A cooling pillow is a pillow designed to regulate body temperature during sleep. Its primary purpose is to prevent overheating that can disrupt sleep and cause discomfort. Sleeping with a cooling pillow can benefit some people, but it can also have downsides.
A cooling pillow is specially designed to prevent heat retention.
Cooling pillows are made with materials with heat-dissipating properties, such as gel-infused memory foam, ventilated latex, or special fabrics that wick away moisture.
Sleeping with a cooling pillow may help improve sleep quality and reduce nighttime sweating.
Cooling pillows offer advantages like their cooling properties, ability to relieve pressure, and a higher loft.
Cooling pillows might come at a higher cost than standard pillows and certain materials they use might have an odor.
What is a cooling pillow?
Who hasn't flipped their pillow at night to feel its cool side? But let's face it, this only gives you temporary relief, and constantly flipping your pillow all night isn't too practical and may disrupt your sleep.
That's where a cooling pillow comes in handy — it keeps that refreshing feeling going the entire night. This is possible because of the way cooling pillows are made. They are specially designed to prevent heat retention and provide a cool sensation.
People who feel uncomfortably warm when they’re in bed may sleep more comfortably with this pillow.
A cooling pillow is very similar to a regular pillow — the main difference between the two lies in the materials used to manufacture them. Cooling pillows typically incorporate materials that promote heat dissipation and airflow, allowing for better ventilation.
How do cooling pillows work?
Manufacturers may use different techniques or incorporate different materials into the pillow's construction to keep it cool. Here are some examples of technology found in cooling pillows:
- Gel infusion. Some cooling pillows contain gel-infused memory foam or gel beads. These materials absorb and disperse body heat, helping to keep the pillow surface cool.
- Phase-change materials (PCMs). PCMs change from a liquid to a solid state to regulate temperature. Pillows infused with PCMs feel cool to the touch and help draw heat away from the body.
- Cooling technology. Certain cooling pillows use active cooling systems like fans or other mechanisms to maintain a consistently cool temperature.
- Breathable fillings. Pillows filled with natural materials like latex, wool, or buckwheat hulls offer a naturally cooling effect thanks to their breathability and heat-dissipating properties.
- Ventilation. Some cooling pillows have special designs with perforations, channels, or mesh panels that enhance airflow and improve heat dispersion.
Cooling pillow covers are also special. They're usually designed to draw moisture away and enhance breathability. The most common materials used in cooling pillow covers are:
- Cotton. It’s soft, breathable, and easy to clean.
- PCMs. They control temperature by absorbing and releasing body heat.
- Bamboo. It’s more absorbent than cotton, making it an excellent option for hot sleepers.
The shape of your pillow can also affect how cool it feels. For instance, a solid foam retains more heat than a shredded filling, allowing better airflow.
Sleeping with a cooling pillow
Sleeping in a hot environment can negatively affect sleep, resulting in reduced slow-wave sleep (SWS), less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and increased time spent awake.
A cooling pillow can help regulate body temperature and avoid overheating during sleep. This is because cooling pillows are made with materials that absorb and dissipate heat away from your head and neck, helping to maintain a more comfortable sleeping temperature.
Research indicates that cooling the head and neck can improve sleep quality, especially in hot climates. This concept was demonstrated in a study where 16 male adults slept in a room at 87.8–89.6°F (31–32°C). Applying cooling to their head improved their sleep quality.
In another study, 9 healthy adults slept in different temperature and humidity settings using a cooling pillow.
The results showed that people spent more time awake at 89.6°F (32°C)/80% humidity than at 78.8°F (26°C)/50% humidity. However, there was no significant difference between 89.6°F (32°C)/80% humidity with the cooling pillow and 78.8°F (26°C)/50% humidity. Sweating was higher at 89.6°F (32°C)/80% humidity without the cooling pillow, suggesting that using a cooling pillow might help reduce sweating during sleep in humid conditions.
Pros and cons of a cooling pillow
Many people are attracted to the idea of cooling pillows because they help control body temperature, but they’re also more expensive than regular pillows due to the materials used in their construction.
Before buying a cooling pillow, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of the product.
Choosing the right cooling pillow for you
There are different types of cooling pillows on the market. Choosing the best cooling pillow that suits your needs can be challenging. Here are some elements that you should keep in mind when shopping for a cooling pillow:
- Cooling properties. It refers to the pillow's effectiveness in keeping you cool throughout the night. Cooling pillows crafted from materials like gel, copper, or PCM, are excellent at dispersing heat. Pillowcases constructed from wool, cotton, or bamboo are helpful for individuals who tend to sweat during the night.
- Price. Cooling pillows come in various price ranges, so it's a good idea to decide on your budget before shopping. The cost might differ based on the materials used. Generally, you can find a good cooling pillow for anywhere between $75 and $150.
- Pressure relief. Pillows offer extra support and help ease the tension on your neck and shoulders. Pillows that conform to your head and neck shape help keep the spine aligned. Memory foam works well for this, and latex relieves pressure.
- Quality of materials. How long a pillow lasts often depends on the quality of the materials used to manufacture it. When it comes to keeping their shape and providing support, natural latex and foams are good options. Generally, cooling pillows have a longer lifespan compared to standard pillows.
- Firmness. Cooling pillows are usually soft to medium firm. Materials like wool, down, and shredded memory foam usually feel soft. If you're looking for something more in the middle or leaning towards firm, you'll likely find that in solid foam and latex pillows.
A cooling pillow can help you stay cool on hot nights since too much heat can mess up your sleep. Sleeping with one can help you get a better and more comfortable sleep. But as with any product, cooling pillows have their pros and cons. There are plenty of options out there, so find the one that best suits your needs and your wallet.
- AJMC. Combating Disrupted Sleep From Increasing Heat Explored in New Study.
- International Society of Biometeorology. Effects of head cooling on human sleep stages and body temperature.
- Indoor Air. Local body cooling to improve sleep quality and thermal comfort in a hot environment.