How to choose a pillow - The sleep doctor (2023)

Choosing the right pillow can have a significant impact on how well you sleep and how likely you are to wake up pain free. The purpose of a pillow is to support your head, neck, and shoulders so that they stay comfortably aligned with your spine.

Today there is a wide range of pillows, some designed for people with special circumstances such as:pregnant womenÖpeople with neck pain. Extensive research has shown that different types and materials of pillows provide different levels of support and comfort depending on a person's sleep needs.

We discuss factors to consider when choosing a pillow and how to test a pillow to determine if it's right for you.

What's the perfect pillow for you?

The perfect pillow for you depends on your individual needs and preferences, including the position you sleep in. In other words, your sleeping position will determine what kind of support you need in a pillow.

Spinal alignment is a key component of good posture and overall health. A good pillow does its job by keeping your head, neck, and spine in ideal alignment. This prevents neck pain and reduces the pressure on your body.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a pillow, including size, shape, and materials. But ultimately, the goal is to find a pillow that will make you comfortable and help you get a good night's sleep.

Why is the right pillow important?

A pillow is designed to support your head, neck, and shoulders so your spine can stay aligned while you sleep. The position of the spine affects posture, an important part of overall health. Sleeping on a pillow that doesn't provide adequate support can lead to a variety of problems, including neck pain and poor sleep quality.

The right pillow can help you sleep better at night. The quality of your sleep can impact almost every aspect of your health, from supporting your healthimmune systemto improve your mood. The bedding, especially the pillow, is a key element in creating aideal sleeping climatewhich can help your body maintain good posture and ensure a consistently good night's sleep.

Buy the best pillows

Which is the best pillow depending on the sleeping position?

When choosing a pillow, you should consider your sleeping position. Whether you sleep on your back, side, or stomach affects the position of your spine and how much support your head and neck need while you rest. You can select or adjust a pillow's size, height and firmness to fit your usual sleeping position.

back sleepers

if you are a...back sleepers, it's important to find a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck. One option is a neck pillow that sits higher in the bottom third and slopes down in the middle, where your head rests. A standard medium to thin height pillow can also provide adequate head support without altering the angle of the neck.

Even back sleepers need a pillow with a medium firmness that allows the head to align with the spine. It also prevents the pillow from becoming too flat while you sleep. Consider a memory foam pillow as this type hugs your head and neck.

extra bed

Most people areside sleepers, sleeping in the fetal position or directly on the side. Side sleepers need more support from their pillow, both in height and firmness.

If you sleep on your side, choose a pillow that's between 4 and 6 inches high, which can help keep your ears aligned with your shoulders. This position prevents neck strain and helps you maintain proper posture while you sleep. Body pillows can also be a good option for side sleepers as they can support the pelvis and hips.

Choosing a medium to strong degree of hardness can also be advantageous for side sleepers. Filling materials like buckwheat hull, memory foam, and latex tend to be firmer, while down pillows are often softer when not tightly packed.

stomach sleeper

people, whosleep on your stomachYou may need to consider which parts of the body need support to maintain good spinal alignment during sleep. A stomach sleeping position can put pressure on your spine or your back and shoulder muscles. In some cases, experts advise people with back pain not to sleep on their stomachs.

However, if you are more comfortable sleeping on your stomach, a softer and lower pillow may suit you better. Feather and down filling is usually less rigid than other materials and can be compressed to a comfortable height.

If you sleep half on your stomach and half on your side, or if you sleep with your arms tucked under your torso, you may want to try a body pillow for extra support. Wrapping yourself around a body pillow can make you feel similar to sleeping on your stomach, but it allows you to adjust your head and neck so they can comfortably align with your shoulders and hips.

Other elements in the choice of pillows

Design elements like shape, size, and material all contribute to how much or how much support a pillow can provide. Depending on what position you typically sleep in, you should think about how each of these factors affects your posture and overall comfort.

The goal is to find a pillow that offers the right amount of support and helps keep your body at a comfortable temperature so you can wake up rested.

pillow shape

The typical pillow is shaped like a rectangle and comes in a variety of sizes to match the width of a twin, queen, or king mattress. Other common shapes include nape or neck pillows with rounded corners that fit the head and neck, and longer body pillows that can provide support from head to waist.

pillow size

Pillow size refers to how much space the pillow takes up when laid flat on the bed, while height refers to how tall or thick the pillow is. The height of the pillow directly affects the support of the head and neck and is an important factor in preventing or relieving neck or back pain.

pillow filler

Material selection can be one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a pillow. The type of material a pillow is filled with determines its height and firmness, which helps when deciding how much support your neck and shoulders need.

