If you tend to sleep hot and are just sick of waking up sweaty, you may benefit from a cooling pillow. “Overheating can affect sleep profoundly,” says Dr. Janet Kennedy, clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor. Keeping your head cool is critical to getting a good night’s sleep because “the temperature of the head regulates core body temperature. The body needs to be cool to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get good-quality sleep.”
“Cooling pillows draw heat away from the body,” explains Keith Cushner, a product expert at sleepfoundation.org. Their cooling effect is usually a function of the material they’re made of and how they’re constructed. From gel and memory foam to ventilated layers, cooling pillows can help you manage heat distribution and regulation in a few different ways. Deborah E. Young, a textile expert and educator, says that many rely on a class of substances called phase-change materials (PCM); in pillows and other bedding, including mattresses and toppers, these are usually tiny fibers or gels that can “change their condition if you’re hot” to absorb heat and draw it away from your body in order to “literally temperature-regulate.”
To find the best cooling pillows, we talked to Kennedy, Cushner, Young, and three other experts about their recommendations. We also asked some (self-proclaimed) sweaty sleepers on our staff to test the options and record how it all went down at bedtime. Use the table of contents to jump to the type of cooling pillow you’re looking for, or read on to learn more about how to shop for one.
What we’re looking for:
What’s inside is what really counts when we’re talking pillows, especially the ones designed to keep you cool. Logan Foley, a sleep-science coach and the managing editor at sleepfoundation.org, recommends fill types like latex, wool, buckwheat, gel, and down for people who tend to sleep hot. Gel and gel infusions are especially popular choices because they are usually PCMs that work to draw heat away from your body while also feeling cool on your skin; most of the pillows below contain some type of gel or gel infusion.
Memory foam is another popular pillow fill, but it tends to trap heat, so we’ve only included memory-foam options with additional cooling features, like a gel layer to help balance the heat transfer. Memory foam can also be more breathable when ventilation holes are added. The precise type of cooling fill that will actually be best for you depends on your go-to sleeping position, any allergies you may have, and how much temperature regulation you need.
This is an umbrella term, and the actual definition varies from brand to brand. It typically describes an extra feature, design detail, or component that is intended to help you sleep a few degrees cooler. This can be a graphite layer in a pillow, a gel, or another specialized material, many of which contain PCMs. Anytime you see PCMs mentioned in a pillow’s description, that’s a good sign, as Young says they are super-effective as a cooling option for pillows: “If you’re warm, the nanofibers turn to a liquid” — literally changing phases as they absorb heat to pull it away from your head so it can dissipate. (Note that your pillow will not develop a wet spot or even feel wet, as the transition between liquid and solid is enclosed in microcapsules within the fibers.)
Firmness and loft
You’ll want to regularly clean your pillows, especially if you tend to sweat while you sleep. I’ve listed the care instructions for each pillow below.
Best cooling pillow overall
Fill type and cooling features: Polyurethane foam outer layers and PET recycled fill center | Loft: Medium | Firmness: Medium-soft | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
A variation on our top pick, the Casper Hybrid pillow with Snow technology contains the same perforated foam and cooling features as the Casper Foam pillow with Snow technology — namely, PCMs as well as HeatDelete bands between the layers of the pillow to absorb heat and draw it away from your body. However, instead of three layers of perforated foam, this pillow has a middle layer of PET recycled fill (a fiber made from recycled plastic) sandwiched between two outer layers of foam. This gives the pillow a lighter, softer feel compared to the denser, all-foam version. This pillow also has a different cover made primarily of nylon, which feels and looks more meshlike than the polyester-and-spandex cover on the foam pillow and contributes to its cooling effect.
When I slept on this pillow, I was instantly impressed with how cool it felt to the touch — the sensation was delightfully pronounced and longer lasting than that of other cooling pillows I’ve tried. I am currently pregnant and waking up several times a night; every time I woke up while using this pillow, it was still noticeably cool and comfortable. I also preferred the softer, fluffier feel of this pillow over the more solid feel of the all-foam Casper pillow — I’d recommend the foam version for someone who likes a more structured, slightly firmer pillow and prefers that sinky, cocooning feel that foam delivers (more on the foam pillow below). The Casper Hybrid pillow is available in standard and king sizes (and as with the foam version, Casper also makes a cheaper version of the hybrid using similar materials, but not the Snow tech).
