The first thing to consider when buying new a pillow for your bed is your primary sleep position. Are you a back, side, stomach, or combination sleeper? Your answer will guide your selection of pillows and their fillings. Here, learn how to choose the best pillow for your sleep position.
The best pillow for your sleep position
Regardless of your preferred sleeping position, the ideal pillow is one that keeps your head, neck, and spine in neutral alignment.
Back sleepers need a thinner to medium-thick pillow to keep the head, neck, and spine properly aligned. A thinner pillow with extra loft (the pillow’s lift”) at the bottom will provide the support you need to cradle your neck. A contour pillow is ideal for back and side sleepers, as it curves down to provide good support for your head and neck. By keeping your airways open, a contour pillow can also help alleviate snoring. (Learn how to protect your back while you sleep.)
Side sleepers, the majority of people, need a slightly thicker, firmer pillow for optimal alignment. An extra-wide gusset-the band of fabric joining the top and bottom panels together-can be helpful by adding to the pillow’s overall thickness. Placing a pillow between your knees can be useful as well to help maintain the natural curvature of your spine.
Stomach sleepers may not need a pillow at all. If you do want a pillow, use the thinnest one you can find because elevating your head can exacerbate the strain that stomach sleeping already puts on your lower back. In fact, the best place for a stomach sleeper to position a pillow is under the belly and pelvis, to help keep the spine from bowing unnaturally.
Combination sleepers, who move from back to side to side, will want a medium-thick but softer pillow that can be used comfortably in multiple positions.
Must-haves for any pillow
All pillows should provide consistent support for your neck and head while you snooze in your particular sleeping position. They also should be:
A word on pillow fillings
Today’s pillow shopper has a variety of filling options. The most common ones are down and feather combinations, foam, or polyester fiberfill. People looking for additional neck support often find it in memory foam and latex pillows. That’s because they both conform well to your head and neck, providing contouring support.
Here are the basics on the most popular types of pillow fillings:
When to replace your pillow
Once you’ve found the perfect pillow, don’t expect to hang onto it forever. Pillows typically last 1-2 years, after which they should be replaced. There are a few ways to tell if your pillow is past its prime. Try folding it in half-if it stays that way, it’s time for a new one. If the foam is lumpy or you have to keep fluffing up your pillow to support your head, then it’s also time for a new one.
You should also take your sleep style into account when picking a mattress. Here, find out how to choose the best mattress for your sleep position.