The quest for a better night’s sleep is never-ending. The right mattress can be tricky to find along with the cooling comforter you need, the weighted blanket that actually mellows you out and a great pillow to top it all off, literally. Pillows vary widely in terms of what people prefer — from memory foam to body pillows that span the length of your bed — everyone likes something different. If you have yet to find a pillow that fits your sleep-time fancy, the buckwheat pillow needs to be on your list of things to try.
History of the Buckwheat Pillow
The buckwheat pillow, also known as sobakawa, originated in Japan and has been used there for centuries due to its firm support and customizability. The origin of the buckwheat pillow comes from a Japanese concept of the healthiest state of the body being “ZU-KAN-SOKU-NETSU” which means cold head and warm feet. Sounds pretty comfortable, and the pillow does just that. It’s typically made of an organic cotton cover filled with buckwheat hulls that are the small, firm outer shells of buckwheat seeds that conform to your head and neck easily. It’s kind of like sleeping on a firm, dense beanbag which many people enjoy.
Pros of Using a Buckwheat Pillow
Buckwheat pillows come with many pros when it comes to sleeping — including their temperature regulation and adjustability. Unlike other, fluffier pillows, buckwheat pillows can be augmented to fit your exact preferences when it comes to their size. If you’re finding that your head is too propped up and neck is out of alignment, you can take out or add more hulls to your pillow and adjust the height easily.
Buckwheat pillows are also incredibly cooling, which makes them excellent for hot sleepers. The hulls don’t trap heat like other synthetic fills and promote air circulation so your head stays cool throughout the night. They’re also hypoallergenic — so if you’re a person who tends to have allergic reactions or is sensitive to different synthetic materials, buckwheat might be best. These pillows are also super durable and last longer than your average down alternative. You can also order extra hulls easily in bulk for replenishing your supply, and the cotton covers they come in can be machine washed most of the time.
Drawbacks of Buckwheat Pillows
There are a few potential negatives about using buckwheat pillows that are important to address. The hulls are loud when shifting around. Some users have equated it to the sound of ocean waves or crunching right in your ear — so if you’re a noise-sensitive sleeper be wary.
The pillows are also very firm — which people tend to either love or hate. They provide excellent support for side and back sleepers, but stomach sleepers may have a hard time finding a comfortable position. If you prefer the largest, fluffiest pillows in town — buckwheat may not be for you.
Lastly, buckwheat pillows tend to have an earthy odor when brand new. This odor dissipates after a few days, but many users noted experiencing it for the first few nights.
What to Know When Purchasing a Buckwheat Pillow
They’re not cheap — the king and queen sizes tend to go for between $50-$150 on average. You can also expect to spend a bit more on hulls to replenish your pillow over time. That being said, they also last a lot longer than standard pillows so the cost over time may very well even out.
Buckwheat pillows, like regular pillows, come in a wide range of sizes. The traditional Japanese size is 14″ x 20″ and they get larger or smaller from there as well.
Buckwheat pillows are also very eco-friendly and made of plant-based components that are good for the planet. Many buckwheat pillows are organic so the hulls are grown without pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers. If you already try to live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, the buckwheat pillow will fit right in. Extra points if the cotton cover is also certified organic.
The fill, when adjusted just right, provides unparalleled pressure relief on the spine and other joints in the body due to the firmness. While the pillow may be hard up front and difficult to get used to, over time you may experience less pain in other parts of the body and wake up more refreshed.
Many users have also found that while sleeping on the pillow doesn’t work for them, using it for support during yoga or other activities around the house was worthwhile. Along with that trend has come buckwheat pillows specifically designed for neck support during yoga, so we’ve included a few of those below.
If you’re sold and intrigued to give this unique pillow a try — here’s a list of our favorite ones available to order on the web.
1. Sobakawa Traditional Standard Buckwheat Pillow
While many reviews of buckwheat pillows are mixed, due to their polarizing nature, this one has solid reviews on Amazon for its quality. It’s made of 100% muslin cotton fabric and is filled with 100% buckwheat hulls. The filling is effective at repelling heat and provides the adjustable support buckwheat pillows are known for. The pillow cradles your heat and neck while reducing fatigue and tension in your joints so your body can truly relax. Users with neck issues rave about the support it provides. This pillow is also a standard size — 19″ x 15″, so it’s perfect for one person.