Different materials can affect how well the body regulates its temperature while you sleep. Lower body temperature tends to correlate with better sleep quality. Pillows made with breathable filling materials and pillowcases can lower a sleeper's body temperature and reduce the likelihood of sweating during sleep.

people who haveallergiesor who are sensitive to certain materials should also pay particular attention to what is in their pillows. Pillow protectors can also be purchased to minimize exposure to potential allergens such as dust mites.

Pillows can be filled with a wide variety of materials. Some are more available than others.

  • Under:The down filling comes from the undercoat of a duck or goose. Down is an extremely soft material that can puff up quickly. While it may offer a low loft profile for those who don't need a lot of support, a down pillow may need frequent fluffing to be comfortable.
  • Plumage:Feathers also come from birds, but they are a bird's outer covering rather than the undercoat. They are flatter than down and contain the feather.feather pillowThey are firmer than feather pillows and retain less heat.
  • memory foam:Memory foam pillows can be made with either a solid piece of foam or pieces of memory foam inside the pillow. It can be designed to cradle the head or adjust to a person's movements during sleep. Memory foam can be denser and less breathable than other materials, which can make it harder to stay cool.
  • Polyester:Polyester pillow filling is similar to cotton. It is the most common type of pillow insert and also the cheapest. However, dust mites like to live in synthetic pillow fillings like polyester, so people with certain allergies should avoid this material.
  • Latex:Latex can be synthetic or a natural material made from tree resin. Like memory foam, it can be supplied as one solid piece or cut into many small pieces. Latex can be heavier and stronger, and quickly returns to its original shape after pressing.
  • Alfons:Buckwheat pillow filler is made from dried seeds. This padding is usually very firm and can form around the head and neck. Buckwheat also tends to be better at maintaining a cool body temperature.

When to Replace Your Pillow

No matter which pillow you choose, it won't last forever. Shouldget a new pillowevery two years. A good quality memory foam pillow can last about three years.

You can tell if you need a new pillow by examining it closely and checking for signs of aging, including:

  • stains
  • stink
  • physical wear and tear
  • loss of form

If you notice your pillow showing any of these signs, it's time to replace it. Storing a pillow for a long time is not a good idea. Mold, dead skin cells and dust mites populate old pillows that need to be thrown away.

Buy a new pillow

You can buy pillows online or in person at retail stores. While buying pillows online limits your ability to examine a pillow's firmness and texture, reading detailed descriptions and understanding the construction can help you with pillow pillow.

When you buy a new pillow from a physical store, there are a few steps you can take to find one that suits your needs.

  • Test the firmness of the pillow:Place the pillow on a flat surface. Press it down with the palm of your hand until it's half its original thickness. TOfirm pillowit requires more pressure than a soft pillow. A pillow's firmness tells you how much support it can provide for your head and neck.
  • Shake the pillow:If a pillow has small pieces of material inside instead of one solid piece, it can lose its shape. To test it, fluff up the pillow to see if it returns to its original shape. A pillow with a consistent shape and filling is generally considered more comfortable to sleep on.
  • Examine the outer cover:Choose a pillow that is well stitched. This reduces wear and helps the cushion last longer.


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About the author

Kimberly Solis

employed author

Kimberly is a freelance writer specializing in healthcare. Kimberly lives in Louisville and has master's degrees in elementary education and library media education and a bachelor's degree in English. Kimberly is passionate about creating well-researched, easy-to-understand articles to help people achieve a better night's sleep. Her goal is to someday publish a middle-class novel.

  • Position:back sleepers
  • Temperature:neutral sleeper
  • Chronotype: Very

ask the sleep doctor

If you still have questions,Send an email to the Sleep Doctor teamand we'll help you get the answers you need to get the best sleep possible.

How to choose a pillow - The sleep doctor (3)


How do I choose the right pillow to sleep on? ›

Pillow Size Matters: Find the Right Size for You

These factors include: Your sleeping position – How you sleep can affect which pillow size is best for you. Side sleepers may prefer a thicker soft pillow, while back and stomach sleepers might be more comfortable with thinner pillows that reduce neck strain.

What pillow does Dr Oz use? ›

Oz Good Life Stay The Night Premium Fill Pillow, Standard (Pack of 1), White.

What type of pillows do chiropractors recommend? ›

Chiropractors often recommend pillows made from memory foam or latex. These materials mold to your body and provide gentle support. You may also want to consider a pillow with a built-in neck roll. This can help keep your spine aligned while you sleep.

How do I know if my pillow is too high or too low? ›

The notch above the sternum is called the suprasternal notch. These two areas should be level when lying on your side. If the philtrum is lying higher than the suprasternal notch then your pillow is too high. If the philtrum is lying lower than the suprasternal notch then your pillow is too low.

Is it better to sleep with a high or low pillow? ›

If you sleep on your back a majority of the time, you're better off buying a pillow with a low profile. This ensures your neck doesn't get bent at a bad angle. However, if you sleep mostly on your side, you'll require a medium or even large profile pillow.

What pillow does Oprah use? ›

Chosen for Oprah's Favorite Things List, the Jetsetter Mini is always ready for takeoff! The compact, neck-hugging design provides luxury and comfort without taking up your whole carry on bag.

Is orthopedic better than memory foam? ›

Memory foam conforms to your body, providing support and pressure relief. Orthopaedic mattresses are firm and provide support for your spine. An orthopaedic mattress may be a better choice if you suffer from joint pain. However, memory foam may be a better option if you want a softer mattress and relief back pain.

Are curved pillows good for your neck? ›

If you're a side sleeper or back sleeper who needs extra neck support and shoulder pressure relief, a curved pillow like this one by Scrumptious can help you achieve pain-free alignment.

What pillows Does Kim Kardashian use? ›

Silk pillows are loved by celebrities like Kim Kardashian-West, Chrissy Teigen, Khloe, Kourtney, Jessica Alba and lots more, it'll take just one night for you to fall in love with our silk pillow slips. We know you'll fall in love with the way silk makes you feel.

What is the best pillow filling for sleeping? ›

Memory foam can be considered the best pillow filling available. Memory foam pillows are a moderate price while offering high-quality comfort and support. Memory foam pillows often come in one block of material, shaped to accommodate the head and the neck.

What are Housewife pillows? ›

Ever wondered what the difference is between Oxford and Housewife pillowcases? There's only one small difference between the two types of pillowcases - Housewife pillowcases have a sewn edge, which fits neatly around the pillow, whilst Oxford pillowcases have a fabric border around the edge. It's as simple as that!

What pillow is best for neck and back? ›

The Best Pillows for Neck Pain
  • Best Overall. Saatva Latex Pillow. ...
  • Best Value. Original Groove Pillow. ...
  • Best for Side Sleepers. Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow. ...
  • Best for Spinal Alignment. Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow. ...
  • Most Comfortable. Silk & Snow Pillow. ...
  • Best for Combination Sleepers. ...
  • Best Luxury. ...
  • Best Neck Support.
7 days ago

Should your shoulders be on your pillow? ›

Your head and neck should lie comfortably on the pillow to ensure that the spine is elongated. Like the back sleep position, your shoulders should fall just beneath the pillow and rest comfortably on the surface of the bed.

Why are hotel pillows so fluffy? ›

You have probably slept in a hotel thinking what makes these pillows so fluffy. In most cases in luxury hotels, hotel pillows are filled with down or a mix of down and feathers.

What is the correct pillow height for sleeping? ›

Body size and preference are likely to influence pillow size, but usually the pillow should maintain a height of 4 to 6 inches to support the head and neck (and shoulders when lying on the back).

What is the best neck position for sleeping? ›

The best sleeping positions for the neck are on your back or your side. The back in particular is recommended; just make sure to use a pillow that supports the curvature of your neck and a flatter pillow to cushion your head.

What is the best pillow height for side sleepers? ›

Side Sleepers – If you sleep on your side, you can expect sweet dreams when using a medium-density pillow between five and seven inches in height. These are considered mid or high loft pillows. Side sleepers require the highest pillows to maintain a neutral spine.

What happens if your pillow is too high? ›

If the height of the pillow is too high when sleeping sideways or on the back, the neck is bent abnormally forward or to the side, causing muscle strain on the back of the neck and shoulders.

What brand of pillows do Disney resorts use? ›

Disney's pillows are made by Sobel Westex, so that's where we would suggest you start! Many of the Disney hotels use the Dolce Notte II model, but you can browse through the different options they offer to select the size, materials, and firmness you prefer.

