Memory Foam Vs. Down Pillow: Buying Guide 2020

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Getting the right pillow is critical for a good night’s sleep. The right pillow will not only help you fall asleep faster, but it will also help relieve pain and tension from the pressure points in your body.

However, finding the perfect pillow is not as easy as you would think. Doing your research and looking for pillows that match your softness and support preferences will likely lead you to find one of two options: memory foam pillows or down pillows. 

Both of these pillows are considered to be the ultimate cushions in their own right. While one furnishes dreamy support that relieves back and neck pain, the other is super comfortable and will put you to sleep in minutes. 

Since both types of pillows offer excellent benefits, it can be challenging to pick one over the other. Your concerns about comfort and support may amplify if you’re on a budget, and you may be afraid to waste your money getting the wrong pillow for your needs. 

To help you find the right pillow, in this post, we will outline the features of each pillow and list their advantages and drawbacks to help you find the perfect pillow type.  

What Is Memory Foam?

Memory foam is a firm-looking material that is actually super soft and supportive. Memory foam has the unique ability to contour due to pressure and body heat, which makes memory foam pillows super comfortable. 

Memory foam pillows mold to the shape of your head and cradle it, and your body weight makes them just firm enough to feel comfortable and supportive. The cradling effect makes for optimal spinal alignment, and in this way, memory foam pillows help with back pain. 

Nonetheless, you shouldn't worry about memory foam losing its shape permanently once you lay your head on it since the contouring effect is temporary. Memory foam pillows pop right back into form after use, and they tend to last years before wearing out. 

The foam was initially developed to enhance the safety of aircraft cushions, and the technology was adopted by hospitals later. It was used in the beds and wheelchairs immobile patients since it helped reduce bedsores and improved spinal alignment. 

It is now one of the most popular types of pillows globally.

What Is Down?

“Down” refers to the back, wing, and chest feathers of a bird – typically a duck or goose. More specifically, down refers to the soft inner feathers, and it is not the firm, waterproof outer coating that birds naturally possess. 

Down is one of the softest and fluffiest materials found, and is a common component of luxury pillows. Since the material is so comfortable and challenging to obtain, down pillows, tend to be expensive, even more so than plain feather pillows.

However, a down pillow is worth the money since these pillows offer matchless comfort and have an excellent loft. 

Fill power is the measure of the quality of down, and any pillow having a fill with fill power around 700 or more should fetch you the best sleep you've ever had.

Advantages Of Getting A Memory Foam Pillow

Support

Memory foam pillows provide excellent support to your head and neck. They help in relieving the pressure from your shoulders and keep you relaxed through the night. It makes memory pillows perfect for those suffering from back and neck pain.

Durability

Memory foam pillows tend to last a very long time, and they are super resilient. The foam resets to its original form seconds after you lift your head off it.

Smoothness

Since memory foam is synthetic, memory foam pillows have a consistent build and are lump-free. Even as the pillow ages and wears, it remains smooth and consistently soft throughout.

Reduced Snoring

If you snore when on your back, getting a memory foam pillow can help. Since the foam better supports the neck, it helps keep the throat more open when compared to down pillows. 

With a memory foam pillow, you’ll breathe easier and snore less.

Night-Long Comfort

Memory foam pillows do not compress all the way flat like a down pillow would, and retain a degree of firmness throughout the night. 

You won’t need to fluff up or flip a memory foam pillow in the middle of the night for better support. 

Drawbacks Of Getting A Memory Foam Pillow

Heat Retention

Memory foam pillows are not particularly breathable, which results in them retaining a lot of body heat, and can make you uncomfortable. If you’re a hot sleeper, you must get a gel memory foam pillow, since a regular memory foam pillow will be too uncomfortable for you.

Weight

Memory foam is compact and firm, and hence memory foam pillows are much heavier than other types of pillows. They can be challenging to store, too.

Strong Odor

Almost every new memory foam pillow comes with an unpleasant, chemical odor. Although the smell fades away over time, some find the smell very irritating.

High Price

Good memory foam pillows are expensive.

Limited Support For Side Sleepers

Memory foam pillows are generally recommended for use by back sleepers since they offer the best back and neck support of all cushions. Side and stomach sleepers may find the pillow too firm.

Benefits Of Getting A Down Pillow

Softness

Down pillows are exceptionally soft. They do contour to your neck and head but don’t provide the same cradling effect that memory foam pillows do.

Minimal Heat Retention

Down can retain some warmth, but since the material is breathable, you won’t notice it. You’re unlikely to feel sweaty or clammy with a down pillow.

Durability

If cared for correctly, down pillow can last for around ten years.

Drawbacks Of Getting A Down Pillow

Non-Hypoallergenic

Since down is a natural fiber, the material can retain allergens and make you sick. High-thread count pillows can work for most allergic people, but if you’re sensitive to waterfowl, you must avoid down pillows altogether.

Spikiness

Although down feathers don’t have sharp or rigid spikes, they can still poke you in your sleep.

Lack Of Conformity

Over the course of the night, a down pillow will sink and can become too flat and compressed. This characteristic of down pillows can cause discomfort and even sometimes lead to neck pain.

Potential Lumps

If not maintained well, after a few months of use the oils and moisture from the body may cause the down inside the pillow to clump up. 

The down will eventually wear off and become inconsistent.

Needs Constant Fluffing

Down pillows need to be “fluffed up” after each use. Fluffing them up restores the shape and softness of the pillow.

Animal Cruelty

Down is obtained from birds, and many question the ethics of using an animal product for human comfort.


When deciding which type of pillow you want, it is vital that you put your preferences before other people's opinions. Although reviews are essential and provide insight, at the end of the day, you're the one who'll be using the pillow.

If you suffer from back or neck pain, you can blindly go for a memory foam pillow. They’re a good option if you or your partner snore, since memory foam eases the pressure off of your respiratory tract.

On the other hand, if you prefer a soft, cool pillow, a down pillow is the perfect option for you.

Now that you know the key differences between the two pillows, you can make your decision quickly and easily.

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