What’s the best pillow type for each sleeping position?

Last Updated on September 15, 2021

A good night’s sleep depends on having the best pillow you can buy since a bad one can leave us feeling achy and tired. The right pillow for each individual depends on three key factors: the sleep position (stomach, side, or back), allergies (if any), and prefered filling.

The position you sleep in can affect your respiration, spinal alignment, and even the wrinkling of your skin. However, using the correct pillow with the right amount of fill in the appropriate sleeping position will improve your sleep quality.

Generally speaking, your preferred sleep position will help determine the best pillow type for you. So, if you want to learn more on the subject continue, reading.

What are the different pillow types?

What are the different pillow types?

Generally, we can separate pillows into two big groups, which are natural and synthetic. Often people assume that the most expensive option is the best, but it’s not that simple because of many factors such as materials, firmness, sleeping position, etc.

Usually, natural options tend to feel softer, and they are snugger and quite breathable. However, they are more likely to gather dust, which can be an issue for allergies sufferers. Typically natural products are made from down or feathers. Down is an expensive option, whereas feathers (goose or duck) are usually less costly.

Synthetic items are usually cheaper than natural ones. Most options will be made from hollow fibre or microfiber. The more breathable and cooler one is hollow fibre, whereas the microfiber is more delicate and warmer. Another choice will be memory foam pillows, which are a different experience that allows your head to sink in. Now let’s take a closer look at the top 10 most popular fillings for pillows:

Down

Down pillows are made from the soft fibres close to the skin of a goose, duck, or swan. They are moldable and offer good head and neck support. They provide a soft and cushiony feel while still being durable and insulating.

However, down tends to retain heat and can come with potential allergic reactions, making it unsuitable for hot sleepers or people with allergies. Also, down requires constant fluffing, and sometimes it can be difficult to clean a pillow with this fill.

Remember that this filling is ethically sourced, which means you have to make sure your purchase is certified by the Responsible Down Standard. That certificate guides the ethical treatment of ducks and geese.

Down Alternatives

Down alternative pillows are the synthetic version of the classic down option. They are more affordable, easy to clean, hypoallergenic, and there aren’t any ethical sourcing issues. However, they can develop lumps over time. Also, compared to down, they aren’t moldable and have weaker insulation.

If you’re looking for a soft and hypoallergenic product that won’t hurt your wallet, and you don’t want cushions with actual feathers, down alternatives are an excellent choice.

Feather

Feather pillows are made of a traditional filling, providing outstanding support without losing shape. This type of cushion comes with an affordable price tag while being lightweight and moldable. With that said, remember to fluff it up to maintain its loft.

Feather filling is an excellent option if you’re looking for comfort and support, but it can be hard to clean and tends to retain body heat. Sometimes you can find a small ratio of down inside, so check the product label before purchasing if you are an allergy sufferer.

Memory Foam

Memory foam options are one of the most popular pillows today. Their contour to your body and offer comfort, support and pain relief. You don’t have to worry about clumping, and they are a good fit for all sleeping positions.

Remember that not all foam densities are the same, and some doesn’t inhibit breathability and trap heat. If you sleep hot, opt for a pillow with cooling properties. However, they mould to your head and neck, providing you with excellent support for a good night’s rest.

Shredded Memory Foam

Shredded memory foam pillows are an alternative to traditional memory foam products. They’ve recently grown in popularity since they allow you to add or remove filling depending on your personal preference. Not only do they offer customisable support, but they are moldable, don’t clump and are easy to care for. They come with a few cons, which include chemical off-gassing and overstuffing.

Best pillow type

Gel

Gel pillows were designed by sleep experts to keep you cool and prevent night sweats. Typically this type of pillow is a combination of foam or latex, with cooling gel (gel-infused, gel beads, etc.) that adds softness while still being hypoallergenic.

Gel is a material that holds its shape, meaning you get a firm pillow that moulds to fit the contours of the sleeper, just like regular memory foam. However, some individuals can consider gel items too firm and find them on the expensive side.

Latex

Latex pillows have been gaining popularity due to the fact that they offer a high level of support to your head and neck without having to compromise on softness and comfort. Latex products come with many pros, such as durability, mouldability, breathability. In addition, they provide excellent cooling characteristics and are biodegradable.

They come with a high cost and, in some situations, can have an unpleasant odour. You can purchase a latex pillow in both solid and shredded material, but be sure to watch out for latex-blend pillows. That’s because they often have polyurethane foam, which can potentially be toxic.

Bamboo

Bamboo pillows have become a rising trend in the sleep industry in recent years due to their antimicrobial properties and moisture-absorbing abilities. Bamboo is also hypoallergenic and naturally cooler.