What kind of pillows do most hotels use? ›

Down is generally seen as the luxurious filling choice for pillows, which is why luxury hotels will tend to supply down hotel pillows. The most common type is goose down pillows, although duck down pillows are also a potentially cheaper alternative.

Do chiropractors recommend memory foam? ›

It has more to do with the material and firmness than specific brands. For example, several chiropractors agree that memory foam mattresses can be a desirable choice for people with back pain due to their ability to contour with your body, relieving unnecessary pressure.

What thickness of memory foam is best? ›

High-quality memory foam mattresses 10 to 14-inch thick are good enough to provide body-conforming support. They are durable and can last around 10 to 15 years. Memory foam mattresses thinner than this may not be supportive or durable enough, developing soft spots and sags within three to four years.

Are Springs or memory foam better for your back? ›

Memory foam molds to your body and provides pressure relief, alleviating joint and back pain. It aligns with the natural curvature of your spine offering better support. Spring mattresses are not able to uniformly support the body, causing damage to pressure-points.

What pillow do chiropractors recommend for neck pain? ›

Try a memory foam or hybrid pillow – These are usually the best for your neck. They allow your cervical spine to maintain a neutral position, and they last longer than a standard pillow.

What type of pillow is best for side sleepers with neck pain? ›

Best neck-support pillow for side sleepers

Water pillows are “perfect for any type of sleep position and many are chiropractor-approved, as the firmness provides the support for head, neck, and spine alignment that will help individuals with chronic pain,” explains McGinn.

Is a soft or firm pillow better for neck pain? ›

For the 70 percent of us who sleep on our sides, firm pillows work best to ensure proper neck and head alignment. The pillow should be no more than 4 inches from the mattress and have foam or latex filling to keep its shape.

What pillows does Trump hotel use? ›

All guestrooms and suites showcase custom-made Italian bedding by Bellino along with each guest's preference from the signature Trump Pillow Menu.

Why do people have yellow pillows? ›

Sweat. We all sweat at night, and over time sweat can seep through your pillowcase and onto your pillow. Eventually, this will cause your pillow to yellow. Sweat stains are the most common reason for pillow yellowing.

What silk pillowcase does Oprah use? ›

Mulberry Park Silks: Recognized by O, The Oprah Magazine

Mulberry Park Silks' 19 momme pillowcase was recognized by O, The Oprah Magazine, in an article titled "The Best Silk Pillowcases for Healthier Hair and Skin."

What pillow filling is best for side sleepers? ›

Solid Memory Foam: Solid memory foam is one of the best fill materials for side sleepers because it provides substantial support and structure. A memory foam pillow will maintain its shape well, so your neck and spine will remain in alignment even under the weight of your head.

What is the safest pillow filling? ›

Wool or Cotton Fillers

Wool and cotton pillows are hypoallergenic and resist dust mites, mold and bacteria, so you don't have to worry about unwanted reactions, such as rashes, itchiness or breathing troubles.

Is latex or memory foam better for pillows? ›

A latex pillow feels immediately softer to the touch than the best memory foam pillow. Thus it is considered the best pillow for neck pain. It is a superb choice for people who like how memory foam feels, but not its initial firmness.

What is a shame pillow? ›

Often referred to interchangeably as a sham, pillow sham, or bed sham, these pillow covers turn traditional-sized pillows into decorations for your bed. While similar to a normal pillowcase, they often have a more decorative front and an opening in the back rather than the end.

What is a Luna pillow? ›

Luna is home to the world's first silver ionised Mulberry Silk beauty pillow. Perfectly Shaped. Memory Foam Support. Luna's carefully chosen adaptive memory foam base. and orthopedically designed shape offer support regardless of how you prefer to sleep.

What is a German pillow? ›

At 80 centimeters square (31 by 31 inches), the traditional German pillow—often filled with feathers or down—is about half Ms. Grady's 5-foot-1-inch height. A standard-size U.S. pillow is 20 by 26 inches. Linda O'Grady on an organized tour of Berlin in a bed on wheels—with traditional pillows—in 2015.

