Perfecting the pillow

Today’s pillows offer everything from cooling surfaces to adjustable fills for new levels of comfort and support

BY BETH ENGLISH

The simple bed pillow isn’t so simple any more. Pillow suppliers have been hard at work redesigning bed pillows into something that fills out sales tickets, while solving myriad sleep and health problems.

One of the biggest trends in bed pillows is the use of multiple fill components. For instance, a single pillow may contain any combination of the following—a molded memory foam or latex element, shredded foam or latex, down and feathers, gel-infused foam or poured gel, polyester fill (including more expensive down-alternative polyester fills), natural cotton or wool fiber, and more.

pillow fight stock artJake Neeley, marketing communications manager for Malouf, headquartered in Logan, Utah, notes how the changes in pillows makes it easier for partners with totally different sleep preferences to get the comfort they need. “Because pillows are an intimate, personal part of sleep, customization is a big trend right now,” he says. “They want the perfect, iconic pillow.”

While there is no shortage of molded memory foam and latex foam pillows in a range of silhouettes, and they are as popular as ever, we also note a growing interest in shredded foam or latex, used either as a core fill or a “cover fill”—the pillow cover, much like a duvet, is filled and wraps around a different core material. These pillows typically have a traditional profile and, if the covers are zippered, the comfort can be adjusted by adding or removing fill.

Protect-A-Bed, headquartered in Wheeling, Illinois, offers a line of adjustable fill pillows. “The reason we made our pillows adjustable is because we don’t believe any two side sleepers are the same,” says Jared Bell, director of sales operations for Protect-A-Bed. “Who are we to say this pillow is right for you? We give them the ability to adjust and figure it out.”

Pillows with unusual shapes also are becoming a big draw. For example, elongated molded pillows are available to support “arm sleepers,” pillows with indentations are designed to improve spinal alignment and “sleep-apnea” pillows help prevent sleepers from rolling onto their backs.

Yes, today’s pillows are better for you, pillow suppliers say, and they can solve problems. But, you also will notice that pillows are a lot prettier. The “upholstery” on this essential sleep accessory has taken a lesson from cut-and-sewn, high-end mattress covers. These attractive new looks are helping make the bed pillow less of a commodity and more of a coveted purchase.

Pillow fabrics may be plush, textural double knits, like those found on mattress panels, and seamed with contrasting piping. Many pillow covers use multiple fabrics; for instance, pillow gussets may be in a complementary fabric. The eye-catching covers on well-dressed pillows may zipper off for machine-washing, and when brought home, some never wear a pillowcase.

Aside from looking good, pillow fabrics have been technically engineered by mattress-industry textile suppliers to offer a range of interesting—if not always scientifically proven—therapeutic benefits. Expect to find pillow fabrics that are temperature regulating, antibacterial/odor-resistant, energizing and more.

As many pillow suppliers say, the pillow is as integral to a good night’s sleep as the mattress.

“When I travel, I take a suitcase big enough to pack my PureCare One pillow,” says Sarah Budensiek, director of marketing and creative lead for PureCare, based in Fairfield, New Jersey. “A pillow can make a tremendous difference in your night’s sleep.”

When it comes down to it, it’s helpful if everyone remembers that pillows and mattresses work together as a complete sleep system.

Jeff Chilton, president of sales and marketing for the Waterford, New York-based Soft-Tex, notes, “The correct pillow will help improve the comfort of the mattress and make choosing the correct mattress easier.”

PILLOW SHOWCASE:


Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based Reverie has created the Sweet Zone latex pillow with a zoned construction that provides neck support while offering a soft spot in the center for the head. The pillow is wrapped in a washable outer cover made with CoolPlus fiber, which weaves cooling properties into the yarn so it does not wash or wear out. The pillow comes in a standard/queen size and retails for $129.

Reverie Sweet Zone pillow
Reverie Sweet Zone pillow

Serta, headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, introduced its new line of iComfort pillows (pictured) at the 2014 Summer Las Vegas Market. By scaling the same technology from its mattresses into its pillows, the company helps make pillows a logical and easy extension of the mattress sale, says Kristi Morris, director of product licensing and manager of the sleep essentials program. Cool Action Dual Effects gel-infused memory foam—Serta’s “hero material”—is in four of the six pillows in the line. The iComfort EverFeel is a new model featuring the company’s EverFeel technology, which absorbs body heat but does not grow firm in cooler temperatures —even when tested in freezers.