Typically, this pillow type is made of a shredded foam interior with a bamboo viscose shell cover that keeps you cool, even on hot summer nights. Like anything else, bamboo has its disadvantages, including chemical off-gassing, heavier weight, and cleaning difficulties.

Cotton

Cotton pillows have been on a downward trend in popularity ever since memory foam and latex blew up the market. Cotton is a light, breathable fabric that’s hypoallergenic and odourless but doesn’t have specific advantages, specifically for people who are allergic to synthetic materials.

They are soft and comfy, but they need regular cleaning to prevent dust mites and mould build-up. Cotton doesn’t have contouring capabilities and can become lumpy, which is why it’s pretty much at the end of our list.

Polyester

Polyester pillows (microfibre) are a popular budget-conscious pillow choice. Not only are they budget-friendly, but they are also lightweight and hypoallergenic. However, polyester tends to absorb heat and become lumpy fairly quickly. This material is not breathable nor long-lasting, which is why unless you are on a super tight budget, we don’t recommend getting this option.

What’s the best pillow type for each sleeping position?

Best pillow type for each sleeping position

As we’ve mentioned above, your sleeping position says a lot about the kind of product you need. For example, if sleeping on your back is the thing you do, you’ll need a different type of support than someone who sleeps on their side. Understanding that will help relieve neck and back discomfort.

Below we’ve created a summary of what you should look for depending on your sleeping position:

Best Pillow for Back Sleepers

First, we want to start by saying that if you sleep on your back, you have to choose an option that won’t leave your head under-supported. You don’t want a product that will overly extend and make your spine curve unnaturally. Don’t forget about height since you want it to be equal and balanced to sustain your lordosis.

For back sleepers, we recommend bamboo pillows because of their exceptional material quality. These fantastic items are environmentally friendly, usually have a washable pillowcase and are naturally antibacterial. Some manufacturers even offer a free trial period and a warranty!

Best Pillow for Side Sleepers

When you’re searching for a compatible pillow for side sleepers, there are multiple features you need to consider to find the best-suited option for yourself. As a side sleeper, you don’t want a pillow that feels too soft because it will most likely sink too much beneath your head, which can lead to alignment issues and added pressure.

However, you don’t want something incredibly firm either since you might experience discomfort around the neck and shoulders. Materials are also essential in your pillow choice. You need to consider both the cover and inner components since they can wide range of qualities and issues. Don’t consider only your sleeping position but also your body shape and weight. The right materials can offer a longer lifespan and better overall performance.

People sleeping on their sides often feel pressure in the shoulders and hips if their mattress isn’t supportive enough. Pressure can build up from improper use of pillows just as much around the neck and shoulders. Thus side sleepers usually need a supporting item that will also contour their body.

Best Pillow for Stomach Sleepers

Now, let’s talk about people who sleep on their stomachs. This is considered the most stressful position for the back and neck of a person. So if you’re a stomach sleeper, we recommend choosing a thin flat pillow. You can do that by getting a customisable product from which you can take out material, such as shredded memory foam.

All you have to do is think about your preferred firmness, your sleeping position, as well as your height and weight. By doing so, you receive something that will suit your specific needs while providing you with the support and comfort you need to sleep on your stomach.

Best Pillow for Combination Sleepers

People with varying sleep positions should look for a product with higher areas for side sleeping and lower areas for back sleeping. A pillow with a mix of different fillings or a buckwheat hull pillow may also be the answer.

Using a single all-purpose pad is likely to result in too high of an item for sleeping in all three positions. If you are sharing the bed with a partner, you should ask them what position you sleep in most of the time and try to get a pillow that will work best for it.

Which is the best pillow for all sleeping positions?

Best pillow for all sleeping positions

There are many articles and posts regarding the matter, with many different answers, but the truth is you should look for a pillow based on how you sleep. What you want to aim towards is a straight spine and neck support.

Side sleepers generally need a thicker or firmer pillow, whereas stomach and back sleepers need a softer and thinner one. Even though we are non-professionals, we advise you to try a medium firmness option if you don’t know where to start since they are the most common choice.

Bottom line

Finding the best pillow can be overwhelming, but we hope that our guide on the best pillow type for each sleeping position was useful and full of insightful information. Please keep in mind that we are non-professionals in the medical field, and these are only recommendations.

We hope we were able to answer the how and why, and now it’s our turn to hear from you if any questions regarding the subject were left unanswered. If you want to share some information, we would gladly hear about it in the comments below.

Isabelle Harris
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