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You spend time carefully choosing the best mattress for you. Your pillow deserves the same amount of attention. Like your mattress, your pillow affects how comfortable you feel in bed and how well you sleep.
Just as some mattresses work better for back sleepers, so do some pillows. Not all back sleepers prefer the pillows loved by side, stomach, and combination sleepers.
Generally, back sleepers require a pillow with a higher loft than pillows for stomach sleepers and a lower loft than pillows for side sleepers. The ideal pillow for back sleepers promotes spinal alignment rather than arching the neck too far upward or allowing the head to sink in too deeply.
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Uncomfortable heat retention can be an issue for memory foam pillows, but this model from Saatva sleeps relatively cool thanks to its chambered design. The pillow’s outer chamber contains memory foam infused with graphite, which has natural cooling properties, while the core is cushioned with shredded gel-infused memory foam. The entire pillow is encased in organic cotton cover that is also quite breathable.
The thick profile and medium feel of this pillow makes it best suited to back and side sleepers. The close contouring will also be ideal for people who experience aches, pains, or pressure points along the neck. The pillow has received CertiPUR-US certification, so you won’t need to worry about any harmful substances in the foams.
The cover can be removed and laundered in your household machines, but the other components should only be spot cleaned as necessary. Customers may add sateen pillowcases to their purchase for a small extra charge.
Queen and king sizes are available for this pillow. Those who buy two with their order will receive a discount of $20 to $40, depending on which size they choose. Saatva provides free ground shipping throughout the contiguous U.S., and every purchase is backed by a 45-night sleep trial and 1-year warranty.
SF Readers get 25% off pillows at GhostBed
The GhostBed GhostPillow is offered in three models with differing fills — memory foam, faux down, and shredded foam. The memory foam model is a medium firm pillow that should suit back and side sleepers, keeping the spine aligned to avoid neck pain the next morning.
The pillow has a 6-inch loft and is made of gel memory foam. The foam conforms to the body but is also firm enough to provide moderate support. These qualities make the pillow a good option for back and side sleepers, who require a balance of support and contouring to keep the head, neck, and spine properly aligned during sleep. The GhostPillow – Memory Foam is especially suitable for people who seek pressure relief in the neck and shoulders.
Since memory foam tends to run hot, the foam in this pillow has an aerated design that is meant to promote air circulation. The pillow cover is also made with a proprietary cooling fabric to further reduce heat buildup. The temperature controlling features may appeal to sleepers who enjoy the feel of foam but find typical foam pillows to retain excessive heat.
GhostBed pillows are backed by a 5-year warranty. The company offers free shipping within the contiguous U.S. and a 101-night sleep trial for pillows purchased on the company website. After an initial 30-day period, customers may return the pillows for free, minus return shipping fees.
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Few natural materials on earth offer the luxurious softness of silk. The Cozy Earth Pillow contains long-strand mulberry silk, which is renowned for both plushness and durability. An AAA grade indicates the highest quality for this material. Silk is also exceptionally breathable, and a cover made of rayon derived from viscose enhances the pillow’s cooling properties.
The pillow has a medium soft feel and mid-range loft, making it a good option for back sleepers who want a plush surface for resting their head and neck. The entire pillow can be washed and dried in household machines. Wash on a rinse cycle with no spin, then dry on a delicate cycle with two or three tennis balls to reduce clumping.
The Silk Pillow’s price-point reflects its excellent quality and expected longevity, making it a solid long-term investment. All pillows may be returned or exchanged within 100 days and each order includes a 10-year warranty.
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Down is the fill of choice for many sleepers who enjoy soft pillows, but the Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow caters to those who enjoy the feel of down but cannot sleep on it due to allergies. It’s also a good fit for those who enjoy down but prefer a pillow that is not sourced from animals.
The pillow is filled with a down alternative fiber that is derived from plants. The medium firmness offers a nice balanced feel that should be comfortable for back and side sleepers. The plushness of the pillow allows it to contour the head and neck, but there’s also enough firmness to support the head and neck and properly align them with the spine. The cover is made with cotton, a naturally breathable fabric that helps keep the pillow cool for people who overheat easily at night.
Shoppers can pick between a queen and king size. The entire pillow is machine-washable in cold water on a gentle cycle, and you may tumble dry on a low setting. Sweet Zzz recommends against dry cleaning.
The pillow comes with a 50-night sleep trial, during which customers may return the pillow for a full refund as long as the pillow is clean and free of damage. It’s also backed by a 1-year warranty. Shipping is free to addresses in the contiguous U.S.
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Memory foam is notorious for trapping heat, but hot sleepers should stay cool on Brooklyn Bedding’s Luxury Cooling Memory Foam Pillow. A breathable knit cover and open-cell memory foam construction enhance airflow to trap less heat than other foam models.
