Best Pillows for Back Sleepers – 2019 Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

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Quick Summary

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.

Best Pillows for Back Sleepers

Editor’s Pick – Parachute Down Pillow

Best Latex Pillow – Saatva Pillow

Best Memory Foam Pillow – Layla Pillow

Best Down Alternative – Canadian Down & Feather Company Gel Microfiber Pillow

Best Foam – Tuft & Needle Pillow

Best Loft Range – Hullo

How We Decided

 

70 pillows considered –– 120 hours of research –– 4 sleep experts consulted

Best Pillows for Back Sleepers – Tuck's Top 6 Pillows

Parachute Down Pillow – Editor's Pick

Highlights
  • European Responsible Down Standard fill
  • 100% sateen cotton shell
  • Machine wash- & dryable
  • Three firmnesses and two sizes available
  • Free shipping & returns within U.S.
  • 90-day sleep trial with three-year warranty

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.

Saatva Pillow – Best Latex Pillow

Highlights
  • Eco-friendly shredded American Talalay latex core
  • Outer microdenier fiber layer with 100% organic cotton shell
  • Hypoallergenic & resistant to dust mites and mildew
  • Machine washable outer pillow
  • 45-night sleep trial with one-year limited warranty
  • Free shipping within U.S. and Canada

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.

Layla Pillow – Best Memory Foam Pillow

Highlights
  • Memory foam & kapok fiber fill
  • Copper-infused shell
  • Adjustable loft and firmness
  • Removable, machine wash- & dryable cover
  • 120-night sleep trial
  • 5 year warranty
  • Free shipping within contiguous U.S.

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.

Canadian Down & Feather Company Gel Microfiber Pillow – Best Down Alternative

Highlights
  • Down-like microfiber fill
  • 100% cotton shell
  • Box-edge design for extra support and alignment
  • Hypoallergenic & resistant to bacteria & allergens
  • Machine wash- & dryable
  • Sold in pack of two
  • Three-year warranty

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.

Hullo – Best Loft Range

Highlights
  • ‘Firm’ firmness
  • 60-night sleep trial
  • Adjustable loft
  • Sleeps very cool for most
  • Close conforming and pressure relief

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.

Tuft & Needle Pillow – Best Foam

Highlights
  • Proprietary T&N Adaptive Foam
  • Polyester-blend shell
  • Removeable, machine-washable cover
  • Hypoallergenic & eco-friendly
  • Two sizes available
  • Free shipping within contiguous U.S.
  • 100-night sleep trial with three-year limited warranty

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.

Best Pillows for Back Sleepers Buyer's Guide

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.

What You Need to Know About Back Sleeping

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.

Sleeping Positions - Back

Advantages of Sleeping on Your Back

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:

  • Optimal spinal alignment: Back sleeping provides more spinal alignment than other positions. However, sleeping without a pillow is considered the best position for alignment — and most people find this uncomfortable. A thicker, firmer pillow that cradles the head and neck without letting it tilt too far back is the best option for most back sleepers.
  • No extra pillows needed: People who sleep on their sides or stomachs often utilize secondary pillows between or beneath their legs for extra support. Most back sleepers do not need to use secondary pillows (but many do anyway).
  • Fewer wrinkles: Side and stomach sleepers often sleep with one side of their face on the pillow, which can cause early wrinkles to form. Because their faces don’t touch the pillow, back sleepers do not need to worry about this issue.
  • Can minimize acid reflux symptoms: Acid reflux is a medical condition characterized by stomach acid rising into the esophagus. Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux. Sleeping on one’s back can alleviate heartburn and other symptoms of acid reflux as long as the pillow is supportive and elevated — otherwise, back sleeping may exacerbate these symptoms.

Disadvantages of Back Sleeping

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:

  • Higher snoring potential: Sleeping on one’s back causes breathing muscles in the airway to relax, which can lead to heavy snoring. People with obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, are especially susceptible to snoring when lying on their back. For this reason, doctors recommend side sleeping for people with sleep apnea, as well as people who snore heavily for other reasons.
  • Greater risk of neck pain: Back sleepers can reduce aches and pains by using a supportive pillow and keeping their bodies aligned throughout the night. However, sleeping with one’s neck bent to one side can disrupt alignment and cause pain and pressure points to develop, even if the pillow is sufficiently supportive.
  • May cause issues for pregnant women: Pregnant women who sleep on their backs are at risk for compressed veins. These include the inferior vena cava, which runs beneath the uterus; a compressed inferior vena cava can cause blood pressure levels to plummet. Most physicians urge pregnant women to sleep on their sides; this position is generally more comfortable, particularly during the latter stages of their pregnancy, and minimizes the risk of vein compression.

