Why and When to Replace Your Pillows

Posted by Emma Carlton - Buying and Merchandising Manager on 25th Nov 2022

Why and When to Replace Your Pillows

A pillow is a personal thing. You’ve probably chosen yours especially for comfort and worn it in over long nights of, admittedly, not that hard work. Now old snuggler is perfectly moulded to your head. You know exactly where to place him, just when to flip him and you’ve got the right pillowcases too.

We’ve got some potentially upsetting news though folks. Old snuggler won’t last for ever. The time will come – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but some day – for you to say au revoir to your faithful nap time pal.

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How often should I change my pillow?

Woman wearing pyjamas and a sleep mask on her head is clutching a pillow. She has her hand on her chin and looks quizzical.

How regularly you replace pillows depends on a number of factors:

  • Hygiene, or how regularly you clean your pillow
  • Whether you use a pillow protector
  • Allergies or pain - if you suffer either you may need a fresh new pillow more often

In general, a pillow should last up to two years, provided that it has been well taken care of. By which we mean washed regularly following the manufacturer’s instructions, dried well after washing and covered with a pillow protector as well as a pillow case. Some pillow can’t be washed at all, so a pillow protector is advisable.

Pillow care and washing 101

If it comes as a surprise that your pillow should be washed and double-covered, chances are that it’s already time to invest in a new one.

Many people assume that their pillow requires nothing beyond a regular change of pillowcase. However, caring for your bedding to prevent bacteria and other nasties just isn’t that straightforward.

Have a quick peek at the care label on your pillow. It may be as simple as chucking it into the washing machine and letting it dry on the line before giving it a good fluff. Some pillows however, particularly those made of memory foam or latex, can instead be vacuumed thoroughly and spot cleaned to remove marks.

If ease of cleaning is important for you, check out these Slumberland Side Sleeper Pillow which maintain their shape wash after washing and come with a year guarantee.

How a pillow protector helps your pillow to last longer

A clean pillow should be covered with a clean protector. Similar to mattress protectors, these pillow protectors provide a thicker barrier against dust, bacteria and mites. They can also protect pillows from spills, drool (let’s be honest, we all do it), hair products and that mascara you forgot to remove.

A high-quality protector is especially important for those with allergies and asthma, providing a washable protective layer that can help to minimise the dust and other allergens that lurk in your pillow, causing sneezes and wheezes.

So how do I know when it’s time for a new pillow?

Simply by Bensons Anti-Allergy Twin Pack Pillows

Simply by Bensons Anti-allergy Twin Pack Pillows

Whether you’ve been a regular Mary Poppins when it comes to pillow care or you’ve approached bedding cleanliness with a slightly more laissez-faire attitude, there are a few sure signs that it's time to replace your pillow:

  1. Neck pain: this is often a sign that your pillow isn’t providing you with the support you need. Did you know that the average human head weighs a whopping 11lb (i?) Gently cradling almost a whole stone of human weight night after night is bound to take its toll on your pillow eventually.
  2. Unexplained headaches: headaches that occur at any time, not just after waking up, can be a sign that your pillow isn’t giving you the right support. These headaches can be caused by tension in the neck muscles (ii) (see above).
  3. Allergy flare ups: if allergies or asthma is getting steadily worse, with no obvious reason, an old pillow could be the culprit.
  4. Lumps and bumps: is your pillow starting to feel lumpy no matter how much you shake it? Even the tennis ball method (yes, putting a tennis ball into the washing machine with your pillow really can combat the lumpies!) won’t do the trick? A pillow that feels like the Himalayas almost certainly needs replacing.
  5. Brown/yellow spots: unsightly tide marks are usually caused by sweat and moisture. They can also be caused by damp if your pillow isn’t thoroughly dried after washing.
  6. Flatness and loss of bounce: is your pillow as flat as a pancake? Although some people prefer a shallower pillow, it should nonetheless have ‘bounce’, returning to its original height after use. Want to test your pillow’s bounce? Fold it in half. If it springs back you’re all good. If it stays stubbornly folded, it’s time to ditch it.
  7. You just can’t get comfy: started tossing and turning? If you’re struggling to find a perfect sleep position all of a sudden, it could well be time to invest in a new pillow.
  8. It’s been more than two years: no matter how good a pillow or how diligent you’ve been in taking care of it, your pillow is unlikely to be giving you the support you need after two years of use. In fact, experts recommend replacing your pillow at least every one to two years (iii).

