Did you know that the pillow market is valued at around 18 billion pounds in 2024? That is to say, there are quite a few different pillow manufacturers out there. So, narrowing down exactly which ones UK hotels tend to use is like looking for a needle in a haystack – a very large haystack as well.
But if we were to believe TV shows and movies, every hotel has feather pillows. But is this the best filling or do flying feathers just make for the most exciting pillow fight shots?
Well, that's what we want to figure out. So, we're going to go over all the different pillow fillings available in the UK market and see which one makes the most sense for you. After all, you can't have a hotel-quality pillow (and the comfort that comes with it), if you hate 90% of it.
As we've said, feather and down pillows seem to be the most popular when it comes to hotel pillows (according to TV). And, snazzy shots aside, they are a very strong contender for the best hotel pillow.
For one, a down pillow is going to be very breathable. This is because, unlike memory foam or latex, you're not dealing with one solid block that can trap heat. Instead, air can move freely throughout the pillow, leading to less overheating in general.
A down pillow is also going to be very fluffy and soft. This means that you can jump face-first onto the bed the second you enter the hotel room and immediately be comfortable. Again, to use memory foam pillows as an example, you'd typically have to wait a bit for the foam to adapt to your head.
Plus, the size serves another purpose, keeping your neck healthy. Since most people on the planet are side sleepers, the high loft means that this soft pillow can compress just enough to keep your neck and spine straight. But more on that later on.
And if you want to check out the best goose-down pillows, you can do so here.
While you're less likely to see a memory foam pillow on the big screen, it's still quite popular. After all, memory foam was originally created for NASA – and who doesn't want to sleep like an astronaut?
Plus, memory foam offers certain features that a feather pillow simply can't. For one, memory foam is virtually unbeatable when it comes to adapting to your movements, which also makes it the king of pressure relief.
On top of that, we've observed that quite a few bedding manufacturers tend to go a bit more “crazy” when it comes to memory foam pillows. This is why you can find hybrid pillows, like the Simba Hybrid Pillow, with graphite, charcoal or bamboo-infused foam, like the Panda Bamboo Pillow, and so on.
So, if you're searching for a luxury hotel pillow, memory foam offers quite a few options. And even the main downside of memory foam, overheating, can be solved by getting a cooling hotel pillow.
Under synthetic pillows, we're counting microfibre pillows and down alternative pillows, as they're the most popular. However, when it comes to variety, synthetic pillows are probably the best. This is because, while they're not as unique as foam pillows, there is a synthetic pillow for just about anyone.
Those who want a soft pillow can go for a down alternative pillow. Those who want a firm pillow can get an orthopaedic microfibre pillow. And those who aren't sure can get an adjustable pillow. Although that last one does pop up with foam pillows as well.
Plus, synthetic pillows tend to be the cheapest. So, if you want to sleep like you're in a hotel without necessarily paying for a hotel pillow, they make for a great choice.
Plus, a synthetic fill material is usually used for making hypoallergenic pillows. And this is a great option for people who suffer from dust mite allergies or something similar.
So, while they might not seem as luxurious as down or foam pillows, they can make for excellent pillows. In fact, if you look at our best pillows ranking, you'll see that the microfibre Aeyla Pillow has claimed one of the top spots.
While we'd say that you're far less likely to find a latex pillow in a hotel, especially when compared to down-filled pillows, they're still pretty great. And that's because latex is like memory foam, with a few notable exceptions.
Firstly, latex tends to be firmer than foam. And while this isn't the direction hotel pillows tend to go for, it's a very helpful feature for some.
That's because, unlike soft pillows, firm pillows are a lot easier to get right. Since they don't compress nearly as much as softer pillows, you can immediately tell whether the pillow is of the right loft for you.
Latex also tends to be more breathable and adapts to your head more quickly than standard foam. So, if you're looking for a supportive pillow and don't feel like doing “loft math”, latex pillows are a good choice.
You can see our picks for the best latex pillows right here.
While the filling makes up the majority of the pillow, the cover is arguably as important. That's because the cover is in direct contact with your skin and thus dictates how nice the pillow feels when you're lying down.
So, even if you have high-quality hotel pillows ready, pairing them with a cheap and scratchy pillowcase is going to make them feel subpar.
Plus, covers influence the breathability of the pillow.
So, even the best cooling hotel pillow is going to end up covered in sweat sometimes if the covers don't let air pass through.
So, let's take a look at what makes for a great cover and which materials are especially good in this department.
We're going to talk about breathability first as we think it's the factor people are more likely to neglect. After all, when you touch a pillow, you can tell whether the covers are soft and well-made. However, judging breathability is a bit more complicated.