The memory foam core gently cradles the head to help prevent neck pain, and the pillow provides a balanced medium feel for excellent comfort across different sleeping positions. The balanced feel may also be a good fit for those who switch sleeping positions throughout the night. Customers can choose between two loft options — 4.5 inches and 6 inches. The thinner 4.5-inch profile should suit back and stomach sleepers. Side sleepers may prefer the thicker 6-inch model to lift the head and neck and keep the spine aligned. The cover is fully removable and machine washable. Wash the cover on a gentle cycle, and tumble dry on low or air dry. Brooklyn Bedding recommends only spot cleaning the pillow insert.
Shoppers can choose between two size options: queen and king. Brooklyn Bedding ships free to the contiguous U.S., and it offers a 120-night sleep trial. Pillow purchases come with a 10-year warranty.
Best for Neck Pain
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Tempur-Pedic’s stellar reputation for high-quality memory foam products extends beyond the company’s mattress line. Case in point: the TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow, which is constructed with a solid TEMPUR foam core encased in a breathable knit cover. The pillow is exceptionally soft and contours closely to the head and neck, but it offers enough loft – 5 inches in total – to keep back sleepers comfortable. This is particularly true for those who weigh up to 230 pounds.
TEMPUR memory foam is a high-density material that resists permanent indentations that often cause less durable foams to feel misshapen and unsupportive. The foam’s adaptive feel can also provide deep cushioning to alleviate strains and stiffness around the neck, and the pillow can be easily compressed for travel. To clean the cover, simply unzip to separate it from the foam and machine-wash the fabric. The foam should only be spot-cleaned as needed.
The TEMPUR-Cloud’s price-point is quite reasonable given the expected lifespan and strong performance. Tempur-Pedic does not allow returns for the pillow, but all customers receive a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty.
New Brooklinen Customers can use code HOLIDAY15 to get 15% off their orders
Down pillows are exceptionally soft, and the plush model of the Brooklinen Down Pillow is no exception. This product offers the characteristic plushness many appreciate in down without the excessive sinkage and inadequate support.
The Brooklinen Down Pillow is better suited to back sleeping than most of its competitors because you can choose from three different firmness options. Of all options, the plush model caters strongly to sleepers who prioritize fluffiness. This option is filled entirely with down, making it very soft. This is well suited for back sleepers, especially those who prefer pillows to cushion the head and neck.
The pillow’s shell is made of smooth, breathable cotton sateen, and the edges are reinforced with double stitching to prevent fill from escaping. Each pillow is given an antimicrobial treatment to stave off harmful bacteria and other contaminants.
In addition to the firmness options, you can choose between standard and king sizes. Brooklinen discourages machine washing, as this can permanently damage the pillow, so you should spot clean if light stains occur or dry clean for a more thorough cleaning.
Compared to other down pillows with this quality of construction, the Brooklinen model is very reasonably priced and shipping is free of charge for U.S. orders. Brooklinen allows returns within 365 days of your original purchase, even if you’ve used the pillow, and return shipping is free for all customers.
Best for Neck Support
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The Sijo Clima Latex Pillow is a high-loft model that provides an excellent balance of support and contouring. Back sleepers who need enhanced neck support should find this pillow comfortable.
The pillow is composed of Talalay latex and has a 6-inch profile. The high loft is beneficial for side sleepers as well as back sleepers who need thick pillows to keep the head, neck, and spine in proper alignment. The latex has a medium feel that gently conforms to the body. It also feels slightly bouncy, which helps relieve pressure in the head and neck. This may appeal to sleepers who experience painful pressure buildup in that area.
Latex is one of the coolest pillow materials on the market, so hot sleepers should find the Sijo Clima Latex comfortable. The pillow is also constructed with Sijo’s proprietary Clima fiber, which is engineered to neutralize the temperature on the pillow’s surface. The shell is composed of Clima fibers and Tencel, which is breathable and cool to the touch.
The pillow is available in a standard/queen and king size. Owners may machine wash the shell in cool water on a gentle cycle, then tumble dry on low heat. The latex insert should only be spot cleaned.
Sijo offers free shipping for this pillow, and you may return the pillow within 30 days.
Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Noble pillows
The Noble Head Pillow is another model that offers adjustable loft. Customers can choose between two different types of fill, wool clusters or shredded organic Talalay latex. The pillow is constructed with nine individual chambers, and you can add or remove fill from each chamber to adjust the pillow’s thickness. This level of customization allows any back sleeper to optimize their pillow for the most comfortable loft.
The wool and latex are both quite breathable compared to other fill types, such as foam, and the shell is composed of organic cotton for added cooling. The wool is ethically sourced, making that design a good choice for animal-conscious individuals, while the latex contains no animal-based components and is ideal for people who identify as vegan.
The chambered design of this pillow also ensures a more comfortable night’s rest for people with pain and pressure points around the head and neck. Noble Pillow will provide complimentary wool or latex fill whenever you need to replenish your supply.
