Buying a pillow can be a very confusing experience. If you go to your local department store or mass merchant you will find a wall of white pillows awaiting you, all of them in plastic bags which tell you that they are in fact the best choice. How can that be true?
Of course, it is not. There are a few basics you can start with which will narrow the selection.
1. What size pillow are you looking for? 93% of pillows sold are standard (20x26) or queen (20x30) size. If you have standard sized pillowcase as most do, this is an easy decision. But also consider buying a Jumbo (20x28") pillow. This size is becoming more popular because it fits a standard or queen pillowcase but is a little larger and plumper than a 20x26" pillow.
2. Do you prefer polyester (synthetic) or foam pillows or natural (feather and down) filled pillows? Polyester or foam pillows are generally easier to launder and is also hypoallergenic. Feather and down pillows are nice for those who really love and scrunch and bunch up their pillow at night and they can be very soft but they tend to lack proper support for the neck. Many down and feather pillows now make claims of being hypoallergenic but those with serious allergies should be careful. A good safe choice here would be a synthetic pillow.
With those decisions out of the way the issue becomes, what pillow is best for you, or the person you are buying for? A basic guideline is to select based on soft, medium or firm support. Generally, a larger person should select a firmer pillow and smaller person should select a softer one. The idea is to maintain proper support for your neck as you sleep which will reduce the number of times you wake at night to restuff and re-fluff and restore the support you need. The other factor here is sleeping position. Generally, side sleepers need the firmest pillow, back sleepers a soft to medium pillow and stomach sleepers a soft pillow or no pillow at all (that's a money saver!).
After considering all of the above, if you're still not sure, a great choice would be an adjustable pillow. The Water Pillow by Mediflow may be the pillow you were looking for, it allows for customizable support by adding water. This pillow will allow you experiment with what support level gives you the best night's sleep. Chance are, after only a few nights you will find the perfect support level for your own needs. You can also buy an adjustable pillow for friends and family and know that they will be able to customize it to their needs.