You need more than just the best mattress for a great night’s sleep. You also need the best pillow.

Pillows don’t just make your bed look nice and give you a cushy spot to rest your noggin. They also play a crucial role in keeping your head, neck, and spine properly aligned while you sleep. Basically, they’re big, fluffy rectangles that are supposed to keep your posture in check when you’re laying down.

Finding the right one for you can feel sometimes like searching for a needle in the haystack, though. Should you choose a pillow made out of feathers, latex, memory foam, polyester, or buckwheat? And should it be soft, firm—or somewhere in between?

The number of options out there can be pretty dizzying.

The good news is that finding the perfect pillow for you doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here, we’ll take a look at why picking the right pillow can help you sleep better. Plus, how to find the one that’ll do just that.

The best pillow: Why finding yours can spell better sleep.

pillows on bed

There are lots of things that can impact your sleep quality—from your bedroom temperature, to outside noise or light, to staring at your phone or tablet before bed. But if you’re having problems in the dreamland department, there’s a pretty good chance that your pillow is at least partly to blame.

Pillows are like cradles that gently support your spine’s natural curves while you sleep. The right one will keep your neck from straining too high or dipping too low, so you sleep comfortably and wake up feeling rested and refreshed.

But the wrong one can strain the muscles around your head and neck, throwing everything out of whack. As a result, there’s a good chance you’ll spend much of the night tossing and turning. And wake up feeling stiff and creaky.

In fact, a full 9 out of 10 adults say having comfortable pillows is important for getting a good night’s sleep, according to one National Sleep Foundation poll.

And science backs this up. In one Australian study that looked at pillows and sleep quality, a full 50% of participants reported having trouble sleeping. And among them, every single one also complained about having an uncomfortable pillow.

Old pillows that are past their prime can lose their cushioning power. Over time, even one that used to feel like you were resting your head on a fluffy cloud can start to feel like a lumpy bag of rocks. That’s not exactly the kind thing you want to sleep on, is it?

But even new pillows can cause problems. Just because something seems comfortable at the store—or looks comfortable online—doesn’t guarantee that it’ll feel good when you lay on it in bed for hours and hours.

So how can you find the best pillow—and know for sure that it’s going to be the right pillow for you? It’s a good idea to approach buying a pillow just like buying a mattress: Think about your individual needs, and do your research before you buy. Trust us—the end result will be worth it.

pillows on bed

Finding the best pillow for you.

Pillow shopping is serious business, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a look at the factors you should consider before making your purchase.

First, how firm is your mattress?

If you value your sleep, there’s a good chance that you spent a nice chunk of change on buying a great mattress. And now that you’ve found your best slumber surface, it makes sense to find a pillow that goes with it.

After all, if your head and neck are uncomfortable, even the best mattress or the best mattress topper in the world won’t do you much good.

Is your mattress on the firm side? If so, it’s a good idea to get a thicker pillow. Your shoulder doesn’t sink very deep with a firm mattress. So you’ll likely need a thicker, sturdier pillow to keep your head elevated at the right angle and keep your neck fro feeling strained, recommend Cleveland Clinic experts.

What if you have a softer mattress or a mattress with a soft topper—like a memory foam topper or a pillow topper? A thinner pillow is probably the pick for you. Your shoulder will naturally sink more into the surface of the mattress. Since your head will already be slightly elevated above your shoulder, a thinner pillow will keep it at the right angle, the Cleveland Clinic experts say.