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How High Should Your Pillow Be? (Ideal Height For Your Sleeping Position)


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When you are about to sleep, your pillow’s height is probably the last thing on your mind. All you want to do is slum down your cozy bed, snuggle a stuffed animal, and catch some z’s.

But, although you never think about it, the height of your pillow has a significant effect on how well you sleep, and whether you wake up with back and shoulder pains.

So, how high should your pillow be? The optimal height of your pillow is one where you’re neck becomes neutrally aligned. This means that the height will depend on your sleeping position since various sleeping positions require various heights in order to achieve an aligned neck.

So, what’s the best height for different sleeping positions? Let’s find out.

Choosing a Pillow Height Based on Your Sleeping Position

Side Sleeping Position

Side-sleeping-pillow-height

This is one of the most common napping positions and one of the more comfortable ways to sleep.

When sleeping on your side, the shoulder create a gap between your head and bed. Due to this reason, side sleepers require a thick pillow to fill the space between their neck and shoulders. For adults, the recommended pillow height is between 5 to 7 inches. This height is good enough to keep your spine straight, and not too thick to bend your neck out of alignment.

In addition to the height, side sleepers will require an extra firm pillow to achieve more comfortability. You see, pillows tend to collapse under the weight of the head hence becoming too thin.

As a result, the head and neck may bend downwards, causing unnecessary strains that lead to neck and back pain.

Most people fold or stack several pillows to compensate for inadequate loft and support. However, buying a firm pillow of the correct height for side sleepers will solve this problem and give you a good night’s sleep.

Whatever the height of the bed pillow you select, don’t forget to buy a new set each time you notice that the old ones have flattened beyond comfort.

Back Sleeping Position

Back-sleeping-pillow-height

Too much elevation, like for side sleepers, may strain the neck and cause stiffness in the morning. So, back sleepers need a pillow that doesn’t push their head too much forward; hence a 4 inch to 5 inch pillow is ideal for adults.

Sleep experts typically recommend sleeping on your back as it encourages better sleeping posture where the neck, back, and head are kept at a comfortable, neutral position.

When sleeping on your back, the spine curve looks like an “S,” which is not a healthy position. As a result, proper support is needed to avoid spine injury.

If you don’t have appropriate pillow support, the spine may undergo severe stretching, causing permanent damage, which you can easily solve with a soft, firm pillow. This provides support for your head without endangering your spine.

Back sleepers who love the luxury of many bed pillows should have one under their knees to relieve any back strains.

Stomach Sleeping Position

stomach-sleeping-pillow-height

Ever wondered if sleeping on your belly is harmful to your health? In truth, it is, but many people still do it. Even though it can prevent sleep apnea and minimize snoring, this position may be why you are having uncomfortable nights and back or neck pains.

Your weight is in the middle of your body, putting a strain on your spine and making it hard to maintain the natural spine position. This automatically strains your back and neck.

If this is your preferred sleeping position, you need a soft, thin pillow. 4 inches or less pillow will most likely work well. Most of the time, stomach sleepers don’t even require a pillow as the head can rest directly on the mattress and still maintain natural spinal curves.

People who sleep on their stomach will need a breathable pillow that does not retain heat, mainly because exhaled breath goes directly toward the pillow. This keeps the pillow fresh.

To accommodate individuals who like the luxury of multiple pillows on their bed, a thin, soft pillow under your stomach will do the trick. This will provide enough support to the spine, allowing it to keep its alignment.

The Ideal Pillow Height for Combination Sleepers

optimal-pillow-for-all-sleeping-positions

We can’t forget about people who can sleep in any position and flip between the side, back and stomach sleeping during the night. If you always find yourself having to throw away a pillow when you change your sleeping position and get it back when you toss back to your previous position, you may be in this category.

Determining the right pillow height for these sleepers is a little confusing and also depends on the individual. This is true to combo sleepers who may have a dominant sleeping position.

If you start shopping for a pillow, choose a pillow height based on your dominant sleeping position. Otherwise, you can follow these tips when shopping for a comfortable pillow set that works well for all sleep positions:

1. Adjustable Pillow

The right pillow should conform to various sleep positions. Since you can’t buy different pillows for all sleeping positions, it is best if the headrest can be adjusted to fit the sleeping user’s unique shapes and curves. It should mold to one’s shape and alleviate any pressure point making it easy for users to sleep in any position without restrictions.

2. Breathable

You don’t need to spend your nights on a pillow that retains heat, making you sweat all night long. This is especially for people who sleep on their belly, finding a breathable pillow will help you sleep comfortably without worrying about heat. A breathable pillow should have air space within it that helps in cooling and drying the pillow even if you live in a warm area.

3. Comfortable

No one wants to spend their night on the wrong pillow. A hard pillow feels like sleeping on a rock while a flat one is outrightly uncomfortable. On the other hand, a comfortable pillow will promise a goodnight’s sleep where you won’t toss and turn all night before you finally doze off.

4. Maintains natural alignment of the spine

The overall purpose of pillows is to create the right spinal support for the body. A good pillow should elevate your upper body from the mattress, which in turn raises the spine.

Despite your sleeping pose, the right pillow height should place your spine in a neutral position. So, getting the perfect pillow will not only result in a deep comfortable sleep, but it will help you wake up with no pains in the morning. 

How to Confirm the Right Pillow Height

PILLOW-HEIGHT

Although we have given you an idea of the best pillow heights, it is up to you to find out the best spot that works for you within those ranges. Here are ways to confirm the perfect pillow height for your need before making the big purchase.

1. Test

Most pillow manufacturers offer a free trial for their pillows. Make use of this offer and test pillow height before you commit to one by ordering different pillow heights, using them for a given period, and sending back the ones that feel uncomfortable.

This way, you will be sure that you are investing in the right pillow, depending on your sleeping position.

2. Use Towels

This is an easy DIY method that will cost you nothing but help you determine the right pillow height. In this method, you take several bathing towels, fold them into a square, stack them on top of each other, and lie on them.

If the towels feel high for comfort, remove one at a time until you reach an amicable height. You can use this height as a guide to order your brand-new pillow.

3. Read Product Reviews

A satisfied customer will always leave a positive review of the product as will an unsatisfied customer.

Make sure you go through all positive and negative comments, so you know what customers liked and what they didn’t like about the pillow. If you sleep on your stomach, for instance, you will avoid a pillow if customers say it wasn’t breathable.

We hope this guideline gives an understanding of everything you need to know about pillow heights in relation to your sleeping position. With it, you should have no problems finding the right one for you.

It is important to note that your neck may hurt a little bit within the first days of using a new pillow because it’s still adjusting to the contours, but you could look forward to extreme comfort after.

4. Check Out The MemorySleep Pillow

We over at The Bedding Planet has created our very own pillow that is ergonomically designed to be perfect for all sleeping positions. (It’s the pillow that I’m lying on in the images above.)

memorysleep-pillow-benefit

The pillow is made out of memory foam and has a four-curve-system that aligns your spine by putting it in a neutral position no matter if you sleep on your back, side or stomach.

If you want to learn more about this pillow you can do so here.

Niklas Lampi

My name is Niklas and I'm the author and content operator at The Bedding Planet. I've always had a big interest in bedding and more specifically sleep. If I find something that makes me sleep better, whether that's a lifestyle change or a better bedding environment, I'm ready to share it with the world!

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