The Noble Pillow’s sticker price is a bit steep, but the company provides free ground shipping anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. You can return your pillow within 30 days of the original purchase, and those who opt to keep it will also receive a five-year warranty that protects against structural defects.
Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Pluto pillows
The Pluto Pillow is unique because it’s created specifically for your body and sleep preferences. Shoppers fill out a questionnaire on the Pluto website, then Pluto creates a custom pillow based on each individual’s unique information.
In the questionnaire, Pluto asks your age, height, weight, current pillow style, firmness, and loft, satisfaction level with your current pillow, heat sensitivity, pillow surface preference, sleep position habits, and more. Shoppers can also leave specific notes about their preferences.
Pluto uses a proprietary algorithm that results in 35 different pillow designs, so the pillow you receive is not generic. For this reason, the Pluto pillow is a good choice for sleepers who haven’t found comfort on conventional pillows.
Pluto Pillows are built with a “pillow within a pillow” hybrid design. Pluto uses different types of foam support cores and outer fiber fillings, depending on your body’s unique needs. They also offer a cooling cover for people who tend to sleep hot.
Pluto Pillows ship for free and come with a 100-night risk-free sleep trial. That said, the company recommends you sleep on the pillow for at least two weeks before making a decision. This time frame allows for you to adjust to your pillow and vice-versa.
One drawback to back sleeping is that those prone to acid reflux are more likely to experience it while lying on their back. Eating a light dinner or at least four hours prior to lying down can help prevent this, however.
Unfortunately, back sleepers tend to snore more than side and stomach sleepers. Snoring is especially an issue in people who have sleep apnea but aren’t using a CPAP or BiPAP machine. Snoring in back sleepers can be reduced by sleeping on a slight incline.
There are special considerations to keep in mind when pillow shopping as a back sleeper. Many back sleepers want a pillow with a high enough loft to help reduce snoring, but low enough to maintain spinal alignment.
As a back sleeper, there are particular pillow features you should take into consideration when shopping. In their advertising, pillow brands make all pillows sound good, even though not all will work well for your body. It’s important to bypass the hype and focus on what’s important.
Learn which pillow features are truly impactful for your sleep experience, then judge prospective pillows on those features rather than manufacturer claims about comfort.
Sometimes companies use copywriting to make their pillows sound wonderful without actually telling you what you need to know about the pillow. Instead of buying a pillow because it feels “like a cloud” or will make you “sleep like a baby,” assess the characteristics that are most important to you as a back sleeper.
Before purchasing a pillow, make sure you have an understanding of its loft, firmness level, shape, and materials. Determine how supportive the pillow is and how well it relieves pressure. Also, be sure to take into consideration the cost to ensure you stay within your budget.
When you focus on the key characteristics of a pillow rather than poetic, abstract claims, you’re more likely to end up purchasing a pillow that will provide the support and comfort you’re seeking.
The loft of a pillow refers to how thick the pillow is without anything on top of it. Back sleepers tend to prefer medium-loft pillows, which are those that measure between 3 and 5 inches thick. With a medium-loft pillow, most back sleepers will maintain spinal alignment.
A supportive pillow will hold your head and neck in place, rather than allow them to sink all the way down to the mattress. In a pillow, support generally results from a combination of a pillow’s loft, firmness level, and materials.
Most back sleepers prefer medium-firm pillows. The firmness level of a pillow determines how it feels and how much it flattens in response to weight. Pillows of all material types can be firm or soft. Often, the density of the pillow’s materials are what determine firmness.
A pillow provides pressure relief by evenly distributing weight. Pressure relief is often closely tied to a pillow’s loft and firmness level. When a pillow is too thick or firm for a sleeper, they tend to develop pressure points in their neck. Pressure points can lead to discomfort or even pain over time.
Most bed pillows are rectangular, though their loft and shape can vary. Down and down alternative pillows tend to look more rounded. A gusset, or a fabric panel surrounding the edge of a pillow, can give the top of these pillows a flatter look and feel. Molded memory foam and latex pillows tend to be flat and rectangular, unless they are molded into a rounded shape. Specialty orthopedic pillows frequently feature irregular shapes designed for particular sleep positions.
Pillows sell for anywhere from ten to hundreds of dollars. Price is largely determined by the costs associated with the pillow’s materials and construction. Down and latex pillows tend to cost more than down alternative and memory foam pillows. Organic pillows also tend to be more costly.
Within each type of pillow material, there are varying qualities available. Higher density memory foam is usually higher quality than low-density foam, for example. Also, down pillows with a higher percentage of down are higher quality than those with a lower percentage of down.
There is no single material type that works best for back sleepers overall. Back sleepers should opt for the material type that provides the feel they most prefer.