Which brand neck pillow is best? ›

  • Our pick. Travelrest Nest Ultimate Memory Foam Travel Pillow. The best travel pillow. ...
  • Runner-up. Cabeau Evolution Classic Pillow. A travel pillow available at airports. ...
  • Also great. Trtl Pillow. A pillow for one-sided neck support only. ...
  • Also great. Bcozzy Pillow. Great with large headphones.
Nov 7, 2022

Why does my neck and shoulder hurt when I wake up? ›

Holding your neck in an awkward position for long periods of time can lead to muscle spasms and strains in the neck and shoulder. Some of the most common postures that can provoke neck and shoulder pain include: Sleeping on a pillow that is too high or too flat. Grinding or clenching your teeth through the night.

Why do I wake up with neck pain every morning? ›

In most cases, a sore neck in the morning results from your sleeping position, the type of pillow you use, or other sleep issues. It could also be related to an underlying condition like an injury or osteoarthritis. Waking up with a sore neck is not how you want to start your day.

What are the healthiest type of pillows? ›

Organic wool and down are produced with improved animal welfare compared to traditional means. Whether they're made of buckwheat, latex, wool, cotton, or other organic materials, organic pillows represent a choice that's better for you and the planet.

What is the best density for a pillow? ›

MEDIUM density: This is the most common level for most people. It usually is the best starting point for most. If you are a back or side sleeper this is going to be most ideal for you. Some stomach sleepers might find this is also okay for them as well.

Why flat pillows are better? ›

The flatter the pillow, the less angled your head and neck. Put a pillow under your pelvis. This will help keep your back in a more neutral position and take pressure off your spine.

Should neck be on pillow when sleeping? ›

You may feel better and sleep better with a neck pillow. It's sometimes called a cervical pillow because the upper part of your backbone (where your neck is) is called the cervical spine. Research suggests that a pillow with good cervical support can help relieve neck pain and improve rest.

How high should pillow be when sleeping on back? ›

Back Sleepers – If you get your shuteye on your back, consider a pillow between four and five inches in height. These mid-loft pillows can help you keep your head in the clouds and in line with your spine all night long.

Should my neck be on the pillow? ›

The rule of thumb for a proper pillow is that it should keep your neck parallel to the mattress, rather than bent down or up.

What is the most healthy sleeping position? ›

The best sleeping position for is on your side with a pillow or blanket between the knees. Side sleeping can also relieve symptoms for those with neck or back pain. Choose a pillow with a loft, or thickness, that matches the distance between your neck and your shoulder.

What sleeping position is linked to Alzheimer's? ›

A 2019 study published in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, showed among 165 participants (45 with diagnosed neurodegenerative disease, 120 controls) a supine sleep position (on back, head at body level) for more than 2 hours per night increased the risk of dementia by almost four times (3.7 times greater).

What is worst sleeping position? ›

The worst sleep position: On your stomach

“This position puts the most pressure on your spine's muscles and joints because it flattens the natural curve of your spine,” he says. “Sleeping on your stomach also forces you to turn your neck, which can cause neck and upper back pain.”

What is the healthiest way to sleep for your neck? ›

The best sleeping positions for the neck are on your back or your side. The back in particular is recommended; just make sure to use a pillow that supports the curvature of your neck and a flatter pillow to cushion your head.

What type of pillow is best for neck? ›

A 2020 study discovered that latex and memory foam are the best pillow materials for neck pain. This is because these materials provide neck support, which can improve sleep quality.

Is it healthier to sleep naked? ›

Research suggests that sleeping naked may potentially positively impact reproductive health, connection with a partner, and self-esteem. Currently, there isn't much scientific research studying the effects of sleeping nude, or reliable data on what percentage of people in the U.S. sleep naked.

What type of pillow is best for back pain? ›

Lumbar Support

There's evidence that many types of back pain come from an unhealthy curve in the spine. Pillows that offer "lumbar" support" -- meaning those that you place only against the lower part of your back -- may help maintain the right shape to your spine. This can help some people treat their pain.

What height pillow is best for side sleepers? ›

To stay comfortably aligned, most side-sleepers should look for a pillow that has 4 to 6 inches of loft, or height, and provides the right combination of softness (to cradle the neck) and firmness (to hold it in place).

What angle should your head be when sleeping? ›

Your neck should remain at a 90 degree angle from the line of your shoulder (as depicted above).

Why do I wake up with a stiff neck every morning? ›

Causes of a stiff neck

Causes include sleeping in an awkward position (yes, this includes stomach sleeping) or tossing and turning throughout the night. Pillows are common culprits, whether you use too many or one that offers little to no support. Sometimes, though, your neck was tightening up before you hit the hay.


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