Sleep allows your body to recharge, recover, and fend off diseases like heart disease and diabetes. It can be a struggle to get good sleep (both pre-pandemic and still now), and for many of us, one of the biggest struggles is finding the right pillow. I’ve spent countless amounts of money on pillows thinking I found the perfect one, and maybe you’ve tried it all, too, from memory foam and cooling gel, to firm pillows, soft pillows, side-sleeper pillows, and more.
The bad news: there isn’t just one perfect pillow out there. All pillows do different things, there’s no one size that fits all. The good news, though, is that there are things you can consider to help find the right pillow for you.
Assess your health conditions
The way we sleep affects countless conditions that many of us face, from sinus problems to vertigo to heartburn. If you have sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine, the pillow you use can also affect your mask and prevent airflow delivery—especially with side sleepers, who often need specialty CPAP pillows. Understanding your health conditions is a first step to finding a pillow that works best for you.
Consider your sleeping habits
Habits like sleeping on your back, side, and stomach require different types of support from your pillows. Matthew O’Rourke, a physical therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, told Harvard Health, “Try to get the spine in a relatively straight position. But everyone’s recipe will be a little different.” Spine-Health has useful instructions on which pillows provide the proper support for your back, but here’s a summary of what you should know:
If you sleep on your side
Side sleepers need a firm pillow, one that supports the neck so it stays level with the shoulders. Consider also putting a small pillow between your legs to properly align your spine and neck while you sleep.
If you sleep on your back
Back sleepers tend to need a low or softer pillow. Hard pillows will cause the head to lean forward, putting strain on the neck and airways. Rochester Health Center recommends placing a pillow underneath the knees for proper spine alignment while sleeping on your back.
If you sleep on your stomach
Stomach sleepers have it the worst, as this position tends to have the most stress on the body. A flat pillow is recommended, or no pillow at all to avoid any neck and back stress. Placing a pillow underneath the pelvic area might help relieve s0me stress on the neck and back.
The bottom line
The type of pillow you choose is personal preference, but try to match them with your sleep habits. While I love a fluffier pillow, but I know that a firmer one like the pillow cube is better suited to being a side sleeper. I’ll save the joy of down pillows for you back sleepers.