A Great & Inexpensive Pillow – Novaform Gel Memory Foam Pillow Review

Last August I was in a mild rear-ender car accident. At the time I felt nothing really, just a little stiffness. But a month later it was quite different. My neck was going out of alignment regularly which was promptly followed by upper trap and mid-back tension. I was regularly seeing my awesome chiro/ART dude who was working miracles (it was night and day from when I’d walk in to his office to how I’d feel after I left) but it wasn’t quite enough, I would still be in pain and it even got to the point of taking prescription muscle relaxants.

I took some actions myself: 1) I geared down my workouts quite a bit. Anything that stressed the neck/traps/upper back I stopped doing for about a month. 2) I realized my pillow was really problematic.

And so began the search for the best pillow for the job….

Earlier this year we purchased a Novaform Gel Memory Foam mattress topper from Costco which is made by Sleep Innovations. We quite enjoy it. Eventually Costco started carrying a Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow product as well. Now, I’ve tried 4 other memory foam pillows in the past, ranging from the typical oblong figure 8 memory pillow (one low arch, one higher arch) which are more designed for back sleepers (and are HORRID for side sleepers) to this fancy pillow: http://www.relaxtheback.com/contourside-pillow-974.html

Now, I quite enjoyed the Contour Side Pillow. It’s made for side sleepers in the sense it has a shoulder cradle (the exact reason the figure 8 pillows don’t work). The only problem was it’s somewhat pricey, it definitely takes a long time to get used to (I found myself switching back and forth between it and a normal pillow often in the first few weeks) and well, don’t make fun of me but I hold the world championship belt in snuggling. Makes me prime marriage material. And being a snuggler means as a side sleeper it’s an art how to place my bed side arm under her pillow in a way her head weight won’t make my arm go numb mid-night. The Contour Side Pillow doesn’t allow for this to happen. And that can’t happen!

So I went back to a normal pillow for a few years. But again, the neck pain from the accident needed more support.

The Novaform Gel Memory Foam Pillow made by the Sleep Innovations company was the answer for me:

Alright, so a few tests a pillow must pass to be worth my time blogging a review for it:

1) Snuggle Test: Like I said, snuggling is an art form. For those of you turning your nose up to me right now I have one phrase that should put you in your place: “She’s hot, she’s naked (only weirdos sleep in anything more than undies), she’s got the softest skin ever and she smells good. Why the hell are you NOT snuggling up beside that while you sleep?!?!” Okay, with my logic out-of-the-way. The logistics are the problem. I need my arm under her pillow and my pillow to still be comfortable, as well as her being comfortable. It’s an engineering problem for real! But the Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow does the trick. 1) The pillow is slightly smaller than normal pillows. 2) When I stick my arm up under the corner of my pillow and under her pillow the memory foam actually squishes properly from the underside to make it feel like my pillow top hasn’t changed at all. That’s what no other pillow I’ve ever used can do. Well, except this one which is just stupid (see what I’m saying about dorks and sleeping with clothes on! This guy gets no action because even his pillow is dorky!):

Usually when you put an arm under a pillow the shape is changed all the way up to the face side (top) surface area. Not with the Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow; the face side (top) surface is not affected by a hand or arm under the pillow.

Snuggle Test: A+

2) Firmness Test: I can’t stand when pillows die. If you’re like me and like a medium high pillow, not those neck-breaking-ultra-3-stacked-pillow-high people nor those why-do-you-even-bother-with-a-pillow-that-flat people, I’m sure you’ve found out the hard way that pillows last about 6 months before they lose their magic and flatten just enough to be annoying. This pillow after 4 months usage hasn’t changed a single bit. It hasn’t flattened. It hasn’t degraded. It hasn’t softened. Nothing. It’s just as good as the day I bought it and the memory foam keeps on memory-ing(?). I will say this though, nothing beats the freshly out of the package perfect pillow experience. It’s sorta like great sex. But this pillow was boring right from the get go. Sorta like the bears and the porridge story: not too high, not too flat but instead juuuust right. From day one and day 120. If you don’t like a firm pillow this is not the right one for you!