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Does it really matter what pillow I use?

Bird's eye view of a man on a bed smiling in his sleep

It really does! After your mattress, that pillow is probably the most important piece of sleeping equipment you own.

Opting for a well-made, comfortable pillow that’s suited to the position you sleep in (more on that later) can make the difference between good sleep and restless nights battling neck pain. A pillow that doesn’t provide adequate support might even render the hundreds you’ve just dropped on a top notch new orthopaedic mattress all but pointless.

When the time comes to upgrade, there’s a whole world of pillows to investigate. How fortunate then that the experts at Bensons for Beds are here to hold your hand every step of the way…

Pillow fillings explained

If you’ve had to replace a mattress in recent years, you’ll know that bedding technology has come on leaps and bounds of late.

These exciting new technologies have even found their way into pillows. Let’s have a closer look at some of the most popular options available to you:

Synthetic pillows

Usually microfibre or hollowfibre, synthetic pillows are a perennially popular choice with all sleepers.


  • Synthetic pillows tend to be a cheaper choice.
  • Lightweight for easier storage and portability.
  • Most synthetic pillows can be bunged in the washing machine for a regular wash.
  • Pliable fibres make these pillows easy to fold or plump to create a comfortable shape.
  • Synthetics tend to be quieter so there’s no rustling to keep you up at night.


  • Synthetic pillows have a shorter life span than most, requiring more regular replacement.
  • Filling tends to clump up, creating annoying lumps.
  • Like a plump pillow? Synthetic may not be the one for you. These pillows can become flat very quickly.

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Down pillows

The last word in luxury, these pillows are made using the soft downy feathers from the bellies of ducks or geese.


  • Plush and soft, down pillows will make you feel like you’re resting on a cloud.
  • Quality down pillows last well, a sound investment if you can afford it.
  • Made of thousands of tiny, soft and light feathers, down pillows are easy to shape and plump for comfort.
  • Quiet down assures you and your partner a noise-free night.


  • Not the most supportive, down pillows aren’t ideal if you’re prone to neck pain.
  • Luxury comes at a price. Down pillows are among the most expensive options out there.
  • Some down pillows can cause an allergic reaction. If you’re prone be sure to add a protector.
  • Containing animal products, these pillows are unsuitable for vegans.

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Feather pillows

Once a popular choice, feather pillows have fallen out of fashion more recently. These pillows are filled with larger feathers from the back and wings of ducks or geese.


  • Usually far less pricey than down, feather pillows won’t break the bank.
  • Durable feather lasts a long time compared to most synthetic fillings.
  • Soft, low feather pillows are popular with all kinds of sleepers.


  • They’re unsuitable for vegans.
  • Feathers can cause an unexpected racket, rustling noisily as you reposition.
  • May not be suitable for some allergy sufferers.

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Memory foam pillows

A technological breakthrough, memory foam was created by no less than NASA (iv) so you know it’s been put through its paces up there in outer space (where nobody can hear you snore). Made of polyurethane, memory foam is popularly used in mattresses.


  • Offering spectacular support and contouring to your neck and head, a memory foam pillow is a must-try if you’ve had it up to here with neck pain.
  • A smooth single piece of foam, these pillows won’t become lumpy.
  • Easy to clean, memory foam pillows can be vacuumed and spot cleaned to remove dust and stains.
  • Durable memory foam is built to last, making it a wise investment.


  • Memory foam can be an expensive choice compared to other pillows.
  • Many memory foam pillows retain heat, which can be uncomfortable for some.
  • Not ideal if you move around a lot at night, memory foam pillows have a fixed height that can’t be plumped or punched down.

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Latex pillows

Increasingly popular, latex pillows are a potential alternative to memory foam, providing similar single height support.


