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Most people have a preferred sleeping position – side, back, or stomach. If you’re unsure about your position because you tend to switch sides, just think about the side you most frequently fall asleep in.
Each group needs a different type of pillow for the best nightly rest and for waking up feeling refreshed and pain-free. This guide should offer you an insight into the best pillows for every sleeping position and help you choose the right type or brand for yourself or your loved ones.
Our Top Picks
Coop Home Goods Bamboo Pillow is the best pillow for back sleepers. We loved it because it’s easily adjustable and the blend of various materials offers perfect support to the neck and spine.
Our selection for the best pillow for stomach sleepers belongs to Luxe. It deserved the first place because you can order a flatter version with a cooling effect which means a lot when your face is sunk in the pillow.
The best option for side sleepers is Airweave. It meets all the side sleeper needs – proper firmness and support but it also reduces motion and has excellent airflow which is why it earned this ranking.
These are the three best pillow brands for back sleepers:
#1. Coop Home Goods Bamboo Pillow
The Coop Home Goods Bamboo Pillow has snatched the first place because of its just-right level of firmness and support that back sleepers need. Another great feature of this medium-firm pillow is that you can customize it by adding or removing the fill. This also means that if the pillow flattens after some time of use, it can be renewed by adding extra fill.
Coop pillow offers the perfect support for back sleepers all of the time (it’s also excellent good for side-sleeping). We loved the fact that it is filled with memory foam, microfiber, and breathable lightweight fabric. The case is made of bamboo (Lulltra fabric developed by the company) to protect you from allergies.
The company will give you a 100-night sleep trial with a full refund. The pillow is machine washable which is great for hygiene and freshness.
Nectar took second place because it also offers excellent support and adjustability, but it’s made only of memory foam, unlike the Coop pillow. However, the quality of the memory foam and the outer shell (made of quilted memory foam) is what simply amazed us.
Nectar contains Tencel cooling fabric which controls temperature exceptionally well. This pillow bounces back perfectly and doesn’t change shape so you won’t need to keep adjusting your pillow throughout the night.
We needed to take out some of the filling to adjust this pillow for sleeping on the back and that was the only adjustment it needed! Nectar supports the head and neck, alleviating pressure points on the back.
Nectar has a 50-night trial which is shorter than standard and it can’t be washed in the machine so you have to spot-clean it only.
Night is a firm pillow which makes it great for sleeping on the back. The manufacturer boasts materials used in this pillow which help prevent signs of aging and improve the hair quality – a lot of reviewers claim that not only does their face look refreshed, but their hair is shinier and healthier.
The case is made of Milberry silk which doesn’t strip the natural oils from your skin and hair, unlike most of the other materials.
On the inside, Night is made of high-quality memory foam so it shapes well and allows you to stay in the right position, offering good support at the same time.
Night has the 101-night trial period within which you may request a refund if you are not happy with it. You can wash the case in the machine but the memory foam pillow can only be cleaned in spots.
We recommend that side sleepers opt for one of these three pillow brands:
As we found, the Airweave makes the best pillow for side sleeping. It distributes the weight evenly, reduces motion which is great if you tend to toss and turn a lot, and keeps the head cool with a special blend of materials that increase the airflow.
We rate Airweave as a very firm pillow which is why it feels so good when you use it for side sleeping. It can serve great for back sleeping as well.
The airfiber that is at the core of the pillow is the firmest part which gives firmness to the entire pillow. The great news is that it stays firm even after being washed and used for a long time.
Airweave helps you stay asleep and not get too hot while providing your neck and spine with proper alignment. It definitely deserves the first place for all these reasons! However, it’s not a cheap pillow so you may want to plan carefully before investing in it.
#2. Mediflow Water Pillow
Mediflow is a water pillow which means that it contains a base that you can fill with water. The water level plays the main role in pillow height and firmness. Once set, you may need to refill it after several months in case the water evaporates.
