Sleep is important for maintaining good health. And yet, there are numerous things that can make or break the quality of your sleep. One of them is your pillow. Yes, that cushy thing you lie your head on or hug when you sleep sideways, pillows are often overlooked in terms of bedtime comfort.
Since you spend most of your nights and lazy afternoons in close contact with your pillow, you don’t just look for a comfortable pillow. You also need a pillow that’s made from healthy and safe materials. And we’re talking about organic pillows!
Defining Organic Pillows
Organic pillows are any pillows made from organic materials. For a material to be called organic, it should be grown, harvested, and processed without the use of harmful chemicals.
In addition, an organic pillow should receive official certifications from Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS), and other certifying bodies. These certifications require certain percentages of organic and natural materials as well as restricting the use of chemicals, synthetic fibers, and other man-made components in the pillow.
Factors To Consider When Buying an Organic Pillow
With the increasing demand for organic pillows, choosing the right one for you can be overwhelming. There’s also the fact that many products are now mislabeled “organic” pillows in the market today.
So, to help you confidently shop for a genuine organic pillow that fits your sleeping needs, here’s a comprehensive buying guide you can rely on.
1. Type of Organic Pillows
The first thing you should consider is what type of material or filling you want in a pillow. The industry constantly evolves and every organic pillow filling has its own pros and cons.
2. Organic Cotton
The most commonly used material to fill and cover pillows, organic cotton is your ordinary cotton pillow without toxicity.
Traditional cotton is known for being the dirtiest crop on the planet with farmers spraying somewhere about 15 – 20 percent of pesticides on this crop and is considered to be water-intensive. In addition, cotton is often dyed and manufactured with even more chemicals.
Organic cotton, on the other hand, is grown without pesticides and requires less water. Organic cotton pillows offer a range of support levels and firmness, making them suitable for any type of sleeper. Organic cotton is often used as a pillow cover, but you can also find pillows that are entirely filled with organic cotton.
Hemp, a variety of cannabis, is a renewable and sustainable source with numerous applications across several industries. In pillows, this material can be used as both cover and pillow stuffing.
As a filling, hemp can feel like cotton. It is durable, soft, but not too lofty. Thanks to its hollow core, Hemp Pillow can also help in regulating body temperature and airflow as you sleep.
Sometimes, hemp pillows are mixed with organic cotton or another type of filling in order to make them less lofty and fluffy to prevent flattening over time. As a pillow cover, hemp may be a little rough at first, but it tends to soften with every wash. If you want to see an actual sample of a premium Hemp Pillow, watch this video.
4. Natural/Organic Latex
Latex is the rubber-like substance obtained from the sap of rubber trees. It is processed using either the Talalay or Dunlop method in order to yield a foam that’s breathable, resilient, and responsive. Most sleepers find a latex pillow more supportive than memory foam.
Take note, that some pillows include synthetic latex which is mostly made of petrochemicals. The latex can also be blended, meaning it may contain a mix of synthetic and natural latex.
According to GOLS, latex should be at least 95% natural in order to be considered “organic”. Latex will never be 100 percent organic since some chemicals are needed in producing latex foam.
Molded or shredded latex is like chemical-free foam, but firmer, helping in keeping the spine and neck in alignment. Most chiropractors recommend latex pillows for patients with back pain and other related symptoms.
Also, since the material is porous, latex can disperse heat and is good for warm sleepers. Plus, it is naturally antimicrobial, does not harbor dust mites, and resists mildew, making it suitable for people with chronic allergies and asthma.
5. Buckwheat Hulls
A very different take on pillow stuffing, buckwheat pillows contain buckwheat hulls. And while most people raise an eyebrow after hearing about this unconventional pillow material, its benefits may help you overcome any initial reservations you have.
Buckwheat hulls are the by-product of milling and are naturally pesticide-free, sustainable, and hypoallergenic. Hulls don’t hide dust mites or flatten, making them a durable material for pillows and are great for allergy sufferers.
Buckwheat pillows are known for providing excellent air circulation, keeping your head cool for better sleep. Also, it is quite flexible in terms of finding the perfect pillow thickness since you can easily remove and add fill as desired. Buckwheat pillows are also a big hit for those with back and neck problems as they are known to provide molded support, providing good neck to spine alignment during sleep.
However, since this pillow is filled with hulls, expect a bit of “crunchy” noise when using a buckwheat pillow. It takes a little time to get used to the noise, however, if you find it distracting, then you can get a buckwheat pillow with organic cotton or wool outer layer in order to muffle the sound.
Millet Pillow is the lesser-known alternative to buckwheat pillows. Millet hulls are circular and smaller than buckwheat hulls, making them softer, smoother, and less noisy. Millet pillows also offer better moldability than buckwheat pillows, allowing the perfect contouring of your head and neck to reduce muscle tension and providing good alignment when sleeping.
It also offers good air circulation, keeping you cool at night. Since they are a lot smaller than buckwheat, millet hulls offer a velvety and less noise sleeping experience. With that said, some manufacturer uses a combination of millet on one side and buckwheat on the other side.
Wool is a durable and strong material that makes for firmer pillows. Most wool comes from sheep as well as alpacas, goats, and other animals.
