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Make the ‘cold side’ a thing of the past


Waking up drenched in sweat is unpleasant, to say the least. But hot sleep can be difficult to stave off, particularly when temperatures rise outside. 

If you find yourself struggling to sleep cool, you might consider taking a few steps to regulate your sleep environment — including investing in “cooling” sheets, comforters, and pillows. These items won’t solve your sleep woes by themselves, but they can certainly help, especially as part of your wider effort to improve sleep hygiene and finally (finally) get a good night’s rest.

Why is “sleeping cool” important?

A cool sleep environment doesn’t just feel better (though that’s certainly true); it’s also crucial to sleeping well. Our bodies prepare for and begin the transition into sleep by dropping in temperature, helping us feel drowsy. A cooling pillow can assist in that process.

“To initiate and maintain sleep, our core body temperature needs to drop between two and three degrees Fahrenheit,” Christina Pierpaoli Parker, a sleep and health researcher and a resident of clinical psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told Mashable in an email. “Sleeping cool helps to hasten the body’s sleep onset — or the time it needs to fall asleep — and to stay asleep so we can cycle through its deepest stages.”

One way to sleep cool, she explained, is to , or the conditions around you that impact your body temperature.

“When our core body temperature drops at night, the heat gets transferred/distributed to neighboring areas and our nightwear, sheets, and mattresses that absorb and trap it,” she said. “Combined with keeping the bedroom dark and cool, light, breathable, and cooling sheets and pillows may aid the thermoregulation the body needs to initiate and maintain sleep.”

“Cool,” in this case, means between roughly 62 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, though Parker noted that there’s still debate around the precise numbers.

How does a cooling pillow work?

There are a number of approaches designers and engineers can take when designing a cooling pillow, and we’ve tried to reflect as many as possible in the options below. 

First, let’s talk covers. In some cases, a breathable cotton or bamboo-based cover will provide a cooler experience than a polyester one, but that’s not a sure thing. Moisture-wicking fabrics that are technically polyester (think athletic wear) can be great options too. One cooling pillow on our list, the Layla Kapok Pillow, is infused with copper, which helps stave off the odors caused by sweat. (You may have also seen brands pushing copper-infused face masks to protect against the coronavirus. While copper does have antimicrobial properties, it for other hygiene measures in face masks, on pillows, or elsewhere.)

Some pillows are made using phase-change materials, or PCMs, which are designed to regulate temperature, according to the trade publication Home Textiles Today. One of these materials, Outlast, was originally developed for NASA and is used frequently in cooling pillows, including this option from Brookstone

There’s also fill to consider. A solid block of memory foam is often less conducive to cool sleep than smaller, fluffier bits of shredded memory foam, but that’s not a sure thing either. Cooling gel, which helps pull heat away from the body, helps regulate temperature in several of our picks, including a memory foam pillow from Tempur-Pedic with panels of cooling gel on both sides.

The one fill we truly discourage for cool sleep is down, which is designed to trap and retain heat.

The protector problem

The most glaring issue with cooling pillows, practically speaking, is that they’re largely incompatible with pillow protectors and covers. This applies to PCMs like Outlast as well as cooling gel — when you cover them up with a protector, they’re likely not going to feel the same anymore. That doesn’t necessarily mean the pillow’s effects are gone entirely — a cooling memory foam pillow underneath a case will feel better than a hot down pillow underneath a case — but the experience will probably change.

“When you mention phase-change materials such as Outlast, there is no question that they are soft to the touch. Frankly it is quite amazing,” Bill Fish, the general manager of SleepFoundation.org and a certified sleep science coach, explained in an email. “The only problem is that with a pillow, you should be putting both a pillow protector and case on the pillow and once you add those two layers, the fabric is no longer cool to the touch.”