The line also includes an all-latex pillow, the iComfort Renewal Refined, and its No. 1 seller, the 2-in-1 iComfort Scrunch pillow, which is filled with hundreds of Cool Action Dual Effects foam cushions that can be fluffed and bunched like a traditional down pillow while providing the support of gel-infused memory foam. Most work for all sleep positions; however, the iComfort Freestyle and iComfort Contour pillows are specially designed for back and side sleepers. Retail price points for the iComfort line run from $79 to $129.

Additionally, Serta offers the Sleep to Go DuoCore Dual Comfort pillow ($49 retail) that combines two comforts—firm support on one side with Cool Twist gel memory foam and the plusher Cool Comfort memory foam on the other.

Serta iComfort pillows
Serta iComfort pillows

PureCare’s newest pillow line—PureCare One—came out of research conducted by a working mother and consumer who simply couldn’t find a pillow she liked, says Sarah Budensiek, director of marketing and creative lead for the Fairfield, New Jersey-based company. Tanya Hawkins created a pillow with three pieces, designed to give proper support to the neck and comfort for the head. Two supports made of memory foam, latex or gel-wrapped memory foam cradle the neck, while the center is composed of an alternative down to prevent allergens that can come from traditional down.

PureCare enhanced the design by offering both firm and soft supports in each pillow, she says. All six pillows in the line are treated with antibacterial silver and covered with a washable bamboo rayon/velour fabric. The pillow line ranges from $130 to $190.

PureCare One pillow
PureCare One pillow

Newly rebranded Talalay Global, formerly Latex International, offers the LatexDown pillow filled with shredded Talalay latex. The pillow is a custom fit, says Ken Hinman, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Shelton, Connecticut-based company. “You can hug it, put it under your neck, under your back—it conforms to your every need. It is truly a customizable pillow that will be yours and yours alone.” Suggested retail is $99 for queen and $129 for king.

Talalay Global LatexDown pillow
Talalay Global LatexDown pillow

Consumer research conducted by Lexington, Kentucky-based Tempur Sealy International showed that more than 50% of consumers snooze in all three sleep positions throughout the night. When it developed its new Tempur Cloud collection, the company made each pillow appropriate for everyone—back, side and stomach sleepers all, says Kristen Olson-Turner, senior product manager of Tempur-Pedic pillows and accessories.

The Tempur-Cloud Soft and Lofty, which retails for $99, is a traditional fill pillow with Tempur material and a bit of fiber and a washable cotton, quilted cover. The Tempur-Cloud Soft and Conforming pillow, made of molded Tempur material, supports the head and neck.

Olson-Turner reveals she chose this one for her own personal pillow. “I have never gotten a better night’s sleep,” she says. It retails for $149. Tempur also offers the Cloud Dual Breeze Cooling, a dual-sided molded pillow with a Tempur-Breeze gel layer on both sides, for $199.

Tempur-Pedic Cloud pillows
Tempur-Pedic Cloud pillows

Logan, Utah-based Malouf has a new line designed to expand its pillow profile. Three full-body pillows provide support for anyone, particularly pregnant women, who might want additional comfort at night.

The Wrap-around pillow comes in a C shape. It has a bamboo rayon cover and down-alternative fill. A second, the Horseshoe pillow, is shaped like a U to support the back and stomach and offers the same cover and alternative down fill. The third, known as the Boomerang, is made with gel-infused memory foam to make it softer, cooler and more supportive, says Jake Neeley, marketing communications manager. Prices range from $89 to $115.

Two other innovations and trends in the category are scents and cooling. Less than a year ago, Malouf introduced a memory-foam pillow infused with lavender. Cooling pillows are infused with gel and ventilated with small holes on the outside for the neck and larger holes for the head.

Malouf body pillows
Malouf body pillows

All of Blu Sleep Products’ pillows are created from visco-elastic memory foam with open cells, making them breathable and cool to the touch, says President Alex Ciccolella.

In its popular Nature collection, which retails from $79 to $179, the pillows are infused with natural essences, including aloe vera (pictured), orange and lavender, within the chemistry of the foam and covered with moisture-wicking, antibacterial Tencel. In its Ice Gel line, the pillow is created from foamed gel to absorb heat. With its ventilated structure, it allows heat to dissipate quickly, he says.

Blu Sleep, headquartered in Pompano Beach, Florida, also treats the washable pillow covers with antimicrobial silver to keep the pillows fresh.