Firmness Test: A+

3) Heat Test: One of the major flaws of foam is heat retention. Regular foam conducts or holds heat in and if there’s anything I hate more than a flat pillow it’s definitely a pillow that heats up as I lay on it. I wish I had room for a deep freezer just so I could put my pillow in it during the day – that’s how much I love a cold pillow! I’m not sure what sorta space age material the gel foam is but it doesn’t conduct heat. In fact, sometimes when it gets too hot in the bedroom (I mean all the time…oh, wait we’re talking about sleeping) and the body sweats I’ve found it very strange to notice that my hair, face and neck are not sweaty. Which means this pillow’s material is almost dispersing heat.

Heat Test: A+

4) Smell Test: Foam smells weird. So do feather pillows when they get wet (from sweat). This space age gel memory foam definitely has a funk to it. And not in a good way. The mattress topper we bought earlier this year made of the same blue colored material smelled funky too. The solution: take it out of the cover it comes with and let it air out for a couple of days before you use it. Solves the problem entirely. I haven’t smelled the pillow since.

Smell Test: C (F for when first opened; A after you let it air out for a couple of days with the cover completely off)

5) “Natural” Test: When at the Vancouver health show this year this company was selling their Organic Latex Gold chips pillow which is made of natural latex and covered in wool batting. The nice lady was going on about hokey science (by that I mean science that doesn’t have proof/explanation behind it but it anecdotally appears to be true) about how when our face hits natural products we naturally relax much easier versus hitting a pillow that has the smell of artificial, chemical made products which signals our body to respond as if it was a toxin. I was like “whatever” but I laid on her pillow and it was true, the pillow was very soothing in that regard. The Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow is not. In fact, it’s almost unpleasant until you let it air out. So while I understand what she was saying and enjoyed laying on her $100 pillow even the “Luxury” model (which is supposed to be fuller) was still too flat for my liking.

“Natural” Test Score: F  (I have personally chosen the Novaform pillow because of the sleep quality I attain with it. If I can find a natural based pillow that matches what Novaform can do in the 4 previous tests I will make the switch).

6) Hypo-allergenic and Anti-Microbial Test: I don’t want my face breaking out in a rash (I had that response to a new feather pillow once), nor do I want tons of bacteria collecting on my pillow after a few months (you’ll know other pillows do that because they start feeling slimy and wet, and generally start turning a yucky yellow color). The Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow is hypo-allergenic (unless you’re allergic to foam) and has an anti-microbial treatment to blunt the growth of organisms.

Hypo-allergenic and Anti-Microbial Test Score: B (some people are allergic to foam)

7) Shape & Size Test: Most memory foam pillows could be classified into three categories:

The oblong 8 “contour” shape:

These pillows are okay for back sleepers but horrid for side sleepers. The above picture is a complete LIE as no side sleeper sleeps like this with their shoulder girdle on this perfect up and down axis. The only way to attain the picture would be to extend the neck, ET style and notice how in the picture she’s sleeping on the front side of her bottom shoulder. Side sleepers don’t sleep like that; we sleep on the back portion of the shoulder usually! Your arm would go numb if you slept on it like it shows in the picture!! Also…usually the bottom shoulder tucks towards the ear a little bit. Therefore with this oblong 8 shape the arch is actually pushed just an inch up which misses the curvature of the neck, leaving it exposed to a lack of support. Don’t buy oblong 8 “contour” shaped pillows if you sleep on your side!!

The side sleeper variation:

These pillows (which I sorta reviewed above and quite enjoyed on lonely nights, lol) have a built-in shoulder “cradle” which solves the problem of oblong 8 shaped pillows for us side sleepers. The Relax The Back version above (click picture for link to site where they sell) also has a face cradle and air vents which make it a good choice if you’re anti-snuggle anyway. But it was sorta pricey at $65 (Tempur-Pedic brand is $99) and like I said, for me it had an awkward break-in period getting used to it and ultimately, it  just didn’t work for me.

The original pillow shape:

The Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow takes on the traditional rectangular shape and while that may not be high-tech engineering, the shape works perfectly with the material.

As for size, while this pillow is a queen size, and it’s quite “full” and “firm” I find it a bit smaller than my other queen sized pillows. Not that this is a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact but it’s just that the material doesn’t spread like normal pillows, making them appear larger, instead the gel memory foam compresses.

Shape & Size Test Score: A+  Again, for those that enjoy firmer pillows it’s juuuust right.

