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Back sleeping may not be as common as side or combination sleeping, but many adults prefer this position the most. Those who sleep on their backs experience natural spinal alignment, and do not need extra cushioning in sensitive areas the same way side sleepers do. However, there are certain drawbacks to back sleeping, such as a higher risk of snoring and higher risk of neck pain.
Pillow selection can make a significant difference in sleep quality for back sleepers. Pillows with higher loft (or thickness) offer more support to the head and neck, which can minimize snoring. Additionally, back sleepers tend to feel most comfortable on pillows that conform closely to alleviate pain and pressure points that develop in the neck, as well as the shoulders and other sensitive areas.
This guide includes pillow considerations and buying tips for back sleepers, as well as our picks for the best pillows for back sleepers sold today. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner experiences, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
The Parachute Down Pillow is crafted in Cincinnati, Ohio from premium European white down: 85 percent down and 15 percent down and feather fibers. As Responsible Down Standard-certified, the down is sustainably repurposed from humanely treated ducks and geese. Encasing the soft, breathable down fill is a 100 percent sateen cotton shell reinforced with a double-stitched piping seam. The pillow is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified to be free of harmful chemicals and synthetics.
The Parachute Down Pillow is available in either standard or king size, and comes in a choice of three firmness levels: soft, medium, or firm. Back sleepers may want to choose a medium or firm for extra support around the head and neck.
The Saatva Pillow features a unique, three-layer design for customized support and firmness. The core layer of the pillow is made from natural, eco-friendly, shredded American Talalay latex that allows for more breathability than traditional latex. Surrounding the latex core is a layer of microdenier fiber that offers the soft, breathability of down. The removable shell is made from 100% organic cotton. These two outer layers may be washed in a machine with the latex core removed.
The entire Saatva Pillow is naturally hypoallergenic, dust mite-resistant, and mildew proof. The optional shredded latex core offers superior head and neck support, making it an excellent addition for back sleepers.
From celebrated mattress maker Layla, the Layla Pillow is stuffed with a blend of shredded memory foam and kapok tree fiber– a natural material with a consistency that is similar to down. On the outside of the pillow is an eye-catching cover made with polyester, viscose, and lycra. The shell is woven with cuTEC, a copper-infused yarn. Copper is believed to help keep fabrics clean and rejuvenate skin cells.
Layla recently added a zipper to the pillow, which allows back sleepers to remove the filling and find a loft and firmness level that best supports them. When full, the pillow is medium-soft, supportive, and highly moldable.
Filled with a cooling gel microfiber, the Canadian Down & Feather Company Gel Microfiber Pillow is designed to mimic the comfort and breathability of down. The pure-cotton, 300-thread-count cover is stitched in a box-edge construction with two-inch gusseted edging designed to resist lumping while offering superior neck alignment and support to back sleepers.
The Canadian Down & Feather Company Gel Microfiber Pillow is hypoallergenic and naturally resists bacteria and allergens. The pillow features a 7.5-inch loft and medium firmness.
Buckwheat pillows have gained a large following among sleepers in recent years due to their adjustable loft, great temperature neutrality, and above-average levels of pain and pressure relief. The Hullo is one of the best buckwheat pillows sold today, as well as one of the most eco-friendly; it contains natural buckwheat hulls with no synthetic fillers housed within a cover made of organic-cotton twill.
The Hullo is ‘Firm,’ which makes it most suitable for sleepers in the average and heavy weight groups. The loft is fully adjustable; a resealable opening allows easy access to the interior of the pillow, where owners may add or remove hulls at will. Hulltex LLC, the company that produces the Hullo, sells hulls in bulk whenever more are needed. The cover is machine washable and the hulls never need to be cleaned.
Hulltex LLC offers free shipping for the Hullo anywhere in the contiguous U.S. The pillow comes with a 60-night sleep trial.
Modeled after the renowned Tuft & Needle mattress, the Tuft & Needle pillow is designed with the same proprietary T&N Adaptive Foam. The unique foam was engineered with “open-cell” technology and infused with heat-wicking graphite and cooling gel to offer plush support while remaining cool throughout the night. The T&N pillow is wrapped in a soft shell made from a blend of polyester, Tencel, and Elastane.
The T&N pillow has been certified by CertiPUR-US® and Standard 100 OEKO-TEX for its use of eco-friendly materials. The T&N pillow is available in both standard and king sizes, both of which offer a five-inch loft and mid-level firmness that is suitable for back sleepers.
Fewer than 10% of adults primarily sleep on their back. This position (unlike side sleeping) aligns the spine and neck, and is associated with less neck and shoulder pain than stomach sleeping. However, people tend to snore more when sleeping on their back and this can lead to sleep disruption for the sleeper and their partner.
Choosing the right pillow is crucial for getting a good night’s rest as a back sleeper. This guide will explore how the body responds to back sleeping, look at different pillow types, and reveal our picks for the best pillows for back sleepers.
The three general positions associated with back sleeping are illustrated below. They differ in terms of arm and leg extension. In the Soldier position, the arms are fully extended while one or both knees are bent slightly. In the Starfish position, both arms are bent at the elbows with the hands resting at the head level. And in the Savasana position, both arms and both legs are fully extended.
Considered the healthiest sleep position by many medical experts, sleeping on your back is associated with a number of health benefits. Here are some of the most compelling advantages of sleeping on your back:
For all its advantages, there are a number of disadvantages associated with sleeping on your back. Here are the major ones to keep in mind:
While there are hundreds of quality pillows on today’s market, the best pillow for you may depend on your BMI and your preferred sleeping position. For help choosing the right pillow for you’re unique needs as a back sleeper, review the tips below.
