We all know that choosing the right mattress is key for getting a comfortable night’s sleep, but what about the right pillow? Sleep with a pillow that’s no good for you and you could wake up with head and neck pain, arm numbness, back pain and a very grumpy mood.
This is where your preferred sleeping position plays a major part. Getting comfy in bed is a very individual thing that requires different levels of support for your neck and back in particular. Depending on whether you routinely sleep on your front, side or back, you should choose a pillow that optimally supports your sleep position.
I took advice from an interiors expert who specializes in beds and bedding to find out what we should be looking out for when choosing a pillow. They agreed that the ultimate goal is to keep your head and spine in neutral alignment, that is with your head resting squarely on your shoulders – not too far forward or back – and your back naturally straight, as if you were standing up straight. So, with that in mind, which pillow is best for which sleeping position?
If you like to sleep on your back, your pillow should support your neck while your head should be level with your upper back and spine, so that the natural curvature of the spine is maintained. To further support your back and alleviate any back strain, you could also place a pillow or two underneath your slightly bent knees. Sleeping on your back is the gentlest position, but bear in mind that your pillow(s) could become dislodged in the night and might need repositioning.
Your perfect pillow is one that isn’t too firm or too high. High-fill down or medium synthetic material makes for good quality pillows, as do memory foam pillows since the material will mould to the shape of your head and neck. All-over consistent support is also provided by water pillows. The best pillow shape for back sleeper has a dedicated head divot and neck contour to give support in all the right places for the correct cervical spine alignment you should be aiming for.
Front sleepers should use the thinnest of pillows, or even none at all, to keep your spine in line. For a good night’s sleep, choose a soft pillow that you can squish and fluff to accommodate your contours so that there’s no gap between your neck and the mattress. Down pillows or soft, low-filled microfibre pillows are your best bet.
You should be aware that sleeping on your stomach puts a lot of stress on your lower back, so try to place another flat pillow under your hips or stomach to compensate for any lower back and neck strain. Alternatively, try sleeping on your side and hug a body pillow.
Lying on your side, choose a pillow that supports your head and neck so that your spine maintains a neutral position. Your weight should be evenly distributed so there’s no unnatural bending or undue pressure. It might also feel comfortable to put an additional pillow under your waist, particularly if you have an hourglass figure with a pronounced waist.
Choose a firm pillow that is high enough to keep your spine aligned, that melds to the shape of your neck and fills the gap between your neck and the mattress. A thicker, gusseted pillow will be useful to bridge the gap between your ear and shoulder. Medium to high thickness pillows are best for side sleepers. These can be high-fill down pillows, medium/high synthetic pillows or memory foam pillows.
To keep your spinal and upper hip alignment, you could also place an extra pillow between the knees. This should be a softer, low-density pillow.