  • Sometimes recommended for orthopaedic use, latex provides excellent support, moulding to the head and neck.
  • Long-lasting latex will keep its shape for a long time.
  • If memory foam is too warm for your tastes, latex is a cooler alternative.
  • One piece latex pillows are quiet, so they won’t cause disturbance as you move.


  • Just like memory foam, latex can be pricey.
  • A latex pillow’s fixed height might be unsuitable for those who move around a lot.
  • Latex can have a chemical smell and therefore may need airing before use.

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Pillows and neck pain

Woman sitting on the edge of a bed clutching her neck with one hand with a pained expression on her face.

Neck pain and sleep tend to go hand in hand. While neck pain is linked to poor sleep in all ages (v), even young, flexible teens (vi), sleeping on the wrong pillow or mattress is, conversely, a common cause of neck pain.

Often resulting in pain and stiffness in the neck and, in turn, headaches, sleeping on the wrong pillow can have uncomfortable consequences for spinal health. But what is the wrong pillow? For most people, a pillow that’s too flat won’t provide enough support. However, a pillow that has too much loft can cause a crick in the neck too, forcing your spine out of alignment.

Research suggests that memory foam or latex pillows (vii) are the best pillows for neck pain, combining reliable support and cradling comfort.

For the perfect neck pillow for side sleepers, we recommend the Dunlipillo Hybrid Side Sleeper Pillow for pressure relief and firm support. Supplied with a five-year guarantee, this pillow will keep its firm support for years to come.

The best pillow for your sleep position

The pillow you choose will depend in large part on the position you sleep in:

  • The best pillow for back sleepers has a medium loft, providing support to the neck without raising the head out of alignment with the spine. Memory foam and latex can be a great choice for back sleepers.
  • The best pillow for side sleepers has a medium to high loft of 4 – 6” or more (viii). That additional padding gives good support to head, neck and shoulders, ensuring a neutral spine position. The Slumberland Deep Side Sleeper Pillow plush support while the iGel Side Sleeper pillow doubles down on comfort with the ideal loft and doubles down on comfort with the ideal loft and a
  • The best pillow for you front sleepers (that’s just 7% of the population (ix) stat fans) is thinner than average. A little harder to come by, these flatter pillows should still provide adequate support for the neck. Our Teflon Slim Front Sleeper pillow is less than 4” deep for great hold without giving you a crick in the neck.
  • Sleep during pregnancy can be a bit of a nightmare. If you’re normally a back or front sleeper you’ve got even more to contend with because these positions are out, with side sleeping specifically recommended during pregnancy. However, switch your pillow for a pregnancy pillow–the best pregnancy pillow is a body length, sometimes C-shaped cushion -and you’ll enjoy ergonomic support to help ease back and hip pain for a better night’s sleep.

Pillows at Bensons

Find the perfect pillow for you and your family among our collections today. Place an order online, give us a call on 0808 144 6060 or pop into your local store.

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Is it possible for your head to be too heavy? (sciencefocus.com)

ii Cervicogenic Headaches Start in the Neck (spineuniverse.com)

iii  How Often Should You Replace Your Pillows? │ Sleep Foundation

iv  Memory Foam | NASA

Sleep quality and chronic neck pain: a cotwin study - PMC (nih.gov)

vi  Back and neck pain and poor sleep quality in adolescents are associated even after controlling for confounding factors: An epidemiological study - PMC (nih.gov)

vii  A Survey of Koreans on Sleep Habits and Sleeping Symptoms Relating to Pillow Comfort and Support - PMC (nih.gov)

viii  The Best Pillows of 2022 – Top-Rated Brands | Sleep Foundation

ix  Sleep positions and nocturnal body movements based on free-living accelerometer recordings: association with demographics, lifestyle, and insomnia symptoms - PMC (nih.gov)

authors profile
Emma Carlton
Buying and Merchandising Manager
Emma has worked at Bensons for Beds for 10 years and is a fundamental part of the Bensons’ team, her wealth of breadth and knowledge is invaluable. Emma’s drive, determination, and tenacity ensures we provide our customers with the market leading products to suit our customer individual needs, at great value prices.
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