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Assistive Technology Guide - Selecting A Pillow

AT Guide
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For information contact AT Aust on 1300 452 679

Last updated: Nov 19 2021

Short Description

A range of pillows are available to suit a variety of individual needs. The range includes standard pillows, back pillows and neck pillows. A guide for features to consider when selecting a pillow is provided.

Additional Info

More Details

Pillow Construction
Pillows are generally made from one or a combination of the following: foam, feather, wool, synthetic (kapok, polyester) and latex rubber. They are available in a variety of shapes: square, rectangular, wedge, boomerang, triangular, round or one side higher than the other. The surface may be contoured, have a grid like finish, or convoluted (may also be called 'egg carton').

The comfort or suitability of a pillow may be influenced by the cover (cotton, dust mite exclusion cover, mesh, plastic (PVC), vinyl, 2 or 3 way stretch, breathable (vapour permeable). An additional removable cover may be provided with the pillow along with the permanent cover. For individuals who are at risk of pressure areas developing on the body part resting on the pillow (eg. ears, back of head, spine), it is important a suitable pillow material and cover (cover has two or three way stretch and is breathable) is chosen. For individuals with allergies, a dust mite exclusion cover may be required.

Posture Considerations
When choosing a pillow to support the neck and head the following guidelines may provide a starting point to choosing a pillow that is comfortable. In all circumstances, it is important to keep the natural curves of the spine:
* For a person who sleeps on their back, consider a low to medium height pillow with some support under the neck area. It is aimed not to push too far forward
* For a person who sleeps on their side, support under the neck is important. The aim is that their spine is straight (when viewing the person from the side)
* For a person who sleeps on their stomach, a low pillow will prevent the neck being pushed back (over extended)

General Points to Consider
People with allergies need to consider the suitability of the pillow inner and cover. Some individuals are allergic to latex or the dust mites found more prolifically in some materials. Consider suitability of the cover where an individual is at risk of developing pressure areas.

Both an appropriate inner and cover should be considered. Where an individual is incontinent, absorbent and plastic covers are available.
* Density of the foam inner (where applicable)
* Ability to wash or clean the pillow inner and cover
* The need for other features of the pillow / cover - water resistance, fire retardant etc
* The shape and structure of the pillow (and ability to adjust shape / amount of filling) and it's suitability for the individual in supporting the head and neck
* Portability, particularly if the pillow is to be taken when travelling

For further information the following organisations can be contacted
* Continence Foundation
* Asthma Foundation
* Physiotherapy Association

For further information please see Assistive Technology Australia?s website or phone our Infoline 1300 452 679 to talk to a health professional. You can also visit our centre at Blacktown ? see Supplier details for address. Please note that Assistive Technology Australia?s purpose is to provide impartial information. We do not buy or sell assistive technology but provide supplier details



Some assistive technology needs to meet Australian or other standards. Standards may relate to materials, manufacturing and installation. Products that meet Australian or international standards will have written certification. To find out if a product meets Australian Standards ask the supplier to show you the certificate. For more information about standards also see

Many of the items on the Assistive Technology Australia website are categorised as a Medical Device. Medical devices that are approved for use in Australia have been entered into a national database called the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), which is maintained by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). You can ask the supplier for the ARTG number for the device you wish to purchase and search the ARTG for the entry. To access information on the ARTG visit

When buying a medical device it is advisable to only choose a medical device that is recommended by a healthcare professional and has been included on the ARTG.


Assistive Technology Australia (prev Independent Living Centre NSW)
Westpoint Shop 4019
17 Patrick St
NSW 2148
Sales: 1300 452 679 (Infoline)
Fax: 02 8814 9656
Contact Person: AT Australia Infoline Team


Whilst all care is taken to provide accurate information with respect to the item described, the Independent Living Centre New South Wales (ILCNSW), operating as Assistive Technology Australia, is not involved in product design or manufacture, and therefore not in a position to guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. Selection of equipment, which is both suitable and appropriate for individual needs remains the responsibility of the person(s) considering requisition, and no responsibility is taken by the ILCNSW (Assistive Technology Australia) for any loss or injury caused through use of the equipment or alleged to have arisen through reliance upon information provided. As information is subject to change any enquiries should be directed to the manufacturer.