​Choosing the Best Pillow for Your Sleep Position

Posted by Matt Cardoni on 14th Dec 2023

​Choosing the Best Pillow for Your Sleep Position

Getting consistently restful and high-quality sleep is crucial for physical and mental health. Using the right pillow for your sleep position will result in proper support for your head and neck and will allow you to wake up refreshed and with less pain. This article will cover pillow filling types, firmness levels, and ideal alignments for side, back, and stomach sleeping positions. Read on to learn how to select the best pillow for your needs.

Analyze Your Natural Sleep Position

The first step is identifying whether you naturally sleep on your side, back, or stomach. To accurately determine this, ask your sleep partner or check your waking position when you wake up. The objective is to choose a pillow that properly fills the space between your head/neck and mattress without bending your neck up or down, so the position you sleep in the most should be your guiding force.

Side Sleepers - Supporting the Spine's Natural Curvature

The most popular sleeping position - side sleeping - requires a thick, firm pillow to keep your head level with your mattress. A firm pillow more securely fills the gap between your shoulder and head. A pillow that is too thin or soft will let your head drop, stressing your neck. Look for a pillow with firm-density goose down, feathers, or microloft gel. The pillow's loft (height) should align evenly with your shoulders when lying on your side in your usual sleeping posture. Side sleepers often feel best with a pillow between their thighs to support their lower frame and spine.

Back Sleepers - Cradling the Neck Gently

Back sleepers need a flatter, thinner pillow that barely lifts the head to keep the spine straight. Using a pillow that is too thick or firm will crane your neck upwards and strain muscles overnight. Opt instead for a soft, low-profile pillow, preferably with a goose down or down alternative with a low loft to gently cradle your head. The objective is to support your cervical curve at your neck's base where it meets your shoulders.

Stomach Sleepers - Almost No Lift Under the Head

The flattest, thinnest pillows work best for stomach sleeping to avoid arching the neck backward in a 'U' shape, which leads to pain. In most cases, a super slim pillow or no head pillow aligns best with the low angle required for stomach sleep position. If using a thin pillow, placing an additional pillow under your chest or pelvis instead of your head may increase comfort substantially.

Common Pillow Filling Materials

  • Feather Fill: Feather pillows use sturdy feathers from the outer layers of fowl. Because of the rigid feather quills, feather pillows tend to be firmer than down pillows. They also cost less than down and may need to be replaced more often. Since feathers may occasionally poke through pillow fabric, we recommend placing a quality pillow protector underneath your pillowcase.
  • Down Fill: Down pillows are luxuriously soft and have a plushy feel but require fluffing to maintain their loft over time. While they may be more expensive than down alternative pillows, high-quality down pillows are durable, retain their shape well, and last for years. In fact, a down pillow typically lasts two or three times as long as a down alternative pillow, so the cost of down may be well worth it in the long run.
  • Down Alternative Fill: Down alternative pillows are naturally hypoallergenic, easy to clean, and less expensive than down fills. They are an excellent choice for anyone with allergies or people who prefer to avoid natural products. We recommend down alternative pillows for vacation rental bedding because they are typically the most affordable common pillow, offer reliable comfort, provide medium support, and can be easily maintained with machine washing. Buying in bulk can be a smart move if you have a lot of guests or beds.
  • Cotton Fill: Cotton is a comfortable, breathable material that conforms gently to your contours. Cotton pillows don't typically stay as full and lofty over time as other fills, but they are hypoallergenic and skin-friendly.
  • Memory Foam - Originally designed by NASA: Memory foam conforms closely to your head and neck shape and provides custom support. Memory foam retains heat, which can be a nuisance for warm sleepers, but overheating can be alleviated by adding a gel infusion to promote cooling airflow.
  • Latex Foam Fill: Made from natural or synthetic rubber tree components, latex provides firm yet slightly springy support. Latex is naturally hypoallergenic and anti-microbial and stays cooler than memory foam.

With the knowledge of proper spinal alignment, sleep position analysis, pillow density, and fill materials, you're equipped to make the optimal pillow selection tailored to your requirements. If you want additional guidance on selecting the right pillow, read our Pillow Buying Guide, which goes into more depth.

If you're looking for a versatile and safe bet for a quality pillow that can suit any sleep position, our #1 go-to product is the 3-in-1 Adjustable RDS White Goose Down Pillow. Not only is it filled with the premium goose down that goes in luxury hotel pillows, but it also comes with a customizable option that includes a removable inner pillow that can be used by itself as a medium-density pillow or removed to provide a soft-density pillow, or kept inside for a firm pillow experience. This one-of-a-kind design ensures that you're always covered, whether you're a back, side, or stomach sleeper.

Prioritize your neck support and comfort by choosing a new bed pillow specifically for your sleep preferences. And get ready for sweet dreams ahead! 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio