Firm Vs Plush Pillows - A Detailed Comparison

Lying down on a comfortable pillow can help you get into a more relaxed mindset so that you can slowly yet surely leave the day’s stresses behind. Once the welcoming pillow cradles your head, it will only be a matter of time before you drift off to blissful slumber and get the rejuvenating sleep that your body craves. You can start your search for the perfect pillow by determining what type (firm or plush?) will work best for your requirements.

Firm Vs Plush Pillows - A Detailed Comparison

Your pillow plays a key role in how comfortable your sleep experience will be. It keeps your head and neck supported while you sleep in the position that you prefer, so you can have a restful night without being bothered by pain. As you shop around for the pillow that will help you get wonderful sleep experiences night after night, you might encounter several choices that fall in either the plush or firm categories. One choice may not be necessarily more comfortable than the other in a general way, but you can get to the best choice if you take into consideration your sleeping type or position. Your sleeping position will dictate your needs in terms of the comfort and support required to keep you in the most relaxed and properly aligned condition possible.

Firm Pillows

Firm Vs Plush Pillows - A Detailed Comparison

Firm pillows provide strong support for your head, allowing it to rest on the surface of the pillow while ensuring you’re kept comfortable in the sleeping position you prefer. Depending on your personal preference and favored sleeping position, the firm pillow can be a comfortable choice that also works to guarantee that your neck and head are properly aligned with your spine. This will result in a lack of pain while you sleep and upon waking up the following morning. A firm pillow can be created by packing the pillow encasement to the brim with a variety of materials such as latex or memory foam until the desired firmness level is achieved. It can also be produced by using filling materials that are known for their rigidity and solid structure, such as buckwheat hulls, flaxseed, polyester pellets, millet, and high-density foam.

Pros And Cons

Firm Vs Plush Pillows - A Detailed Comparison


Provides Strong Support for the Head and Neck

A firm pillow keeps the head and neck continuously supported while you sleep. For side and back sleepers, an unstable surface can cause the head to sink, leading to a significant amount of head and neck pain, especially when abnormal neck bending is sustained for prolonged periods. You can count on a firm pillow to be supportive and prevent this problem.

Maintains Proper Neck and Spinal Alignment

Strong support results in a neutral spinal alignment.  By maintaining the correct alignment of the neck and the spine, you can sleep comfortably for the duration of the night with the assurance you won’t be greeted with a strained neck or a headache when you wake up the next morning. Maintaining the proper spinal alignment will also protect you from feeling back pain that can be caused when your spine is forced to curve abnormally as a response to the strained and/or bent neck problem.

Prevents Snoring

The stability of the firm pillow can keep the head raised just so, benefiting back sleepers by preventing snoring problems. This position keeps the tongue from falling back, which can also lead to the breathing passageways being blocked as you sleep.


Stiffness Can be Uncomfortable

Some sleepers find firm pillows to be uncomfortable because of the enhanced stiffness. This can be especially true for people who are used to sleeping on plush pillows. A firm pillow may also be the cause of pressure spots developing on the side of the head – especially on the ear that is pressed into the pillow’s surface – which can become quite uncomfortable even when sleeping with the pillow for only a few hours at a time.

Not Suitable for Stomach Sleepers

A firm pillow may not be the most ideal choice for stomach sleepers. This is because a rigid pillow will not allow the head to sink in closer to the mattress’ surface, which will be most comfortable for the stomach sleeping position. The firm pillow will cause the stomach sleeper’s head to become raised unnaturally high. This abnormal alignment will definitely cause pain, especially with long-term use.

Plush Pillows

Firm Vs Plush Pillows - A Detailed Comparison

A plush pillow allows your head to sink in a bit. It offers a cradling sensation that will gently welcome your head and your face (in the case of side or stomach sleepers) without causing friction, so you can sleep throughout the night without pain from pressure spots. The plush pillow can bring incredible comfort as soon as your head hits its surface and may help lull you to sleep faster with its welcome cradling sensation. When you are shopping for a plush pillow, you may want to concentrate on the choices that are made with lightweight materials that are designed to keep your head and neck supported while providing gentle cushioning. Some of these materials are cotton, feather, polyester, wool, and low-density foam.

Pros And Cons

Firm Vs Plush Pillows - A Detailed Comparison


Delivers Gentle Cushioning

A plush pillow comes with a soft profile that gently cradles the head and neck. The welcoming pillow can make it much easier for you to fall asleep faster because you do not need to turn side to side to find a position that allows your head to be hugged without feeling discomfort. A plush pillow cushions your head so that it will not be pressed into the firm surface of the mattress and at the same time works to maintain adequate support to keep your head relatively even with your neck and spine.

Relieves Pressure

Plush pillows allow your head and neck to go a bit deeper into the surface. They cradle the curves of your head and neck instead of rubbing against these parts, which may be the case when using a much firmer pillow. Allowing the neck and head to sink in a bit further into the pillow can prevent pressure spots from developing so you can sleep peacefully without being interrupted by pain.

Comfortable for Stomach Sleepers

The surface of a plush pillow allows your head to sink in just enough so that you can feel comfortable while lying on your stomach, without the smothered feeling you may experience when using a firmer pillow type. A firm pillow will not work well with stomach sleepers because it will result in the neck being raised unnaturally and uncomfortably.


Unsuitable for Back or Side Sleeping Position

A plush pillow is unsuitable for those who prefer the side or back sleeping position. This is because the pillow may not be able to provide the strong support needed to keep the neck and head stable in these sleeping positions, causing pain to develop during the night.

Firm Vs Plush Pillows - Comparison

Firm Pillows Plush Pillows
Pressure Relief
Minimal (can cause pressure spots)
Spinal Alignment
Good (for side and back sleepers)
Good (for stomach sleepers)
Sleeping Position Suitability
Back sleepers and side sleepers
Stomach sleepers

Key Takeaways

  • Pillows play an important role in the comfort level you can enjoy while sleeping or even while relaxing in bed.
  • Deciding between a plush or firm pillow will be easier if your sleeping position is taken into consideration.
  • Firm pillows offer strong support and help maintain the alignment of the head and neck in relation to the spine for a pain-free sleeping experience.
  • Plush pillows deliver a cradling sensation that cushions the shape of the head and neck to stop pressure spots from forming.
  • Back and side sleepers will benefit from the stability offered by firm pillows, while stomach sleepers will feel a lot more comfortable using plush pillows.


Q: Which is more comfortable – a soft or a plush pillow?

A: It will depend on your favorite sleeping position and personal comfort preference. Side and back sleepers usually feel more comfortable with the stability of a firm pillow, while those who sleep on their stomach will benefit from the enhanced cushioning of a plush pillow.

Q: Is a firm pillow too hard to sleep on?

A: It depends on the material used, but most firm pillows are still comfortable enough to sleep on without causing pain.

Q: Why is a plush pillow unsuitable for side sleepers?

A:  A plush pillow does not have the stability needed to keep the head and neck aligned in the side sleeping position. It instead allows the head to fall too low so that the neck is forced to curve in response, resulting in discomfort.

Q: Can a back sleeper be comfortable when using a firm pillow?

A: Yes, a firm pillow is ideal for a back sleeper since the pillow can support the head and neck properly in this position. The firm pillow can also prevent snoring and breathing issues for back sleepers.


A firm or plush pillow can both enhance your sleeping experience and offer restful nights. It is important to consider your sleeping position when choosing the firmness level of your pillow to ensure that you will get the most benefits from your pillow investment.


The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine –

Research Gate –

Journal of Neurosurgery –

Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine –

Cleveland Clinic –

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health –

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