Generally, we'd wager that most hotel pillows are using cotton or cotton-blend covers. This is because a cotton cover, especially if it has a high thread count, will keep you cool at night and feel pretty nice to the touch. It's also relatively cheap and easy to find.
You can also go for a silk pillowcase, as it's very cool to the touch. However, they're bound to be more expensive than a simple cotton pillowcase.
Or, you can go for bamboo bedding. It's generally a lot harder to find than cotton but it does excell at temperature regulation and feels pretty nice to the touch.
When it comes to the feel of the actual pillow, all of the same principles apply. Cotton, bamboo, and especially silk are very strong candidates that quite frequently outperform polyester pillowcases.
This mostly comes down to the actual fibres used. Materials such as silk tend to have very fine fibres with no threads”sticking out”. This is why silk is said to be great for beauty sleep, as it won't irritate your skin during the night.
Another big part of the entire hotel experience is cleanliness. After all, no one is going to have a good hotel pillow story if said pillow is stained and dirty. There should be chocolate on your pillow, not a chocolate stain!
And this brings forth a few key notes. First off, having a removable, machine-washable cover is essential. This helps you keep the pillow clean with minimal effort or room for failure.
Alternatively, you can opt for a pillow protector – if especially spill-prone people are going to be using the pillows. Just like a mattress protector, a pillow protector is typically waterproof, quite sturdy and easy to clean. However, they're not always the best when it comes to comfort.
So, if you want a plush pillow and go all-in for comfort, a pillow protector might not be a great idea.
For most people, getting the right filling and the right pillowcase is enough to ensure they're getting a comfy pillow. However, as The Sleep Advisors, we know that even comfy pillows have quite a few differences between them.
This mostly boils down to what we call “special features”. Said features don't really change the comfort level of the pillow itself but they do make your life a lot easier. Let's go over a few of the most impactful ones and explain why they make already comfortable pillows even more amazing!
We're first going to talk about adjustability as we think it's the feature that makes the most sense for the best hotel pillows. After all, while most people are side sleepers, you're still going to get back sleepers and stomach sleepers walking through the door!
And a different sleep position requires a different pillow loft to keep your spine straight and healthy.
So, when you have an adjustable pillow, you can ensure that everyone has the perfect pillow for their needs, as they can change the loft at will. Generally, adjustable pillows come in two distinct forms.
These types of pillows are usually made of two or three smaller pillows that can all fit in one pillowcase. For example, the Aeyla Dual Pillow has an outer shell and a “core” pillow. So, if you want to sleep on your stomach, just use the shell. If you want to sleep on your back, use the core. And if you are sleeping on your side, use both.
On the other hand, the Emma Original Pillow has three separate layers that you can mix and match depending on your sleeping position.
On the other hand, we have pillows such as the Aeyla FOAMO pillow. These pillows typically have a shredded memory foam filling that you can even buy separately. And you simply change the loft of the pillow by taking some of the filling out or placing more filling in.
As you can imagine, it's a lot more precise than the previous type. However, it can also be a bit more annoying, in case you lose some of the filling. And keeping the pillow clean can be a bit more difficult as well. So, if you were starting to wonder “Why aren't all hotel pillows adjustable?”, this is probably one of the reasons.
While side vents aren't all that common, with the Simba Hybrid Pillow being the only one we're aware of, they're more than welcome. After all, anything that further boosts the temperature regulation abilities of a pillow is a win!
Of course, hot sleepers are the ones who have the most to gain from side vents. However, even if you don't tend to overheat at night, side vents can be a nice perk. This is because your body does need to be a bit cold for you to properly fall asleep!
If you have allergies, getting a hypoallergenic pillow is a must! This is because hypoallergenic pillows help fight things such as dust mites, thus saving you from an entire night of sneezing.
Luckily, most pillows on the market, and especially luxury pillows, will be 100% hypoallergenic. And, if you want to be extra careful, you can also look for an OEKO-Tex certification, to make sure there were no dangerous chemicals used in the production.
However, do note that if you're allergic to latex, a hypoallergenic natural latex pillow is still likely to cause you issues. And if you're allergic to duck feathers, a hypoallergenic duck feather pillow is likely still going to cause issues. In other words, the hypoallergenic tag doesn't mean that 100% of allergy sufferers are out of the woods.
In conclusion, while we can't tell you exactly which pillows five-star hotels use, we can tell you what makes for a great pillow! So, as long as you take note of the filling, the cover, the loft, and any of those extra features we've mentioned, your own bed should be as comfortable as a hotel bed!
Well, as long as you also have a good mattress of course.
But let us know in the comments which hotel pillow lives in your head rent-free and we'll make sure to give it a look and share it with the world!