2. ZEN CHI King Size Buckwheat Pillow
This buckwheat pillow from ZEN CHI is almost as popular as the previous option and is filled with 100% organic buckwheat hulls for air circulation. The buckwheat naturally molds to your head, neck and spine and has the potential to relieve muscle pain, joint tension and overall stiffness so you can get a more relaxing night sleep. You can customize the amount of hulls inside to your specific needs, and this brand comes in king, queen, twin and standard Japanese sizes so you can order exactly what you want.
3. Daiwa Falicity 100% Natural Buckwheat Sobakawa Pillow
While buckwheat pillows can get pricey this standard size pillow is less than $35 making it an affordable option compared to others. It’s made with 100% natural buckwheat that provides muscular support, proper airflow and the perk of adjustability. This pillow is also great for propping your head up to alleviate snoring, breathing issues and other restlessness. It’ll support your neck and shoulders consistently over time without losing shape like other pillows do, and will last longer than standard synthetic fills. Plus, the cotton cover is machine washable and the hulls only need to be placed in direct sunlight every few months to be sanitized.
4. Beans72 Organic Buckwheat Pillow
BEST KING SIZE
If you’ve got a king size bed and prefer your pillows large, this is the buckwheat pillow to get. It’s filled with 100% US-grown organic buckwheat and has a 100% unbleached cotton pillow case. It’ll conform naturally to your upper body and support back and side sleepers with ease. This pillow also weighs between 12-15 pounds depending on how much you fill it so it won’t shift around easily during the night but is still movable if you need to readjust. It’s breathable and stays fresh for much longer than standard pillows.
5. ComfyComfy Traditional Size Buckwheat Pillow
BEST TRADITIONAL SIZE
This buckwheat pillow is the traditional size of 14″ x 21″ and is made in the USA from buckwheat grown in the USA. It’s filled with four pounds of buckwheat and comes with an extra pound for increasing the fill if need be. There is an invisible zipper that makes adding or removing buckwheat hulls easy, and the natural breathability of the hulls keeps moisture and excessive heat away from your upper body at night. The cover is made of organic cotton and the hulls are air cleaned without fumigants. Your pillow also ships in plastic-free packaging, making the whole process even more environmentally-friendly.
6. PineTales Premium Buckwheat Travel Pillow
BEST TRAVEL PILLOW
Taking your buckwheat pillow on the go? You’ll want to go with this 10″ x 14″ mini one that’s not too heavy and easy to transport. It’s great for cars, planes and even children traveling who want extra support from their pillow. It’s filled with 100% organic buckwheat hulls and come with a high-performance designer pillowcase that’s extra thick and durable. This is great for both comfort and longevity when taking it with you on and off of trains, planes, busses, etc. The case is equipped with a strong YKK Japanese zipper, and there’s an internal zipper inside for an extra layer of protection against hulls leaking out. Both are also machine washable so clean-up post-trip is easy.
This buckwheat pillow also comes in the traditional 14″ x 20″ Japanese size and may be more comfortable to sleep on due to the reinforced, thicker pillowcase.
7. Sachi Organics Buckwheat Cylinder Neck Pillow
BEST FOR YOGA
While buckwheat might be too firm and dense for some sleepers, it’s a great bolster material for yoga. This pillow is made to cradle your neck and shoulders during savasana or prop up limbs in restorative postures. It’s made with US-grown buckwheat hulls and has an easy-open zipper for adjusting. The cotton canvas it’s covered in is also made with organic cotton fibers.
8. ZEN CHI Buckwheat Pillow Replacement Hulls
BEST REPLACEMENT HULLS
While it’s not entirely necessary to buy these preemptively, if you’ve had a buckwheat pillow for years and need new hulls this is a great brand to trust. They’re chemical-free, odor-free and 100% organic hulls that promote cooling air circulation in anything you put them in. They’re an all-natural sleep therapy solution for higher-quality sleep, something we’re all looking for.