We found Mediflow to be exceptional at providing a pain-free night. The water makes this pillow quite heavy but we liked that because the pillow won’t “escape” from you in the middle of the night as it remains in the same place regardless of tossing around.
Switching positions is easy and this pillow follows your lead – as the water moves, it perfectly matches what you need. If you need a medium-soft pillow, opt for the down option and if you need something firmer, memory foam and fiber filling make the pillow slightly firmer.
We found it a bit challenging when a single person is trying to fill the pillow, so you may need a hand to do it right. Also, choosing the right amount of water could be tricky – it took several nights to adjust, but once our reviewers got it right, it paid off manifold.
#3. Sleep Buddy
Sleep Buddy is an unusually shaped pillow made specifically for side sleeping, although it can be reshaped and used as a support for the knees or other body parts. Sleep Buddy is upside-down-J-shaped. It provides proper support for the neck when you sleep on the side.
The longer part of the pillow leans against the back which we found soothing. This pillow is probably the best for single sleepers.
A feature that drew our attention was a small hole in the middle designed for your ear. If you typically feel that your ear lobe gets squished and numb from sleeping on the side but you won’t quit sleeping in this position, then Sleep Buddy is for you. We also love how it offers ventilation for the ear.
The pillow cover is made of smooth cotton which makes it hypoallergenic. The filling of Sleep Buddy is made of polyester fibers which can be washed and dried in the machine.
Stomach sleepers need special care and the best brands to provide it are:
Luxe pillow contains a core for support and two chambers – one on top and one on the bottom – for softness. This is why it is great for stomach sleepers. You can dive into this pillow feeling great and well-supported.
You can choose between down and polyester gel. Both of them look and feel pretty much the same, so the choice is all yours. The Luxe company treats its down with hypoallergenic processes but if you really want to play it safe, you can opt for the gel. Down won’t clump up because the pillow structure doesn’t allow it.
The cover is made of 100% cotton to allow the breathability and cool your bead down.
Pluto pillows come personalized for every sleeper, which is why this is the best place to look for as a stomach sleeper. We know it is to find the right pillow when you sleep on your tummy but making use of the company’s quiz prior to purchase will help you get just the right pillow for you. Based on your answers, you can get a softer and flatter pillow – just what stomach sleepers need.
Pluto is a high-quality premium pillow and you can feel that as soon as you put your head on it. As you can customize almost everything about this pillow, we chose the one with a cooling cover and it really did a great job of keeping us cool.
It is made of memory foam which could be a drawback to some people. We found no issue with this pillow as it provides restful sleep.
Sure, it’s challenging to get the right pillow for stomach sleeping, but when you finally do, it’s Priceless. Priceless is one of the best pillows according to many stomach-sleeping reviewers.
It is customizable by size and fill. Choosing the fill will result in a soft, medium, or firm pillow. As a stomach sleeper, you need a soft pillow that you can sink in.
Priceless contains the Tencel layer on top. Tencel is cooling and breathable – some would say it’s even superior to cotton in these aspects. The inner layer contains quilted gel-fiber cushions that offer support.
This manufacturer offers a five-year warranty and a 30-night money-back guarantee.
When is the time for a new pillow?
Many good quality pillows have a 3-5 year warranty, which means they are supposed to last even longer than that. Cheaper pillows could easily wear down after a few months, while the cheapest two-dollar ones will last for days. You get what you pay for.
These are the signs that mean you definitely need to buy a new pillow:
- It’s hard to sleep on the pillow because it’s lumpy and uneven.
- You feel a lot of tension in the neck and shoulders when you wake up; sometimes pain may wake you up in the middle of the night.
- The pillow is completely unusable unless you spend some time fluffing it.
- You can’t wash out stains and/or odor.
- You wake up sneezing and with irritated eyes.
Why do I wake up with eye irritation?
Eye irritation could mean you’re allergic to something in your pillow. It could be the materials of the cover or the type of filling (some people are allergic to dawn or other fillings).