One imperfect way to get around this problem is by using a cooling pillow protector or pillowcase. There are lots of well-reviewed options out there, from cooling cotton covers to bamboo pillowcases. Another option is to forgo a pillow protector — just be aware of the costs and benefits

Not sure which cover/fill combo is right for you quite yet? That’s fine. No matter how much you narrow down your sleep profile using guides, studies, and resources, sleep remains a deeply personal experience. It’s not totally quantitative. With that in mind, we’ve noted below which pillows have trial periods, which are separate from a standard warranty and allow you to send the pillow back with no repercussions if it’s not a good fit.

Here are our picks for the best cooling pillows. Sleep well!

Appropriate for a range of sleeping styles • Shredded foam fill has cooling gel • Breathable material • Fully machine washable

Slight odor out of package

The Eden pillow from Coop is a people-pleaser: It’s supportive, soft, genuinely cooling, and machine washable.

1. Coop Home Goods Eden Adjustable Pillow

The filling inside this already breathable pillow is infused with cooling gel.

  • Material:
    Bamboo rayon / polyester blend
  • Fill:
    Shredded memory foam
  • Machine washable:
  • Trial period:
    100 days
This shredded memory foam pillow has pretty much everything going for it — and we do not say that lightly. It’s adjustable, meaning you can remove and add pieces of memory foam to suit your preferences. The memory foam is also infused with cooling gel. (The pillow comes with an extra half-pound bag of fill, but you can buy extra on Amazon if you want.) 
Reviewers also appreciate its soft-but-not-too-soft feel and breathable bamboo rayon exterior. The general consensus seems to be that it’s a broadly appealing option for most sleepers, with the exception of those who want a super-firm pillow. Still, people seeking a comfortable yet supportive cooling pillow should at least give this one a try.
“As for the value for the money, I think the pillows are very well made,” writes one reviewer. “High quality, and it seems they spent time in Research and Development before they put it out on the market.”
Like other memory foam pillows, the Eden will likely have a slight chemical smell right out of the package. It should dissipate after a few uses, though — or after a quick spin in the dryer.
If you’re super picky about pillows and want to give Coop a try without making a commitment, buying directly from the manufacturer will get you a 100-day sleep trial (and a five-year warranty) in lieu of Amazon’s normal return policy.

Breathable fabric • Plush-but-slim shape is good for stomach sleepers

Slight chemical smell out of the box

Stomach sleepers looking for a soft but supportive pillow a bit lower to the bed will likely appreciate this option.

It can be difficult for stomach sleepers to find a supportive pillow that’s not also too high or too firm. This slim memory foam option, however, fits the bill for quite a few reviewers.
This cooling pillow is made from bamboo-derived rayon, which is quite breathable. It’s filled with shredded memory foam, which is generally softer and fluffier than a compact piece of the same material. 
Here’s what one Amazon reviewer had to say:

I’m a stomach sleeper and always thought I had to have the slimmest pillow possible so that it wouldn’t make my neck arch upwards. So when this pillow arrived I was a bit skeptical of the thickness, but tried it anyway because what’s the worst that could happen? My neck hurts every morning when I wake up but didn’t know what else to do. But, when I woke up this morning, my neck did not hurt at all! It’s been YEARS since I have woken up without neck pain.

Like the Eden pillow, this pillow is probably going to have a weird chemical smell when you first remove it from the box. Fortunately, most of the reviewers who had this issue said the smell didn’t last long. A few reviewers also reported that the pillow becomes a bit flat after you’ve used it for a while. If that happens to you, a short dryer session should perk it up and extend its life.

Adjustable fill • Impressive range of cooling materials • Balanced, comfortable feel

Side sleepers will love this pillow’s high loft, adjustability, and extra cooling details.

3. Layla Kapok Pillow

This is a truly unique pillow, from its copper-infused cover to the blend of memory foam and Kapok in its interior.

