Why Do Hotels Use Small Pillows? [Explained]

If you’re like most people, you’re excited to start planning your next getaway. You miss the travel, the photo-ops, and the satisfying ‘click’ of your hotel door lock opening for you. You drop your bags, then take a slow-motion swan dive into your suite’s crisp and inviting king-bed. And that’s when you ask yourself—why do hotels use such small pillows?

One of the little joys of the #travellife is that hotel bed waiting for you at the end of your busy work day or sightseeing session. So what gives with the different types of pillows used in hotels?

Read: 2021 Best Hotel Pillow Guide

The Different Types of Pillows Used in Hotels

Despite your last not-so-great experience, hotels are in the people-pleasing business. An easy way to keep a bunch of guests happy? Provide some choices. At upscale hotels, this may even take the form of a pillow menu. Want memory foam? You got it. Goose down? Excellent choice. Just make your selection, and you’ll have it. 

Some hotels really go all out—the Montcalm Hotel in London provides a vitamin-E infused cotton pillow to provide anti-aging benefits to guests. Conrad Hotels & Resorts are well known around the world for providing up to 75 pillow options, from Egyptian cotton to a porcelain (really) pillow based on an ancient Chinese design.

Most hotels choose a middle-of-the-road, hypoallergenic pillow that’s not too soft, too firm, too big or too thin. But you’ll still find an assortment of pillows at even the most budget-friendly hotels you’re likely to come across.

So, assuming you’re not sleeping on porcelain during your next stay, you’ll probably notice a few different pillows in your room. Odds are, they’ll be a bit smaller than the pillows you snooze on at home.

Why Do Hotels Use Small Pillows?

As well as the people-pleasing business, hotels are also in the…business business. That means the decisions they make are also made with the financial bottom line in mind. Even small hotel chains have teams of people evaluating costs ruthlessly. Large chains have even more resources at their disposal to get the best deals and the ‘biggest bang for their buck’.


Smaller pillows simply tend to be more affordable than bigger ones. They are simpler and cheaper to design and order. They require less materials per pillow. Even when it comes to shipping, you can pack in more pillows because they’re a little smaller. These sizes are a smart choice for hotels to deliver quality while still remaining profitable.

Laundry & Maintenance

Don’t panic—but hotels don’t wash their pillows between every guest. Pillows used in hotels are washed on a cyclical basis, and smaller pillows are easier to clean more thoroughly. And when they’re washed, they’ll dry faster and more completely. And THEN, they’ll stay drier longer, so nasty things like mold and mildew can’t form as easily.


Do you ever look at your friend or partner and wonder “How do you sleep like that?” Now just imagine thousands of people crashing at your place every night of the year. Hotels use small pillows because they can be comfortably used for lots of different sleeping positions. You can stack them or squish them down. Back, side, and stomach sleepers can make smaller pillows work for them for a great night’s sleep. No promises about their snoring, though. You’re on your own there.


Though at a smaller size, pillows used in hotels can provide the same level of comfort and quality as a larger option, at the hotel’s desired price point. If you’ve ever thought about how nice your hotel pillow feels compared to the sad, flat, tired pillow at home, this is why! Hotels provide a level of quality and newness we don’t often experience at home.


That pillow at home might be well past its prime. Because hotels replace their pillows rather frequently, smaller pillows are easier to move in and out, and easier for staff to handle, too. These smaller pillows are starting to sound pretty good, no?

Why do hotels use small pillows?

Want to sleep on a luxury-hotel pillow every night—without the price tag? Check out our list of the best hotel-style pillows, at the internet’s best prices here.

Getting a Great Night Sleep in a Hotel

The National Sleep Foundation knows a thing or two about getting a good bit of shuteye. While many people are sleep-deprived these days, your hotel stay doesn’t have to turn into nights of insomnia.

Sleep researchers have identified something called the First Night Effect (FNE), when we find ourselves sleeping in a new environment. This FNE is marked by difficulty falling asleep, shorter, lighter sleep, and reduced REM sleep cycles. Your brain realizes you’re somewhere new, and tries to protect you from anything that could happen. Gee, thanks brain!

Interestingly, sleep researchers have also found that some people actually sleep better in hotels than they do at home. They found that travel could provide breaks from insomnia-causing behaviors found at home. 

So, how do you make sure your vacation or business travel doesn’t result in red eyes?

Evaluate Your Options

Do some research before your trip to scout out the area of your hotel. If you’re on a busy street, consider requesting a higher-floor room to separate yourself from the noise and lights.

Keep it Cool & Dark

Minimize the light entering your room by drawing the shades, covering alarm clock faces, or small electronics. Pack a comfortable sleep mask if those help you. A cool room temperature (from 60-67°F) is ideal for sleeping.

Enjoy Your Hotel Pillow—and Find The Right One to Bring Home

As you can see, there’s lots of reasons hotels choose a smaller pillow. From cost to comfort, to quality, they have a lot to offer. Above all, hotels seek to provide comfort and an enjoyable experience to you, the guest.

But what happens when you check out and head home? Do you find yourself dreaming about those cool, crisp, hotel pillows? Thankfully, you don’t have to let your dreams be dreams! Take the Pillow Insider Pillow Quiz now, and find the perfect pillow for you in just 10 seconds.

Today, there are a variety of hotel-quality pillows available to you—and you don’t have to smuggle them home in your suitcase. Because you deserve it, check out our 2021 Editor’s Choice Winner, the Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow. Luxurious, cool, and comfortable, you’ll be checking into 5-star sleep every single night.

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