Extra Perk

If you take a look at the picture of the pillow above you’ll see that its two-part construction consists of a gel memory foam (blue part) as well as a regular memory foam base (cream colored part). Well, the gel memory foam is firmer, keeps the head cooler and feels quite a bit different than the other side (cream colored foam) which is softer, warmer and “cozier.” Some nights I’m looking for more support and some nights I want a pillow to have more give. This pillow is like having both. If you want it softer, you flip to the memory foam (cream colored side); if you want it firmer you simply flip to the gel memory foam (blue side). It’s very distiguishable which is which, even with the pillowcase on.


Okay, enough already. Clearly I dig this pillow. If you’re searching for a good, supportive, firm pillow that will last a long time and is not super expensive (I think it’s about $35 at Costco; only place I know that sells them other than Amazon.com), the Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow is worth the try (as is their mattress topper). It’s not for everyone but based on the generous amount of criticism and information above you should now be able to judge for yourself.

For more info go check out Sleep Innovations website before purchase.

I look forward to when my head gets to hit this pillow!

BTW, you can now find me on:

Instagram @adriancroweathletictraining

Facebook page at Adrian Crowe Athletic Training “The Crowe’s Nest”

YouTube www.youtube.com/acathletictraining

or email me directly at adrian@adriancrowe.com

43 comments on “A Great & Inexpensive Pillow – Novaform Gel Memory Foam Pillow Review

  1. […] 1: Vist the original Novaform Gel Memory Foam Pillow blog review HERE. Read it carefully for I’ve laid out all the pluses, minuses and overall guideline on whom […]

    • Marie Reed says:

      I loved your review months ago, all those details!!!

      I am a mixed side and back sleeper. I have a memory foam pillow from Costco, but not one that you can put your arm under. Would love to have one of those!!

    • Suzanne Reichenbach says:

      Adrian, another great article!!! I too am very picky with my pillows and need a medium firm pillow myself. I have that dreaded feeling about 4-5 months in to a pillow that at anytime this pillow is going to flatten on me and then I am going to have to go out and get another…its so frustrating!
      I sleep on my side and have to have an arm under my pillow(at 90 degrees) in order to be comfortable. (as well as a pillow between my knees to align my spine or my knees ache) I am constantly flipping from side to side and regardless of what side I am on, I need to have my arm under my pillow. I usually buy polymix pillows I believe.

      • Adrian Crowe says:

        Suz, I think you’ll really love this pillow! I think it’s going on 8-9months now and it’s like day 1 with mine. We bought one for Tarah about 3 months ago and of course when we change the sheets and pillow cases and flip the bed and such we loose tabs on who’s pillow is who’s. Can’t tell the difference between 8-9month old one and 3 month old one. Best $35ish I spent in a loooong time!

        I have entered you into the contest now. Good luck!

    • Janet Love says:

      I never put that much thought into a pillow before. Maybe with my neck I should. Thanks for the info.

    • Erin Parr says:

      Im a side sleeper and looking for a good pillow. Great review.

  2. Raj says:

    Hey Adrian!! Great post.
    I sleep on my side/fetal, like to snuggle & use a feather pillow right now.


  3. Thanks for the advice. I find that the older I get, the more particular I am about pillows. I tend to sleep on my right side, and I’m using a Sobakawa buckwheat pillow.

    • Adrian Crowe says:

      Tom, thank you for your reply! I forgot about buckwheat pillows. And I VERY much agree with you about becoming picky about my pillows as I get older. You are entered into the contest.

  4. Pam Knudsen says:

    That was very informative. I have been sleeping with the contour 8 pillow for years. Still don’t get a good nights sleep. I am a side sleeper tend to sleep on my right side

  5. Marie Reed says:

    I loved your review months ago, all those details, glad to know I’m not alone in being very particular in pillow preferences.

    I am a mixed side and back sleeper. I have a memory foam pillow from Costco, but not one that you can put your arm under. Would love to have one of those!!

    Hope this one is posted to the right blog 🙂

  6. Delia says:

    Wow! Even if I don’t win this raffle I think I want to pick up this pillow at Costco…Good job Adrian…maybe you missed your calling in marketing?

    I am a side sleeper and tummy sleeper…hello wrinkles in a few years with my face smooshed into the pillow the entire night! Hahaha..

    And I currently sleep on feather pillows, which are annoying because they go flat every few days and require fluffing…hard work you know! I like firm pillows so this one sounds perfect!

    • Adrian Crowe says:

      Well, I can’t promise this pillow will save you from wrinkles but I’m pretty sure you’d sleep much better on it.