  • Material:
    Polyester, viscose, copper
  • Fill:
    Memory foam / Kapok
  • Machine washable:
  • Trial period:
    120 days, must use for at least 2 weeks
This cooling pillow from Layla Sleep can accommodate all kinds of sleepers. But we included it on our list of the best pillows for side sleepers for a reason — its impressive eight-inch loft and plush-yet-firm feel give it top marks in both support and comfort. 
What’s really unique about this pillow, however, are its materials. Its polyester/viscose cover also contains yarn infused with copper, which is used frequently in athletic apparel to combat sweat odor. Its fill is a mixture of memory foam and an airy fiber called Kapok, which made from the seeds of the Kapok tree. (Here is a picture of a Kapok tree.) 
A few downsides of the Layla Pillow, according to reviewers: You have to remove every little piece of fill from the pillow to wash the cover, which can be an annoying process. Its a combination of height and firmness, as Sleepopolis pointed out in its review, so people who sleep prone even for part of the night likely won’t find this pillow comfortable.
Layla offers a generous 120-night trial period, though the company only accepts returns after you’ve had the pillow for at least two weeks. (Hey, we respect the confidence.) If you anticipate needing a trial period, we recommend buying the pillow directly from Layla Sleep — it’ll help ensure the trial period actually applies.

Breathable cotton cover • Cooling gel on both sides • Solid, firm memory foam won’t lose its shape

Likely too firm for stomach sleepers

This cooling gel pillow from Tempur-Pedic is pricey, but it’s quite firm and even more supportive.

4. Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling Pillow

Tempur-Pedic’s cooling pillow is on the pricier side, but it’s still a great option for people looking for a firm pillow with substantial neck support.

  • Material:
  • Fill:
    Memory foam
  • Machine washable:
    Yes (cover only)
  • Trial period:

You might be thinking, $169 for a single pillow? And that is a fair assessment. But if it’s in your budget, Tempur-Pedic’s memory foam cooling pillow is a great option for back sleepers — or people who just want something really firm and supportive.
The pillow has two major elements that contribute to cool sleep: a cotton cover for breathability and layers of cooling gel on each side of the pillow itself. Plus, the cover is machine washable.
Reviewers like this pillow for its firmness and the way it holds its form, even after long periods of use. Several people praised it for not losing its shape in the middle of the night. Opinions on the cooling gel were also largely positive, though some reviewers noted that it became less cool to the touch as the night went on. (This is a common observation in the cooling pillow world.)
This isn’t a pillow you’ll sink into, so if you want a puffy, cloud-like experience, look elsewhere. But if you want support? This pick has it.

Lots of support, according to reviews • Comes in two heights

May be too heavy for some sleepers

Purple’s moisture-wicking pillow is an investment, but one that’ll last if it fits your needs.

5. Purple Harmony Pillow

This cooling pillow is heavy, tech-y, and great for neck support, according to reviewers.

  • Material:
  • Fill:
  • Machine washable:
    Yes (cover only)
  • Trial period:
    100 days

The Purple Harmony Pillow won’t feel cool to the touch, necessarily, but you’ll likely still sleep cool when you use it. Like other Purple products, it’s made from the company’s proprietary latex, which reviewers say is heavy but soft and provides an impressive amount of neck support. Another general consensus among reviewers is that the pillow retains its shape even after heavy use — a real plus considering its high price.
It also comes in two heights: 6.5 inches and 7.5 inches. Side and back sleepers may prefer the more elevated option, while stomach sleepers may want to be closer to the bed’s surface.
In terms of cooling technology, the pillow has a moisture-wicking mesh cover and a hexagonal grid interior, which Purple claims allows for increased airflow. This pillow won’t feel cold like a pillow with cooling gel would, but it’s still capable of helping you avoid sleeping hot.
If you buy directly from Purple, you’ll get a 100-night trial — a useful option for picky sleepers or people who simply don’t know what they want just yet.

Adjustable fill • Consistent temperature regulation • Memory foam and gel liner

Not machine washable • Feeling of “coolness” can fade

This memory foam and gel-filled pillow can be adjusted to your preferences.

