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Temperatures have already reached new highs this summer, with the U.S. having just experienced its hottest June on record. While many families have decided to crank up their air conditioners to combat the heat, cooling bedding — from mattresses and mattress toppers to pillows and sheets — can be a great way to avoid sweaty and uncomfortable summer nights without raising your electricity bill. And if your upper body gets particularly hot (or you just want to have a complete cooling set), a pillow specifically designed to be cooling could be a worthwhile investment.
Cooling pillows typically come in cooling gel-infused memory foam (regular memory foam tends to trap heat) or are branded as hybrid, with one side that’s usually made from foam, Amanda Kruel, vice president of soft goods at Mattress Firm, explained in our guide to pillows. Much like other cooling bedding, a good quality cooling pillow should be moisture-wicking and breathable to ensure cool air is reaching your body and your body temperature is regulated.
However, as temperatures climb and more fabrics on the market claim to sport cooling properties, it can be a feat trying to find the right cooling pillow for you. To help, we rounded up some highly rated and expert-recommended cooling pillows to shop for this season.
SKIP AHEAD Best cooling pillows
What are cooling pillows, anyway?
Pillows alone won’t make a huge difference in your body temperature, but they can complement other cooling items or add an extra bit of comfort for overly hot sleepers. While many popular brands have launched cooling bedding collections, there’s a lot of terms out there to describe this type of bedding, which makes it hard to keep track of what actually works and what’s simply good marketing. Experts told us that materials play an important role in how effective cooling bedding, including pillows, can be — they recommended looking for terms like “moisture-wicking” and “breathable,” and materials like cotton, Tencel and bamboo.
In terms of features, cooling pillows are usually made with cooling gel, which works by absorbing body heat and dissipating it throughout the pillow. This feature is able to cool the pillow without compromising its shape, keeping the temperature down throughout the night. Cooling gel is also important in mattresses and pillows that use memory foam, which tends to trap heat.
Many cooling pillows will boast ventilation or airflow, which allows fresh air to penetrate the material and causes old air to move out. This ventilation can be a particularly good feature for both pillows and mattresses, where dust, air and heat typically accumulates easily, and a must if you’re looking to invest in memory foam. Also, cool-to-the-touch material provides an immediate coolness that can feel refreshing during hot nights.
The best cooling pillows in 2021
This ergonomic foam pillow from Casper is made with breathable and air-circulating properties that keep heat from accumulating using its proprietary AirScape foam. The pillow also helps with head and neck alignment, and you can choose between two pillow heights — Mid Loft and Low Loft — depending on how much support you want (the brand offers a short questionnaire to find out which could be best for you).
One of the best pillows for hot sleepers, this supportive and breathable option is designed to keep its shape while wicking warmth away using its foam, graphite and cooling gel materials. While the foam pillow itself isn’t washable, the pillow cover — which is made from breathable Micro Polyamide & Polyester — is: The brand recommends washing it in cold water with light colors. To fit comfortably on top of your bed, you can choose between two sizes: Standard or King.
Alongside Tempur-Pedic’s cooling mattress line, this expert-recommended cooling pillow features a washable and removable cover using the brand’s SmartClimate technology, which is designed to be cool-to-the-touch. The pillow is made with a dual-sided cooling gel, adapts to your shape and comes in two heights for comfort — the higher is meant for side and back sleepers while the low is for stomach sleepers, according to the brand.
Latex pillows are naturally cooler than pillows made from other materials like memory foam, and this sustainable one from Birch is made with natural Talalay latex from Southeast Asia. The cover is also made of 100 percent organic cotton certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard and the pillow itself is free of any polyurethane-based foams and harsh chemicals, according to the brand.
This Amazon bestseller has a gel fiber filling and breathable cover that gives it its cooling properties. It’s also comfortable and keeps its shape thanks to what the company calls no-shift construction. The brand claims this pillow can work for back, side and stomach sleepers, but the higher loft and firmness may not be suitable for stomach sleepers, based on expert advice.
Featuring the brand’s honeycomb-patterned layer and moisture-wicking Breeze Mesh material, the Harmony Pillow provides an inner core of hypoallergenic ventilated Talalay latex to avoid absorbing body heat and keeping you feeling cool throughout the night. According to the brand, it’s also able to comfortably keep its shape, and the brand’s gel-like Grid Hex material offers much-needed support for your head and neck.
The cooling gel layer on top of the typically heat-trapping memory foam keeps this option feeling cool and cushioned — the cooling gel is capable of transferring heat away from your body while you sleep. The knit cover is also removable and machine-washable. Keep in mind, however, that the brand only offers this pillow in Standard Queen size.
This pillow from Coop Home Goods is filled with cooling gel and optimizes airflow, meaning it can keep you cool throughout the night. The gel gives it an immediate cooling effect, while the gel-infused memory foam lets it conform to your shape and sleeping position. It also comes with a removable cover that is moisture-wicking, antibacterial and hypoallergenic.