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Feb. 23, 2022, 3:18 p.m. EST

Dead bugs, dead skin, germs: You should replace your bed pillows every 1-2 years. These 4 comfy pillows stand out from the crowd

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By Alisa Wolfson

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Pillows get gross, really gross. One study found that fungi abound on pillows after 18 months or more. Another study revealed that after two years of use, you’re likely to find unsavory things like living and dead dust mites and their feces, dead skin and bacteria burrowed in your pillow. And the Cleveland Clinic notes that “tiny insects” infiltrate bed pillows and may pose a health risk. In other words, replace your pillows every 1-2 years, experts say.  But don’t get just any pillow: Get one that offers the right amount of support, the desired amount of give, and the ability to stay cool. “Like a mattress, they should offer great neck support,” explains Dr. Luke Macyszyn , an assistant professor of neurosurgery at UCLA Neurosurgery, who says pillows are an important sleeping component. That said, with all the hundreds of options available, it’s overwhelming to pick a pillow. So I requested free samples of some of the highest-ranked and most popular pillows, and then tested them.  These are my top picks.

My pick for best overall pillow: Night Pillow, $150 on Night (free shipping on orders over $50)

This soft-to-the-touch pillow, encased in a mulberry silk pillowcase, is made of memory foam, which easily conformed to my head and neck so it didn’t take much at all to break it in. I found it comfortable to use in any sleeping position (I move around a lot at night before I fall asleep) and loved that it was lightweight — great for someone who tosses and turns or likes to put an arm underneath her head. It stayed cool all night too.  Night’s memory foam is dual-sided, and feels light and airy compared to traditional memory foam. What’s more, the pillow comes in seven colors and when (or if) you make your bed, it always looks perfectly plump. Other reviewers share my love of this pillow: ApartmentTherapy writes of Night Pillow: “I tried the famous Night Pillow, and OMG, it’s amazing,” adding that “the pillow itself is the right amount of both soft and firm.” The biggest con of this pillow, to me, is the price, which is higher than the others I tested.  Learn more: Night Pillow, $150 on Night (free shipping on orders over $50)

For back-and-side sleepers: Nest Easy Breather Pillow, $89 on NestBedding.com (includes free shipping)

Cooling fabric encases this shredded memory foam pillow that’s remarkably cooler to the touch than other pillows I tested. I loved that it was easily adjustable by adding or removing fill — simply add more foam and you get more height. What’s more, this pillow is Wirecutter’s pick for best pillow, with the site noting: “A longtime favorite among our testers, this pillow has moldable, customizable filling that offers firm support for back- and side-sleepers.” The one thing I didn’t love was that this was one of the heavier pillows I tried. Learn more: Nest Easy Breather Pillow, $89 on NestBedding.com (includes free shipping)

For stomach sleepers: SleepNumber PlushComfort Ultimate, $90 on SleepNumber.com

This machine-washable, down-alternative pillow contains a microfiber fill that mimics down, and with three separate inserts inside a brushed cotton cover, it’s easy to adjust to your preferred support level. It took me a bit to get the perfect mix, but I wound up finding that two inserts offered the perfect amount of support for my stomach and side sleeping. When dressed in a pillowcase, the fabric encasement of the pillow makes a slight sound, like material rubbing together, but overall the pillow is one of the lightest I tested and the fill redistributes nicely when fluffed, meaning it always looks plush atop the bed and feels great underneath the head throughout the night. Wirecutter named this one one of its best pillows too, noting that “this customizable down-alternative pillow is softer than shredded foam, so it’s better for stomach-sleepers who need less loft than the Nest Easy Breather provides. It’s also much less messy to adjust.” Learn more: SleepNumber PlushComfort Ultimate, $90 on SleepNumber.com

Budget pick: Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow, $58.99 for a set of 2 on Amazon

A plush gel fiber gives these pillows a spring-like feel, unlike those made with latex, feathers or other fills. When moving your head around atop the pillow, in addition to moderately sinking in, it feels like you’re gliding across it — and its fill stays evenly dispersed across the pillow as you move about. The entire pillow is machine washable and tumble-dry safe and each order comes with two pillows, so you can share with your partner or double up on your support. What’s more, these pillows have more than 148,000 4.4 out of 5-star reviews on Amazon. Learn more: Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow, $58.99 for a set of 2 on Amazon

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