Memory Foam: Memory foam often conforms closely to the body. Memory foam is quiet and tends to provide pressure relief. The downside of memory foam is that it can trap heat if it isn’t infused with something cooling or intentionally designed to promote airflow. Also, memory foam tends to off-gas more than other pillow materials.
Buckwheat: Buckwheat is an all-natural pillow fill made of the shells from buckwheat kernels. Some liken the feel of a buckwheat hull pillow to that of a beanbag. One advantage of buckwheat pillows is that they often come with extra hulls, so increasing or decreasing their loft is usually easy. Buckwheat is also a cooler pillow material. Buckwheat pillows often come with higher price tag and some sleepers dislike the sound the hulls make when you change positions.
Feather: Feather pillows should not be confused with down pillows. Goose and duck feathers differ from down plumage. Feathers are larger with stiffer, longer quills. Feather pillows tend to be less expensive than down. They also tend to remain cooler. The feather quills can stick through the outside of the pillow, however, causing discomfort.
Latex: Latex is naturally derived from rubber trees, then processed into a springy material that supports the body. Molded latex pillows retain their shape and do not require any fluffing. Shredded latex pillows are more down-like. They tend to provide good support and pressure relief. Latex pillows are long-lasting and come with a higher price tag.
Down: Down refers to the small plumage found on a goose or duck beneath their larger feathers. Down is very soft and fluffy. Down pillows are usually a mix of down and feathers, though they must contain at least 75% down to be called a down pillow. Down can retain heat, but not as much as memory foam does. These pillows are often the longest lasting and the most expensive.
Polyester: Polyester fill pillows are a synthetic alternative to down. These pillows usually feel soft and are inexpensive and widely available. Unfortunately, they aren’t long-lasting. Although they might be comfortable at first, they need to be replaced more often and tend to become misshapen or flattened.
As you pillow shop, you might notice that bed pillows come in several sizes. The most common are standard, queen, and king. Some brands offer other sizes such as super standard, European sizes, or unconventional sizes, such as large body pillows.
Standard, super standard, and queen pillows usually fit into standard pillowcases. King pillows need king-sized pillow cases, however. Body pillows also require their own specially sized pillow cases.
Keep reading to learn the measurements of each pillow size, as well as who tends to prefer each size the most.
Although pillow choice is important for back sleepers, other factors also influence how well a person sleeps. Choosing the right mattress, using a pillow beneath your knees, and eating a lighter (or earlier) dinner can keep you comfortable when you lie down for the night.
Choose the Right Mattress: Most back sleepers prefer a medium-firm mattress, since they provide ample lumbar support. Without adequate support, many back sleepers experience lower back pain. Of course, body weight greatly influences how a mattress reacts to and feels to your body. Heavier back sleepers might need a firm mattress to receive proper support.
Use a Pillow Beneath the Knees: Some back sleepers, especially those who suffer from lower back pain, might benefit from sliding a small pillow under their knees while lying down. Doing so can help maintain the natural curve of the back and reduce pressure points.
Eat a Lighter Dinner: Sleeping on your back is a risk factor for acid reflux. If acid reflux is a problem for you, bypass this tendency by opting for a lighter dinner, or eating dinner at least four hours prior to lying down.
How common is back sleeping?
Unfortunately, experts estimate that less than 10% of people sleep on their backs. This is too bad because back sleeping is widely viewed as the healthiest sleeping position available (except for pregnant women). Back sleeping is beneficial because it keeps your body in a neutral position and isn’t as likely to cause pressure points.
What is the most important consideration when choosing a pillow for back sleepers?
Loft is generally the most important consideration for back sleepers choosing a pillow. Most back sleepers prefer a medium loft pillow. If a pillow is too flat, your head might tilt back and put pressure on your neck. Conversely, if a pillow is too thick, your head might be propped up too far forward.
What is the worst pillow type for back sleepers?
The worst pillow for back sleepers is one that has an inappropriate loft, meaning it is too flat or too thick. If the pillow loft is off, the sleeper will experience pressure in their neck. There is no single pillow material type that works best for all back sleepers. The material type determines a pillow’s feel, and sleepers should opt for the feel that they prefer.
Where can I find a pillow for back sleepers?
All of the pillows for back sleepers featured in this post are available online. Most pillow companies sell their pillows online directly to customers. Third-party websites such as Amazon and department store sites also sell pillows online. Customers who want to buy pillows in-person can visit brick-and-mortar mattress stores, department stores, and other stores that sell bedding.
Is back sleeping bad for pregnant women?
Back sleeping is fine for pregnant women in their first trimester of pregnancy. In the second and third trimesters, however, experts recommend that pregnant women sleep on their left side. Pregnant women who are accustomed to sleeping on their backs can use a body pillow or pregnancy pillow to help “train” themselves to sleep on their sides during pregnancy and reduce strain on the hips and lower back.
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