I get asked about what pillow to use quite often. So here’s Dr. Alex’s short guide to choosing the right pillow. The short version is, it depends greatly on what position you sleep in. As a disclaimer I will also say, if you are uncomfortable at night or waking up in pain, a new pillow may only be half the battle if your mattress is not up to snuff. However, as it is the less expensive of the two to replace, I usually recommend starting with a new pillow if you are either uncomfortable, or just unsure what kind of pillow to use.
- Back Sleeper: If you sleep on your back, a simple neck roll (a towel can work for this too) or no pillow at all are the best choices to keep your spine in proper alignment. Sleeping on your back is also the ideal position for your spine to stay in proper alignment while you sleep.
- Side Sleeper: When on your side, you want the height and density of the pillow to match the distance between your ear and shoulder in order to keep your head in the correct position. As a note, this is often a much thicker pillow than you expect.
- Stomach Sleeper: Do everything in your power to break this habit and begin sleeping on your back or side. No matter what pillow you use, this position will always wreak havoc on your neck as it must always be turned to one side in order for you to breathe!
- Back/Side Sleeper: If you, like me, fall into this category, finding the right pillow can be difficult. A cervical roll will put a kink in your neck if your turn on your side during the night, and a thick dense pillow will push your head too far forward if you roll on your back. I have found one pillow that addresses these issues called the Tri Core pillow. It features high sides for side sleeping, as well as a trapezoid head cradle and small or large neck support for when you’re on your back. While it takes some getting used to, this has been my pillow of choice for the last couple of years.
- Body Pillows/Pillow between your knees: The last category here is people who sleep with more than one pillow. I do not recommend using extra pillows under your head, as it usually leads to your neck and head being in strange positions during the night that aren’t good for ergonomics or function. However, putting a pillow between your knees at night (if you are a side sleeper) or under your knees (if you are a back sleeper) help to keep the lumbar spine in the proper position and can help with low back pain.