Best (less expensive) cooling pillow
Fill type and cooling features: Down-alternative cooling gel with sateen cover | Loft: Medium | Firmness: Medium | Care instructions: Entire pillow is machine washable
Cooling pillows with specialty technology can get pricey quick, but they are not the only types of pillows that can keep you comfortably cool at night. Highly rated on Amazon and a favorite among Strategist readers, these Beckham Hotel pillows come in a two-pack and have a down-alternative polyester gel-fiber fill that won’t trap your body heat. The fluffy, downy fill has a medium loft so if you have narrower shoulders and a smaller frame, one pillow will be able to fill the space between your head and shoulders for optimum neck support. Otherwise, you can stack them for a higher loft.
Sleeping on them throughout the night, the light and cottony fill helped air to flow and my body heat to disperse so I didn’t wake up sweating and thirsty in the middle of the night (which is a usual occurrence for me). While this pillow doesn’t have specific cooling tech for a noticeably cool-to-the-touch feel, the airy fill made a difference and I slept more comfortably. I slept so comfortably that, when I woke up in the morning, I realized that I stayed in the same position the entire night without flipping to my other side, which almost never happens. The pillows are available in two sizes, queen and king, and the entire pillow can be tossed in the wash.
Best perforated cooling pillow
Fill type and cooling features: Polymer GelFlex Grid with a perforated latex core | Loft: Low, medium, or high | Firmness: Medium | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
A cooling alternative to memory foam, the Purple Harmony pillow has a core of perforated Talalay latex, encased in a layer of Purple’s signature GelFlex Grid material, both of which promote airflow. The honeycomb grid combined with the latex core makes this pillow extra bouncy, which I like because it is super responsive and never sags or flattens out. I worried that being able to feel the ridges of the grid might make it annoying to lay on — you can even see their pattern through the cover — but the grid flexes and conforms enough that I couldn’t feel the individual edges. I stayed comfortably cool while sleeping on this pillow, which also has a moisture-wicking mesh cover. The squishiness of the pillow gives it a less-than-firm feel, and compared to the Casper Hybrid and Casper Foam, it is the softest of the three, making it a good choice for people who prefer a plusher pillow. It’s also available in three loft heights to accommodate different body sizes and sleeping positions.
Best (less expensive) perforated cooling pillow
Fill type and cooling features: Gel-infused memory foam with perforation for airflow | Loft: Medium high | Firmness: Firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
“Foam pillows can be hot, so it’s important to find one that takes temperature regulation into account,” Dr. Kennedy explains. This Weekender pillow is perforated to encourage airflow and infused with cooling gel to boost the chill factor. The firm density provides head, neck, and spine support, and the pillow is available in three sizes: standard, queen, and king. Like most memory foam pillows, this one has a machine-washable cover, but the foam itself is spot-clean only.
Best memory foam cooling pillow
Fill type and cooling features: Memory foam with ventilation holes and Snow technology | Loft: Medium high | Firmness: Medium plush | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
The three-layer Casper Foam Pillow has two softer outer layers of foam and a firm inner one to add supportive structure. Each layer has ventilation holes to promote airflow, and most notably, the pillow features Casper’s “Snow” technology, a bundle of features including PCMs as well as “HeatDelete” bands between each layer of foam. The HeatDelete bands are essentially strips of graphite that are designed to draw heat away from your body and through the perforated foam. (Casper also makes a cheaper version of this pillow using the same perforated foam, but not the Snow tech.)
When testing this pillow, I found the foam itself on the denser, heavier side with a similar weightiness to a shredded latex pillow. The slightly squishy foam contoured nicely around my head, creating a firmer but comfortable surface to sleep on. As promised, the pillow kept me cool all night, though the crispness is less pronounced than the best overall pick, the Casper hybrid cooling pillow. But in terms of memory foam, which is known to trap heat, the Casper foam pillow is notably cooler than the average all-foam pillow and stayed that way throughout the night. Unlike the cover of the hybrid cooling pillow that has a thin, stretchy, meshy cover, the cover of the foam pillow is made of a thicker yet comfy spandex-and-polyester blend without any specific cooling features (the magic is underneath). This pillow comes in standard and king sizes, and the 1.25-inch wraparound gusset makes it ideal for side and back sleepers.
