How To Choose a Pillow for a Good Night’s Sleep

Proper sleep is essential: In fact, we’re meant to spend practically a third of our lives in slumber, but many of us find it impossible to sleep as much and as well as we should. Devices with blinking lights, screens, and constant noise keep us awake and make us feel like we haven’t slept in years.

That feeling is completely valid; without a good night’s sleep, your health, mood, and work performance will all be affected. So, what can you do to prevent these side effects?

Apart from turning off all your devices at least an hour before bedtime and not eating or exercising right before you want to drift off, you should learn how to choose a pillow to help you catch some quality Zs and invest in a good mattress.

The right pillow can make all the difference for your sleep, but between the multitudes of types, materials, and shapes of pillows on the market, choosing the proverbial Mr. Right can be tricky.

Different Sleeping Positions

While some online quizzes promise to uncover your true personality based on your sleeping position, something this preference can actually tell you is which head pillow is the best pillow for you.

The perfect pillow should provide sufficient support for your neck and the rest of your spine, and for that, it needs to adapt to your sleeping position. For example, stomach sleepers need thin pillows that will not put a strain on their necks.

On the other hand, people who sleep on their sides need a thicker, side-sleeper pillow, with more support for their head and neck, to prevent waking up with neck pain in the morning. Let’s get into more detail.

Sleeping Position 1 – Back Sleeper

If you sleep on your back, a larger feather pillow is a good option; these pillows conform to the shape of your head and offer gentle support. If you prefer a firmer pillow, a memory foam pillow that dents slightly in the middle would be an even better choice to properly support your head and neck.

If you go with a memory-foam pillow for back sleepers, you want to put the bigger third of the memory foam closer to your shoulders to provide you with more support. However, if you have trouble breathing while asleep, or suspect you might be snoring during the night, tucking the thinner side of your pillow under your shoulders and using the wider side to elevate your head might alleviate these issues.

Regarding pillow firmness, back sleepers typically go for medium thickness when looking for a new pillow to ensure proper alignment with the neck and spine.

Sleeping Position 2 – Side Sleeper

If you’re a side sleeper, you’ll want a thick and firmer pillow to support your head and keep your spine aligned. Gel is excellent filling for pillows for side sleepers, because it contours to your head and provides support without being too firm.

Side sleepers’ necks might strain throughout the night, and their choice of mattress also plays an important role here. If you have a firm mattress and broad shoulders, you’ll need a larger pillow, or even two firm pillows stacked.

On the other hand, if you have a softer mattress and your shoulders tend to sink into it, you’ll need a thinner cushion and a pillow loft that aligns with your head and neck to avoid angling your neck too far.

Moreover, side sleeping can also strain your shoulders and knees, too. A body pillow might be the solution here, or putting one smaller pillow under your waist and one between your knees for proper support. Either option could be a game-changer.

Sleeping Position 3 – Stomach Sleeper

If stomach sleeping is your thing, you need a thin pillow that won’t strain your neck. A flat pillow or a small feather pillow would be suitable for stomach sleepers. Surprisingly, the best option is foregoing a cushion altogether.

Unfortunately, sleeping on your stomach is one of the most health-threatening positions, as it puts a lot of strain on your back and your breathing. With a hard pillow, you’ll likely be craning upwards – and involuntarily doing some yoga throughout the night. If you love to tuck your hands under your head, the thinner the buffer, the better.

Sleeping Position 4 – Tossers and Turners

Not many people wake up in the same position they fell asleep in, so you still might experience neck pain upon getting up, even if you made the right position-and-pillow combo.

If you can’t help tossing and turning throughout the night, consider a middle-ground solution in terms of thickness and filling. In this case, the primary metric to follow when choosing your perfect pillow is how quickly it adapts to your movement.

Typically, feather pillows tend to be flatter, while some high-quality memory foam pillows will keep your neck supported in any sleeping position.

How To Choose a Pillow Based on Filling

The pillow fill is just as important as the pillow shape. For example, down and feathers are popular choices because of their softness and gentle support – perfect for back and stomach sleepers.

However, a down or feather pillow can be expensive and unsuitable for people with allergies. Synthetic down is an excellent alternative to natural feathers: It’s made from polyester fibre and feels very similar to the real thing, but it’s hypoallergenic. A down alternative pillow is also a suitable choice for vegans.

Memory foam is another popular filling material. It’s firm and supportive, but it can be too firm for some people. People who find memory foam too hot to sleep on may find shredded memory foam a better solution.

Buckwheat hulls are a natural filling material that provides support without being too firm. For example, a latex pillow is another option for people who want a firm pillow – side sleepers.

Fillings react differently to your body heat: Down and feathers are good insulators, so they can trap heat and make you feel warm at night. Synthetic down and cooling gel pillow filling are good options for people who tend to sleep hot.

Buckwheat hulls and latex are both breathable materials that won’t trap heat. Keep these characteristics in mind when choosing a pillow for yourself.

When Should You Replace Your Pillow?

Pillows are not diamonds, and they certainly don’t last forever, so you should consider investing in a new one every few years. General recommendations suggest replacing your sleeping pillow every 18 to 36 months, depending on how often you use it and how well it maintains its shape.

If you notice that your pillow is lumpy or has lost its form, it’s time to replace it. Also, unfortunately, not everything can be washed successfully – if your pillow comes out of the wash and still looks (or smells) dirty, it’s probably time for a new one.

The Bottom Line

Pillows are a matter of personal preference, but one rule applies to everybody: A good pillow is both comfortable for you and provides the support you need.

Experiment with different types of pillows, or at least shop for them in person and test different options out as much as possible before you purchase one. Once you find your perfect pillow fit, you can easily switch to online shopping for convenience.


What pillow is right for side sleepers?

A memory foam ergonomic pillow provides the neck support side sleepers need to avoid pain. You need to make sure that your pillow can fit the curve around your head, neck and shoulders and keep your head parallel to the mattress.

What is the most comfortable pillow in the world?

There is no definitive answer to this question, due to personal preferences. You might find that soft pillows are the most comfortable for you, or prefer memory foam pillows. The best way to know for sure is to experiment with different types of pillows until you find the one that feels most comfortable for you. Snuggly pillow covers can also improve sleep quality.

Should my shoulders be on my pillow?

If you sleep on your back, your idea of the proper pillow position for sleeping might need to be revised. To maintain an elevated head position throughout the night and help improve your breathing, you might want to lift your shoulders with your pillow.

What is the best thickness for a pillow?

The best thickness for a pillow depends on your sleeping position and is a key consideration in deciding how to choose a pillow. If you sleep on your stomach, you should choose a thinner pillow to avoid neck pain, but you can select a thicker pillow for more support if you sleep on your back.

How do you know which pillow is right for you?

The wrong pillow for your sleeping habits can leave your neck strained and cause all sorts of pain. The best way to know which pillow is right for you is to experiment with different pillows suitable for your preferred sleeping positions.

Try out as many pillows as possible until you find the one that feels most comfortable. These can include feather pillows, wool pillows, latex pillows, foam pillows, alternative pillows, and specialty pillows.

What pillow material is best for allergies?

If you’re looking for a pillow that won’t aggravate your allergies, then you’ll want to choose one made from natural materials. Cotton is a good option, as is down or wool. If you’re allergic to feathers, then choose a latex pillow instead. Even a buckwheat pillow might be a good option for those with allergies, as it won’t attract dust mites.

A thin pillow is best if you tend to sleep on your stomach, then a thin pillow is best. But side and back sleepers will need a thicker pillow. To keep your pillow clean and fresh, wash it regularly and use a pillow protector.

Milica Milenkovic
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