Buckwheat and millet are traditional fill materials for pillows, but they’ve largely been replaced by synthetic materials. What are the pros and cons of buckwheat pillows and millet pillows, and are they sustainable? We look at these pillow materials in-depth here.
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Here are the pros and cons of buckwheat and millet pillows:
|Conform to your head and neck for molded support
|Don’t feel fluffy
|Excellent air circulation
|Can be a little noisy and crunchy
|Helps you stay cool
|Can feel too firm for stomach-sleepers
|Easy to care for
|Can be expensive
|Easy to adjust fill (and replace fill!)
|Great for back- and side-sleepers
|Hypoallergenic and don’t hide dust mites
What are Buckwheat Pillows and Millet Pillows?
Buckwheat pillows are filled with buckwheat hulls and feel very different to standard pillow stuffing. They are also known as sobakawa pillows in Japan, where they are much more common than in North America.
Millet pillows are similar to buckwheat, only the millet grains (technically seeds) are smaller than buckwheat hulls and are spherical. Some millet pillows use millet hulls rather than seeds, and some buckwheat pillows use buckwheat grains rather than hulls. These pillows will feel much firmer than those using hulls only.
Some pillows use a combination of millet and buckwheat or have one side filled with buckwheat and the other with millet. This gives you flexibility in terms of firmness and noise.
Buckwheat Pillows – Benefits
Buckwheat pillows are not fluffy and soft, but they’re also not hard or uncomfortable. Quite the opposite in fact!
Buckwheat hulls also adjust and conform to your neck and head, providing molded support that can help with neck and back pain.
Buckwheat pillows offer excellent air circulation and help your head stay cool, which supports better sleep. I’m a hot sleeper and I love my buckwheat pillow for nights when the mercury is high. You can even put a buckwheat pillow in the freezer shortly before bedtime, if you have room (I sure don’t), and then enjoy a cool pillow that stays cool through the night.
A well-designed buckwheat pillow will have a zipper that lets you adjust the fill and air out the hulls as needed. This means the pillows are flexible for thickness and can work well for side-sleepers and back-sleepers.
The Downsides of Buckwheat Pillows
Some stomach-sleepers may find these pillows a little uncomfortable, given that you can feel the granularity of the fill through the case. I love my buckwheat pillow, though, and am a committed stomach-sleeper.
If you have a pillow that feels a bit too rough on your face, consider adding an extra pillowcase or a pillow protector for more cushioning.
Because buckwheat pillows are filled with hulls, they can also feel and sound a little ‘crunchy’. I worried about this because I’m quite sensitive to noise, especially at night. I can definitely hear the crunch of the hulls but it’s something I got used to very quickly and barely even notice anymore. It’s also not a stressful noise, at least for me, and may even have some ASMR benefits if that’s how your brain works.
If you think you’ll find the noise distracting, consider buying a buckwheat pillow with an organic wool or cotton outer layer to muffle the sound. Some pillows feature a buckwheat side and a millet side to combine stability and support with dense softness and less crunch.
Is Buckwheat Sustainable?
Buckwheat hulls are a by-product of milling, and the hulls are naturally pesticide-free, hypoallergenic, and sustainable. These hulls do not flatten or hide dust mites, meaning that these pillows can last a decade or more and are excellent for allergy sufferers.
While I definitely recommend looking for pillows made with organic buckwheat and an organic cotton cover, certified by GOTS or USDA Organic, chances are that you won’t find one (I haven’t, and it’s my job to find them!).
The lack of organic certification isn’t a reason to avoid this kind of pillow. In fact, most buckwheat is grown under organic conditions, rendering certification a bit pointless for most buckwheat farmers.
Still, I like to see some assurance that a company uses genuinely organic buckwheat and cotton that are free of hazardous chemicals and help to support more sustainable farming practices. This is why I chose a buckwheat pillow from a company that only makes organic and natural products (Turmerry – see my review).
You’ll also want to check to see how the buckwheat is hulled, screened, and washed. If it’s not done properly, the pillow can harbor pests and dust and will likely degrade faster.
Millet Pillows – Benefits
Millet pillows are an excellent option for back-sleepers and some side-sleepers and can work for some stomach sleepers, usually by adjusting the fill level.
The great thing about millet pillows is that if you remove some of the fill and then misplace it, you can always buy more organic millet at the store to top it back up! It’s a little harder to find organic buckwheat hulls as most stores just carry the groats.
Because of the round shape of millet seeds, millet pillows tend to be a little smoother, softer, and less noisy than buckwheat pillows.
Is Millet Sustainable?
Most millet is grown in India and Nigeria, although a lot of millet is also grown in the U.S., mainly in Colorado, and North and South Dakota. This means it’s possible to find millet pillows made from materials grown entirely in the U.S., given that organic cotton also grows in America.
Millet is typically grown in areas with little rainfall and without pesticides. As such, millet doesn’t necessarily need to be certified organic for it to have been grown using organic farming practices. Still, if possible, look for organic certified millet in an organic certified cotton case with a metal zipper for easy pillow care and maintenance.
How Much Do Buckwheat and Millet Pillows Cost?
The cost of buckwheat and millet pillows varies depending on the size, fill level, and design of the pillow. If the pillow has a zipper and organic cotton cover it will usually cost more than one that is sewn shut and made with conventional cotton, for instance.
In general, though, a buckwheat or millet pillow will cost between $30 and $100, with refills costing around $15 for 2 lbs of buckwheat hulls or $20 for a 1 lb. bag of millet hulls.