Best memory-foam cooling pillow with gel layer
Fill type and cooling features: Memory foam with gel layers | Loft: Medium high | Firmness: Medium firm | Care instructions: Machine washable cover
The Tempur-Cloud Breeze Dual cooling pillow features medium-firm Tempur material — a highly adaptive, memory-foam-like solid structure — sandwiched between two layers of cooling gel. When our junior writer Brenley Goertzen tested this pillow, she immediately noticed its higher profile compared to the Casper Original she usually sleeps on. But after lying down on it, Goertzen says the Breeze Dual slowly molded to her neck and head, making it comfortable for combination sleepers, who toss from front to back to side during the night, like herself.
Most of the pillows on this list contain some type of gel or gel infusion; this Tempur-Pedic one is similar to the Allswell pillow below but has dual-sided cooling gel, so you can flip your pillow and always have a chilly side to sleep on. While it’s one of the heaviest pillows Goertzen has tried (a result of the solid foam core), she says each gel pad is ultracool to the touch and remains that way to provide consistent relief through the night. As someone who often goes to bed feeling a bit cold but wakes up drenched in sweat, Goertzen says this pillow does an excellent job of regulating her body temperature no matter what position she falls asleep in: side, stomach, or even on her back. It’s available in king and queen sizes, which both come tucked inside a quilted cotton machine-washable cover.
Best (less expensive) memory-foam cooling pillow with gel layer
Fill type and cooling features: Memory foam with cooling gel layer | Loft: Medium | Firmness: Firm | Care instructions: Machine washable cover
The solid gel top layer on this Allswell medium-loft cooling pillow is designed to pull excess body heat away from your body, while the memory-foam base provides a firm sleeping surface. The Allswell pillow is firmer than other memory-foam pillows on this list, with the cooling gel layer only on the top side of the pillow. It’s available in a standard size, and the lightweight knit cover is machine washable.
Best moisture-wicking cooling pillow
Fill type and cooling features: Fiberfill-and-memory-foam blend with volcanic minerals | Loft: Medium to high | Firmness: Medium | Care instructions: Machine washable cover
This unique pillow is constructed with moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating 37.5 Technology, which is named after the ideal body temperature (in Celsius) for peak athletic performance. Designed to help you sleep cooler and drier, it contains volcanic minerals to draw moisture away from your head and face. Additionally, the pillow contains a hypoallergenic blend of soft fiberfill and supportive memory foam, making it comfortable while providing consistent head-and-neck support. When I tested this pillow, it felt cool to the touch right out of the box. Though it didn’t feel particularly “cold” throughout the night, the meshy cover was very comfortable against my face and gave the pillow a breathable quality. It comes in two sizes, king and standard, as well as three shapes — Classic (a rectangular pillow that is best for back and side sleepers, and the one I tried out), Contoured (a curved pillow with bolsters on each end for added neck-and-spine support and alignment), and Ultimate (a three-layer pillow that allows you to adjust the height for customizable support).
Best cooling body pillow
Fill type and cooling features: Shredded gel-infused memory foam with “ice silk” cover | Loft: Medium | Firmness: Medium plush | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
A body pillow can be a game changer, Davis explains, because it helps “keep the body in alignment during sleep, including your neck, hips, shoulders, and spine.” However, when you are hugging an oversize pillow for hours, things can get pretty sweaty. This one by Nestl has a machine-washable “ice silk” cover, made not of actual silk but of silklike viscose fabric that is naturally cool to the touch. The gel-infused shredded memory foam can be adjusted for a firmer or softer feel, depending on your needs. In addition to this body pillow, the brand also sells a cooling bed pillow in queen, king, and toddler sizes.
• Keith Cushner, product expert at sleepfoundation.org
• Seth Davis, sleep consultant and founder of Sleepably
• Logan Foley, sleep-science coach and the managing editor at sleepfoundation.org
• Brenley Goertzen, Strategist junior writer
• Dr. Janet Kennedy, clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor
• Kelly Murray, sleep consultant
• Deborah E. Young, textile expert and educator
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