Some people have a single pillow on their bed, and some seem to have a huge pile of them. But just how many pillows should you sleep with?
In very basic terms, you really only need a single pillow to sleep with, to support your head and neck properly while you sleep.
However, before you throw out your extra pillows there are some circumstances – and some good reasons – that some of you might benefit from sleeping with more than one pillow, as long as they are excellent quality and up to the job you need them to do. These, and other issues, are what we are going to take a closer look at here.
Is it better to sleep with or without pillows?
You can sleep without a pillow, but most will find it both uncomfortable and bad for their general health.
Without at least one pillow to support your head and neck you are likely to lack the support that is needed to prevent neck and back pain, as your neck and spine will almost certainly misaligned as you sleep.
There is an exception to this ‘rule’ though. If you are a stomach sleeper, which is some 7-10% of the US adult population you may actually be better off without a pillow.
A research study conducted by the University of Rochester found that sleeping on your stomach puts your head and neck in an unnatural position that can, over time, lead to chronic neck and upper back pain. The wrong pillow can make this even worse, so sleeping without one, which will ensure that your head stays flat may indeed be good idea.
Is it better to sleep with 1 or 2 pillows?
Most experts agree that one pillow is all you need.
However, if you are a side sleeper it is probably OK to place a second pillow between your knees to help keep your spine aligned if you tend to suffer from back pain. You can check our side sleeper picks if this is your preferred position.
And back sleepers may benefit from a second pillow under their knees, to help promote a more natural spine curvature instead of just lying very flat.
What is the best sleeping position?
The majority of Americans – over 70% – sleep on their side, and that is considered to be the best choice, as long as your pillow – and your mattress – offers the right amount of support. Sleeping on your back may help alleviate chronic back pain in some circumstances.
Experts advise that if possible, adults should not sleep on their stomach if they want to prevent neck pain. Sleep habits are hard to break though, so if you do tend to sleep that way you should at least ensure you have a good, supportive mattress and that you sleep with a flat pillow or no pillow at all.
What’s the best pillow loft?
Which pillow loft – that is the height it reaches off the mattress when it is new – is the best for you will depend once again on your personal sleep style.
Side sleepers – which is most of you – do best with a medium to high loft pillow that will ‘plug’ the gap between their shoulder and head that opens up when they sleep. A common issue stemming from an improper loft is experience a “dead arm” or pins and needles while we sleep. A firm pillow can cause head and jaw pain.
Back sleepers often do best with a medium loft pillow that will raise their head but not too much to avoid shoulder pain.
And if stomach sleepers are going to use a pillow at all it should have a low loft, to prevent their bodies twisting into an unnatural position because their pillow is too high. A thin pillow is the best option to give you the best angle for your neck and back.
How to arrange pillows on the bed?
From a functional standpoint, if you only make use of one sleeping pillow, arranging it on the bed is easy. It should be as central as possible on your sleeping area. If you have a sleeping partner, try to ensure that your pillow is in the middle of ‘your side’.
If you do choose to make use of a second pillow, they can be stacked on top of one another during the day – it looks neater and more organized – but you should not sleep on both at night, and that will lead to neck pain whatever your sleeping style might be.
In terms of aesthetics adding throw pillows to your bed can be an excellent way to up your bedroom decor game and add some extra colors and patterns to the space. You could also add decorative pillow shams to your standard sleeping pillows to do the same thing. Just remember to add those extra few bed making minutes to your morning schedule if you do!
What’s the best pillow to sleep on?
All these pillow choices! In addition to loft, and number, you will also need to decide just what pillow filling is best for you, and again, you have several to choose from.
Feather and Down Pillows
Best for: Stomach sleepers
Pillows have been stuffed with feathers and/or down – that is the ‘fluff’ from underneath feathers – for centuries, and they are still a wonderful choice if you like a pillow that is soft, fluffy, and extremely easy to shape the way you like.
Down pillows are often the better choice here as feathers tend to be a little harder and less malleable. You will often find however that most pillows contain a combination of both.
When shopping for a down pillow pay attention to the fill power listed on the label. The higher the fill power, the softer the pillow. The best – or softest and most durable any way – tend to have a fill power of between 600-700.
If you do not want to choose a down pillow for ethical reasons, or if you have allergies, there are a lot of good down alternatives available that mimic the properties of the real thing very well and they follow the standard fill power measurements too.
One of the most highly rated down pillows on Amazon is Continental Bedding’s 550 fill power 32oz. Superior Hungarian white goose down pillows which comes in standard, queen, and king size. The entire manufacturing process is happening within the USA, and that guarantees the quality of the ingredients. A plushy pillow suitable for stomach sleepers who are looking for a cloud-like sleeping sensation.
Best for: Side Sleepers, Back Sleepers.
Memory foam pillows are an excellent choice for those who want a lot of support from their pillows, especially for their neck. This makes them an especially excellent choice for people with neck, shoulder, or jaw problems.
If you’re one of the 65 million who frequently experience back pain, a memory foam pillow is a must-have. Back pain is a leading cause of work-loss days affecting adults of all ages. Aside from buying the best mattress for managing back pain, the right pillow can go a long way to help getting relief as you sleep.
The possible downside of memory foam pillows is that they are too firm for some people’s taste, making them uncomfortable to sleep on. Some also tend to sleep hot, although a cooling layer added to some memory foam pillows does help solve that problem.
Some pillow makers, like PlushBeds, makes use of cooling technologies in their memory foam pillow – such as carbon – to help regulate your body’s temperature as you sleep. Activated carbon is infused in the foam to help draw away heat from head, neck and face. It also comes with a Tencel removable cover which in itself is also cooling and a good choice of fabric for people with allergies.
How often should you change your pillow?
The standard advice is that you should not use even a particularly good pillow for longer than two years. If your pillow begins to sag before that you should replace it right away, as an unsupportive pillow is just not good thing for anyone.
Although some modern pillows come with a soft cover to extend the useful life of your pillow you should still make use of a properly fitting pillowcase. And to avoid finding yourself sleeping on nasty, and yet often invisible germs, dirt, and dust you should launder those pillowcases in a gentle detergent – baby detergent Dreft is an excellent choice – once every two weeks.
Also check out our related sleep tips and sleep hygiene articles:
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional