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Natural Pillow Alternatives for Your Beds and Couch

Natural Pillow Alternatives for Your Beds and Couch

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Mar 6, 2018

You spend at least eight hours every day with your head directly on top of one crucial but often overlooked piece of furniture: your pillow. While comfort and coziness are the two most important aspects of a pillow that most consumers demand, several other pillow features should be considered.

Finding a comfortable pillow that contains anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and hypoallergenic properties is essential for anyone who cares about getting a good night of sleep. A pillow with all of those qualities and is made from 100% natural and organic materials is an even better find.

Can a Pillow Affect Your Health?

A recent study by scientists from the University of Manchester in England found that the average bed pillow contains millions of fungal spores. These spores accumulate in pillows due to moisture, dust, and other allergens floating around our homes. One of the most common fungus found in pillows is the species known as Aspergillus fumigatus. This fungus can increase the frequency and severity of asthma in adults. It can also cause a health condition called aspergillosis that affects people with compromised immune systems.

The older a pillow gets, the more potential allergens that it accumulates. Many people recognize that old pillows strangely feel heavier than new ones. One report relates that up to half of an older pillow's weight might be comprised of several different allergenic materials, including skin cells, mold, mildew, fungus, and dust mites. In some people, long-term exposure to these allergens can lead to asthma, nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation.

Several older pillows might very well contain synthetic flame-retardants that used to be required by law. These chemicals have been shown to possibly disrupt human thyroid hormone functioning and cause other adverse health effects.

Many pillows that brand themselves as hypoallergenic or orthopedic pillow options are synthetic foams. These foams come from polyester, which is sourced from crude oil. Over time, these pillows will emit plastic vapors that you will be breathing during the nighttime hours.

Are Natural Pillows Better?

Several different natural pillow alternatives are naturally hypoallergenic while not emitting any potentially dangerous VOCs that could negatively affect your health. Natural pillows rarely include PBDEs or other chemical flame-retardants.

Before reviewing the different natural pillow alternatives available on the market, it is essential to know what characteristics and features to look for when shopping for a new pillow.

Which Type of Pillow Is Best For Sleeping?

Your regular sleeping position will determine the type of pillow that is best for you. People who generally sleep on their back should search for thinner pillow options so that their heads and neck are not pushed uncomfortably forward. People who tend to sleep on their sides need the firmest pillows to fill up the space between the shoulder and the head. Stomach sleepers need the narrowest of pillows to avoid neck pain. Another flat pillow could be placed under the stomach to straighten out your spine.

What Is the Best Pillow for Allergy Sufferers?

Before searching for a natural pillow option, it is essential to know what materials you might be allergic to. While natural pillows offer several health advantages, certain people can be allergic to the materials used to stuff the pillows. For example, some of the more high-end natural pillows are stuffed with down or feathers. While this is undoubtedly comfortable, some people might be naturally sensitive to bird feathers and suffer sneezing, wheezing, and other respiratory effects. However, one study found that anti-allergy pillows made from synthetic materials are more likely to cause allergic reactions than feather-based pillows.

Kapok Pillow
Photo courtesy of Sachi Organics

What is a Kapok Pillow?

One of the newest natural pillow alternatives available today is the Kapok pillow. This pillow is made from a naturally occurring vegetable fiber present in the Kapok tree's seedpods. Even though it is vegetable-based, this natural pillow material feels like it is made from down and goose feathers. Most manufacturers of Kapok pillows cover the natural fill with organic cotton textile. Another benefit of the Kapok pillow is that it grows widely and does not depend on pesticides or other agrochemical inputs. This further ensures that there will be no chemical residues in your pillow. 

Hullo Pillow
Photo courtesy of Hullo

What is a Buckwheat Hulls Pillow?

Buckwheat is a widely grown grain used as a cover crop to restore fertility to the soil. The grains can also be milled into flour used for a wide range of recipes (ever heard of Buckwheat pancakes?) During the milling process, the hulls around the seeds are separated, and these hulls are then used to make pillows.

Buckwheat hulls are unique in that they permit constant air circulation throughout the pillow. This will keep your head cool and dry, especially on hot nights. Buckwheat is highly resistant and will not compress under pressure, thus reducing extra stress on your neck, head, and spine. Hullo is one company offering several different sizes and styles of buckwheat pillows.

Sleeponlatex Pillow
Photo courtesy of Sleeponlatex

What is a Natural Latex Pillow?

While there are several different types of synthetic latex pillows and mattresses, you can also find natural latex options that are sourced from a milky substance produced by the rubber tree. Thus, this foam-like material is a naturally renewable resource (unlike polyester-based Memory Foam) and will not have VOC emissions. Natural latex pillows are soft and supportive like their synthetic counterparts. 

SleepOnLatex is one company that offers natural latex pillows. Their pillows contain absolutely no chemical flame-retardants, and you can opt for a 100% natural and organic cotton pillow covering.

Shepherd's Dream Pillow
Photo courtesy of Shepherd's Dream

What is a Wool Pillow?

Wool is one of the best natural textiles for pillows, mattresses, and other bedding options as it is naturally fire and water-resistant. Wool pillows are not susceptible to mold, mildew, dust mites, or other allergens. One of the top manufacturers of organic wool pillows is Shepherd’s Dream. They offer different pillows, from body pillows to neck pillows, and you can even customize a pillow to fit your own sleeping needs.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2022-02-24T13:34:06+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.