Pillows come in six standard sizes, as well as a smaller specialty size that is normally reserved for certain types of pillows.
Pillows may have even or contoured surfaces. Even-surface pillows are the more common option; they have full or flat shapes, depending on the material, but no contours. Curved-surface pillows include cervical memory foam pillows, which are elevated below the neck and recessed below the head. Curved-surface pillows are suitable for all sleepers, especially those with neck and/or shoulder pain.
Loft, or thickness, is crucial for back sleepers because too much or too little loft can compromise their spinal alignment. Generally speaking, there are three categories of pillow loft:
Most back sleepers prefer medium- or high-loft pillows because they elevate the neck and head. This can help the sleeper maintain spinal alignment, and it also cuts down on snoring for some. Low-loft pillows may cause the head to drop back, which can cause more snoring and may also lead to pain and pressure points.
However, choosing the right pillow loft depends on other factors like the sleeper’s body weight, head size, and shoulder width, as well as the firmness of the mattress they use. The table below lists optimal conditions for each loft category.
|Loft||Thickness||Optimal Sleeper Weight||Optimal Head Size||Optimal Shoulder Width||Optimal Mattress Firmness|
|Low||Less than 3"||More than 230 lbs.||Small||Narrow||Soft to Medium Soft|
|Medium||3" to 5"||130 to 230 lbs.||Average||Average||Medium|
|High||More than 5"||Less than 130 lbs.||Large||Broad||Medium Firm to Firm|
Many pillows offer adjustable loft; simply remove or add more filling to the interior pocket to decrease or increase how thick it feels. Adjustable-loft pillows are a suitable option for people whose thickness preferences vary from night to night.
Pillows may be made from a wide range of natural or synthetic materials. Each material option has benefits and drawbacks associated with them. Back sleepers generally need a pillow that is firm and thick enough to support their head and neck, which helps them maintain spinal alignment.
In addition, shoppers should consider other factors like cost, temperature neutrality, and odor or allergy potential. The table below lists descriptions, pros, cons, and back sleeper ratings for the seven most common pillow materials.
|Pillow Material||Filling Description||Pros||Cons||Side Sleeper Rating|
|Buckwheat||Roughly five to 10 lbs. of removable buckwheat hulls (outer shells)||Adjustable loft; Close conforming; Good support Sleeps cool||High price-point; Too firm for some; Noise potential; Heavy||Very Good: Buckwheat pillows are suitable for side sleepers due to their above-average support and adjustable loft|
|Down||Soft inner plumage of geese and ducks found beneath the outer feathers||Adjustable loft; Very soft and lightweight; Sleeps cool; Short break-in; Long lifespan||High price-point; Poor shape retention; Fluffing needed; Allergy and odor potential||Good: Down is soft and comfortable, but some pillows may not be supportive enough for side sleepers|
|Down Alternative||Polyester puffballs that mimic the softness and weight or authentic down||Adjustable loft; Low price-point; Very soft and lightweight; Short break-in; No allergy risk||Short lifespan; Poor shape retention; Fluffing needed; Short lifespan||Poor: Down alternative pillows lose their shape easily and deteriorate quickly, and most side sleepers find them unsupportive|
|Feather||Outer feathers of ducks or geese (may also include some down for extra softness)||Adjustable loft; Close conforming Very soft and lightweight; Long lifespan||High cost; Quills can poke; Fluffing needed; May sleep hot; Odor potential||Very Good: Feather pillows may be quite soft, but adjustable loft allows side sleepers to customize the supportiveness|
|Latex||Solid latex, which is a natural substance extracted from the sap of rubber trees||Close conforming; Good support; Close conforming; Long lifespan; Sleep cool; No noise||Non-adjustable loft; High cost; Too dense and heavy for some; Odor potential||Good: Latex pillows conform closely and alleviate some pressure, but most cannot be adjusted for loft|
|Memory Foam||Shredded or solid memory foam, or viscoelastic polyfoam, which softens when warm and retains shape when cool||Adjustable loft (shredded); Close conforming; No noise||High cost; Short lifespan; Odor potential||Very Good: Memory foam pillows (including cervical pillows) conform closely and provide good support for most side sleepers|
|Polyester||Shredded or interlocking polyester fibers; polyester is a synthetic fabric||Low cost; Good shape retention (interlocking); No allergy risk; No odor potential||Short lifespan; Poor shape retention (shredded); Noise potential||Fair: Interlocking polyester pillows have a fuller shape, which provides more support to side sleepers, but shredded polyester pillows flatten easily and are not recommended|
|Polyfoam||Foam made by adding water to polyurethane plastics||Lightweight; Inexpensive; Springy; Resilient; Durable||Doesn’t provide much airflow Can degrade easily||Good: A high-quality polyfoam pillow will provide great neck and back support|
In addition to the qualities listed in the table above, moldability is a pillow characteristic that is somewhat unique to side sleepers. Some pillows retain a full shape no matter how tightly a sleeper holds them, while others are moldable, or scrunchable, meaning they can be reformed to match the sleeper’s position.
Moldability comes down to personal preference. The most moldable options include shredded memory foam, feathers, down, and buckwheat, while the least moldable options are solid memory foam and latex pillows.
Lastly, let’s look at price-point — which may be the main deciding factor for many pillow shoppers. All pillow materials vary by brand and model in terms of cost, but the table below contains a general price breakdown for the eight most common pillow types.
|Pillow Material||Buckwheat||Down||Down Alternative||Feather||Latex||Memory Foam||Polyester||Polyfoam|
|Average Price Range||$50 to $75||$75 to $100||$20 to $30||$25 to $50||$40 to $60||$50 to $60||$10 to $15||$40 to $100|