Alaska Sleep Education Center

Picking the Perfect Pillow Pt. 1: Side, Back and Stomach Sleepers

Posted by Kayla LeFevre on Apr 16, 2017 9:34:22 AM

There’s nothing better than laying your head down on a big, fluffy pillow after a long day – nor is there anything worse than waking up with a muscle kink in your neck.

When picking a pillow, there are more things to consider than just comfort or quality.  Your own sleep behavior should also make a large contribution to your pillow purchasing decision.  The next time you go out shopping for a new pillow, consider these options to find your own slice of slumber heaven:  

AdobeStock_109750708.jpegFirst, know how to test.  The first thing to consider is how thick your pillow should be.  When you’re shopping and think you’ve found a keeper, then stand against a wall in your typical sleep position and place the pillow between your head and the wall.  The gap between the wall and your ear, head or face will be the determining thickness.

If you sleep on your back, then you’ll want to pick a pillow that doesn’t tilt your chin toward your neck, so put down that big fluffy cushion and think again. 

  • Medium-Soft: Embrace your inner Goldie Locks and make sure your pillow is just right – not too soft to tilt your chin away from your neck, nor too firm to keep you up at night. 
  • Wedge: A wedged pillow can perfectly prop your whole torso up, keeping your neck aligned with your spine while still elevating your head.   
  • Firm Ends and Soft Middle: This style of pillow will help stabilize your neck as you move during the night, keeping your vertebrae in a straight line and reducing upper back pain when you wake. 
  • Contour: This design follows the natural curve of your head by filling the space between your ear and shoulders, while the middle dip keeps your head closer to the bed and your neck aligned with your spine.

If you sleep on your stomach, then less is more.  Stomach sleepers will need to be especially weary of their head bending backward during the night, as this could cause kinks in your back muscles and spine. 

  • Soft and Semi-Flat: This type of pillow will ensure little lift, and gently cradle your head while preventing a tilt and keeping your neck parallel to your mattress. 
  • Tapered Sides: Any pillow that promotes breathing during your unconscious state is always a winner, and one with tapered sides that won’t block your airways does just that. 

If you sleep on your side, then lucky you – you get the thickest pillow of them all.  The most common sleep posture, side sleepers need to make sure that their ear is perpendicular to their shoulders in order to keep their spine straight throughout the night.  A pillow with the same thickness as the gap between your ear to the end of your shoulder is essential for a good night’s rest.  

  • Firm-Medium Firmness: While you may get the thickest pillow, it will need to be firmer than your stomach or back counterparts.  This ensures that ideal alignment maintains during the night. 
  • Contour: Reasons for a back sleeper to invest in a contour pillow are the same for a side sleeper.  This design follows the natural curve of your head, neck and shoulder for a natural rest. 
  • Body Pillow: Having a pillow to rest your top leg and arm on will square your hips and shoulders and relieve any tension on your spine during the night. 
  • Memory Foam: A memory foam pillow can easily shape to your body’s needs, filling that wider gap between your shoulder and ear. 
  • Gusseted: This design, with a rectangular panel sewn between the top and bottom panel, promotes a thicker fill that lifts your head high enough to keep a straight line along your spine. 

No matter your sleep style, there’s sure to be a perfect pillow out there just for you.  But while switching from one pillow to another may find comfort for some, relieving issues like snoring or allergies are another.  Check back for the second part of this blog to find out what you need if you’re suffering from minor snoring, back pain, allergies or pregnancy discomfort. 

However, no matter how soft and gusseted a pillow may be, it can’t cure severe sleep apnea.  If you think you might be suffering from a larger problem, then only a sleep test can provide a path to relief.  Take our quick quiz to see if you might be suffering from sleep apnea. 

The sleep experts at Alaska Sleep Clinic are well versed in Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and its related health concerns like headaches, strain on the heart and arrhythmias.  If you live in the Alaska area and are experiencing side effects from sleep disorders, then request a free 10-minute phone consultation today. 



Topics: pillow, get better sleep

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