A bag of buckwheat hulls and two pillow cases laid out on a wood floor

Figure 1: The Materials


I used to sleep without a pillow for many years. I hate foam pillows that much. I’d rather sleep with my head in the dirt than use a foam pillow.

Down pillows changed things. I started using a pillow again.


Almost 2 decades ago I was visting a “camp” (a cabin with fire, walls, a roof and basic plumbing) with a friend and was given a down pillow to sleep upon. That pillow changed everything. I bought it from my friend and used it for years before it finally was worn out completely.

This was the day I discovered down pillows.

To say I loved having a down pillow would be understatement. I loved them so much I made my own pillows by buying zippered pillow cases, down and just stuffing the case full to the right level of fill. I prefer a thinner pillow to keep my neck perfectly straight so I was often stuck making my own pillow due to this constraint. I also prefer smaller pilows – toddler sized and travel sized are ideal – despite being a 6 foot tall human.

Fast forward to today and things get a bit more interesting.


Recently I was talking with a friend and we got onto how I setup my sleeping situation. I have health issues that made it so I could not sleep flat for years. I had to sleep upright or at no less than a 45 degree angle for almost a decade.

I spent considerable time adjusting my bedding situation thanks to my health. Even though I can sleep flat most nights (as of this writing at least), I still give my sleeping situation extra careful attention.

My friend was very curious how I managed to get my sleeping situation sorted due to these concerns.

My sleeping setup as of this conversation looked like this:

  • XL Twin sized
  • Metal, slatted bed frame (floor preferred but storage space is nice)
  • 1/2" plywood sheet to create a firm base on top of the frame
  • 1 foam wedge that allows sleeping at a 45 degree angle (used on bad GI nights)
  • 2 tatami mats
  • 1 Shikibuton (2" thick)
  • Home made down pillow (Down 700, toddler sized)

Clearly I enjoy firm but slightly soft surfaces to sleep upon. I’m a back and side sleeper which tend to benefit from firmer but semi-soft sleeping setups.

I only ever had one comlaint with this setup: down gets hot in warm or humid weather. Enough there were nights I slept without a pillow. I haven’t always lived places that have cooling so heat was a concern at times.


As my friend and I talked I asked ’em why they were still using a foam pillow if they didn’t care for it much. Turns out ’e is allergic to down. Well that’s a problem.

I did remember hearing about buckwheat pillows in the past and did a quick search online. Turns out buckwheat hulls are used in a ton of pillow and pillow adjacent products.

Some claims put forth

  • smells good
  • hypoallergenic
  • firm but soft
  • conforms really well to your body
  • cooler than most materials
  • heavy

That sounds like a really nice pillow filler material…

Hold My Beer

After reading a bit, I did what I always do: I bought the supplies and made a buckwheat hull pillow.

I can confirm all of the claims put forth. They are accurate.

I’d also like to add:

  • It smells like dried, old ish grass in a way. Indoorsy folk will think it smells toxic, it’s fine, go outside sometime.
  • It flows different than down so it’s more like a sack of beads than fluffy fill
  • It has a crunchy/gritty noise when it shifts. I don’t mind it, others might.
  • It will work as a bludgeon if you underfill your pillow case. Think tube sock + bar of soap style bludgeon.
  • You do not flop onto these pillows. You lie down and nest into it lightly. Fair warning.
  • It’s incredibly supportive. Enough I decided to shed my down pillow after just 2 nights of sleep on buckwheat hulls.
  • This likely would be great as a lower back, neck or knee pillow filler.

Parting Thoughts

I’ve found a new, better pillow material for my needs. I could gush but I’d rather leave you with this thought:

I switched to buckwheat hull pillows despite loving down pillows. You might like a buckwheat hull pillow too if the above fits your needs and desires in a pillow.

See also