Blu Sleep visco-elastic pillow
Blu Sleep visco-elastic pillow

Technogel Sleeping, an Italian specialty-sleep maker with U.S. headquarters in Pittsburg, has focused its five-pillow line on airflow and heat dispersal. Each offers a memory-foam base topped with thick layers of gel. Top to bottom perforations keep air moving. The pillows, which retail for $179, come in Deluxe Thin, Deluxe, Deluxe Thick, Contour and Anatomic.

Technogel Sleeping pillow
Technogel Sleeping pillow

Soft-Tex offers a measuring system in mattress and furniture stores to help consumers get a pillow just right for them. The Dream Smart system, designed by a physical therapist in Europe, looks at three measures involving the shoulders and neck.

The result directs the consumer to a pillow that fits her, which she then can take around while trying out mattresses, says Jeff Chilton, president of sales and marketing for the Waterford, New York-based company.

With 400 SKUs, which are sold by stores such as Macy’s, Dillard’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond, Soft-Tex pillows come in a variety of foam and hybrid products. A forthcoming model will highlight microcoils surrounded by foam. Soft-Tex also offers pillows with gel on one or both sides and fiber on the other to provide a mix of comfort levels. Pillows retail for $29 to $99.

Soft-Tex Dream Smart pillow stand
Soft-Tex Dream Smart pillow stand

Protect-A-Bed’s REM-Fit collection (Rest, Energize and Motivate), pillows fall under the vital component of Rest. Pillows in the three-level series have one thing in common—all are adjustable. The entry-level 200 series comes with a polyester fiber fill and adjustable comfort core. The polyester-based fiber exterior offers hot and cold heat transfer and moisture wicking. The 300 series is memory-foam based, with an inner core of 25 support clusters made of polyester fiber.

Jared Bell, director of sales operations for Protect-A-Bed in Chicago, likens them to Koosh toys or fuzzy spiders. The support clusters can be removed so the sleeper can adjust the pillow to her preferred height and comfort level, he says. The 400 series steps it up with gel topping the memory foam. It, too, comes with removable support clusters. Both the 300 and 400 series are covered with Tencel fiber, which is hypoallergenic and offers bacterial protection, enhanced moisture wicking and improved thermo-regulation. Prices start at $99 and top out at $159.

Protect-A-Bed REM-Fit collection of pillows
Protect-A-Bed REM-Fit collection

Richmond, Virginia-based Carpenter Co.’s latest innovation is Serene Foam. The new material, while not a memory foam, adjusts like visco-elastic and offers outstanding support, says Dan Schecter, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “It is our view this new technology is a game changer both from a comfort standpoint and cost-effective standpoint when compared with high-density memory foam,” he says. Carpenter also offers Beyond Down pillows, with a synthetic down fill that simulates a plush, self-adjusting downlike pillow.

Schecter notes that fabrics are the next big innovation for pillows. Carpenter offers pillow covers with phase-change materials to equalize the temperature, making sure the sleeper is never too hot and never too cold, he says. Another fabric, a far-infrared material, gives consumers a health boost by increasing the level of oxygen in the body. It has been used in the medical world for muscle recovery, he says, noting it works through pillowcases, protectors and pajamas. “This is the future of textiles,” Schecter says. “This is ‘Star Trek’ stuff.”

Carpenter Serene-foam pillow
Carpenter Serene-foam pillow

Vinemont, Alabama-based DreamFit produces three pillows to fit all sizes and shapes of sleepers. The DreamFit SmartShape pillow’s curved memory foam and fiber shape make it suitable for all sleep positions, says President Jeremy Wootten. The DreamFit Adjustable pillow provides a balance of comfort and support with four inserts of different weights that can be added or removed.

The DreamFit SmartShape Adjustable combines the best of both worlds. It maintains the arc of the SmartShape pillow but includes a fiber insert on top of the foam for more height or an added comfort layer. Prices range from $100 for the SmartShape to $150 for SmartShape Adjustable.

DreamFit SmartShape adjustable pillow
DreamFit SmartShape adjustable pillow

Leggett & Platt Fashion Bed Group, headquartered in Carthage, Missouri, introduced the Aere pillow at the Winter Las Vegas Market in January. The dual-sided pillow combines the comfort of memory foam with the coolness of an infused gel layer, says Rob O’Neill, vice president of product development. Good for all sleep positions, the Aere supports the head and neck while its mesh cover is conducive for airflow. Suggested retail is $119.

Leggett & Platt Fashion Bed Group Aere pillow
Leggett & Platt Fashion Bed Group Aere pillow