Sleeping Positions and the Perfect Pillow

Key Points

  • Back, side, and stomach sleepers have particular needs and preferences and should choose appropriate bedding to enhance comfort and support during sleep.

  • To select the right pillow, consider aspects like cost, loft, firmness, support, temperature regulation, and size.

  • It's important to adjust pillows according to individual sleeping styles and work to maintain a healthy sleep posture.

Do you know what position you sleep in every night? It might seem like a small detail, but your sleeping position can significantly influence the quality of rest you receive.

Delve into the fascinating world of sleep positions and uncover the secrets to selecting the perfect pillow that harmonizes with your preferred sleeping style. Get ready to revolutionize your sleep comfort and wake up feeling more rejuvenated than ever before!

What the Three Sleeping Positions Are

Sleeping positions often dictate the quality of rest you get each night. It's important to understand the characteristics and needs associated with each position. However, also remember that most sleepers move between these positions throughout the night.

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers tend to lie flat on their back throughout the night, with their spine in a neutral position. This posture demands a mattress that provides an optimal level of firmness, avoiding undue stress on the spine.

Additionally, a pillow of medium thickness supports the natural curve of the neck. Understanding these specifics assists back sleepers in making informed decisions when choosing bedding materials, aiming to enhance their comfort during sleep. Back sleeping is often considered to be one of the healthiest sleep positions.

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers usually adopt a fetal or straight-line posture, lying on one side. A mattress with a softer surface is often preferred, allowing for contouring support that accommodates the body's curves.

Likewise, a thicker pillow proves beneficial in maintaining alignment between the neck and spine, preventing neck strain and discomfort. Thus, side sleepers find it advantageous to select bedding that fosters proper spinal alignment and reduces pressure points, leading to a more peaceful night's rest.

Stomach Sleepers

Sleeping on the stomach is a less common, but still prevalent, sleeping style. This position often leads to spine arching, which can cause discomfort over time. A firmer mattress can help alleviate this by providing adequate support to the midsection.

When it comes to pillows, a flatter option is usually more comfortable, helping to keep the neck in a more natural position. By selecting suitable bedding accessories, stomach sleepers can mitigate potential aches and enjoy a more restful sleep experience.

Illustration of a man in the top three sleep positions back, stomach, and side.

How To Choose a Pillow

Choosing the right pillow is a critical component in achieving a restful night's sleep. There are several important factors to consider when you're on the hunt for that perfect pillow.


Pricing is often a significant consideration when selecting a pillow. However, it's crucial not to compromise on quality for the sake of saving a few bucks. A good pillow is an investment in your comfort and health. Do some research to find a pillow that suits your budget while meeting your comfort and support needs.


The loft of a pillow refers to its height or thickness. Choosing the correct loft is essential in maintaining a comfortable and neutral sleeping position. A pillow too high or too low can lead to neck and shoulder strain. Therefore, consider your preferred sleeping position and personal comfort preferences when determining the right loft for your pillow.


The firmness of a pillow can significantly influence your sleep quality. It directly correlates with the level of support and comfort the pillow offers during the night. Different sleeping positions require varying levels of firmness. For instance, side sleepers might prefer a firmer pillow, while back sleepers may opt for a medium-firm option. Keep your sleeping habits in mind when selecting the firmness level for your pillow.


When selecting a pillow, considering the level of support it offers is paramount. A supportive pillow cradles your head and neck adequately, maintaining the natural alignment of the spine. This attribute helps in preventing aches and stiffness that can occur from sleeping in an unsupported position. Therefore, pay close attention to how a pillow conforms to your individual body shape and sleeping style to ensure a restful night's sleep.

Temperature Regulation

A quality pillow goes beyond just providing comfort; it should also regulate temperature effectively to prevent overheating during the night. Look for pillows with breathable materials, such as cotton or bamboo covers, that promote air circulation. Fill — like memory foam — tends to get hotter than a 50 Cent concert in Phoenix on August 29, 2023.

Some advanced pillows even come with cooling gel infusions or moisture-wicking properties, ensuring that you stay cool and comfortable throughout the night. Considering the temperature regulation feature in a pillow can significantly enhance your sleep quality.


When it comes to pillow sizes, different dimensions serve various purposes. Here are some standard pillow sizes to consider:

  • Standard: The most common size, measuring 20" x 26", offers ample comfort without taking up too much bed space.

  • Queen: Slightly longer, with dimensions of 20" x 30", this size provides additional space for those who tend to move around while sleeping.

  • King: Measuring 20" x 36", king-sized pillows offer expansive comfort, serving as a supportive backrest for reading or watching TV in bed.

Choosing the right size depends on your personal preference, sleeping habits, and the dimensions of your bed.

