely because air circulates better through shredded foam than solid foam. Some makers offer a combination gel/memory foam pillow to reduce heat, either adding a layer of cooling gel or using a memory foam that's infused with gel throughout. However, we didn't spot a premium gel pillow that received better reviews or were better values than the memory foam pillows we name.

Anyone really concerned about heat might find solace in a buckwheat pillow like the Sobakawa. One review on Amazon says the pillow needs just a gentle shake to cool down after using a heating pad on top. Down alternative, feather, and latex pillows are also more likely to stay cool, according to experts. The Sealy Moisture Wicking Pillow is one down alternative we like precisely because reviews posted at Overstock.com confirm that the moisture-wicking cotton cover helps minimize heat buildup and sweat.

Pain Relief

While there's no magic bullet for those who suffer from neck pain, upper-back pain, or lower-back pain, a good pillow can certainly help minimize neck and back problems. Although a bit beyond the Cheapism zone, the Mediflow Original Waterbase Pillow (starting at $50) earns particular praise in reviews at Amazon for its pain-relief qualities. One purchaser claims it has kept nerve pain and numbness at bay for years. Users can adjust the amount of water inside the pillow to suit their preferences, making it loftier or flatter as necessary to maintain their neck's natural curve.

If the idea of a water pillow or the price of the Mediflow is a turnoff but pain relief is a priority, buckwheat pillows like the Sobakawa and latex pillows like the Simmons Beautyrest do just as well -- and both cost less than $35. One post on Amazon says the Sobakawa helped alleviate neck pain and shoulder pain from an accident, and several others praise this pillow for ending their morning aches.

If neck pain is a real concern, it's best to avoid pillows with a softer fill. According to experts, that covers some of the most budget-friendly options out there, including down alternative, feather, and polyester fill. One pillow on our list to steer clear of is probably the Mainstays Standard Microfiber, which simply doesn't offer the support necessary for neck pain sufferers to get a good night's sleep.

Odors/Smells

Stinky pillows cause a lot of consternation among users, who understandably don't want to breathe in an unpleasant odor all night. The worst offenders are contour memory foam pillows, which often have a chemical smell that's supposed to fade over time. Unfortunately, that may not always happen, especially for people with a sensitive schnoz. Latex pillows such as the Simmons Beautyrest may also have a slight rubber odor, although some reviewers insist it's potent; one user posting on Amazon says even touching it leaves a strong rubber-gloves smell.

Experts say down alternative and polyester pillows are among the best bets if smells are a big concern. Odor complaints were slim to none among our picks in those categories, including the Lauren Ralph Lauren Logo Down Alternative, Sealy Moisture Wicking, Wamsutta Extra-Firm Side Sleeper, and Mainstays Standard Microfiber pillows.

Washability

Anyone concerned about easy cleaning -- maybe the pillow is destined for a child's bed, or regularly freshening up a pillow is a routine chore -- should choose one that can be thrown in the washer and dryer in its entirety. All of our down alternative and polyester picks mentioned above are machine washable and fit the bill.

On the flip side, buckwheat pillows cannot be washed or dried. (That hasn't stopped a handful of users from trying, with decidedly mixed results, according to reviews; the safer bet is probably replacing them periodically.) It's also usually a bad idea to toss a latex or memory foam pillow in the washer. As Tree Hugger notes, drying foam completely is nearly impossible, which could lead to mold growth. Latex and foam can also degrade and break down from the agitation of the machine. While the Sleep Whale, Classic Brands Conforma, and Simmons Beautyrest Latex Pillow all come with removable covers that can be tossed in the washer, the pillows themselves should be spot-cleaned only.

Durability

Nothing is more frustrating than a pillow that develops holes in the seams after a trip through the washer, or one that starts out pleasingly plump only to completely flatten out after a couple of weeks. None of the pillows we researched were immune to such complaints, but they dog certain pillows more than others.

Based on thousands of consumer reviews, Sleep Like the Dead finds that, unsurprisingly, inexpensive polyester pillows are most prone to durability complaints mainly because they flatten out or get lumpy relatively quickly. We read a significant number of protests about these issues for the Mainstays Standard Microfiber pillow, the bare-bones polyester pick on our list. A few pillow review posts on Walmart report holes or rips, but loss of loft after a few weeks is the primary complaint.

One pillow that receives lots of positive feedback for long-term durability is the Simmons Beautyrest Latex Pillow. Several reviewers say it lasts for years without getting flat or otherwise breaking down. Latex pillows also garner the best overall reviews for durability at Sleep Like the Dead. For sleepers who prefer a more traditional feel, the site also recommends down or feather pillows for their durability. While most of these, particularly 100 percent down pillows, lie outside the Cheapism price range, one reasonably priced alternative we like is the Downlite Old Fashion Granny (starting at $34), which, with its 10/90 goose down and feather mix, is more scrunchable and moldable than latex.

It's also worth noting that the shredded foam pillows we mention here carry markedly long warranties. Our top pick "bamboo" pillow, the Sleep Whale, offers a lifetime "no questions asked" replacement guarantee; and, according to purchasers on Amazon, the company does honor the policy -- though return shipping charges will have to be paid. While warranties on the Xtreme Comforts SlimSleeper and the MyPillow Classic aren't quite as generous, they offer 6 and 10 years of coverage, respectively.