The Best Pillows for a Cool, Comfortable Night’s Sleep

Sleeping hot is one of the biggest complaints people have, even in the winter. As much as you want to get all warm and toasty under your down duvet or flannel sheets, it’s easy to become overheated—and that can lead to a sweaty, uncomfortable night’s sleep.

Your body temperature needs to drop a bit for you to be able to fall asleep, which is why the ideal room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. One way to make sure you don’t get too hot is to have a pillow that doesn’t trap heat.

Some pillows are simply better at doing that than others, a function of what’s inside the pillow as well as the material used for the outer cover. Below is a rundown of the options.

How to find the best pillow for hot sleepers

Here are the top materials to consider if you tend to sleep hot.

Latex pillows

Latex pillows are made from latex foam, which in turn is made from the liquid sap of rubber trees. The liquid sap is poured into a mold and baked into a solid form to create a pillow. (The same process is used to create latex mattresses.) Natural latex pillows are great for people who tend to sleep hot because the open-cell structure of latex makes it very breathable.

You will see two kinds of latex on the market: Dunlop and Talalay. These refer to two different methods of producing latex foam. While they have slight differences, both types of latex produce a highly breathable pillow.

Latex pillows can be made from solid or shredded latex. Ones that are made with shredded latex will have particularly good airflow. As a bonus, latex is naturally hypoallergenic, antibacterial, and resistant to mildew and dust mites.

Just make sure that you’re buying a natural latex pillow. Many pillows that are marketed as latex are actually blended pillows that are made from a mix of latex and polyurethane foam and will not be as breathable as natural latex pillows. (Find out whether a comforter vs. quilt is right for hot sleepers.)

Graphite- or gel-infused memory foam pillows

Memory foam has a bad rap when it comes to breathability. That’s because traditional memory foam gets quite warm when in contact with your body and traps body heat. However, new types of memory foam, such as those made with plant-based ingredients, have a more open-cell structure for improved breathability.

Additionally, in the last decade, many memory foam manufacturers have begun to infuse their products with cooling materials such as gels or other ingredients with cooling properties like graphite, copper, charcoal, or silver. If you want to enjoy the pressure-relieving properties of memory foam but worry about getting too hot at night, it’s easy to find a pillow that incorporates one of these cooling technologies.

Shredded memory foam pillows

Even better, choose a pillow made from shredded memory foam. Shredded memory foam pillows are not only more moldable than solid memory foam pillows, but they also provide better airflow and a cooler sleep experience. (Check out our favorite cooling sleep products.)

Down alternative pillows

Down alternative pillows are pillows made with synthetic polyester fiber that mimics the feel of down. Designed to provide the softness of down but not its heat-retaining properties, they generally sleep cooler than natural down.

For the coolest sleep experience with a down alternative pillow, opt for one that’s been made with a material specifically engineered for that purpose. Gelled microfiber, for example, is a lightweight down alternative that has been infused with gel and is known to sleep cool.

Related: How to choose the right pillow for your sleep position

Our best pillows for cool sleep

Latex Pillow

A core of shredded natural latex, wrapped in a breathable organic cotton cover. Plush and responsive for the perfect head and neck support.

Down Alternative Pillow

Made from two types of hypoallergenic down alternative fibers, wrapped in 100% organic cotton. Soft, plush, and breathable for cool, comfortable sleep.

What to look for in a pillow cover to ensure cool sleep

The material that the cover of your pillow is made from also makes a difference, as some fabrics sleep cooler than others. Generally, covers made from natural materials will sleep cooler than those made from synthetic fabrics.

  • Cotton, the most popular pillow cover fabric, is naturally breathable. Organic cotton, because it has been processed without harmful chemicals, yields longer staple fibers, creating an even better airflow than conventional cotton.
  • Bamboo is a natural fabric made from the pulp of bamboo grass. It is both extremely soft and highly breathable. Bamboo is able to absorb three times its weight in water, meaning that if you do happen to sweat, the fabric will be extremely effective at wicking moisture away from your body.
  • Lyocell (more commonly known by its brand name, Tencel) is a fabric made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees. It is also very breathable and highly absorbent. Lyocell is composed of lots of tiny hydrophilic (i.e. water-loving) fibers, which naturally absorb moisture and wick it away from your head.

How the pillow cover is made also plays a role in its breathability.

For example, of the two most common types of weaves, sateen and percale, percale is the more breathable of the two. It’s woven in such a way that ensures better airflow and therefore a slightly cooler sleeping experience.

Choose a cover with a thread count that’s not too high (between 200 and 400 is best). When the thread count is too high, the fabric will trap heat and won’t be as breathable.

Don’t trash your old pillow! Here’s what to do with old pillows instead of throwing them away.

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