Wools naturally wick off moisture away from the skin, making them great for maintaining a constant temperature while sleeping. In addition, this material is naturally resistant to mildew and mold, has antimicrobial and flame-retardant qualities, and is resistant to dust mites.
Organic wool should be ethically sourced to protect the welfare and safety of the animals, as well as the farm they were raised. Also, organic wools should be processed without the use of any bleaches or dyes.
Kapok is a luxurious, fluffy, cotton-like fiber harvested from the seed pods of tropical Ceiba, more commonly known as Kapok trees. Also called Kava Kapok, Java cotton, or Samauma, kapok is usually harvested from the wild, instead of being cultivated on a farm. It is significantly lighter than cotton, highly sustainable, and is naturally pest-free.
In the right conditions, Kapok trees can grow up to 13 feet in a year with some trees reaching over 160 feet high, forming the canopy of rainforest in South America, West Africa, the Southeast Asian Malay Peninsula, and the Indonesian archipelago. Kapok seed pods fall after the rainy season, allowing for the harvest of Kapok fibers. Thus, no trees are harmed or chopped down in order to get these fibers.
In addition, Kapok needs no processing when used as pillow stuffing. Pillow makers just wash off any debris and dirt, dry it well and shove it in a pillowcase. Kapok has a high loft and is fluffy but also firm. It’s hypoallergenic, naturally resistant to dust mites, mildew and mold, and is quick-drying.
Some organic pillows use Down which is the soft inner plumage found on geese and ducks. While some pillows may contain 100% Down, most use a combination of Down with coarser outer feathers from the same birds.
Feather and down pillow manufacturers have recently come under fire for certain harvesting practices that are considered cruel. This includes “molt-harvesting or “live-plucking” which is the removal of feathers and down from live birds as well as force-feeding and making them live in unsanitary living conditions.
Therefore, the Responsible Down Standard was established to protect geese, ducks, and other birds from these inhumane practices.
Down pillows are quite durable and are lightweight and soft. They offer a decent neck and head support when molded and fluffed into the right position. Since they conform easily, they tend to work well for all kinds of sleepers.
However, unlike other organic and natural alternatives, this pillow material is not resistant to dust mites, mildew, or mold. It is also difficult to clean and is notorious for clumping when washed.
Your Sleeping Position
Sleep position is a key consideration in choosing the best organic pillow for both body comfort and alignment.
For those who sleep lying on their back, a pillow that can support the natural curvature of your cervical spine with enough support under the shoulders, neck, and head should be a must.
Pillows for the back sleepers should have medium-loft pillows, measuring three to five inches thick. This allows them to maintain spinal alignment. In addition, back sleepers should choose a supportive and medium-firm pillow that will hold their neck and head in place instead of allowing them to sink down to the mattress. Back sleepers enjoy numerous options for pillows including Organic Cotton, Hemp, Kapok, Millet, Buckwheat, and Down.
When you usually lie on your side, you should choose an organic pillow that will support the neck and head so that the spine maintains a natural horizontal and straight line.
For this reason, a thicker or higher pillow of at least four inches is best to compensate for the breadth of your shoulder and maintain a healthy sleeping posture. In addition, pillows that are firm to medium-firm are best suited for the side sleeping position.
With that said, side sleepers will benefit most from Hemp, Organic Cotton, Wool, and Down pillows.
The most stressful position for the neck and back, sleeping on your stomach often leads to poor sleep, pain, and discomfort throughout the day, and eventually spine and neck problems. Most professionals advise against this sleeping position, especially for pregnant women.
Still, changing sleep patterns and positions can be a challenge, especially when you don’t know what happens when you’re asleep. With that said, stomach sleepers can benefit most from a pillow that is soft to medium-firm, so long as the pillow keeps your neck and head at a comfortable angle. In addition, a low loft pillow, about 3 inches or less is best recommended for stomach sleepers.
Stomach sleepers will need the support and contouring abilities of latex, but they can also try out Organic Cotton, Buckwheat, and Down pillows.
The organic industry is filled with companies exaggerating their claims without real benefits. Certifications from third-party organizations can offer the assurance that you’re getting a pillow that’s truly organic, ethical, and safe.
Here are some of the most common certifications, indicating either a product is organic or produced with low levels of harmful emissions or with minimal environmental impact.
- USDA Organic
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
- Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)
- OEKO-TEX Standard 100
Organic pillows tend to have a higher price tag than traditional ones due to the nature of their production. However, most organic pillows are durable enough to outlive those made from synthetic materials. However, it’s possible to get an organic pillow without breaking the bank.
Buckwheat, latex, and Down are the more premium organic choices that offer excellent durability. If you’re low on budget, you can consider cheaper alternatives like Kapok and Organic Cotton.
Your pillow is a crucial aspect of your sleep setup, providing a comfortable surface to lie on and supporting your head. But it’s just not about finding the perfect support anymore. As more become aware of the negative impact of their purchases on the environment, organic pillows are quickly gaining popularity.
However, organic products tend to be prone to greenwashing, with numerous companies making claims they can’t back up. So, before you add to cart, make sure to do a careful analysis of the products you’re considering. This guide can help you be sure that the organic pillows you choose will deliver their promised benefits.