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
- firm but soft
- conforms really well to your body
- cooler than most materials
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.
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.