6. Therapedic Polar Nights Cooling Adjustable Hybrid Pillow

Why choose between moisture-wicking fabric, cooling gel, and adjustable fill when you can have all three? Just be prepared to spot clean.

  • Material:
  • Fill:
    Shredded memory foam + cooling gel
  • Machine washable:
  • Trial period:
If you can get past the corny ice cube-themed marketing, quite a few features really are at play in this cooling pillow from Therapedic, including cooling gel, a moisture-wicking cover, and shredded (read: adjustable) fill. Reviewers report that it’s soft, comfortable, and helps a great deal with night sweats.
Some people struggled with the pillow losing coolness throughout the night, forcing them to flip it continuously, but others were able to circumvent this issue by shifting the placement of their head. (The cooling function is activated by pressure.) Still others reported that while the pillow might feel less cool later in the night, it still offers a consistent regulating experience — even when the sensation changed, it never felt hot.
“You lay on it and your head is cool but the cool does fade, but the final result is a regulated temperature,” writes one reviewer. “This is something that no other pillow has ever offered me.”
This pillow’s biggest downside? It’s not machine washable. If you can handle the “spot clean only” rule, though, it’s still a solid option.

Soft yet supportive • Has both cooling and neutral sides

Might be too thin for side and back sleepers

There is literally a “cold side” on this cooling pillow — and that’s a good thing.

7. Weekender Ventilated Gel Memory Foam Pillow

With its handy reversible cooling cover, this is truly a pillow for all seasons.

  • Material (cooling cover):
    52% polyethylene, 48% polyester
  • Material (neutral cover):
  • Fill:
    Memory foam
  • Machine washable:
  • Trial period:
This is probably not the most luxurious cooling pillow around, but it’s still a good option if you’re not very picky about firmness and not looking to spend a ton of cash. 
The pillow itself is made of memory foam, and it’s — calling all stomach sleepers — less firm than other memory foam options, according to reviewers. Those who like a supportive-feeling pillow might find this one too soft, but if you prefer a pliable, squishy situation, this is the rare memory foam options that you might enjoy.
“This pillow is wonderfully soft without completely smashing down to nothing. It is very supportive,” writes one Amazon reviewer. “Great for side sleepers like me.” However, the same reviewer noted that they wished the pillows were “slightly thicker” — hence why we’re sticking with our most-suitable-for-stomach-sleepers assessment.
Like a few other options on this list, the foam is infused with cooling gel. The cover is ventilated in a hexagonal pattern. Only one side is “cooling,” so you can flip back to regular if you want a more traditional feel temporarily.

Good balance of comfort and support • 100% cotton shell • Fully machine washable

Down isn’t the most cooling fill option

This fan favorite pillow is well-priced and offers both support and comfort, according to reviewers.

8. Slumber Cloud Cirrus Pillow

This pillow’s breathable cotton shell will help keep you cool for the entire night.

  • Material:
  • Fill:
    Polyester or down
  • Machine washable:
  • Trial period:
    60 days
As noted above, we don’t recommend down fill for anyone looking for a cooler sleep experience, but if you must, go with the down-filled Cirrus Pillow from Slumber Cloud, which is made using Outlast material.
Better yet, go for the polyester-filled version. Both options, however, come in a 100% cotton case, which allows for increased airflow. The entire pillow is also machine washable, which is hugely convenient. Remember, you should wash your pillows two to four times per year. (Sorry.)
“I love the cool feel of this pillow,” writes reviewer Stephanie M. “Down pillows have always made me uncomfortably warm, but this one has solved that problem and I can sleep on down again.” 
The pillow’s only downside, they say, is that the fill moves around inside the pillow more than a foam fill would: It’s squishy, not super firm. That’s to be expected, though — luckily, other reviewers who address this issue report that the pillow still feels supportive and doesn’t bunch up too much around their faces.

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