Choosing the Right Pillow for Back Sleepers

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.

Size

Pillows come in six standard sizes, as well as a smaller specialty size that is normally reserved for certain types of pillows.

  • Small (20W” x 12L”): This specialty size is normally associated with cervical memory foam pillows, as well as pillows made from materials like buckwheat (see below).
  • Standard (20W” x 26L”): Standard is the most common pillow size, as well as the most compact and — usually — the lowest priced. This size is not ideal for people who toss and turn, as their heads can easily slip off one of the sides.
  • Super Standard (20W” x 28L”): The Super Standard is two inches longer than a Standard, making it a possible alternative for people who toss and turn and find the smaller size to be too short.
  • Queen (20W” x 30L”): A Queen-size pillow will accommodate most sleepers who toss and turn, since it is four inches longer than a Standard.
  • King (20W” x 36L”): The King is ideal for people who prefer longer pillows, and this size also provides a comfortable backrest or headrest for people who read or watch television in bed.
  • Euro (dimensions vary): Unlike the other standard pillow sizes, Euro-size pillows are square-shaped. They come in many different dimensions; the most popular dimensions include 26W” x 26L” and 20W” x 20L”. Most people in the U.S. do not sleep with Euro pillows as their primary head and neck support, but they are popular choices for backrests and headrests.
  • Body (dimensions vary): Body pillows are a good choice for sleepers who like to snuggle with a pillow. These pillows generally range from between 48 and 54 inches in length based on the shape of the pillow. You can find body pillows in a variety of shapes, including C-, U-, and J-shapes.

Shape

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

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:

  • Low-loft: Less than three inches (3″) thick.
  • Medium-loft: Three to five inches (3″ to 5″) thick.
  • High-loft: More than five inches (5″) thick.

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 CATEGORY 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.

Material

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 BACK SLEEPER RATING
Buckwheat Between five and 10 lbs. of removable buckwheat hulls (outer shells) Adjustable loft
Close conforming
Good support
Sleeps cool
High cost
Too firm for some
Noise potential
Heavy
Very Good
Buckwheat pillows are usually thick and firm enough to support back sleepers, and adjustable loft allows them to make the necessary customizations
Down Duck or goose down, which is the soft inner plumage 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
Fair
Most down pillows are fairly soft, even at maximum loft, and will not provide sufficient support for back 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
Poor
Down alternative pillows have short lifespans and become flat easily, which can be problematic for back sleepers seeking thick, firm pillows that elevate their head
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
Good
Feathers are not as soft as down, making them more suitable for back sleepers who can adjust the loft accordingly
Latex Solid latex, which is a natural substance extracted from the sap of rubber trees Close-conforming
Good support
Long lifespan
Sleep cool
No noise
Non-adjustable loft
High cost
Too dense and heavy for some
Odor potential
Very Good
Latex pillows maintain a full shape and are firm enough to support most back sleepers
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 are suitable for back sleepers, particularly firm models or cervical pillows that are shaped for elevated support
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 maintain a full shape, making them suitable for back sleepers; shredded polyester pillows lose shape and become flat easily, so these are not recommended for back sleepers

Cost

Finally, cost is an important consideration because price-points vary by material. Low-cost options include down alternative, feather, and polyester, while buckwheat, down, and memory foam are considered the most expensive options. The table below lists average price ranges for the seven most common pillow materials.

MATERIAL BUCKWHEAT DOWN DOWN ALT. FEATHER LATEX MEMORY FOAM POLYESTER FOAM
Average Price-point $50 to $75 $70 to $100 $20 to $30 $25 to $50 $40 to $60 $50 to $60 $10 to $15 $50 – $60

Additional Tuck Resources

For back sleepers and those of all sleep styles, there are a huge variety of quality pillow designs available. For more guidance with choosing the very best pillow for you, check out these articles: