Here I’m answering the seven most frequently asked questions about picking the perfect pillow.
Whether you’re just about to embark on your pillow shopping journey or you’re wondering why your current pillow just isn’t working for you, I’m here to help you out.
Table of Contents
The first question is what are the best pillows for side sleepers.
First of all it’s important to note that every body is different and everybody sleeps differently, even if you all sleep in the same position.
That’s why there’s no one pillow fits all rule for any sleep style.
With that said, there are some general guidelines to follow when you’re shopping for a side sleeper pillow.
Firstly your pillow should be lofty or high enough to hold your head in neutral alignment with your spine and relieve pressure at your shoulder at the same time.
Typically this means a loft of at least 4 inches high, but broad shouldered sleepers might find that’s still even a bit too low and need something closer to 6 or even 7 inches deep.
Secondly your pillow must be firm enough to maintain that loft throughout the entire course of your slumber. That’s why it’s important to remember that loft and firmness go hand in hand.
You could find a super lofty pillow that’s 6 inches high but if it’s got an extra soft firmness rating, it’s just gonna slowly compress beneath the weight of your head.
Essentially side sleepers need a lofty pillow with a firm feel in order to maintain healthy posture and relieve pressure throughout the body.
What are the best pillows for stomach sleepers?
Stomach sleepers need pretty much the exact opposite of what side sleepers need. In order to maintain neutral spine alignment and prevent the head from being craned upwards, stomach sleepers need a low lofted pillow with a soft feel.
Not only will this keep your head, neck and spine in healthy neutral alignment, but it’ll also relieve pressure in your lower back and abdomen as well.
In fact some stomach sleepers may find that it’s helpful to use one soft, low-lofted pillow for the head and then slip another one beneath the hips as well.
When you’re shopping for a stomach sleeper pillow, the main thing to keep in mind is that it should be soft enough to compress into a loft of two inches or fewer.
What are the best pillows for back sleepers?
Back sleepers are lucky in that they don’t have to follow hard and fast rules in the same way that sides and stomach sleepers do.
In general, back sleepers are most compatible with a medium level of loft and firmness, but they have some room to experiment with what feels best for them.
For example, some back sleepers prefer a thinner pillow with a lower loft to really enjoy that flat back position, while others like to feel a big lofty pillow cradling their head and neck.
Take some time to experiment with what feels right to you, but keep this one main thing in mind: neutral spine alignment is the name of the game.
Regardless of your preferred sleeping position, your pillow should always promote neutral alignment of your head, neck and spine.
What if you’re a combination sleeper, who enjoys every sleeping position?
That’s where the elusive all position pillow comes into play.
I will say as a combo sleeper myself it can be tough to find a pillow that works for every sleeping position, especially if you’re a side and stomach sleeper.
But in general, I find that a pillow that combines plushness and support works best, because it’s gonna offer the best versatility and these pillows typically have a dual construction or an adjustable internal fill.
For example, the Saatva pillow and original Casper pillow are two of my personal favorite combo sleeper pillows, because they both feature a dual construction, where an outer pillow envelopes an inner pillow for balanced support.
But you can also remove that middle insert to reduce the loft if you’re primarily a stomach sleeper. Like I said, it really gives you some versatility there.
Similarly adjustable pillows, those that have an adjustable internal fill, literally let you go in and remove as much stuffing as you like until you reach your perfect level of loft and firmness.
While finding a great all position pillow can be a little tricky, it’s generally a safe bet to pick one that’s adjustable or versatile enough to adapt to each sleep style.
Now that we’ve covered every sleep style, allow me to address some more general questions.
I memory foam good for every sleeping position?
Memory foam is certainly one of the most popular materials in this industry and with good reason.
It’s moldable, conforms to your body shape and can do a great job of relieving pressure at your head and neck.
However it does tend to be better for back and side sleepers than for folks who sleep on their stomachs and that’s because memory foam is often a bit more dense and firm than what stomach sleepers need to keep healthy posture.
Stomach sleepers who have their hearts set on memory foam can look for pillows that advertise a super low loft and an extra soft firmness rating.
As far as back and side sleepers are concerned, memory foam can be a really great pick for you. It cradles the head and neck in a really supportive way and does a great job of maintaining its loft throughout the night.
How do you cool a pillow down?
This question is particularly near and dear to my heart because I’m a very hot sleeper year-round and if you’ve ever found yourself flipping your pillow back and forth, again and again, in order to sleep on the cool side, you know that it can be tough to sleep on a pillow that feels too warm.
So how do you cool a pillow down?
There are two main things you can do.
Firstly invest in a cooling pillow. There are dozens of pillows out there that are made specifically for hot sleepers and feature cooling gel pads, special cooling cover fabrics, copper infusions that draw heat away from your body. The list goes on and on.
If you’re not necessarily interested in getting a brand-new pillow and you’re just looking for a way to make your current pillow cooler, I suggest shopping for a cooling pillow case and/or sheet set.
So bamboo, tensile or anything with phase-change material woven into the fabric are all materials that can feel really soothing on the skin and serve as a super cooling barrier between you and your warm pillow.
You finally found the pillow that’s perfect for you and now you want to know how long is this thing actually going to last.
The short answer is that every single pillow is built differently and each one has a different life span that mainly depends on how it was made.
Here are a couple general rules of thumb to follow.
First of all, I recommend checking in with your pillow every six to eight months just to make sure that it’s still maintaining its shape and it’s not caving in in the center.
You’re also going to want to make sure that the internal fill isn’t separating or clumping within the pillow because that can be a sign that it’s no longer properly supporting you.
Another good indicator of a pillow’s lifespan is its warranty.
For example, if you see a pillow that’s backed by a one-year warranty, there’s a good chance that it’s built to last you at least one year.
Finally it’s important to remember that pillows are not made to last a lifetime and if you’ve been snoozing on the same pillow for many years it’s probably time for an upgrade.
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Alex P. Davis has a BA in Interior Design from The New York School of Interior Design and 10 years of experience expertly designing sophisticated interiors.