Illustration of six popular sleeping positions.

The Best Pillow for Each Sleeping Position

Finding the perfect pillow often depends on your preferred sleeping position. Uncover the distinct characteristics of pillows ideally suited for back, side, and stomach sleepers, along with insights into specialty pillows designed for targeted comfort and support.

Pillows for Back Sleepers

For those who prefer sleeping on their back, a pillow that maintains the natural alignment of the spine is vital. It generally means opting for a pillow with a medium loft and firmness. This combination aids in supporting the neck without elevating the head too much, avoiding strain and discomfort.

Memory foam pillows are an excellent choice, as they mold to the shape of your head and neck, providing even support. Additionally, considering a pillow with a cooling feature could be beneficial since back sleepers might experience heat buildup during the night.

Pillows for Side Sleepers

Side sleepers require a pillow that fills the gap between the shoulder and the neck adequately, promoting spinal alignment. A higher loft and firmness level are typically necessary to achieve this balance. The goal is to avoid neck strain by keeping the head and neck in a straight line with the spine.

Pillows with adjustable lofts, like those with shredded memory foam, shredded latex, or down alternative fill, are often a good choice. You can customize these pillows to have the perfect loft for your needs.

Pillows for Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers need a pillow that prevents the neck from arching backward, which can lead to morning stiffness and discomfort. Generally, a lower loft and softer firmness are desirable, which keep the head at a more neutral angle.

Feather or down pillows are often suitable choices because they allow for easy adjustments to the fill level, providing a more personalized sleep experience. Moreover, selecting a pillow with breathable materials helps in avoiding overheating, which is a common issue for stomach sleepers.

Specialty Pillows

Specialty pillows cater to specific needs and preferences that go beyond the traditional pillow types. These may include body pillows, which are particularly beneficial for pregnant women and individuals with chronic pain.

Another popular choice is the wedge pillow which is excellent for people who suffer from acid reflux or respiratory issues, as it keeps the upper body elevated. Additionally, neck roll pillows are a boon for those seeking targeted neck support. When choosing a specialty pillow, consider your unique needs to find the best match.

How You Can Adjust Your Pillow for Your Sleeping Style

Achieving the perfect sleep environment sometimes means tweaking your bedding. By adjusting your pillow according to your sleeping style, you can significantly enhance your comfort. Dive into some actionable tips on pillow adjustments in the next section.

  • Pillows, depending on their filling, offer varying levels of adjustability. For feather or adjustable foam pillows, simply remove or add filling to get the desired loft.

  • Side sleepers often benefit from a higher, firmer pillow. If your pillow isn't firm enough, consider placing a smaller one underneath.

  • Stomach sleepers, requiring less height, can squish their pillow down or simply forgo one entirely.

  • Back sleepers can test different thickness levels to find the perfect balance for optimal support.

  • Also, rotating and fluffing the pillow periodically helps retain its original shape, ensuring consistent support.

How To Maintain a Healthy Sleep Posture

A proper sleep posture is crucial for overall health and well-being. It not only promotes better sleep quality but also reduces the risk of aches and pains. So, how do you maintain an ideal alignment for your neck and spine throughout the night?

Regardless of your sleeping position, the key lies in ensuring your neck and spine remain in a neutral alignment. For side sleepers, using a pillow between the knees helps maintain the hips' alignment. Back sleepers might place a pillow under their knees to reduce stress on the lower back. Stomach sleepers, although in a less recommended position, can use a flat pillow under the pelvis to lessen the curve in the lower spine.

However, Dr. Mark Greenwood of Molina Healthcare does mention that "the best way to maintain your spine’s alignment is to change positions as you sleep." Being stuck in one position can also cause problems.

Always pay attention to any pressure points or discomfort. Sometimes, a simple adjustment, like moving your arms or legs, can make all the difference. Over time, being mindful of these practices becomes second nature, leading to nights of restful, pain-free sleep.

Finding the Perfect Pillow for Your Sleep Position

Understanding and accommodating various sleeping positions — back, side, and stomach — is vital.

Back sleepers benefit from mattresses with optimal firmness and medium-thick pillows to maintain spine neutrality. Side sleepers, adopting either a fetal or straight-line posture, find comfort with softer mattresses and thicker pillows that support proper spinal alignment. Stomach sleepers, although less common, prefer firmer mattresses and flat pillows to minimize spine arching and neck strain.

Beyond selecting the appropriate pillow based on sleeping position, considerations such as cost, loft, firmness, support, temperature regulation, and size play crucial roles in enhancing sleep comfort.

Once you've found your perfect pillow, subscribe to Snooze. And, as always, sleep well.

Was this article helpful?