The most common reason is that the pillow is just too old. As we use the pillow (even with proper case washing), skin cells and ois accumulate inside the pillow. Over time, dust mites that feed on them grow in number, live and die in the pillow, and leave their excrement behind. After years and years of use, the pillow can get so saturated with all of those that it hurts your eyes and possibly irritates your nose.
To prolong the life of your pillow, wash it about once every six months. If washing doesn’t help and your eyes are still irritated, get yourself a new pillow.
My pillow is non-washable, what should I do?
The most common non-washable type of pillow is the memory foam pillow. The memory foam can fall apart in a machine and manufacturers recommend not hand-washing them, either. If that is the case, you can first make sure your pillow stays clean by putting double casing over it and washing them regularly. When it’s finally time to clean the pillow do the following.
- Inspect the pillow. Remove the case and the protective case if you had one. Look at the pillow – are there any yellow stains? Smell it – does it have an unpleasant smell?
- Spot clean the pillow. Take a clean damp cloth and clean the stained parts. If it doesn’t work, make a solution of baking soda and vinegar and try cleaning with those. After gentle dabbing, leave the pillow in the sun and wait for it to dry. To remove the excess baking soda, moisture and to help remove the odor, vacuum the pillow.
- Spray the pillow. To remove odors, you can also spray the pillow with a solution of vinegar and water.
- Make sure the pillow is really, thoroughly dry before using it again.
- The sun is your friend. The sun kills the dust mites and possible mold that may have developed, and removes moisture from any pillow. Leaving your pillow, covers and mattress in the sun helps with your bed hygiene.
Why different sleep positions require different pillows
The alignment of the spine during sleep is important for everyone’s physical condition. Spending about 8 hours every day in an unfavorable position has to take some kind of toll on your body. When we change positions, pressure points on our body change and different things are needed for the spinal alignment.
Pillows and the body alignment
When you sleep on the back, you’ll need a flatter pillow because your head and neck are already in a pretty neutral position. Having a too high pillow strains your back. When it’s too low, your chin can get thrown upwards and cause pain in the neck.
When you sleep on the side, your pillow should be taller than the one for back sleepers because if it’s too low, your head will be tilted downwards and your shoulder will be under a lot of pressure. The pillow of the right height and firmness keeps your head, neck, and spine in a straight line. A too-high pillow tilts the head upwards, straining the neck.
Stomach sleeping can’t provide you with proper alignment at all and that’s one of the reasons it is advised to avoid this sleeping position. In order to keep your head neck and back from pain, you should opt for a softer thin pillow.
The role of your mattress when choosing a pillow
According to Dr. Breus, the famous sleep doctor, if you use a soft mattress, you may need a firmer pillow and with firm mattresses you may want to opt for a softer pillow. He says that this could be better for proper alignment then going with an all-firm or all-soft option.
Check the size when shopping for pillow
If you’re buying a pillow in a brick-and-mortar store, then you’ll have a good idea of whether the pillow size is good for you or not because you can hold it in your hands. However, when shopping online, the picture may trick you so don’t forget to double-check the pillow size you’re getting. Some manufacturers only make one size of a pillow whereas others make them in different sizes.
Pillow sizes Chart
Pillows come in different sizes and you may encounter words like ‘standard’, ‘queen’ or ‘king’. Here’s a chart with sizes so you can check them out.
|Standard pillow size||20”x26”|
|Super standard pillow size||20”x28”|
|Queen pillow size||20”x30”|
|King pillow size||20”x36”|
|Euro pillow size||26”x26”|
These are the most common pillow sizes but there are more – not only sizes, but also shapes. It’s good to have measurements in mind when shopping for a new size of a pillow.
How to sleep against heartburn
Best ways to avoid heartburn are sleeping on your back (preferably with slightly elevated upper body) and sleeping on the left side.
This is because both of these positions make it hard for the stomach acid to reflux. Elevated back sleeping physically prevents heartburn and left side sleeping works for you because of the human anatomy. Right-side sleeping, on the other hand, aggravates the condition.