      Indeed, I’ve always said that if I wasn’t doing this I would have gone to school for marketing. Loved it in high school and I know, when I combo my love of a product with my writing enthusiasm I could sell ice to Eskimos. I’m just very, very particular about what I endorse. I have to believe AND regularly use a product before I’d consider recommending.

  7. Tara says:

    I’m a side sleeper. I pretty much get whatever pillow is at Homesense and is a good price but lately I am getting in trouble from my sleeping partner who hates his pillow so maybe I will check this one out.

  8. lisa suttela says:

    Also bought the one from costco but without the arm thing,need it sleep on my side and back.Andy uses his and my daughter has stolen mine.It seems these days everything I own she takes.

  9. nici4a says:

    Whats funny is i have four pillows that i stack and demolish all night long trying to find the right cradle for my neck. i am probably losing at least 1.5 hrs during the night trying to make sure my neck is cradled as i am a side sleeper. I think its time to invest in my sleep! 🙂

  10. elisha says:

    Hot damn I’m gonna win me a pillow!
    I am a side/half stomach sleeper.
    I have a memory foam figure 8 pillow from Sears .. I dislike it very much :p

  11. Excellent blog post. I definitely appreciate this site. Thanks!

  12. Celina says:

    Really enjoyed the review both entertaining and informative and I am a side sleeper

  13. Eric says:

    I snore even though I tell my partner I don’t. I wonder if she will be able to smother me with this.

  14. Curtis Pyke says:

    I really want this! As a guy who has a recurring neck injury (sustained while sleeping no less!) I think this would be a fantastic product to help with my recovery.

    Curtis Pyke

  15. Will says:

    I have a habit of sleeping on my side, but to be honest, some of the best nights sleep have been when I fall asleep on my back, and sleep like the dead.

    I sleep on two of the crappiest pillows, either feathers or possibly a collection of dust bunnies. I don’t know, really, but, in either case – they suck.

    As for these pilows, I was sold at the Heat Test. If my pillow is cool, I’m out like a light.

    • Adrian Crowe says:

      Too funny, Will. I went to Homesense and picked up two of their finest dust bunny filled pillows – worst sleep I ever had too. haha, great story. I’m telling ya, if I had a deepfreeze, I would use it simply to put my pillow in during the day. I love cold pillows. Have entered you into this contest.

  16. Anna S. says:

    This pillow sounds like a dream, I fall asleep on either side and I think a good pillow is the key to a good sleep. I almost always take my pillow with me if I know I’m not spending the night at home.

  17. Gerry says:

    I sleep on my right side and am currently using a feather pillow.

  18. Dianne says:

    I am a side sleeper and am currently using a regular foam pillow.

  19. […] really be accurate as I’m very particular about how I sleep. It’s gotta be with the right pillow, a fan on, temperature cool and my lady in my arms. Not really the type of sleep environment sleep […]

  20. I have a whiplash injury and I’ve struggled with neck pain and I’ve bought dozens of all kinds of pillows that work for a few weeks then loose their shape or firmness. I now use a Mediflow Water Pillow, which was a bit pricey at $65, but now I would not live without it. hope that helps.

  21. That’s a beautiful description you have given about memory foam mattress. One thing I love the most about it’s features is that it not only solves sleeping problem, but it heals body/back pain also!

  22. I would personally like to invite you to try the foam pillow, CoolGel Side Sleeper Pillow from Bed In A Box, which I sell at my store, Nest Bedding, in Albany, CA. If you check it out on my website, http://www.NestBedding.com, I would give you a substantial discount to try it out and see if you think its comparable. I know the pillow you are on, and you are right, it does get an F for “natural” I think you would find the foam from Bed In A Box is much better, in that they use a percentage of soybean oil and all the foams are certified non-toxic. Let me know!

  23. Donna says:

    Pillows are like doctors and hair stylists, what I like someone else will perhaps dislike.

    I clicked out when you started with the “side sleepers don’t sleep like this….” and the other ridiculous generalisations you made in this self indulgent article.

    As for the in depth detail regarding the positions you like to snuggle in, really? You must have a VERY tolerant partner.

    Perhaps your review was an attempt at humour, which like doctors, hair stylists and pillows is individual taste. If that is the case, you and I are light years apart in taste.

  24. […] Poor quality mattress. You don’t know the thread count of your sheets cuz you bought cheap sh*t. Your pillows are 2 years old. And there’s too much street light coming in from your windows. May as well scatter some thumb […]

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